Chiefs and Challengers: Indian Resistance and Cooperation in Southern California, 1769-1906.

By George Harwood Phillips. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Preface, illustrations, notes, bibliography, and index. xii + 434 pp. $26.95 paper.

Reviewed by Nicolas G. Rosenthal, Associate Professor, Department of History, Loyola Marymount University.

This second edition of George Harwood Phillips’s pioneering work on Southern California Indian ethnohistory was first published by the University of California Press in 1975 (and reviewed in The Journal of San Diego History 22:1 (March 1976)). Drawing on almost forty years of subsequent scholarship and additional research, Phillips has substantially revised many chapters, extended the narrative timeline, and added several detailed maps. With these updates, Phillips has ensured that Chiefs and Challengers will remain essential reading for scholars and teachers of nineteenth-century California and American Indian history for many years to come.

Phillips’s focus is on the actions taken by Southern California Indian peoples in response to Spanish, Mexican, and early American colonization, particularly the ways that Luiseño, Cahuilla, and Cupeño leaders negotiated their rapidly changing worlds. Generally, these leaders responded to colonial authority at different times through resistance, withdrawal, and/or cooperation, but always with the goals of preserving political sovereignty, corporate unity, and cultural integrity. After a chapter on pre-contact political organization, culture, warfare, and trade, Phillips provides a basic account of California Indian experience in the Spanish missions, focusing on San Diego, San Juan Capistrano, and San Luis Rey. The main story picks up beginning with Chapter Three, which details how centralized Indian leadership emerged during the 1830s and 1840s in the context of Mexican rule and mission secularization. Some leaders oversaw the creation of new agricultural settlements, while others regarded Mexican ranchos as targets for regular raids. With the shift to American rule, many leaders struggled to maintain a degree of autonomy, especially after a major Indian uprising in 1851 led to new systems of Indian administration. When President Ulysses S. Grant established reservations for Southern California Indians in 1875, some Indian leaders complied with orders to move and adapted to reservation life, while others sought to retain their independence by remaining in their villages. These leaders, too, were eventually forced to relocate, marking an end to a period characterized by political centralization and a “dogged activism within the larger society being created around them” (p. 337). Overall, Southern California Indian peoples came out of this era as both victims and survivors. They lost most of their land and much of their autonomy, while what they retained was due to their creative responses to such dramatic change imposed upon them.

This focus on the agency of Southern California Indians and their role in shaping the history of the region was pathbreaking when it was first put forth by Phillips as part of a wave of scholarship often referred to as the “New Indian History.” Decades later, it remains a vital way of understanding Southern California Indian experience, although specialists in the field would benefit from a historiographical discussion situating the work in the context of ensuing scholarship. Phillips also relegates much of his analysis to the book’s introduction and conclusion except for a brief statement at the end of each chapter that suggests the topic of the next. This strategy has risks, in that less tenacious readers may get lost in the details and fail to grasp the larger ideas. The persistent, however, will be rewarded with an informative narrative that reflects the author’s remarkable ability to locate and synthesize hundreds of documents and secondary sources on this crucial period in Southern California history.

Ensenada as a Birthplace of Mexican Democracy: A Political History of Baja California.

The Atlas of California: Mapping the Challenge of a New EraBy Michael James Winkelman. Las Vegas, NV: Createspace Independent Publishing, 2015. References, biographical index, subject index, and notes. xi + 231 pp. $16.00 paper.

Reviewed by Christine Moore, Department of History and Chicano Studies, Palomar College and Department of History, MiraCosta College.

When Vicente Fox won election as president of Mexico in 2000, many observers were stunned, as the victory of this PAN (National Action Party) candidate broke the decades-long grip of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) over the nation’s political economy. James Michael Winkelman argues that a groundbreaking election in 1989 in Ensenada, Baja California, gave birth to Mexican democracy and helped set in motion forces that would lead to Fox’s 2000 victory. The author contends that the historical development of Baja California created a culture of local rule and made the state different from the rest of Mexico. Baja California built an economy linked to the United States and Great Britain rather than Mexico City. Also different from mainland Mexico was the immigrant labor force that built a middle class.

The book has three purposes: 1) to prove democratic tendencies in Baja California led to the election and circumstances of the 1990s; 2) to provide evidence of the fact that Baja California has long been a population isolated by geography and subject to international influences very different than mainland Mexico; and 3) to provide an English language historical analysis of Baja California. The author relies heavily on secondary sources, which can be problematic for historical analysis. Primary sources such as newspaper articles, however, are the mainstay of the last chapters. Most of the book concerns the historical and political foundations of an independent Baja California and the subsequent trajectory of its development. This character was born of a lack of control from the Spanish and Mexican governments leading to an American and British capitalist financial structure that caused fierce resistance to federal power.

The heart of the book is the history of the indigenous peoples and the Spaniards. Mainland Mexico became a mestizo nation with the first generation of Spanish invaders. This was not so in Baja California. There was no empire in the area to use as a massive labor force, and while there were attempts at missionizing the local Indians, the endeavor failed. The result was an indigenous population consisting of a few acculturated mission Indians and those who managed to keep clear or who fled and established separate isolated areas. The Spanish soldiers of early years became the elite ranchero landholders. This group formed business alliances with Americans and the British, which created a need for immigrant labor.

Immigrants became the preferred labor source. Unlike immigration patterns in the rest of Mexico, in Baja California newcomers arrived from China, Russia, and Japan. These people added to the financial and political landscape of land as they eventually became agriculturists, business owners, and part of the local political and economic systems. While not entirely equal, immigrant laborers in Baja California created a middle class. The landed ranchers and middle class were also geographically isolated, and so were able to join the market capitalist system of the United States and Britain. From these groups emerged Compañia de México, receiving land in return for promotion of business and real estate. The Chamber of Commerce was eventually formed out of this company and over time became the main source of political resistance to any attempts to usurp local control.

Local economic control led eventually to local elections until the 1920s when General Abelardo Rodríguez was appointed as military commander and then governor of Baja California as part of the federal government’s effort to control the border area. This shift away from local control contributed to the emergence of Baja California’s vice economy as well as some popular reforms including workers’ rights. Winkelman contends that the foundation of an international capitalist interest created an atmosphere in which Rodríguez was accepted locally until Mexico City recalled him.

The thread that continues through the history of Baja California is that the capitalist middle class and the international financial influence created in Ensenada gave birth to democracy there, and later to the rest of Mexico. While scholars continue to debate the extent to which Fox’s victory in 2000 brought genuine democracy, Winkelman’s book does achieve its three goals and presents a convincing case that Baja California was the birthplace of Mexican democracy.

Water to the Angels: William Mulholland, His Monumental Aqueduct, and the Rise of Los Angeles.

By Les Standiford. New York: Ecco, 2015. Map, photographs, notes, bibliography, and index. x + 315 pp. $28.99 cloth. $16.99 paper.

Reviewed by Theodore A. Strathman, Lecturer, Department of History, California State University, San Marcos.

Whether prompted by the current California drought or the recent commemoration of the centennial of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, a handful of writers have recently revisited the life and career of William Mulholland. Les Standiford’s Water to the Angels is a well-written addition to the already vast literature on the topic, and while his volume will not resolve controversies surrounding Mulholland’s legacy, it does provide an engaging account of his rise from ditch digger to designer of an audacious feat of engineering.

The book opens with a dramatic account of the 1928 collapse of the St. Francis Dam, a catastrophe that killed somewhere between 400 and 600 people. Standiford is at his best here and in similar passages in the book, where his novelist’s sense of description and pace grasp the reader’s attention and convey the depth of human loss. While Standiford may have chosen to begin at this point to pull in the reader, by the end of the first chapter another reason for this choice becomes clear: the author is struck especially by Mulholland’s willingness to accept responsibility for the disaster, since he selected the site and designed the dam. Here Standiford gives the first indication of his admiration of Mulholland, an appreciation that resurfaces throughout the book. His intention is not to promote “any political agenda” (p. 279), but Standiford clearly wishes to defend Mulholland’s reputation against those who have presented him as one of the villains in the “rape of the Owens Valley” or as a hubristic figure who took on more responsibility than he should have.

The Mulholland of Standiford’s telling is a dedicated public servant, a self-made man, and an engineering innovator. Clearly he was all these things, and Standiford’s painstaking account of the building of the aqueduct impresses the reader with what a challenging feat–in terms not just of engineering but of the financing and politics–it was. Mulholland not only designed a project that brought water to Los Angeles by gravity, but he found ways to cut costs and pioneer techniques that became standard practice in the industry. The chapters on the construction of the aqueduct are fascinating in their own right, and also remind us that the aqueduct was not a fait accompli once water rights were secured and voters approved the project.

The book is indeed a good read, but it is not without its flaws. To begin with, there are several factual errors that editors should have caught. (The Reclamation Service was created in 1902, not 1899. California recognizes the legal doctrine of prior appropriation in addition to riparian rights.) Beyond this, academic historians may desire more historiographic grounding than Standiford supplies. For instance, Standiford treats Mulholland as a Gilded Age figure, given his Horatio Alger- esque rise from humble origins. (The back cover of the book likewise refers to Mulholland’s tale as a “story of Gilded Age ambition, hubris, [and] greed.”) But perhaps it is just as apt to see Mulholland’s story as representative of the Progressive Era. After all, here was a man who strove for efficiency (he introduced water meters to prevent waste), who was a civil servant working for a classic Progressive-style bureaucracy, and who supported the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number. Yet Mulholland never received more than a grade- school education. He embodied, then, both the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. He was an expert but not a professional.

Readers might also question Standiford’s speculation that modern-day Los Angeles would not be what it is if not for Mulholland. Undoubtedly the Owens Valley project paved the way for L.A.’s remarkable growth, but Standiford perhaps overreaches when we writes, “Before Mulholland, there was next to nothing in the basins that hold 10 million or so people today, and there seemed little chance that there ever would be anything much until he went to work” (p. xviii). Surely the fin de siècle boosters of Los Angeles would not have held such a pessimistic view of the city’s future. They had, after all, met Collis Huntington’s terms to bring the Southern Pacific Railroad to the city and then defeated Huntington in the “free harbor” fight to secure federal support for improving the port at San Pedro. They had, in short, begun to fulfill some grand ambitions at a time when Mulholland was only beginning his rise to fame. Moreover, as Standiford himself explains, it was former mayor Fred Eaton who conceived of the aqueduct, and it was the water commissioners who approved the initial purchases of Owens Valley land and water rights. While these commissioners were fortunate to have at their disposal a public servant who had the drive, intelligence, and shrewdness to finish the aqueduct on time and under budget, one wonders if there weren’t other engineers around who could have steered the project to completion.

None of this is to deny Mulholland’s genius, nor is it meant to suggest that Standiford has not produced a lively account of his life and work. Those unfamiliar with this saga will find this book an excellent investigation of a fascinating figure, while those well versed in the subject will discover a number of rewarding new anecdotes and facts about Mulholland and his aqueduct.

The Frontier of Leisure: Southern California and the Shaping of Modern America.

By Lawrence Culver. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Notes, bibliography, and index. vii + 309 pp. $29.95 cloth.

Reviewed by Daniel S. Elkin, Ph.D. Candidate in History, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

In The Frontier of Leisure, historian Lawrence Culver argues that Southern California’s unique regional history influenced a model of urban development that reshaped the entire United States. Central to this model was the promotion of leisure and recreational activity. By the early twentieth century, locations such as Florida and New Orleans were promoting leisure and recreation to attract tourists, but only in Southern California were such activities depicted as a permanent way of life. In this way, the life of leisure became a consumer item like any other and was marketed and “sold” in mass. For better and for worse, this served to reshape the culture of the United States’ emerging middle class into one that mirrored the values of Southern California.

Culver’s opening chapters outline the visions of Los Angeles’s boosters in the early decades of the twentieth century. For scholars of the American Southwest, the discussion of Anglo romanticism of the Hispanic and indigenous past is familiar, but it is an important element of this work because it showcases the foundational flaws of the region’s culture of leisure. Inherent to this model’s viability was the selective use of the past and a reliance on people of color for low-wage labor. Additionally, both boosters and consumers of leisure viewed it as a culturally white affair, and this led to confrontations over public spaces like parks and beaches. Yet Culver does not believe that is the end of the story. While the culture of leisure possessed its “negative effects,” Culver suggests that it also “offered economic, social, and cultural opportunities, however circumscribed, to the working class and peoples of color” (p. 8). This is most aptly demonstrated in his chapters on Catalina and Palm Springs. For those who grew up in Southern California, these chapters are particularly entertaining as Culver traces the history of these resort communities and outlines their break from vacation destinations of the elites to more accessible hot spots for the region’s middle class.

Lastly, Culver uses the popularity of the ranch style home as his end point to suggest that the distinct regional culture of Southern California had indeed gone national by the middle of the twentieth century. With its architectural design, the single-story ranch home blended southwestern romanticism with modern suburban sensibilities. Yet, the ranch home also represented the “closing of the frontier of leisure” (p. 233). Moving forward from the 1960s, the priorities of American suburbanites were less concerned with leisure and luxury and more focused on withdrawal into white-only enclaves. Additionally, the ranch style had become ubiquitous, which made it increasingly undesirable. Yet the culture of leisure did not disappear with the ranch home. Instead, it became an engrained, if not always identified, influence across a wide spectrum of social movements from environmentalism to modern conservatism.

Those interested in the history of San Diego might come away disappointed by this book. Culver’s Southern California is almost exclusively limited to Los Angeles and its satellites. This is not a fatal flaw by any means, as the lessons he draws from Catalina and Palm Springs could ostensibly be applied to many of San Diego’s tourist destinations. In the end, his argument is ambitious and farther- reaching than the reader initially suspects. A deeper understanding of Southern California’s booster history, and the unique vision of urbanism it represented, has the potential to complicate our understanding of the “new” social movements in the second half of the twentieth century which are often represented as a distinct break from the social thought in the decades that preceded them. The Frontier of Leisure is a thought-provoking page turner that is accessible to specialist and non-specialist alike, and is a crucial work for scholars of the American Southwest.


Americans Recaptured: Progressive Era Memory of Frontier Captivity. By Molly K. Varley. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Appendix, notes, bibliography, and index. ix + 230 pp. $34.95 cloth. Narratives of white captives held by Native Americans have been staples of American literature since the publication of Puritan Mary Rowlandson’s account of her seizure during Metacom’s War. Molly Varley’s work explores how Progressive Era editions of these narratives recast the meaning of Indian captivity to reflect contemporary concerns about the fate of Native Americans, the “closing” of the frontier, and cultural/ethnic consequences of European immigration.

The Army Surveys of Gold Rush California: Reports of the Topographical Engineers, 1849–1851. Edited by Gary Clayton Anderson and Laura Lee Anderson. Norman: Arthur H. Clark, 2015. Maps, notes, bibliography, and index. 256 pp. $34.95 cloth. The Arthur H. Clark Company has published this edited collection of the reports of George Horatio Derby and other engineers operating in California. While earlier explorers like John C. Frémont had crafted rudimentary maps and reports of the area, the Army’s work proved to be more extensive and accurate, thus offering present-day readers rich accounts of the landforms, resources, and people of mid-nineteenth-century California.

Creating the American West: Boundaries and Borderlands. By Derek R. Everett. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2014. Illustrations, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography, and index. xv + 302 pp. $29.95 cloth. In this monograph, historian Derek Everett examines the process of creating state boundaries in the American West. After two introductory chapters, Everett provides six case studies of state border creation. A concluding paragraph follows, summarizing the author’s contention that the lines drafted to divide states in the past continue to exert a powerful influence over a host of issues, from local identities to water disputes to taxation.

Downwind: A People’s History of the Nuclear West. By Sarah Alisabeth Fox. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014. Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliography, and index. xiv + 285 pp. $29.95 cloth. Downwind is a recent addition to the growing body of scholarship on the nuclear West. In it Sarah Alisabeth Fox uses oral history to examine aspects of the region’s connection to atomic energy and weaponry and explores themes such as uranium mining, atmospheric testing, agriculture in downwind communities, and civil defense preparations.

From Acorns to Warehouses: Historical Political Economy of Southern California’s Inland Empire. By Thomas C. Patterson. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2015. Illustrations, maps, table, notes, bibliography, and index. 283 pp. $94.00 cloth, $32.95 paper; $32.95 e-book. Thomas Patterson, professor of anthropology at the University of California Riverside has produced this study of economic change in the Inland Empire. The book explains how political change–from Spanish colonization to Mexican rule to the American takeover–altered production, labor relations, and trade, as the indigenous economy was supplanted by the mission system before American settlers began to introduce changes in advance of the American conquest in 1848. Patterson carries the story to the present day, as the decline of Cold War-related defense manufacturing–itself part of a broader pattern of deindustrialization–helped set the stage for the emergence of the area as a major site for warehousing and distribution operations.

The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific. Emil and Kathleen Sick Series in Western History and Biography. Edited by Moon-Ho Jung. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2014. Illustrations, notes, and index. x + 308 pp. $50.00 cloth. This edited collection takes a transnational approach to its investigation of radical movements among people of color. While some of the nine chapters–such as Emily Hobson’s essay on the Los Angeles Police Department’s surveillance of gay communities–tell ultimately local stories, a common thread in the volume is how movement of people across the Pacific contributed to the evolution of radical politics in the American We.