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Digital Archives

New Discoveries

New DiscoveriesWelcome to the New Discoveries blog! City of San Diego City Clerk Archives staff use this area to upload newly rediscovered documents from San Diego’s history. In their duties, staff often find unique and interesting pieces of history they want to bring to the public. Those documents are uploaded here and then organized into their appropriate Collection, or a new Collection is created. Please check back frequently for fascinating new finds and discoveries!

Published on August 6, 2023

March 2, 1933 – Communication from Salvation Army

The Salvation Army thanks Honorable Mayor John F. Forward, Jr., and City Council for the appropriation of funds to continue operating the much-needed shelter on Eighth Avenue.

    Published on August 3, 2023

    undated – Tubal Claude Ryan: Embracing the Sky

    T. Claude Ryan
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    The two men standing in front of the Prudden XM-1 trimotor monoplane are T. Claude Ryan (right) and George H. Prudden. Tubal Claude Ryan was a pioneering aircraft manufacturer and founder of aviation factories. In 1922, He established the Ryan Flying Company in San Diego, and provided regularly scheduled flights between San Diego and Los Angeles. The flights departed Los Angeles for San Diego at 9:00 AM, and from San Diego to Los Angeles at 4:00 PM. The fare for a one-way flight was $14.50, and a round trip was $22.50. During the early 1930s he founded the Ryan School of Aeronautics and the Ryan Aeronautical Company.  His significant contributions include the design and production of a series of revolutionary aircrafts that were widely utilized in the military.


    Published on August 1, 2023

    May 6, 1889 - Mayor Gunn’s Inaugural Message to the Common Council

    Our seventh Mayor writes an inaugural message to the Common Council also referencing the state of our City in this eleven-page valuation.  Mayor Gunn addresses topics such as the City Charter and the elections as well as taxpayers deemed as our shareholders, and we are to carry on for the “common advantage” in response to the growth of our City. Mayor Gunn also reflects on fiscal expenditures and the safe-keeping of the City Clerk records in a fire-proof vault in the Archives of the City.

    Published on July 26, 2023

    June 4, 1917 – Two Lifeguards Appointed by the Police Department

    Check out the recommendation of appointment regarding the Police Department retaining two lifeguards for La Jolla and Ocean Beach on June 4, 1917. San Diego is renowned for its picturesque beaches as well as the dangers that accompany our ocean waters. Due to the lack of rescue services prior to 1917, thirteen victims drowned on a single day in Ocean Beach.  Prior to 1914, the public pursued the appointment of lifeguards. Lifeguards have been promoting public safety since 1917, and the range of services were expansive. During the World War II, City Council arranged draft deferments for seven permanent, fulltime, lifeguards. View Ordinance No. 7014 to see additional budget estimates and allowances for various departments Citywide.

    Published on July 18, 2023

    1931 – City Organization Chart

    This is a departmental organizational chart from 1931. Viewing the chart we can see the duties of each position very clearly. In comparison, this is our current City Department Organizational Structure. The evolution of our governments function has shifted our focus from municipal construction to public services. 

    Published on July 16, 2023

    undated - Prominent Organists

    Prominent Organists
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    These people were the exceptional organists of decades ago. In the middle of the photo sits Ms. Charlotte Speik, the supervisor of Art and Music Section of San Diego Public Library. The background of this photo is the famous Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park. The Spreckels Organ Pavilion is the home of the world's largest outdoor pipe organ with over 4,500 pipes. It was constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and given to the City by brothers John and Adolf Spreckels. The 35th International Summer Organ Festival 2023 (6/26-9/4, Mondays 7:30pm) is being held right now, and you can experience the melodic wonders and witness the remarkable talents of our local musicians.

    Published on July 13, 2023

    October 29, 1915 - Bacteriologist Analyzed City Water

    These two documents from 1915 show the Department of Health authorizing a bacteriologist to analyze and report on the City's municipal water daily for public health and safety. The seriousness of the problem can be seen from the words "emergency" and “urgency” that appear in the documents below. Based on the poor sanitary conditions at that time, City water was easily contaminated. Drinking contaminated water can spread many diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and polio. Today, we have the Public Utilities Department that constantly filters and purifies our water systems.

    Published on July 11, 2023

    1913 - First Army Air Squadron in San Diego

    First Army Air Squadron in San Diego
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    This photo shows the First Army Air Squadron organized in United States and assembled in San Diego in 1913. On the extreme right of the line is Commander Benjamin Foulois. This squadron was ordered to the Mexican border in pursuit of Pancho Villa in 1916.

    Published on July 9, 2023

    June 14, 1924 – Forget Me Not

    From this petition in 1924, Harry S. Nelson Chapter No. 2 of the Disabled American Veterans of the World War to raise money for veterans’ relief and convention preparation by selling forget-me-nots on Armistice Day. It was a symbol of remembrance for not only those who have given their lives in the service of their country, but for those who survived as well. The country will not forget them, and neither will we.

    Published on July 6, 2023

    January 1, 1904 - New Year’s Day Plunge

    San Diego Rowing Club
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    On January 1, 1904, San Diego Rowing Club held the New Year's Day Plunge. This traditional activity is held on the first day of the New Year. The happiness and enjoyment on their faces in the face of frigid waters is part of the experience. Earlier, in 1888 a group of San Diegans formed the Excelsior Rowing and Swim Club. The Club then changed its name to San Diego Rowing Club in 1891. To celebrate the new boathouse a group swim was organized on January 1, 1900. Today, this tradition continues at the old boathouse.


    Published on July 4, 2023

    October 25, 1918 - Resolution No. 24043 Citizens to Wear Masks Part 1: The 1918 Spanish Flu

    The influenza epidemic that swept the world in 1918 also affected San Diego. On October 25, San Diego issued Resolution No. 24043, which requested citizens to wear gauze masks at all times. As we can see from Communication from the Department of Public Health, December 18, 1918, wearing masks reduced the number of cases and it was recommended to continue wearing masks. History is strikingly similar to the past centennial.

    Published on June 29, 2023

    undated - Ye Olde Time Campo Ranch

    Man in full western gear and teenage boy walking past horse-drawn wagons at the Campo Ranch, undated [c. 1870-1896]
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    This photograph is of Campo, California, estimated between 1870-1900. It is part of a collection of photos returned from the San Diego Public Library California Room. Campo is a beautiful area with a range of hillsides that includes the beginning or end of a major hiking trail and a Railway Museum

    Published on June 28, 2023

    February 24, 1930 - Torrey Pines Lodge Proposal from George Marston

    George Marston, a well known founder of San Diego, had a major hand in creating the Torrey Pines Lodge. In this document, he proposed to the Board of Park Commissioners this Resolution with four parts to address traffic in the area. It was imperative to Mr. Marston that the beauty and natural reserve of the park be maintained foremost. 

    Published on June 25, 2023

    undated - Sweetwater Reservoir Pumping Plant

    Sweetwater Reservoir Pumping Plant
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    Check out this amazing photo of the east side of the Sweetwater Dam. Sweetwater Dam was completed in 1888. We estimate this picture just after completion of the dam while the reservoir has not been filled with winter rains. The Sweetwater Dam played a major role in the agricultural development of San Diego. This image is from the Glass Plate Negative collection from MOC (Municipal Operations Center) and PUD (Public Utilities Department) that will be put up later in 2023. Please enjoy this sneak preview.

    Published on June 21, 2023

    January 4, 1934 - La Playa Trail and Jedediah Strong Smith

    La Playa Trail is the oldest commercial route in the western United States. Countless moments in the history of San Diego happened along it. Seventy registered historic sites have been identified on this trail. In this 1934 document San Diego Historical Society requested the permission to place a marker honoring explorer and trailblazer “Jedediah Strong Smith”.  He explored the Rocky Mountains, the American West, and the Southwest during the early 19th century. Jedediah S. Smith first set foot in Old San Diego in 1827.

    Published on June 19, 2023

    undated, San Diego Newspaper Pioneer - John Judson Ames

    John Judson Ames
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    Do you know when the first newspaper in San Diego was published? The man in the photo is John Judson Ames (1821-1861), who came to California under the influence of the Gold Rush in 1849. The first issue of La Estrella de Los Angeles (The Star of Los Angeles) appeared May 17, 1851, and it became the pioneer newspaper of the Southwest; Ames's San Diego Herald came out on May 29, just twelve days later. The Herald was at first a four-page four-column paper, published every Thursday. The paper contained a fair amount of local news and was well formatted and printed. The principle Ames set for the newspaper was "Independent, but not Neutral." A newspaper is the best record of a city; it retains the stories and changes of a city. John Judson Ames was a picturesque and interesting figure in the early American settlement of the Southwest.

    Published on June 15, 2023

    May 19, 1913 - Return to Home

    From this petition in 1913, we can know that Ah Quin, the leader of the Chinese community at the time, proposed to remove the bodies of 75 Chinese from the Mt. Hope Cemetery and prepare to shipment to China for reburial. "Fallen leaves return to their roots" is a Chinese idiom. The Chinese who lived under the anti-Chinese policy had no family members in the early days of the United States. Their wish was to return to their hometown after death.

    Published on June 13, 2023

    1894, Artistic Center in La Jolla - Green Dragon

    Green Dragon
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    This series of photos showed the scenes and life in the Green Dragon Colony in La Jolla. Anna Held came to San Diego in 1894 as a governess for the family of Ulysses St. Grant Jr., the 18th president’s son. She purchased an undeveloped hillside for $165. Her friend Kate Sessions, the famous horticulturist, planted lush eucalyptus trees here.  It attracted more and more artists, musicians, writers, and actors to visit and became an extraordinary artistic center in the early days of La Jolla. The only intact part left of the original Green Dragon Colony today is its fireplace. The original German inscription in Held's own handwriting remains on it. It translates to: “Sacred to me is my hearth; sacred to me is my home.”

    Published on June 11, 2023

    May 4, 1870 - Endless Thoughts

    This bill showed the Pueblo of San Diego payment of $250.00 for survey and topographic map of Mount Hope Cemetery in 1870. In 1869, a citizen committee was formed and responsible for establishing a new, municipal cemetery for San Diego. Mount Hope Cemetery was selected by the committee and opened in 1871. This scenic area contains historically significant monuments to some of San Diego's most notable citizens, including Alonzo Horton, the father of modern San Diego; Kate Sessions, San Diego's pioneering horticulturist; Ah Quinn, a merchant, farmer and leader in the Chinese Mission; and Dr. Charles Merwin Fenn, a founding member of the San Diego Medical Society.

    Published on June 7, 2023

    October 8, 1959 - Guard the City’s Archives

    What do you think is particularly important to protect in case of war? Precious artworks, ancient books? From this article published in the San Diego Evening Tribune on October 8, 1959, under the shadow of the war at that time, the city hoped to build a repository for its vital records in an outlying area of the county. This plan was not chosen, but a disaster plan has been implemented to protect the City’s Archives. We are a small but mighty team dedicated to protecting San Diego’s history since 1850!