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Guide to the Sierra Club Records, 1891-
BANC MSS 71/103 c  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Administrative History
  • Scope and Content

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Sierra Club Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1891-
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 71/103 c
    Origination: Sierra Club
    Extent: Number of containers: 316 cartons, 1 box, 22 volumes, 1 oversize folder Linear feet: 400
    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: The records form one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of environmental records in the United States. The Club designated The Bancroft Library as its official archives in 1958, and the organization began transferring records from the San Francisco office to the Library on a regular basis in 1970. A very wide range of record types are included in the collection, including correspondence, minutes, agendas, reports, by-laws, financial records, scrapbooks, sample ballots, notes, rosters, action alerts, statements and testimony, press releases, clippings, and policy statements. Documentation for the early years is scarce, since the Club's office in San Francisco was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The largest record series is that of the Conservation Department (Series 9), which includes documentation of the Club's promotion of the creation of Kings Canyon National Park in 1940, its campaign to protect Dinosaur National Monument from a dam-building project, and its unsuccessful opposition to the Hetch Hetchy Valley water project. Individual officers represented in the collection include David Brower, William E. Colby, Robert Curry, Michael McCloskey, and John Muir.
    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], Sierra Club records, BANC MSS 71/103 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Related Collections

    Title: Sierra Club Members Papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/295 c
    Title: Sierra Club National Legislative Office Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/289 c
    Title: Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/296 c
    Title: Sierra Club Foundation Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 89/230 c
    Title: Sierra Club International Program Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/290 c
    Title: Sierra Club Mountain Registers and Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/293 c
    Title: Sierra Club California Legislative Office Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 91/1 c
    Title: Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/291 c
    Title: Sierra Club Mother Lode Chapter Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS 71/292 c

    Material Cataloged Separately

    • Printed materials have been transferred to the book collection of The Bancroft Library.
    • Photographs have been transferred to Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library.
    • Videotapes, sound recordings, and motion pictures have been transferred to the Microforms Division of The Bancroft Library.
    • Maps have been transferred to the Bancroft Map Collection.
    • Government documents have been transferred to the Government Documents Department of Doe Library.

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    In 1970 the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club voted to place the club's historical records in The Bancroft Library. The club continues to transfer groups of historical records from its national headquarters in San Francisco in appropriate increments.


    The Sierra Club Records Project was made possible by a major grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

    Administrative History

    The Sierra Club was founded on May 28, 1892, in the San Francisco office of attorney Warren Olney. In addition to naturalist and author John Muir, the 182 charter members included artists, scientists, university professors, explorers, and cartographers. Their intent, as expressed in the articles of incorporation, was three-fold: "to explore, enjoy, and render accessible the mountain regions of the Pacific Coast; to publish authentic information concerning them. . .[and] to enlist the support and cooperation of the people and government in preserving the forests and other natural features of the Sierra Nevada."
    The club grew slowly and steadily, with many new members recruited on local walks and the month-long High Trip, led for many years by attorney William E. Colby. A Southern California chapter was formed in 1911, but it was not until 1950 that the first chapter outside of the state was incorporated. The greatest increase in membership has come in the last decade, in response to federal government policies that club members have considered anti-environmental.
    One hundred years after its birth, the Sierra Club is an organization of more than 600,000 members, run by a volunteer board of directors, with chapters in every state and in Canada. The club still maintains its headquarters in San Francisco, but it has regionally-based conservation staff working to influence federal legislation, and a national legislative office in Washington, D.C. There are a number of state legislative offices as well. The club is well known for producing Sierra magazine and for its publications program, Sierra Club Books. Hundreds of national and international outings, led by volunteers, take place each year.
    There are a number of published works on Sierra Club history, which may be of use to the researcher.
    Carr, Patrick, ed., The Sierra Club, A Guide (Sierra Club: San Francisco, 1989).
    Cohen, Michael P., The History of the Sierra Club, 1892-1970 (Sierra Club Books: San Francisco, 1988).
    Kimball, H. Stewart, History of the Sierra Club Outing Committee, 1901-1972 (Sierra Club Outing Committee, 1990).
    Turner, Tom, Sierra Club: 100 Years of Protecting Nature (Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the Sierra Club: New York, 1991).

    Scope and Content

    The Sierra Club Records form one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of environmental records in the United States. The Bancroft Library was designated as the club's official archives in 1958, and records began to be transferred from the San Francisco headquarters to the library regularly in 1970. A very wide range of record types are included in the collection, including correspondence, minutes, agendas, reports, by-laws, financial records, scrapbooks, sample ballots, notes, rosters, action alerts, statements and testimony, press releases, clippings, and policy statements.
    Documents from the early years are disappointingly scarce. The headquarters at Mills Tower in San Francisco was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Beginning in 1906, there is a nearly complete run of Board of Directors minutes (Series 2). By-laws (Series 3) and Elections Records (Series 4) also date from the period immediately following the earthquake. Other interesting early records include the register of the club-owned LeConte Memorial Lodge, in Yosemite National Park (Series 1); several scrapbooks (Series 1); and information on the annual High Trip, devised and led for many years by long-time club secretary William E. Colby (in the files of the Outing Committee, Sierra Club Committees Records, Series 6).
    Financial Records (Series 5), and records of the Sierra Club Council (Series 6), Sierra Club Committees (Series 7), and Sierra Club Chapters (Series 8) demonstrate the increasing organizational complexity and varied interests of the club. The year 1950 saw the establishment of the Atlantic Chapter, the first chapter outside of California. In 1956, the Sierra Club Council was formed, with one representative per chapter, to advise the Board of Directors on internal club matters. By the 1960s, there was an ever-expanding roster of committees concerned with such diverse matters as Sierra Club Bulletin policy, the governing of the club's Clair Tappaan Lodge, conservation topics, club history, mountaineering, wilderness classification, winter sports, and Yosemite National Park management issues.
    The Conservation Department Records (Series 9) form the largest record series. The Historic Conservation Files (Series 9.1) provide ample proof of many members' early, wide-ranging, and persistent conservation concerns. Successful campaigns documented in these files included the creation in 1940 of Kings Canyon National Park, a project dear to John Muir. Executive director David Brower masterminded the successful battle to protect Dinosaur National Monument from the United States Bureau of Reclamation's dam-building projects. The Historic Conservation Files also document heart-rending defeats, such as the loss of Hetch Hetchy Valley when the Tuolumne River was dammed to provide a water supply for San Francisco. Another hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful campaign endeavored to halt the construction of an aerial tramway into the San Jacinto Wilderness in Southern California.
    The Conservation Department Records began to be saved in a systematic manner after Michael McCloskey was named conservation director in the mid-1960s. From a simple alphabetical filing scheme, begun in 1966, a more exacting numerical subject code filing system evolved in 1973. The Conservation Reference Files contain records collected as well as created by the Conservation Department staff. Topics are very comprehensive and include forestry, energy, pollution, environmental organizations, government agencies, international conservation, population, parks, wildlife, and wilderness issues, among many others.
    Supplementing the Conservation Reference Files are the Testimony Files (Series 9.5), and the Conservation Policy Guides (Series 9.4), both of which document the Sierra Club's policy on local and national conservation issues. Topics in the Conservation Campaign Files (Series 9.6) include separately-maintained files on the California Coastal Zone Conservation Act, national forests legislation, and the Wilderness Bill. A sampling of Sierra Club action alerts, requesting members to lobby on specific issues, can be found in Series 9.7. The biennial Wilderness Conference, first sponsored by the club in 1949, is well-documented in Series 9.8.
    The remaining series are comparatively small ones. Correspondence and working files for the Sierra Club Bulletin/Sierra (Series 10) and Sierra Club Publications, now Sierra Club Books (Series 11) demonstrate a continuing mission to educate, motivate, and entertain members, as well as to inspire and recruit new members. Topics range from "how-to" tips to wilderness philosophy, from notebooks, trail guides, and calendars to the lavish and award-winning exhibit format volumes.
    Series 12, Membership Records, contains names of proposed members, dating from 1893, as well as a few more recent listings. The short-lived Sierra Club Research Department (Series 13), headed by Robert Curry, concentrated on such issues as public lands in Alaska, energy conservation and development, forestry, and hazardous wastes. The final series, the files of the Public Affairs Department, directed by Joanne Hurley, illustrates the club's increasingly visibility and its efforts to inform the public of the work of the Sierra Club.