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Charles Clayton Howe photographs

Identifier: SC-003

Collection Scope and Content Summary

The collection contains 1,610 black-and-white negatives, mostly 4x5-inch, taken in California and Mexico by Charley Clayton Howe between 1947 and 1972. Howe had joined the Archaeological Survey Association of Southern California, Inc. in 1948 and, in 1975, donated the negatives to the ASA. The Association envisioned the negatives as the initial collection of an archive of photographs on California archaeology that would be open for reference by scholars (“Photographic Archives Established,” 1975). The negatives cover 26 years of Howe’s travels in California and Mexico and a 25-year span of ASA’s active survey work in southern California beginning a year after the association was founded. During this period, ASA surveyed over 120 sites. These negatives document more than 155 trips by Howe to more than 84 locations. As in many areas worldwide, southern California has sustained the loss of archaeological treasures due to urbanization and vandalism. The state of rock art in two beautiful Mojave Desert canyons, Black and Inscription, is typical of the extensive manmade damage that is common at archaeological sites in southern California. The destruction includes graffiti, bullet holes, red paint stains from attempted rubbings, artwork destroyed by people trying to chisel it off the rocks, and trash dumped around the artwork. Howe’s images show such destruction of rock sites over the years. In 1947, archaeologists at the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles worried about the destruction of archaeological sites and anticipated a dearth of source material for understanding the prehistory of southern California. Thus, the ASA was founded by Southwest Museum archaeologists Mark Harrington, Edwin Francis Walker, Frederick Webb Hodge, and Howard Arden Edwards (Steele, 1982) with the goal of surveying southern California to document archaeological sites. The membership of the professional-amateur association grew from the initial 50 to 200 in five months. Amateurs from many walks of life surveyed southern California archaeological sites along with professional archaeologists from universities (including University of Southern California, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Riverside, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Redlands, and Long Beach State College) and museums (including Southwest Museum, San Diego Museum of Man, and Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History) (Steele, 1982). Some of Howe’s photographs are the only complete remains of destroyed treasures such as a petroglyph of several sheep traversing a cliff face in Black Canyon, California. The negatives contain valuable, comprehensive, and sometimes unique documentation for archaeologists and historians. There are beautiful black-and-white images of difficult-to-photograph petroglyphs and pictographs from California locations including Black Canyon, China Lake, Burro Flats, and Painted Cave; ASA’s Barranca del Cobre Expedition (Mexico) in 1960; trips to the Baja Peninsula in Mexico beginning in 1956, long before the paved highway opened up Baja in 1973; ASA members excavating, staking, laughing, resting, and digging again; campsites rigged around ordinary cars that somehow made it out into the desert; Tarahumara Indians in Barranca del Cobre; a Pauite friend in Bishop; a Mexican family at remote El Arco in Baja; a Paiute in a magnificent headdress; artifacts, intaglios, and cairns; tarantulas and snakes; giant cacti and flowering yuccas in the desert; the dedication of ASA’s Early Man Research Center; and many other subjects. The negatives contain hundreds of images of petroglyphs and pictographs in California and some images of the exquisite and faithful rock art reproductions prepared by Charles LaMonk, a professional artist and ASA member. LaMonk pursued enthusiastically the goal of recording and preserving Indian rock art (Charles LaMonk: ASA artist, 1976/1983) and donated over one hundred reproductions to the ASA (referenced in this finding aid as “ASA LaMonk No.”). He made his first reproductions for ASA at Burro Flats in 1953 where Howe worked with LaMonk to figure out an implement that LaMonk could use to reproduce the rock art accurately. They found that a folded piece of paper with a torn end was a tool that simulated a tightly folded piece of buckskin with a flayed end and “produced heavy and thin lines, curves . . . that matched the brushwork and technique [of the pictographs] exactly” (LaMonk, 1953/n.d.; Jackson, 1954). LaMonk also painted portraits of American Indians and his work has been exhibited at national and international exhibitions and in the White House by presidential invitation(Redtfeldt, 1991). Some of Howe’s travels and archaeological work is not represented in these negatives. Given his love of photography, one may speculate that other photographs exist and were perhaps included with materials pertaining to particular archaeological sites. Some negatives are missing from the collection as evidenced by empty original enclosures or references to items on Howe’s draft index (n.d.). A list of missing negatives appears near the end of this finding aid. State and county names have been added to Howe’s place names here. Two gazetteers (Thesaurus of Geographic Names, 1997; United States Geological Survey, 1999) were used to locate information.One site, Oak Creek, could not be pin-pointed.


  • Creation: 1947-1972



This collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

The images in this collection are copyrighted. Images may be displayed, copied, or used for personal study only. Written permission to reproduce an image for electronic or print publication may be obtained from California State University San Bernardino's Pfau Library Special Collections & University Archives (


3.0 Linear Feet (6 boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • License: This record is made available under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Creative Commons license.

Acquisition Information

In 1975, Charley (Clayton) Howe donated this collection of his negatives and a photocopy of his draft handwritten index of some photographs to the Archaeological Survey Association of Southern California, Inc. The association established a fund to preserve the negatives. During the late 1970s and 1980s, ASA member Rebecca Miller took the collection home, re-sleeved some negatives in new enclosures, transferred some of Howe’s notations to the new enclosures, and stored the replaced enclosures in an ASA archive box. An unidentified person prepared a draft transcription of Howe’s index. In January 1999, Rosalind Srivastava identified and consolidated 1,610 negatives that belong to Howe’s collection from among materials stored in six boxes of ASA’s photograph archives at the office of ASA President Donn Grenda in Redlands, California.

Genre / Form



Guide to the Charles Clayton Howe photographs
Finding aid created by Eric Milenkiewicz, University Archivist
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Pfau Library Special Collections Repository

5500 University Parkway
San Bernardino CA 92407 United States