The University of Arizona Libraries Photograph File

The University of Arizona photographic archives document the life and times of the UA from about 1889 to the present. Beginning with photographs of Old Main, the original structure on campus, the archives document growth in the physical campus and changes in the dress and customs of students and faculty. The following images are a small, representative group of photographs from the collection. These materials are housed in the library's Special Collections.


The cactus garden, started by Professor James W. Toumey, was located on the west side of Old Main from 1896-1929. At that time it was moved to the east side of the building. All that remains of the garden today is a small oval section in the grassy mall east of Old Main and these photographs from the archives.

Two views of the cactus garden: left image is from the west side of Old Main looking towards Old Main and the right image is from the east side of Old Main


The archives document changes in the overall physical campus as well as the evolution of individual buildings over time. The building currently known as the Douglass Building was built in 1903 as the Library and Museum. Over the years it has housed various colleges and departments. Most recently it is the home of Women's Studies and the Southwest Institute for Research on Women.

Left, the original Library and Museum building built in 1903; right, The same building in the 1930's housed the College of Law

The Douglass Building in the 1980's (note how the palm tree has grown since the previous photograph was taken)


The University of Arizona opened its doors in October 1891 with 6 faculty and 32 students. Most classrooms and laboratories were in Old Main which also housed the original Library. The next three photographs were taken inside Old Main. The last is on the steps of Old Main.


Professor Toumey's Biology classroom; The Botanical Lab, 1896

Professor Blake of Geology; To the right, a photograph of the UA Class of 1898-99 which was considered too scandelous for publication in its day. Note the two couples holding hands in the central portion of the picture. (Ball, p.27)


University life was altered during World War I and World War II. Students, staff, and faculty left to join the war effort, vocational education was offered to support the surge in factory production, and special training was contracted by the military. The Naval Training School during WWII had an onging class of 500 men. In fact, a Navy contract paid to rehabilitate Old Main. This building had been declared unsafe and there was some pressure to have it torn down. (Ball, p.27)

World War I

The caption on the front of the photograph reads, "U of A Red Cross Girls;"  The McKale Memorial Center would later be named after coach James McKale pictured here with the 1915-16 Basketball Team (top row, second from the right).

UA Sophomore class of 1916

World War II

Left, sorority members knitting scarves and sweaters as part of the home front effort; right, Naval combat pilots (photograph by Irving W. Robbins)

Machine shop of the war services classes