One photo shows a mixer pouring concrete to create the bleachers at Hollywood Bowl. Another details construction of the Arroyo Seco Pasadena Freeway - the first in this area. Those are just some of the moments captured in Vulcan Materials Co.'s vast archive collection. The treasure trove of photos, letters, documents and other materials offers a window into the building of 20th century Southern California through the eyes of Vulcan and its more than 50 predecessor companies.


On Tuesday, Vulcan donated a large portion of its archives to the Huntington Library in San Marino. "If I could live in a perfect world I'd like to keep the archives with Vulcan, but this will make these materials available to the public for research," said Jock Scott, a former vice president of engineering for Vulcan, who also served as the company's archivist. "This is like seeing your children graduate from college and move to a foreign country - but a foreign country that is very nice." The archive consists of photos, newsletters, annual reports and other documents dating from the early 1900s to the beginning of the 21st century. Vulcan's entire collection includes some 85,000 pieces.


The portion that was donated to the Huntington includes about 20,000 photos, letters, newsletters and documents. Scott said Vulcan - which has provided rock, aggregates, asphalt and other materials to build California roads, bridges and other structures - plans to digitize much of its other more current materials, including old 8 mm films. "We are delighted to have it, and it's a great complement to other collections we have," said Daniel Lewis, the Huntington's chief curator of manuscripts.


Lewis said the materials won't be on display, although they will be readily accessible to the public for research purposes. "It's important that we gather up these kinds of materials from all the avenues we can because we are not on the inside of these corporations or in people's homes," he said. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., Vulcan owns 270 acres of land in Azusa, and the company has a permit to mine 190 acres of the Azusa Rock Quarry that's adjacent to Fish Creek. The company also operates a facility to process mined material in Irwindale.


Lewis said the Vulcan archive will be stored in an environment that is climate-controlled, temperature-controlled and humidity-controlled. "We're one of the most heavily used research libraries in the country," he said. The Vulcan materials were well organized when they were brought in, Lewis said, which hasn't always been the case with other donations. "They arrived fully processed with everything in place," he said. "But sometimes things come in that have just been swept off a desk into a box by somebody's forearm."


Scott began building the Vulcan archive in 1972 when he was working full time with the company. "I was always interested in old machines, buildings and bridges, which is typical of a lot of engineers," he said. "When I joined the company, there were many senior employees and employees who had recently retired who had a huge array of firsthand knowledge of the early years of the company." Some of the materials date back as far as 1910. "Our main concern was about having a safe home for the archive," said Doug Sprague, Vulcan's manager of reclamation. "We're in the process of moving, and when you move, things get lost."


From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, February 14, 2012


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July 2012