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Finding Aid to the James D. Phelan Photograph Albums, 1902-1929
BANC PIC 1932.001--ALB  
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Collection Details
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  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Album Descriptions

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: James D. Phelan photograph albums
    Date: 1902-1929
    Collection Number: BANC PIC 1932.001--ALB
    Collector: James Duval Phelan
    Extent: 21 albums (ca. 6000 photographic prints, postcards, and ephemeral souvenirs); various sizes 1335 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 stored off-site. Advance notice required 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], James D. Phelan photograph albums, BANC PIC 1932.001--ALB, 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

    Title: James D. Phelan papers,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC MSS C-B 800
    Title: James D. Phelan photograph collection,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1933.003
    Title: James D. Phelan portrait collection,
    Identifier/Call Number: BANC PIC 1933.004

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    Transferred from the James D. Phelan papers, BANC MSS C-B 800.


    James Duval Phelan was born in San Francisco, April 20, 1861, and was intimately associated throughout the greater part of his life with the political, business and cultural history of the city. His father, James Phelan, was an Irish immigrant who came to California in the gold rush and made a fortune in trade, banking, insurance, and real estate. Young Phelan attended San Francisco schools, was graduated from St. Ignatius College in 1881 and studied law at the University of California. After graduation he traveled abroad for a year and a half, studying municipal governments and writing articles on his observations for various magazines and San Francisco newspapers. Influenced by his father, he gave up his early aspirations to become a lawyer or a writer and turned to a business career, first as his father's partner, and then, in 1892, as his successor in the banking business and as manager of the considerable estate which he had inherited.
    Politics quickly claimed Phelan's attention, and he became actively involved in the battle for civic reform. In the mid-nineties San Francisco was one of the most notoriously boss-ridden, corrupt cities in the country. The reform Democrats, in 1896, nominated Phelan for the office of mayor. With virtually no previous political experience, campaigning for an end to corruption and for home rule and civic service reform, he was elected, and twice re-elected. He successfully led the campaign for the adoption of a new city charter, despite the opposition of the party machines, and worked for municipal ownership of public utilities, public improvements, and beautification of the city. He concluded his term of office in 1902 and refused to run a fourth time.
    The San Francisco fire of 1906 called Phelan back into public service. He was chosen president of the Relief and Red Cross Funds, a corporation, and it was to him, personally, that President Theodore Roosevelt sent the $10,000,000 collected for the relief of the fire sufferers. He took an active part, too, with Rudolph Spreckels and Fremont Older, in the graft prosecutions that followed the fire.
    In 1912 he actively campaigned for Woodrow Wilson, and in 1914, he entered the race for the U.S. Senate on the Democratic ticket. He won and became the first California Democrat to sit in the Senate since 1897. Before he entered office he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Santo Domingo by the State Department, under authority form President Woodrow Wilson, to investigate charges of unfitness for office brought against the U.S. minister to the Dominican Republic. In 1920 Phelan ran for reelection but was defeated in the Harding landslide. He did not completely retire from political life, however. Serving as one of the California delegates to the 1924 Democratic national convention, he placed William G. McAdoo's name in nomination for the presidency of the United States, and he contributed frequently to the Democratic Party coffers.
    After leaving the Senate, Phelan returned to San Francisco and devoted time largely to his business enterprises and to civic betterment work. Well known as a patron of the arts, he generously helped artists and writers and served as California's unofficial host, entertaining distinguished celebrities at his spacious country estate, Villa Montalvo, in the Santa Clara Valley, near Saratoga. He traveled extensively, too, and contributed frequently to magazines, writing on a wide range of topics. In 1923 he published Travel and Comment, an account of this trip around the world in 1921-22.
    As one of San Francisco's most prominent citizens, Phelan was signally honored on many occasions. He served as vice president of the California Commission to the Chicago Exposition, 1893; regent of the University of California; trustee of the San Francisco Public Library; president of the Adornment Association; president of the Art Association; president of the Playground Commission; thrice president of the Bohemian Club; and president of the Hall Association of the Native Sons of the Golden West.
    Phelan never married, though he attempted to propose once. The floor of the hack in which he was kneeling gave way, and left him chasing after the hack while the young woman sat inside and laughed. He was humiliated, and the young woman, whose name is unknown, left for Europe from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, apparently either turning down Phelan, or never getting to hear the proposal.
    Phelan died at his estate, Villa Montalvo, on August 7, 1930, after an illness of three months.

    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of 21 photograph albums containing more than 6000 photographic prints, postcards, and ephemeral items collected by James Duval Phelan between the years 1902 and 1929. The albums, numbered 82 through 102, were originally part of Phelan's papers. Volumes 1-81 remain with his papers (BANC MSS C-B 800).
    General descriptions for each album follow in the Album Descriptions. However, caption lists were prepared for only ten albums in this finding aid. These albums focus on Phelan's California activities, especially at his estate Villa Montalvo in Saratoga, California. The remaining albums are devoted to Phelan's travels in Europe between 1902 and 1926 and a trip to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904.
    Many of the California photographs are of scenes at Phelan's Montalvo estate in Saratoga, California where Phelan entertained many writers and celebrities over the years. People featured in the albums include Helen Wills, Povla Frijsh, George Sterling, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Henry Meade Bland, Roland Hayes, Maude Fay, Edwin Markham, Fannie Hurst, Al Smith, Haig Patigian, Key Pittman, Benjamin Ide Wheeler, William Randolph Hearst, John McCormack, Lawrence Tibbett, Jack and Charmian London, Joaquin Miller, Charles Warren Stoddard, Gertrude Atherton, Elsie Janis, Tito Schipa, David Starr Jordan, Ina Claire, and Fremont Older. Since Phelan never married, the "Mrs. Phelan" referred to in many of the captions in the albums is likely his mother.
    Other places in California featured include the Bohemian Grove, Napa, Berryessa Farm, Santa Cruz, Yosemite, San Simeon, Carmel, the Sierras, and the Spreckels estate Sobre Vista. Volume 95 includes photographs of Phelan's penthouse in San Francisco from 1925-1926. Volume 101 includes views of the Phelan Ranch in Chico, California (1919-1923), and volume 102 is devoted to the Central Sierra water project (1918).
    Most of the photographers are not identified. Some albums include the work of Gabriel Moulin of San Francisco and Charles Ellis Johnson of San Jose. Some photographs are captioned. These captions are reproduced in the container list. Descriptive captions are supplied in brackets for uncaptioned photographs. Many of the individuals in these uncaptioned photographs have not been identified.

    Album Descriptions

    Note: Volumes 1-81 remain in the manuscripts collection (BANC MSS C-B 800). Volumes marked * have a complete container list available.
      Volume 82
      Snapshots of European trip. 1902.
      Volume 83
      Snapshots and postcards of European trip and trip to St. Louis for Louisiana Purchase Exposition. 1904.
      Volume 84
      Snapshots and postcards of European trip. 1905.
      Volume 85*
      Snapshots of travels abroad and in California. Ca. 1908-1909. 304 items. Scenes at Carmel (including George Sterling and Gertrude Atherton) and scenes at the Spreckels estate, Sobre Vista.
      Volume 86*
      Snapshots and postcards in California and abroad. Ca. 1910. 82 items.
      Volumes 87-88
      Snapshots and postcards of European trip. 1910.
      Volumes 89-90
      Snapshots and postcards of European trip. 1913.
      Volumes 91-92
      Snapshots and postcards of around-the-world trip. 1921-1922.
      Volume 93
      Snapshots, postcards, programs, calling cards, etc. from trip to Europe. 1924.
      Volume 94*
      Snapshots of scenes and people at Santa Cruz, Montalvo, Yosemite, San Simeon, and Bohemian Grove. 1923-1925. 481 items. Some earlier pictures are pasted in at the end of the volume. Includes William R. Hearst, John McCormack, Lawrence Tibbett, George Sterling, Jack London, Joaquin Miller and Charles Warren Stoddard.
      Volume 95*
      Snapshots of Montalvo, the penthouse atop the Phelan Building, and Bohemian Grove. 1925-1926. 55 items. Includes photographs of Pueblo Indian chiefs at Montalvo in November 1925.
      Volume 96*
      Snapshots and photographs of scenes and people at Montalvo, Bohemian Grove, Napa, Berryessa Farm and Chico. 1921-1922. 369 items. Includes Maude Fay, George Sterling, Edwin Markham, Fannie Hurst, Al Smith, Haig Patigian, Key Pittman and Benjamin Ide Wheeler.
      Volume 97*
      Snapshots of scenes and people at Montalvo. 1923-1926. 324 items. Includes Helen Wills, Povla Frijsh, George Sterling, Charles Erskine Scott Wood, Henry Meade Bland and Roland Hayes.
      Volume 98
      Snapshots, postcards, programs, etc. of European trip. 1926. Includes autographed photograph of Benito Mussolini, two sketches by Helen Wills, and photographs of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
      Volume 99*
      Snapshots of scenes and people at Bohemian Grove and Montalvo. 1926-1927. 330 items. Includes Key Pittman, George Sterling, Elsie Janis, Helen Wills, Tito Schipa, Edwin Markham, David Starr Jordan, Ina Claire, Charmian London, Fremont Older and Gertrude Atherton.
      Volume 100*
      Photographs and snapshots of scenes and people at Bohemian Grove and Montalvo. 1927-1929. 395 items. Includes Haig Patigian, Lawrence Tibbett, Nicholas Longworth, Joseph Redding, Edwin Markham, Marie Beale, Helen Wills, and Henry Meade Bland. Also includes postcards of paintings by Ossip de Perelma.
      Volume 101*
      Ranch photographs, including views of the Phelan Ranch at Chico. 1919-1923. 238 items.
      Volume 102*
      Central Sierra Water Project photographs. 1918. 55 items.