This collection contains the papers of Orange County, California historian James ("Jim") Doren Sleeper (1927-2012). Jim Sleeper
specialized in Orange County history, especially the Irvine Ranch, Rancho Mission Viejo, and the O'Neill Ranch. The Sleeper
papers are comprised of research files comprised of alphabetical subject files and topical files, clippings from local Orange
County newspapers, manuscript and published versions of Sleeper's scholarly writings, citrus labels, annotated copies of books,
maps, and ephemera. Also included is biographical material, such as school records, correspondence, and family photographs.
James "Jime" Doren Sleeper (1927-2012) was the leading Orange County historian of his generation. A native of Santa Ana (his
grandfather was County Assessor for more than 30 years), his interest in local history began in the late 1930s.
After graduation from Santa Ana High School and service in the Army Air Force in the last days of World War II, Sleeper worked
as a newspaper reporter, teacher, forest ranger, and a public relations man before switching to history full time in the 1960s.
He served as staff historian for The Irvine Company (1965-69), and later filled a similar role for the Rancho Mission Viejo
Company. He worked as a historical consultant on environmental impact reports, legal cases, for both the Orange County Register
and the Los Angeles Times, and many other public and private projects.
His published work includes a wide variety of articles (some 2,000 by his count), and a number of important books. In Turn
the Rascals Out! The Life and Times of Orange County's Fighting Editor, Dan M. Baker (1973), he used the biography of a Santa
Ana newspaperman to trace the early history of Orange County. A Boys' Book of Bear Stories (Not for Boys). A Grizzly Introduction
to the Santa Ana Mountains (1976) again weaves together several stories. Bears in the Santa Ana Mountains, and also a general
outline of human history in the hills, and thumbnail sketches of a host of mountain pioneers. Great Movies Shot in Orange
County that will Live Forever (or at least until 1934) (1980) delves deeply into the minutia of local movie making, but still
manages to bring in a goodly dose of local history as well. Bears to Briquets, A History of Irvine Park (1987) began as a
small pamphlet published for the 70th anniversary of Irvine Park in 1967; the revised version brings in a great deal more
mountain history and some surprising episodes from the park's past.
But he was perhaps best known for his almanacs – Jim Sleeper's Orange County Almanac of Historical Oddities – published in
three editions (1971, 1974, and 1982). These books perhaps best capture Sleeper's insatiable curiosity and the breadth of
his historical research. They include invaluable summaries of local agriculture, chronologies of local events, and even local
Over the years, Sleeper developed the largest private research collection on the history of Orange County and was a friend
and mentor to several generations of local historians. He was active in a number of local historical organizations including
the Orange County Historical Society, the Orange County Pioneer Association, the Old Courthouse Museum Society, and the Santa
Ana Cultural Heritage Board.
Outside of Orange County, he had a deep interest in Latin American archaeology and anthropology and traveled many times to
Mexican, Central, and South America in the 1950s and '60s and again in the early 2000s.
In a brief biography written a few years before his death Sleeper noted, "His knowledge of the county, combined with his wit
and humor have found their way into eleven books and numerous articles in newspapers, magazines and professional journals.
A popular, if reluctant speaker, his style has often been compared to that of Mark Twain."
Though hampered by ill-health in the last dozen years of his life, he continued to collect, research, and write local history
almost until his death in 2012.
122.3 Linear Feet
(80 record cartons, 18 flat boxes, 13 rolled item boxes, 10 a/v boxes, 2 legal document boxes, 1 letter document box, 1 half
letter document box)
Property rights reside with the University of California. Copyrights are retained by the creators of the records and their
heirs. For permission to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special Collections and Archives.