THE THOMAS AND DOROTHY LEAVEY CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF LOS ANGELES RESEARCH COLLECTION
J. D. BLACK PAPERS (CSLA-15):Collection Description
COLLECTION TITLE AND NUMBER: J. D. Black Papers, 1876-1999. CSLA-15ACCESSION NUMBER: 1999.24COLLECTION SIZE: 22 archival document boxes, 14 oversize boxes
The holdings of the J. D. Black Papers span the years 1876-1999, with the bulk of the datable material originating in the 1920s and in the 1950s. The materials in this collection are both photographic and textual, documenting J. D. Black's personal and business affairs, as well as his life-long fight against the City of Los Angeles' influence over the Owens Valley. There is a smattering of materials from his wife, Sophie, and their daughters. Select the links below to read descriptions of the types of materials in the holdings of the J. D. Black Papers.
Textual Materials | Photographic Materials
TEXTUAL MATERIALSback to top
Textual materials consist of correspondence, minutes, brochures, organizational papers, publications, newspaper clippings and scrapbooks, and government documents, both county (voter registration lists) and state (legislative bill on reparations). The collection's holdings were acquired in two stages: the first in 1999, the second in 2001. Water and insects had badly damaged the latter group, rendering some materials too badly decomposed for preservation and subsequent inclusion in the collection.
Especially valuable are records, dating mostly from the 1920s, from organizations in Big Pine, California, demanding redress from the City of Los Angeles for economic losses resulting from the City's takeover of the Owens Valley. (See Series 1 for these records.) The creation of these groups was a common tactic in combatting municipal Los Angeles, and through his leadership and association with them, J. D. Black tenaciously—and bitterly—opposed the City of Los Angeles' expansion of its domination of his home valley. In the course of his work he steadfastly gathered records of the Big Pine Property Owners Association, the Big Pine Water Association, and the Big Pine Property Reparations Association. Surviving materials consist of administrative and organizational records, correspondence, publications, and meeting minutes; and they document Owens Valley residents' tactics against and attitudes towards the municipal power of Los Angeles. While the actions of such leaders of the Owens Valley resistance as the Watterson brothers are known, the sources in this collection document the actions of the average resident of the Owens Valley, such as J. D. Black. In addition, correspondence and administrative records provide sources for a sound chronology of the long and difficult negotiations between Los Angeles and the people of the Owens Valley. Furthermore, these materials evidence efforts of Owens Valley towns to seek economic redress from the City of Los Angeles, a topic often overlooked in favor of agricultural losses in the Valley. Grievance lists provide invaluable opportunities to examine the attitudes of Owens Valley residents (see Series 1, Box 10, Folder 3, for example). In short, the J. D. Black Papers provide a useful resource for understanding the losing side in the Owens Valley water controversy.
For their work, such organizations as the Big Pine Reparations Association (BPRA) gathered data on business activity in Big Pine, documenting types of businesses and their worth, decline in business and employment, and population. Information was also gathered on farming and ranching properties before and after their sale to the City of Los Angeles, including owners' names, water use, and agricultural use of these properties before and after their sale. In documenting the decline of Big Pine, information was also gathered on social and educational activities; thus, the collection contains sources for the social and agrarian history of rural California in the 1920s. (For examples, see Series 1, Box 8, Folder 5)
Also related to the Owens Valley water controversy is J. D. Black's correspondence from the late 1940s and 1950s to local, state, and federal officials and bodies regarding the actions of the City of Los Angeles in Owens Valley and the Colorado River. Eccentric in nature and mission, this material is less informative regarding the problems with Los Angeles. The notes on which this correspondence was based have been preserved, as well as some of the newspaper clippings associated with it.
In a similar vein are the loose newspapers, clippings of newspaper and magazine articles, and scrapbooks that Black compiled of the Owens Valley water controversy, most of which date from the 1920s and the early 1930s. There are also City of Los Angeles and State of California publications on the problem.
Other textual materials include miscellany on Bishop, California; miscellaneous publications, such as Bob Shuler's Magazine (found in Series 2); and legal documents concerning the holdings of the Black family in Owens Valley, such as mining properties.
PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIALS back to top
The photographic materials consist of personal photographs of the Black family, as well as general interest photographs of activities and places in the Owens Valley. Photographs are black and white, unless otherwise noted and are in relatively good condition, except for two photographs of Tonopah, Nevada, which are fragile and must be handled with extreme care (Box 11ov, Folder 5).
Photographic post cards--very popular in the United States ca. 1900--constitute much of the photographic materials and document important events in the history of the eastern Sierras of California and western Nevada. These include the first crossing of the California state line by the Carson and Colorado Railroad, which served the Owens Valley and the mining towns of western Nevada. Other valuable postcards include those of mining towns such as Bodie, California, and Candelaria, Nevada. The subject of mining towns is documented both by photographic postcards and by regular photographs. Because of the number and value of these photographic postcards, they have been arranged as a subseries. Also of interest is the collection of photographic postcards, with photographs originally by Harry W. Mendenhall and by Andrew Alexander Forbes, documenting the Native Americans of the Owens Valley, chiefly the Paiutes (See Series 3, Box 16).
The photographic record of the Owens Valley water controversy is extensive and, in some cases, perhaps even unique. In Series 3, photographic postcards of that seminal event of the 1920s in the Owens Valley can be found: the seizure of the Alabama Gates of the Los Angeles aqueduct by Owens Valley residents. J. D. Black also took great pains to document, by camera, the abandoned ranches and farms of the Owens River Valley, following their acquisition by the City of Los Angeles (see Subseries B of Series 3). The photographs record the deterioration of the agricultural properties of the Owens Valley and were most certainly meant by J. D. Black to stand as an indictment of the City of Los Angeles.
The photographic materials include examples of nineteenth-century processes of photography: tintypes (Box 3, Folder 39); tintypes exhibiting the direct positive process resulting in reverse lettering (Box 3, Folder 27); and albumen photographs mounted on cards. The latter was perhaps the most common form of photograph in the late nineteenth century. (On which see, Mary Lyn Ritzenthaler, et al., Archives and Manuscripts: Administration of Photographic Collections (Chicago, 1984), 39-41.) In Box 3, examples of the mounted albumen photograph are numerous, eg, consult folder 5.
Based on type of materials found in its holdings, the J. D. Black Papers have been divided into six series, which are described on the series description page. To view these descriptions, select the following series titles:Series 1: Owens Valley Water Controversy Records; Series 2: Publications and Scrapbooks; Series 3: Photographs; Series 4: Protest Correspondence, 1946-1960; Series 5: Personal Correspondence and Records; Series 6: Personal NotesThe series descriptions also contain links to the box and folder lists, which index each series' folders and contents, and the boxes in which they are stored.
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