The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1996, Volume 42, Number 1
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

Book Notes

Stephen A. Colston, Book Review Editor

Arthur Hill: Western Actor, Miner, and Law Officer.

By John Moring. Manhattan, Kansas: Sunflower University Press, 1994. Bibliography. Illustrations. Notes. viii + 115 pages. $16.95 (paper). Buy this book.

Arthur Reavis Hill (1874-1960) had a checkered career. Aptly described by John Moring as a “notional” (an archaic term for a person who is constantly seeking new places, new jobs, and new challenges), Hill was not content to remain long in the El Cajon Valley where he was born and raised. He launched his career as a theater actor in San Francisco, and then turned to mining. While he sought mineral wealth–first in Arizona, then in Alaska, and then once again in Arizona–he met with little success.

In 1914, he was back in San Diego and was, in his own words “between engagements.” At the urging of a friend who was a police officer, he joined the San Diego Police Department in that year. He advanced through the department’s ranks, and from 1929-31, served as San Diego’s fifteenth chief of police. Hill remained with the police force until his retirement in 1935. He continued to reside in San Diego, and died in a nursing facility in El Cajon. The peregrinations of this “notional” had finally completed a full circle.

While characterized by a rather informal writing style, replete with numerous contractions, this book nonetheless possesses scholarly merits. Drawing extensively upon primary sources, including some from the collections of the San Diego Historical Society Archives, Moring has competently crafted not only a biography of Arthur Hill but has done much to replicate the theatrical, mining, and urban worlds which this colorful westerner once inhabited.

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