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Allan Hancock Foundation archive

Identifier: 0257

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Scope and Content

The Hancock Foundation Archive consists of correspondence, reports, clippings, photographs, sound recordings, film, and other materials, 1823-2005, documenting the activities and history of the Hancock Foundation at the University of Southern California, its founder G. Allan Hancock, and the Hancock family. Included are records of the Foundation's scientific and research activities in marine biology and zoology; the Foundation's Library; the Hancock Museum, housed in the Foundation building on the USC campus; and the research vessel Velero IV, the second of Captain Hancock's ships put into service for research purposes. Also included are historical documents regarding the Hancock family's land interests in Los Angeles, and material documenting the non-scientific interests of Captain Hancock.


  • Creation: 1823 - 2005


Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Historical note

George Allan Hancock was born on 26 July 1875, the heir to the Hancock family's extensive Los Angeles land holdings, including Rancho La Brea. Hancock expanded the family fortunes through oil exploration on the Rancho beginning in 1901, and continued to increase those fortunes for the next two decades. In 1920, he founded the California Bank. By the middle of the 1920's he also had significant holdings in railroads and communications.

In addition to his business skills, Hancock was an accomplished cellist and an avid sailor. He formed the Hancock Ensemble, later associated with the Foundation, and captained many of the Foundation's early scientific expeditions, including those to the Galapagos Islands. In 1934, as a result of an early Foundation expedition, he became involved in a tabloid sensation concerning Germans living in a "Garden of Eden" nudist colony on Galapagos. There were several mysterious murders in the colony, and Hancock was said to have "rescued" the companion of one of the victims.

Hancock also served on the University of Southern California's Board of Regents, and in 1937 was granted an honorary doctoral degree in Business Administration by the University. Very soon thereafter Hancock initiated plans to establish a Foundation for Oceanography at USC. The Allan Hancock Foundation continued the work begun by USC's Venice Marine Station and Professor Albert Ulrey. In turn, it was ultimately superceded in the 1990's by the Catalina Station.

In 1939 Hancock funded the construction of a new building for the Foundation. The building was dedicated in 1941 and included, in addition to an auditorium and laboratories, a museum and a library. The Hancock Museum became a showplace for Hancock's and USC's collection of fine artifacts, especially furnishings from the Hancock residence in Hancock Park (demolished), some of the rooms of which are recreated in the museum. The Library gained its first large collection in the 1943 when it purchased much of the nineteenth century serials collection of the Boston Society of Natural History. Subsequent purchases continued to expand the Library's collections. The collection has now been subsumed by the USC Libraries.

With the dedication of the new Foundation building, Hancock also donated his yacht, the Velero III, to USC for oceanographic studies. The Velero III had been in service for oceanographic studies since the early 1930s with the first Hancock Pacific Expeditions. In 1948 a new ship, the Velero IV, was commissioned exclusively for the use of the Foundation; it remained in service until the mid-1980's.

Hancock died on 1 June 1965. The Foundation, Museum, and Library he established continued to function in their original forms for three more decades until they were absorbed into other USC operations.


301.58 Linear Feet (406 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Allan Hancock Foundation Archive contains records of the Foundation set up at the University of Southern California by G. Allan Hancock for the purpose of furthering oceanographic studies. These records also include those materials from the library and museum that were associated with the Foundation, as well some personal mementos of Captain Hancock's and the Hancock family. Also included are extensive records of the research ship Velero IV, as well as sound recordings, photographs and films produced by and related to the Allan Hancock Pacific Expeditions of the Foundation (1925-1960). The expeditions explored the eastern Pacific coast into South America, visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Panama, and Baja California.


The Allan Hancock Foundation Archives are organized into 6 series: 1. Foundation; 2. Library; 3. Museum; 4. Velero IV; 5. Hancock Estate; and 6. G. Allan Hancock personal.

In general, files within each series and subseries are arranged alphabetically unless otherwise stated.

Related Archival Materials

Albert B. Ulrey and Florence Speicher Ulrey papers, Collection no. 0258, University Archives, Special Collections, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

KUSC records, Collection no. 5133, University Archives, USC Libraries, University of Southern California

Separated Materials

The Hancock Foundation Archive originally included many linear feet of journals and off-prints of Foundation publications. These were separated from the collection to be cataloged individually for inclusion in USC Librariers' OPAC, Homer.

Processing note

The first 20 boxes of the archive's records were processed by John Fowler in 2005. Most of the sound recordings, negatives and films were inventoried by Special Collections staff prior to the creation of this finding aid. In 2011-2012, Sue Luftschein completed the processing of the bulk of the collection, encoded the original inventory, and produced this finding aid.

Genre / Form



  • Multiple boxes of negatives. Boxes 313, 314, 315, and negatives from boxes 301-305, 310-312, 316-318, 354, 356 and 357.
  • The Hancock Foundation film reels numbered 1 through 739 were deaccessioned in 2023 after the USC Digital Library digitized the recordings.
Finding aid for the Allan Hancock Foundation archive
John Fowler; Sue Luftschein
2012 May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2018 April: Finding aid updated to include most recent accessions.
  • 2021 September: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include material added to the collection in 2021 (accrual nos. 2021-040 and 2021-059) -- housed in box no. 397.
  • 2022 June: Finding aid updated by Sue Luftschein to include boxes 401-403.
  • 2022 October: Finding aid updated by Bo Doub to include material added to the collection from accrual no. 2022-076.
  • 2023 August: Bo Doub replaced ranged container records with individual container records following move from DML to Grand.
  • 2024 March: Sue Luftschein and Bo Doub added description to the "Foundation films" sub-series to document the digitization of Hancock Foundation films. Documentation of the deaccessioning of some of the analog originals of these films was also added.

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States