The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1975, Volume 21, Number 1
James E. Moss, Editor

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

Fermin Francisco de Lasuén (1736-1803). A Biography. By Francis F. Guest, O.F.M. Washington, D.C.: Academy of American Franciscan History, 1973. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Map. Notes. 374 pages.

This careful, complete, and judicious biography of Father Lasuén deserves a full-scale review in this journal, but circumstances conspired against the book review editor. A note will have to suffice.

Father President of the Alta California missions from 1785 to his death in 1803, Fray Lasuén is best remembered as the successor of Junípero Serra, if he is remembered at all. In this first biography of Lasuén, Father Guest tries to remove Lasuén from Serra’s shadow. Guest tells us that Lasuén presided over the Alta California missions during the “most dynamic period of their development.” Between 1785 and 1803 the number of missions doubled, the number of mission Indians trebled, all the missions became more productive, and relations between the padres and the presidial troops grew more harmonious. It was during Lasuén’s tenure that artisans arrived from Mexico to instruct the neophytes and that the mission structures took on their classic architectural form, with red tile roofs.

As a matter of local interest it should be noted that from 1777 to 1785, before becoming Father President, Lasuén served at San Diego. Father Guest examines Lasuén’s ministry here in one chapter. Poorest of the missions and still recovering from the Indian revolt of 1775, San Diego would have been abandoned were it not for the nearby presidio. Under Lasuén’s guidance the mission did not become self-supporting, but its grain and livestock production rose, the number of neophytes increased, and a diversion dam was built to try to make the fickle water supply more constant.

This important and thoughtful book treats a variety of questions regarding California’s political, economic, and social life between 1785 and 1803. Father Guest examines such touchy questions as the problem of Indians running away from the missions and the objectivity of foreign views of the missions. In a final chapter he compares the achievements of Serra and Lasuén. Regardless of Lasuén’s record, it does not seem likely that his reputation will ever approach Serra’s. The Serra cult is already too well established. Indeed, Father Guest reckons that thirty-five biographies of Serra have been published. The score: Serra, 35; Lasuén, 1.

Archivo Histórico de Baja California Sur Pablo L. Martínez. Catálogo. Ramo I. La Colonia, 1744-1821. By José Andrés Cota Sandoval. La Paz: Gobierno del Territorio de Baja California Sur, 1973. (Cuaderno de Divulgación, No. 40.) 97 pages.

This excellent guide to the colonial archives of Baja California Sur lists documents chronologically under four categories: political, economic, religious, and legal. The nature of the contents of each document, along with its author, recipient, and place of origin, are indicated. This is the first of a projected six volume series of guides which will cover the years to 1940. For students of California history in the broadest sense, the Archivo Pablo L. Martínez promises a rich lode of information which has been generally inaccessible up to now.

Beginning in 1968, the archives of the Territory of Baja California were taken from the municipal jail, moved into the Casa de la Cultura, and reorganized with the help of a team of specialists from the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas of Mexico’s National University. In 1973 a considerable portion of the archives, including the entire colonial period, was microfilmed under the direction of Dr. Michael Mathes of the University of San Francisco and the archivist, Licenciado Andrés Cota, who is the compiler of the first guide to the archives. For the use of United States scholars, one copy of the microfilm is available at the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. The Bancroft Library, along with the Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, sponsored the microfilming project, which is still underway.

Licenciado Cota’s Catálogo, together with the microfilm, place the contents of the archive at anyone’s reach. The first edition of Cota’s guide quickly went out of print. A second edition will soon be available and may be obtained by writing to him care of: Dirección de Acción Social; Palacio del Gobierno, La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

One other recent work by José Andrés Cota Sandoval seems worthy of note in this journal. Expediciones a California durante los siglos XVI y XVII (La Paz: 1974), is a brief, well-documented survey of Spanish activity in California from the explorations sponsored by Hernán Cortés in 1533 to the beginning of Jesuit missionization in 1697 under Juan María de Salvatierra. The work concludes with an excellent, up-to-date bibliography. It may be obtained for $1.60 from the author, or the Serra Museum bookstore.

A Brief Histoty of the Land of Calafia: The Californias, 1533-1795. By W. Michael Mathes. La Paz: Gobierno del Territorio de Baja California Sur, 1974. Bibliography. Illustration. 64 pages. $2.50.

Sebastián Vizcaíno y la expansión española en el Océano Pacífico, 1580-1630. By W. Michael Mathes. Translated by Ignacio del Río. México, D.F.: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1973. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. Notes. 143 pages. $4.00.

These two works by one of the most valued members of our Board of Editorial Consultants are quite different in nature. The first is an authoritative, sweeping introduction to California history to 1795, written for the general reader. Although it was published in La Paz, it appeared in English because it is designed to be sold to the growing number of tourists who, attracted by the newly completed transpeninsular highway, want to know more about the area they are traveling through. Profits from the sale of this book, which is available in the Historical Society’s bookstore, go to support the archive in La Paz.

The second of these recent titles by Professor Mathes is a Spanish translation of his highly acclaimed and now out-of-print book: Vizcaíno and Spanish Expansion in the Pacific Ocean, 1580-1630 (California Historical Society, 1968). The Spanish language edition contains some new information and sells at a more reasonable price than did the English edition.

Recollections of Old Times in California or, California Life in 1843. By William Henry Thomes. Edited by George R. Stewart. Berkeley: The Friends of the Bancroft Library, 1974. Illustrations. 29 pages. Softbound. Not for sale.

William Henry Thomes first visited California between 1843 and 1845, arriving when he was nineteen years old. In 1887 he dictated his impressions of that visit and also briefly discussed a subsequent stay in California between 1849 and 1851. Thomes’ recollections, dictated to one of Hubert H. Bancroft’s interviewers, are here published for the first time in a handsome pamphlet with a charming introduction by George Stewart. This item is the twenty-second keepsake published over the past twenty-five years for the Friends of the Bancroft Library.

Prior to dictating his reminiscences to Bancroft’s agent, Thomes published a book entitled On Land and Sea, or California in the Years 1843, ’44, and ’45. Perhaps because he did not wish to repeat himself, his statement was sketchy and general. Like most of his contemporaries, Thomes romanticized and idealized the past, furnishing what George Stewart terms “an early example of the myth of Spanish-Mexican California.” Indeed, one wonders how much of this romanticized account is genuine recollection of personal experience, or an amalgam of the literature that Thomes read about California in later life.

A Select Bibliography to California Catholic Literature, 1856-1974. Comp. and Annotated by Rev. Francis J. Weber. Los Angeles: Dawson’s Book Shop, 1974. 70 pages.

This includes five hundred titles of books and pamphlets, with light annotation by Father Weber.

Popular Arts of Spanish New Mexico. By E. Boyd. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1974. Appendices. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 518 pages. $34.95.

At first glance this may seem an inappropriate book to note in this journal, but this impressive and beautiful volume ought to be called to the attention of students of Hispanic California and those interested in Spanish-Mexican architecture or artifacts.

E. Boyd, Curator Emeritus of the Museum of New Mexico, has assembled a wealth of data on nearly every aspect of material culture of the Spanish-Mexican settlers of New Mexico, including such diverse matters as: religious and domestic architecture, textiles (bedcovers, sarapes and other clothing), wooden objects (trunks, carved doors, furniture, items decorated with straw or corn husks), leather trunks, painted hides, tinware, and wrought ironwork. The longest chapters treat the famous New Mexico carved images of saints (santos) and Boyd is at her best in linking styles of santos to specific santeros.

California’s Hispano-Mexican culture was not as large, or as sizeable, or as complex as that of New Mexico, so its popular arts remained less developed. Nonetheless, there is much to learn from the ways in which the frontiersmen of New Mexico adapted their arts to the materials at hand, and there are interesting comparisons to be made. Why, for example, were red tile roofs used in the California missions, but not in those of New Mexico?

A List of Master’s Theses on the History of San Diego Written at San Diego State University. Compiled by Walter H. Posner. Second Edition. San Diego: Malcolm A. Love Library, San Diego State University, 1974. paperback. 7 pages.

Mukat’s People. The Cahuila Indians of Southern California. By Lowell John Bean. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. Bibliography. Illustrations. Map. 201 pages. Paperback. $2.85.

Published in hardcover in 1972, this work, by an anthropologist, has been made available in a paperback edition in 1974.

An Ancient Skeleton Found at Del Mar, California. A summary of Anthropological Observations. By Spencer L. Rogers. San Diego Museum of Man, 1974. Bibliography. Illustrations. 13 pages. Paperback.

This skeleton “may well be typical of the earliest aboriginal Americans,” and date back some 48,000 years.

The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches. By Edward F. Hill. New York: Clearwater Publishing Co., 1974. Tribal Index. Jurisdictional Index. 246 pages.

An indispensable guide to aid researchers in using the “Letters Received by the Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880.” These original documents are in the National Archives and are also available on 962 rolls of microfilm. Hill provides a brief history of each of the superintendencies and agencies of the Office of Indian Affairs, along with listings of Indian agents and tribes.

The Early Sunset Magazine, 1898-1928. Edited by Paul C. Johnson. San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1974. Illustrations. Notes on Contributors. 240 pages. $4.95.

A delightful anthology of short stories, poems, essays, and advertising from Sunset Magazine’s first three decades, including a wide variety of subjects and such well-known writers as Bret Harte, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis, John Muir, Mary Austin, Zane Grey, James Thurber, and Joaquin Miller.

Sunset Travel Guide to Southern California. By the Editors of Sunset Books and Sunset Magazine. Fourth Edition. Menlo Park, California: Lane Publishing Company, 1974. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 160 pages. Paperback. $2.95.

Exploring the Ghost Town Desert. By Roberta Martin Starry. Los Angeles: The Ward Ritchie Press, 1973. Illustrations. Maps. Index. 112 pages. Paperback. $1.95.

A guide to the Rand Mining area in the Mojave Desert, some 150 miles north of Los Angeles.