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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

1927 San Francisco Examiner masthead
Masthead of the San Francisco Examiner, "Monarch of the Dailies," from a 1927 edition. (All images courtesy the Bancroft Library)

Bancroft Library receives vast archives of San Francisco Examiner

–The archives of the San Francisco Examiner are being donated to the University of California, Berkeley's Bancroft Library, University Librarian Thomas Leonard announced today (Tuesday, April 4). The donation is the single largest gift ever to The Bancroft Library.

First cars cross the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937
In this photo from the San Francisco Examiner archives, shot from the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, the first cars cross the span on their way to San Francisco as the bridge opens for business in 1937.

The collection will be known as the Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Archives, in part to pay tribute to the family that published the Examiner from 2000 to 2004, and is a gift of the SF Examiner's owner, the Anschutz Corporation and its subsidiary, the SF Newspaper Company.

The photographic morgue of the Examiner, a newspaper that was at one point the flagship of the Hearst publishing empire, constitutes the bulk of the gift. The archives date from circa 1919 to the late 1990s, and are estimated to consist of more than 5 million items. The collection will more than double the size of the Bancroft's photographic print collection and triple the collection of negatives, to a total of over 8 million prints and negatives.

In addition, the Bancroft will be given the 850 bound volumes of the newspaper's archival copy, which spans from 1888 to 1956, as well as the clipping files - more than 3,000 linear feet of materials combined.

The photographic archives provide an unparalleled visual record of the San Francisco Bay Area through the 20th century. It includes images of events as diverse as:

  • The 1934 longshoremen's strike
  • The 1937 opening of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Johnny Cash in concert at San Quentin State Prison in 1969
  • Jim Jones, leader of the People's Temple cult, including material from Guyana
  • The 1978 assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk
  • Pope John Paul II's visit to San Francisco in 1987
  • Joan Baez in concert with the Grateful Dead in the 1980s
  • The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
SF Examiner front page on Titanic disaster
Clippings and published editions are another part of the Examiner collection, including this 1912 front page on the famous maritime disaster, envisioning "How the Titanic would look if it stood on Market Street." (Credit)

"Great libraries must have more than finished works - they need studies and stories that are complete," said Leonard. "We also need the first drafts and fragments of experience. In both words and pictures, this is what newspapers represent. The Fang Family San Francisco Examiner Archive is a daily diary of how the Bay Area took up its role in the world."

Leonard, also a professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and an expert on the history of journalism, called the donation "an unrivaled source for understanding the San Franciscans who built the city with their labor: what made them laugh, what made them mad, what made them think that they were, in fact, a community."

The San Francisco Examiner has been published continuously since 1865. Under William Randolph Hearst, the paper's popularity soared with the help of such stellar California writers as Ambrose Bierce, Mark Twain and the San Francisco-born Jack London. The paper won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting in 1951 for an expose of the Internal Revenue Service, and also in 1987 for spot news photography about the fall of Ferdinand Marcos.

Many of the archival photos donated to the Bancroft are feature shots, like this 1957 image of Vice President Richard Nixon paying a visit to San Francisco's Chinatown.

"This is a great day for the Bancroft and for all students of California history," Charles Faulhaber, director of The Bancroft Library, said in a news conference late this afternoon at UC Berkeley's Morrison Library. "As William Randolph Hearst's first newspaper, the Examiner has a history that is inextricably linked to that of San Francisco, of California, and of the nation. We are immensely grateful to the Anschutz Corporation and SF Newspaper Company for this historic gift, in the Bancroft's centennial year, and for the confidence they have reposed in The Bancroft Library."

The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley is one of the nation's largest and most heavily used libraries of manuscripts, rare books and unique materials. It serves tens of thousands of campus and community visitors annually.

Prior to this donation, the Bancroft's collection totaled roughly 60 million manuscript items, 3 million photographs and other pictorial items, 23,000 maps and 600,000 printed volumes. Among the collection's strengths is extensive documentation of the history of western North America, including California, Mexico and Central America.

Bancroft archivists will begin processing the Examiner archives in May. Full processing and cataloging of the collection will take years and is contingent on the availability of funding.

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