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San Francisco Civil Service Commission records,
SFH 468  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Provenance
  • Related Materials
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement
  • Processing Information

  • Title: San Francisco Civil Service Commission records
    Date (inclusive): 1900-2016
    Identifier/Call Number: SFH 468
    Creator: San Francisco. (Calif.). Civil Service Commission.
    Physical Description: 207 boxes (204 cubic feet)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    Abstract: Contains minutes and meeting files of the San Francisco Civil Service Commission.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored off site.
    Language of Material: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research and stored offsite. A minimum of forty-eight hours notice is required for use. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415 557-4567.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], San Francisco Civil Service Commmission Records (SFH 468), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


    Records covering 1900-1988 were transferred from the San Francisco Civil Service Commisson in November of 1994. Subsequent accretions covering approximately two years have been made approximately every two years since the original transfer.

    Related Materials

    Civil Service Commission Minutes, 1974-2018, SF C65 #5, and Agendas, 1991-2018, SF C65 #4, can be accessed in the Government Information Center. Agendas are also bound with the minutes beginning with 1995. Supporting documents are not included.
    Minutes of 1974-2015 are digitized and available online. See http://sflib1.sfpl.org/record=b1655292~S1. Agendas of 1991-2015 are digitized and available online. See http://sflib1.sfpl.org/record=b1795253~S1
    The Civil Service Commission website has minutes and agendas from 1997 to present. Supporting documents are included beginning with December of 2013. See https://sfgov.org/civilservice/meetings/10.

    Historical Note

    The San Francisco Civil Service Commission is charged by the City Charter with providing qualified persons for appointment to the service of the City and County of San Francisco. The City and County of San Francisco currently employs just over 36,000 people. For the San Francisco Unified School District and Community College District, Civil Service rules apply only to classified employees. (Teachers and administrators are covered under the Education Code.) The department establishes rules and policy; hears appeals on examinations, eligible lists, minimum qualifications, classification, discrimination complaints, future employment with the City, and other merit system matters; provides rules and policies interpretation; reviews and audits merit system operation; approves contracting out based on the scope of services; and conducts training and outreach on the merit system.
    The San Francisco Civil Service system was established under the Freeholder Charter of 1900 (ratified by election of May 26, 1898). The commission was created in 1900, simultaneously with the establishment of the merit system. The commission is one of the oldest in the country, pre-dated by a few years by Chicago, New York City, and a few other eastern municipalities.
    The first members of the commission were P.H. McCarthy, John E. Quinn, and Richard Freud, who were appointed by Mayor James D. Phelan on Dec. 30, 1899. Freud was elected president. The commission's first meeting took place on Jan. 2, 1900. It was recorded as an "informal meeting" of the commissioners. The commissioners established these provisions:
    1. Exam questions will be practical and relate only to the duties of the positions.
    2. Experience in public service should count for something.
    3. Principles of a merit system should be adopted.
    A temporary office was located in the Mills Building. The first competitive examination was held on Jan. 8, 1900 in the Mills Building, for the position of Chief Examiner and Secretary to the Commission. On Jan. 9, Edward F. Moran was appointed to that position.
    Also on Jan. 8, 1900, temporary offices were opened to the public, in the basement of City Hall. On that date, two classes were opened: ordinary unskilled laborers and skilled positions, including janitor, mason, carpenter, and clerical.
    Charter reform of 1932 enlarged the scope of duties of the commission, giving it greater powers to enforce its rulings. For a more detailed history, see Civil Service Commission: History, Purpose, Organization Chart, Rules; San Francisco: The Commission, 2000.

    Scope and Contents

    Contains minutes, staff reports, and meeting files of regular and special meetings of the San Francisco Civil Service Commission, from its inception in 1900 to 2016. These cover adopted rules, exams and answer keys, applicants' names, lists of eligible hires, names of appointments, adoptions of ordinances, and actions on policies, dismissals and hirings, and salaries. Agendas are sometimes included, as they are in 1972 which has the year's agendas assembled in a file. Minutes are generally signed by the commission president, although more recent minutes are signed by the executive officer.
    This collection contains the only complete background documentation files, with staff reports and meeting files. Minutes and agendas are digitized and available online from 1974 to present. Supporting documents are available online beginning Dec. 2, 2013. See Related Materials for digitized material.
    The first five volumes are original, mostly handwritten minutes beginning with the creation of the commission in 1900 to March 13, 1906. There are indexes for the first three volumes, mostly indexing names of individuals. Early documents pasted into these volumes include Civil Service Commissiion Publication No. 1, "Municipal Civil Service of San Francisco" (issued Jan. 15, 1900) and "Classifications for the Classified Civil Service o San Francisco," adopted Feb. 6, 1900.
    The next set consists of mostly original and some carbon copies of typed minutes, pasted into volumes, beginning May 7, 1900. Minutes in boxes 6 and 7, from May 7, 1900 to Oct. 17, 1907, duplicate the handwritten minutes. There is an index for the volume containing minutes of April 16, 1906-Oct. 14, 1907.
    Other documents are pasted into the pages, such as exam notifications, questions, and answer keys, and lists of eligible applicants. Note that blueprints and examinations pasted into the handwritten minutes of March 18, 1901, May 22, 1901 and June 19, 1901 were not included in the transcribed (typed) minutes for those dates.
    The entry for April 9, 1906 notes: "The notes of the minutes of April 9th were destroyed by fire." The entry for April 30. 1906 notes that the meeting was held in temporary offices in the Hamilton Grammar School.
    At some point, typed minutes were bound directly into volumes. Later, typed and/or computer generated minutes were assembled into volumes.
    By Jan. 16, 1964, communications on specific matters were adopted by the commission and included with the minutes. These memos appear with more regularity in the following months and years. At least by January of 1972, these are identified as "staff reports."
    By January of 1992, the records are labeled "meeting files" and include substantial backup documentation.


    Organized chronologically.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Tami J. Suzuki in 2021.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    San Francisco (Calif.) -- Civil Service Commission -- Archives
    Civil Service -- California -- San Francisco -- Periodicals