Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Brand Book Number Eight – The San Diego Corral of Westerners.
Edited by Clifford M. Graves. San Diego: San Diego Corral of Westerners, 1987, Foreword by John Porter Bloom. Illustrations. Index. 263 Pages.
Reviewed by Charles W. Hughes, Records Management Coordinator for the city of Oceanside. Hughes is a graduate of San Diego State University where the received a Masters Degree in U. S. History in 1974.
In commemoration of their twentieth anniversary, the San Diego Corrall of Westerners has published Brand Book Number Eight. This richly illustrated, well crafted volume continues the San Diego Westerners’ fine publishing tradition associated with their brand books. With a new volume published every few years since 1969, the brand book are part of the Westerners’ efforts to preserve our western American heritage. This largest volume offers a number of significant articles in support of these efforts.
Brand Book Number Eight is a compilation of articles covering a wide range of topics, written by professional historians and a host of other noteworthy authors. As with earlier brand books this volume explores a number of different themes about the West through the use of secondary and primary works. Mountain men, Spanish exploration, native Americans, women, education, ranching, banditry, and theatre are just some of the subjects examined. The section on western art is especially attractive with beautiful photographs to illustrate the articles.
For those readers whose interests center around local history, over half of the articles relate to the San Diego area and several of them have considerable merit. Paul and Greta Ezell offered a fascinating account of their archeological investigation which led to the identification of the Cosoy Indian village in Mission Valley — the first Indian settlement named by the Spanish in California. Ila Alvarez edited the diary of S. W. Cameron, a rancher living in the Campo area at the turn of the century. The biographical sketches of Gerald F. McMullen and Abraham P. Nasatir, two of San Diego’s most respected historians over the past several decades, are also well done. The Nasatir article was accompanied by an autobiographical narrative describing his experiences doing research in foreign archives.
The wide range of differences between the subjects and historical periods covered by the articles may prove distracting for some readers. There is no specific subject or unifying theme around which the articles were presented as was done, for example, with Brand Book Number Six and its theme of “People of the Far West .” Also, the historical analysis in one or two of the articles was inconsistent and not up to the caliber of work found in the other writings. The piece on Father Antonio Ubach was especially disappointing since it offered no new insights from what is already known from two previous biographies written over twenty-five years ago, neither of which are cited in the footnotes.
These shortcomings do not detract significantly from the overall contributions Brand Book Number Eight has to make. Readers will find several hours of enjoyable reading going through the articles and learning more about the western American heritage we all share.