The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1984, Volume 30, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

California Patterns: A Geographical and Historical Atlas. By David Hornbeck, Design and Cartography by David L. Fuller. Palo Alto: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1983. Bibliography. 117 Pages. $10.95 Paper.

Reviewed by Warren A. Beck, Professor of History at California State University, Fullerton and co-author of California: A History of the Golden State and An Historical Atlas of California.

This California atlas has as its main focus how the residents of the Golden State — Indians, Spaniards, Mexicans and Americans — used the land. This theme is stated in the introduction: “The landscape is a reflection of human culture in all its facets, a record of the success and failure of rich and poor alike. The land anchors people, events and conditions that change through time. The California landscape remains a permanent storehouse of the past . . .”(2) Professor Hornbeck further defines the goal of this work, “The trac­ing of California’s changing landscape to the present day is inevitably historical in approach, but the results presented here are geographical.”(vii) And it is the geographical where this book makes a real contribution.

California Patterns has five sections. The first, and perhaps the most valuable, deals with the physical scene from geologic developments to land-forms, water supply, natural vegetation, soils, climate and natural hazards. The cartographic work is exceptional and the descriptive essays are more than adequate. Subsequent sections include aboriginal patterns and Hispanic settlement 1769-1846. The maps, charts and graphs are all of uniform high quality and are laden with valuable material. The part on American Patterns, 1846-1981 is of the same high caliber but is simply too brief for a work of this type. The final section is an Appendix which includes population by counties, state parks and recreation areas, land and water areas of the counties, detailed data on climate stations, physical features and counties.

What this atlas sets out to do, it does very well. There are, however, cer­tain striking omissions which are the more surprising in a work by geographers. First of all, there is no real treatment of the influence of the turbulent ocean upon California and the problems it presented from Spanish times into the 20th century. In addition to transportation dif­ficulties, the ocean had the marine mammals which lured the first Anglo traders who sought sea otter pelts, seals, and later, whales. Many Califor-nians, including some Indians, depended upon fishing for their livelihood, but that is not mentioned. Neither is the fact that geographical location kept the state isolated from Spain, Mexico and the rest of the United States; and Californians were even isolated from each other. Lumbering, which was of some importance in the Mexican era, and certainly in the Anglo era, is total­ly neglected. Finally, there is no treatment of petroleum, the “black gold” whose value to the states’ citizens has been many times greater than the more romantic gold.

In addition to what this reviewer considers omissions there are some statements in the textual material a historian might disagree with. One ex­ample: “By 1880, California had two distinct cultural landscapes: a Hispanic-American one along the coast and an American one in the in­terior. “(4) Another point which was surprising was that numbers of new settlers came to Southern California in the 1880s because of “cheap fares.”(67) Recent scholarship has set this myth to rest.

In a work of this nature there are bound to be generalizations which one can disagree with because they are too sweeping and are not properly qualified. Nevertheless, this is a valuable resource tool and one which should be in the library of anyone interested in Californiana.