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California State Archives
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Where California History Begins

The first act of California's first legislature, signed by Governor Peter Burnett in San Jose on January 5, 1850, was titled "An Act Concerning the Public Archives." It directed the Secretary of State to gather together the papers of the previous military government and to collect, classify, keep and preserve materials "...which appertain to, or are in any wise connected with the political, civil, and military history, and past administration of the Government in California; the titles to bonds within the territory, or to any other subject which may be interesting or valuable as references to the Government, or people of the State."

The California State Archives is the oldest non-constitutional function of California government, and has been carrying out its mission to preserve and make available the records of state government for 150 years.

The collections of the California State Archives document the broad scope of California government and its impact on the people of the state. Established in 1850, the state's public archives is the oldest non-constitutional function of California Government. In general terms, the collections consist of more than 77,000 cubic feet of records of all types, representing millions of documents and bound volumes, 20,000 maps and architectural drawings, 250,000 photographs, 7,500 video and audio tapes, and approximately 7,500 three-dimensional artifacts.

Collections of particular interest include the original 1849 and 1879 State Constitutions and constitution convention working papers, official state copies of land grants from the Spanish and Mexican periods including transcripts of official correspondence and maps disenos), records of the California National Guard (1849-1942), professional and vocational licensing boards (1885-1968), Folsom and San Quentin Prisons (1850-1945), and 27 counties (including probate, deeds, naturalization, etc.), the working files of state legislators, legislative committees, caucuses, and state agencies, Earl Warren's Papers from his term as Alameda County District Attorney in 1927, to 1953 when he left the governorship to become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Election (1849-1996) and campaign spending records (1894-1994), the working files of two private political consulting firms—Whitaker-Baxter and Braun & Co.—and significant collections of state agency records that cover the history and development of the state's highway system, water projects, railroads and other public utilities, social programs, prison system, and many other areas of state government and politics.

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