Finding a photograph of Albert Einstein lighting his pipe on the Caltech campus was a high point in Maureen R. Michelson's eight-month search through dusty archives and more than 100,000 photographs to come up with a pictorial history of Pasadena.
Michelson and Michael Dressler were taking part in what she called a "treasure hunt" for photos of the past and the present that would give life to their book, "Pasadena One Hundred Years," published by NewSage Press in conjunction with the Pasadena centennial.
The two turned up hundreds of treasures, ranging from a photo of Theodore Roosevelt speaking at Wilson High School in 1903 to one taken in 1926 of two women on the wings of a plane taking a daredevil flight under the Colorado Street bridge.
Many of the 131 photographs in the book had been buried in the collections of the Pasadena Historical Society, the Pasadena Public Library, the Los Angeles Public Library and the archives of Caltech, among other public and private collections.
"I really wanted to present a then-and-now look at Pasadena so people could see where we began," said Michelson of her first publishing project.
The book has been placed inside a special centennial bench that will serve as a "time capsule" to be opened by city officials in 2086.
"When we selected the photos of the 1980s, we wondered what would people 100 years from now think life was like today," she said.
In choosing photographs that represent contemporary Pasadena, Michelson and Dressler looked at portfolios submitted by about 35 photographers, selecting works from 18 of them.
The 1980s photos include a photo of teen-agers with spiked and Mohawk haircuts, clad in black leather jackets and making faces at the camera, and an aerial
shot of the city that highlights the twisting off-ramps of the Foothill Freeway.
Photograph of Fire
Among the photographs showing Pasadena at the turn of the century is one of an 1895 fire that burned the city's 201-room Raymond hotel to the ground in less than an hour. No one was injured, but Michelson said that taking the photo, which required a lot of heavy equipment in those days, must have been a feat for the photographer.
Footnotes in the back of the book provide background information and historical anecdotes, supplementing a short introduction.
Michelson said that by looking through the book, residents of Pasadena can rediscover their history.
"For some of the older people, the book is like looking back at their childhood," she said.
Bringing Back Memories
"Last fall we did a lot of book signing, and people would come up and say things like, 'Oh, my father's candy store is in the book,' " Michelson said, adding that one 93-year-old woman pointed out that her father was in one of the photographs taken in 1888.
"I wanted to show the continuity in history because people walked along the Arroyo back then and they still do," she said.
Michelson said that 3,000 copies of "Pasadena One Hundred Years" were published last October, along with a limited collector's edition of 100 books in padded cases, priced at $100, that sold out almost immediately.
"Pasadena One Hundred Years," which costs $50, is available at Pasadena bookstores and at the Huntington Library, the Norton Simon Museum and the Gamble House.