Skip to main content

Central California Life Magazine

Pop Laval Foundation: Working to Preserve Local History

Jul 07, 2016 10:48AM ● By Melanie Heisinger

Claude C. “Pop” Laval. Photo courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation.

The Pop Laval Collection used to reside in the Pop Laval Museum in Fresno. Unfortunately, the museum is now officially closed, but the Pop Laval Foundation, a Fresno-based group, is still working strong to preserve the collection of historic photos.

This preservation began primarily when Elizabeth Laval, Pop’s great-granddaughter, took it upon herself in 2000 to begin digitizing the many photos and sharing them with the local community.

A Little History of the Pop Laval Collection 

From 1910 until 1966, Pop Laval’s ledgers and records inform us he took over 100,000 photographs from Bakersfield to Stockton, and throughout his beloved Sierra Nevada mountains. 

As people realized he was blessed with a keen eye for just the right shot, he was hired again and again by companies as well as individuals to capture their contributions to the greatness of California’s Great Central Valley. 

Just after the turn of the century, a young professional photographer moved his family from Pennsylvania to Fresno. Claude C. “Pop” Laval soon established himself as the “Go to guy” when an important life event such as a fire, an accident scene or family gathering needed to be recorded. 

This legacy of life, as it was lived in the first half of the twentieth, provides incredible insight into how people created America as they went about their daily tasks in the fields, orchards, dairy farms, and manufacture of tools and techniques, many still in use today. This quiet, inventive professional was always pushing the envelope of his vocation.

Around 1914, Laval brought the first of the newfangled “movie” cameras to the Valley. With this marvelous invention, he became a regular source for movie newsreel content to Metrotone and Pathe news services, providing the world’s audiences with noteworthy current events from California.

To honor this man and his legacy, Pop’s great-granddaughter Elizabeth began to reintroduce this treasure to the world in 2000. Although she and her team have digitized less than 1% of the Collection, with these they have published three books, was a weekly feature for almost five years on local Fox network TV, been a major exhibitor at the Fresno Fair for ten years, opened an acclaimed educational Gallery/event center, and provided public and private exhibits throughout the city.

To make a donation to this great foundation, or if you would like to view more of their digitized historic photos, you can visit their website. 

Content courtesy of the Pop Laval Foundation