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San Francisco Committee of Vigilance records
mssVigilancecommittee  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: San Francisco Committee of Vigilance records
    Dates: 1853-1858
    Collection Number: mssVigilancecommittee
    Creator OR Collector: San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856
    Extent: 3,750 items
    Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
    1151 Oxford Road
    San Marino, California 91108
    Phone: (626) 405-2191
    Email: reference@huntington.org
    URL: http://www.huntington.org
    Abstract: This collection contains letters and documents related to the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856, a vigilante group that formed in San Francisco, California, and functioned for five months. The letters and documents are related to individuals making charges or giving information about suspects or prisoners to the group.
    Language of Material: The records are in English.

    Access

    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]. San Francisco Committee of Vigilance Records, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

    Provenance

    Purchased from Augustin S. MacDonald in 1916 and Sigurd Frederickson in 1931.

    Biographical Note

    The San Francisco Committees of Vigilance of 1851 and 1856 were formed when crime became widespread in the city of San Francisco in the wake of the Gold Rush. In 1856, the murder of James King of William sparked the reactivation of vigilante activities. King, a San Francisco newspaper editor, was shot by James. P. Casey, a corrupt official, after King attacked Casey in the columns of his paper. Immediately 10,000 men hastened to join the vigilantes, and William T. Coleman was again chosen as leader. Opposition to the vigilance committee was led by California Supreme Court Justice David S. Terry, but the efforts of his group were largely ineffective. The "Great Committee" of the vigilantes functioned for five months, then surrendered its powers to a regularly constituted civil authority.

    Scope and Content

    The collection contains letters and documents related to individuals making charges or giving information about suspects or prisoners to the San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856. It also contains completed applications for membership, lists of members and members of the executive committee, and financial documents. More specifically the collection contains material related to the murders of James King, the assault of Sterling Hopkins by Judge David S. Terry, abstracts from the files of the Recorders Court and Court of Sessions, showing the most important arrests by the city police, 1853 to 1856, and Report by the Grand Jury on county affairs for the term ending June 1, 1856

    Arrangement

    Although the collection has been sorted, it essentially remains uncataloged. It includes 10 boxes, six bound volumes, and 1 rolled item.

    Indexing Terms

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

    Personal Names

    Casey, James P.
    Coleman, William Tell, 1824-1893
    King, James, 1822-1856
    McGowan, Edward, 1813-1893
    Terry, David Smith, 1823-1889

    Corporate Names

    San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856

    Subjects

    Vigilance committees -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- Sources
    Vigilants -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- Sources

    Geographic Areas

    San Francisco -- History -- 19th century
    San Francisco -- Politics and government -- 19th century

    Genre

    Application forms -- California -- 19th century
    Documents -- California -- 19th century