On Friday, September 26, 1913, San Diego's foremost citizens together with military officers, United States senators, a representative of the President of the United States, the Spanish ambassador, and the lieutenant governor of California all gathered at the site of an abandoned lighthouse on Point Loma to honor Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Spanish explorer credited with the discovery of California. In the colorful, if slightly inaccurate rhetoric of the day, the event was described in the San Diego Union:
Though Cabrillo was virtually unknown in Spain , he may or may not have actually set foot on the soil of what was to become San Diego and would later be credited with having been the first white man to see the West coast of the United States rather than having discovered California,  the spirit of the times if not historical precision was captured for the celebration.
The event, as evidenced by the dignitaries who took part, was no minor local phenomenon. It occurred as part of several movements which were growing not only in San Diego and California but on a national level as well. The monument movement, which was gaining strength nationally, California's rediscovery of its Spanish heritage, and the effort of San Diego to capitalize on tourism all played a part in the gala event on September 26. 
The Monument Movement
Though it is relatively easy to trace a piece of legislation or the history of a presidential proclamation, it is more difficult to speak of the origin of a particular idea or movement. The "monument movement" was neither an isolated phenomenon nor an immensely popular idea but rather a manifestation of the growing awareness among some Americans of their natural and cultural heritage.
In a country as new as the United States with seemingly endless resources, the ideas of conservation and preservation did not interest a majority of people in the middle of the nineteenth century. Especially in the West, where development and expansion were the primary concern, the notion of the government setting aside vast tracts of land and closing them to private use was not particularly welcome. Yet it was at the instigation of a group from California, a state noted for its land speculation schemes, that the first important piece of legislation concerning conservation was initiated. 
A bill which set aside and protected a huge tract of land in the Sierras that included the Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Big Trees was successfully lobbied through Congress by a group of Californians led by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. On June 25, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill into law thereby creating Yosemite State Park. No legislation on this scale had ever been passed by Congress and though it was the first official recognition of a developing interest in preservation of the nation's natural resources, it did not represent a groundswell of popular support. Ironically, it was Senator Cole of California who more accurately voiced the opinion of the majority when he opposed a later bill introduced by Congress in 1872 to set aside 2 million acres of land in the Yellowstone region of the Montana territory: "I do not see the reason or propriety of setting apart a large tract of land of that kind in the Territories of the United States for a public park." 
In spite of the opposition, the lobbying efforts of a small, dedicated and influential group of men were successful in getting the Yellowstone Act passed and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872. 
At the same time the national parks were being established, another separate, though related movement was under way.  Appalled by the plunder of the Southwestern cliff dwelling and pueblo ruins, archaeologists and scientists began a concerted effort to acquire government protection of these artifacts from vandals and pot hunters. As a result of their efforts, the Antiquities Act was signed into law on June 8, 1906.  An important provision of the act stated:
The discretionary power which the Act gave to the President, as well as a liberal interpretation of the type of property which could be declared a monument, resulted over the years in a conglomeration of areas including "battlefields, forts, mountains, canyons, cliffs, glaciers, sand dunes, islands, caves, deserts, trees, cacti, birthplaces of famous men, church missions and homesteads..." all being named national monuments. 
This loose interpretation of the Antiquities Act would ultimately make it possible for a local San Diego organization to obtain permission from the government to erect a monument to Cabrillo on War Department property. That the local citizenry should choose to honor a Spanish explorer has a great deal to do not only with the city's past, but with a new emphasis that Californians were placing on their early heritage.
California a Rediscovery of the Past
After the initial frenzy of the gold rush days of 1848 and 1849 was over, Californians began, in a conscious manner, to build a culture. Unlike the settlers of other Western regions whose survival needs superseded their ability to create the amenities of civilization, Californians were able to quickly create the type of culture that often takes generations to evolve in less fortunate places. This was largely due to the state's mild climate, immense natural resources and most important, the wealth brought from gold. San Francisco, which developed almost overnight from a village to a major metropolitan center, exhibited by the late 1850's all the accoutrements of an established city, including newspapers and publishing companies, opera houses, schools, churches and libraries. These institutions did not reflect the Spanish and Mexican cultures which had developed in California before the coming of the Americans. Rather they displayed the tastes, ideas and perceptions that the new settlers, primarily educated men and women from the east and midwest, brought with them. 
A small but vocal group of California thinkers and writers in the 1870's began to remind Californians of their Spanish roots. In 1871, Judge Elisha W. Mckinstry told the Society of California Pioneers that something simple and precious had been lost in the passing of old California while the new California was pretentious and vulgar by comparison. In the same vein, Elizabeth Hughes, writing in 1875, contrasted the ostentation of San Francisco's Nob Hill, an example of what she believed to be the vulgarity and materialism American architecture, with the simple dignity of mission buildings. 
The "cow counties" of Southern California, which had lagged behind San Francisco and central California in population and business growth until the 1870's, soon became the focus of this emphasis on the Spanish past. With the publishing of Helen Hunt Jackson's novel Ramona in 1884, the romanticizing of California's early history reached its peak. Mrs. Jackson, a native of Massachusetts, was smitten with the romance of the mission era after several visits to Southern California beginning in 1881.  Conceived as a kind of Uncle Tom's Cabin of Indian life, the book was most effective in creating the legend of an idyllic mission era, presided over by humble and beneficent Spanish friars. Ramona became one of the most widely read books of its time and inspired thousands of eastern tourists to make pilgrimages on newly established railroad lines to "Ramona's marriage place," "Ramona's school" and even the bed where Ramona slept. All were thoughtfully provided by entrepreneurs eager to attract the hordes of people traveling to Southern California in search of "Ramona's land." 
In spite of the fact that this interest in California's Spanish beginnings was based on a history that was spurious at best, the Ramona mania did have the effect of bringing the attention of the public to the disreputable state to which the California mission buildings had fallen. Spurred by the popular interest in this cause, the Association for the Preservation of the Missions (later to be known as the Landmarks Club) was organized in 1888 under the leadership of Charles Fletcher Lummis. 
Lummis, who disdained the sentimental image of California portrayed in Ramona, provided much of the impetus for promotion of what he believed was the true Spanish nature of California's past. Like many of Southern California's early boosters, Lummis was a transplanted Easterner. Harvard educated, with a flair for the dramatic as well as the historical, the self-styled "Don Carlos" ate Southwestern food, wore a green corduroy suit cut in the Spanish style, a frilled shirt, broad brimmed hat and Navajo jewelry. As editor of the publication Land of Sunshine (called Out West after 1902),  he turned his considerable energies toward making Americans in general and Californians in particular aware and appreciative of their Spanish heritage. Land of Sunshine, subsidized at first by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, published numerous articles by authorities on Old California and Southwest culture. Using the monthly editorial column, "The Lion's Den" as his pulpit, Lummis extolled the virtues of California's early landmarks, in particular the decaying missions, and solicited financial aid from his readers for his preservation efforts. 
He sought local support for his projects as well, as is evidenced by his letter to the editor of the San Diego Sun on Oct. 27, 1899:
This sentiment was vigorously seconded by an editorial in the San Diego Union which pointed out the tourist value to Southern California of the structures. In addition: "...aside from the purely practical view, their preservation demanded a nobler sentiment. It will be a lasting disgrace to permit these historic structures to become unsightly ruins." 
San Diego1897-1915 Selling the Past
The idea of capitalizing on its past for the benefit of tourists was not a new idea in San Diego. The city, like the rest of the state and the country and was subject to the economic booms and busts of the 1880's and 1890's. Having reached a population peak of 35,000 in 1888, the number was cut by more than half to only 16,000 in 1889. Caught in what seemed like an indefinite holding pattern, city fathers sought ways for San Diego to get its share of Southern California-bound tourists. 
In 1892, prompted by Walter G. Smith, newspaper editor of The Sun, local officials attempted to promote the area by sponsoring a celebration to commemorate Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo's discovery of San Diego Bay in 1542. Such an occasion, they believed, would enable San Diego to establish itself as the birthplace of Alta California. 
The three-day celebration beginning on September 28 was an elaborate one financed by businessmen and the city government, and it attracted thousands of spectators. Though marred by technical difficulties including the stranding of replicas of Cabrillo's caravels 300 yards from shore by the receding tide and the dousing of a group of spectators when a pier collapsed,  the event was good naturedly declared a success. In spite of the optimism of its promoters, the Cabrillo celebration did not, unfortunately, put San Diego on the map as a tourist mecca. Except for a repeat performance in 1894,  the idea of a Cabrillo celebration was not revived until 1913 when it became part of the advance promotion for the Panama-California Exposition of 1915. It was the planning, execution and promotion of this exposition that most firmly established San Diego's Spanish connection and made it a permanent part of the city's identification and heritage.
Still searching for the attention-getter that would help San Diego fulfill its destiny as a great city, local businessmen believed they had found a golden opportunity with the building of the Panama Canal, scheduled to be completed in 1915. In order to call attention to San Diego's potential as a principal port in the new Atlantic-Pacific sea trade, local banker G. Aubrey Davidson suggested at a Chamber of Commerce meeting on July 9, 1909, that the city sponsor an international exposition in City Park timed to coincide with the completion of the Canal.  The plans "started ambitiously," according to Julius Wangenheim, one of the promoters. "with the goal of a whole million dollars, the largest amount our minds could grasp at that time, and one that was almost synonymous with infinity."  On Sept 4, 1909, the Articles of Incorporation were filed to establish the Panama-California Exposition Company with the purpose of operating a world's fair in 1915. 
The plans were in danger of being short-circuited almost immediately when San Francisco announced on December 7, 1909, that it too planned to hold a Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915. Doubting San Diego's ability to challenge such formidable competition, a movement began to quash the exposition, but the Director General, Charles Collier, convinced the opposition that though a new strategy was called for, the exposition should proceed as planned.  The directors decided to modify their plans for a world's fair and instead aimed for a smaller regional exhibition which would complement rather than compete with the larger one in San Francisco. Collier envisioned an exposition in keeping with the history and culture of Southern California and wished to create a miniature city with buildings in the style of the missions in contrast to the neo-Roman beaux arts extravaganza planned for the North. The exhibits, rather than worldwide in scope, would feature the products and arts of the Southwest, Spain and Latin America. In endorsing this idea, San Diego joined the rest of Southern California in making the Spanish and Mexican occupation of the area something to be exploited as a tourist attraction rather than a connection to be concealed. 
The Panama-California directors had agreed that "Spanish Mission" architecture would be the style of the exposition and the San Diego Buildings and Grounds Committee had chosen a local architect, Irving Gill to design the buildings. However, New York City architect Bertram Goodhue, who had build a national reputation for his ornate "Spanish Colonial" style, became interested in the project. He lobbied the directors to become the "advisory and consulting architect" and eventually Gill was maneuvered out of his job. As a result, plans for a simple mission style were replaced by the more fanciful and elaborate Churrigueresque buildings for which Goodhue was known. The Spanish connection remained, however, though executed in a style that was a bit more grandiose than originally planned. 
The Order of Panama Promoting the Image
Activities to promote the planned exposition began on July 19, 1911 with the groundbreaking ceremonies. Not content with leaving publicity for the proceedings to the Chamber of Commerce and other established civic groups, the exposition's number one booster, Charles Collier, began an organization called the Order of Panama whose chief purpose was to "...establish marks of recognition all over the city and the bay that will perpetuate the deeds of the Spanish." 
The organization, which held its first meeting in January 1912 with 115 members, claimed 500 by September of that year.  Somewhat of a cross between a civic booster group and a fraternal order, the organization set out immediately with lavish plans for projects which would call attention to the Spanish nature of the upcoming exposition. These projects included the erection of a cross near the site of the original San Diego Mission, a statue to Balboa in the newly renamed Balboa Park, and a 150 foot statue of Cabrillo on Point Loma. Only one of these projects, the Serra cross, was ever completed though preliminary work was done for all of them and all the sites were dedicated with a great deal of accompanying pomp and circumstance.
The organization's articles of incorporation, adopted on October 1, 1912, called for expansion into neighboring states as well as Latin American countries. However, there is no evidence that the Order of Panama ever extended beyond the borders of San Diego.  In an attempt to enlist the aid of the city's women, the Order "proclaimed equal suffrage as part of a booster program" with the promise of "a women's auxiliary in the near future"another plan which apparently never came to fruition. 
Though not all the anticipated projects were completely successful, each was begun with a great amount of energy and enthusiasm and put in the charge of a committee headed by a prominent member. The committee that had "undertaken the work of building an Heroic Statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the discoverer of California,"  was chaired by Judge Ernest Riall. In a letter to the Secretary of War dated April 29, 1913, Riall explained the purpose of the project and the choice of location:
Riall then proceeded to explain that permission to use the land would not conflict with the rights of the Light House Board since the lighthouse on the land requested "was long ago abandoned."
In the ensuing nine months, at the end of which time permission for the project was formalized by a presidential proclamation, the request was shifted from office to office within the government. By the time it reached the President on October 10, 1913, the file contained a sheaf of memos and twenty-four endorsements from various government agencies.
The trek through bureaucratic channels began with an endorsement of the request by the office of the Chief of Coast Artillery which registered "no military objection to erecting a statue on the site proposed."  Forwarded then to the the Judge Advocate General on May 8, he rendered an opinion that
It is here that the Antiquities Act of 1906 came into play. Though it was not possible to legally grant a license or lease for the land requested, the Judge Advocate General said that: "In the opinion of this office the President may, under the broad authority conferred by this statute [Section 2 of the Act of Congress of June 8, 1906, (34 Stat. 225), set aside a sufficient area of this reservation, as a site for the proposed monument."  Though the erection of a 150-foot statue was perhaps far removed from the purpose of the legislation designed to protect cultural artifacts, a broad interpretation of the act worked to the ultimate benefit of the Order of Panama.
The proposal was then forwarded to the Major William C. Davis, Commanding Officer of Fort Rosecrans, for approval of the site selected. Davis voiced his concerns about the original spot chosen for the project, a point three hundred feet south of the old light house. This area, he believed, might "possibly be required as a site for...additional armament" at a later date.  After meeting with the some members of the committee, an alternate site was chosen: "... the site of the Old Lighthouseand that the grounds in connection therewith be the plot included within the loop made by the Boulevard around the Lighthouse." A provision also agreed upon concerned the military's need for a radio signal station and a latrine at the site of the lighthouse:
One can only imagine the lack of enthusiasm that must have greeted the sub-committee when it reported to the chairman that it had agreed to let the military install a radio tower and latrine in the Order's "towering monument to Cabrillo."  In any event, Chairman Riall composed a hasty letter explaining that "after due deliberation by the whole committee it was decided that it would be inappropriate to place a Radio Station or Latrine within the pedestal."  The reason given was that the committee planned "...to construct the base or pedestal of the State as a sepulcher for the bones of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo; expert search is now being made on the Island of San Miguel, with every assurance of success in finding his remains." Riall concluded: "the Committee objects to a Radio Station in the base of the monument for the reason, that in the event of war, the Statue would become a target for the enemy."  Apparently swayed by the committee's reasoning, Davis reported to the Commanding General, Western Department that after reviewing the site with the Secretary of War, he had reached the conclusion that since "...it is not practicable to provide in the pedestal accommodations for a radio party, these can and should be provided elsewhere." 
Minor wrangling continued between Davis and his superiors about the relative cost of retaining the lighthouse as a radio station and building a new structure.  Davis defended his position of allowing the committee to go forward with its plans to demolish the lighthouse and erect their statue on the site since:
This reasoning was finally accepted and approved by Davis' superiors in San Francisco and the proposal returned to the War Department on August 28, 1913. The question now arose as to "whether the area so set aside from the reservation would pass wholly from military control."  On September 5, 1913, the Judge Advocate General rendered the opinion that:
He further recommended that:
All obstacles having thus been cleared away, Lindley M. Garrison, Secretary of War, sent the following letter to President Woodrow Wilson on October 10, 1913:
Wilson signed the proclamation on October 14.  This final granting of permission proved to be somewhat of an anticlimax, however, since the Order of Panama had gone ahead with its plans to celebrate Carnaval Cabrillo on September 26 and "solemnly dedicate" the monument to "high uses." 
The Carnaval Cabrillo Great Promises and Grand Expectations
The groundbreaking for the Panama-California Exposition had taken place on July 19, 1911, with appropriate ceremonies and gestures. These included the pressing of a button by William Howard Taft in the White House which unfurled an American flag at the site of the ceremony.  As the opening of the exposition moved closer and San Francisco maneuvered its way toward greater national recognition for its own fair, San Diego promoters sought ways to keep the city in the public's eye. The Carnaval Cabrillo, a three day extravaganza planned for September of 1913 attempted to do just that. Designed to call attention to the Spanish connection which would be the theme of the exposition, the Carnaval Cabrillo combined "the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Balboa and the 371st anniversary of the discovery of San Diego Bay by Cabrillo and the 144th anniversary of the establishment of civilization on the Pacific Coast by Junipero Serra". 
As part of the publicity campaign, the Order of Panama commissioned Charles Lummis to write an article commemorating Cabrillo's landing at San Diego in 1542. With Lummis' keen interest in California's Spanish heritage, he was, no doubt, happy to comply. Lummis testimonial read in part:
One hundred copies of the article were printed with editions in English, Spanish and Portuguese and illustrated with pen and ink drawings by Virginia Goodrich. The cover featured an embossed medallion of a sculpture of the head of Cabrillo by British sculptor Allen Hutchinson. Hutchinson obviously had hopes of a greater commission coming from the project. Found later among his papers was the photograph of a model statue showing Cabrillo with arm outstretched standing on a pedestal that featured a medallion portraying his ship. Like many plans connected to the project, the 150-foot statue never came to be.  Not until 1940 would San Diego citizens show serious interest in providing the monument with a suitable likeness of the explorer it commemorated.
Carnaval Cabrillo, which began on Wednesday evening, September 24, was not designed to celebrate things that had been accomplished but rather to call attention to great plans for the future. Opening night festivities commenced with the arrival of Representative Robert L. Henry of Texas, who appeared on behalf of President Wilson and the Spanish Ambassador to the United States, Don Juan Riano y Gayangos. The dignitaries were met by city officials at the railroad station as whistles and guns announced the start of the carnival. The party proceeded to Wonderland, an amusement park at the beach, where the officials were chided to forget their dignity and enjoy themselves. Dignity was definitely not the order of the day as judges, bankers and city officials that had been sentenced by a kangaroo court were displayed in a large monkey cage provided for that purpose. The mayor's attempt to speak was shouted down by:
The only serious casualty of the evening appeared to be "El General" Carl Heilbron of the Order of Panama who broke his ankle falling from a platform. 
Decorum had been restored by the next morning, however, "when the long line of official automobiles started from the headquarters of the carnival committee of the Order of Panama for the spot where the Cabrillo monument [would] stand, overlooking the deep blue of the Pacific." 
Though nothing more concrete than Charles Lummis' promotional booklet ever appeared by the date scheduled for the carnival, the dedication ceremony at the site made up in enthusiasm what it lacked in structural manifestations. Speakers at the dedication seemed to have no difficulty summoning up the promise of future grandeur as they stood on a platform in front of the ruined lighthouse. With much lofty rhetoric, monument committee chairman Ernest Riall, who replaced the injured Heilbron, spoke of the grandness of the statue described by Lummis and revealed plans for a crypt containing Cabrillo's bones which "would rest for the ages" in the base of the statue. 
A parade of speakers followed, including Representative Robert L. Henry, who lauded the efforts of the Order and predicted that the present era of the growth of San Diego was only the beginning. Don Juan Riano y Ganyangos, speaking as a representative of the king of Spain, thanked San Diego for associating his country with the celebration and "sent in return his warmest greetings and deepest assurance of interest in the historic work being done here."  The military took part in the ceremonies as well, as troops from Fort Rosecrans and marines from the warships in the bay were joined by "... Spanish soldiers dressed in costumes of red and yellow." 
The keynote speaker, Senator John D. Works, injected a different note in the proceedings by using the event as a platform for a purely political speech. Works, speaking of recent civil disturbances in Mexico, urged immediate direct intervention in that country to protect American interests. Accusing the Taft and Wilson administrations of being too lenient in the matter he said: "We must not stop at pressing claims for damages. We must enter the country, protect our imperiled citizens and save their property endangered by the riotous conditions that have been prevailing there." He also mirrored the growing popular concern with immigration laws when he spoke of the need to prevent "a horde of undesirable aliens from entering and settling in California after the Panama Canal is opened."  This strange mixture of past Spanish glory, present American chauvinism and dreams of a glorious future ended with a dedication of the monument site by Lt. Governor A. J. Wallace who "poured upon the spot water from the Pacific Ocean and earth taken from the spot at La Playa where Cabrillo first landed." 
The rest of the Carnaval Cabrillo continued in the same vein with a parade the following day headed by "Chief Iodine, last of the Iroquois tribe" and featuring a float depicting the Goddess of Liberty, Uncle Sam and Lieutenant Stockton.  The Spanish minister was once again called upon to make a dedication, this time of a monument to Balboa to be built on the site of the Exposition. This statue, like the one of Cabrillo, was never erected by the Order of Panama.
The closing day of the carnival featured the unveiling of the Father Junipero Serra Cross on Presidio hill near Old Town. The cross, built under the auspices of the Order, had been started the previous July and included fragments of tile removed from the remains of the old presidio. Charles Lummis provided the inscription for the base and once again the Spanish ambassador figured prominently in the proceedings as he presented the gold key to unlock the enclosure surrounding the cross. The festivities closed that night "with grand celebration and confetti battle at Wonderland park."  A masked ball, which ended at midnight, was followed by a ragtime ball in which "every kind of ragtime dance, from the original Texas Tommy and Turkey Trot to the latest innovations of New York and Paris, [were] welcomed and prizes [were] awarded the dancers with the most grotesque steps." 
Though not all the projects promised by the ambitious leaders of the Order of Panama were completed, the purpose of the Carnaval Cabrillo had been ably served. By involving officials of the federal and state levels and by having the Spanish ambassador play a central role, the events took on more than local significance. In addition to drawing attention to the upcoming exposition, the carnival firmly established a theme which came to dominate the image of San Diego and all of Southern California. Having previously ignored their history, the people of Southern California set about creating one. Built from selective elements of a re-discovered Spanish past, it combined sun-drenched romanticism with a grand optimism for the future. The Panama-California Exposition of 1915 would become the embodiment of this image, for in the words of Bertram Goodhue: "It endeavored to reflect the past of that great section of the country of which it [San Diego] formed the natural seaport, and to obtain, in so far as this was possible, something of the effect of the old Spanish and Mission days and thus to link the spirit of the old seekers of the fabled Eldorado with that of the twentieth century." 
The establishment of Cabrillo National Monument in 1913 was part of a larger scheme by the Order of Panama to draw attention to San Diego and its upcoming exposition. Though the Order did not intend that the project should be abandoned when the automobiles containing the Spanish ambassador and assorted dignitaries left the site on the morning of September 25, 1913, this is indeed what happened. Since attention of the organization was directed in the following years to the exposition, the ambitious plans for the statue and crypt of Cabrillo were presumably lost in the shuffle. When the Order of Panama disbanded after the closing of the exposition, nothing more had been done at the site.
Looking at it from the perspective of the present, we could say that the failure of the project was indeed fortunate. Had scheduled plans been carried out, the lighthouse would have been leveled, since it was deemed by the War Department to be without historic value and considered by the Order to be an obstruction of the view. Interest in the structure flared only intermittently in the next twenty years and the intervention of the National Park Service in 1933 was necessary to awaken the community's interest in restoring it. Plans for a suitable memorial to Cabrillo never completely died. However, it took a later exposition, this one in San Francisco, some rather outlandish behavior by a state senator, and a keen interest by the state's Portuguese community to provide, finally, the long-awaited statue.
A broad interpretation of the Antiquities Act by the government in 1913 had provided the means to give national significance to San Diego's desire to honor Cabrillo and to establish itself as the "Plymouth Rock of the West."  By presidential proclamation, federal land had been permanently set aside for this memorial. However, the limitations of the act were shown when local plans fell through, and the government, with no centralized department for the administration of national monuments and with no means of funding them, could only leave the site abandoned and forgotten for the next twenty years. 
Last Updated: 02-Mar-2005