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City of Compton Collections

at California State University, Dominguez Hills

Images from the Collections

Compton founder G. D. Compton and wife Emily

Griffith Dickenson (G. D.) Compton and Wife Emily

Early professional photograph of Griffith Dickenson (G. D) Compton and wife Emily. Compton led original group of 30 families to settle in what is now Compton in 1867. Photograph is undated.

Original Compton High School building

Original Compton High School Building.

First high school in Compton, called Compton Union High School, here pictured approximately 1912.

Smashed cars among earthquake debris on Compton Boulevard

Compton Boulevard Earthquake Damage

Smashed cars amid debris from collapsed buildings on Compton Boulevard. Devastation follows 19933 earthquake.

Woman in front of Compton College Bell Tower and  sign

Compton College Bell Tower

Students stand in front of Compton College campus bell tower and campus sign in the 1950s.

City of Compton Collections

These collections contain documents related to the history of Compton, California, founded on land formerly of the historic Rancho San Pedro. In 1866, Francis Temple and Fielding Gibson purchased a tract of land north of the Dominguez homestead. This land, known as the Temple and Gibson Tract, was subdivided and lots were purchased by Harmon Higgins in 1866 and a group of pioneers led by G.D. Compton in 1867. The city was first incorporated in 1888 and again in 1909, with Clarence Dickison as mayor. In 1969, Compton elected its first African-American mayor, Douglas Dollarhide. 

The Robert C. Gillingham Working Papers Collection is the only collection that bears his name, but much of the material for all of the collections shown here was gathered by Gillingham. A longtime Compton resident, teacher, and historian, he documented much of the history of the South Bay, and authored The Rancho San Pedro, thus far the only large-scale history of this historic region.

  • Compton History Collection (1869-1998) includes include newsletters, minutes, histories, correspondence, programs, yearbooks, directories, newspapers, and newsclippings related to the founding and history of Compton.
  • Heritage House Collection (1847-1989) this small collection of materials from and about the Heritage House Museum in Compton, California includes correspondence, ledgers, and paper from the Auxiliary; programs, booklets, and correspondence about the museum itself; and ephemera and journals from the 19th century donated to the museum from citizens of Compton.
  • Robert C. Gillingham Working Papers (1932-1983) consists of correspondence, drafts, and manuscript copies related to his work on The Rancho San Pedro and his newspaper column Yesterdays of Compton, over sixty of which were gathered and published into a book of the same name.

These collections represent the the interests of Gillingham, as well as the information that may have been available to him at the time.  They document the founding of Compton and the early decades of its development, with primary interest on government, churches, schools, and businesses. While invaluable, these materials cannot give a complete picture of the rich, diverse life of the city of Compton. There are gaps and silences regarding individuals and populations that have thrived in Compton, including African American, Latinx, and Japanese American.

The Gerth Archives and Special Collections is committed to collecting and promoting materials that address those persons and communities absent in the above Compton Collections. Please consider the collections listed below, as well as the Related Materials page, in your research.

  • Rozelle Family Papers Collection
  • Compton 125 Historical Society Collection
  • Compton City Directory Collection
  • Compton Newspaper Collection