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Guide to the Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums, 1886-1924
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biographical History
  • Indexing Terms
  • Scope and Content

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums
    Date (inclusive): 1886-1924
    Collection Number: ECS01.03
    Creator: Charles B. Polhemus Family
    Extent: 2 boxes Selected online items available
    Repository: Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History, San Jose State University,
    San Jose, California
    Abstract: Part of the Edith C. Smith Collection, these albums are a rare collection of photographs taken by members of this important California family of their various estates, family members and their activities, and early automobile excursions throughout Northern California.
    Language: English

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the Sourisseau Academy. Neither the original photographs nor the digital images held by the Sourisseau Academy may be reproduced, published, or used on the Internet without the expressed, written permission of the Executive Secretary. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the Sourisseau Academy as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher. The credit line, "Courtesy of the Edith C. Smith Trust Collection, Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History" must accompany any such use.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums, [Box number]: [Folder number], Edith C. Smith Collection, Sourisseau Academy for State and Local History, San Jose State University, San Jose, California

    Acquisition Information

    The Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums were donated to the Sourisseau Academy by the Edith C. Smith Trust in 2008.

    Biographical History

    Charles B. Polhemus (1888-1969) was the son of George B. and Jennie (Jane Eliza Ryder) Polhemus, and grandson of Charles Bispham Polhemus.
    Charles Bispham Polhemus (1818-1904) was born in New Jersey, but like many Americans, had a restless spirit. At the age of seventeen he ventured to South America, living variously in Valparaiso, Guayaquil, Lima, and Payta. After serving as the United States Consul to Payta for four years, Charles returned to America and settled in San Francisco in 1850. He married Matilda Murphy in 1852 and they had three children: Mary Josephine (d. 1935), George Bissel (1857-1914) and Stanhope Prevost, who died in infancy. When Charles divorced his wife in 1862, his niece Ellen V. Polhemus took over the management of his large household.
    In the 1850s, Charles Polhemus acquired a substantial portion of the Las Pulgas Rancho, a vast tract of land that encompassed most of the peninsula. He subdivided the land and the large parcels he sold off to friends became the estates now known as Atherton, Millbrae and Menlo Park. The Polhemus estate, where the family lived in until 1862, eventually became the City of San Mateo. After working to bring the railroad to San Jose from San Francisco, Polhemus purchased Laurelwood Estate from Peter Donohue, a colleague in the railroad business, and moved south into Santa Clara County in the late 1860s. He also bought a large portion of the Stockton Rancho (Potrero de Santa Clara) from Commodore Stockton. By 1873 the family was occupying an estate known as Pendennis, one of several well-known prefabricated houses that were brought around Cape Horn in the 1850s by Commodore Stockton. A lack of sawmills in the West made imported prefabricated houses a viable option for those with the means to establish substantial residences. The family lived at Pendennis, located at the corner of Stockton Avenue and Polhemus Street, until it burned in 1914. A new house was erected on the property in 1916, and was eventually moved onto the grounds of Bellarmine College Preparatory School in 1946, where it still stands.
    Charles Polhemus also owned a nine-hundred acre ranch in Coyote, which his son George Polhemus managed until the late 1890s when it was sold to the Spreckles family. George and his wife Jennie (Jane Eliza Ryder, married in 1887), daughter of local jeweler George R. Ryder, retained ninety acres in Coyote where they built a house and kept orchards. In 1906, George was the local Winton Automobile dealer, and became a founding member and the first president of the Santa Clara County Automobile Club.
    George and Jennie’s son Charles B. Polhemus, named for his grandfather, inherited the estate of Pendennis and constructed a new house on it in the 1950s after selling the Stockton Avenue property.
    Charles Bispham Polhemus died in San Jose in 1904, followed shortly by his son George Polhemus in 1914. Jennie Polhemus died in 1938 at the age of seventy-four. George and Jennie’s son Charles B. Polhemus died in 1969, and his wife Irene in 1990. The couple left no heirs. Mary Josephine Polhemus moved to Italy with her long-time companion Adeline Mills prior to World War I. She died there in 1935.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms may be used to index this collection.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Automobile travel
    Automobiles – Societies, etc.
    Cerro Allegre Rancho (San Jose, Calif.)
    Pendennis (San Jose, Calif.)
    Polhemus, Charles B. (1888-1969)
    Polhemus, George B. (1857-1914)
    Polhemus, Jennie (Jane Eliza Ryder) (d. 1938)
    San Jose (Calif.)
    Santa Clara County (Calif.)
    Santa Clara County Automobile Club

    Scope and Content

    The Charles B. Polhemus Family Albums collection consists of two photo albums and several pieces of correspondence.
    One photo album chronicles the 1908 outings of the newly-formed Santa Clara Automobile Club, which traveled throughout Santa Clara County and ventured south into Monterey and Carmel. The auto club organized tours and excursions throughout the county and ventured south to Monterey and Carmel. Scenic destinations for Polhemus family excursions as well as Auto Club tours included many points of local and regional interest such as the New Almaden Quicksilver Mines, the sumptuous Hotel Del Monte in Monterey, the famed Seventeen Mile Drive at Pebble Beach, Point Lobos and Gus Lion’s ranch near San Martin. One especially exciting and historic trip took the Club over the mountains to Santa Cruz in 1908 to see President Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet anchored off the coast in Monterey Bay.
    A second photo album chronicles the excursions of the Polhemus family throughout San Jose and Santa Cruz, including Congress Springs.
    The correspondence in this collection primarily relates to a trip Charles B. Polhemus took to Italy in 1924.