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Finding Aid to the Robert Dollar Company Photographs, 1858-1960
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Summary
  • Indexing Terms
  • Information for Researchers
  • History
  • Custodial History
  • Acquisition
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement

  • Summary

    Title: Robert Dollar Company photographs,
    Date: 1858-1960
    Collection No: P77-007
    Creator: Robert Dollar Co.

    Extent: 1365 items.
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (Calif.)
    Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, California 94123
    Abstract: The collection consists of images of the Dollar family, the Dollar lumber empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the many activities of the Dollar Steamship Lines across the globe throughout the first half of this century. Nearly all of the items are photographic prints, with small number of negatives at the beginning of the arrangement. Well over half of the items are from one of six different photo albums. As noted in the arrangement notes, the five series in the Dollar collection are: Vessels and Cargoes, People, The Lumber Trade, Office Views, and Other Dollar-Related Facilities, and Miscellanea.
    Physical Location: Historic Documents Department
    Language: In English.

    Indexing Terms

    The following are indexing terms related to the description of this collection.
    Dollar Steamship Lines

    Lumber trade

    Photography of ships

    Shipping--Pacific Ocean--History--Pictorial works

    Photographic prints

    Photograph albums

    Information for Researchers

    Access Information

    This collection is open for research.

    Access Information

    Condition Restrictions

    There are no restrictions based on the condition of this material. However, you should be aware that access to collection material is always at the discretion of NPS curatorial staff if the condition warrants restricting the access and handling of the collection items at any time.

    Conditions of Use

    The San Francisco Maritime NHP possesses physical property rights through ownership of the materials. However, copyright may reside with the individual or corporate body responsible for the creation of the materials, or with their heirs. It is the user's responsibility to respect the provisions of the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Permission to reproduce or publish from this collection must be secured by the user from the copyright holders.
    Preferred Citation
    [Item title or description including date]. Robert Dollar Company photographs, P77-007. [Location within collection organization identified by container number, series number, file unit number, or item number]. Historic Documents Department, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

    Processing/Project Information

    Processing and Cataloging
    Original 1988 processing, arrangement and description completed by Douglas Smith, with assistance from Kathleen McGee and Matt Southard fot the printed finding aid. The collection was recataloged in ANCS+ and revised for Online Archives of California by Taylor Horton and completed 4/18/2008.
    ANCS+ Catalog No. SAFR 17919.

    The collection is cataloged in the National Park Service (NPS) Automated National Catalog System (ANCS+). A portion of the ANCS+ catalog record can be viewed on the NPS Museum Collections on the Web Catalog by searching on the catalog number 17919 at http://www.museum.nps.gov/safr/page.htm. Do not include the acronym "SAFR" in the search.


    Agency History

    Organized in 1900, Dollar spent its first two decades in the transpacific trade as "essentially a tramp operator, whose main cargoes were bulk, low-value merchandise not suitable for the larger and faster passenger-cargo liners of the Pacific Mail Steamship Lines." [1] Both APL and Dollar traced their corporate origins to the famous Pacific Mail Steamship Company (PMSS) formed in 1848.
    Pacific Mail dominated stateside transpacific trade from 1867 to 1915. The Southern Pacific Railroad Company took control of the company in 1893. After the passage of the Panama Canal Act of 1912 and the LaFollette Seamen's Act of 1915, Southern Pacific Railroad began to liquidate the Pacific Mail fleet and withdraw from the transpacific trade. International Mercantile Marine purchased four Pacific Mail transpacific steamers; the remainder of the PMSS fleet and the company name were acquired by W.R. Grace & Co. As a subsidiary of Grace, Pacific Mail continued to operate coastwise service under its own house flag and purchased three new vessels with which it resumed transpacific service (and, briefly, round-the-world service) between 1916 and 1921. Pacific Mail Steamship Company officially ceased to exist in 1925 when Dollar acquired the company's name, house flag and goodwill from Grace.
    As PMSS withdrew from transpacific service, Dollar expanded steadily in a slow build-up to the creation in 1924 of its own permanent round-the-world service. Dollar, and later APL, based its claim to PMSS as a direct predecessor company on its assumption of the "shell" of the old company--its name and its unused transpacific and round-the-world routes. This service, along with profitable intercoastal cargo business, gave Dollar and its American Mail Line (AML) subsidiary a near monopoly on U.S. shipping in the Pacific Coast.
    This dominance did not come without a price. As its debt grew through the 1930s, Dollar's fortunes declined. In August 1938, faced with insurmountable debt and probable foreclosure, the company entered into an agreement that its creditors felt was the best alternative to bankruptcy. The U.S. Maritime Commission acquired the 93% stock interest in the Dollar Line held by the Dollar family. As payment, the U.S. Maritime Commission assumed all debts and personal obligations of the Dollar family in the line, began to pay off the debts and to rebuild the deteriorated Dollar fleet. Based on this arrangement and a large loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the revitalized company, renamed American President Lines (APL), played a significant part in the war effort of the U.S. merchant marine during World War II. The end of the war coincided with the repayment of the old Dollar Line's last creditors and with the initiation of the Dollar Line Case, a lawsuit brought by the Dollar family in an attempt to force the government to return the now profitable company to Dollar control. The litigation dragged on until 1952, when the government sold its stock in APL, keeping half of the proceeds and giving the other half to the Dollar family.
    [1] Rene de la Pedraja, A Historical Dictionary of the U.S. Merchant Marine and Shipping Industry (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 178.
    Excerpted from the agency history in the American President Lines Records finding aid written by Roberto Landazuri.

    Custodial History

    Donated to San Francisco Maritime Museum by Robert Dollar Company Liquidating Trust. GOGA-00735


    Accession number SAFR-00001.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of images of the Dollar family, the Dollar lumber empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the many activities of the Dollar Steamship Lines across the globe throughout the first half of this century. Nearly all of the items are photographic prints, with small number of negatives at the beginning of the arrangement. Well over half of the items are from one of six different photo albums. As noted in the arrangement notes, the five series in the Dollar collection are: Vessels and Cargoes, People, The Lumber Trade, Office Views, and OtherDollar-Related Facilities, and Miscellanea.
    The original accession included books, manuscript materials, personal papers, and photographs. Document materials relating to the Dollar family and the Dollar Steamship Lines may be found in the document collection HDC 144. The photographs have been processed in three steps: there initially was a partially-processed version of P77-007, then more were partailly-cataloged four years later in a collection bearing the number P81-035a, and finally all the Dollar photographs (P77-007, P81-035a, and those found in HDC 144) were given full preservation treatment and a detailed level of processing to arrive at the present collection, bearing the original number of P77-007. The former collection P81-035a therefore no longer exists, but is now among the photographs in P77-007.
    The subject matter of the photographs mirrors the wide variety of activities which the Robert Dollar empire represented over time. While a large portion concerns the Dollar Steamship Lines,its personnel, vessels, and wharf facilities around the world, the Dollar family itself and their earlier activities in the lumber trade are also quite well-documented. Noteworthy highlights in P77-007 are numerous. These include the launchings of Dollar's renowned liners the PRESIDENT HOOVER and PRESIDENT COOLIDGE, the wreck of the HOOVER at Formosain 1937, the ships beached in the 1937 Hong Kong typhoon, the H.F. ALEXANDER's collision with Cake Rock near Caper Flattery, the Dollar and Admiral Line baseball teams in Jackson Playground in San Francisco, aerial views of the Dollar piers on San Francisco's southern waterfront, the PRESIDENT HOOVER on her maiden voyage, a series of photos documenting the Havana waterfront in 1920 (complete with some rather culturally-insensitive remarks abouth Cuban stevedoring techniques inked in anonomously), barechested longshoremen in Kobe loading silk onto the PRESIDENT LINCOLN, and a lone Japanese bluejacket standing guard on the decks of the captured PRESIDENT HARRISON in 1942. Within other series are photos of the Dollar sawmills in Dollarville, Michigan and Dollarton, British Colombia; logging operations at Union Bay, B.C., Usal, Ca., and Mukelteo, Wa.; Robert Dollar's first steam schooner the NEWSBOY; snapshots of the rubble in San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake; and views of the Dollar mansion in San Rafael, Ca. A scan of the indices is sure to reveal many more items of importance.
    Photographic Albums

    Over half of the items in P77-007.531-.1187 are in, or have been removed from, photograph albums. In all, there are six albums in this collection. When possible, the albums have been dismantled, the individual photos housed in archival enclosures, and the album covers transferred to Collections Management. This course of action was completed for only one of the albums, however. In two cases the photos could not be removed, in another instance the album cover was judged to have no value and was discarded, and in yet another only the album pages were accessioned. Notes on each individual photo album are below.
    Album 1 (P77-007.531-.581)

    "Mukilteo Plant, Ocean Falls Plant, Clark Wilson Lbr. Company"

    This album has been kept intact, with acid-free interleaving sheets used between pages. Includes photos .0531 through .0581.
    Album 2 (P77-007.582-.634)


    Accessioned without the album cover, only the album pages exist in this collection. The photos remain adhered to their linen backing, and have been catalogued in order by photographer’s number. Users should note that captions for most of the items have been removed--see captions folder.
    Album 3 (P77-007.635-.675)

    "The President Liners"

    Formerly catalogued as "Scr 70", this album has been kept intact and acid-free interleaving sheets used.
    Albums 4 and 5 (P77-007.676-.796)

    "Dollar Steamship Lines: Main and Branch Offices"

    Both albums are nearly identical, therefore one of them (#4) has been kept intact with interleaving sheets for use in exhibits and the other (#5) has been disassembled and the individual photos housed in archival enclosures. Researchers should use album #5 unless they wish to see the few images in #4 which are not duplicated in #5. Items which appear in both albums #4 and #5 bear the same photo number assigned by the cataloger. The items in album #5 have been cataloged in the same order in which they existed when the album was intact. The cover has been transferred Co Collections Management. It is identical to the cover on album #4.
    There are some slight differences between the two. Album #4 has six views which don’t occur in album #5 (these bear the photo numbers .0683, .0694, .0724, .0748, .0773, .0785), and album #5 has six office views 6 which do not appear in album /14 (these bear the photo numbers .0791 through .0796).
    Album 6 (P77-007 .797-.1187)


    This large album has been disassembled, and the items within it have been catalogued and numbered in the order in which they appeared on the album pages. The album cover was judged to possess no value and was discarded. Because the sizes of the photos varies greatly, a researcher wishing to browse item-by-item among the photos must note that the shelf location of apparently “adjacent’ items--items which happen to be of differing sizes--will in fact not be adjacent. For example, item .0803 is stored in the small print storage boxes while its neighbor in album //6, .0804, must be stored with other large prints in the large print storage boxes. Keeping this in mind while using the photos from this album should alleviate confusion when apparent “gaps’ in the items are found. For further help, see the storage outline.

    Several of the photographs in P77-007 had typed or printed captions attached to them at the time of cataloging. This is a list of the photo numbers in P77-007 with separated captions.
    • .0210-.0219
    • .0269
    • .0362
    • .0375
    • .0378
    • .0379
    • .0383
    • .0385
    • .0392
    • .0483-.0492
    • .0582-.0586
    • .0588-.0591
    • .0593-.0601
    • .0603-.0615
    • .0617
    • .0623-.0624
    • .0626-.0634
    • .1134-.1139
    Dollar Saga Typescript Photographs

    The following list is of photographs associated with the “Dollar Saga” typescript in HDC 144.
    The list of collection photo numbers are arranged by the order of images found in the typescript.
    • 1. P77-007.138
    • 2. P77-007.454
    • 3. P77-007.455
    • 4. P77-007.164
    • 5. P77-007.144
    • 6. P77-007.415, .416
    • 7. P77-007.513, .514
    • 8. P77-007.199, .202
    • 9. P77-007.505
    • 10. P77-007.182, .183
    • 11. P77-007.457
    • 12. P77-007.170, .320
    • 13. P77-007.207, .248, .255, .310
    • 14. Unk
    • 15. P77-007.208
    • 16. Unk
    • 17. P77-007.404, .405
    • 18. P77-007.364, .365
    • 19. P77-007.456
    • 20. P77-007.411
    • 21. Unk
    • 22. P77-007.270
    • 23. P77-007.213
    • 24. P77-007.376
    • 25. P77-007.380
    • 26. Unk
    • 27. Unk
    • 28. Unk
    • 29. Unk
    • 30. Unk
    Original finding aid prepared by Douglas Smith, with assistance from Kathleen McGee and Matt Southard.


    The Dollar Collection is arranged overall by the image format and then alphabetically within sub-series. Except for the photographic albums, each image format is arranged in five series: Vessels and Cargoes, People, The Lumber Trade, Office Views and Other Dollar-Related Facilities, and Miscellaneous.
    Image Codes, Format and Size
    • nt - cellulose nitrate negatives 5 x 7 in. and smaller
    • ntl - cellulose nitrate negatives 8 x 10 in. and smaller
    • n - safety negatives 5 x 7 in. and smaller
    • p - prints 5 x 7 in. and smaller
    • pl - prints 8 x 10 in. and smaller
    • x - prints 11 x 14 in. and smaller
    • x (oversize) - prints larger than 11 X 14 in.
    • no code - photographic albums
    Container List
    • Location/Box #: Photo Number, Form of Image, Series
    • Nitrate Freezer Storage: 1-3, nt, Miscellaneous
    • Nitrate Freezer Storage: 4, ntl, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 1: 1-3, n, ps, Miscellaneous
    • Box No. 1: 5-8, n, ps, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 1: 9-17, n, ps, People
    • Box No. 1: 18, n, ps, Offices & Dollar-related Facilities
    • Box No. 1: 19-1190, n, ps, New copy negatives
    • Box No. 1-2: 19-135, p, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 2: 136-163, p, People
    • Box No. 2: 164-165, p, Lumber Trade
    • Box No. 2: 166-167, p, Miscellaneous
    • Box No. 2-4: 797-1179, Album 6, [Small prints (“P”) only]
    • Box No. 5: 4, nl, psl, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 5: 71-1123, sl, [All 35mm Slide Copies]
    • Box No. 5-6: 168-356, pl, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 7: 357-413, pl, People
    • Box No. 7: 414-416, pl, Lumber Trade
    • Box No. 7: 417-446, pl, Offices & Dollar-related Facilities
    • Box No. 7: 447-469, pl, Miscellaneous
    • Box No. 7: 1188-1190, pl, Miscellaneous
    • Box No. 8: 531-581, Album 1, Lumber Trade
    • Box No. 9: 582-634, Album 2, Lumber Trade; Offices & Other Dollar-Related Facilities
    • Box No. 9: 635-675, Albun 3, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 10: 676-790, Album 4, Offices & Other Dollar-Related Facilities
    • Box No. 11-13: 676-796, Album 5, Offices & Other Dollar-Related Facilities
    • Box No. 14-15: 804-1187, Album 6, pl only, Lumber Trade, etc.
    • Box No. 16: 470-504, x, Vessels and Cargoes
    • Box No. 17: 505-512, x, People
    • Box No. 17: 513-514, x, Lumber Trade
    • Box No. 17: 515-523, x, Offices & Dollar-realted Facilities
    • Box No. 17: 524-525, x, Miscellaneous
    • Box No. 17: 895-1138, Album 6, Large prints (‘X”) only]
    • Photo Vault Flatfile No. P77: 526-529, x [oversize], Vessels and Cargoes
    • Photo Vault Flatfile No. P77: 530, x [oversize], Offices & Dollar-related Facilities