1848 Proclamation on Land in Alta California

The archival materials in the Mexican proclamations issued during the Mexican-American War, 1807-1864 collection consist of broadside documents issuing decrees from the Mexican federal government to the general public. These decrees address various topics such as taxes, public safety during holiday festivities, and the National Guard. However, folder six contains eleven proclamations that cover administrative and political concerns that would have impacted the inhabitants of Mexico City and beyond. In looking to investigate the 19th century history of Mexican California, item five in this folder serves as a vital entry point for exploring multiple facets of Mexican politics, Mexican relations to the United States of America, and delineating how these political components have shaped our understanding of California.

“Proclamation on Alta California,” Box 1, Folder 6, Mexican proclamations issued during the Mexican-American War (Collection 997). UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library.

Item five is exemplary of the types of items in this collection; the broadside documents are individual, unbound sheets of paper with only black text. The paper of the proclamation shows signs of aging through discoloration along with minor tears and folding creases on the right side edges of the paper. There are no images, illustrations, or color on the proclamation only black, centered text. At first glance the proclamation simply appears to be a text heavy document, however variations in typography such as changes in font style and size offer different visual queues for the organization and significance of information. The most prominent example of this would be the “title” of the document. The first row of text at the top of the document spells out “José Ramon Malo, Go-” in a bold, capitalized serif font. José Ramon Malo was the governor of Mexico City during this time period; it appears that he was the last figure in the bureaucratic ladder before this proclamation was publically issued. Malo’s role, being in a position of power and directly addressing the public sphere of Mexico City, is emphasized through immediately visible typography differentiating it from the rest of the text.

This proclamation uses typography to indicate vital information through out the document. The text mentions the names and roles of various individuals in positions of power, lists different dates, and mentions property in Alta California in relation to the family of Agustin de Iturbide. All of this information offers various entry points to consider how this collection can offer a new perspective to understating the history of 19th century Mexican California. While the documents in this collection offer a selective perspective of Mexican politics, this document offers a glimpse to the political hierarchies and bureaucracies that comprised the Mexican government during the 19th century. This perspective incites questions of how “California” as a territory was conceptualized during the first half of the 19th century and how this varied between entities, primarily with Mexican government and the United States government. With these queries in mind, the Mexican proclamations collection will be investigated through archival work and secondary research into the historical context and figures that compose this collection. This investigation aims to serves as a basis for future research into 19th century Mexican California for other historians, students, and scholars.