John C. Gordon used the panoramic photograph to create a unique and enduring record of life in the Santa Clara Valley with a medium that is both expansive and immersive, giving viewers a rich visualization of regional geography and culture from a time long past. As a commerical photographer, he used the panorama to capture landscapes, cityscapes, agriculture, businesses, community organizations, church groups, and labor organizations. Besides transporting and operating bulky camera equipment, Gordon often scaled considerable heights, typically climbing water towers, commerical buildings, and the foothills of Santa Clara County to obtain compelling panoramic views. After well over 50 years of service as a prolific photographer and community leader, John C. Gordon passed away in 1967 at the age of 80.
The Digital Collection
The digital collection includes 525 digitized panoramic images from the John C. Gordon Panoramic Collection (SJSU). For more information about this collection and the use of its images, contact the SJSU Special Collections Department. Digitization and cataloging of the panoramic negatives was funded by the generous support of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).
The Physical Collection
In total, the Gordon collections includes over 6,000 contact prints, and over 10,000 medium and large format negatives, lantern slides, and panorama prints and negatives that document the history of San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley. Gordon's work illustrates changes in local business ventures such as agriculture, fruit canning and processing, banking, aeronautics, railroads, and other manufacturing businesses. His photographs document everyday life and include images of the Winchester Mystery House, Lick Observatory, store fronts, hospitals, hotels, landscapes, funerals, weddings, parks, and parades. For information about undigitized material in the Gordon Collection, contact the SJSU Special Collections Department.
For additional information on the scope and content of the physical collection, see the online Finding Aid.