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Finding Aid to the Randall Henderson Papers, 1905-1981, bulk 1930-1970
BANC MSS 2009/107  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: The Randall Henderson Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1905-1981,
    Date (bulk): bulk 1930-1970
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2009/107
    Creators : Henderson, Randall Henderson, Cyria
    Extent: Number of containers: 16 boxes Linear feet: 6.4
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Randall Henderson Papers (1905-1981, bulk 1930-1970) comprise correspondence, manuscripts, and printed materials relating to Henderson's professional and personal life. Of particular note are Henderson's activities as editor of Desert Magazine and other publications, his work as a desert conservationist, and his contributions to the development of Palm Desert.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000. Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html. 
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Randall Henderson Papers, BANC MSS 2009/107, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Henderson, Randall--Archives
    Henderson, Cyria Allen
    Henderson, Clifford
    Desert Protective Council
    Desert magazine (Palm Desert, Calif.)
    Desert conservation--California
    Palm Desert (Calif.)--History--20th century

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Randall Henderson Papers were donated to the American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming, by Cyria Henderson and Evonne Riddell in several accretions in 1975, 1977, 1979, and 1982. The collection was transferred to the Bancroft Library in 2009.


    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Arcadia Falcone in 2009.

    Biographical Information

    Randall Henderson was born on April 12, 1888, in Clarinda, Iowa, to Welson Rankin Henderson and Mary Catherine Thomas. He attended grammar and high school in Shenandoah, Iowa, graduating from high school in 1905.
    In September 1907, Henderson started his Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. During his senior year, he worked as a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times. It was Times columnist Harry Carr who suggested to Henderson that he become a country newspaper man.
    Following his graduation from USC in 1911, Henderson went to Arizona and became a printer's apprentice at the Post, a weekly newspaper in Parker, Arizona. A year later he went to Blythe, California, as the editor of the Blythe Herald. In what was sometimes a one-man office, Henderson was responsible for doing linotype composition and presswork, writing news, selling advertising, and doing commercial printing. Henderson went on to acquire a half interest in the Blythe Herald.
    On October 17, 1911, Henderson married Vera Louise Riopel in Santa Ana, California, with whom he had two children: Randall Jr., who was killed on Saipan on July 7, 1944, and Evonne Riddell. The couple later divorced.
    In 1918, Henderson applied for pilot training in the Army Air Force. Following ground school at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, and training at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, he achieved his pilot's rating just after the Armistice was signed.
    After the war, Henderson went back to Blythe and acquired an interest in an army training plane in which he spent his weekends barnstorming the desert. At this time there were no landing fields, and Henderson landed the first plane in Las Vegas, Nevada and Wickenburg, Arizona, as well as other desert towns.
    In 1922, Henderson became a partner in the Calexico Chronicle, the daily newspaper of Calexico, California. During his time at the Chronicle, Henderson started a crusade that resulted in the dismissal of the police department and a complete change in city government.
    In the early 1930s, the idea of Desert Magazine was born. J. Wilson McKenney was employed at the Calexico Chronicle as a front office apprentice. After McKenney's regular articles about trips into the desert became popular with the readership, Henderson wanted to publish a magazine devoted entirely to the desert. This idea led Henderson to turn the management of the Chronicle over to his partner in 1936. He bought the Elite Printing Company, a commercial printing concern in El Centro, California, in partnership with McKenney. The first issue of Desert Magazine was printed in 1937 and went out to 600 subscribers. Desert Magazine soon outgrew its building, and a new plant was built in El Centro, designed to resemble a Native American pueblo. The magazine was incorporated under the name Desert Press, Inc.
    During World War II, Henderson returned to active service in the Army Air Corps, and was assigned duty with the Air Transport Command in Africa. During nineteen months of overseas duty, he served at Accra on the Gold Coast and at Algiers, and later was in command of a small detachment stationed on the Sahara Desert at the Oasis of Atar in French Mauretania. Henderson continued to write for Desert Magazine while he was stationed in Africa.
    By the end of the war, Desert Magazine had outgrown its building again, and it moved to a cove in the Santa Rosa Mountains on the edge of the Coachella Valley, at the site of the present town of Palm Desert. The new building was finished in 1948. Several hundred acres of land were bought and later sold to Clifford Henderson, Randall Henderson's brother, who, along with partners, started the Palm Desert Corporation to develop the town site. In the years that followed, conflicting versions of the town's history sparked a long-standing disagreement between Randall and Clifford Henderson that was never resolved.
    On March 18, 1949, Henderson married Cyria Allen Cathro in Phoenix, Arizona.
    In 1954, Henderson became a founding member of the Desert Protective Council. Through his involvement with this and other organizations, Henderson worked to preserve the desert environment from damage. His conservation activities contributed to the formation of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the protection of the Joshua Tree National Monument.
    In 1958, Randall Henderson ended his two-decade tenure as the president of Desert Magazine, selling the magazine to Charles Shelton. Henderson continued writing, publishing two books: On Desert Trails, Today and Yesterday (1961) and Sun, Sand and Solitude: Vignettes from the Notebook of a Veteran Desert Reporter (1968). He was working on a history of the town of Palm Desert at the time of his death from a heart attack on July 4, 1970. An additional work, Palm Canyons of Baja California (1971), was published posthumously; a philosophical novel, In the Sunlight of Tomorrow, remains unpublished.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Randall Henderson Papers (1905-1981, bulk 1930-1970) comprise correspondence, manuscripts, and printed materials relating to Henderson's professional and personal life. Of particular note are Henderson's activities as editor of Desert Magazine and other publications, his work as a desert conservationist, and his contributions to the development of Palm Desert.
    The bulk of the collection relates to Henderson's desert-related activities. The collection contains manuscripts and printed matter from Henderson's career as an editor and writer on desert topics, focusing on his work as founder and president of Desert Magazine. Manuscripts of Henderson's writings in the collection include several articles and an unpublished novel, In the Sunlight of Tomorrow. Substantive correspondence is present documenting the disagreement between Randall Henderson and his brother, Clifford, over their relative roles in the founding and development of the city of Palm Desert. The collection also contains printed matter, internal documents, and manuscripts from Henderson's involvement with desert conservation organizations, most notably the Desert Protective Council, of which he was a founder. Personal documents include diaries and logs of desert expeditions, as well as materials relating to the life and work of Henderson's second wife, Cyria Henderson. The collection includes a wide range of photographs of the Hendersons at various stages in their lives.