Guide to the William Edward Colby Papers, 1892-1964

Processed by The Bancroft Library staff
The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
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© 1996
The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Guide to the William Edward Colby Papers, 1892-1964

Collection number: BANC MSS C-B 980

The Bancroft Library

University of California, Berkeley

Berkeley, California

Contact Information:

Processed by:
The Bancroft Library staff
Date Completed:
ca. 1967
Encoded by:
Xiuzhi Zhou
© 1996 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.

Collection Summary

Collection Title: William Edward Colby Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1892-1964
Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 980
Creator: Colby, Wm. E. (William Edward), 1875-1964
Extent: Number of containers: 2 boxes, 3 cartons, and 1 oversize folder
Repository: The Bancroft Library
Berkeley, California 94720-6000
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Abstract: Letters; manuscripts of his writings; notes; reprints and copies of articles; diaries; newspaper clippings, and photographs, relating to the Sierra Club; John Muir; conservation (including material on the recession of Yosemite and the Hetch Hetchy controversy); mining law; his Chinese art collection; and genealogy.

Included also: letters (typed transcripts) written by John Muir, mainly to his daughter Helen.
Languages Represented: English

Information for Researchers


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library 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 reader.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], William Edward Colby Papers, BANC MSS C-B 980, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Administrative Information

Acquisition Information

The collection of papers was given to the Bancroft Library by Mr. Colby in 1954 and 1959, with additions in 1965 from Mrs. Colby.

Biographical Sketch

William Edward Colby was born in Benicia, California, in 1875. His mother, Caroline Amelia (Smith) Colby, had been a teacher in the Young Ladies Seminary, and his father, Gilbert Winslow Colby, was a `49er, merchant, state assemblyman and state senator. After attending public schools in Benicia and Berkeley, Colby was graduated from the Hastings College of Law in 1898. He began his practice in San Francisco and soon specialized in mining law. From 1911 to 1937 he taught mining and water law at the University of California. He wrote numerous articles on the subject, compiling a valuable library as well.

Scope and Content

Colby's life-long connection with conservation resulted primarily from his first trip into the Sierra in 1894. In 1900 he was elected secretary of the Sierra Club. This brought him into close personal contact with John Muir, the club's founder and president. In 1901 they founded the annual high trip into the Sierra, which Colby led, after Muir's death in 1914. In his long association with the Club, which lasted until his death in 1964, Colby served as secretary, as president, and, from 1950, as honorary president.
His continued interest in conservation was evidenced by his membership on the State Park Commission, of which he was chairman from 1927 to 1936, the Save-the-Redwoods League, and the Yosemite Advisory Board.
Portraits have been removed and cataloged separately (Colby, 13671-13689; Muir, 13697-13733).
A key to arrangement follows.

Key to Arrangement

Box 1

Letters written by William E. Colby, 1897-1964.

Scope and Content Note

Arranged chronologically. Mainly typed copies relating to the Sierra Club and conservation. Some concern his legal practice and oriental art collection. A few copies, 1909-1955, are bound by a letter book.
Box 1-2

Letters written to Colby.

Scope and Content Note

Arranged alphabetically by name of person or organization. Most letters concern the Sierra Club, John Muir, and conservation. At the end is a bound volume - Letters to Will Colby from the Sierra Club, 1955, on his 80th birthday. A partial list of correspondents follows the key to arrangement.
Carton 1

Diaries (1943-1947)

Scope and Content Note

Manuscripts of his writings, articles, notes, newspaper clippings; personalia; miscellany

John Muir material

Scope and Content Note

Typed transcript of letter to Charles Warren Stoddard, 187[2?], and draft of letter to Secretary of the Interior, 19[06?], letters (typed copies) to his daughter Helen, 1903-1914 (bound volume); articles by Colby, and others; newspaper clippings; miscellany.

Processing/Project Information

Originals of transcripts of Muir letters to Helen Colby are in BANC MSS C-H 101.
Carton 2


Scope and Content Note

Notes, articles, reprints, copies of court decisions, lecture notes, etc., on mining and water law.


Scope and Content Note

Biographical and genealogical data re the Colby and Smith families; Diaries and letters (copies) of Caroline Amelia (Smith) Colby.
Carton 3

Material relating to Colby's collection of Chinese art

Scope and Content Note

Invoices, receipts, articles, catalogs, photographs, etc.
oversize Oversize folder

Cerificates of admission to practice as an attorney in various courts in Calif., Nev., and Utah, 1898-1929.

Scope and Content Note

6 items.

Partial List of Correspondents


A Miscellany


Andrews, Ernest Clayton (1870-)


Letter, May 11, 1917.


Adams, Ansel Easton, 1902-


6 letters, 1955-1956.


Albright, Horace Marden, 1890-


8 letters, 1949-1964.


Alvarez, Walter Clement, 1884-


2 letters, 1955.


B - Miscellany


Ballinger, Richard Achilles


Letter, May 22, 1909.


Baruch, Bernard Mannes (1870-)


Letter, Dec. 8, 1933.


Bender, Albert Maurice (1866-1941)


Letter, n.d.


Blake, Anson Stiles (1870-1959)


Letter, Dec. 9, 1958.


Boone & Crockett Club


Letter, Mar. 7, 1919.


Bradley, Harold Cornelius (1878-)


Letter, Jan. 24, 1956.


Buwalda, John Peter (1886-1954)


Letter, Mar. 29, 1950.


Blackwelder, Eliot, 1880-


2 letters, 1950-1956.


Bracelin, Nina Floy


2 letters, 1955.


Brower, David Ross, 1912-


3 letters, 1955-1964. Written by his secretary.

Additional Note

Letter dated 1964 written by his wife.

Buwalda, Imra (Wann), 1894- (Mrs. John Peter Buwalda)


14 letters, 1955-1956.


C - Miscellany


California. University. Regents


Letter, Oct. 20, 1937. Written by Robert M. Underhill, Secretary & Treasurer.


Curtis, George Carroll


Letter, April 18, 1911.


Century Co.


8 letters, 1911-1912.

Additional Note

Concern John Muir's Book on Yosemite Valley.

Colby, Helen Leach (Flemming) (Mrs. W. E. Colby)


2 letters, 1965. Written to Bancroft Library.


Crocker, William Willard, 1893-

See San Francisco. Museum of Art


D - Miscellany


Douglas, William Orville (1898-)


Letter, Jan. 25, 1960.


De Lipkau, Jean (Hanna) (Granddaughter of John Muir)


2 letters, 1955-1957.

Additional Note

Letter dated 1957 concerns dedication of John Muir Memorial Park in Wisconsin.

E - Miscellany


Engle, Clair (1911-1964)


Letter, Sept. 17, 1954. Written by secretary.


Englebright, William F.


Letter, Sept. 16, 1910.


English, William Augustus (1907-)


Letter, Feb. 6, 1954.


F - Miscellany


Flint, Frank Putnam


Letter, Mar. 1, 1911.


Foster, Kenneth E.


3 letters, 1947-1948.


Funk, Helen (Muir), 1886- (Daughter of John Muir)


11 letters, 1955-1961.


G - Miscellany


Garfield, James Rudolph


Letter, Feb. 9, 1909.


Goethe, Charles Matthias (1875-)


Letter, Jan. 22, 1953.


Greenleaf, Charles Ravenscroft (1838-1911)


Letter, Apr. 23, 1906.

Additional Note

Requesting army to allow Colby to enter his office after the earthquake.

Gutenberg, Beno (1889-)


Letter, Nov. 29, 1955.


H - Miscellany


Hartzog, George B.


Letter, May 20, 1964.


Hatch, Philander Ellsworth (1861- )


Letter, Dec. 1, 1936.


Hanna, Richard Rea, 1912- (Grandson of John Muir)


2 letters, 1955-1956.


Hanna, Wanda (Muir), 1881-1942 (Daughter of John Muir)


3 letters, 1911-1915.


Hoover, Herbert Clark, 1874-1964


3 letters, 1928-1935.


Hoover, Lou (Henry) D., 1944


3 letters, 1920-1935 & n.d.


Hubbard, Douglass H.

See Yosemite Natural History Association


Huber, Walt er Leroy, 1883-


2 letters, 1953-1958.


Johnson, Robert Underwood, 1853-1937


2 letters, 1915.


K - Miscellany


Kasch, Charles


Letter, Sept. 26, 1950.


Knowland, Joseph Russell (1873-1966)


Letter, Dec. 11, 1936.


Kittredge, Frank Alvah


2 letters, 1953.


La Follette, Robert Marion


2 letters, 1913.


Lee, Shao Chang, 1891-


3 letters, 1940-1955.


Leonard, Richard Manning, 1908-


2 letters, 1955-1964.


Lindley, Curtis Holbrook, 1850-1920


2 letters, 1917-1918.


M - Miscellany


McAdoo, William Gibbs (1863-1941)


Letter, Nov. 27, 1936.


McKay, Douglas (1893-1959)


Telegram, May 6, 1955.


Matthers, Francois Emille


Letter, Mar. 28, 1911.


Merriam, Frank Finley (1865-1955)


Letter, Nov. 20, 1936.


Miller, Henry (1891-)


Letter, Jan 28, 1959.


Morley, Grace Louise (McCann) (1900-)


Letter, Feb. 8, 1936.

Additional Note

Written as curator, San Francisco Museum of Art

McFarland, John Horace, 1859-1948


4 letters, 1912-1929.


McLaughlin, Emma (Moffat), 1880-1968 (Mrs. Alfred McLaughlin)


3 letters, 1955-1964 & n.d.


Marshall, Robert Bradford, 1867-1949


6 letters, 1910-1916.


Mather, Stephen Tung


4 letters, 1909-1913.


Mauk, Charlotte E.


2 letters, 1949-1964.

Additional Note

Letter dated 1949 written to Mrs. Vernon Kellogg & includes typed copies of letters written to her by John Muir, 1907-1914.

Mills, Enos Abijah, 1870-1922


3 letters, 1912-1915.


Mills College, Oakland


2 letters, 1937. Written by Aurelia (Henry) Reinhardt.


Muir, John, 1838-1914


93 letters, 1892-1914 & n.d.

Additional Note

Typed transcripts. Letters (2) dated 1892 written to Prof. J. H. Senger.
See also Mauk, Charlotte E.
See also volume of typed transcripts of letters to his daughter, Helen, in carton 1.

Newhall, Nancy (Wynne)


5 letters, 1955-1964.

Additional Note

Letter dated 1964 written to Mrs. Colby.

P - Miscellany


Patrons of Husbandry


Letter, Aug. 19, 1958. Written by George Sehlmeyer, Master


Pinchot, Gifford


Letter, May 4, 1909.


Plimpton, Russell Arthur (1891- )


Letter, Sept. 1, 1942.


Palmer, Paul, 1900-


9 letters, 1960-1961.

Additional Note

Concern Muir article for Reader's Digest.

Preston, John C.


5 letters, 1955-1964. Written as Supt. Yosemite National Park.


R - Miscellany


Rockefeller, John Davison (1874-1960)


Letter, Aug. 29, 1931.


Reinhardt, Aurelia (Henry), 1877-1948

See Mills College, Oakland


S - Miscellany


San Francisco. Museum of Art


Letter, Dec. 11, 1936.

Additional Note

Typed transcript,written by W. W. Crocker, Pres. Board of Trustees.

Sargent, Shirley


Letter, Feb. 6, 1963


Searls, Fred (1887-1968)


Letter, July 13, 1918.


Searls, Robert McMurray (1886-)


Letter, Apr. 11, 1950.


Seth, Julien Orem (1883-)


Letter, Apr. 22, 1955.


Sharp, Robert Phillip (1911-)


Letter, Apr. 13, 1961.


Smith, Sylvester Clark


Letter, Feb. 9, 1911.


Sproul, Robert Gordon (1891-)


Letter, May 18, 1955.


Sutherland, George (1862-1942)


Letter, Jan. 14, 1938.


Sutro, Oscar (1874-1935)


Letter, June 16, 193[4].


Sierra Club, San Francisco


2 letters, 1964. Written by Michael Brown & William E. Siri.

Additional Note

Letter dated Apr. 30 includes first day cover of the John Muir 5 c stamp.

Taylor, Frank J., 1894-


6 letters, 1960-1961.

Additional Note

Concern Muir article for Reader's Digest.

Thompson, Wandalee


7 letters, 1963-1964 & n.d.


Udall, Stewart Lee, 1920-


2 letters, 1963-1964.


Underhill, Robert M.

See California University. Regents


W - Miscellany


Warren, Earl (1891-)


Letter, Nov. 20, 1964. Written to Mrs. Colby


White, John Roberts (1879-)


Letter, Aug. 16, 1937.

Additional Note

Written as Supt. Sequoia National Park.

Westley, Volney J.


2 letters, 1952.

Additional Note

Concern Tioga Road Controversy.

Wilson, George Warren


2 letters, 1955-1964.


Winkley, John W.


4 letters, 1964.

Additional Note

Written as Pres., John Muir Association.

Wirth, Conrad Louis, 1899-


3 letters, 1955-1958.


Wolfe, Linnie (Marsh), 1881-1945


4 letters, 1938-1945.


X-Y-Z - Miscellany & unidentified


Young, Clement Calhoun (1869-1947)


Letter, Nov. 17, 1928.


Yosemite Natural History Association


3 letters, 1955-1958. Written mainly by Douglass H. Hubbard, Business Manager.