The William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection

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Documenting Early 20th Century History in Photographs

Capturing the rich history of the early twentieth century, the William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection (Identification #96-07-08) highlights well-known landmarks, historic events, and scenic vistas from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, from the Deep South to Canada, and from Mexico to Cuba. Scenes across the Golden State are captured in stunning shots from Lake Tahoe to Yosemite and the Central Coast to Southern California cities. 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. 


About William and Grace McCarthy

William and Grace McCarthy in swimsuits on a beach at Lake Tahoe, c. 1915

William M. McCarthy (1876 – 1956) and Grace C. Kane (1878 – 1957) wed in the early 1900s and lived in San Francisco for most of their lives where William was stationed as an armament expert for the U.S. War Department.  The collection features photographs of the McCarthys' travels, as well as the many family members and friends they encountered along the way. Always ready with his camera, William McCarthy also captured remarkable images of significant events, including shots of San Francisco before and after the 1906 earthquake, the fire that destroyed that city's iconic Cliff House in 1907, the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and their 1938 journey into Mexico along the newly constructed Pan American Highway.

About the Online Collection

You can browseopens new window the entire collection or use the searchopens new window tool to look for specific images. Be sure to select the McCarthy Collection in the "Search by Collection" box.

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 entire collection was digitized by the State Archives' curatorial staff and builds upon the State Archives’ online exhibit, California Memoirs: The William M. McCarthy Photograph Collectionopens new window, launched on Google Arts & Culture in July 2017. 

To request a high-resolution scan of one or more of these images, contact the California State Archives via email or call the Reference Desk at (916) 653-2246. Please include the Title or Identifier for each photograph in which you are interested, as well as the desired format (tiff, jpg, pdf) and resolution (DPI) for the requested scan. Duplication fees will apply.

Some suggested topics appear below with sample images of what you will encounter in this unique photographic journey through life during the early twentieth century.


California cities, such as Long Beach, San Francisco, San Diego, and so on:

 96-07-08-alb07-303, Grace McCarthy rowing a small boat on the Russian River at Healdsburg, c. 1915 96-07-08-alb10-356, Sunbathers at the beach at Long Beach, c. 1935 
96-07-08-alb11-002, Bird's eye view San Francisco's Market Street. The Ferry Building is visible in the upper right-hand corner of the photograph, while the Flatiron Building appears in the photograph's center

You can browseopens new window the entire collection or use the searchopens new window tool to look for specific images. Be sure to select the McCarthy Collection in the "Search by Collection" box.


Civic and government buildings, such as city halls and state capitols:

 96-07-08-alb09-008, California's State Capitol Building, Sacramento, c. 192096-07-08-alb09-083, Grace McCarthy poses in front of the St. Louis City Hall, while a man mows the lawn and an adult and child stroll on the sidewalk, c. 1923

You can browseopens new window the entire collection or use the searchopens new window tool to look for specific images. Be sure to select the McCarthy Collection in the "Search by Collection" box.


Defense fortifications:

96-07-08-alb06-009, Fort Point in the foreground, with ships sailing through the Golden Gate, entrance to San Francisco Bay, c. 1906 96-07-08-alb04-284, Three unidentified men and dog with large caliber long gun, c. 1920

You can browseopens new window the entire collection or use the searchopens new window tool to look for specific images. Be sure to select the McCarthy Collection in the "Search by Collection" box.


Expositions and fairs:

96-07-08-alb01-003, General view of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915 96-07-08-alb07-241, View of the Panama-California Exposition’s La Laguna Espejada (Mirror Pool), in what is now Balboa Park, 1915 96-07-08-alb08-136, Seattle street scene dominated by a banner welcoming fairgoers to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, celebrating the development of the Pacific Northwest, 1909

You can browseopens new window the entire collection or use the searchopens new window tool to look for specific images. Be sure to select the McCarthy Collection in the "Search by Collection" box.

For more sample images, click here.


Disclaimer

The views, opinions, and positions expressed by the creators of the materials presented (William and Grace McCarthy) are theirs alone. As noted in image descriptions, certain photographs are restricted or have been cropped due to sensitive content deemed unsuitable for online distribution. 

Copyright and Permission to Use

The California State Archives, a division of the California Secretary of State’s Office, owns the copyright to the William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection. The images and content may be used for personal use, research, or educational purposes. For any use of these materials, please credit the California State Archives, William M. McCarthy Photograph Collection, Identification #96-07-08. Commercial use or distribution of the images or content is not permitted without prior written permission from the California State Archives. Please note that the materials contained in this collection may include copyrighted material (such as postcards) not held by the California State Archives. Additionally, other limitations, such as the right of publicity, may limit use of the materials in this collection.

For more information about the rights related to this collection or to request permission to use the digital images or content, please contact the California State Archives via email or call the Reference Desk at (916) 653-2246.