May 25, 2022

Digital Collection: California State Archives Releases Nearly 3,000 Newly Digitized Photos of Early 20th Century Life and Landmarks

From the California Sec. of State:

The California State Archives has completed one of its largest digitization projects ever.

The collection features nearly 3,000 photographs taken by native Californians William M. and Grace McCarthy from approximately 1905 to 1938.  The McCarthys traveled extensively during the early years of automobile travel, as newly constructed highways connected people and places throughout the United States and beyond, providing pictorial documentation of a pivotal period in our nation’s history.


Always ready with his camera, William McCarthy captured stunning images of California landmarks and significant events, including:

  • Shots of San Francisco, including before and after the 1906 earthquake, and the fire that destroyed the famous Cliff House in 1907.
  • Los Angeles’ iconic City Hall and the Hollywood Hills.
  • California’s stunning natural beauty—including Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, the central coast, and the Mojave Desert.
  • San Diego’s Balboa Park and Mission San Diego.
  • A journey into Mexico along the Pan American Highway.
  • State and International Expositions, including the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, Panama-California Exposition, the Chicago World’s Fair, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, and the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition.

The original black and white photographs, mounted in eleven albums, make up one of the few private collections preserved by the California State Archives.

The collection was digitized by the State Archives’ curatorial staff. This newly collection substantially builds upon the State Archives’ previous online exhibit, “California Memoirs: The William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection,” that was launched on Google Arts & Culture in July 2017. The previous exhibit contained several dozen images, while the newly digitized McCarthy photo collection contains nearly 3,000 images

Direct to Browse the McCarthy Photograph Collection and/or Search the Collection

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.