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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography
  • Collection Description
  • Arrangement
  • Indexing Terms
  • Related Collections

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: J. D. Black Papers
    Dates: 1876-1999
    Bulk Dates: 1920-1929; 1950-1959
    Collection number: CSLA-15
    Creator: Black, J. D.
    Collection Size: 22 archival document boxes, 14 oversize boxes
    Repository: Loyola Marymount University. William H. Hannon Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90045-2659
    Abstract: The J. D. Black Papers (CSLA-15) contain photographs, publications, correspondence, and organizational records related to J. D. Black's career and business in Big Pine, California. Of particular value are the records of the reparations organizations of Big Pine active during the Owens Valley Water Wars of the 1920s and the photographs documenting life in the mining towns of California's eastern Sierras and western Nevada.
    Physical location: Research use requires both an advance notice of intent to use the collection and an appointment. To schedule an appointment, please contact the Department of Archives and Special Collection, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University: 310-338-2780, 310-338-5357.
    Languages: Languages represented in the collection:English


    The J. D. Black Papers are part of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles Research Collection, a program of the Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University. The Research Collection is administered by the Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University. The J. D. Black Papers are open to research under the terms of use of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, Loyola Marymount University.

    Publication Rights

    Materials in the Department of Archives and Special Collections may be subject to copyright. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, Loyola Marymount University does not claim ownership of the copyright of any materials in its collections. The user or publisher must secure permission to publish from the copyright owner. Loyola Marymount University does not assume any responsibility for infringement of copyright or of publication rights held by the original author or artists or his/her heirs, assigns, or executors.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Series number, Box and Folder number, J. D. Black Papers, CSLA-15, Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University.

    Acquisition Information

    Barbara Black Fitzpatrick and Jacqueline Holmes; gift; 1999; 2001.


    John David Black was born in 1893 to a pioneer family of California's Owens Valley of the eastern Sierra Nevadas. J. D.'s father, John, established a store in Bishop in 1888 that J. D. continued to run at least until the 1950s. In 1902, still retaining the family home and store in Bishop, the Blacks moved to nearby Big Pine, where John opened another store, which eventually came under J. D. Black's management and remained in business until 1948. John participated in other business enterprises, such as a saloon, and father and son also held mining property jointly, as well as individual mines.
    J. D. Black was a leader in the 1920s in different Big Pine citizens' organizations seeking relief and compensation for economic losses owing to the City of Los Angeles' control of the Owens Valley. Despite the economic decline of the Owens Valley, J. D. Black continued to reside there, until his death in 1960.

    Collection Description

    The J. D. Black Papers consist of materials relating to the personal and poltical life, and mining and business interests of J(ohn) D(avid) Black, a leading activist of the fight of Big Pine, Califoria, of the Owens Valley, against the City of Los Angeles' takeover of that region's land and water rights. The holdings of the J. D. Black Papers span the years 1876-1999, with the bulk of the datable material originating in the 1920s and in the 1950s. The majority of the materials pertain to the reparations organizations in Big Pine, California, of which J. D. Black was a leader, seeking redress from the City of Los Angeles during the Owens Valley Water Wars of the 1920s. See especially Series 1 and Series 2.
    The collection consists of textual and non-textual materials. Textual holdings include correspondence, minutes, brochures, organizational papers, publications, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks, and government documents, both county (voter registration lists) and state (legislative bill on reparations). Other textual materials include miscellany on Bishop, California; miscellaneous publications, such as Bob Shuler's Magazine (found in Series 2) and legal documents on the Black family's holdings in the Owens Valley, eg, mining properties.
    Non-textual materials are comprised of personal photographs of the Black family, as well as general interest photographs of activities and places in the Owens Valley (cf. Series 3). Of special interest are photographs of mining and daily life in the California Sierras and neighboring Nevada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Among the more valuable photographs in this collection are those of the Nevada mining towns of Tonopah and Candelaria, and the present-day ghost towns of Bodie and Keeler, California. Some photographs document the decline of the ranches, farms, and towns of the Owens Valley after the City of Los Angeles became the major landholder there.
    On-Line Digital Collections

    Photographs and documents from the J. D. Black Papers have been digitized and are part of the William H. Hannon Library's Digital Library.
    To view the images, see the following digital collections:


    The J. D. Black Papers are organized into six series, with three subseries:
    • Series 1. Owens Valley Water Controversy Records . This series consists of materials concerning the Owens Valley water controversy in the 1920s, which marked the final stage of the valley residents' most active resistance to the City of Los Angeles. Central in this series are the correspondence, and organizational and administrative records (many of which are copies) of the Big Pine Property Owners Association (BPOA), the Big Pine Reparations Association (BPRA), and the Big Pine Water Association (BPWA). This includes the by-laws and articles of incorporation of the BPRA and the BPWA, and meeting minutes for the BPOA and the BPRA. There is also incoming and outgoing correspondence from the organizations regarding their plans for reparations, including lawsuits initiated by State Senator J. M. Inman and Inyo County District Attorney Jess Hession (see, for example, Box 8, Folder 1). Also to be found are City of Los Angeles proposals for resolving problems and subsequent position statements issued in response by Big Pine organizations (see especially Boxes 8 and 9). Depositions from Big Pine residents, and data sheets and lists regarding population and business losses, and losses of farms and ranches also form an important part of this series. Noteworthy as well are the handwritten estimates from members of the Big Pine Canal Company and Owens River Canal Company on the value of their water rights and farms in late 1923, a time when the City of Los Angeles was actively buying up property and water rights in the Owens Valley (Box 8, Folder 3). Names of note in these organizational and administrative records include W. W. Watterson and Fred Eaton.
    • Series 2. Publications and Scrapbooks . In this series are loose newspapers, clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, governmental publications, and scrapbooks that Black compiled of the Owens Valley water controversy, most of which date from the 1920s and the early 1930s. Some of the clippings on the Owens Valley water controversy date from after J. D. Black's death (1960), indicating that his wife Sophie or other Black family members had added them to his collection. Magazine articles on the Owens Valley postdating J. D. Black's death in this collection indicate a provenance similar to the one just mentioned. Important California state publications on the Owens Valley water controversy include the state engineer's report in 1925 to Governor Friend Richardson. Also in this collection are City of Los Angeles publications, dating from the 1920s and 1930s, related to its involvement in Owens Valley. They are often apologia for the city's actions, eg, the City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power's response to claims for reparations: Facts Concerning the Owens Valley Reparations Claims (Box 9, Folder 7).
    • Series 3. Photographs . The photographic materials consist of personal photographs of the Black family, as well as general interest photographs of life, persons, and places in the Owens Valley. There are also two subseries (described below). All photgraphs and postcards of this series and its subseries are in black and white, unless otherwise noted.
    • Series 3. Subseries A: Photographic Postcards . Photographic post cards--very popular in the United States ca. 1900--constitute much of the photographic materials; because of their value in the J. D. Black Papers and format, they have been arranged as Subseries A within Series 3. The photographic postcards document important events in the history of the eastern Sierras of California and western Nevada. These include the first crossing of the California state line by the Carson and Colorado Railroad, the railroad that serviced the Owens Valley and the mining towns of western Nevada. Other valuable postcards include those of such mining towns as Bodie, California, and Candelaria, Nevada. Also found in this subseries are photographic postcards related to the Owens Valley water controversy, most notably the seizure of the Alabama Gates by the residents of the Owens Valley in 1924 (Box 16, Folders 1-13), and the photographic postcards reproducing original photographs of Andrew Alexander Forbes documenting the Native Americans of the Owens Valley, chiefly the Paiutes (See Box 16, Folders 16-29).
    • Series 3. Subseries B: Abandoned Properties, Owens Valley . Extremely rare, perhaps even unique, are the photographs that J. D. Black took of ranches and farms, and other properties in the Owens Valley abandoned after their acquisition by the City of Los Angeles. J. D. Black labelled many of the photographs with the names of their owners and dated some as well. Because of their value, and because J. D. Black stored them separately, they have been established in Subseries B: Abandoned Properties, Owens Valley.
    • Series 4. Protest Correspondence, 1946-1960. This series contains correspondence (some incoming, but mostly outgoing), telegrams, night letters, and newspaper clippings regarding the injustices of the Owens Valley water controversy that J. D. Black sent to state and federal officials and bodies. Eccentric in mission and content, these communications date from after World War II to J. D. Black's death in 1960, a period well after the time when the Owens Valley water controversy had been decided in the favor of the City of Los Angeles.
    • Series 5. Personal Correspondence and Records .This series is made up of correspondence, receipt books, receipts, newspaper clippings, leases, and contracts related to the personal affairs and business interests in the Owens Valley (mining and stores) of J. D. Black and his wife Sophie Black and their daughters.
    • Series 5. Subseries A: World War I, World II, Korean War Correspondence . This subseries of Series 5 is comprised of correspondence and photographs to J. D. Black from servicemen of World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict. The photographs include pictures of the famous Italian monastery of Monte Cassino during the Allied assault there in 1944 (Box 7, Folder 2)
    • Series 6. Personal Notes. In this series are found the handwritten, loose notes of J. D. Black on the Owens Valley water controversy. They often functioned as rough drafts of the correspondence found in Series 4 and are often hard to decipher. The loose newspaper clippings in Box 14ov of Series 2 originally accompanied the notes found in Series 6.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Black, J. D. (John David)
    Owens Valley (Calif.)
    Bishop (Calif.)
    Big Pine (Calif.)
    Water rights -- California -- Owens Valley -- History -- Sources
    Water rights -- California -- Los Angeles -- History -- Sources
    Frontier and pioneer life -- California -- Owens Valley -- History -- Sources

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