Sunday, June 3, 2012

Leo L. Stanley Scrapbooks and Papers

Leo L. Stanley Scrapbooks and Papers, 1849-1974 (bulk 1928-1965), MS 2061

For those drawn to the more colorful figures in California history, the recently re-processed and cataloged Leo L. Stanley collection might be of interest.

Dr. Stanley received a fair amount of notoriety in the press when it was revealed in 1928 that he was performing medical experiments on prisoners while acting as Chief Medical Officer at San Quentin State Prison. Less known, however, is that he was an enthusiastic pen-pal with some of San Quentin’s more infamous prisoners, including J.P. “Bluebeard” Watson, who was convicted for the murder of fifteen women.

This letter, from Watson to Stanley, is representative of the intimate tone found in much of the correspondence between Stanley and the convicts he cared for (regardless of the severity of their crimes).   

While Stanley’s personal and professional anecdotes are fascinating in their own right, his scrapbooks and papers also illuminate broader themes, including the history of San Quentin, the California prison system, convict labor, and human experimentation in medicine.

The new guide to the collection can be found on the Online Archive of California at

Megan Hickey Nespeco, Library Volunteer
Post a Comment