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Guide to the Pacific Improvement Company Records, 1869-1931 (inclusive), 1883-1927 (bulk) JL001
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Collection Details
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  • Materials withdrawn from the collection
  • Scope and Content
  • Historical Note
  • Preferred Citation:
  • Provenance
  • Publication Rights
  • Access Restrictions

  • Title: Pacific Improvement Company Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: JL001
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 180.0 Linear feet
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1883-1927
    Date (inclusive): 1869-1931
    creator: Pacific Improvement Company.

    Materials withdrawn from the collection

    Duplicates; cancelled checks of the Carbon Hill Coal Company.

    Scope and Content

    The collection is made up of approximately fifty percent loose material and fifty percent bound volumes (percentage estimated in shelf space). The loose material consists of documents, both routine business and legal, correspondence, reports, minutes, various types of financial business, and maps and blueprints. Many of the subsidiary companies represented in these papers are not present in the series of bound material, and this loose material is dated, on an average, earlier than the volumes. The Louisville, New Orleans and Texas Railway Company, which does not appear in the bound material, is involved in much of the earlier, loose material, and of particular interest are the business papers of the various railroad lines which consolidated to form this line. They consist of agreements and correspondence in particular, which presents a rather complete picture of the growth of railroads late in the nineteenth century. A railroad in Guatemala also illustrates an interesting aspect of the company's activity.
    Of interest to Californians should be the rather extensive collection of business records and correspondence related to the Monterey Peninsula, i.e. the Hotel Del Monte, Pacific Grove real estate, and the street railway in San Francisco, the Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway Company.
    A great bulk of this loose material consists of routine correspondence, which fills forty-five large boxes. It is dated from 1901 to 1927, and only the Pacific Improvement Company itself is directly involved, as all the letters are either directed to or written by the directors of that company. The letters are in regard to, however, the various businesses in which the Pacific Improvement Company was engaged, and they are most interesting because of the picture they present of the way routine business was conducted by the holding company itself.
    Among the bound volumes, the subsidiary companies must completely represented are the Carbon Hill Coal Company of Washington State, the Ione Coal and Iron Company of California, the Geary Street Park and Ocean Railway Company, the Rocky Mountain Coal and Iron Company of Wyoming, the Oakland Water Front Company, and the Southern Development Company. Those represented to a lesser extent are the San Pedro Harbor Dock and Land Company, the Capay Valley Land Company, the Union Fuel Company, Monterey County Water Works, El Verano Villa Association and El Verano Improvement Association, the Sonoma Valley Improvement Company, and the various hotels in the Monterey area and Santa Barbara.
    There are several other minor groups of books but those mentioned make up the bulk of this part of the collection. The types of volumes include: By-laws, minute books, stock journals and ledgers, general journals and ledgers, cash books, checkbooks, reports, trial balances, deed registers and voucher registers. In addition, there are twenty boxes of paid out contracts and deeds of the Pacific Improvement Company and a few subsidiaries.
    Maps and blueprints are included at the end of the collection, following several unidentified volumes, and many show the exact extent of the holdings of the Pacific Improvement Company in certain areas at certain times, as well as the property owned by subsidiaries.
    Although some of the groups of subsidiary company books are fragmentary, on the whole the collection is quite complete and would be a valuable source to anyone interested in early California business practices or in the activities of C.P. Huntington.

    Historical Note

    The Pacific Improvement Company was a large holding company in California, formed during the days of C.P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker. These men were the early controlling stockholders and directors of the company, although in this collection there is no precise indication as to the exact date of its incorporation. Two cash books, contained in the first box of the collection, are dated as early as 1869, but this is the single instance of a date this early. The greatest bulk of the collection is dated between 1883 and 1927, with scattered exceptions in the 1870's and as late as 1931.
    The main activity of the company was centered in San Francisco, but between 1916 and 1919 an office in New York was active in eastern property and concerns. Names that appear throughout an extended period of years or were important in the functioning of the company are: Collis Potter Huntington, Henry Edwards Huntington, Charles Crocker (who lived only during the early years of the Pacific Improvement Company and died in 1888, but was very instrumental in the business development of California), Thomas H. Hubbard, Spencer A. Van Derveer, A.D. Shepard, S.F.B. Morse, Vanderlynn Stow, and Leon Sloss, to name just a few of the many who were connected with the vast holdings of the Pacific Improvement Company.
    The company played a significant role in the development of land and railroads in various parts of the United States, but particularly in California and to a lesser extent, Texas and the southern states. C.P. Huntington was at one time president of the Southern Pacific Railroad (1890-1900) and the Pacific Improvement Company owned controlling stock in various southern railroad lines, mainly between 1880 and 1900. Land in Louisiana was also an important area of business which flourished between 1893 and 1919.
    Other subsidiaries of this company included coal and iron companies, resort hotels, various California land companies and several steamships. A street railway in San Francisco was also controlled by the Pacific Improvement Company.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Pacific Improvement Company Records, JL001, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Gift of W. W. Crocker to Jackson Library in 1941. Transferred to Department of Special Collections in 1979.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Access Restrictions