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Walter Henry Clarence Steele photographs

Identifier: SC-001

Collection Scope and Content Summary

This collection contains more than 600 historical photographs of San Bernardino, CA and the Inland Empire region of Southern California taken and collected by notable local photographer, Walter Henry Clarence Steele, in the late nineteenth to mid twentieth centuries. The photographs primarily document the city of San Bernardino including buildings of historical interest such as City Hall, the Arrowhead Springs Hotel, and Santa Fe Depot along with numerous street views and city scenes. Additional photographs of cities in San Bernardino County and beyond including Redlands, Riverside, Big Bear, Lake Arrowhead, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are also present in the collection.


  • Creation: circa 1849-1979, undated
  • Creation: Majority of material found in circa 1900-1950



This collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright Unknown: Some materials in these collections may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). In addition, the reproduction, and/or commercial use, of some materials may be restricted by gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing agreement(s), and/or trademark rights. Distribution or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. To the extent other restrictions apply, permission for distribution or reproduction from the applicable rights holder is also required. Responsibility for obtaining permissions, and for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical Note

Walter Henry Clarence Steele was born in Berlin, North Dakota in 1897. His initial interest in photography was sparked by his father and he later received formal training as a photographer from the Eastman and Ansco companies, two of the major camera manufacturers of that era. Steele came to San Bernardino, California in 1920, after serving in the United States military, and began working in his father's photo studio located in Urbita Springs Park (an area in San Bernardino). While there he met his future wife Beatrice Preston and the couple was married in 1923. Together they had two daughters, Eloise Coats and Evelyn Cranston. The couple operated Steele's Photo Service in San Bernardino for decades, and Walter became known as the unofficial "official photographer" of San Bernardino. He was the first official photographer of the National Orange Show, serving in that capacity for 30 years, and was also the only photographer for the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper in its early years. Walter documented the growth of San Bernardino through his photography, capturing the city as it changed and evolved over the years. Walter Steele passed away on February 5, 1985 at the age of 87. Five years later in 1992, the family closed down Steele's Photo Service. A few years after the business was closed Beatrice Steele passed away at the age of 97 on December 19, 1996.


3.0 Linear Feet (6 document boxes)

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

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


This collection contains historical photographs of San Bernardino, CA and the Inland Empire region of Southern California taken and collected by notable local photographer, Walter Henry Clarence Steele.

Collection Arrangement

This collection is arranged into the following three series:

  • Series 1: City of San Bernardino, circa 1849-1979, undated.
  • Series 2: Other Cities in San Bernardino County, circa 1850-1963, undated.
  • Series 3: Other Cities in California/Nevada, 1912-1961.
  • Acquisition Information

    In 1974 professor Bruce Golden sent Pfau Library Director, Art Nelson, information on Walter Steele's collection of historical photographs. Over the years Director Nelson purchased over 600 of the photographs for Pfau Library Special Collections & University Archives.

    Processing Information

    This collection was processed by Eric Milenkiewicz, University Archivist, and Janeth Cisneros, Student Assistant (2022).

    Guide to the Walter Henry Clarence Steele 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