Food Co-op Archives


THE CONSUMER CO-OPERATIVES
SOCIETY OF PALO ALTO, INC

Archives at the Media Center

The Food Co-op Archive represents a large primary source of historic documents of one of the most significant community building organizations in the history of the city of Palo Alto. These primary sources span the years of 1933 until the dissolution of the Food Co-op in 2002. Among the materials available to the public at the Media Center are:

  • special and regular board agenda and minutes,
  • attendance rosters,
  • standing committee minutes, referrals and recommendations,
  • surviving special reports,
  • legal and bookkeeping documents,
  • architectural design and plans,
  • personal communications from Co-op members and individuals in the community to the Board.

Out of the Great Depression of the 1930’s sprung up a community in the city of Palo Alto that gave new meaning to the principles of an international movement called the Consumer’s Co-operative Society, which harkens back many centuries to the English corn market farmers. Two union men, two Stanford University professors, a teacher, a businessman, a judge, a writer and a student wife created a buying agreement with a local grocery store in 1933, initiating one of the most politically vital and innovative enterprises in the history of Palo Alto. Their first purchase was one case of corn, and with that, a steadily growing membership touched nearly every aspect of life in Palo Alto. For over fifty years; peace issues, childcare and family camps, many member owned grocery stores, a funeral society, a gas station, a community freezer and a drug store were among the many co-operatively owned and operated establishments of the Food Co-op of Palo Alto.

Molly Cullman, Louise Haskin and Mary Bay started a historical file in the late 1960’s, collecting all of the Co-op newsletters, historic papers, books and memorabilia solicited from all the members beginning of the organization until that time. Rex Williams, a general manager, did his best to add to and preserve this collection, moving the files to containers as necessary, which were kept in the offices at the California Avenue Co-op grocery store until they were moved to storage around 1990. In January of 2004 during a record rainfall, these boxes arrived at the Media Center in various states of decomposition to be sorted and preserved by Mary Bay, the champion of the CCSPA’s vote to create this archive, along with Joanne Margalit, Media Center Archivist, under the leadership of Media Center Executive Director, Annie Folger. The bulk of the materials conserved are in remarkably good condition, evoking a vivid recollection of community life in Palo Alto.