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Robert C. Carter photograph album of the St. Francis Dam disaster site

Identifier: MSS 0093-Item 0171

Scope and Contents

The Robert C. Carter photograph album of the St. Francis Dam disaster site consists of thirty-one black-and-white photographs, including one loose photograph. Each photograph depicts the San Francisquito Canyon landscape in the aftermath of the St. Francis Dam disaster of 1928. Several pictures contain young Robert Carter and his family posing together or traversing the rocky site. Another common subject is the large piece of still-standing dam wall dubbed the “Tombstone,” which can be seen clearly in at least five of the shots.


  • Creation: 1928


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Robert C. Carter

Robert Coolidge Carter was born on November 2, 1918, in Boston, Massachusetts to Fred Louis Carter, Jr. and Marion McLoon Carter. In 1925, he and his family moved to Los Angeles, California. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in chemistry, and in 1942 he found work in the San Francisco Bay area at the Avon Refinery of Tidewater Associated Oil Co. In 1944 he married Mae Louise Riedy, and they had two daughters together. In 1956 their family moved to Delaware when Carter was transferred to his company’s newly built refinery, where he served as the Supervisor of the Catalytic Cracking Unit. Outside of their respective careers, the Carters travelled extensively around the world. Robert died in 2019 at the age of 100, survived by his wife, who died a little over a year later.

"Obituary-Robert Coolidge Carter." Delaware Online, October 22, 2019.

St. Francis Dam

Begun in 1924 and finished during May of 1926, the St. Francis Dam was a curved concrete gravity dam built in the San Francisquito Canyon, north of Los Angeles, California. It was intended to store excess water from the Los Angeles aqueduct system built around a decade prior. On March 12, 1928, the dam failed. Nearly 500 people were killed in the resulting flood waters, which swept 54 miles out into the ocean. While remnants of the debris remain at the site, they are small or deemed relatively safe for tourists; remnants such as the piece of wall dubbed the “Tombstone” were destroyed in the years following the disaster to prevent further casualties.

"Case Study: St. Francis Dam (California, 1928)." ASDSO Lessons Learned. Accessed October 3, 2021. "St. Francis Dam: Worst Civil Engineering Failure of the 20th Century.", December 2, 2020. Accessed October 3, 2021.


1 volume


This photograph album, which belonged to Robert C. Carter, contains thirty-one black-and-white photographs of the site of the St. Francis Dam disaster in the San Francisquito Canyon, near Los Angeles, California. The photographs were taken in 1928, shortly after the dam's failure. Several pictures contain young Carter and his family posing together or traversing the rocky site.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Robert C. and Mae Carter, 2012

Related Materials in this Repository

GRA 0137, Carter family photographs and ephemera

Rights Statement

The text of this web page can be reused and modified under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. (

Shelving Summary

Shelved in SPEC MSS 0093 folio

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Julianna Salak, October-November 2021.

Finding aid for Robert C. Carter photograph album of the St. Francis Dam disaster site
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA