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A guide to the Hal Roth papers, 1948-2009
HDC1613 (SAFR 22822)  
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication and Use Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Historical or Biographical Note
  • Collection Scope and Content
  • Collection Arrangement

  • Title: Hal Roth papers
    Date: 1948-2009
    Date (bulk): 1962-2008
    Identifier/Call Number: HDC1613 (SAFR 22822)
    Creator/Collector: Roth, Hal, 1927-
    Physical Description: 51.33 linear feet
    Repository: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Historic Documents Department
    Building E, Fort Mason
    San Francisco, CA 94123
    Abstract: The Hal Roth papers, 1948-2009, (SAFR 22822, HDC 1613) consists of personal papers, diaries of both Margaret and Hal Roth, correspondence, vessel logbooks, maps, photographic images, audio-visual films, books, manuscripts, and articles pertaining to American sailor, author, and photographer Hal Roth (1927-2008) and his wife Margaret Roth. The materials have been processed to the file unit level and are open for use.
    Physical Location: San Franicsco Maritime NHP, Historic Documents Department
    Language(s): In English


    This collection is open for use unless otherwise noted. Access to Series 13. Electronic Data and Audio Records is restricted for preservation reasons.

    Publication and Use Rights

    Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the researcher's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

    Preferred Citation

    [Item description], [Location within collection organization identified by Collection Number/Series Number/File Unit Number/Item Number], HDC1613 (SAFR 22822), Hal Roth papers, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

    Acquisition Information

    The collection of materials was kept in the possession of the family until its donation to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park by Roth's widow in 2010.

    Historical or Biographical Note

    Hal Roth worked as a freelance writer and photographer. He married Margaret Hale-White (Roth) and the two learned to sail. He combined his talents and wrote many books based on his individual experiences racing and their combined sailing adventures. He passed away in 2008 after writing hundreds of articles and 13 books.
    Hal Roth was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1927. He was an aviator during World War II and the Korean War. During the course of his lifetime, Roth was also an author, sailor, mountaineer, and photographer. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Journalism, and became a freelance writer and photographer. He studied photography with Edward Weston and Ansel Adams. He worked as a photographer for the American Society of Magazine Photographers based in Sausalito, California and took countless images of life in the surrounding area of California during the late 1950s and into the late 1960s. Roth's freelance works of note include magazine titles such as Colliers, Fortune, The Saturday Evening Post, and The New York Times. Themes of his work include: California landscapes and wildlife, San Francisco (including Fisherman's Wharf), Winter Olympics, Dr. Suess, and Native American wildland firefighters of the Southwest.
    Hal was also engaged in photographic study of human life as represented by his "Time and Place" album and his Chinatown exhibit. In 1964, the San Francisco Museum of Art exhibited 40 of Roth's black and white photographic images titled "The Faces of Chinatown." Roth's first published book, "Pathway in the Sky" (1965) displays his passion for the John Muir Trail and the Sierra Mountains. The associated images of the John Muir Trail also reflect people enjoying the trail and document its use in the early 1960s.
    In 1959, Roth met Margaret Hale-White from Oxford, England who was visiting a friend in San Francisco, California. Margaret was born in Bombay, India and was the daughter of an English engineer. According to Roth, she worked in Paris for six and a half years as a dual language secretary for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Sharing backgrounds in mountaineering and hiking and a love for adventure, they married in 1960.
    Even though neither was a sailor, their friends shared a love of sailing and introduced them to the sport in 1962. The couple chartered a boat in the West Indies where they learned a great deal from the captain. Later, they chartered another boat in Greece, then took sailing lessons in Scotland. After purchasing a home in Sausalito in 1964, they took a trip (1966) north along the west coast and purchased a fiberglass Spencer 35, built in Vancouver, British Columbia and designed by John Brandlmayr in Seattle, Washington. They named her WHISPER, and sailed her home to California. The Roths began sailing on their own in 1966 and completed several voyages in WHISPER. Destinations included Japan, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, Canadian islands, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Cape Horn, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mediterranean, and Canary Islands. In 1978, they relocated to Maine.
    Roth published hundreds of articles in his lifetime. Although, his book publications appear to be his dominate body of work and document the couple's voyages and growing knowledge of sailing. The 1972 account of their first circumnavigation of the Pacific Basin (1967-8) resulted in the publication "Two on a Big Ocean." The Blue Water Medal of the Cruising Club of America was awarded to the Hal Roth, and Margaret was noted as the sole crew, for this voyage. "After 50,000 Miles" (1977) describes technical aspects of sailing. The 1978 book "Two against Cape Horn" describes their journey from California to Maine via Cape Horn. "Always a Distant Anchorage" (1988) describes their four year (1981-1985) circumnavigation west through the Panama Canal, Torres Strait, the Red Sea, and the Suez Canal. "Always a Distant Anchorage" (1988) was the resulting book.
    The couple sold WHISPER and purchased the AMERICAN FLAG and Roth then sailed solo in the Brin's or British Oxygen Company (BOC) Challenge Race of 1986-7. He completed the race 4th in his class, taking 171 days. "Chasing the Long Rainbow" (1990) is his account of this BOC race. In 1990, he tried the race again in the same Santa Cruz 50 and renamed it SEBAGO (his sponser), but due to capsizing, the voyage took 211 days. "Chasing the Wind" (1994) is his account of the second race. In 1992, they sold the SEBAGO, purchased a Pretorien 35, named her WHISPER, and spent two years together tracing Odysseus' voyage through the Mediterranean. "We Followed Odysseus", "How to Sail Around the World", and "Handling Storms at Sea" represent books that he wrote based on the couple's final unique voyages.
    Roth recorded reminisces and continued to draft manuscripts throughout his life. His last two works, "The Paradise Book" and "Graf Spee" were completed but never published. He worked on these during his later years and during his two and half year battle with lung cancer. He passed away October 18, 2008 while living in Maryland with his wife, Margaret, who survives him.

    Collection Scope and Content

    The Hal Roth papers, 1948-2009, (SAFR 22822, HDC 1613) consists of personal papers, diaries of both Margaret and Hal Roth, correspondence, vessel logbooks, maps, photographic images, audio-visual films, books, manuscripts, and articles pertaining to American sailor, author, and photographer Hal Roth (1927-2008) and his wife Margaret Roth. The materials have been processed to the file unit level and are open for use.
    This collection reflects Roth's personal artistic endeavors, sailing trips, technical sailing information, and records various cultures around the world. After studying with Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, Roth became a freelance writer and photographer and was well adept at documenting his adventures and the world around him. Diaries, maps, films, articles, manuscripts, and publications record his sailing adventures both solo and with his wife, Margaret. Documented destinations include: Aleutian Islands, Pacific and, northeastern Atlantic coast of the U.S., Panama, the Mediterranean area, Polynesia, Japan, Greece, Turkey, Chili, Brazil, and Newfoundland.
    A significant portion of the non-sailing documents document the entire John Muir Trail and aspects of Yosemite National Park in the late 1950s and early 1960s and capture his love for mountaineering and hiking. Other themes of particular interest include San Francisco and New York Chinatowns, East Bay, Richmond Ferry, Point Reyes, the west coast and the Cascades, Nevada, Maine, Native American wildland firefighters, living at sea, and various national park units such as Mesa Verde, Yellowstone, Death Valley, and possibly Great Basin.

    Collection Arrangement

    Organized into 13 series: 1. Books and Manuscripts; 2. Articles and Clippings; 3. Correspondence and Notes; 4. Diaries; 5. Vessel Logbooks; 6. Visitor Logbooks; 7. Navigation Charts and Maps; 8. Sailing Voyage Photographs; 9. Freelance Photographs; 10. Motion Pictures and Associated Records; 11. Personal Photographs and Documents; 12. Reference Files; and 13. Electronic Data and Audio Records.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Photograph collections--California--San Francisco
    Sailboats--Design and construction
    Voyages and travels
    Roth, Hal, 1927-
    American Flag (sloop: yacht: 50 ft. Santa Cruz)
    Sebago (sloop: yacht: 50 ft. Santa Cruz)
    Whisper (sloop: yacht: Spencer 35)
    Whisper (sloop: yacht: Pretorien 35)
    Pacific Ocean
    Pacific Coast (Calif.)
    Tahiti (French Polynesia : Island)
    South Sea Islands
    Caribbean Area
    Mediterranean Sea Region
    Yosemite National Park (Calif.)
    Contact prints
    Manuscripts for publication
    Motion pictures
    Negatives (photographic)
    Photographic prints
    Journals (accounts)