Riverside Public Library


The Riverside Local History Resource Center provides the following bibliographies as a guide for those who wish to read more about the history of our community. Call numbers apply to Riverside Public Library. This bibliography was compiled by Ronald J. Baker and William M. A. Swafford.

Reference Works
Here are listed some essential reference tools for answering most local history questions.
Subscription Histories or "Mug Books"
Starting with 1883 a series of local histories were written for the area. They were financed by selling advance subscriptions to local citizens. The subscribers were then entitled to have their biographies included as well as portraits (or mugs).
General County Histories
Works covering the history of Riverside County as a whole.
General City Histories
Works covering the history of the City of Riverside.
Other Important Works


Reference Works

Curl, Alan
Riverside's Historic Landmarks

Riverside: A to Z Printing Co., 1989.
(Loc Hist 979.497 CUR)
This short pamphlet gives a brief survey of Riverside's built environment. It has abundant illustrations of many of the City's more prominent historic landmarks. One of its most useful features is the accompanying map and list of City designated landmarks which gives a concise description of each landmark and an explanation of its significance.

Fitch, Robert J.
Profile of a Century: Riverside County, California, 1893-1993

Riverside: Riverside County Historical Commission Press, 1993.
(Loc Hist 979.497 FIT)
Written by a former Chief County Administrative Officer in celebration of the County's centennial, this volume brings together in one source a history of County government and biographical sketches of each County official. Arranged by County Office or Department, it lacks a table of contents, but has a fine index by personal name and by Department name.

Guide to the Historic Landmarks of Riverside County, California
Riverside: Riverside County Historical Commission Press, 1993.
(Loc Hist 979.497 GUI)
This handy guide was produced to celebrate the centennial of the formation of Riverside County. It updates and expands a landmarks booklet produced on the occasion of the County's 75th anniversary in 1968. It is larger in size and contains many more landmarks. The 120 listed sites fall into one or more of 4 groups: Sites on the National Register of Historic Places, California Registered Historic Landmarks, California Points of Historical Interest, and Riverside County Historical Landmarks. It includes no municipality designated landmarks that are not listed as above. The arrangement is geographical and keyed to visiting the sites by automobile. Each listing includes a description of the site, usually with a photograph, directions for visiting, and citations for further reading.

Gunther, Jane Davies
Riverside County, California, Place Names: Their Origins and Stories

Riverside: Rubidoux Printing Company, 1984.
(Loc Hist 979.497 GUN)
This is the finest local history reference source ever compiled on Riverside County, both in terms of its completeness and accuracy. In seeking to answer the 'who, 'why,' 'when,' and 'where' of the County's geographic names, the author spent over a decade doing meticulous, creative research. Both primary and secondary sources were consulted and, in many cases, oral history sources were developed to corroborate or expand upon documentary materials.

The bulk of this work consists of short historical accounts of place names in an alphabetical arrangement. The entries give clear citations to the sources listed in the back of the volume. Copious 'see' and 'see also' references are provided. The author does not force her evidence, but provides alternative explanations and documentation where this seems warranted. Besides document and map bibliographies, there is a thorough personal name index at the back of the volume.

Klotz, Esther H. and Joan H. Hall
Adobes, Bungalows and Mansions of Riverside, California

Riverside: Riverside Museum Press, 1985
(Loc Hist 917.9497 KLO)
Two authors with previous publications in local architectural history teamed up to write this volume highlighting significant examples of domestic architecture built in Riverside from the 1870's to 1930. Essays on more than 100 individual buildings are arranged chronologically by date of construction. These essays provide a great deal of incidental local and family history, as well as information on architectural styles, floor plans, building sites and architects. Historical context is extremely important to the authors since one of their stated reasons for writing the book was to build a case for preserving the buildings under consideration. The final essay deals specifically with Riverside's early builders and architects. The subject and proper name index is intelligently selective: it stresses the buildings and their owners whilst ignoring many incidental references in the text. The essays are footnoted and a bibliography appears in the back of the volume. An attempt was made to use photographs as contemporaneous as possible with actual construction dates, so the quality of illustrations varies greatly. A superb map in an end pocket clearly locates each of the building for which a separate essay has been written.

Patterson, Tom
Landmarks of Riverside and the Stories Behind Them

Riverside: Press-Enterprise Company, 1964.
(Loc Hist 979.497 PAT)
Although he builds this book of historical essays around Riverside's familiar and not-so-familiar landmarks, newspaperman Patterson has really created with this work a prototype for A Colony for California, his full-fledged, centennial history of the City published in 1971. Much of Patterson's highly original research and the themes and concepts he distilled from that research are present in this earlier volume. Landmarks and districts in and around Riverside are made to serve as spotlights on the high and low drama of local social history. The essays are in vaguely chronological order. They are accompanied by large photographs, some of which are historic prints and some were taken specifically for this publication. Maps depicting the region's original land grants and surveys are at the front of this volume. A solid subject index is provided.

Riverside County Board of Supervisors
Landmarks of Riverside County

Riverside: Riverside County, 1968.
(Loc Hist 979.497 LAN)
This slim volume documents the significance of Riverside County's historical landmarks. Issued as part of the County's 75th anniversary observance, the compilation concerns itself with historical sites designated by the Board of Supervisors. The State and County landmarks are in two separate sequences, each starting in the West of the County and progressing to the East. The map and its legend at the back are not, however, keyed to the numbering and order of the landmarks in the text, which makes for much confusion. The narrative, by newspaperman and local historian, Tom Patterson, is part history, part anecdotes, and part personal observation.
Small photographs of poor quality illustrate the text. This volume is partially updated by the California Parks and Recreation Department's occasional publications entitled California Historical Landmarks and California Inventory of Historic Resources. In 1993, as part of the County's centennial observation, a new publication, Guide to the Historic Landmarks of Riverside County, California, was published which updates and revises it.

"Mug Books"

History of San Bernardino County, California

San Francisco: Wallace W. Elliott and Co., 1883.
(Reprinted in 1965 by the Riverside Museum Associates)
(Loc Hist 979.497 HIS and Loc Hist 979.497 REP)
This was the first subscription history or 'mug book' for the area now constituting Riverside County. The volume includes both San Bernardino and San Diego counties; the residence of the subscriber determined whether he or she were given the edition with a 'San Bernardino' or a 'San Diego' title page and the order of materials within the volume. This initial effort at creating a local history for the region was completed in 8 months. Most of the research and writing was done on commission by prominent local newspapermen. The result is that the narrative is weak and sometimes inaccurate for the Hispanic era, but solid when it reaches the period more contemporary with the 1880s.

The order of the materials is confusing: a chronological history is interspersed among sections on agriculture, mining, commerce, etc. The text is heavily padded with state history materials which appeared in all editions of Elliott's county histories. The portraits are of good quality. The many scenic illustrations are crude, but are often the only extant representation of a building or area. There are subject, illustration, portrait, and biography indices for each county, but they are woefully incomplete and can be misleading. The indexed terms are alphabetized only by their first letter. the 1965 reprint edition has a fine introductory essay by Harry Lawton explaining how the original edition was produced.

An Illustrated History of Southern California, Embracing the Counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and Orange

Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Co., 1890. (Cover title: Pen Pictures from the Garden of the World)
(Loc Hist 979.49 ILL)
Despite its title, the great bulk of this volume deals with the history and prominent people of San Bernardino and San Diego Counties in the years just prior to the formation of Riverside County. It offers long sections on the government, economy, and social institutions of the major towns and tantalizing sketches of small developments that resulted from the 'Boom of the Eighties.' Water and irrigation history are particularly well covered. The volume's greatest fault is its lack of a subject index. However, it does have a detailed table of contents and indices to biographical sketches and illustrations. The illustrations themselves are of the finest quality then available; they are reproductions of superb steel engravings.

Planned to exploit a real estate and development frenzy gripping Southern California at the time, this work was not published until 2 years after the 'Boom' went 'Bust.' Consequently, few copies of this lavish volume were sold and it is now the rarest title amongst the County's basic histories.

Holmes, Elmer Wallace
History of Riverside County, California, with Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women from the Early Days to the Present

Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1912.
(Loc Hist 979.497 HOL)
Names Index (PDF)
This is the first subscription history to deal exclusively with Riverside County, although it gives no historical coverage to any area east of Palm Springs. This volume was edited and largely written by Elmer Holmes, a newspaperman and politician who had been at the center of public affairs in Riverside since 1875. His personal acquaintance with local events and personalities and his access to original documents give his straightforward account particular authority.

Chapters on the general history of the West County area and the early City of Riverside are followed by sections on various cultural and social institutions at the County Seat. Chapters on the history of other communities in the West County were written on commission by local writers. The commissioned accounts are somewhat 'literary,' but editorial standards are generally high. Throughout the volume there seems to be an unusual preoccupation with Native American history and affairs. Biographies take up well over half of the volume and include a number of deceased pioneers. Some businessmen from the Coachella Valley have also been included. There is a detailed table of contents and an index to biographical sketches, but no subject index. A names index produced by the Local History Office is also available (see above). The many magnificent portraits are reproduced from steel engravings. An index produced by the Local History Office is available at the Main Library.

Brown, John, Jr. and James Boyd
History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties...with Selected Biography of Actors and Witnesses

Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1922.
(Loc Hist 979.495 BRO)
This 3-volume set includes some history, much promotional literature, and even more biography. Almost two full volumes are exclusively devoted to biographies, which makes this the largest biographical compilation ever published for the Inland Empire region. The Riverside County chapters are heavily weighted to the history and institutions of the County Seat, with brief descriptions of the smaller communities in the hinterlands. Corona is the exception; it receives extensive coverage. James Boyd, who edited the Riverside chapters and wrote a fair percentage of them, was one of Riverside's earliest settlers. Unlike Elmer Holmes, however, Boyd had been more at the periphery of events and his narrative reflects this. In places Boyd's historical account becomes merely a compilation of documents and the reminiscences of others. His own prose style is fussy, self-conscious, and opinionated. Several of the topical chapters were completely written by local experts or officials.
The historical and topical materials are separated by county, but the biographies are not. An index to the three volumes appears at the front of volume one. It is a subject and personal name index in one alphabet. Some sets have a supplementary subject index for Riverside tipped into the first volume. This apparently was prepared by the Riverside Public Library staff sometime in the 1930s. Still, even both indices taken together are vastly inadequate. The quality of the illustrations varies widely from reproductions of steel engraved portraits, to small, grainy photographs.

Gabbert, John Raymond
History of Riverside City and County

Phoenix: Record Publishing Co., 1935.
(Loc Hist 979.497 GAB)
Names Index (PDF)
Written in a journalist's clear, crisp prose, this volume gives a balanced account of Riverside County as a whole. It is particularly fine in documenting the rise of agriculture and the resort industry in the desert areas. Although offering workmanlike historical summaries for earlier eras, Gabbert's stated emphasis is on the period 1915 to 1935. In his eagerness to document economic recovery, he incidentally provides a comprehensive account of Depression era institutions in the County. Biographies take up less than one half of the volume and feature civic and business leaders, living and deceased, from throughout the County. This section also includes some institutional histories of businesses and agricultural enterprises. There is a biographical index, but no subject index. An analytical table of contents appears at the back of the volume, but is hard to use because the chapters lack titles. The volume is illustrated with photographs of indifferent quality. An index produced by the Local History Office is available (see above).

Paul, Arthur G.
Riverside Community Book

Riverside: Arthur H. Cawston, 1954.
(Loc Hist 979.497 RIV)
This is Riverside County's last real 'mug book.' Fully one half of the volume is devoted to biographies of prominent County figures, a great majority of whom were living at the time of the publication. No serious attempt is made to provide a general historical narrative for the County. Instead, a chronology of important dates and a selection of readings from key historic documents are included. Chapters are topical and offer solid information on the history of public and private institutions in the County. Indexing is accurate, but far from comprehensive. The illustrations include many portraits, which vary greatly in quality.

General County Histories

Brown, James T.
Harvest of the Sun: an Illustrated History of Riverside County

Northridge: Windsor Publications, Inc., 1985.
(Loc Hist 979.497 BRO)
The series of California county histories issued by Windsor Publications is a modern incarnation of the old 'mug book' histories. In the place of biographies of individual subscribers, however, there are now institutional histories of business 'sponsors.' Windsor is heavily dependent for its quality on the historical talent and resources already available in the counties under investigation. Rich in both talent and resources, Riverside County has produced the finest volume in the Windsor series. The historical narrative was by a young UCR-trained historian whose prose shines with insight, sensitivity, and mischievous wit. Behind Brown's deceptively simple chronology lurks a sophisticated, thematic social history. The photographs accompanying the text are well chosen, both for their documentary value and for their visual interest. The institutional histories at the back of the volume have been well edited and are separately indexed. The only serious criticism of this volume concerns its general index. This index is not comprehensive enough to either do justice to Brown's text or support the intensive 'look up' work that characterizes local history reference work.

Bynon, A.A.
History and Directory of Riverside County, 1893-1894
Riverside: Riverside County Historical Commission Press, 1992.
(Loc Hist 979.497025 RIV 1893a)
Bynon's was the first directory of the newly formed Riverside County and as there were less than a handful of copies extant at the time it was reprinted in celebration of the County's centennial. The original was a celebration of the creation of Riverside County in 1893. There are two sections: Part I is a history of the various communities of the new county and the story of the County's formation. Each community is designated as to the county of which it has originally been a part. Part II is the directory, naming the people of the new County, community by community. The reprint includes a foreword by former County Chief Administrative Officer, Robert Fitch, and an introduction by local historian and journalist, Tom Patterson, which is an especially useful guide to using this volume. The original had a number of peculiarities in pagination. The reprint provides new continuous page numbers in brackets.

Robinson, W. W.
The Story of Riverside County

Los Angeles: Title Insurance Co., 1957.
(Loc Hist 979.497 ROB)
This booklet is one of a series of county histories written by the author in the 1950s for the Title Insurance and Trust Company. It provides a brief (50 page) chronological history of Riverside County written in a congenial, popular style. Despite their length, Robinson's booklets are based upon primary source research and offer intelligent syntheses of materials. They are particularly strong on rancho history. The Riverside booklet has a fold-out map showing the boundaries of the ranchos in the County and an appendix which lists grantees, key dates, and acreage for each rancho. The illustrations are carefully chosen, graphically interesting and well reproduced. The booklet's most serious drawback is its lack of an index.

General City Histories

Patterson, Tom
A Colony for California: Riverside's First Hundred Years

Riverside: Press-Enterprise, 1971.
(Loc Hist 979.497 PAT)
What started as a series of history articles in the Riverside Press-Enterprise during Riverside's centennial celebration in 1970 ended one year later as the only book-length history of the City ever published. This book has many of the virtues displayed in Patterson's earlier writings. His journalistic ability to find new documentary sources and to develop personal sources greatly enriched this study. His basically chronological text is woven through two overall historical themes: the interaction of humanity with a grudging environment and the social interactions amongst the various racial and ethnic groups that settled and developed Riverside and its environs. Patterson's good work does suffer occasionally from the telegraphic prose style, particularly in the last chapters.

The author has provided the most comprehensive and useful subject index of any book on this list. Moreover, his 'bibliographical essay' at the back of the volume would be the first place to send anyone who is starting to read or write Riverside history. The maps at the front and photographs throughout are clear and well integrated with the text.

Patterson, Tom
A Colony for California: Riverside's First Hundred Years

Riverside: Museum Press of the Riverside Museum Associates, 1996.
(Loc Hist 979.497 PAT 1996)
Though identified as a second edition, this is actually a reprinting with the addition of a new introduction and several pages of errata.

Other Important Works

Baker, Ronald J.
Serving Through Partnership: a Centennial History of the Riverside City and County Public Library, 1888-1988

Riverside: Riverside City and County Public Library, 1988
(Loc Hist 027.4794 BAK)
This fine institutional history starts with the early efforts to provide library service in Riverside leading up to an institution run by the City of Riverside in 1888. It then covers, in chapters that roughly correspond to the administrations of each Library Director, the development of the Riverside Public Library, the formation of the Riverside County Free Library, and the ongoing evolution of the combined organizations. It surveys the ongoing growth and development of Library services throughout the County. There are profiles of Library staff and supporters. The prose is pleasantly readable and many illustrations are of good quality and relevant to the text. At the end is a series of chronologies of the branch libraries in existence at the time of writing. The greatest failing of this volume is its lack of an index.

Klotz, Esther
Riverside and the Day the Bank Broke: a Chronicle of the City 1890-1907, 2nd ed.

Redlands: Friends of the Mission Inn, 1990.
(Loc Hist 979.497 KLO 1990)
By means of chronicling the life and career of Tom Hays, who brought about the failure of the Orange Growers National Bank, Klotz presents us with an intimate portrait of life in Riverside at the beginning of the 20th Century. Quite readable, it gives insight into a formative era in Riverside's history.