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Jesse Brown Cook Scrapbooks Documenting San Francisco History and Law Enforcement, ca. 1895-1936
BANC PIC 1996.003--fALB  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Jesse Brown Cook scrapbooks documenting San Francisco history and law enforcement
    Date (inclusive): ca. 1895-1936
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1996.003--fALB
    Collector: Jesse Brown Cook
    Extent: 39 albums containing ca. 8000 photographic prints and ca. 4000 newspaper clippings and ephemera; 14< x 10< in. 4131 digital objects
    Repository: The Bancroft Library.
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English

    Information for Researchers


    Collection is available for use.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish photographs must be submitted in writing to the Curator of Pictorial Collections. 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.
    Copyright restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Jesse Brown Cook scrapbooks documenting San Francisco history and law enforcement, BANC PIC 1996.003--fALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Digital image files were prepared from selected Library originals by the Library Photographic Service. Library originals were copied onto 35mm color transparency film; the film was scanned and transferred to Kodak Photo CD (by Custom Process); and the Photo CD files were color-corrected and saved in JFIF (JPEG) format for use as viewing files.
    Selected items were digitized or re-digitized at a later date.

    Related Collections

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information



    Jesse Brown Cook (1860-1938) was a member of the San Francisco Police Department from the 1890s to the 1930s. He began as a beat cop, and then rose through the ranks to become Sergeant of the Chinatown Squad; he retired as Chief of Police and later returned to the force as Police Commissioner. Before his years of service in the police force he studied taxidermy, worked as a sailor, drayman, and butcher, and toured Europe as a contortionist. His police career began in San Antonio and San Diego before he relocated to San Francisco.
    It is unclear what motivated Cook to compile thousands of photographs and clippings into what is a unique portrayal of early twentieth century San Francisco, with its rare police department photographs and documentation of events not available to the general public at the time. Over the course of a decade, Cook had approximately 1300 street scenes professionally photographed, and he meticulously recorded the exact location of each photograph. Whatever the motive for his care and persistence, his passion for San Francisco history is apparent.

    Scope and Content

    The Jesse Cook scrapbooks consist of thirty-nine volumes containing an estimated 12,000 items, including photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemera, primarily centering on the history of San Francisco and police activity in the city. The collection is thought to have once numbered fifty scrapbooks.
    The photographs described in the container list span a wide range of locations and topics, but most were taken in San Francisco. They include early twentieth century mug shots of criminals; pictures inside the city prison, morgue, and coroner's office; and many group shots of police officers. Also depicted are historical events such as the building of the Bay Bridge, President Taft breaking ground in Golden Gate Park, the Democratic National Convention with a photograph of Franklin Roosevelt, and the openings of the cable car lines, the transcontinental phone line, and the Panama Canal. Numerous street scenes in San Francisco are included, as well as shots of Chinese immigrants and Chinatown, the architecture and neighborhoods of San Francisco, police work and crime in San Francisco, city events, and views from the 1906 earthquake and fire.
    Jesse Brown Cook compiled these scrapbooks with the help of official police photographer George Blum. Most captions were handwritten by Cook, and some were typed. The thirty-nine volumes were originally comprised of thirty-four ledger books and loose photographs and clippings. Due to their very poor physical condition, four of the original ledger books (volumes 2, 5, 6 and 29) have been disbound, fully preserved by the Conservation Department of The Library, and newly bound into nine volumes. These volumes are marked 2:1, 2:2, etc. to preserve the original numbering of the ledger books. The loose items have been foldered and boxed and labelled as volume 35. The pages in each volume are numbered, and the photographs are numbered with the page number followed by suffixes of "a," "b," etc. when multiple photographs appear on a single page.
    As part of the scrapbooks' preservation, digital facsimiles have been produced of many of the photographs. These are the photographs listed in the finding aid. Users may browse the finding aid and digital facsimiles in order to limit physical browsing of the original scrapbooks. The photographs were selected according to the following guidelines: no copy prints; only photographs in relatively good condition were selected; and no photographs with violent content were selected (coroner's and police photographs of corpses). Where duplicate photographs were found, only one was selected. A total of 4,348 photographs have digital facsimiles. Photographs from volumes 2, 5, 6 and 29 do not have digital facsimiles, but are listed in the finding aid. These volumes are available for use in the library.
    The ephemera includes materials such as postage stamps and Chinese lottery tickets, while the newspaper clippings focus on police activity and San Francisco history. Neither the ephemera nor the newspaper clippings are described in detail in the finding aid.