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Guide to the Catalog of Photographic Prints of Backdrops for the Motion Picture Industry in California

Call Number: WA Photos 1340

Scope and Contents

Catalog of photographic prints of backdrops for the motion picture industry chiefly in California comprised of photographic views of sites in California from approximately 1925 to approximately 1945, with the bulk from approximately 1935.

The collection consists of 326 linen mounts with each mount holding a single photographic print or multiple photographic prints forming a panoramic view for the backdrops, also known as "Shipman Backings." Each of the 560 photographic prints also has an inventory number and dimensions of the backdrop on the recto of each photographic print and occasional notes about availability of an alternate day or night view.

Most of the views of the backdrops document places in California, chiefly in Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as views of sites in Agoura, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Big Bear Lake, Columbia, Hollywood, Glendale, North Edwards, Pasadena, San José, and Yosemite National Park.

Views of other locations outside of California include Fort Collins and Walsenburg in Colorado, Washington in the District of Columbia, Miami in Florida, Chicago in Illinois, New Orleans in Louisiana, Annapolis in Maryland, Boston and Nantucket in Massachusetts, Carson City in Nevada, Cibola County in New Mexico, Atlantic City and Princeton in New Jersey, New York City, Tulsa in Oklahoma, Salem in Oregon, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, San Antonio and Abilene in Texas, Salt Lake City in Utah, Roanoke in Virginia, as well as Delafield and Milwaukee in Wisconsin.

Images with unidentified locations include generic settings, such as houses, military installations, parks, and storefronts as well as landscape views of forests, mountains, and shrublands.

The collection was originally housed in a post binder, the photographic prints were removed from the binder and housed individually in folders, while the boards and posts were retained.


  • approximately 1925 to approximately 1945
  • Majority of material found in approximately 1935


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Daniel Oliver LLC on the Frederick W. and Carrie S. Beinecke Fund for Western Americana, 2022.


Arranged sequentially by inventory number followed by the boards from the post binder.


2.1 Linear Feet (5 boxes)

Language of Materials


Persistent URL


Catalog of photographic prints of backdrops for the motion picture industry chiefly in California comprised of photographic views of sites in California from approximately 1925 to approximately 1945, with the bulk from approximately 1935.

Pacific Studios

The Pacific Studios Corporation was founded in 1920 with general offices in San Francisco, California, and operating studios in nearby San Mateo-Burlingame to provide studios, stages, laboratories, and properties for the motion picture industry. By 1929, the corporation ceased operations.

Personnel related to the Pacific Studios Corporation probably reorganized around 1929 as Pacific Studios based in Los Angeles, California, to provide photographic and photorealistic backdrops used in cinemaphotography, also known as "Shipman Backings" after its inventor Joseph William Carter Shipman (1875-1947).

From 1950 to 1979 Pacific Studios pioneered the Translight (also known as Translite), an illuminated film backing typically used as a backdrop for cinemaphotography, and later developed Chromatrans, a colored photographic backdrop. Both technologies rely on substrates manufactured by the Eastman Kodak Company.

In 2015, the Pacific Studios stock inventory of backdrops and extensive photographic library was purchased by employee Caren Wilson and her husband Jon Wilson and moved to Sun Valley, California.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, as well as more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

This guide derives from a detailed examination of each print. This includes an inital listing by Maya C. Brehon and Ashley Cale as well as a review by Matthew Daniel Mason, who also drafted the front matter to this guide.

Guide to the catalog of photographic prints of backdrops for the motion picture industry in California
Maya C. Brehon, Ashley Cale, and Matthew Daniel Mason
November 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.