Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Brand Book Number Seven—The San Diego Corral of the Westerners. Edited by Horace L. Dodd. San Diego: San Diego Corral of the Westerners, 1983. Forword by W. Turrentine Jackson. Illustrations. Index. Maps. 245 Pages. $35.00 Reviewed by Alexandra Luberski, State Historian, Frontera Area of the California State Department of Parks and Recreation, and author of a recent study of Robert W. Waterman.
This compilation of articles and sources is done by a “who’s who” of San Diego County avocationalists and professional historians. They have contributed over twenty pieces of the Brand Book Number Seven, all built around the topic “People of the Southwest and Pacific Coast.” The book covers a wide range of topics from popular historical issues such as women in the west to contemporary artists and illustrators of the west. Major topics include mountain men, the Mexican heritage, the sea, people of the Yankee period, and medicine and art. The result is a Brand Book which will stand proudly alongside other historical works on local and regional history.
The Brand Book Number Seven includes a number of articles on a wide variety of specialized topics; too large a number to cover individually in a review. In addition to the articles, the Brand Book also includes a rich variety of primary materials, which make it of special value to future historians. One such contribution is Helen Long’s selection of correspondence written by her great-grandmother, Prudenica Vallejo Lopez de Moreno. These letters reflect the conditions and hardships endured by women and families in early California, and are immensely informative. Other selections – the edited reminiscences of Margaret O’Mara Smith (who survived the hazards of the Oregon Trail) and the Curtis family letters (describing life in the Arizona Territory in the 1880s) – richly document life on the frontier and provide the reader with a first hand glimpse of this period in American history.
Other important sources are several selections edited by Abraham Nasatir from the papers of Rear Admiral Sir George Francis Seymour, and Estevan de la Torre’s recollections of Mexican California, edited by Robert Michaelis. There are also twentieth century pieces, such as the logs of the Star of India.
A special bonus of this Brand Book is the beautiful set of maps. For example, Greta Ezell and cartographer Richard Smith prepared a map tracing the final route of Sylvester Pattie to California. Elsewhere, Wayne Bennett’s research on J. Ross Browne is complemented by a detailed 1866 map of Lower California. And finally, by including a collection of maps published by Godfrey Sykes on his travels through the Southwest at the turn of the century, Ila Alvarez tantalizes the reader into wanting to learn more about this eccentric adventurer.
The flaws in Brand Book Number Seven are minimal, although some readers might find the diversity of subject matter and the wide range of historical eras somewhat distracting. Also the interpretive skills of some of the authors are somewhat suspect and perhaps their findings are not always supported by the primary sources they cite. This book is, nevertheless, a significant contribution to local and regional history because of its good articles, selections of sources, graphics, maps and illustrations. Brand Book Number Seven complements the long-standing tradition of professional publication by the San Diego Corral of Westerners.