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Community Life, Div. of, NMAH, SI  Search this
National Anthropological Archives, NMNH, SI  Search this
Community Life, Div. of, NMAH, SI  Search this
National Anthropological Archives, NMNH, SI  Search this
Sims, George W.  Search this
5 Cubic feet (22 boxes)
Archival materials
Collection descriptions
Slides (photographs)
Carmel (Calif.)
Panama Canal (Panama)
Collection documents Sims's activities as a traveler and his interest in historic restoration. It includes forty-one notebooks, 6,000 color slides, a smaller number of photographic prints, forty-one stereo view cards, and three boxes of personal papers and ephemera. While some images are personal, the majority form a documentary record of various subjects and places and provide biographical information on Sims.
Scope and Contents:
These papers document Sims's activities as a traveler and his interest in historic restoration. They consist of forty-one notebooks, Series 1-4; and three boxes, Series 5-9, of personal papers and ephemera. Series 5-7 are particularly valuable for biographical information. Series 10 includes 6,000 color slides, a smaller number of photographic prints, and forty-one stereo view cards. The total volume of the collection is approximately eleven linear feet. The notebooks cover the years 1896, 1908-1913, 1918, and 1934-1976. The notebooks are written in a documentary styles that is enhanced by literary touches and perceptive details. The subjects include visits to several national parks, the Boronda adobe, and travel on most continents. The 6,000 35mm slides that Sims took between 1944 and 1976 portray the use of the automobile in travel, national and international touring, and family travel. They are organized by either trip or location. They document his collecting, research, and restoration interests, and complement his written and artistic work. In technique, Sims's photographs are at least a cut above amateur photography. The slides remain in the order in which the Archives Center received them. In some cases they are organized, captioned, and numbered as a slide program. In other cases, while they are captioned they are not part of a specific slide program that Sims organized. Usually the identification in the Detailed Container List represents Sims' s own captions, which have been copied from the slide sleeves. While some images are personal, the majority form a documentary record of various subjects and places. All the slides are dated and labeled or captioned, either on box inserts or on the slides themselves. The slides are generally organized by trip. Of particular interest is the documentation of Sims's restoration of the Boronda adobe. These slides are well captioned and show the step by step process. The slides include many early Kodachromes from the 1940s in excellent condition. These represent the few examples of this type in the Museum. Although these slides are not extraordinarily rare, they are a very early example of the color process. There are also black and white prints and a few color prints. Some of these document an automobile trip along the California coast in the 1930s. All the black-and-white prints portray the photographer for Sims's concern to document his travels adequately and in a meaningful way. The three document boxes of supplemental material includes articles, correspondence (for example, a letter to Sims from the Henry Ford Museum thanking him for donating an oral history of a motoring trip he had taken), business cards, certificates of achievement, hotel ephemera, news clippings (Series 12), published travel accounts, printed travel brochures, and audio tapes (Series 11), in which Sims recounts many of his trips over the years. This material is valuable because it provides biographical information on Sims. It also may be useful for exhibits and research. Much of the material—the hotel ephemera and the printed travel brochures and accounts—is similar to ephemera in the Warshaw Collection. Sims's photographs are similar in content to two other collections in the Archives Center. The Clyde W. Stauffer Family Photographic Album portrays family automobile trips across the United States between 1935 and 1940. The Donald Sultner Welles Collection of travel slides documents locations throughout the United States and around the world.
The collection is divided into 12 series. Series 1:Notebooks, 1896-1975 Series 2: Political Notes, 1964-1976 Series 3: Comments on Vietnam, 1954-1975 Series 4: Moon Landings, 1969-1976 Series 5: Scrapbooks, 1896-1981, undated Series 6: Correspondence, 1920-1987 Series 7: Biography, 1911-1938 Series 8: Published Material, 1927-1966 Series 9: Artifacts, 1913-1937 Series 10: Photographs, circa 1936-1962 Series 11: Audio Materials Series 12: Newsclippings, undated
Boronda Adobe In 1946 George W. Sims purchased the old Boronda adobe in the Carmel Valley of California, and over the next ten years he restored it. The Boronda adobe was built above the Carmel River in 1832 by José Manuel Boronda on his 7,000 acre Rancho de Los Laureles land grant. José was the son of Don Manuel Boronda, the first schoolteacher in California. José was married to Juana Cota of Santa Barbara. The sixty-four foot long house has adobe walls twenty-seven inches thick and hand-hewn redwood beams. Senor and Senora Boronda lived there with their fifteen children. It was in this house that Senora Boronda reputedly made a new cheese much liked by her neighbors and today known as Monterey Jack cheese. She eventually produced enough to sell to the surrounding community. The Boronda family sold the ranch and adobe to Nathan W. Spaulding in the late 1860s or early 1870s. He was a mayor of Oakland, California. The next owner was the Pacific Improvement Company in the early 1880s, the forerunner of Del Monte Properties Company. A small cheese factory was built to commercialize the product under the name "Monterey Jack." Nevertheless, the adobe eventually became abandoned as a house. Before Sims purchased it the adobe was used as a shelter for dairy cows. Sims plastered the outside walls to protect the soft adobe bricks and whitewashed the interior walls. The original dirt floor was covered with a floor of two-inch clear, heart redwood, random planks. It slopes downhill as does the roof of the house. The entire house follows the topography of the site. Sims left several cables stretching across the crudely raftered ceiling to support the walls. Sims reroofed the house with one hundred year old roof tiles from the old Vasquez adobe in Monterey, California. He also constructed a workshop on the cement foundation of the old cheese factory and milk barn, added a carport, and built a fence protected patio of the Mexican type, adjacent to a Spanish garden with gravel paths. The patio walls were made of adobe created from Carmel Valley soil. The first floor of the adobe consists of a long living room, a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bath. An inside staircase was added and leads to the second floor living room, two bedrooms, and a bath. All of the rooms on the main floor are on a different level. The kitchen at one end of the house is thought to date to the 1790s when the land belonged to the Carmel Mission.
Biographical / Historical:
George W. Sims (1896-1986) was a tax lawyer, certified public accountant, world traveler, and collector of pre-Columbian objects. He spent his childhood in Fairfax County, Virginia. At age seventeen he began the study of law at the Washington College of Law (now American University), and worked at night as a telephone company traffic manager. He was employed as a clerk in the Panama Canal Zone by the Panama Railroad Company, Commissary Branch, from 1915-1916. Sims left Washington, DC, because he needed money for school and received a better salary in Latin America. "The pay was 25% higher there [Panama] than in the U.S.A., because the risks of Yellow Fever were great, and work and living conditions less satisfactory than at home." (Box 8, folder 6) This was the first of his many trips to other countries. He then returned to Washington and graduated from law school. Between 1918-1919 he served as sergeant first class in the aviation section of the Signal Corps. He was stationed for a time at the Vichy (France) Hospital Center, a part of the United States Base Army Hospital, No. 115. After the war Sims did graduate work in accounting at Benjamin Franklin University in the District of Columbia, studying at night. During the day he worked in the Navy Department's communications section. In 1919 Sims and a few friends traveled west on one of the early automobile trips across the United States. In July he visited Fresno, California. He returned that same year to Washington, DC, and "made plans for making the West (and Fresno) his permanent home." In January, 1924, Sims returned with his wife to fulfill those plans and thus began his long time love affair with the West and California." (Scrapbooks: Vol. 38, Box 8, folder 2) After his first wife Katherine died in 1946, Sims spent much time on world cruises. His destinations included North, South, and Central America, Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Between 1946 and 1956 he also purchased and restored the 1832 Boronda adobe in Carmel, California. Sims married Emma Marenchin Sims on her birthday November 2, 1971 in Santa Barbara, California. Prior to her marriage Mrs. Sims (1914-? ) worked in the public health field after graduating from Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She remarked, "My world opened up when I married George." Sims died in 1986.
Collection donated by George W. Sims, January 10, 1985.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Travel photography  Search this
Adobe houses  Search this
Pre-Columbian objects  Search this
Vichy France  Search this
Audio tapes  Search this
Photographs -- 20th century
Scrapbooks -- 20th century
Slides (photographs) -- 1950-2000
Photographs -- Phototransparencies -- 20th century
George W. Sims Papers, 1896-1981, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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George W. Sims Papers
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History