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Oscar James Woodward was born in Clinton, Illinois to Jesse and Isabel Woodward in 1849. After his father died during his last year of high school O.J. began working for and later formed a partnership in a shoe sales business with Jacob Vogel. Woodward met and married Vogel's cousin Anna Rudolf in 1875. Anna gave birth to sons Roy and Ralph in 1878 and 1881, respectively. The Woodwards moved to Arizona in 1883 and purchased a cattle ranch which they sold shortly afterward for a considerable profit. During this time a third child, Abbie, was born. The Woodwards moved to California, first to Los Angeles and later to Fresno. Woodward was highly successful at selling Fresno real estate and his first investment of property became the first area annexed to the city of Fresno. Woodward joined the First National Bank of Fresno as cashier in 1887, and in 1888 he became the bank's president. The bank prospered under Woodward's more liberal lending policies and advertising. He later merged the bank with the Bank of Italy, and at this point Woodward assumed a more advisory role with the bank. The Bank of Italy eventually became the Bank of America.
Roy and Ralph Woodward followed their father in investing in local real estate and owned and operated the Woodward Company, an agricultural implement business. Ralph Woodward donated the land for and was the namesake of Woodward Park in northwest Fresno. Roy J. Woodward was an avid book collector and his personal library of Californiana was donated to the Madden Library in 1951 by his grandchildren Oscar James Woodward III, Beverley Woodward, Barry O'Connor, Ramona Walker and Patricia Ronald. This donation led to formation of the Library's Special Collections Department.
Roy J. Woodward's son Oscar James Woodward II continued the family tradition of investing in local real estate. He was also involved in the community, championing the Fresno Arts Center, the Fresno Zoo and the SPCA as well as serving as a member of the Fresno Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Special Collections Research Center continues to add to the Roy J. Woodward Memorial Library of Californiana through funding provided by the O. James Woodward III and Judith Woodward Endowment, which was created in 1998. In 2007 O. James Woodward III recorded a two part oral history detailing the history and genealogy of the Woodward family and their relationship with the Fresno area. In 2009 a substantial gift was presented to the Library by O. James Woodward III and Judith Woodward. In honor of this gift the redesigned and renovated Special Collections Research Center reading room was named for the O. James Woodward III Family.
This digital collection documents the Woodward family in Fresno and includes an oral history with O. James Woodward III and biographical information about various members of the Woodward family as well as numerous photographs and family artifacts.
A more detailed guide to the Woodward family papers is available here.