Publications from Special Collections and Archives

hundredyearsCal Poly: The First Hundred Years

Authors: Nancy Loe, Dan Howard-Greene and others

A century of achievement is chronicled in this illustrated history of Cal Poly, which draws upon materials from the University Archives collection. It is an excellent reference book as well as an enjoyable read that features more than 250 illustrations, including vintage black-and-white photos, aerials of the campus from May of 2000, and colorful ephemera such as yearbooks and sports programs.

The volume chronicles the story of learn-by-doing at Cal Poly, from its beginnings as a co-educational vocational high school during the Progressive Era to its present-day standing as one of the country’s leading undergraduate polytechnic universities.


P is for Poly

The Poly P, one of the oldest hillside initials in the West, is the embodiment of Cal Poly’s eventful history. Although there are several versions of the Poly P’s origins, the first mention of the hillside icon is found in a 1919 issue of The Polygram, the student newspaper. Rivalry between the California Polytechnic School and San Luis Obispo High School was always intense, but one fall morning of that year, Poly students awoke to find several large stone H (for High) letters on the hills surrounding the town. The Poly students changed each H to a P; the San Luis High students battled back. Students from the Poly concentrated their defense on hillside P overlooking the campus, which has adorned the foothill ever since.

The hastily chosen site was ideal, visible from the highway, the town, and the original Administration building, where the clock tower now stands. Born out of rivalry, the P now shone as the symbol of students’ pride in their campus. Throughout the 1920s, the freshman dormitory boys, under the “delicate supervision” of the sophomores, maintained the 24-by-40-foot P, tidying up its stone outline and filling it in with a fresh layer of lime. The cleaning of the P, organized by the Dormitory Club, took place each fall before the Homecoming game. After particularly rainy winters, the P received additional care from the freshmen, usually before the Easter break. Before the 1921 Homecoming game, the Dorm boys lighted a large bonfire and guarded the Poly P through the night from rivals.

Faculty also recognized the P’s significance to the school, supporting the students’ protective efforts. Don Fulwider ’25, recalled:

 One Friday night hours after the lights were out … there were rumors … that the school we were playing on Saturday was going to deface the P. While trying to wake another friend, I was met by Captain Deuel [the dorm monitor]. He shone his flash[light] in my face and wanted to know what was going on … half the dorm was AWOL. When I told him … he said, Wake your friends and get up there … but spread the word — Don’t step one foot off the campus.


“Ride High You Mustangs” as performed by the Men’s Glee Club 1971

“All Hail Green & Gold” as performed by the Men’s and Women’s Glee Club 1971


Chapter 1 (1901-1933)

Chapter 2 (1933-1945)

Chapter 3 (1945-1966)

Chapter 4 (1967-1979)

Chapter 5 (1979-2001)

Plane Crash, 1960

Poly P

Poly Royal

Rose Float

pastoralA Vast Pastoral Domain

Authors: Josephine Clifford and De Guy Cooper

The rural character of San Luis Obispo County in the 1870s is captured in this facsimile edition. Included are reprints of Josephine Clifford’s descriptive article, “Tropical California” and of De Guy Cooper’s promotional monograph, History of San Luis Obispo County. Vintage sketches and period advertisements add visual appeal to this unique paperback volume.




railroadSan Luis Obispo Tribune: Souvenir Railroad Edition

Edited By: Nancy Loe; Introduction by: Jeff Fairbanks; Foreword by:Loren Nicholson

The San Luis Obispo Tribune Souvenir Railroad Edition was originally published by the local newspaper in celebration of the coming of the railroad to what was then a very remote area. Produced for the centennial of that event, this facsimile edition provides us with a snapshot of life in San Luis Obispo in 1894. Not available for purchase.


sansimeonrevisitedSan Simeon Revisited

Edited By: Nancy Loe

This illustrated limited edition features a sampling of the correspondence between architect Julia Morgan and her client, wealthy publisher William Randolph Hearst in 1919, as they embark upon the early building stages of his fabled San Simeon estate. Architect and client would continue work on this project until 1945.