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Nineteenth Century Physical Geography of the Southern California Coastline (Collection)

Identifier: LH-490-23-1

Scope and Contents

This is a research collection relating to the late nineteenth century coastal geomorphology, fluvial geomorphology, climate, and soils of Southern California. Coast [and Geodetic] survey maps, letters from Assistants found in the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley, descriptions of surveying stations from the National Archives in Suitland, MD, and annual summaries of the Coast Survey are in collection.

Corps of Engineers reports on harbors and a volume containing testimony and maps relating to the selection of San Pedro as the primary harbor for southern California are included. Portions of the Reagan Report on flooding containing eye-witness accounts and other early engineering documents relating to the San Gabriel River on file in the Los Angeles County Public Works Department in Alhambra are present.

Letters and other material from the Huntington Library in San Marino are to be found in this collection. Tree-ring studies, portions of Master's theses, Soild Surveys, articles from newspapers [Los Angeles Star, Anaheim Gazette], materials relating to Anaheim Landing, journal articles and sections in historical works on environmental topics, consultant's reports on coastal sites, and W.P.A. works on early Orange County are in the collection. Journal articles on these topics, including those by the donor, are also available for review.


  • Majority of material found within 1880 - 1960


3 boxes

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Wayne Engstrom, PhD., emeritus professor of Geography.

Related Materials

Published article:

Historical sources indicate that, in the late 19th century, the portion of the southern California coastline between Palos Verdes Peninsula and San Mateo Point was composed of a series of barrier spits backed by estuaries, beaches backed by cliffs, and occasional rocky headlands. Nearly natural conditions, a reflection of minimal human impact, prevailed during this relatively stormy interval. US Coast [and Geodetic] Survey materials, early scientific work, newspaper articles, and the accounts of travelers provide much of the information utilized to reconstruct the shoreline. Serving as a major roadway, the beach that extended between San Juan Creek and San Mateo Creek was especially well known. The barrier spits were capped by low dunes and were separated by migrating inlets connecting the ocean with the backing estuaries. Rivers discharged into the estuaries at times, decreasing salinities and depositing sediments. Rocky coastlines are believed to have experienced substantial erosion as high levels of bioerosion and vigorous attack by storm waves is inferred, giving rise to notched cliffs, sea caves, and other erosional forms. Forming part of the seaward fringe of the greater Los Angeles region, today this shoreline is completely developed, serving the commercial and recreational needs of millions of residents and visitors.

Engstrom, Wayne N. “Nineteenth Century Coastal Geomorphology of Southern California.” Journal of Coastal Research, vol. 22, no. 4, 2006, pp. 847–861. JSTOR, Accessed 14 Apr. 2021.

Nineteenth Century Physical Geography of the Southern California Coastline collection
Nicholas Seider
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Repository Details

Part of the CSUF University Archives & Special Collections Repository

University Archives & Special Collections
Pollak Library South Room 352 (PLS 352)
Fullerton CA 92831-3599 USA
(657) 278-4751