The ground surface is so nearly level that you have no sense of contour. . . . It is not a former lake, although in large part it is a former swamp. Geology characteristically repeats itself around the world and down through time, but---with the possible exceptions of the Chilean Longitudinal Valley and the Dalbandin Trough in Pakistan---the Great Central Valley of California has no counterpart on this planet.

~ John McPhee, Assembling California

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Primary Sources

We are happy to offer a binder of primary source material for local educators to check out for up to four weeks at a time. Fresno Historical Society Archives - Primary Resources, 1860-1915 is a large binder containing printed images and documents from a variety of archival collections relating to immigration, discrimination, agriculture, water history, migration, and industrialization. Organized in to the subsections listed below, this resource includes an introduction to each collection, as well as general Fresno County history resources. Supplementary material gathered to provide background information and to contextualize the primary sources is available upon request via Google Drive.


  • Conquest of California – Taming the People 
  • Selections from the Millerton Collection relating to Native American and Chinese relations, 1862-1867
  • A. W. Peters Glass Plate Negative Collection - Mono Indian Photographs, 1895-1896

  • Reclaiming the San Joaquin Valley – Modifying the Landscape
  • Colony Farm Photograph and Advertizing Collection, 1870-1900
  • Voyage of the J. R. McDonald steamship on the San Joaquin River, June 11-16, 1911

  • Settlement of the West – Migration & Immigration
  • Charles H. Robinson Family Collection, 1858-1915
  • George Washington Mordecai Research Collection, 1868-1920
  • Immigration Photograph Collection, 1870-1948
  • Paul Hutchinson Glass Plate Negative Collection including images of Fowler’s ethnically diverse community, 1914

  • Harvesting the Sierra Nevada – Use vs. Conservation
  • Gustavus Fagersteen Album, including images of Yosemite Valley taken in the 1880s by an early Yosemite photographer
  • Selections from the Logging Collection, 1880-1915
  • A. W. Peters Glass Plate Negative Collection – Construction of the San Joaquin Electric Company powerhouse, 1895-1896

We hope to have another binder available relating to World War II and mid-twentieth century immigration in late 2019.

Last Updated Wednesday, September 18, 2019 - 10:11 AM.