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Finding Aid of the Union Pacific Railroad Tidelands records 0243
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Collection Details
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  • Preferred Citation
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Historical Background
  • Scope and Content
  • Arrangement
  • Conditions Governing Use
  • Custodial History
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Abbreviations
  • Processing Note

  • Title: Union Pacific Railroad Tidelands records
    Collection number: 0243
    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 30.0 Linear feet 12 boxes, 3 mapcase drawers
    Date (inclusive): 1940s-1950s
    Abstract: When the Union Pacific Railroad and Southern Pacific Railroad merged in 1997 and the former did a housecleaning of its inventory, many of the Union Pacific's archival materials were saved. The records that were donated to USC were chiefly those that were generated in the 1940s and 50s as part of the Tidelands controversies, concerning the Los Angeles / Long Beach / Wilmington harbor areas, and documenting channels, wetlands, islands, elevations, and shoreline. In addition to many maps, drawings, and historical files, the records consist of many volumes of land surveys (done by civil engineer Francis Bates) which were done in the old tidelands area in the 1930s and 40s. Mr. Bates also obtained copies of many of the original rancho documents for this area (e.g. Rancho Los Cerritos) to provide a complete history of the harbor, onshore and offshore.
    creator: Bache, A. D., (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867
    creator: Bates, Francis E.
    creator: Hancock, Henry, 1822-1883
    creator: Hansen, George, 1824-1897
    creator: Lippincott, Joseph Barlow, 1864-1942
    creator: U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
    creator: Union Pacific Railroad Company.

    Preferred Citation

    [Box/folder# or item name], Union Pacific Railroad Tidelands Records, Collection no. 0243, Regional History Collection, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

    Conditions Governing Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE. Advance notice required for access.

    Historical Background

    The story of the Union Pacific Railroad's involvement with oil and the Tidelands goes back to at least 1911 when the State of California granted the City of Long Beach its tidelands properties for development of commerce, navigation, fisheries, and recreation under a public trust doctine, meaning any development and revenues from such development would have to benefit the state as a whole rather than merely neighboring communities. (The tidelands are defined as land and waterways from the mean high tide to three miles offshore.)
    Though oil had been discovered at Signal Hill in 1921, it wasn't until 1932 that oil was discovered in adjacent lands, mainly at the West Wilmington Oil Field. A few years later, the California Legislature gave the California State Lands Commission authority over California's ungranted public trust lands (tidelands, submerged lands, and navigable waters). In 1939 the City of Long Beach Harbor Department created a Petroleum Division and drilled the first well under the tidelands.
    The years between 1932 and 1958 saw a succession of court cases and landmark decisions regarding the City's rights to conduct oil operations, property disputes between the City of Long Beach and the Union Pacific Railroad, and the expenditure of oil revenues. Throughout the twentieth century, the tidelands trust doctrine, overseen by the three-member California State Lands Commission, has changed drastically and what exactly is considered state public land use has been a debate since the beginning, leading to lawsuits and jurisdictional amendments over the years.
    In the early 1990s, the Port of Long Beach purchased the 725-acre Union Pacific Railroad site, within the Wilmington Field off the coast of Long Beach for $405 million for the land and mineral rights.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists chiefly of maps, blueprints, legal documents, and correspondence related to the dispute between the City of Long Beach and the Union Pacific Railroad (and various other property disputes) regarding the location of the tideland boundary line and the revenue generated from the sale or disposition of oil, gas, etc from the tidelands. The collection also documents the construction of the Aliso St. Viaduct in the 1930s.
    Highlights of the collection include photostats of maps and early Rancho documents procured by surveyor Francis Bates, as well as field notes by Henry Hancock in the 1850s. One particular document is a certified copy (with official seal) of Field Notes of the Final Survey of the Rancho San Pedro, Don Manuel Dominguez, Confirmee, by Henry Hancock, Deputy Surveyor, Under his instructions of December 11, 1857. Similar documents are included for [Ranchos] Los Cerritos, Los Alamitos, Las Bolsas, San Antonio, Los Coyotes, La Bolsa Chica, and Santa Gertrudes.


    The records in this collection had been previously re-housed in bankers' boxes, though most of the papers were in original folders, envelopes, and three-ring binders. Most of this material was left intact and also left in its existing arrangement, loosely grouped together by subject or types of materials. Because the breadth of the collection covers more than just the 1958 court case of the City of Long Beach vs the Union Pacific Railroad, there are many legal documents and maps that were assembled and used as exhibits in other cases. Therefore it is not easily obvious which materials belong together or what their original organization was in the larger Union Pacific archive. For this reason, the part of the collection that USC received was kept as one body and not separated into series.

    Conditions Governing Use

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

    Custodial History

    In 1997, after the merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railroads, Union Pacific's Los Angeles office discarded many years worth of records and files as part of its housecleaning. Carol Nolan, an independent researcher who was doing contract work for Union Pacific, negotiated with Union Pacific to retain some of the maps, drawings, and surveys pertaining to the Los Angeles (including Wilmington and San Pedro) harbor areas from the 1930s through the 1950s. The actual Deed of Gift to USC was signed by Don Snoddy, an historian with the Union Pacific Museum. USC obtained the materials in December of 1997.

    Related Archival Materials

    Solano-Reeve Papers, 1849-c.1910, Manuscripts Department, Huntington Library
    A.L. Sonderegger Papers, Water Resources Collection, Honnold/Mudd Library, Claremont University
    Joseph Barlow Lippincott Papers, 1882-1942, Water Resources Center Archives, University of California, Berkeley


    AT&SFRR: Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company
    CRC: California Railroad Commission
    ICC: Interstate Commerce Commission
    LA: Los Angeles
    LA&SLRR: Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company
    LAD&TC: Los Angeles Dock & Terminal Company
    LARC: Los Angeles Railway Corporation
    LATR: Los Angeles Terminal Railway
    MTRR: Municipal Terminal Railroad
    NWPRR: Northwestern Pacific Railroad Company
    PD&TC: Pacific Dock & Terminal Company
    PERC: Pacific Electric Railway Company
    PWA: Public Works Administration
    RR: Railroad
    SFRR: Santa Fe Railroad
    SNRR: Sacramento Northern Railroad Company
    SP: Southern Pacific Company
    SPLA&SLRR: San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company
    UP: Union Pacific
    UPRR: Union Pacific Railroad
    UP&SPRR: Union Pacific & Southern Pacific Railroads[?]
    USC&GS: United States Coast and Geodetic Survey
    USGS: United States Geological Survey
    WPA: Works Progress Administration (later renamed Work Projects Administration)
    WPRR: Western Pacific Railroad Company

    Processing Note

    Processing of the Union Pacific Tidelands records was generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and administered by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). USC Libraries was awarded a Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives grant from 2010-2012, "Uncovering California's Environmental Collections," in collaboration with eight additional special collections and archival repositories throughout the state and the California Digital Library (CDL). Grant objectives included processing of over 33 hidden collections related to the state's environment and environmental history. The collections document an array of important sub-topics such as irrigation, mining, forestry, agriculture, industry, land use, activism, and research. Together they form a multifaceted picture of the natural world and the way it was probed, altered, exploited and protected in California over the twentieth century. Finding aids are made available through the Online Archive of California (OAC).

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Aldrich, Lloyd -- Archives
    Aldrich, Lloyd -- Correspondence
    Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad Company. -- Archives
    Bache, A. D., (Alexander Dallas), 1806-1867 -- Archives
    Bates, Francis E. -- Archives
    California. State Lands Commission. -- Archives
    Hancock, Henry, 1822-1883 -- Archives
    Hansen, George, 1824-1897 -- Archives
    Lippincott, Joseph Barlow, 1864-1942 -- Archives
    Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company--History. -- Archives
    Los Angeles (Calif.). Harbor Dept.. -- Archives
    Los Angeles (Calif.). Harbor Dept.. -- Correspondence
    Pacific Electric Railway Company. -- Archives
    Railroad Commission of the State of California. -- Archives
    San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company. -- Archives
    Southern Pacific Company. -- Archives
    U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. -- Archives
    Union Pacific Railroad Company. -- Archives
    Aliso Street Viaduct--History--Archival resources
    California, Southern--Archival resources
    Coastal mapping--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Field notes
    Geodesy--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Huntington Beach (Calif.)--Maps
    Hydrographic surveying--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Hydrography--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Legal correspondence
    Legal documents
    Long Beach (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
    Long Beach (Calif.)--Maps
    Long Beach Harbor (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
    Los Angeles (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
    Port of Long Beach--History--Archival resources
    Railroads--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Ranches--California--Los Angeles County--History--Archival resources
    Regional planning--California, Southern--Archival resources
    San Gabriel River (Calif.)--History--Archival resources
    San Pedro (Los Angeles, Calif.)--History--Archival resources
    Submerged lands--California--Maps
    Surveying--Law and legislation--United States--Archival resources
    Terminal Island (Calif.)--Maps
    Topographical surveying--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Transportation--California, Southern--Archival resources
    Uncovering California's Environmental Collections Project
    Viaducts--California--Los Angeles--Archival resources
    Wilmington (Los Angeles, Calif.)--History--Archival resources