Helen Giffen, Executive Secretary in The Society of California Pioneers Library, circa 1958


The Alice Phelan Sullivan Library is closed until further notice due to the retirement of Library Director Patricia Keats. We look forward to re-opening in the future and continuing the legacy of excellent service that Pat instituted during her time with us.

Our deepest gratitude to Ms Keats for over twenty years of professionalism and dedication to The Society of California Pioneers.

In the meantime, the resource lists linked below can help you to continue your research. The first list outlines open access digital resources on the California Gold Rush and other topics. The second list recommends other resources for further research. The third list offers open access resources for genealogical research. 

We are often asked to recommend books. When asked by those hoping to use their extra time at home to brush up on California History, we advocate for a return to first-person accounts. Click on any title that follows to learn more about these three classics (links to websites where you can find online editions are included): The Dame Shirley Letters or Mountains and Molehills; or Recollections of a Burnt Journal, or Jackson’s Map of the Mining Districts of California.

Open Access Digital Resources on the California Gold Rush and Other California History

List of Other Resources for Further Research

Open Access Digital Genealogy Resources

The Alice Phelan Sullivan Library

The Alice Phelan Sullivan Library contains over 10,000 books, manuscripts, maps, journals, newspapers, and autobiographical materials related to the early history of California. Among its most distinguished holdings are over fifty pioneer diaries, notably those of John A. Sutter and Henry W. Bigler, the primary sources documenting the discovery of gold in California.

The Society also has eight volumes of autobiographies and reminiscences of its founding members written at the turn of the century. Scholars may consult some 1,000 manuscript files – which include an extensive collection of overland and ship diaries, the Sherman Music Collection, playbills, scrapbooks and ledgers as well as printed ephemera and pamphlets. The library also houses collections of over 250 newspaper titles, nearly 300 periodical titles and over 3,000 maps. Among the archival collections are found the Cooper-Molera papers on early California, the Patterson Mining Collections, Angel Island, and materials relating to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.

Quick Links
Accessing our collections
Visiting the library