The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1976, Volume 22, Number 3
James E. Moss, Editor

Book Reviews

Charles F. Lummis: The Man and His West. By Turbese Lummis Fiske and Keith Lummis. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1975. Bibliography. Lummis photographs. Water Colors and Pen and Ink Drawings by noted Western Artists. Autographs and Comments by famous people. Index. Notes. 230 pages. $17.50.

Reviewed by Dudley Gordon, Professor Emeritus, Los Angeles Community College, Curator of Lummis Home, Consultant in History and Folklore, Southwest Museum, author of The Cultural Assets of Los Angeles (1940), Junipero Serra, California’s First Citizen (1969), The Birch Bark Poems of C.F. Lummis (1969), and Charles F. Lummis: Crusader In Corduroy (1972).

Children of the fascinating Charlie Lummis, Turbesé and Keith, have achieved an herculean task in gleaning the astonishing life-story of their colorful, many-sided humanistic father from more than a ton of literary sources related to the noted Southwestern author-editor-historian and pioneer conservationist.

In addition to her own memories, the sources Turbesé drew upon included personal letters (2300); hand-written memos; extensive autobiographical reminiscences; scrapbooks containing hundreds of articles by and about Lummis; newsclippings by the bushel; a Diary of 40 volumes (1888-1928) a Journal of 7,000-10,000 words weekly for close friends and relatives; official museum and public library annual reports; editorials and progress reports in the Landmarks Club and the Sequoya League “To Make Better Indians By Treating Them Better;” a score of his published books; a file of 160 issues of his regional magazine Land of Sunshine/Out West; and a 400-page Guest Book containing complimentary comments and autographs of hundreds of famous visitors, and full page drawings by Frederick Remington, Carl Oscar Borg, Thomas Moran, Charlie Russell, Ed Borein, Maynard Dixon, Ernest Thompson Seton and others. Additional guests with other talents included John Muir, John Burroughs, John Philip Sousa, Henry O’Melveny, Mr. and Mrs. F. N. Doubleday and Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bok (Mrs. Bok wrote, “Happy to have met a man who dares to be Himself’), Professor Herbert Eugene Bolton, Eugene Rhodes (“This page is not large enough for the account of my debt to you. Sincerely, E. M. R.”), Vicente Blasco Ibañez, and one gentleman who stated, “Outsiders will get in as you will see by the above name” signed Will Rogers.

Daughter Turbesé (named Rainbow of the Sun by Indians at Isleta Pueblo) had devoted nearly 40 years to her father’s biography when she died in 1967 at the age of 74. Brother Keith prepared the book for the press. Since the children had spent their formative years with their mother after she justifiably divorced their father, an occasional appearance of restrained anti-Lummis sentiment may be excused. Credit for the easy readability of this candid and informative biography is due, in part, to the invaluable assistance of Keith’s wife, Hazel. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “If you wish to be remembered after you die, either write things that are worth reading or do things that are worth writing”. Lummis qualifies on both counts; he wrote an armful of books worth reading and, without wealth, he performed more lasting deeds than might be expected of half a dozen people. His Spanish Pioneers has appeared in 16 editions and has been read by more Spaniards than Angelenos. His Land of Poco Tiempo and his Mesa, Canyon and Pueblo have induced many readers to make their homes in the Southwest.

Among the deeds which will keep the name of Lummis green were his founding of the Southwest Museum, the California Landmarks Club and the Sequoya League. Through these he became a benefactor to art, history and science, and demonstrated his devotion to his fellowman regardless of skin color. He also discovered more than half a dozen talented youngsters and trained them to carry the torch of enlightenment. He edited a creditable magazine for 15 years in a remote, obscure Western town far removed from the political, academic, advertising and publishing centers of the East. He built the Lummis Home which is now the home of the Historical Society of Southern California. He was a genius in the making of friends among important contributors to culture; he made library history; he saved half a dozen missions and made Californians more aware of their Spanish heritage; he reduced the intellectual gap between Boston and Los Angeles, and, like Father Serra, he must be reckoned among California’s most worthy sons.

The authors’ skillful use of excerpts from their father’s writings give their fine book something of the vitality possessed by him. The life-story and achievements of this colorful man who, without money, but motivated by ideas for helping his fellowman, and with the courage and energy to carry them out, should be an inspiration to others who would like to be remembered favorably after they have passed on, but have been too timid to act. If this one man alone could do so much, maybe they too could accomplish something worthwhile.

The publishers have herein employed their accustomed skill in designing and manufacturing a splendid book, one worthy of an important, original pioneer of the West. The cover reveals the subject as a man who was at home in the great out of doors. The use of double columns facilitates reading in comfort, and the adapting of the volume to the rare drawings by noted Western artists, shows a high degree of craftsmanship.

The unusual life style of Charlie Lummis and the unique features of the volume should qualify the book to grace any coffee table, where it is bound to be an exciting conversation piece, but it will also demand space in the library of every Southwestern scholar.