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Edith Irvine photographs and other material

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS P 585

Scope and Contents

This collection is comprised primarily of photographs, letters, and papers generated by or relating to early twentieth century photographer, Edith Irvine. Creation dates for items range between approximately 1850 and 1949. Subjects addressed in the collection include: Calaveras County, California, Yosemite National Park, construction of the Electra Powerhouse, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, Irvine family history, and biographical information regarding Edith Irvine. In addition, the collection contains photography equipment which belonged to Irvine.


  • approximately 1850-1949


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research. Proofs of the negatives and original photographs are kept in cold storage and access requires 24 hours advance notice.

Gelatin dry plate negatives are restricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to publish material from the Edith Irvine Photograph Collection must be obtained from the Reference Supervisor, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, and the L. Tom Perry Board of Curators.

Biographical History

Edith Irvine (1884-1949) was a teacher and photographer in Calaveras County, California. She is best known for her photographs documenting the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake.

Lizzie Edith Irvine was born January 7, 1884 in Sheep Ranch, California and was reared in a prosperous Mokelumne Hill household. Edith took her first major photography assignment as a teen, when she was hired by the Standard Electric Company of California to photograph construction of the Electra Power Plant. Her most celebrated photographs, however, were taken in the aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Later photographs largely concentrate on her community, including local schools, community events, and portraits of friends and neighbors.

Sometime after 1910, Edith turned to teaching as a profession. In addition to teaching, she served as a Board of Education member as well as the principal of Moke Hill High School. Edith retired from education in the early 1930s due to health concerns. In her later years, she edited and contributed to Mokelumne Hill's newspaper, the Calaveras Weekly. Edith Irvine died in Calaveras County, California on August 14, 1949.


8 boxes (4 linear ft.)

2 oversize boxes (4 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



The gelatin dry plate negatives are each given an identifying number and are arranged topically and then by size with the 1906 San Francisco earthquake photographs comprising 1-60; the Yosemite National Park, images 61-83; Electra Power Project images 84-162; Mokelumne Hill area, California, images 163-248; miscellaneous, images 249-253; personal and family images, 254-275. As there was no information on the negatives or in a list that accompanied the collection donation, the descriptions, titles, and dates of the photographs have been developed through the processing of the collection. The original prints and tintype are arranged by identifying number and continue the numbering from the gelatin dry place negatives, 276-292. Copy prints were made of each gelatin dry plate negative and are found in Boxes 6-7, using the same numbering as the negatives. The manuscript material is arranged at the end of collection contained in three folders, with the photocopies of the family letters arranged chronologically from the earliest, 1905 to the latest 1947.

Other Finding Aids

Item-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

Edith, who died unmarried in 1949, left her camera and darkroom equipment along with photographs and glass plate negatives to the family. Her collection was in the Irvine family's possession until it was donated to the Brigham Young University Library in February 1988 by Jim Irvine, Edith's nephew, son of her older brother, Robert. The Irvine family owned at least five homes in the Mokelumne Hill Area of California and each time they sold a home all of their possessions, including Edith's photographs, negatives, and photographic equipment moved to another home, until they were found in the basement in two trunks of the last home owned by the family.


Photographs (Photograph Archives).

Separated Materials

Jim Irvine also donated a copy of William Bronson's book on the 1906 San Francisco earthquake entitled The Earth Shook, The Sky Burned. This book was published in New York by Doubleday in 1959. The book has been separated from the collection and added to the Americana collection in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections.

Processing Information

Processed; Wilma “Billy” Marie Plunkett, Photo Archivist; Thomas R. Wells, Curator, Photographic Archives; Susan L. Fales, Curator, Digital Historical Collections; Brittany Johnson, Student; 1989, January 2006.

Edith Irvine photographs and other material
Wilma "Billy" Marie Plunkett, Photo Archivist; Thomas R. Wells, Curator, Photographic Archives; Susan L. Fales, Curator, Digital Historical Collections; Brittany Johnson, Student
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States