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Guide to the J. Paul Getty Collected Photographs of San Francisco, 1888, 1890, 1905-1906
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Material
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Collected photographs of San Francisco
    Date (inclusive): 1888, 1890, 1905-1906
    Number: IA20020
    Creator/Collector: Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976
    Physical Description: 0.21 linear feet (1 binder)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Institutional Records and Archives
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: Records consist of 36 black-and-white photographs of San Francisco, California, 1888, 1890, 1905-1906, collected by J. Paul Getty. The photographs document the city before and after the 1906 earthquake.
    Request Materials: To access physical materials at the Getty, go to the library catalog record  for this collection and click "Request an Item." Click here for general library access policy . See the Administrative Information section of this finding aid for access restrictions specific to the records described below. Please note, some of the records may be stored off site; advanced notice is required for access to these materials.
    Language: Collection material is in English

    Biographical Note

    American oil tycoon and art collector Jean Paul Getty was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on December 15, 1892 to George Franklin Getty (1855-1930) and Sarah Catherine McPherson Risher Getty. Around 1906 the Getty family moved to Los Angeles. Jean Paul, called "Paul," attended a private military school before going on to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley. In 1911, Paul went to Oxford to study economics and political science, completing his diploma in 1913. Afterwards he embarked on a year-long Grand Tour of Europe, which no doubt sparked his interest in art and antiquities.
    In 1914 Paul joined the family oil business and spent a year in the oil fields of Oklahoma. An astute investment in 160 acres near Stone Bluff, Oklahoma led to Paul’s announcement two years later that he had earned his first million dollars. He returned to Los Angeles and took a break of more than a year before returning to the oil business. Paul then persuaded his father to shift the focus of the family business to the Los Angeles basin. Paul continued to work for the family company in addition to conducting oil drilling of his own, securing the family fortune by the time the stock market crashed in 1929. Upon his death in 1930 George left controlling interest in the company to Sarah. In 1934 Paul forced Sarah out of control of the company and gave her an annuity. His fortune grew as he acquired the controlling interest in several companies and became the head of a vast organization with activities in oil exploration, transportation, production and marketing, as well as minerals, manufacturing, real estate and agriculture. In the mid-1940s Getty bought the Saudi Arabian portion of the lease on the mineral rights in the Neutral Zone between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait; his wealth dramatically increased when this site produced oil in 1953.
    Beginning in the early 1930s Getty lived in a house he built next to William Randolph Hearst’s on the beach in Santa Monica. During World War II he moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma for four years to supervise wartime production of parts for Allied aircraft at his Spartan Aircraft plant. In 1946 he purchased 64 acres in Malibu, California and renovated the existing hacienda, known as the Ranch House, where he lived until 1951. When Getty departed the United States for Europe in 1951, he kept his Malibu estate for the display of his art collection and for the possibility of his eventual return. Getty had been collecting art since the 1930s and continued collecting throughout his lifetime. By 1968 his art collection had begun to outgrow the Ranch House and he began planning a new building on the property to properly house these works. He chose to pattern this new museum building after a first-century Roman country house, based primarily on the plans of the ancient Villa dei Papiri near Herculaneum. This museum, often called the Villa, opened to the public on January 16, 1974.
    After leaving the United States Getty lived in hotel suites in Europe until 1960 when he moved to Sutton Place, a historic 72-room Tudor manor located 25 miles southwest of London. In 1957 Fortune magazine designated Getty as the world’s wealthiest man, and he became the object of considerable public interest. For the rest of his life, both the respectable press and the tabloids reported on his perceived eccentricities and his private life, which included five marriages and divorces. J. Paul Getty died in England on June 6, 1976 without ever returning to California. Although he never saw the museum, he is buried at the Getty Villa property, on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Much to everyone's surprise Getty left the bulk of his fortune to the museum with a mission to promote “the diffusion of artistic and general knowledge."
    J. Paul Getty's publications include:
    • Getty, J. Paul. The history of the oil business of George F. and J. Paul Getty from 1903 to 1939. Los Angeles (?), 1941.
    • Getty, J. Paul. Europe in the eighteenth century. [Santa Monica, Calif.]: privately printed, 1949.
    • Le Vane, Ethel, and J. Paul Getty. Collector's choice: the chronicle of an artistic odyssey through Europe. London: W.H. Allen, 1955.
    • Getty, J. Paul. My life and fortunes. New York: Duell, Sloan & Pearce, 1963.
    • Getty, J. Paul. The joys of collecting. New York: Hawthorn Books, 1965.
    • Getty, J. Paul. How to be rich. Chicago: Playboy Press, 1965.
    • Getty, J. Paul. The golden age. New York: Trident Press, 1968.
    • Getty, J. Paul. How to be a successful executive. Chicago: Playboy Press, 1971.
    • Getty, J. Paul. As I see it: the autobiography of J. Paul Getty. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : Prentice-Hall, 1976.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    The records described in accession 1990.IA.04 are available for use by qualified researchers.
    The following types of records are permanently closed: records containing personal information, records that compromise security or operations, legal communications, legal work product, and records related to donors. The J. Paul Getty Trust reserves the right to restrict access to any records held by the Institutional Archives.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    [Cite the item and series (as appropriate)], Collected Photographs of San Francisco, 1888, 1890, 1905-1906, J. Paul Getty. Institutional Archives, Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Finding aid no. IA20020.

    Acquisition Information

    The records described in this finding aid were transferred to the Institutional Archives by the J. Paul Getty Museum, and assigned accession no. 1990.IA.04.

    Processing History

    A preliminary inventory of the records was made prior to 2004 by Institutional Archives part-time staff. In November 2005 Sue Luftschein encoded this finding aid based, in part, on the original inventory.

    Related Material

    The following materials are offered as possible sources of further information on the people, programs, and subjects covered by the records. The listing is not exhaustive.

    Contributing Institution: The Huntington Library

    The C. C. Pierce Collection of photographs , circa 1840-1930. Located in: The Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Identification number: photCL Pierce.

    Contributing Institution: USC Libraries Special Collections, Doheny Memorial Library

    The Title Insurance Trust / C. C. Pierce Collection , 1860-1960. Located in: USC Libraries Special Collections, Doheny Memorial Library, Los Angeles, California. Record ID: chs-m265.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Records consist of 36 predominantly 8" x 10", black-and-white photographs, 1888, 1890, 1905-1906, collected by J. Paul Getty and depicting San Francisco, California, before and after the 1906 earthquake. All of the photographs have an annotation on the reverse, generally a description of the location depicted in the photograph. Often the annotation includes a number, but these numbers are not consecutive, have no relation to each other, and their meaning is unknown. The photographs depict buildings and street scenes.
    The bulk of the photographs are stamped or hand-labeled on the reverse "C.C. Pierce & Co." or "C.C. Pierce." These photographs were originally collected by Charles C. Pierce (1861-1946), a notable photographer of early California, who sold photographs out of his store on Spring Street in Los Angeles. Although many of these images are stamped on the verso with the name C. C. Pierce, they were not necessarily created by Pierce. Pierce assembled an impressive library of historic California photographs (and negatives), removed the original photographers' signatures from the works, and stamped his own name on the images.


    These records have been left in the order in which they were found.

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Topics

    San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906
    San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, Calif., 1906--Pictorial works

    Subjects - Places

    San Francisco (Calif.)--History--20th century

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Black-and-white prints (photographs)


    Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976
    Pierce, C. C. (Charles C.), 1861-1946


    Information in the biographical note on J. Paul Getty was adapted from:
    • Walsh, John and Deborah Gribbon. The J. Paul Getty Museum and its collections: a museum for the new century. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997.