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Ralph Arnold Photograph and Map Collection: Finding Aid
photCL 311  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Overview of the Collection
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Related materials in the Huntington Library
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Overview of the Collection

    Title: Ralph Arnold Photograph and Map Collection
    Dates (inclusive): 1880-1954
    Bulk dates: 1905-1935
    Collection Number: photCL 311
    Creator: Arnold, Ralph, 1875-1961
    Extent: Approximately 16,000 photographs in 97 boxes: 64 photograph albums, lantern slides, glass and film negatives + 346 rolled maps.
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo Archives
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: A collection of photographs and maps compiled by American geologist and petroleum engineer Ralph Arnold (1875-1961), documenting his pioneering work in oil and mineral exploration, chiefly in the Western United States, Mexico and Venezuela, from 1900 to 1954, with the bulk of materials from 1905-1935.
    Language: English.


    Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

    Administrative Information

    Publication Rights

    The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Ralph Arnold Photograph and Map Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Ralph Arnold, 1955-1961.

    Custodial History

    These materials were originally received with the Ralph Arnold papers (mssArnold papers) and were transferred to the Photo Archives Sept. 7, 1974.
    In 2018, an additional 382 loose photograph album pages were transferred from Box 216 of the Ralph Arnold papers and reunited with the corresponding photograph albums in this collection.

    Biographical Note

    American geologist and petroleum engineer Ralph Arnold (1875-1961) was born in Marshalltown, Iowa, on April 14, 1875. His father, Delos Arnold (1830-1909), was a lawyer and Iowa state senator who became interested in the study of fossils after the discovery of crinoids fossils in LeGrand, Iowa. The Arnolds moved to Pasadena, California in 1886, and Ralph attended Pasadena High School and Throop Polytechnic School (now the California Institute of Technology) before receiving a B.A. in geology and mining from Stanford University in 1899. He also completed an M.A. (1900) and Ph.D. (1902) in geology and paleontology at Stanford. In 1899, Arnold married Frankie Winninette Stokes, the daughter of Frank and Oraletta Stokes, who had settled in South Pasadena in the 1880s. Ralph and Winninette Arnold had two daughters, Winninette (Noyes) and Elizabeth "Betty" (McKee), and they lived in a house at 1205 Wilson Avenue, South Pasadena (later San Marino).

    Arnold worked for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) from 1900 to 1909, and from 1903-1909 published a variety of paleontological articles. He was active in petroleum surveys throughout the United States, and organized the Petroleum Branch of the U.S. Bureau of Mines. In 1910, he left the USGS and spent 1911-1916 leading a team in a landmark survey of petroleum resources in Trinidad and Venezuela, about which he published The First Big Oil Hunt: Venezuela, 1911-1916 (1960).

    After his successful South American explorations, Arnold conducted independent petroleum and mineral explorations from Canada to Mexico, including valuable surveys in Alaska, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, Oregon, Montana, Texas and Washington.

    In the 1920s Arnold’s interests turned to politics, and he was active in the Herbert Hoover presidential campaign. He remained committed to the California Academy of Sciences, the Cooper Ornithological Society, and the Sierra Club, among other organizations. Arnold died in Santa Barbara, California, in 1961.

    Scope and Content

    This collection centers on 64 photograph albums compiled by Ralph Arnold that span 50 years of his life and work. The albums are arranged into subgroups of nine series based on Arnold's original schema. They are chiefly in chronological order. Photographs are accompanied by Arnold’s typed captions identifying geological features; oil and mining activities; technical data; and dates and locations, i.e. often an oil or mining “district” or “field,” such as “Sunset Field” (California). The first series of albums begins in 1904 and the ninth (and last) series ends in 1954. (See “Arrangement” for dates and locations for each series of albums.) Subject matter includes geological and topographical features such as rock formations, faults and schisms, mountain structure, geothermal activity, and open land with potential drilling or mining spots. Earthquake faults are seen and described in many of Arnold's California investigations. There are also views of small and large-scale oil operations (by individuals and by organized companies); details of oil flow and reservoirs; asphalt; drilling equipment; workers and fields of oil wells. Arnold’s work took him all over the Western United States, particularly California oil fields, but also Texas, Wyoming, Arizona, Alaska and other states. From 1911-1916 he was primarily in South America, and in the 1920s-1940s, mostly in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The majority of photographs were taken by Arnold, with some by other geologists, whom Arnold credits.
    Mining operations are the focus of some albums, showing investigations for tin, gold and other minerals; mines and shaft openings; piles of ore; and various methods of processing, all with detailed descriptions. Arnold also often photographed people: colleagues and business associates, oil lease owners on their properties; workers (particularly Black and Asian workers in Venezuela); and friends and family. Personal photographs are throughout the album, such as of his wife, Winninette, and their two daughters; Stokes family members (Winninette’s family) in South Pasadena; and alumni of Pasadena High School and Stanford University. Arnold was an avid gardener and the albums contain detail views of cactus and tropical plants, and scenes of Arnold collecting wild orchids in Trinidad, Venezuela and Mexico.
    Following the photograph albums (Series 1-9), are lantern slides (Series 10). The 193 slides were made from Arnold’s photographs and were used by Arnold to accompany lectures 1914-1916. Most of the slides are grouped into themes such as Production, Technology, and Structure, and have handwritten captions. The Ralph Arnold papers, Box 132 (mssArnold) contain lectures he gave at Harvard University and Massachusetts School of Technology in 1915, and some say “with lantern slides,” though it is unclear which slides were used for which lectures.
    Series 11 is a group of glass negatives, approximately 1902 to 1904, which are mostly personal photographs made shortly after Ralph and Winninette Arnold were married. They are primarily of Arnold and Stokes family members and houses, and document travels to visit family and various universities. It is worth noting that Arnold was already interested in photography at this early date, using a large glass plate camera for his personal photographs.
    Series 12 is a box of handwritten file cards with names of oil companies, arranged by district, in California. Some have names of people or numerical notations.
    The maps and charts (Series 13) that belonged to Arnold made up part of the working tools of an early-20th century geologist and petroleum/mining engineer. The maps cover roughly the same geographical territory as the photograph albums, and most date from 1910s-1940s. They include machine-printed U.S.G.S. survey and contour maps, but also hand-drawn maps and charts of soil composition; layouts of mines; maps of oil fields and wells (with tracts and owner’s names). They are useful for geographical research, as well as containing information on California ranchos and landowners, oil company-owned land, and land leased or owned by individuals. Some are in fragile condition and require special handling and/or curatorial approval.

    Related materials in the Huntington Library


    • The 64 photograph albums are arranged into 9 series based on Arnold's original schema:
      • Series 1. Vols. 1-6. United States, 1904-1911
      • Series 2. Vols. 1-5. Curacao, Grenada, Trinidad, and Venezuela, 1912-1918
      • Series 3. Vols. 1-18. United States, Mexico, Trinidad, and Venezuela, 1910-1916
      • Series 4. Vols. 1-12. United States, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela, 1901-1927
      • Series 5. Vol. 1. "Technical" (primarily California), 1913-1914
      • Series 6. Vol. 1. Harold Hannibal photographs, Pacific Coast and New Mexico, 1909-1915
      • Series 7. Vols. 1-3. "Graphite" (mining, primarily Texas), 1916-1919
      • Series 8. Vols. 1-9. United States, Canada, and Mexico, 1923-1935
      • Series 9. Vols. 1-9. United States, Canada, and Mexico, 1936-1954
    • Other materials are arranged into Series 10-13:
      • Series 10. Lantern slides, approximately 1905-1915
      • Series 11. Glass negatives, 1902-1904
      • Series 12. Card file of oil companies in California
      • Series 13. Maps and charts (rolled), 1880-1948

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Huntington Library's Online Catalog.  


    Arnold, Ralph, 1875-1961
    Crocker, William H. -- Photographs
    Hoover, Theodore J. (Theodore Jesse), 1871-1955 -- Photographs
    Shackleton, Ernest Henry, Sir, 1874-1922 -- Photographs
    Geological Survey (U.S.)
    Faults (Geology)-- California -- Photographs
    Geology -- United States -- Maps
    Mines and mineral resources -- Canada -- Photographs
    Mines and mineral resources -- Cuba -- Photographs
    Mines and mineral resources -- Mexico -- Photographs
    Mines and mineral resources -- South America -- Photographs
    Mines and mineral resources -- West (U.S.) -- Photographs
    Mines and mineral resources -- Canada -- Photographs
    Mining engineers -- West (U.S.)
    Oil fields -- Photographs
    Oil wells -- Photographs
    Orchids -- Mexico
    Orchids -- Trinidad and Tobago
    Orchids -- Venezuela
    Petroleum -- Geology -- California -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- Canada -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- Cuba -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- Mexico -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- South America -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- United States -- Photographs
    Petroleum -- Geology -- Venezuela -- Photographs
    Petroleum geologists -- Photographs
    Petroleum industry and trade
    Petroleum workers -- Photographs
    Unskilled labor -- Venezuela -- Photographs
    California -- Photographs
    Mexico -- Photographs
    Trinidad and Tobago -- Photographs
    Venezuela -- Photographs
    West (U.S.) -- Photographs


    Photograph albums.
    Film negatives.
    Glass negatives.
    Lantern slides.
    Topographic maps.