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Lowe (Gary D. and Myrna R.) collection relating to the Big Tree of California
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Collection Details
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  • Biographical / Historical
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Preferred Citation

  • Language of Material: English
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Title: Gary D. and Myrna R. Lowe collection relating to the Big Tree of California
    source: Lowe, Gary
    Identifier/Call Number: M2147
    Physical Description: 45 Linear Feet (58 boxes, 4 volumes, 1 oversize folder)
    Date (inclusive): 1853-2002
    Date (bulk): 19th century
    Abstract: Collection of historical material related to giant sequoias of California and their impact in popular culture.

    Biographical / Historical

    Gary D. Lowe is an environmental hydrogeologist and collector based out of Livermore, California. After receiving a BS and MS in geology at San Diego State University in 1974 and 1981 respectively, Lowe pursued a career in hydrogeology (the study of the movement of groundwater in the earth's crust; also sometimes called 'geohydrology'), including 30 years of private consulting practice.
    Finding that working in consulting left him with a large amount of free time at his office, Lowe began studying the history of the giant sequoia tree (Sequoiadendron giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada, a topic he had been interested in since his early youth. Giant sequoias are the most massive trees in the world, as well as being amongst the tallest and longest-lived of all organisms, with an estimated lifespan of 1800-1700 years. Lowe developed a particular interest in the Anglo-American discovery of the giant sequoia tree (initially known as the 'Big Tree') in the Sierra Nevada, and subsequent early years of its popularization and exhibition, a period roughly covering the years 1853 through 1876.
    This interest and study led over time to a collection of nineteenth century photographs and prints exceeding 4,200 items. Lowe authored twenty books and pamphlets on the giant sequoia tree. His published works include "The original Big Tree : History of the Big Tree exhibit of 1853-1855" (released in 2012), "The mammoth tree: a Gold Rush adventure" (2007), "The Big Tree exhibits of 1870-1871 and the roots of the giant sequoia preservation movement" (2004), "Before the works: the Bancroft-Pond-Houseworth tourist party among the Big Trees, May 1871" (2009), "The Grant Grove Centennial Stump: Kings Canyon National Park and the Big Tree exhibit of 1875-1876" (2006), and "Geologic history of the giant sequoia and the coast redwood" (published by the North America Research Group in 2014).
    Lowe's additional areas of giant sequoia study include the geologic history and biogeography of the tree, as well as the etymology of the genus name.

    Scope and Contents

    The Lowe collection of Big Tree materials contains photographs, prints, postcards, ephemera, pamphlets, government reports, periodicals, souvenirs, and other materials related to the history, exhibition, and logging of the giant sequoia tree. The bulk of these materials originate from the 19th century, with many also extending well into the mid-20th century.
    The collection is primarily arranged by location, with separate series for the Calaveras, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite National Parks each including materials pertaining to other local sights and industries. Because of both proximity and overlap, materials pertaining to Kings Canyon National Park, General Grant Grove, and Sequoia National Park have been consolidated into a single series.
    A substantial portion of the collection consists of stereographs (also known as stereoviews or stereoscopic photographs), an early form of 3D viewing wherein two slightly-different views of the same scene are viewed through a double-lensed viewer (called a stereoscope) to create the illusion of dimensionality. The Big Trees collection contains hundreds of stereographs related to Big Trees (either of the giant sequoias themselves, tourists posing alongside the giant sequoias, or other stereoviews of local scenery and attractions), as well as others depicting cities and locations wherein portions of the Big Trees were exhibited. These items are organized by depicted location (i.e., North Calaveras Grove, Mariposa Grove, etc.), and sub-arranged by identified photographer or company (photographers include J.J. Reilly, Eadweard Muybridge, Carleton Watkins, Thomas Houseworth, Thomas C. Roche, and John P. Soule, among many others). These sub-arrangements maintain Gary Lowe's personal arrangement of the stereographs. Other represented photographic formats include numerous cabinet photographs (portable mounted photographs generally measuring around 4 1/4 by 6 1/2 inches; also known as cabinet cards and cabinet views), boudoir photographs (similar to cabinet photos but measuring approximately 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches), lantern slides, and real photo postcards.
    The 'Published materials' series contains published works on topics relating to the history of California, giant sequoias, various world's fairs and expositions at which giant sequoias were exhibited, and locations such as Yosemite and Calaveras, as well as numerous contemporaneous periodicals with references to either the Snediker/Stegman or Jellerson/Rickerson exhibitions or other Big Tree-related events, all originally from Lowe's personal library. A listing of books contained in each box is included as a note below each box's record. Approximately 75 volumes of note have been catalogued individually and are not listed here; these can be found here: https://searchworks.stanford.edu/catalog?q=%22Gary+D.+and+Myrna+R.+Lowe+Collection.%22&search_field=subject_terms or by searching 'Gary D. and Myrna R. Lowe Collection' in the Searchworks catalog.

    Conditions Governing Access

    Open for research. Note that material must be requested at least 36 hours in advance of intended use.

    Conditions Governing Use

    While Special Collections is the owner of the physical and digital items, permission to examine collection materials is not an authorization to publish. These materials are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Any transmission or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires permission from the owners of rights, heir(s) or assigns. Some material is believed to be in the public domain. There are no restrictions on use of public domain materials

    Preferred Citation

    [identification of item], Gary D. and Myrna R. Lowe collection relating to the Big Tree of California (M2147). Department of Special Collections and University Archives, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, California.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Sequoia National Park (Calif.).
    Yosemite National Park (Calif.)
    Giant sequoia
    California -- History -- 19th c.
    Calaveras Big Trees State Park (Calif.)
    Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness (Calif.)
    Historic trees
    Lowe, Gary