The Finding Aid of the George Pepperdine Family Papers 0026

Finding aid prepared by Jamie Henricks
The processing of this collection and the creation of this finding aid was funded by the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.
Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA, 90263-4786
(310) 506-4434
January 2012

Title: George Pepperdine family papers
Identifier/Call Number: 0026
Contributing Institution: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Physical Description: 22.51 linear feet (25 boxes, 1 oversize drawer)
Date (inclusive): 1907-2002
Abstract: The George Pepperdine family papers are comprised of paper materials (such as correspondence, writings, and newspaper clippings), photographs, films, and memorabilia, dating from 1907 to 2002. Individuals represented in the collection include George Pepperdine, Lena Rose Pepperdine, Helen Louise Pepperdine, George B. Pepperdine, Florence May Pepperdine Crossley, Esther Louise Pepperdine Thurston, Marilyn Pepperdine, George Pepperdine II, and Wendell Pepperdine.
Location note: Pepperdine University. Special Collections and University Archives.
Language of Materials: Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

[Box/folder# or item name], George Pepperdine family papers, Collection no. 0026, Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries, Pepperdine University.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials from the collection came in multiple installments from various individuals prior to 1997. Items were donated primarily by Marilyn Pepperdine, Florence Pepperdine Crossley, and George Pepperdine II; other boxes were found in Helen Pepperdine's home following her death and given to Pepperdine University.
Other individual items were added to the collection by the following donors: Pat Corner, Randolph Crossley, Bill Henegar, Dr. Larry Hornbaker (including many photographs), Milford Johnson, Dorothy Moore, Mike O'Neal, Heather Pepperdine, Pepperdine University, Pepperdine University Library, Russell and Doris Squire, and M. Norvel Young.

Biographical note

George Pepperdine was born on June 20, 1886, in Mound Valley, Kansas, to John and Mary Pepperdine, the second of three children. His siblings were Fred and Benjamin. In 1903, John sold the family farm and moved the family to Parsons, Kansas. In 1905, George graduated from Parsons Business School and took his first job with a local gas company. Over the next few years, he held a variety of office and bookkeeping jobs in Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In 1907, the family moved and returned to farming, but George stayed in Kansas City, Missouri, and took a job as a bookkeeper at an automobile garage.
George married a woman from his hometown, Lena Rose Baker, on October 17, 1907. Lena was born on March 20, 1888, in Kansas to William and Agnes Baker. She was the oldest of seven children, with five brothers (Ralph, Ernest, Hallie, Herbert, and Wayne) and one sister (Winnifred). Her father was a carpenter, and one brother studied to be a druggist. George and Lena had two daughters, Florence May Pepperdine (married name Florence Crossley), born on November 22, 1908, and Esther Louise Pepperdine (married name Esther Thurston), born on January 6, 1911.
In March 1909, George came up with the idea to supply automobile parts via mail order. At the time, cars came from factories with few accessories or spare parts. With business connections made at his job at the garage, he was able to secure discounted prices on parts and ordered advertisements printed on credit. His initial investment of $5.00 for 500 one-cent stamps was used to mail out his batch of advertisements. George called his business Western Auto Supply Company, and sold more than $12,000 in car parts within the first year of operation. Lena wrapped and mailed the auto parts out of their home until the business made enough money for a permanent shop. An article titled How $5.00 And An Idea Became A Multi-Million Dollar Business was later published in Psychology Magazine describing his success. In 1914, he produced a catalog called Ford’s Owner Supply Book to market to Model-T owners, and sales hit $229,000 that year.
In June 1914, George was diagnosed with tuberculosis and traveled to Denver, Colorado for treatment. The following year he opened another store in Denver. By January 1916, he sold his Kansas City store and moved to Southern California. In an effort to promote car ownership in San Diego and Los Angeles, he opened another branch of the Western Auto Company in Los Angeles on the corner of 12th Street and Main Street on March 16, 1916. In 1923, George opened the corporate headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, and by 1929 there were over 170 stores in the United States. Lena was the company’s vice president and treasurer until her retirement in 1919. She worked six days per week at the headquarters and was in charge of hiring and managing 100 women in the office. In-home staff were hired to watch Florence and Esther after school and maintain the Pepperdine household.
Florence met Randolph Crossley in the Philippines while on a cruise with George and Esther in 1926. The two continued corresponding long-distance until Randolph moved to Los Angeles in 1927, and they were married on July 23, 1928. They stayed in Los Angeles for a year before moving to Hawaii where Randolph started an advertising agency. Lena died on January 18, 1930, while on a trip to Hawaii to visit Florence for the birth of her first child. She contracted “parrot fever” (psittacosis) from two love birds she had purchased on a trip with Esther to South America. A memorial service was held in Los Angeles, and Lena was buried in Glendale at the Forest Lawn cemetery. George and Lena were in the process of getting a divorce at the time, but George handled her estate after her death.
While in Los Angeles, George was involved with a variety of volunteer and charity projects building YMCA and Boys Club facilities. During one project in 1932, he met Helen Louise Davis, and the two married on June 17, 1934. Helen was born in Muncie, Indiana, on January 4, 1903, to Harrison and Florence Davis. She had one sister, Lorraine, a seamstress. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1919, where her father continued his career as a dentist. Helen was working as a portrait photographer at the time she met George. Helen and George had three children together: Marilyn (born on August 27, 1935), George II (born on November 29, 1936), and Wendell (born on February 5, 1941). The Pepperdines continued to be involved in philanthropy, founding the Helen Louise Girls’ Home in 1937 and serving on the Board of Trustees for the Casa Colina Convalescent Home for Crippled Children in 1939.
George was approached in 1937 by a friend, Hugh Tiner (a fellow member of the Churches of Christ and supervisor of Los Angeles County high schools), asking for help starting a Christian college on the west coast. George Pepperdine and Hugh Tiner met with Dr. Batsell Baxter (former president of Abilene Christian University and David Lipscomb College) in February 1937, and decided to create a four-year liberal arts college with teachings based in the Christian faith. They decided on a property in Los Angeles on 79th Street and Vermont Avenue, and George Pepperdine College opened on September 21, 1937.
George decided to sell his shares in the Western Auto Supply Company to the Gamble-Skogmo Company in 1939, which allowed him to retire. The Pepperdines lost much of their fortune in the 1940s as a result of speculative investments, but they managed to keep a small portion of their income as a result of Western Auto Supply Company stock that was owned by Helen. George’s health declined throughout the late 1950s, and on July 31, 1962 George Pepperdine died and was buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California. Helen continued to be involved with Pepperdine University for many decades. She died on October 5, 1990 and is also buried in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
The majority of the information found in the biographical note was taken from the two biographies Faith is my fortune: a life story of George Pepperdine (1959) and Faith was his fortune: the life story of George Pepperdine (1976). Birth and death dates and other personal information were taken from various census records.

Pepperdine Family Members

Materials related to the following family members are included in the collection:
  • George Pepperdine -- founder of George Pepperdine College (now Pepperdine University), June 20, 1886-July 31, 1962
  • Lena Rose Pepperdine -- George Pepperdine's first wife (maiden name Lena Rose Baker), March 20, 1888-January 18, 1930
  • Helen Louise Pepperdine -- George Pepperdine's second wife (maiden name Helen Louise Davis), January 4, 1903-October 5, 1990
  • George B. Pepperdine -- uncle of George Pepperdine, 1860-1918
  • Florence May Pepperdine Crossley -- oldest child of George and Lena Pepperdine, November 22, 1908-September 5, 1997
  • Esther Louise Pepperdine Thurston -- youngest child of George and Lena Pepperdine, January 6, 1911-July 5, 2002
  • Marilyn Pepperdine -- oldest child of George and Helen Pepperdine, born August 27, 1935
  • George Pepperdine II -- middle child of George and Helen Pepperdine, November 29, 1936-December 1, 2002
  • Wendell Pepperdine -- youngest child of George and Helen Pepperdine, born February 5, 1941

Scope and Content

The collection includes correspondence, photographs, writings, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, collectibles, and home movies from George Pepperdine and his family members' personal and professional lives. Much of the material is about George Pepperdine, including autobiographical material, newspaper articles, poems written by George, family history, and travels. Information and catalogs from his business, Western Auto Supply Company and two autobiographies of George Pepperdine are included in the collection: Faith is my fortune: a life story of George Pepperdine (1959) and Faith was his fortune: the life story of George Pepperdine (1976).


The collection was originally physically arranged thematically, with multiple addendums added to the end (each with a different arrangement scheme). The items maintain their previous physical arrangement and series titles, but the collection has been intellectually rearranged to group similar materials together and consolidate multiple identical series. The collection is organized in eleven series:
  • Series 1: George Pepperdine
  • Series 2: Lena Rose Pepperdine
  • Series 3: Helen Louise Pepperdine
  • Series 4: George B. Pepperdine
  • Series 5: Wendell Pepperdine
  • Series 6: Florence Pepperdine Crossley
  • Series 7: George Pepperdine II
  • Series 8: Photographs of the Pepperdine Family
  • Series 9: Memorabilia
  • Series 10: Financial Papers
  • Series 11: Pepperdine University

Related Archival Materials

Selected items from this collection have been digitized and are included in the online George Pepperdine Collection ( For more images of the Pepperdine family, see the University Archives Photograph Collection ( on the Digital Collections homepage.

Processing Information note

The collection was arranged and described at item-level in installments by James Smythe, from 1997 to 2002. Smythe's original item-level inventories are available by request. Jamie Henricks integrated Smythe's multiple addendums into the original collection and rearranged the collection intellectually for the finding aid in January 2012.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Crossley, Florence May Pepperdine, 1908-1997
Pepperdine College.
Pepperdine family
Pepperdine University.
Pepperdine, George B., 1860-1918
Pepperdine, George, 1886-1962
Pepperdine, George, II, 1936-2002
Pepperdine, Helen Louise, 1903-1990
Pepperdine, Lena Rose, 1888-1930
Pepperdine, Marilyn, 1935-
Pepperdine, Wendell, 1941-
Thurston, Esther Louise Pepperdine, 1911-2002
Western Auto Supply Company.
Autobiographies--United States
Education, Higher--California
Family archives
Financial records
Los Angeles (Calif.)--History
Malibu (Calif.)--History--20th century
Sales catalogs
Universities and colleges--California--History

Box 1, 7, 12-14, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, oversize drawer 1

Series 1: George Pepperdine 1918-1997

Box 1, 7, 19

Sub-series 1.1: Newspaper Articles and Clippings about George Pepperdine 1922-1962, 1991

Box 1, 18

Sub-series 1.2: Faith Is My Fortune: A Life Story of George Pepperdine 1959

Box 18

Notes and Final Draft

Box 1

Sub-series 1.3: Faith Was His Fortune: The Life Story of George Pepperdine 1976

Box 12, Folder 3

Typescript and Galley

Box 2, Box 12, Folder 5, Box 13-14, 19, 23, 24, oversize drawer 1

Sub-series 1.4: Western Auto Supply Company 1918-1978

Box 12, Folder 5, Box 13-14

Catalogs 1958-1978

Box 7

Sub-series 1.5: Business Matters 1942-1955

Box 1

Sub-series 1.6: Poems 1928-1931, 1962

Box 7

Sub-series 1.7: Writings

Box 7

Sub-series 1.8: Family History 1991-1992

Box 12, Folder 2, Box 7, 19

Sub-series 1.9: Travels 1924, 1928

Box 3

Sub-series 1.10: Awards and Honors 1941-1962

Box 19

Sub-series 1.11: Correspondence

Box 19

Sub-series 1.12: Biographical Materials

Box 19

Sub-series 1.13: Speeches

Box 19, 21

Sub-series 1.14: George Pepperdine Foundation

Box 4

Series 2: Lena Rose Pepperdine 1907, 1924, 1930

Box 12, Folder 6-13, Box 4, 7, 15-16, 20

Series 3: Helen Louise Pepperdine 1934, 1939, 1963-1997

Box 4

Series 4: George B. Pepperdine 1918

Box 4

Series 5: Wendell Pepperdine 1969, 1994

Box 7

Series 6: Florence Pepperdine Crossley 1992

Box 7

Series 7: George Pepperdine II 1982-1984, 1991, 2002

Box 7

Sub-series 7.1: Letters 1982-1984

Box 7

Sub-series 7.2: Articles 1991

Box 7

Sub-series 7.3: Celebration of the Life of George Pepperdine II 2002

Box 1, 7, 8, 11, 12, 17, 20, 22-24, oversize drawer 1

Series 8: Photographs of the Pepperdine Family 1907-1997


Sub-series 8.1: Photographs of George Pepperdine


Individual Photographs


Photographs in Chronological Order


Sub-series 8.2: Photographs of Helen Pepperdine


Individual Photographs


Photographs in Chronological Order


Centennial Celebration of George Pepperdine's Birthday


Celebration of Helen Pepperdine Day


Helen Pepperdine Memorial Service


Sub-series 8.3: Photographs of George and Helen Pepperdine


Sub-series 8.4: Photographs of Marilyn Pepperdine


Sub-series 8.5: Photographs of George Pepperdine II


Sub-series 8.6: Photographs of Wendell Pepperdine


Sub-series 8.7: Family Photographs

Box 5, 7, 10-12, 17, 20, 23-25

Series 9: Memorabilia 1923-1968

Box 9

Series 10: Financial Papers

Box 6-7

Series 11: Pepperdine University 1937-2000