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Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection
BANC PIC 1905.17500--ALB  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Introduction
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Related Material

  • Descriptive Introduction

    Collection name: Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection
    Collection number: BANC PIC 1905.17500--ALB
    Size: Total items in collection: ca. 23,100 photographic prints, various sizes; ca. 10,000 negatives (including glass plates), various sizes.
    Collector: Roy D. Graves
    Repository: The Bancroft Library. University of California, Berkeley.
    Berkeley, California 94720-6000
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    The Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection was received as a gift from Orrin Wickersham June. In 1963, after negotiating an option to purchase the collection from Mr. Graves, Mr. June donated a small portion of the collection to the Bancroft Library. Mr. Graves retained the bulk of the collection for the purpose of recording captions for the individual photographic prints. The remainder of the collection was gradually acquired by the Bancroft Library over the next few years.

    Access Restrictions

    Photograph collection is available for use. Glass and film negatives restricted from use. Permission of the Curator of Pictorial Collections required for use of negatives.

    Digital Representations Available

    Digital representations of selected original pictorial materials are available in the list of materials below. Materials from volumes 1-10 and 29 only have been selected. 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.

    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], Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection, BANC PIC 1905.17500--ALB, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.


    Roy D. Graves was born Roy Chadwick Culver Graves in San Francisco on March 21, 1889. He took the middle name Daniel at his confirmation. Graves' grandfather, Hiram Throop Graves --a descendant of English colonist John Graves, who arrived in Concord, Massachusetts in 1635 --originally came to California from New York in 1849 as a miner. He soon abandoned mining and moved to San Francisco, first working as a coiner with the U.S. Branch Mint, then developing the California Wire Works, an outlet wire company. Hiram T. Graves eventually entered into partnership with Andrew S. Hallidie, who would become the inventor of San Francisco's cable car system. Roy Graves' father, Hiram Augustus Graves, born in San Francisco, was a railroad conductor and telegrapher. His mother, Amy Culver Graves, was also a telegrapher and San Francisco native. At the age of 14, after attending parochial schools in both San Francisco and Oakland, Roy Graves left school and became an apprentice machinist for George Shreve & Co., a gold and silversmith business in San Francisco. In 1906, after a string of various mechanical jobs, Graves became a fireman for the North Shore Railway, thus realizing his ambition to work on a locomotive. Graves would also work for the Mill Valley & Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway and the Santa Fe Railroad, which, in 1908, dismissed Graves after discovering he did not meet the company's minimum age requirement. Graves then went to work for the American Hawaiian Steamship Co., beginning a career in naval transportation that would last for nearly twenty years and include stints as a transportation engineer with the Key Route ferries, the Merchant Marines (during World War I), the Rodeo-Vallejo Ferry Boats, and the California-Hawaiian Sugar Co. From 1931 until his retirement in 1959, Graves engineered facilities for the City of San Francisco at the State Refrigeration Terminal, the Veteran's Building and Civic Opera House, and the Fourth and Channel Streets Drawbridge.
    A San Francisco Bay Area resident his entire life, Roy Graves was also a longtime photographer and photograph collector. Graves began photographing friends and local scenes and events in his early teens, following a childhood interest in photography inspired by local newspaper clippings collected by his grandmother. After working in the railroad industry and becoming interested in transportation history, he began collecting photographs related to locomotive and other forms of transportation. Graves' interest in the history of San Francisco, especially its development before the earthquake and fire of 1906, led him to collect photographs of regional historical importance as well. Graves eventually became part of a small, informal network of other collectors with similar interests from whom he was able to acquire many of his prints. Following his retirement from the City of San Francisco, Graves served for four years as co-curator --with his wife Ethel --of the Marin County Historical Society Museum in San Rafael. From 1963 until his death in 1971, Graves devoted much of his time and energy to the development, arrangement, and captioning of his photograph collection, which at one point amounted to circa 50,000 items. Known as "Uncle Roy" by historians of the San Francisco Bay area, Roy D. Graves was often consulted for his wealth of knowledge and his generous sharing of the resources of his photograph and memorabilia collections.

    Scope and Content

    The Roy D. Graves Pictorial Collection contains circa 23,100 photographic prints classified and arranged by Graves into 96 volumes. Graves began collecting photographs circa 1902, and continued to develop his collection until his death in 1971. The general subject areas of the Graves collection are the history of transportation --especially that of railroad transportation in California --and the history of San Francisco and its environs. The volume titles, volume numbering, and ordering of items within the volumes in the present finding aid represent Graves' original classification and arrangement. The 96 volumes have been grouped into four series by the Library. Because Graves' original volume numbering has been maintained, the arrangement of volumes within each series is often discontinuous. Subjects and photographers featured in the individual volumes are summarized in the series descriptions. A large number of the photographs in the collection are copy prints of photographic originals and glass plate negatives dating as early as 1850. More recent photographs in the collection were taken as late as 1970. The collection also contains photographic reproductions of drawings, lithographs, maps, illustrations, periodical literature, and other print sources, the earliest of which date to the late Eighteenth century.
    Inseparable from the pictorial wealth of the collection are the very informative, often anecdotal captions provided by Graves in many of the albums. For the large number of uncaptioned prints in the collection, captions have been supplied and are presented in brackets in the container listing. The few instances where Graves included brackets in his original captions are also presented as such. Graves created the majority of his item captions during the 1960s; thus any present time (such as "now," "still," "today," etc.) referred to by Graves to describe subject matter can likely be dated to this period.
    The original photographers of a large number of the images in the collection have not been identified. A proportionally small number can be identified as being the work of Graves himself. Many prints include the names of other photographers, collectors, and institutions from whom Graves directly acquired much of his collection. The collection also includes several copy prints of work by such notable California photographers as Isaiah W. Taber, Turrill & Miller, R.J. Waters, Carleton E. Watkins, William Shew, and Eadweard Muybridge. Over 1,200 photographs from Volumes 1-10 and 29 have been selected for digitization in the California Heritage Digital Image Access Project. This selection represents a photographic history of San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Chinese community of San Francisco.

    Related Material

    Title: Index: Roy D. Graves Photograph Collection: Oral History Transcript,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-D 4068