Collection Scope and Content Summary
Special Collections and Archives, University of California, Irvine
Title: C. E. French Letter Books
French, C. E. (Charles
Identifier/Call Number: MS.R.138
0.4 Linear Feet
Date (inclusive): 1884-1896
Abstract: The collection comprises bound copies
of outgoing letters written by C. E. French, an entrepreneur who contributed significantly
to the growth of Santa Ana, California during the mid to late 19th century. The letters
refer to French's personal and business activities and reflect the concerns of Orange County
residents preceding and immediately following the 1880s real estate boom. The letters
include information about family matters, remittance for goods and services, real estate
transactions, Irvine Ranch business, local transportation, Santa Ana community activities,
and the attractive climate of Southern California.
Language of Material:
The collection is open for research.
Property rights reside with the University of California. These materials are in the public
domain. For permissions to reproduce or to publish, please contact the Head of Special
Collections and Archives.
C. E. French Letter Books. MS-R138. Special Collections and Archives, The UC Irvine
Libraries, Irvine, California. Date accessed.
For the benefit of current and future researchers, please cite any additional information
about sources consulted in this collection, including permanent URLs, item or folder
descriptions, and box/folder locations.
Processed by Cyndi Shein, 2008.
Charles Edwin French was a resident of Santa Ana, California who contributed significantly
to the city's growth during the mid to late 19th century. He actively promoted Santa Ana and
the surrounding area as an ideal place to live and conduct business. Professionally, he
facilitated real estate transactions, was postmaster of Santa Ana, and managed Irvine Ranch
for a time. He was responsible for the construction of the original Irvine family ranch home
in 1876. He was instrumental in establishing the first horse-drawn street car line in what
is now Orange County and was named secretary of the Santa Ana, Orange, and Tustin Street
Railway when it was incorporated in 1886.
In addition to his business ventures, French also supported the civic and cultural growth
of the city. In 1878 he donated office space and a cabinet for books to begin the Santa Ana
Public Library Association, with his wife, Emma French, acting as the city's first
librarian. This library, along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU),
transferred their holdings to the City of Santa Ana in 1891, at which time C. E. French was
elected to the first public library board. He built French's Opera House, which opened in
1890 with a benefit for the Orphan's School in Anaheim, starring Madame Modjeska as Lady
Macbeth. French Street, French Elementary School, and French Park (an exclusive residential
neighborhood in early Santa Ana) were named for him and his family.
Collection Scope and Content Summary
The collection comprises bound copies of outgoing letters written by C. E. French of Santa
Ana, California. The letters refer to French's personal and business activities and reflect
the concerns of Orange County residents preceding and immediately following the 1880s real
estate boom. The letters include information about family matters, remittance for goods and
services, real estate transactions, Irvine Ranch business, local transportation, Santa Ana
community activities, and the attractive climate of Southern California.
The letters bear the characteristics of letterpress copies. Letterpress copies are often on
tissue paper and are produced by the transfer of ink through direct contact with the
original, using moisture and pressure. In French's books, the ink is blurred where it was
transferred onto overly damp paper and is faint where the paper was not damp enough.
The collection also includes typed versions of several letters transcribed by Phil
This collection is arranged alphabetically by type of material. The letters are in
Santa Ana: An Illustrated History.
Encinitas, CA: Heritage Publishing Co., 1994.Swanner, Charles D.
Santa Ana: A Narrative of Yesterday. Claremont, Calif., Saunders
Subjects and Indexing Terms
Letterpress copies -- 19th century.
Letter books -- 19th century.
Santa Ana (Calif.) -- History -- Sources
French, C. E. (Charles Edwin) --