Here at UC Irvine Libraries Special Collections and Archives, we hold a number of world-renowned archival and manuscript collections. Equally fascinating are some of our smaller regional history collections that document the lives of seemingly ordinary people and organizations in Orange County.
The materials in the Kenyon, Stanley, and Crellin families collection were donated by Helen Stanley Smith, who was a respected local historian. Her family came to southern California around the turn of the 20th century from Iowa and Arkansas, and started growing citrus trees as their family business. Her father, S.W. Stanley, was an active member of the Tustin Chamber of Commerce, and Harry Stanley was a citrus grower along with his wife, Alta Kenyon Stanley. Much of the material in the collection belonged to Alta Kenyon, who moved from Iowa to California with her uncle and cousins, the Crellins, in 1899. Alta graduated from Santa Ana High School in 1909 before enrolling in the California School of Artistic Whistling (who knew such a thing existed?). The collection includes personal documents such as diplomas, report cards, checkbooks, postcards, and magazines, as well as some meeting minutes from S.W. Stanley’s time as secretary at the Tustin Chamber of Commerce. The minutes include significant historical information such as the creation of major street names in Tustin.
Staff favorites in the collection include photographs depicting turn-of-the-century scenes of southern California locales. There are images of Laguna Beach, where a young Alta Kenyon is gazing out at the ocean for the first time, just having arrived with her family from Iowa. One can only imagine her thoughts at that time! Photographs of the Crellin house in Tustin show a beautiful wooden structure surrounded by citrus trees. We learn on the verso of the image that the house was severely damaged by a fire in 1959 and was later demolished to make room for the CA-55 freeway. A photograph from the early 1900’s shows San Diego’s famous Hotel del Coronado, looking amazingly similar to how it looks today.
This collection reveals a glimpse of what life was like in Tustin and other Southern California areas in and around 1900. The Kenyon, Stanley, and Crellin families papers, like other collections of family manuscripts, photographs, and memorabilia, will live on in the archives here and continue to enrich our repository with unique perspectives of everyday life in California.