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San Diego State University Historical Collection

Identifier: MS-0293

Scope and Contents

The SDSU Historical Collection documents the university's history from its beginnings as a normal school through its transition to a state college. The collection dates from approximately 1897-1956, with the bulk of the documents created prior to 1935. It consists primarily of paper records including correspondence and financial records. The collection documents the relationship between students, administrators, and Vice President W.F. Bliss during the school's early years. The collection also documents student enrollment and attendance; the school's financial stability; programs and invitations including Dedication Day and May Day festivities from 1903-1935; student activities and organizations; and faculty involvement with administration. It has been divided into four series: Administrative Records, Faculty Records, Student Organization Records, and Artifacts.

The Administrative Records document the university's progress from its inception as a normal school to its transition to a state college in 1935. Records from 1898 to the 1930s are extensive; records from the 1930s to 1956 are also included. The series covers a wide range of subjects from the school's students to its finances, as well as board of trustees records, Vice President's (W.F. Bliss) correspondence, university programs and the campus library. Included in this series are groundbreaking programs celebrating the move to a new campus in October 1929. The series is divided into five sub-series: Office of the Registrar Records, Financial Records, Board of Trustees Files, Vice-President's Correspondence, and Library Records. Some of the series are organized alphabetically; others are organized chronologically.

The Faculty Records consist of materials created by and for the school's faculty members. Materials in this series date from 1898-1936. This series documents faculty activities by department, class, term/year, and program. Significant to this collection is a copy of Admetus: A Thessalian Fantasy by popular English professor and one time Vice President of the college Irving E. Outcalt. The series is divided into five sub series: Instructor Term Reports, Faculty Meeting Minutes, Course Schedules, Academic Programs, and Faculty Information. Some of the sub-series are organized alphabetically, and others are organized chronologically.

The Organizations series consists of materials documenting student and other organizations on campus from 1899-1952. It documents the various activities of different student organizations on campus during the first 50 years of the school's existence. The Associated Students in particular are extensively documented. The records are organized alphabetically by student organization name.

The small Artifacts series includes memorabilia from 1931-2004. These ten artifacts are predominantly from the college's early years, and include such items as official seals and university apparel.


  • Creation: 1898-1952
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1898-1935


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in these materials belong to San Diego State University. Requests for permission to publish must be submitted to the University Archivist, San Diego State University Library.

Historical Note

Founded March 13, 1897, San Diego State University began as the San Diego Normal School, a training facility for elementary school teachers. A Board of Trustees appointed by the governor held its first meeting on June 3, 1897 to choose a location for the school. A site on Park and El Cajon Boulevards was chosen by the Board which then turned its attention to the construction of the school and the selection of a president. In September of 1898 the Board chose Samuel Black as the new president of the San Diego Normal School.

During his tenure, Black assembled a faculty with degrees from well known universities to teach a variety of courses including English, mathematics, drawing, history and geography, physiology, sociology, education, biological sciences, physical training, manual training, and household arts. Student enrollment increased from 91 on opening day to nearly 400 the year Black retired. Black served as president from 1898 to 1910.

Edward L. Hardy was appointed by the Board of Trustees to replace Black as school president in 1910. From 1910 to 1935, President Hardy headed a vigorous administration that oversaw major changes to the fledgling institution. He hired additional faculty during his first two years in office bringing the total number of faculty to 27 in 1912; many of the new faculty had prior experience working in either public schools or other normal schools across the country. W. F. Bliss served as Vice President under President Hardy until 1921. Student organizations which were established during the school's first year continued to thrive under Hardy's administration. Student groups held dances, picnics, plays, carnivals, and other activities. An Associated Students organization was established in 1922 to help organize student groups and activities. By the end of the 1920s, fraternities and sororities had been established as well as intercollegiate sports, thus creating a real sense of collegiate life.

In 1921, the Normal School became San Diego State Teachers College, a four-year public institution controlled by the State Board of Education. In that same year, the two-year San Diego Junior College, forerunner of today’s local community colleges, became a branch of San Diego State, creating a union that lasted until 1947.

By the 1920s, San Diego State was already beginning to outgrow its Park Boulevard location. After years of debate, a site was chosen on Mission Palisades in Mission Valley. A committee was established and architects were hired to design the new campus buildings. Ground was broken on October 7, 1929 with major construction expected to be completed in about 250 days. The buildings were finished by September of 1930 and, despite the fact that there was no money left for landscaping, San Diego State moved onto its new campus. Classes began in February of 1931 on the newly completed Montezuma Mesa.

The library was considered the heart of the new campus after the college's move to Montezuma Mesa. Librarian John Paul Stone was hired in 1930 to help improve the college library. That same year the library acquired the published catalog of the Library of Congress, increased appropriations, improved services, and expanded its hours of operation. In May of 1944, the library acquired its 100,000th book. Library facilities included a main reading room, reference rooms, and a periodical, reserve, and elementary school reading rooms. By the end of World War II, about 8,000 books a year were being added to the collection. By 1946, San Diego State's library ranked in the top two percent of the members of the American Association of Teachers Colleges.

President Hardy retired in June of 1935. In September of 1935, San Diego State Teachers College became San Diego State College. In addition to the name change, the California legislature encouraged colleges to add liberal arts classes to their curricula.

After Hardy's retirement, Walter R. Hepner took the helm as president, beginning a 17-year tenure. Under Hepner’s administration (1935-1952), San Diego State became a full-fledged academic institution. Liberal arts programs were expanded and new courses added to the curriculum. President Hepner encouraged the addition of scholarships and enhancement of academic standards for students as well as the growth of student groups and activities. By the end of the 1940s, the faculty had grown to include 230 members. Hepner expanded the pre-existing committee structure so that the faculty could be actively involved in all aspects of governing the college. He also encouraged involvement from the community.


35.17 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

I. Administrative, 1898-1956

     1. Office of the Registrar, 1904-1945

          a.) Student Record Cards, 1898-1956

          b.) Correspondence, 1904-1945

          c.) Reports of Standing, 1905-1938

          d.) Attendance Books, 1913-1921

     2. Financial, 1912-1937

     3. Board of Trustees, 1898-1946

          a.) General Files, 1898-1921

          b.) Correspondence, 1898-1921

          c.) Monthly Payroll Reports, 1910-1919

          d.) Programs and Invitations, 1899-1942

     4. Vice-President's Correspondence, 1915-1921

          a.) 1915

          b.) 1916

          c.) 1917

          d.) 1918

          e.) 1919

          f.) 1920

          g.) 1921

     5. Library, 1898-1946

          a.) Accession Books, 1898-1918

          b.) Shelf Lists, 1916

          c.) Circulation Statistics, 1927-1938

          d.) Library Committee Minutes, 1932-1946

II. Faculty, 1898-1946

     1. Instructor Term Reports, 1926-1935

     2. Faculty Meeting Minutes, 1898-1935

     3. Course Schedules, 1898-1930

     4. Academic Programs, 1902-1936

     5. Faculty Information, 1900-1946

III. Organization Records, 1899-1952

IV. Artifacts, 1931-2004

Accruals and Additions

9999-096, 2016-016, 2017-040

Related Materials

Samuel Thorburn Black Memorial Collection, 1877-1922

Edward Lawyer Hardy Memorial Collection, 1910-1951

University Archives Photograph Collection, 1897-

San Diego State University Historical Collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Revision Statements

  • January 2024: Artifact series (box 60) was removed and integrated into the SDSU Artifact Collection; Box 61 became box 60

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US