This romantic and beautiful photo was taken by Charles Lummis (1859 - 1928), a man who, although born in Massachussetts, became so enamored of the Southwestern United States, and so dedicated his life to exploring and preserving what he found here, he is inextricably linked with California's history.
In 1884, Lummis took a job at the Los Angeles Times. He left his current home in Ohio for Los Angeles. To get there, he began a 3,000 mile journey westward that changed his outlook and his life. He walked - yes, walked - from East to West. He walked every day, and wrote about his discoveries and experiences in the evenings. These stories were printed as articles in the Los Angeles Times. Lummis introduced the world to a land of romance and unusual beauty, of natural splendor, of myth and legend. He described people, places, and natural wonders that few Americans had seen.
And when described by Lummis, it was all coated with a dusting of magic. Eventually, these articles were compiled and printed in a book entitled, A Tramp Across the Continent. The book is still in print today.
When Lummis arrived in Los Angeles, it was a city of 12,000 residents. In his articles, he captured the current events of the burgeoning communities of Southern California. He also painted a sweeping picture of Southern California that was inclusive of all her histories, all her residents - Spanish, Mexican, Native American, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, and Americans from the East Coast, the Midwest, the South.
Lummis eventually became the librarian at the Los Angeles Public Library. Later, he founded the Historical Society of Southern California. The Historical Society is currently located in El Alisal, his beloved home, built from local stone.
He was a leader in the cause of saving California's missions which had fallen into neglect and disrepair. He was even knighted by the King of Spain for his efforts in preserving that facet of Spanish history that was played out on American soil.
Charles Lummis was known as a colorful, larger-than-life character. In 1907, when he visited President Roosevelt in the White House, the New York Times reported that he wore, "a plain costume of green corduroy, with gold pins in the corners of his collar, a big red and green sash around his waist, a big sombrero with a leather band, and a heavy silver bracelet of Navajo workmanship." It was also noted that, "In this costume Mr. Lummis had the advantage of being easily seen from a distance."
His personality, his ambition, his talent, were as large as the western horizon that he so loved.
And yet, despite his gregarious nature, he was able to set himself aside, to observe and to listen. He was a historian of the first order. He captured the essence of a person's narrative, or the true nature of a certain place, and used his skills as a master story teller to share it with others. His writings captured imaginations all over the world, then and now.
In his book, Flowers of Our Lost Romance, he described the Southwestern area of the United States as being, "bigger and wilder and richer and more strange than man ever dreamed before, fuller of opportunities for conquest, of wonders and mountains and rivers and waterfalls, of beasts and birds and reptiles and trees and flowers, all unknown, all intriguing...."
Charles Lummis also became a magazine editor: Land of Sunshine / Out West. The magazine featured stories and articles by people like Jack London and John Muir, and drawings and paintings by artists such as Ed Borein and Frederick Remington. Many of Charles Lummis' books and magazines have been digitized, and can be found on Google Books, including this volume of Out West magazine. It makes for wonderful wintertime reading.
I am bigger than anything that can happen to me. All these things, sorrow, misfortune, and suffering, are outside my door.
I am in the house, and I have the key.
~Charles F Lummis