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Guide to the Theressa Gay Papers , 1946-1960
Special Collections M0274  
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Theressa Gay Papers ,
    Date (inclusive): 1946-1960
    Collection number: Special Collections M0274
    Creator: Gay, Theressa.
    Extent: 10.5 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.


    Gift of Theressa Gay, ca. 1975.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Theressa Gay Papers , M0274, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.

    Biographical Note

    Theressa Gay was born on Febrary 3rd, 1894 in Illinois. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin. She moved to Wyoming shortly after graduation and lived in several western states including Montana and California. She did graduate work at the University of Montana on the history of the trans-Mississippi West. She received her M.A. from the University of California, studying under Dr. Herbert E. Bolton. She wrote her Master's thesis on the Establishment of Territorial Government in Montana. She also did post-graduate work at Stanford University under Dr. Edgar Robinson.
    Her varied professional career has included teaching, doing library work, and, most notably, performing research for her own publications and on the behalf of other history scholars. She taught high school history in various towns in Montana and Washington; in California, at Berkeley High School and at Castilleja School in Palo Alto. She has also worked as a teaching assistant at the University of Montana and at Stanford University. She also taught English as a Second Language for the Palo Alto Adult Education Program. She also worked as a school librarian and held several library staff positions, including Stanford University, when she was not teaching or working on research projects.
    Theressa Gay's most significant professional accomplishments were her contributions to the field of historical scholarship, most significantly to that of the history of the California Gold Rush. Her book, James W. Marshall, the Discoverer of California Gold (Georgetown, Calif.: Talisman Press, 1967), represents the culmination of more than thirty years of research. Those familiar with the history of the California Gold Rush, are aware that James Marshall's discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill resulted in one of the greatest gold rushes in modern history. This event which had enormous consequences for the economic and social history of the State of California, has had more written about it than any other single event in California history. However, until Theressa Gay's biography was published in 1967, only one other biography had been written about James Marshall. The first book was an official biography which was written at Marshall's request in order to pay the debts that he had incurred in his later years. According to reviews that were written after the publication of her biography in 1967, Ms. Gay's biography is well-documented and does much to dispell the myths and half-truths that surrounded Marshall and his life. This work goes well beyond being a simple biography, and gives scholars a detailed insight into life during a significant period in California history.
    In addition to the biography on Marshall, Ms. Gay also published a book entitled Life and Letters of Mrs. Jason Lee, First Wife of Reverend Jason Lee of the Oregon Mission (Portland, Or.: Metropolitan Press, 1936); and number of periodical articles, including, The California and Australia Gold Rushes, As Seen by Amos S. Pittman. She also collected songs from the Gold Rush which were written by gold miners, popular song writers of the day and by dance-hall entertainers, from 1848 to 1855. This was an independent project during which she collected about two hundred songs. These songs, as well as research and manuscript material used by Ms. Gay in preparing her publications, form the core of her personal papers collection.

    Scope and Content

    The bulk of this collection consists mainly of research notes, correspondence and manuscript material pertaining to Theressa Gay's historical research on the California Gold Rush. This collection also includes materials relating to other areas of historical research as well (see contents listings for specific topics); some biographical material and teaching files. The focus of this collection are the original manuscript of Thressa Gay's biography of James W. Marshall, and a group of about two hundred Gold Rush Songs that she collected. The papers in this collection reflect her work over a period of approximately fifteen years, from about 1946 to 1960. It comprises about ten and a half linear feet of material.