Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the Andrew Jackson Grayson Papers, 1844-1901
BANC MSS C-B 514  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Biography

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Andrew Jackson Grayson Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1844-1901
    Collection Number: BANC MSS C-B 514
    Creator: Grayson, Andrew Jackson, 1818-1869
    Extent: Number of containers: 8 boxes Linear feet: 3.2
    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: Pt.I Letters written to and by Grayson and his wife; diary of overland journey to California, 1846; field notebooks; manuscripts of his writings; water colors of birds of California and Mexico; photographs; and clippings relating primarily to his ornithological studies. Letters written after 1869 are primarily concerned with Mrs. Grayson's efforts to publish his work.--Pt.II Microfilm copy (black and white) of the water color drawings in Pt.I.--Pt.III Microfilm of letters written to and by Grayson; will and other papers of Mrs. Grayson. Originals in various depositories.
    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], Andrew Jackson Grayson papers, BANC MSS C-B 514, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Photographs transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library
      Identifier/Call Number: (BANC PIC 19xx.149--PIC).
    • Watercolors of birds transferred and shelved as
      Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 19xx.117--ffALB.
    • Drawings from Mexico also transferred and shelved as
      Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 19xx.118--A)


    Andrew Jackson Grayson was born in 1819 on the family plantation In Louisiana. Subject to frequent illness he was permitted by his parents to occupy much of his time as he pleased. As a result he passed many of his days in the nearby woods hunting small game and observing birds and other wildlife. He attended a local school until the teacher found him drawing birds during class and told his father. He was promptly sent to college in Missouri with orders not to study drawing. After the death of his father he used his small legacy to go into business in Columbia, Louisiana. But business didn't interest him. He left his clerk in charge of the store while he roamed the woods and the business soon failed. By 1842, the year of his marriage to Frances Jane Timmons, he had decided to move west. In 1844 they moved to St. Louis to prepare for the journey.
    In the spring of 1846 Grayson, his wife, and their infant son, Edward, started overland for California with a group that included ex-Governor Lilburn Boggs of Missouri and, until their tragic turnoff at Fort Bridger, the Donner party. Soon after their arrival in October, Grayson joined the California Battalion. Later he went into business in San Francisco and purchased lots there and in other parts of the bay area.
    In 1853 Mrs. Grayson saw an exhibit of Audubon's plates "Birds of America" at the Mercantile Library in San Francisco. She took her husband to see it, and he realized that he must resume his drawing. The family settled in San Jose where he taught himself drawing, paint mixing and taxidermy. After short residencies in Tehuantepec, Mexico, in 1857, and in Napa Valley in 1859, studying and drawing the local birds, Grayson settled in Mazatlan to work on his proposed "Birds of the Pacific Slope."
    Grayson spent the last ten years of his life in the area around Mazatlan and nearby Islands, and contributed many articles on natural history to newspapers and magazines in Mexico and California, writing under his own name and the pseudonyms "Wanderer," "Rambler," and "Occidentalus." He sent many birds and other specimens and detailed bird biographies to the Smithsonian Institution. Although discouraged by lack of funds, the repudiation of his contract with the Academy of Science and Literature following the execution of Maximilian, and the accidental death of his son in 1867, Grayson seized every opportunity to complete his project. Financial aid finally came from the Smithsonian but it was too late; Grayson was already ill with coast fever from which he died on August 17, 1869.
    Mrs. Grayson returned to California and, in 1872, married George Belden Crane. In 1879, after many unsuccessful attempts to publish Grayson's plates she gave them to the University of California. Prior to her death in 1908 she also gave to the University his letters, notebooks, and manuscripts. The collection relates mainly to Grayson's work in ornithology and to Mrs. Grayson's attempts to secure publication of his work. Much of the correspondence is with Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian who encouraged Grayson and helped whenever possible by sending publications and supplies and by providing him with final identification of species. Photographs have been cataloged separately.
    A key to arrangement follows.