Documentary Editing, Association for



Date of this Version

Winter 2003

Document Type



Documentary Editing, Volume 25, Number 4, Winter 2003. ISSN 0196-7134


2003 © the Association for Documentary Editing. Used by permission.


Charles W. Polzer, S.J., died in Los Gatos, CA on Tuesday, November 4, 2003, at age 72. Dr. Polzer was born in San Diego, where he attended St. Augustine High School. Upon graduation from Santa Clara University in 1952, he entered the Jesuit novitiate at Los Gatos, CA. His course of studies took him to St. Louis University, MO, and Alma College of Santa Clara University, in Los Gatos, CA. Following his ordination into the priesthood in Los Angeles in 1964, he undertook a period of post-ordination studies in Cordoba, Spain. From 1958 to 1961, while studying for the priesthood, he taught at Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix, Arizona, where he developed the keen interest in the history of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico that became his life's work. Polzer continued his education at the University of Arizona, receiving a Ph.D. in history and anthropology in 1972.

In 1973, he joined the faculty at the University of Arizona and served as curator of ethnohistory at the Arizona State Museum. In 1975, he established the Documentary Relations of the Southwest (DRSW) program, a project dedicated to assembling the enormous but widely dispersed documentary record generated by the Spanish empire and Mexican republic. A pioneer in electronic management of archival data, Polzer developed computerized databases that include summaries of Spanish documents, keyed for retrieval of individuals, places, and ethnic groups. At the present time, the DRSW Master Index is accessible online and contains more than 17,000 entries, covering approximately a half million pages of primary documentation from the Spanish colonial period (1530s-1821).