Finding Aid to the Elmer E. Robinson Papers, 1935-1982 (bulk 1947-1956)

Finding aid written by Tami J. Suzuki.
San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA, 94102
(415) 557-4567
Created February 2002 with revisions in 2009 and 2022.

Title: Elmer E. Robinson Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1935-1982
Date (bulk): 1947-1956,
Collection Identifier: SFH 6
Creator: Robinson, Elmer E. (Elmer Edwin), b. 1894
Physical Description: 9 boxes, 1 oversized folder (6.58 cubic feet)
Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 557-4567
Abstract: Reports, mayoral and campaign speeches, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and historical documents documenting Robinson's mayoralty, which was noted for its many building programs, including the start of redevelopment. The papers provide a snapshot of post-World War II activities and changes undertaken at City Hall.
Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


The collection is open for research, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

Publication Rights

Copyright has been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Elmer E. Robinson Papers (SFH 6), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.


Transferred from City Hall. An additional accession of materials was received from Elmer Robinson's granddaughter on June 4, 2009, and subsequently folded into the collection. These included scrapbooks documenting Robinson's 1947 mayoral campaign, the renovation of the Municipal Railway, and his court cases as a judge. Additional materials were received from the University of the Pacific in 2018 and added to Series 1 (Box 8).

Related Archival Collections

Researchers are encouraged to see related collections at The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley: San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photograph Archive (approximately 200 negatives of Mayor Robinson); and Stanford University Libraries: Elmer E. Robinson Collection, 1764-1973; and Elmer E. Robinson Americana, 1765-1950 (both historical document collections created by Robinson).

Related Materials

Researchers are encouraged to see also the San Francisco History Center’s subject and biographical files, other Mayoral Papers, and the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection; and to check the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials. The San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection houses the San Francisco News-Call Bulletin Photograph Archive, which includes photographs documenting Robinson’s time in office.

Materials Transferred

Photographs were transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.

Materials Cataloged Separately

The following items were transferred to the book collection of the San Francisco Public Library: Report of the Senate Fact-Finding Committee on Un-American Activities,1970; and Ancestral Lines and Family History of Our Family, Including the Families of Robinson-Barrett, Pelet-Rahlves, Gould-Newcomb, Asbill-Graeter.

Biographical/Historical note

Elmer Edwin Robinson was born October 3, 1894 to Ralph and Edith Robinson in the Richmond District of San Francisco. He spent his youth near Fort Bragg where his father operated hauling and ice businesses. Robinson returned to San Francisco, working his way through night law school at the now-defunct Kent College, and was admitted to the bar in 1915. He married Doris Gould in 1917 with whom he had a daughter, Elizabeth Jane. He married twice more, to Rosemarie Kerr and later to Ora Norris.
Robinson worked as a deputy District Attorney for six years before going into private practice as a civil and criminal attorney. In 1935, Governor Frank Merriam appointed Robinson to the Municipal Court bench and promoted him to the Superior Court within nine months. As presiding Superior Court judge, Robinson brought the court calendar up to date for the first time in 57 years.
A member of the Republican Party, Robinson served as secretary of the state Republican Committee. He was twice defeated as the Republican candidate for state Senate in 1922 and 1931. With the support of Republican, Mason and legal circles, Robinson was elected San Francisco's 33rd mayor in 1947 when the city was emerging from World War II. He presided during an era that has been described as "the last of the city’s old-time good times," when vice quietly flourished. Robinson was re-elected in 1951 over George Christopher, a bitter opponent at the time. Term limits prevented a third run.
In his two terms as mayor from 1948 through 1955, Robinson oversaw building programs including the Cherry Valley Dam, the International Airport, schools, branch libraries, playgrounds and recreation centers, police stations, firehouses, parking garages, and the modernization of the Municipal Railway. He established the Parking Authority and the Redevelopment Agency, which planned the city's first major redevelopment project. Robinson also established the children's fishing program at Lake Merced. He lowered the tax rate three times, and left the next mayor-elect with over $100 million of bonds for further improvements. He also built a civil defense program and served as President of the United States Conference of Mayors.
Upon leaving City Hall, Robinson returned to his private law practice. He continued to serve as president of a Colma cemetery. A collector of original American historical documents, he was an acknowledged expert on forms of government in the United States. Robinson lived quietly until his death on June 7, 1982 in Butte County at the age of 87.

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the two-term administration of Mayor Elmer E. Robinson during the years of 1948 to 1956. The Robinson mayoralty was noted for its many building programs including the start of redevelopment. The papers provide a snapshot of post-World War II activities and changes undertaken at City Hall.
Materials include reports, mayoral and campaign speeches, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and historical documents. The collection is particularly rich in speeches from 1948 to 1953, and there is good coverage on the topic of a second Bay crossing from 1947 to 1954. Internal and constituent correspondence is limited. Subjects include civil defense, renovation of the Municipal Railway, Radio Free Europe, the warehouse strike of 1949, growth of rapid transit, the visit of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, and Robinson’s 1947 mayoral campaign. He was a collector of original American historical documents, and a few are contained within Series 4. Others can be found at Stanford University Libraries.


The material has been arranged into four series: Series 1. Mayoral Activities; Series 2. Speeches, Articles, and Commendations; Series 3. Campaigns; and Series 4. Historical Documents. Folders in Mayoral Activities and Historical Documents are in alphabetical order by folder title, and then by date. The other series are organized chronologically. Within folders, materials are filed chronologically.

Subjects and Indexing Terms

Robinson, Elmer E., (Elmer Edwin), b. 1894--Archives
Bridges--California--San Francisco Bay Area--Planning
City planning--California--San Francisco
Housing policy--California--San Francisco
Mayors--California--San Francisco
San Francisco (Calif.)--Politics and government--20th century
Urban policy--California--San Francisco
Urban renewal--California--San Francisco


Series 1 Mayoral Activities, 1936-1956

Physical Description: 3.73 cubic feet


Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Scope and Contents

This series contains Robinson's official activity files. A highlight of this series is the subject of a second Bay bridge crossing and particularly the Southern Crossing which Robinson advocated.
Box 7, Folder 1

Airport News Clipping, 1954

Box 1, Folder 1

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Commission, 1951-1956

Box 1, Folder 2

BART News Clippings, 1953-1955

Box 1, Folder 3

Bay Bridge, New Approaches, 1949-1950

Box 5, Folder 2

Bay Bridge Railway Terminal, Embarcadero Plan, undated


Bay Bridge, Second Crossing

Box 1, Folder 4

Letters Received Before Inauguration, 1947

Box 1, Folder 5

Armed Services Sub-Committee Hearing, 1948-1949

Box 1, Folder 6

Bay Area Council Plan, 1950-1951

Box 1, Folder 7

George W. Burpee Statement, [November 1, 1948]

Box 1, Folder 8

Charles E. De Leuw Statement, May 9, 1949

Box 1, Folder 9

East Bay Committee, 1951-1953

Box 1, Folder 10

Federal, State, and Municipal Action, 1949-1953

Box 1, Folder 11

Gould Plan, 1949

Box 1, Folder 12

Little Plan, 1947-1953

Box 1, Folder 13

Miscellaneous, 1948-1952

Box 1, Folder 14

Miscellaneous Plans, 1946-1953

Box 1, Folder 15

New Approaches and Refinancing, 1951-1953

Box 1, Folders 16-17

Reber Plan, 1946-1955

Box 1, Folder 18

Resolutions, 1947-1949

Box 1, Folder 19

Responses to Mayor's Letter, 1949-1951

Box 1, Folder 20

Shoreline Development, 1948

Box 1, Folder 21

State Legislative Committee Hearing, 1952-1953

Box 1, Folders 22-23

Statements and Press Clippings, 1948-1952


Bay Bridge, Southern Crossing

Box 2, Folder 1


Box 2, Folders 2-3

Amendment to Public Law 695, 1 of 2, 1949-1953

Box 2, Folder 4

May 7, 1949

Box 2, Folder 5

Information Summary, [19--]

Box 2, Folder 6

Navy Hearing, 1952-1953

Box 2, Folder 7

Navy Hearing Transcript, 1953

Box 2, Folder 8

Newsclippings, 1952-1953

Box 2, Folder 9

Supervisors' Resolutions, 1947-1953

Box 2, Folder 10

Post-Amendment to Public Law 695, 1953-1954

Box 2, Folder 11

Bay Bridges Map, Call-Bulletin, February 4, 1953

Box 2, Folder 12

Board of Supervisors Journal of Proceedings, 1950

Box 2, Folder 13

Buena Vista Park, 1950-1951

Box 2, Folder 14

California Legislative Reports, 1949-1951

Box 4, folder 25-30

Chief Administrative Officer: Real Estate Transfers 1944-1955

Box 5, Folder 2

City Officials, Board, and Commission Members Photos, [19--]

Box 2, Folder 15

Civic Center Plan, 1953

Box 2, Folder 16

Civil Defense, 1950-1951

Box 2, Folder 17

Commissioners, [19--]

Box 2, Folder 18

Consolidation, City and County, circa 1949

Box 4, folder 31

Education Appointments, 1932-1955

Box 2, Folder 19

Events and Proclamations, 1949-1955

Box 4, folder 32

Fire Department, 1951-1955

Box 2, Folder 20

Fleishhacker Pool, 1949

Box 2, Folder 21

Gift Playing Cards, [19--]

Box 2, Folder 22

Golden Gate Park Concerts, 1952

Box 2, Folders 23-24

International Congress of Local Authorities, 1953-1955

Box 2, Folder 25

Lapham, Mayor Roger D., Article, 1946

Box 2, Folder 26

MacArthur, Gen. Douglas, Newsclippings, 1951

Box 5, Folder 2

Map of San Francisco (Department of Public Works), 1947

Box 6, Folder 1

Municipal Railway Bus Design, [1948?]

Box 5, Folders 3-5

Municipal Railway Progress Photographs, [1948-19--]

Box 2, Folder 27

Orpheum Theatre Wall, 1948

Box 2, Folder 28

Paris Visit, 1953

Box 4, Folder 23

Public Buildings, 1953-1954

Box 4, Folder 24

Public Buildings Meeting Minutes, 1953-1954

Box 2, Folder 29

Radio Free Europe Crusade for Freedom Kit, 1954

Box 2, Folder 30

Radio Free Europe Crusade for Freedom Tour, 1954

Box 2, Folder 31

Radio Free Europe Visit, 1954-1955

Box 2, Folder 32

Rapid Transit Report, 1936

Box 2, Folder 33

Rapid Transit Reports, 1950-1952

Box 4, folder 33

Recreation and Park Department: Acquisition of Angel Island, 1952

Box 6, Folder 2

Republican Mandate Article, 1953

Box 2, Folder 34

Republican National Convention, 1 of 2, 1955

Box 2, Folder 35

Republican National Convention, Briefing Material for San Francisco Inspection Trip, 1955

Box 2, Folder 36

Republican National Convention, 2 of 2, 1956

Box 2, Folder 37

Resume of Administration, circa 1951

Box 2, Folder 38

San Francisco Annual Report, 1955

Box 2, Folder 39

Serra, Father Junipero, 1949-[1954]

Box 2, Folder 40

Smog Reports, 1949-1951

Box 2, Folder 41

Smog Correspondence, 1 of 2, 1949-1954

Box 3, Folder 1

Smog Correspondence, 2 of 2, 1954-1955

Box 3, Folder 2

United Indian War Veterans, 1948-1951

Box 3, Folder 3

United Nations Charter, 10th Anniversary, 1955

Box 3, Folders 4-5

United States Conference of Mayors, 1953-1956

Box 3, Folder 6

War Housing, Disposition Citizens Committee, 1950-1953

Box 3, Folder 7

War Housing, Disposition of, 1953-1954

Box 3, Folder 8

Warehouse Strike, International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union Local 6, 1949

Box 3, Folder 9

Washington Conference of Mayors Report, 1955

Box 3, Folder 10

Youth Guidance Center, 1953-1955


Series 2 Speeches, Articles and Commendations, 1935-1982

Physical Description: 1.5 cubic feet


Speeches are followed by articles, then commendations. Arranged chronologically.

Scope and Contents

This series focuses on speeches from 1948-1953 and includes Robinson's inaugural address. Also included are newspaper clippings, especially from 1948-1955, and a couple of commendations.
Box 3, Folder 11

Speeches, Pre-Mayoral, 1936-1937

Box 3, Folder 12

Pre-Inaugural Address, December 4, 1947

Box 3, Folder 13

Inaugural Address, January 8, 1948


Speeches and Press Releases

Box 3, Folders 14-16

January-December, 1948

Box 3, Folder 17

January - Decmber, 1949

Box 3, Folder 18


Box 3, Folders 19-21

January-December, 1950

Box 3, Folders 22-24

January-December, 1951

Box 3, Folders 25-26

January-December, 1952

Box 3, Folders 27-28

January-December, 1953

Box 4, Folder 1


Box 4, Folder 2



Newspaper Clippings

Box 4, Folder 3


Box 4, Folder 4


Box 4, Folder 5


Box 4, Folder 6


Box 8, Folder 1

Pacific States Loan Co., 1944-1946

Box 4, Folder 7

Newspaper Editorials, 1951

Box 8, Volume 2

Scrapbook of Clippings, Court Cases, 1930-1937

Box 8, Volume 3

Scrapbook of Clippings, Court Cases, 1935-1938

Box 4, Folder 8

U.S. Court of Appeals Transcript, Brandhove vs. Tenney, et al., [1949?]

Box 6, Folder 3

Commendations, 1936-1979

Box 7, Folder 3

Commendations (oversized), 1935-1938


Series 3 Campaigns, 1947-1956

Physical Description: 0.66 cubic feet


Arranged chronologically by election year.

Scope and Contents

This series contains speeches from Robinson's mayoral campaigns. Also included is Robinson's testimony before the U.S. Court of Appeals, in which he denied any participation in branding a 1947 opponent, Franck R. Havenner, as a member of the Communist Party.

1947 Mayoral Campaign

Box 4, Folder 9

Biography, 1947

Box 4, Folder 10

Mayoral Campaign Congratulations, 1947

Box 9, Folder 1

Mayoral Campaign Newspaper Clippings, 1947

Box 9, Volume 2

Mayoral Campaign Scrapbook, 1947

Box 4, Folder 11

Mayoral Campaign Speeches, 1947-1948

Box 4, Folder 12

Mayoral Campaign Speech Score Sheets, [1948]

Box 4, Folder 13

Mayoral Campaign Speeches of Supporters, 1947

Box 4, Folder 14

Propositions, 1947

Box 4, Folder 15

Re-election Campaign, 1951

Box 4, Folder 16

Biography and Statement, [1951]

Box 9, Folder 3

Newspaper Clippings, 1951

Box 7, Folder 3

Ephemera, 1951

Box 4, Folder 17

Speeches, 1951

Box 4, Folder 18

1956 Propositions, 1956


Series 4 Historical Documents, 1874-1935

Physical Description: 0.7 cubic feet


Arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Contents

This series contains original American historical documents collected by Robinson.
Box 4, Folder 19

Liliputian Newspaper, 1874

Box 4, Folder 20

Mexico Inauguration Souvenir, 1922

Box 4, Folder 21

Pacific Bank Centennial Statement, 1888

Box 6, Folder 4

Golden Gate Bridge Bond, 1935

Box 4, Folder 22

Stanford University Honorary Curator, 1940