California State Historical Society

California Historical Society

California State Historical Society

Adopted in 1979

On May 9, 1979, Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation making the California Historical Society the official state historical society.

Established in 1871, the California Historical Society was designated the official California State Historical society in 1979. Headquartered in San Francisco with a library and museum, the Society collects, preserves and exhibits materials about the history of California and the West.

The North Baker Research Library houses a large collection of manuscripts, maps, posters, printed ephemera, books, and pamphlets. The collection of photographs numbers over 500,000 and includes works by noted California photographers such as Carleton E. Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge and Ansel Adams. The Society also has a large collection of art that depicts the history of California. In addition to its library and museum function, it also offers lectures, family and school programs and other activities on a scheduled basis.

California State Historical Society:
California Historical Society


California State Historical Society

In June 1871 a group of people assembled at 323 California Street, marking the first of four attempts to begin the California Historical Society (CHS). After the undocumented collapse of the first group, a second attempt to revive CHS lasted from 1886 to1891. In 1902 the ailing Society partnered with the California Genealogical Society and for a brief period the collaboration prospered. The earthquake and fire damage of 1906 induced yet another break of CHS.

Finally in 1922 C. Templeton Crocker, grandson of Charles Crocker, permanently resurrected the Society. Also that year, Crocker placed at CHS his fine collection of Californiana, rivaling those of Hubert Howe Bancroft and Henry E. Huntington. His financial generosity supported CHS until the dues collected enabled the organization to hire its first staff member in March 1923. The group held its first exhibition at the Bohemian Club in San Francisco in 1924.

CHS's initial purpose was the publication of a quarterly journal, which it has produced since 1922. Two decades later, Crocker permanently donated his collection to CHS, which still continues to form the foundation of the North Baker Research Library and the Fine Arts collection today. For a short time CHS shared its headquarters with the Society of California Pioneers. However, in 1956 the Society established its own home in the Whittier Mansion, at the corner of Jackson and Laguna, in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.

In October 1993 the Society purchased 678 Mission Street, home of the former San Francisco Builders Exchange, E.M. Hundley hardware store, and Nancy Pelosi's first campaign headquarters in the re-developing Yerba Buena Gardens neighborhood. The building was renovated for seismic safety and the basement, which extends underneath the Mission Street sidewalk, was converted into climate-controlled storage vaults for much of the Society's collections. The North Baker Research Library finally found a home worthy of its importance as a free and open portal to the vast and growing CHS collection.

In 2012, a modest but meaningful interior remodel opened up the Mission Street-facing spaces and brought in award-winning Heyday books into its book store and community gathering space. Also, the exterior received new layers of paint-in Sherwin Williams' International Orange, the color of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge-to welcome a stunning exhibition CHS mounted as its part in celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the famous rust-colored suspension bridge.

California Legislations

On May 9, 1979, Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation making the California Historical Society the official state historical society.


An act to add Section 429.5 to the Government Code, relating to the state historical society.

[Approved by Governor May 9, 1979. Filed with the Secretary of State May 9, 1979.]
The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1. Section 429.5 is added to the Government Code, to read: »»»
429.5 The California Historical Society is the official state historical society.

SEC. 2. In declaring the California Historical Society to be the official state historical society, the Legislature does not intend to establish a new state agency but is merely designating the California Historical Society as the state historical Society.

California Law

The law designating the California Historical Society as the official California state state historical society is found in the California Government Code, specifically Title 1, Division 2, Chapter 2, Section 429.5.

Government Code - GOV
TITLE 1. GENERAL [100 - 7914]
( Title 1 enacted by Stats. 1943, Ch. 134. )

( Division 2 enacted by Stats. 1943, Ch. 134. )

CHAPTER 2. State Flag and Emblems [420 - 429.9]
( Chapter 2 enacted by Stats. 1943, Ch. 134. )


The California Historical Society is the official state historical society.
(Added by Stats. 1979, Ch. 52.)

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