The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1976, Volume 22, Number 1
James E. Moss, Editor

Book Review

David J. Weber, Book Review Editor

Historical Atlas of California.  By Warren A. Beck and Ynez D. Haase. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974. Bibliography. Illustrations. Index. 101 maps and accompanying narrative. No pagination. $9.95. Softbound $4.95.

Reviewed by Dr. Kenneth A. Smith, Instructor in History, Mesa College, San Diego.

A historian and a geographer/cartographer have joined to produce a historical atlas of California. Their individual efforts complement each other to a very high degree.

The atlas is arranged chronologically and topically, starting with geological, climatic and ethnographic maps. Early explorations and settlements of the area are shown and this is followed by sixteen small scale maps, each covering only a few counties, delineating the Mexican land grants. The trails to California are portrayed with sufficient geographical features to enable the reader to transpose the routes to modern road maps. The conquest of California, the Gold Rush area, the Indian wars and reservations, and the boundary adjustments which formed the present counties, bring the reader up to the early years of the American period.

The last third of the volume is largely devoted to economic history, showing railroad routes and grants, population, irrigation projects, military installations of World War II, minerals, agriculture, lumbering and fisheries. The relative importance of agriculture and irrigation in the development of the California economy entitles them to more space and greater detail than the authors have granted them.

The maps are generous in size, approximately eight by eleven inches, so that a magnifying glass is not necessary. They are simple and uncluttered enough that the primary message is not lost in the detail.

Each map is accompanied by a facing page of textual material that enhances the cartographer’s work. Additional facts and narrative give an overview of the development of the Golden State and some of its outstanding characteristics. Some special events are covered, such as the San Francisco earthquake, the St. Francis Dam break, and the Santa Barbara oil spill.

The authors have succeeded in producing a historical atlas worthy of the name. It is interesting to read, the maps are informative, and, though appealing more to the layman, it is of value as a reference work. The bibliography, listed for each map, is very comprehensive. Any reader whose interest is piqued by anything he comes across, can refer to the bibliography and find numerous books and articles to satisfy his curiosity.

Saving the best for last, where can you find a hard-back, reference work of such quality for $9.95?