Sumner Family Papers, 1875-1989, bulk 1900-1945 (SMC 11)


Extent: 3 Linear feet (4 archives boxes and 3 oversized volumes)

Digital Content

Selected images from the collection have been digitized, and may be viewed by clicking on the links in the container list.

Papers of Francis Bertody Sumner, one of the first Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologists, and his family. The collection consists of correspondence, academic papers and reports, photo albums and prints, scrapbooks, and records of the Sumner Club.

Francis Bertody Sumner (1874-1945) was a professor of biology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He received his undergraduate degree in 1894 from the University of Minnesota, and began work on his Ph.D. in zoology in 1895 at Columbia University. In 1899, Sumner and two colleagues from Columbia undertook an expedition to Egypt to study African fish. Sumner received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1901. Sumner was director of the Woods Hole Laboratory of the Bureau of Fisheries from 1903-1911, where he prepared a report on all of the marine flora and fauna in the area. In 1910, he made a six-month voyage with his wife and daughter to Italy. The trip was primarily for leisure, but Sumner did use the opportunity to visit the Stazione Zoologica in Naples. From 1911-1913, he served as the naturalist aboard the U.S.F.C. steamer Albatross, conducting a biological and hydrographic study of San Francisco Bay.

In 1913, Sumner was invited by W. E. Ritter to work at the Scripps Institution for Biological Research. His research focused on geographic variation and heredity in a widely distributed group of wild mice known as Peromyscus. When the Scripps Institution turned its focus seaward in 1925 and was renamed the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Sumner ceased his Peromyscus research and began to study the adaptive coloration of various fishes.

The Sumner family lived in La Jolla and documented their travels in memoirs and photography. Dr. Sumner and his wife, Margaret Clark Sumner, had two daughters and one son. Sumner worked at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography until his death in 1945.

Papers of Francis Bertody Sumner, one of the first Scripps Institution of Oceanography biologists, and his family. The collection consists of correspondence, academic papers and reports, photo albums and prints, scrapbooks, and records of the Sumner Club. The collection is noteworthy for its material on the early days of Scripps and La Jolla, including photographs, scrapbooks, and professional correspondence with W. E. Ritter, T. Wayland Vaughan, and high-level University of California administrators at Berkeley. The photographic prints and albums document the Sumner family's life at Woods Hole (including images of the laboratories in 1901-1902) and La Jolla, as well as travels to Egyptian Sudan (1899), Italy (1910), and the mountains and deserts of California and the southwestern United States prior to 1945.


Additional material created by members of the Sumner family, including correspondence and a memoir by Margaret Clark Sumner, may be found in the SIO Biographical Files, SAC 5. Special Collections & Archives, UC San Diego.

One scrapbook, "In California, 1915" assembled by Caroline Clark, was removed from the collection in 2016 and cataloged seperately.


The collection contains material relating to Francis B. Sumner and his family from a variety of sources. Dr. Sumner's office papers were sorted by Carl Leavitt Hubbs in 1944, as Sumner was preparing to retire. Dr. Hubbs disposed of Sumner's field notes and other materials, but kept some files for his own records (which are now in the Carl Hubbs Papers collection); he presumably returned others to the family, and may have donated the folders of Sumner correspondence now located in the SIO Biographical Files (SAC 5). Many of the photographs, negatives and family papers in SMC 11 were from Dr. Sumner's home and personal files, and were donated in 1981 and 1985 by his daughter Florence Sumner Henderson (original nitrate negatives were copied and destroyed several years later).

The Sumner Club records were donated to the SIO Archives in 1982, along with conveyance of all rights and interests to the UC Regents, by Denis L. Fox and Claude E. ZoBell. Because the first minutes and some related correspondence regarding the Club were found in the Sumner Papers, it was decided to merge the Club records into the collection. Finally, one family album assembled by Florence Sumner Henderson, "Memories of La Jolla," was donated to the SIO Archives in 2011. It was photographed and disbound for preservation reasons at the time of accessioning. That album has been included in the Sumner Papers and begins in Box 2, Folder 6.

One scrapbook, Caroline Clark's "In California, 1915" travel journal, was removed from the collection in 2016 and cataloged separately.

Container List


Scope and Content of Series

Series 1) CORRESPONDENCE: Professional and family letters dating from 1899 to 1967. Notable correspondents include W. E. Ritter, T. Wayland Vaughan, Robert Sproul, John C. Merriam, William Wallace Campbell, and Joseph Grinnell. The professional correspondence includes discussions of the developing academic program at Scripps; Sumner's research; and the administrative relationship between SIO and the University of California. The letters dating from after Sumner's death in 1945 are primarily family letters exchanged between his wife, Margaret Clark Sumner, and his daughter, Florence Sumner Henderson, but topics include memories of the history of Scripps. Arranged chronologically.

Box 1 Folder 1
American Association for the Advancement of Science member certificate, and maps, 1901, and undated

Maps include directions to "Sumner's Ranch" and a drawing of PL 1312 showing Torrey Boulevard and the related land plot for Sumner.

Box 1 Folder 2
Typescript correspondence by Margaret Sumner to her parents, 1910 January-June

Includes a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Montague Glass with their daughter, Peggy. The letters describe Margaret and F. B.'s time in Italy.

Box 1 Folder 3-4
Mixed correspondence and appointment files, 1899, 1911-1918

Includes a partial letter from F. B. to his wife, Margaret; and letter William E. Ritter regarding Sumner's appointment at the Scripps Institution and the research program there.

Box 1 Folder 5
Letter from Marry B. Ritter to Florence Sumner, 1922
Box 1 Folder 6
Professional correspondence, 1923-1925

Correspondence relating to the departure of Dr. Ritter and the status of Sumner's research plans. Includes correspondence with Joseph Grinnell, John C. Merriam, W. W. Campbell, David Starr Jordan, and T. Wayland Vaughan.

Box 1 Folder 7
Mixed correspondence, 1926
Box 1 Folder 8
Mixed correspondence, 1927-1929

Includes correspondence with John C. Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution, and T. Wayland Vaughan, director of the Scripps Institution.

Box 1 Folder 9
Mixed correspondence, 1930-1932

Includes a letter from John C. Merriam informing Sumner he cannot continue his research on mice at Scripps; correspondents on this topic include Robert Sproul and T. Wayland Vaughan.

Box 1 Folder 10
Professional correspondence, 1933-1935
Box 1 Folder 11
Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, 1936
Box 1 Folder 12
Professional correspondence, 1937-1938

Correspondence primarily regarding Sumner's election to the National Academy of Sciences. Includes Sumner's typescript paper, "Life Activities of Fishes."

Box 1 Folder 13
Professional correspondence, 1939-1940
Box 1 Folder 14
Mixed correspondence, 1942-1946, 1961, 1967

Includes a memorial written by Sumner for William E. Ritter; and reminisces on Sumner's character written on the occasion of his retirement. Also includes a letter to Mrs. Sumner from the Sumner Club after his death.

Box 1 Folder 15
Letter from Harry Beal Torrey to Margaret Sumner, 1960 February

Two letters on the early history of Scripps.


Scope and Content of Series

Series 2) PAPERS: This series includes Sumner's research reports, drafts of lectures given by Sumner and his wife, Margaret Clark Sumner, and narratives describing various travel excursions undertaken by the Sumner family. The travel memoirs describe the unique challenges of travelling by car through the American West in the early 1900s, and corresponding photographs may be found in series 3) PHOTOGRAPHS. The first folder in this series is a travel journal or memoir by a writer named F. C. da Silva describing a trip to Vietnam circa 1875. Da Silva's relationship to the Sumner family is unclear. Papers are arranged chronologically.

Box 1 Folder 16
A trip to Cochin China [Vietnam]. Holograph manuscript by F. C. da Silva, 1875

Includes a photograph, likely of the author's family. There is also a note from Florence A. Henderson, F. B. Sumner's daughter, on the origins of the manuscript and its possible connection to the Sumner family.

Box 1 Folder 17
Bibliography of scientific publications, ca. 1930
Box 1 Folder 18
A proposed plan for the study of certain problems of evolution and heredity, 1913 April

Proposal drafted by W. E. Ritter, Joseph Grinnell, Samuel J. Holmes, Charles A. Kofoid, John C. Merriam, and F. B. Sumner.

Box 1 Folder 19
Sumner, Margaret. Lecture on science for the La Jolla Women's Club - With typewritten notes by Florence Henderson, 1915
Box 1 Folder 20
Doggerel poetry and a letter to the editor of the San Diego Union, 1920
Box 1 Folder 21
The Scripps Institution, ca. 1924
Box 1 Folder 22
Some results of a twelve years study of deer mice, ca. 1925
Box 1 Folder 23
What science is for. Kiwanis Club lecture, 1927 November 4
Box 1 Folder 24
Summary of results from a sixteen year's study of variation, distribution, and heredity in Peromyscus, 1929
Box 1 Folder 25
History and work of the Scripps Institution, 1932
Box 1 Folder 26
Camouflage in fishes, 1934
Box 1 Folder 27
Preliminary report upon a study of the possible effects of visual stimuli on the hair color of mammals, 1934
Box 1 Folder 28
Sumner, Margaret. Typescript narrative of trip to Death Valley - Typescript, 1936
Box 1 Folder 29
Why is modernism?, 1936
Box 1 Folder 30
Sumner, Margaret. Typescript narrative to trip to Yosemite, 1937 April
Box 1 Folder 31
Why measure a fish's pigment?, 1941
Box 1 Folder 32
The life and times of Francis Bertody Sumner, by himself, ca. 1945

Includes supplemental biographical information and obituaries.

Box 1 Folder 33
Reviews of Sumner's The Life of an American Naturalist , 1945

Reviews by Margaret M. Nice, Wesley R. Coe, and Carl L. Hubbs.

Box 1 Folder 34
Confessions of a Professional Mouse Catcher, F. B. Sumner, undated
Box 1 Folder 35
Typescript narrative describing a trip to Keys Ranch, undated
Box 1 Folder 36
A naturalist's rambles in the southwestern deserts by F. B. Sumner, undated
Box 1 Folder 37
Untitled typescript lecture, undated


Scope and Content of Series

Series 3) PHOTO ALBUMS AND PHOTOGRAPHS: Photographs and albums documenting the daily life, travels, and social affairs of the Sumner family. The majority are black and white prints including F. B. Sumner, his wife Margaret Clark Sumner, his two daughters, Florence Sumner Henderson and Elizabeth Sumner French, and his son, Herbert Clark Sumner. Many of the photographs were originally organized or captioned by Florence Sumner Henderson. The images document life in La Jolla in the first part of the twentieth century, in addition to travels overseas and the western United States. A small selection of images have been digitized and may be viewed by clicking the links in the container list.

Arranged in two subseries: A) Photo Albums and B) Photographs.

A) Photo Albums: Most of the albums in this series were previously disbound, but the pages are intact and contain detailed captions about the subjects.

B) Photographs: Black and white photographic prints documenting F. B. Sumner's research trips and leisure travel, including pictures from Woods Hole, Egypt and Sudan, Italy, and the western United States, including the Painted Desert and Death Valley. There are also photographs of the early days of SIO, including the campus, the surrounding landscape, and photographs of staff, faculty and their families.

Photograph Albums

Box 2 Folder 1
Photo album of Egypt and Sudan, 1899

Disbound album. Includes photos of Harmony Row, various river boats, the Nile, Block House Fort, Atbara Bridge, Sudanese children and villages, and a military hospital and its staff.

Box 5
Photo album of Egypt and Sudan (oversize), 1899

Item is stored flat in clamshell box.

Box 2 Folder 2
Photo album of Woods Hole, 1901-1902

Disbound album. Includes photos of buildings, like the Fish Commission Residence, and boats, such as the Fish Hawk, and negatives of the Gosnold celebration. One image from this album has been digitized.

Margaret Clark Sumner, ca. 1901
Box 6
Sumner family photo album - Woods Hole (oversize), 1901-1908

A large oversized album featuring excellent family photos of children, socializing, beach outings, and parties. Item is stored flat in a clamshell box.

Box 2 Folder 3
Photo album of Italy, 1910

Disbound partial album. Includes photos of Naples, vineyards, flat fish, Faralliones off Capri, and Sorrento.

Box 2 Folder 4
Sumner family photo album - Italy, California and Arizona, 1909-1923

Bound album. Includes photographs from Italy, 1909-1910; the California desert, 1914-1920; and Arizona, 1922-1923. A letter in the CORRESPONDENCE series (box 1, folder 2) describes the Sumners' travels to Italy in great detail. Some of the prints in box 2, folder 5 are duplicates of images in this album.

Box 2 Folder 5
Sumner family photo album - California, Arizona and portraits, 1914-1945

Disbound album. Includes photos of the Sumner family and formal portraits of Dr. Sumner, Victorville, Death Valley, La Jolla, Stove Pipe Wells, Pisgah Lava Field, the Painted Desert, Moencopie Creek settlement, Preston and San Felipe. A small selection of images from this album have been digitized, and may be viewed by clicking the links below.

Box 3 Folder 22-23
Loose prints (duplicates) primarily from California and Arizona albums, ca. 1914-1941

Includes landscape images from Borrego, Carrizo Gorge, Arizona, Imperial Valley, Death Valley, the Mt. Woodson area, and miscellaneous desert plants and camp scenes. Also includes notes on Dead Man Flat. One image from folder 23 has been digitized.

Francis B. Sumner near his automobile, dubbed Perodipust, near the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley, California, 1920 April 1
Box 3 Folder 24
Loose negatives (duplicates) from California and Arizona albums, ca. 1914-1941

Photo album - "Memories of La Jolla"

Box 2 Folder 6
Photocopy of original album
Box 2 Folder 7
Biographical information - Original typescript from album, 1975 May
Box 2 Folder 8
Page 1 - Early biological station in La Jolla, ca. 1910, 1916
Box 2 Folder 9
Page 2 - Scripps campus, ca. 1916, 1940
Box 2 Folder 10
Page 3 - Scripps staff, 1915, 1936

The staff photo from 1915 includes G. F. McEwan, Dr. William Ritter, F. B. Sumner, and Mr. Collins. The staff photo from 1936 features Denis Fox, W. E. Allen, G. F. McEwen, Jim Ross, Richard Fleming, Roger Revelle, Martin Johnson, E.G. Moberg, Francis B. Sumner, C. E. Zobell, P. S. Barnhart, Easter Cupp, Tillie Genter, T. Wayland Vaughan, Ruth Ragan, Ruth McKitrick, and Stanley W. Chambers.

Box 2 Folder 11
Page 4 - La Jolla shores and a newspaper clipping, ca. 1915
Box 2 Folder 12
Page 5 - Michiquito on Waverly Lane, 1915

Sumner's mother's home, situated on the same property as Waverly, the house in which Sumner and his family lived.

Box 2 Folder 13
Page 6 - Water trough on Main Street in La Jolla, and group portrait in the yard at Waverly, 1915-1916
Box 2 Folder 14
Page 7 - Bluebird troop portraits, 1916

One photograph with Florence Sumner, Elizabeth Fugard, Corinne Fuller, Elizabeth Sumner, Tessie Giannini and Margaret Smith on the beach. Second photograph features Bluebirds troop, with Elizabeth Fugard, Katherine Haskell, Harriet Haskell, Rose Flournoy, Florence Sumner and Margaret Smith.

Box 2 Folder 15
Page 8 - Bluebird troop portraits, 1916

Photographs of Elizabeth Sumner, Corrinne Fuller, Elizabeth Fugard, Florence Sumner, Margaret Smith, and Tessie Giannini.

Box 2 Folder 16
Page 9 - Family portraits, 1916

Grayce Seymour and Margaret Sumner, in costume for a play at the La Jolla Club House; family snapshots with children.

Box 2 Folder 17
Page 10 - Seymour home on Ivanhoe Avenue, 1916
Box 2 Folder 18
Page 11 - Girls' camping troop, ca. 1919
Box 2 Folder 19
Page 12 - Girls' camping troop, ca. 1919
Box 2 Folder 20
Page 13 - May festival in La Jolla, 1918 May 1
Box 2 Folder 21
Page 14 - May festival in La Jolla, 1918 May 1
Box 2 Folder 22
Page 15 - Children's' class photos (6th, 7th, and 8th grades), 1918-1919
Box 2 Folder 23
Page 16 - Sumner home above Biological Grade and Florence (in Girl Scout uniform) and Herbert, ca. 1921, 1925
Box 3 Folder 1
Page 17 - Margaret Sumner and the children, 1917
Box 3 Folder 2
Page 18 - Margaret Sumner and Clark relatives, 1923
Box 3 Folder 3
Page 19 - Margaret Sumner and Brownie troop, ca. 1925
Box 3 Folder 4
Page 20 - Lillian Chambers and Brownie troop, ca. 1925
Box 3 Folder 5
Page 21 - Group portraits, 1930, 1975
Box 3 Folder 6
Page 22 - With the Flemings and family, ca. 1930, ca. 1948
Box 3 Folder 7
Page 23 - Margaret Lord and Florence Sumner, 1933
Box 3 Folder 8
Page 24 - Hiking club with Margaret Lord and Elizabeth Sherman, 1933
Box 3 Folder 9
Page 25 - Margaret Sumner's house, ca. 1949

With Miss Kunkle, Anna Clark, Mrs. Gillespie, Robert Henderson, Margaret Henderson, and Margaret Sumner.

Box 3 Folder 10
Page 26 - Ray and Florence Henderson's wedding, 1937-1960
Box 3 Folder 11
Page 27 - Peggy Fleming, Hendersons and others in front of Sumner Auditorium, 1960-1963
Box 3 Folder 12
Page 28 - Miscellaneous family snapshots, 1943-1964
Box 3 Folder 13
Page 29 - Miscellaneous family snapshots, 1964
Box 3 Folder 14
Page 30 - La Jolla children dressed for play or pageant, 1925

Prints and Negatives

Box 3 Folder 15
Sumner family photographs, ca. 1902-1945

Includes some duplicate prints from the photograph albums. Images include a photo from July 1926 of Florence Sumner and Leslie Whipple, classmates at UCLA. Also includes photos of Margaret Sumner (wife), Florence and Elizabeth Sumner (daughters), Herbert Sumner (son), Mary Sumner (mother), Francis B. Sumner, Mr. and Mrs. Dorman, and children in white on the beach. One image from this folder has been digitized, and may be viewed by clicking the link below.

Francis B. Sumner examining a fish, unknown
Box 3 Folder 16
Black and white negatives of Sumner family photographs, 1901-1945

Prints of most, but not all of these images are found elsewhere in the collection. Images include early Scripps campus views and family portraits.

Box 3 Folder 17
Sumner family homes in La Jolla and San Felipe - Prints, 1917-1940

Includes images of the cliffs around La Jolla.

Box 3 Folder 18
Sumner family homes in La Jolla and San Felipe - Negatives, 1917-1945

Includes images of the cliffs around La Jolla, and some additional miscellaneous images.

Box 3 Folder 19
Portraits of Francis B. Sumner, 1923-1945

Includes prints and negatives.

Box 3 Folder 20
Herbert Sumner, ca. 1946, and undated
Box 3 Folder 21

Image of Gudrun Sverdrup, Margaret Clark Sumner, Margaret Dixon, Peggy Fleming, Ellen Revelle and Elizabeth Sumner French.


Scope and Content of Series

Series 4) SUMNER CLUB: This series contains the first two record books of the Sumner Club, a small informal discussion group of Scripps faculty members and local prominent professionals that formed in 1937. F. B. Sumner was the group's first secretary and hosted the first meeting at his home. Though the group was unnamed in its formative years, after Sumner's death in 1945, members decided to name the club after Sumner. Notable members of the Sumner Club included Roger Revelle, Harald Sverdrup, Carl Hubbs, Francis P. Shepard, Martin W. Johnson, Denis Fox, Francis Haxo and Claude Zobell. The Club books include by-laws, attendance records, meeting agendas with detailed notes on topics of discussion, and minutes.

Box 4 Folder 1
Sumner Club Record Book I, 1937 November 29-1957 May 9

An original record book documenting the founding of the Sumner Club, including meeting agendas, discussion topics, and minutes; rules for membership; member lists, etc.

Box 4 Folder 2
Sumner Club Record Book II, 1957 September 12-1989
Box 4 Folder 3
Correspondence regarding Sumner Club membership, 1944, 1956

A 1944 letter to club members by Sumner, the executive secretary; and a resignation letter from William Forshaw.


Scope and Content of Series

Series 5) SCRAPBOOKS: Three volumes. An additional scrapbook, assembled by Margaret Clark Sumner's mother, Caroline Clark, who visited San Diego in 1915-1916, was separated from the collection in 2016 and cataloged separately. That scrapbook documents the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, in addition to Clark's visits to San Jose and the California redwoods.

Box 4 Folder 4
Scrapbook of newspaper articles by F. B. Sumner, 1902-1934

The scrapbook also includes clippings by Winfred Emory Allen, Newell Jones, and Lucien Arthur Jones.

Box 4 Folder 5
Scrapbook, 1894-1911

Scrapbook contains poems, letters, invitations, newspaper articles, business cards, and programs.

Box 7
Scrapbook of clippings about La Jolla (oversize), 1916-1962