Skip to main content

Vivian Hayes collection of Edith Irvine photographs

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 7878

Scope and Contents

Collection includes 192 copy negatives of Edith Irvine photographs of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and other parts of California, seven of which have copy prints. Also included are two Edith Irvine glass plate negatives of buildings in Mokelumne Hill, California.


  • approximately 1900


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from the Vivian Hayes collection of Edith Irvine photographs must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical history

Lizzie Edith Irvine (1884-1949) was an American photographer who is known for taking photographs in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Lizzie Edith Irvine was born January 7, 1884, in Sheep Ranch, Calaveras County, California, to Thomas Hanna Irvine and Mary Irene Hills. Like her mother, Irene, Edith was always known by her middle name. Sheep Ranch was part of the mountain gold fields of northern California. Undoubtedly her father, Thomas, a gold miner, was working at one of the five flourishing gold mines of this bustling mining town. Gold was discovered in 1860 at the massive sheep corral, hence the name of the town. Patented in 1880, the town also boasted 15 saloons. Edith's grandfather, William Irvine, was the youngest child in a family of nine children, all born in Ireland. In 1846 he immigrated to New York with his older brother, James. Both William and James came to California as a part of the 1849 gold rush and became miners. The brothers did well, especially James, Edith's great uncle, who became prominent in southern California as the owner of the massive 110,000 acre Irvine Ranch in Orange County. He also developed a strong produce and grocery business in San Francisco, along with real estate holdings, and after his marriage owned a home in San Francisco at Folsom and Eleventh streets. It is believed that Edith's grandfather, William, was also successful in his mining ventures and in real estate. When James Irvine died on March 15, 1886, he directed in his will that over $100,000 should be provided his wife, brothers, sisters, and other relatives through the liquidation of many of his properties. Substantial land gifts, not to exceed the value of $5,000 were also to be given family members from his holdings in southern California. It is not known whether William received any funds, but certainly his son, Thomas, Edith's father, seems to have acquired property and some financial independence, perhaps as a result of his uncle James bequest. "Billy" Plunkett, indicates in her master's project on Edith, that the "family fortunes increased due to acquisitions of mines and other real estate," and that the Irvine family became part of the "upper social strata of the area." Edith apparently often visited with family members in San Francisco and southern California. With her birth, Edith joined her older brother, christened as Robin Reddick, but known throughout his life as Robert or Bob, who was born April 30, 1882. They were close friends and companions throughout their lives. Perhaps that closeness came about in part because it was just the two of them, as a younger brother born February 13, 1886, Thomas Clinton, died in infancy. Edith remained unmarried throughout her life and Robert didn't marry until he was 60 years old -- their marital status undoubtedly contributed to their closeness as they all continued to live together in the family home now in Mokelumne Hill, California, where they had moved in 1900. It is unclear exactly when Edith became intrigued by photography, although in her early teens she had already created a darkroom in a rear corner of the house in Mokelumne Hill, or Moke Hill as the natives call it. And by the time she was fourteen, in 1898, she was already photographing the extensive Electra Power Project -- the first hydroelectric power project in California. This project, near her home on the Mokelumne River, California, was completed in 1902. Her work at that young age is impressive in documenting a monumental civil engineering project. Her next great photographic venture, and certainly the epitome of her brief photography career, came at the age of 22, documenting the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Her compelling photographs draw you into the devastation and even humor of the earthquake experiences. In 1910 she considered herself a professional photographer as noted on the census, but for reasons unknown, by 1920 her occupation was school teacher. Anecdotal stories that "Billy" Plunkett gathered for her master's project, indicate that Edith had long red hair and that she loved to ride her horses and drive her Model T Ford. In her later years no one outside of the family seemed to be aware of her photographs. But one of her former students characterized her as fair, but strict, and a good teacher. Edith's life was difficult both physically and emotionally. She apparently suffered from severe joint pains of unknown origin, which were treated by her doctor with painkillers. This resulted over time in her becoming addicted. Later she developed into an alcoholic -- all of which caused severe mental deterioration as well as the expected physical deterioration. In addition she began to lose her hearing at an early age, until by 45 years old she had become severely hearing impaired. She never recovered from the medical and emotional problems that she suffered from in her later years. Not long after her brother Bob was granted legal guardianship for her on June 8, 1949, she died at the age of 65. It was with the donation in 1988 by her nephew Jim Irvine, Bob's son, that her photographic talents became known outside of her family circle.


2 folders (0.02 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Collection was maintained in its original order.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Kept in cold storage; access requires 24 hours advance notice.

Custodial History

This collection was donated in 2010 by Vivian Hayes, who is a relative of Edith Irvine.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; Vivian Hayes; 2010.


Photographs (Photograph Archives).

Processing Information

Processed; Lionel Thomas, student photograph processor; 2011.

Register of the Vivian Hayes collection of Edith Irvine photographs
Lionel Thomas
2011 June 14
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