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Patricia O'Meara Robbins and Carroll Robbins Jones Collection

Identifier: SC-MS-341

Scope and Contents

This collection features the photography of Patricia O'Meara Robbins and the family research her daughter, Carroll Robbins Jones, compiled with her husband, Wilbur D. Jones, Jr., to write their book about Patricia's life and career--"She 'Shot' Her Way to Success: How China's Empress Dowager Ci Xi Launched a Photographer's Trailblazing Career," published in 2016. Some of the photographs were also featured in a 2001 book the Jones' wrote, "Hawaii Goes to War: The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor," about Patricia's time as the only official Associated Press photographer at Pearl Harbor during and after the attack.

The majority of the Papers series involves genealogical research about the O'Meara and Robbins families, tracing histories and lineages back to their early European origins and original American colony associations. Book research and family documents include vital records, certificates, deeds, correspondence, telegrams, articles, military service records, personal accounts, photo catalogs, journals, handwritten notes, cards, scrapbook pages, photo copies and printed online sources. Thanks to various family connections, signed letters from important political figures are also included, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, J. Edgar Hoover, and John McCain.

The photographs begin with Patricia's early career in China, other Asian countries, and tours abroad in Europe with her husband, Berton, Jr., and children, Carroll and Berton III, in the 1930s to 1950s. Photographs from their time in Hawaii and California during the 1940s and 1950s capture Patricia's personal and professional life--from the children spending time in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor to glamour shots of the Los Angeles elite. Later photos depict Carroll and Wilbur's life together, their own children, and accomplishments. Additional photographs of O'Meara family members from the late 1800s and early 1900s are also included.

Photographs exist loosely or as part of scrapbook pages. In several folders and boxes, photographs have been numbered according to their use in the final manuscript and match associated caption lists. The collection also contains newspaper copies and clippings, magazines, ephemera, Carroll's school memorabilia, and Berton Jr.'s World War II medals. Some material is in the following additional languages: French, Russian, German, Danish, and Greek.


  • Creation: circa 1870-2013
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1933-1959


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2019 University of North Carolina at Wilmington, all rights reserved (subject to exceptions). Certain items in this collections were conveyed to UNCW without the accompanying copyright. Where the donor did not convey copyright to UNCW, copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Biographical Note

Mary Patricia O'Meara Robbins was born in 1911 to an affluent family in Los Angeles, California. It was thanks to her family's chauffeur, who was an amateur photographer, that Patricia's own interest in photography first grew. In 1933, she married Berton Aldrich Robbins, Jr. and traveled on his naval ship to China, where she befriended Princess der Ling, the last lady-in-waiting to China's Qing Empress Dowager Ci Xi (Tzu Hsi). Thanks to Princess der Ling, Patricia was given access to many of imperial China's historic sites, including the Fobidden City and Summer Palace, which otherwise saw limited access from Westerners at the time, especially women. Patricia continued her passion for photography there, where she captured images of old China and current daily life in many Asian countries. Patricia's daughter Carroll was born in China in 1934, followed by her son Berton III in 1936, right after she and her husband returned to California.

In 1941, Patricia and her kids joined Berton, Jr. in Hawaii, where he was stationed. The family was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7. Berton Jr.'s ship--the USS Shaw--was blown up in the harbor, though he escaped the attack. Patricia took some of the first photos in the aftermath and was quickly credentialed by the Associated Press, Army, and Navy to take official photographs. In 1942, Patricia and her family returned to Los Angeles, where she took photographs of the Hollywood elite, including Joan and Christina Crawford, Mia Farrow, Lorreta Young, and Jack Benny. When Berton Jr. took command of the Rhine River Patrol in the early 1950s, Patricia and the kids joined him in Occupied Germany, where they travelled extensively around post-World War II Europe. Patricia continued to document their life throughout, including their later stop in Washington D.C. in 1955. Her work was featured in many newspapers and magazines, including Vogue, Town and Country, and Mademoiselle. She passed away from COPD complications in 1988 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery with her husband.

When Berton, Jr. was stationed in Naples, Italy in 1958, Carroll joined her parents and met her husband, Wilbur D. Jones, Jr., who worked under her father's command. They wed less than a year later in 1959 and had three children--Patricia, David, and Andrew--as well as a granddaughter Carrie whom they raised in Virginia. Carroll worked for 20 years as a successful real estate agent and was active in both social and political community causes. Upon retiring, she and Wilbur moved to his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, where Carroll spent time volunteering with the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear, New Hanover County Public Library Advisory Board, and other area groups. She also spent over a decade working as an archivist with UNC Wilmington's Special Collections department at Randall Library. She passed away in 2013 and is buried in the Jones family plot in Wilmington's Oakdale Cemetery.


14.3 Linear Feet (Contains 7 document boxes, 12 oversize boxes, and 2 mapcase folders)

Language of Materials






Greek, Modern (1453-)


Items have been separated into three series by type of material--Papers, Photographs, and Artifacts--and into further sub-series based on the materials' content: Papers into Book Research and Family Records; Photographs into Pearl Harbor and Family. Within each series, material has been maintained in its original order with original titles, where applicable. Photographs that were included among other documenation have been kept in their original location, therefore several folders in the Papers series also contain photographs that have not been separated out to the Photograph series. Similarly, folders that contained mostly photographs but had a few documents are contained in the Photograph series, so some papers can be found there, as well.

Acquisition Information

This collection was donated by Wilbur D. Jones, Jr. on November 17, 2016.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Nicole Yatsonsky in May 2019. Many photographs were undated, and any "circa" dates were added by the processing archivist based on similar pictures with established dates and/or the approximate age of people depicted with known birth years.

Patricia O'Meara Robbins and Carroll Robbins Jones Collection
Nicole Yatsonsky
2019 May
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository