The collections of the Monterey History and Art Association have grown through contributions since its founding in 1931. Early contributing members include artists Myron Oliver and Armin Hansen, and founding president Col. Roger S. Fitch, who was one of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Housed at the Monterey History & Maritime Museum on Custom House Plaza, the Mexican-era adobe Casa Serrano, and the Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Library (a historic former Episcopal church), our collections hold Monterey’s story. Entwined with historic events, deeded gifts have come from families of early prominence, as well as community residents who were part of the daily life and commerce that put Monterey on the map. Because of this, our collections address the significant historic milestones of the first capital of the Western United States.
The collection reflects early California art, including works from some of Monterey History and Art Association’s founding members. The collection also features a representative body of maritime arts and crafts. We house one of the largest single collections of work by California sculptor and artist Jo Mora. Other significant artists in our collection represent the Plein Air and Bohemian movements, including Armin Hansen, E. Charlton Fortune, Charles Rollo Peters, M. Evelyn McCormick, and Myron Oliver, among others from the Monterey Group and Society of Six.
Costume & Textiles
The costume collection contains several significant examples of American dress from the mid-19th century through the late 20th century, from some of California’s earliest families. The collection also includes costumes from the many Monterey immigrants’ native cultures. The strengths of the collection include Belle Époque dresses, worn by early tourists to the region, coastal worker’s uniforms, representing several historic industries of the region, and a diverse collection of early to mid 20th century hats.
Our decorative Arts, featured in historic Casa Serrano Adobe, include handcrafted pieces that belonged to some of Monterey’s first families. Many objects, including a grand piano, were shipped around Cape Horn, in the early 19th century. Some of the tables, benches, and chairs were created here in Monterey. The adobe’s other period furnishings include American pieces, including examples such as a Federal secretary, and a John Belter chair. The Porter Bedroom contains the furniture of John T. Porter, a Civil War customs collector in Monterey appointed by Lincoln, who lived at the Custom House.
Monterey History and Art Association member Allen Knight, a ship captain and mayor of Carmel, created a maritime museum in Monterey. The museum’s collection was later deeded to MHAA, featuring ship and boat models that mirror the diversity of this longtime port city. Spanish galleons and English and American merchant clippers representing a triangle trade with China and the East Coast, share berth with the H. Royce Greatwood collection of rare junk ship models– the largest single collection outside of China. The 20th century is represented by US Naval vessels and a fleet of sardine purse-seiners which show the twin growth of Monterey’s military and canneries, the first dependent upon the second to supply WWII troops.
Monterey History Archive
Housed at the Mayo Hayes O’Donnell Research Library, our collection of rare books, original letters, media, and photographs are available free of charge to scholars and researchers of early California history. Included are the personal papers of Mayo Hayes O’Donnell, Amelia Elkinton, Mayor Minnie Coyle, Judge Monte Hellam, and Col. Roger S. Fitch.
Our artifacts provide the visual touchstones that bring to life the Monterey described in Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast (1840) and Stevenson’s Across the Plains (1892). Objects pertain to early Spanish explorers and the Mission settlements of Father Junipero Serra, through Mexican independence, to the declaration of US territory in 1846 by the arrival of Commodore Sloat’s naval fleet. Other objects come from the railroad magnates’ Hotel Del Monte, and the longtime military presence in Monterey. Further artifacts tell the shared history of diverse groups who have traveled to Monterey, from the earliest Ohlone and Rumsien tribes, who settled here in 4000 BC, to the Chinese families who pioneered commercial fishing on the bay, from Russian and Aleut fur trappers, to Portuguese whalers and Japanese abalone divers. Our collection also consists of objects from Cannery Row, and from Italian-Sicilian fishing families, whose fleet brought in the fish that kept the canneries running day and night.
Our large maritime photography collections, from Allen Knight and Captain F. Lee Walter, respectively represent the ships of the US Pacific Coast, and the European and Australian shipping trade in the early 20th century. In addition, our Monterey collection represents a cross-section of local history, including photos of the Hotel Del Monte, Cannery Row, and local military posts.