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Rancho Days

Posted in Academic Communities, General News, Library Collections, University Archives, and Visiting the Library

A Glimpse of Early California through Letters

For approximately thirty years, California was organized by a series of large ranches (Ranchos) owned predominantly by wealthy and powerful rancheros (ranch operators). The Rancho period begins at the end of the Mexican Revolution in 1821 and ends at the outset of the Mexican-American War in 1846. 

This period is often romanticized for its simplicity, in part due to California’s isolation from the rest of Mexico. Indeed, since the first Europeans landed on its shores, the Rancho Period is arguably the most independent time for California. Oversight from the Mexican Government rested on appointed governors, often rancheros who still maintained their ranches while holding the office. A noticeable migration of American settlers increased during this time, a concern for many rancheros about the future of the region. Despite this, California remained considerably distant from affairs in the United States, and far from the capital in Mexico City. 

CSUF’s University Archives & Special Collections are fortunate to hold approximately 100 California letters from the nineteenth century. Many of the letters are from the rancho period, and give glimpses into the lives of rancheros following California’s entry into the United States. The Early California Letters collection was recently reprocessed, and its inventory is now accessible online Via

We are excited to share some of these letters in our new window display on the Pollak Library 3rd Floor South, which focuses on four rancheros and the land that was granted to them by the last Mexican governors of California. You may notice that the individuals highlighted here are connected through family ties. Indeed, if the letters in this collection shed light on anything during the Rancho Period it is the strength of familial ties among the Ranchos.

For access to these original letters, please visit University Archives & Special Collections at the Pollak Library, 3rd Floor South.