Guide to the California Border Region Digitization Project

Processed by Robert Ross, Chris Travers, and Cindy Krimmel.
San Diego Historical Society
Casa de Balboa
1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, Suite 3
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 232-6203
© 2004
San Diego Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Guide to the California Border Region Digitization Project

Collection number: Consult repository

San Diego Historical Society

San Diego, California

Contact Information

  • San Diego Historical Society
  • Casa de Balboa
  • 1649 El Prado, Balboa Park, Suite 3
  • San Diego, CA 92101
  • Phone: (619) 232-6203
  • URL:
Processed by:
Robert Ross and Chris Travers
Date Completed:
Encoded by:
Therese M. James
© 2004 San Diego Historical Society. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: California Border Region digitization project,
Date (inclusive): ca. 1850-1940
Date (bulk): 1870-1939
Collection number: Consult repository
Creator: San Diego Historical Society
Extent: 3,500 items (film negatives): b&w; 4 x 5 in. 3,498 online items
Repository: San Diego Historical Society
San Diego, California 92138
Abstract: Black and white photographic images drawn from a variety of collections document the daily life, work, and activities of the residents of the California border region with an emphasis on San Diego County and Baja California, Mexico between 1850 and 1940. Images show the development of aviation, business, neighborhoods, beaches and harbors, water and transportation and include visiting dignitaries, political subjects and locally based events including the Panama-California Exposition and California Pacific International Exposition. Representing the diverse residents of the region are images of Native Americans, African Americans and American immigrants including Chinese, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans, and Portuguese. Photographs also illustrate the wide-ranging role of the United States military in San Diego.
Physical location: San Diego Historical Society Research Library, Booth Historical Photograph Archives, 1649 El Prado, Casa de Balboa Building, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101
Language: English.

Administrative Information


Collection is open for research. Access to fragile items restricted, except by permission of the Photograph Archivist.

Publication Rights

All requests for publication of images in this collection must be submitted in writing to the San Diego Historical Society. Permission for use is not granted until all fees are paid.

Preferred Citation

California Border Region digitization project, Consult repository, San Diego Historical Society

Acquisition Information

The California Border Region Collection was compiled by San Diego Historical Society staff in 2003-2004 from collections held by the Booth Historical Photograph Archives of the San Diego Historical Society, including:
  • Andreas Brown Postcard Collection (C020)
  • Edward H. Davis Collection (C036)
  • Elaine Sweet Family Collection, 1870-1970 (C119)
  • F.E. Patterson Collection (C089)
  • Fletcher Family Collection (C052)
  • Guy Sensor Collection (C110)
  • Harry A. (Jimmy) Erickson Collection (C046)
  • Joseph M.F. Haase Collection (C058)
  • Louis & Dolores Strahlmann Collection (C121)
  • Pliny Castanian Collection (C027)
  • Ralph P. Stineman Collection (C117)
  • San Diego Historical Society Negative Collection (C004)
  • San Diego Public Library Collection (102)
  • San Diego Union-Tribune Collection (C002)
  • Schneider-Kemmler Collection (C106)
  • Title Insurance Collection (C003)
  • Vernon Heger Collection (C060)

Biography / Administrative History

In the course of the California Border Region Digitization Project, Historical Society staff selected, described, and digitized 3,500 photographs from more than fifteen collections. Scanning services were provided by Luna Imaging, Inc. Funding for the project was provided by the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). The duration of the project was September 2003 through August 2004.

Scope and Content of Collection

The California Border Region Digitization Project is a virtual collection of digital images made from black and white negatives of photographic prints, postcards, and stereographs documenting the daily life, work, and activities of the residents of the California border region with an emphasis on San Diego County and Baja California, Mexico. The work of a variety of professional photographers, including Walter E. Averrett, Harry T. Bishop, Ralph P. Stineman, Edward H. Davis, Francis Elliotte Patterson and others, is included.
Though not all resident populations are represented by this collection, the collection seeks to highlight the diversity of the California border region through images of such ethnic and indigenous residents as African Americans, American Indians, Chinese, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans, and Portuguese. Other images of people and events characteristic of the region's history are represented, including the 1911 Tijuana insurrection, 1912 I.W.W. riot, and 1916 flood, Panama-California Exposition and California Pacific International Exposition, and the dedication of Presidio Park and the Serra Museum. Prominent individuals such as United States presidents, governors and mayors, visiting dignitaries and celebrities are portrayed, as are children engaged in a variety of activities.
Aspects of the history of California's relationship with Mexico are shown through images of tourists, custom inspectors, police, border patrol, street scenes, businesses, and other activities. Representing the region's commercial development are images of office buildings, theaters, groceries, markets, warehouses, factories, and mills. Images of farms, farm produce, dairies, dairy products industries, ranches, meat production, and agricultural workers illustrate the region's agricultural development. Representing the growth of San Diego's aviation industry are images of aviation pioneers and their aircraft including Charles Lindbergh. Glenn Curtiss, and others.
Well documented are the role and activities of the United States military in San Diego including the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. The many Navy warships stationed in or visiting San Diego are shown through photographs of ships and crews. Military life in San Diego includes images of bases such as the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Naval Training Center, Naval Air Station-North Island, Rockwell Field, Fort Rosecrans, and the 32nd Street Naval Station.


The collection is organized into eleven broad subject categories that include: Agriculture, Aviation, Balboa Park, Buildings, Government, Industry, Military, People, Places/Locations, Transportation, and Water. Each category has several sub-categories. Many images have been assigned to multiple categories. Images have been described using the Library of Congress' Thesaurus of Graphic Materials I. Where applicable, personal and corporate names have been selected from the Library of Congress' Name Authority File and/or names established by University of California's catalogers and recorded in MELVYL.

Indexing Terms

The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.


San Diego County (Calif.)
Mexican-American Border Region.
Balboa Park (San Diego, Calif.)
Armed Forces.
Associations, institutions, etc.
Business enterprises.

Genres and Forms of Material


Series Descriptions



Physical Description: 153 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Photographs document farms and ranches, farm life, and agricultural laborers primarily in San Diego County. This series shows the variety of produce cultivated in the region's orchards and fields including citrus fruits, olives, flowers, avocados, cotton, beans, and celery. Farms represented in these photographs include the Little Landers Colony, Prentice Ranch, La Vida Ranch and others.


Physical Description: 121 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Photographs document the early aviation industry in San Diego. Prominent aviators represented include Glenn Curtiss, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Charles A. Lindbergh, Lincoln Beachy, Amelia Earhart, Farnum Fish, Frank M. Hawks, John J. Montgomery, and Ruth Alexander. The development of the aircraft industry in San Diego is documented through images of the facilities of airplane manufacturers Consolidated, Solar, and Ryan. Aircraft represented include monoplanes, biplanes, balloons, blimps, dirigibles, and the Navy dirigibles USS Macon and USS Shenandoah. Airlines featured include Maddux Air Lines, United Airline, and Western Air Express. The airfields and airports Rockwell Field, Lindbergh Field, and Dutch Flats are illustrated through aerial photographs as well.

Balboa Park

Physical Description: 282 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

The Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916 and California-Pacific International Exposition of 1935-1936 are heavily represented by this series. Exposition attractions and displays include the Indian Village, Midget Village, Nudist Colony, San Diego Zoo, and Midway. Exterior views of buildings created for the expositions are pictured as well exposition-related special events. Prominent visitors to the expositions include Albert Einstein, President William Howard Taft, Thomas A. Edison, Henry Ford, William "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt and others.


Physical Description: 1,051 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

The history of the residential and commercial development of San Diego is documented through images of businesses, homes, hospitals, hotels, organizational facilities, religious facilities, schools, universities and theaters. Types of businesses represented range from small "mom and pop" shops to small and larger factories. Schools and universities represented include Mason Street School, San Diego Normal School, San Diego State Teachers College, San Diego State College, Pink School, Florence School, and others.


Physical Description: 179 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Photographs depict a broad array of activities related to the functions, services, and facilities of foreign, national, and local governments. Types of facilities represented in this series include fire houses, libraries, courthouses, city halls, post offices and customs buildings. Employees are pictured formally in groups and at work. Foreign relations are depicted by visiting Japanese, Czechoslovakian, and Mexican dignitaries and soldiers.


Physical Description: 254 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

The roles and development of energy, labor, lumber, manufacturing, mining, and shipping in the California border region are portrayed. Included are power plants and oil wells in Tijuana, National City, and Point Loma; workers in a variety of fields including construction, the food industry, and the aviation industry; mining in Julian, Descanso, and the Cuyamaca Mountains; and labor disputes, and riots involving the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).


Physical Description: 213 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

The United States military is depicted in images of bases, hospitals, ships, and activities. Military faculties include the Naval Training Center, Naval Hospital in Balboa Park, Camp Kearny, United State Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Fort Rosecrans, Rockwell Field, Naval Air Station - North Island, and Camp Derby in Balboa Park. The military's significant role in aviation history is illustrated by views of Navy blimps and observation balloons, Fokker C2-A airplane, and the U.S.S. Shenandoah and U.S.S. Macon airships at Rockwell Field. Many Navy battleships, cruisers, and aircraft carriers including the U.S.S. San Diego are also pictured.


Physical Description: 1,523 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Photographs document the varied activities of residents and visitors to the California border region from 1850 to 1940. Images of ethnic and indigenous residents include African Americans, American Indians, Chinese, Italians, Japanese, Mexicans, and Portuguese. Included here are also images of children engaged in such activities as school work, YMCA camp, swimming, and family activities. Special events that drew crowds include a reception for Charles Lindbergh reception at Balboa Stadium, the Cuyamaca ship launching, and President Franklin Roosevelt's visit to San Diego during the 1935 Exposition.


Physical Description: 1,232 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Highlighted by this series are the numerous cities and communities of San Diego County and the Mexican border. Aerial and other views portray the coastal communities of La Jolla, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, and Coronado. Representing the desert regions are images of Carrizo Gorge and the Imperial County locations of Calexico and the Mountain Springs Grade. Mexican cities of Tijuana, Tecate, Mexicali, Ensenada, as well as the Coronado Islands are represented by numerous images of landscapes, buildings, events and activities. Border crossings, tourism, the 1911 Tijuana Insurrection and a variety of other images featuring Mexico are included. Additional photographs show historically designated or well known sites such as Old Town, the Presidio, Marston House, Villa Montezuma, Serra Museum, and Mission San Diego de Alcala.


Physical Description: 740 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

Images including horse drawn wagons, automobiles, boats, ships, streetcars, and trains illustrate the development of wide ranging transportation systems. Images of major transportation hubs such as Santa Fe Depot as well as the significant roads and highways connecting communities are well documented. Numerous images of unpaved, rural roads are included. The majority of transportation related images depict recognizable buildings, businesses and people in the foreground or background. Tourism, family outings, and community events such as parade of automobiles in Tijuana or an annual Escondido Grape Day Parade are also well documented by this series.


Physical Description: 146 images.

Series Scope and Content Summary

The establishment of an adequate water supply system for the San Diego County region is documented through images of dams, lakes and reservoirs including: San Vincente Dam, Sweetwater Dam and reservoir, Old Mission Dam, El Capitan Dam, Barrett Dam, Lower Otay Dam, Morena Dam and Lake Hodges, Lake Murray Dam and reservoir, and a variety of flumes. The laying of water pipes to bring drinking water directly into homes is documented. The 1916 flood and resulting damage are shown in images of downtown San Diego, Old Town, Otay Mesa, and Tijuana.