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Guide to the Harry C. Peterson Papers, ca. 1880-1944
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Collection Scope and Content Summary
  • Access Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Peterson, Harry C. Papers,
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1880-1944
    Collection number: M0649
    Creator: Peterson, Harry C.
    Extent: 2 linear ft.
    Repository: Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
    Abstract: The collection contains correspondence, notes, memorabilia, typescripts. Included is material pertaining to Stanford University and Sutters Fort.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access Restrictions


    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Acquisition Information

    Purchased, 1993.

    Preferred Citation

    Harry C. Peterson Papers. M0649. Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Harry Claude Peterson never met a historical fact or artifact that he didn't like. The inveterate historian spent his entire adult life in one position after another related to history, particularly California Gold Rush Days.
    Harry was born in Algona, Iowa, in 1876, son of Julius E. Peterson, a Norwegian mechanician. Leland Stanford had learned of the elder Peterson in Europe and brought him to Stanford University to teach Machine Shop Practices. Young Harry was educated in public schools in Algona and Palo Alto, California. He was in the photographic business in Palo Alto for a time. He was married in 1902 and had one son, Austin Peterson.
    Harry was named Director and Curator of the Stanford University Museum of Fine Arts (now the Cantor Center) in 1899, where he remained until 1918, adding collections to the Museum and writing historical papers. He also acquired his own collection of historical books and documents while serving as Curator. During his residence in Palo Alto, he served on the city counsel for eight years.
    Harry's next endeavor was as head of Field Research for the California History Department of the California State Library. He remained in that position for three years, and then joined the Oakland Tribune as feature writer of California history for the paper, for another three years. In 1925, he was named Curator of Sutter's Fort Museum in Sacramento, California, and became a charter member of the American Association of Museums.
    Harry Peterson's credits are many, from over three hundred published stories and speeches and countless photographs concerning California History, many for professional and trade publications and meetings. He was responsible for energizing the public to the historical value of Sutter's Fort. He served on the Southern Pacific Railroad Company's selection committee to identify historical sites along its lines. He also acted as historical consultant on several Hollywood films of the Gold Rush days, such as The Pony Express, The Big Trail, the Fighting Caravan, and Sutter's Gold.. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Sacramento Golden Empire Centennial in 1939. His energy, exemplified by his many activities, appeared to be unstoppable, but Harry Peterson died suddenly of a heart attack, in his office at Sutter's Fort, in 1941. His series of articles on the Gold Rush for the Oakland Tribune were collected in book form, The 49er, published posthumously by the Doubleday Company in 1949.

    Collection Scope and Content Summary

    Correspondence, notes, memorabilia, typescripts. Included is material pertaining to Stanford University and Sutters Fort.

    Access Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Berner, Bertha.
    Couper, William.
    Covey, F.W.
    Davis, Horace.
    Gross, H.H.
    Hewes, Anna Lathrop.
    Holzman, R.O.
    Jordan, David Starr, 1851-1931.
    Lathrop, Charles G. (Charles Gardner), 1849-1914.
    Nash, H.C.
    Schmid, Rupert.
    Spencer, Francis.
    Stanford, Jane Lathrop, 1828-1905.
    Wilbur, Ray Lyman, 1875-1949.
    Stanford University--History.
    Sutters' Fort.