Frank S. Dolley was born in Maine, graduated from Pomona College in 1907, and completed Bowdoin Medical School in 1911. He settled permanently in Los Angeles in 1929, where he was a prominent thoracic surgeon. Beyond his medical interests, he was a collector and student of the history of the western United States, particularly the lower Colorado River.
Scope and Content
This collection consists of research materials collected by Dr. Frank Dolley for his study of the lower Colorado River, especially related to steam navigation. Included are two manuscripts written by Dr. Dolley. The first is a history of navigation on the lower Colorado River that includes a brief discussion of Spanish explorations of the Delta region but emphasizes the region's nineteenth-century history, with particular attention paid to steamboat design and pilots. Included in this manuscript are discussions of the Chemehuevi, Cocopah, and Yuma Indians, the Colorado Steam Navigation Company, Captains George H. Derby and William H. Hardy, J.C. Ives, and A. H. Wilcox. The second manuscript is an edited version of Ellen M. Robinson's letters, most between Ellen at Port Isabel on the Colorado Delta and her family in Maryland. These letters depict the experiences of a young woman moving across the country in 1869 with David Robinson, a husband she barely knew, as she tried to narrate the journey and describe her new home to her family. Among the notable experiences she relayed in her letters was a visit to the unfinished Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, a parade in San Francisco featuring General William T. Sherman, and a visit to Woodward's Gardens while staying in that city. The correspondence section includes Ellen Robinson's letters from the 1870s and Frank Dolley's correspondence with Ellen's daughter Margaret Robinson in the 1950s. Also included in the collection are copies of Ellen Robinson's letters, made by Dr. Dolley, photographs, and other ephemera. Three of Dr. Dolley's research notebooks are included, covering numerous subjects related to the lower Colorado River region and the Colorado Delta, with particular focus on the river's steamboat activity. These notebooks have been divided for preservation and ease of use, but remain in the order in which they were found, which is loosely alphabetical by subject. There is repetition from one notebook to the other, though each also includes unique material. Most of these notes represent Dr. Dolley's research in published sources, including periodicals, narrative accounts, and regional histories, but also includes correspondence with Percy Carter Linss, a descendent of Colorado River ferry operator and landowner Hall Hanlon.