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Local History and Resources at the Library

The History Reference Area of the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library contains many general and specific resources to help you with your research. Below are listed just a couple of general popular resources that may help you to get started on your history project. Remember, if you can't find your topic please ask one of our Library Staff.

R973.9 A512 American Decades
American Decades documents and analyzes periods of contemporary American social history.

R 979.493 S528 Historic Torrance by Dennis Shanahan
The most comprehensive account of Torrance history.

R 973 C557 1997 Chronicle of America by Daniel Clifton 
The Chronicle of America is a year by year chronology of America. The entries, in this well illustrated book, read like a newspaper account of the times.

R 973.03 D554 2003 Dictionary of American History by Stanley I. Kutler 
A revised edition of a standard work in American History.

R 973 T583 This Fabulous Century
This Time-Life series highlights all aspects of life in the 20th Century. If your looking for a well illustrated history that captures the feeling of an era, try this series.

Through the generosity of the Torrance Historical Society, The Friends of the Torrance Library and the City of Torrance, a hundred years of history is available on-line by accessing the Torrance Historical Archives ( The archive contains:
The Torrance Press started as the Peninsula Press in 1949 and ending in a 1964 merger with archrival the Torrance Herald. The Torrance Press is an invaluable historical resource chronicling Torrance during the time of the city's greatest growth.
The Torrance Herald was the city's newspaper of record from 1914 to 1969. The Herald started as an advertising sheet singing the praises of the new "modern industrial city" and evolved into the premier newspaper of the rapidly developing city. In its pages is the story of the people, places and events that made Torrance what it is today.
City directories are not simply phone numbers. In the older directories, one may find the occupation, address, and other surprising information on an individual. Many times one may trace an individual from residence to residence, job to job during a span of decades. The archive contains a collection of city directories from Torrance and South Bay area dating from 1922 to 1975.
The library also has the following city directories and high school annuals available at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library:

Bishop Montgomery ("Excalibur")     
1968-1994, 1996

North Torrance ("Valiant")
1956-1959, 1961-1963, 1966,1967,1972, 1977-1990, 1993, 1995,1998, 2001

South Torrance ("Olympiad")
1960-1962, 1965, 1967, 1969,1971, 1976-1988, 1990, 1991, 1992,2002

Torrance High ("Torch")
1955-1957, 1959, 1961, 1962,1964-1966, 1967, 1968-1971,1973-2001, 2003, 2004

West High ("Chieftain")
1964-1969, 1971, 1972, 1974-1987,1992, 2001-2003, 2006

El Camino College ("Warrior")

Older City Phone Directories Torrance Lomita San Pedro Redondo Beach Gardena Compton
Long Beach
Year 1931, 1946, 1949,
1956, 1959, 1967-1968, 1970-1972,
1931, 1968 1931, 1949, 1956, 1957, 1968 1927, 1952 1957 1940 1957
Torrance Historical Society , 1345 Post Ave., Torrance, CA 90501, (310) 328-5392.
The Torrance Historical Society is the custodian of rare photographs, documents, artifacts and other materials concerning Torrance's past. For a current listing of the days the Museum is open, visit their website at
Covering from 1914 to 1970, the best historical newspaper source in the South Bay, the portal includes the Torrance Herald, Torrance Press, The Press-Herald and city directories. Over 100,000 pages of Greater Torrance (PV, Lomita, Harbor Gateway, some Beach Cities and Gardena) history is keyword searchable.
Redondo's Reflex newspaper made available by the dedicated volunteers at the Redondo Public Library.
"Here you will find the first attempt to digitize this historical newspaper and to make it available to researchers and the general public on the Web. There are approximately 125, eight-page issues in PDF available for your use, with no restrictions." (Digital Public Library)
A good start for searching for items of local history, the Digital Public Library collects items from many archives, universities and governments.
The California Digital Newspaper is a growing collection of California newspapers from 1850 to near present. For South Bay history enthusiasts, they have included the Los Angeles Herald from 1873 to 1910. Unfortunately this source is only good for our older communities but the collection is growing.
Get your Los Angeles Public Library Card! The Los Angeles Public Library also has one of the best newspaper, photo archive and special collections sites in the area. Among the best resources is the Los Angeles Times Historical Archives (ProQuest) which features the Los Angeles Times from 1881 to 1991. Be sure to check out the historic Sanborn Maps.
Get your Torrance Public Library Card! The Daily Breeze Archive features 30 years (1984 to present) of South Bay history. This is a great resource for the mid-eighties. The archive does not publish a PDF of the actual newspaper page, so no photos, adds or paid content.
The California Newspaper Project was a program to create a database of newspapers in California. It is included here because it will tell you where you may go to find a certain newspaper, which communities it covered and what the run was. Call the local historical society or library for more information. 

Area Photo Archives:
The Palos Verdes Public Library has an excellent photo archive which is also available through the Online Archive of California.
Los Angeles Public Library has an extensive photo collection taken from, among other sources, the Herald Examiner newspaper and Security Pacific Bank's noted image collections. Be sure to note the captions for keyword clues. Also note other collections on LAPL's website such as historic maps and the DWP photo collection.
For South Bay historic photos the California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) is hard to beat. Check out the "South Bay Photograph Collection" and "Del Amo Estates Company Collection".
Among the gems of the USC Digital Library are the AAA Photograph Collection (1892-1963), the LA Examiner photos (1920-1961) and the California Historical Society Collection (1860-1960).
UCLA Digital Library houses an extensive collection of the Los Angeles Times and Daily News photos (1920s to 1990), an extensive historical map collection and, of course, great images of Westwood in the 30s.
Click under "Other On-line Resources". El Camino College has provided digital copies of the student newspaper from 1946 to present. The El Camino Student newspaper gives insight into not only the college but also of the local North Torrance area.
The Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection from the University of Texas at Austin includes some wonderful topographical maps of the South Bay area demonstrating the areas growth.

Hands down the best local history blog! Sam Gnerre highlights unique items of South Bay history as seen through the pages of the Daily Breeze and other sources. This site is worth visiting frequently to see what Mr. Gnerre has recently discovered.