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100 Years Ago: November 1922


This is the ninety-fourth entry in my series of abridgements of National Geographic Magazines as they reach their one-hundred-year anniversary of publication.



The first article in this month’s issue is entitled “Adventuring Down the West Coast of Mexico” and was written by Herbert Cory, author of such articles as “Across the Equator with the American Navy”, “On the Monastir Road”, and “Andorra, a Unique Republic” in the National Geographic Magazine.  Of the article’s “45 Illustrations”, Thirty-six are black-and-white photographs by Clifton Adams, Staff Photographer, National Geographic Magazine.  Of those photos, twenty-two are full-page in size.  Eight of the remaining illustrations are full-page etchings, which will be discussed later.  The remaining illustration is a sketch map of the West Coast of Mexico with a large inset of the author’s route.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

The author started his journey in Nogales, running scores of little errands that preceded entrance into a new country – things to buy, passports to see to, and people to see.  The author had a fascination of stories about lost mines.  Everyone on the coast seemed to have at least one lost-mine story.  Some rested on tradition, while others were documented.  There was a tale of the mine near Arispe, the entrance to which was concealed by the Spanish friars just before they were wiped out by Indians.  A century or so later a searcher in the monastic archives in Madrid found the story.  By that time, the mine’s existence was long forgotten.  The writing said that the opening to the tunnel could be seen from the door of the church.  Scores of prospectors took sightings from the doorway without success.  Then a bit of plaster fell away from an old wall and revealed a forgotten door, bricked up and covered over.  One old-timer who remembered the legend brought out his glasses and searched the hills.  Sure enough, far up on the side of a canyon, he saw what proved to be the gateway to the lost mine.  The west coast of Mexico was about two thousand miles long, from Tiajuana [sic] on the U. S. border to the river Suchiate, the border with Guatemala.  For a great part of that length, it was cut off from the central portion of Mexico by the Sierra Madres.  There were plenty of passes, but the barrier existed.  As one consequence of that partial isolation, the west coast’s relationship to the U. S. was closer than was that of the rest of Mexico.  American goods were transported easily to the west coast, either by sea or by land, while in return the agricultural products of the coast found a ready market in America.  Nine States – Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Guerrero, Colima, Michoacan, Oaxaca, and Chiapas – rimmed the Pacific coastline, while Durango saddled the Sierra Madres, so could have been considered a part of the west coast.  The west coast, as outlined, contained almost one half of the area of Mexico, and fully one-third of its population.

Little was known of the west coast compared to the rest of Mexico.  Ease of access, politics, and oil directed attention toward the central portion and eastern half of the country.  One started down the west coast through the State of Sonora. It was, at first, an enormous expanse of blowing sand, white rocks, and burning sun.  Sonora was the second largest State in Mexico and one of the richest mining districts in the world.  The desert hid its best.  Far back in the hills were green valleys and golden mines.  The stranger saw only the misery of the half-naked Indians sheltered in the remains of adobe huts that had been ruined in the fighting of the last ten years.  The wide plains were empty of life.  The herds had gone to feed the revolutions.  Cabeza de Vaca was the first Spaniard to find gold in Sonora, on his trip to the Florida Everglades in the early sixteenth century.  The author was amazed, not that he found gold, but he made it there in spite of the terrain and the hostile Yaqui Indians, cousins of the Apache, who resided there.  Sonora of 1922 was much the same as in de Vaca’s time.  It was hard, glittering, and superficially inhospitable; yet in the folds of the hills were hidden the finest churches in North America – churches were distinguished from cathedrals – whose altars were once plated with gold and silver, and hung with jewels.  They were abandoned in great part.  Those that remained open to worshipers were served only at intervals by priests who rode muleback over a wide circle of weeks.  The Sonora mines were opened three centuries prior to 1922 because of those old churches.  The friars built them in small villages with no more than a few hundred Indians, and sacked the treasures of the hills for the glorification of the Cross.  The traveler established his first real contact with the land at Magdalena.  It was a small Indian town clustered about an old church.  It was on the edge of the desert, sun baked, specked with the greens of mesquite, manzanita, and cactus, rimmed about by silver-laden hills.  The old-timers called this “the horned-toad belt”.

One thought of the desert as unpopulated.  One road for miles without seeing more than an adobe hut or a wandering Indian behind a burro, or perhaps a twinkling light at night.  Yet during the fiesta of St.  Francis Xavier 40,000 Indians swarmed into Magdalena.  At night they rolled in their blankets and slept in heaps in the street.  By day they prayed to the Saint and ate their everlasting cakes.  It was near Magdalena that gold attracted the Spanish; but long before Cortez came, those mines had paid regular tribute to the Aztec rulers.  It was from them that much of the gold that was loaded on treasure-ships in Acapulco bound for Spain.  The Spanish crown’s demand for such a large proportion of the spoils disgusted the Jesuits, who finally reported the mines as “lost”.  They were not worked again until the advent of Americans in 1817.  From some of those mines, silver was taken out literally in plates.  One nugget weighed 525 pounds.  It took two mules to haul it out slung between them on a litter of tree branches.  While friends of the author’s group thought that the trip to Mexico was dangerous, the author compared the train ride from Nogales south to one from Washington to Baltimore.  Now and then the train stopped at a village hidden in the night.  At the stations, Indians stood alongside the cars with trays of foodstuffs for sale.  Some had onions, tamales, or enchiladas. Others sold sugared bread and baskets of oranges and apples.  Those who rode the day coaches gave up any meal schedule; they simply ate at every station.  The more stops, the more they ate.  It was hard to see how the vendors could make more than a meager living, for there was but one train per day for them to meet.  It was doubtful that they earned twenty cents a day.  The reason, of course, was that their living expenses were zero.  They lived on corn and beans, which they raised, with an occasional egg or slice of pork.  They sold only their surplus.

It was a dark morning outside their car at Guaymas.  The sun had not yet risen and the sea fog was rolling in from the great gulf of California.  Candles twinkled everywhere over tiny, white-clothed tables on which a few dishes of food were offered for sale.  Behind each table sat the Indian proprietress.  The patrons were mostly peons, clothed in thin cotton garments.  It was the author’s introduction to the Mexican habit of eating and sleeping outdoors.  Somehow, the wind was tempered.  No matter in what part of the Republic they were, the flames of the candles in those little open-air restaurants seemed to rise straight up.  The night air was cool, but the peon seemed impervious to discomfort.  He rarely shivered.  When he got ready for bed, he selected the nearest wall and curled down upon the stones of the street. 

In the Yaqui country they often saw groups of Indians asleep star-fashion about a fire, heads out, feet-in.  A light blanket served as a cloak by day and a bed by night.  The cargadores fell upon the party in the dank fog.  One of the conveniences of Mexico was that one never needed to carry anything anywhere.  They stumbled over the rutted cart track that served as a street until they came to the hotel.  The cargador led them up a flight of bare stairs, through a bare corridor looking upon a bare, dusty patio, into huge, bare, high-ceilinged rooms.  On the coast, the summers were unbearably hot, and one must have open windows and fresh air to be comfortable.  Rugs, curtains, and doilies seemed forbidden.  At first glance, such hotel rooms seemed barren and cold.  A bed draped with mosquito netting, a chair, a twisted, dusty dresser, and no more.  Right in front of the hotel stretched the bay.  Once Guaymas was a town of vision and prosperity.  It was one of the ports from which the peninsula of Lower California was fed, and from its fertile hinterland oranges, wheat, corn, beans, cattle, and horses grew and flourished.  Before the farms were deserted, the herds killed off, and the mines shut down because of the war, this town was full of business.  Back then, Sonora produced enough wheat to feed its own people and export some to Lower California and Sinaloa.  The valleys of the Sonora rivers, while seeming infertile, were easily made to bloom with a little water and plowing.  The crops possible to Sonora’s bottoms were incredible.  But Guaymas told a story of war and loot.  The bay had been silted up for years, and it continued to silt up.  Then the World War and internecine war came to interfere with the west coast trade.  In 1922, the bay was almost barren of vessels.  A German square-rigger, interned since 1914, was drying at its anchor.  Here and there were smaller vessels.  A schooner from Lower California nudged into port and unloaded bales of dates.  Those dates came from groves planted by the friars two hundred years before.

One hoped that it was but a temporary stagnancy in Guaymas.  After all, the mines in the high Sierras still held their hordes of gold and silver.  Some time, when men worked more and talked and fought a little less, the mule trains would again wind out of town toward the rosy hills, and tall ships would again grace the harbor.  Then Guaymas would come back to its own.  The bay was not very long, not very wide. And hemmed in with hills that came down to the water’s edge.  It was one of the extraordinary beauty spots of the world.  The water had a hue and iridescence and sparkle of a gem, changing and shifting and glittering anew as the light descended in varying reflections from the summits overhead.  It was a paradise for fishermen.  The Indian fishers were forever sailing out in their log canoes or towing them back, fish-laden, along the shore.  Unkind breezes and treacherous currents were unknown.  The bay seemed as gentle as those who used it.  The natives of Guaymas were gentle, but not far up the coast, a savage tribe was dying.  The Seri Indians were naked, squalid, and degenerate. They had no culture or tradition of kindness.  They were non-producers of everything save hate.  There could hardly be 100 left in 1922, and each winter took an increasing toll.  [See: “A Mexican Land of Canaan”, October 1919, The Geographic.]  Across the Gulf of California, a few days’ sail on a schooner, was the wonderland of Baja California – Lower California.  It was more than a bit arid.  There were sections of the peninsula where it had not rained for seven years.  One must be a desert-lover to appreciate the sandy wastes, its miles of mesquite and cactus, its huge canyons marked with traces of a race lost to history, whose existence was unexplained.  But Lower California had much to offer.  Pearls, for one thing.  The hidden port of La Paz was, perhaps, the third most important pearling port in the world.  Two years prior, La Paz had more dollars per population than any other town in the western hemisphere.

The price of pearls had been boosted sky-high by the newly enriched of the World War, and La Paz had pearls to sell.  It had been a pearling center for centuries.  When the Spaniards came to Baja California, they found naked Indians living in brush shelters on the shores of the gulf.  They seemed poor, but they possessed pearls worth the ransom of many kings.  The former emperor of Austria-Hungary had in his crown jewels, a great black pearl.  That gem was found in the hands of an Indian baby playing on the beach at La Paz.  In time, the oyster beds were partially exhausted, and pearlers were forced to go farther afield.  In 1922, pearlers cruised as far south as Manzanillo, but La Paz remained the center of the industry.  Two years prior, the hotels were jammed with pearl buyers that some had to sleep on the corridors.  Most of the jewel buyers were French, German, and Dutch.  But the next year, hardly a buyer was seen in La Paz.  The bottom had fallen out of the market.  The pearling motherships were small schooners which carried three or four canoes, each crewed by three or four men, who worked on shares.  The canoe crew got one-tenth of its day’s catch.  It was a gamble.  An Indian might have worked all season for barely enough to feed himself through winter; or the first oyster he opened may have made him rich for life.  The pearls of the Orient were mostly white or pink, but the waters south of La Paz produced many black pearls, and brown pearls, and golden and gray pearls, and pearls of many another enticing tint.  During the boom times, La Paz’s streets ran with money.  In 1922, it was doubtful that pearls commanded, at the source, one-fifth the price they did at the height of the boom.  The author believed that soon the trade would revive.

The party was beginning to get annoyed by the fiscal system of Mexico.  It had seemed romantic at Nogales, to find that they had to supply themselves with gold for the journey down the west coast.  Thanks to the geyser of paper money that had burst into Mexico under the revolutionists, there was no governmental credit whatever.  Paper money was not accepted at any price for anything.  They looked lopsided, like badly packed mules, because of the hunks of gold that thrust out of their pockets.  It was necessary to carry gold because banks had almost ceased to exist in Mexico.  They had a theory that they could have carried their own greenbacks and escape the backbreaking burden of gold; but it was tried before and the Mexican Government had taken steps to defeat it.  American gold was accepted in Mexico, but American paper money was specifically ruled against.  One could not buy railroad tickets, pay hotel bills, hire a mule, or get food with it.  Hardly a day passed that a resident American did not try to buy a newcomer’s gold with American dollars, a transaction, if made, the newcomer soon regretted.  Because there were few banks, business was conducted with cash on the spot, or on a long-term credit basis.  If you had no credit, you paid cash.  If your credit was good, the day of payment was deferred at an interest.  The ordinary across-the-counter transactions were cared for at weekly settling days.  Each business house had a posted sign stating that bills were due on such and such a day of the week.  The merchants sent their runners around to each other to receive and pay out gold.  It was little wonder that banditry had been a fairly successful business in the country in which each cellar was a suspected bank vault.

Guaymas was on the edge of the Yaqui country.  When things went wrong in Yaquiland, he was apt to beleaguer Guaymas.  It was not long before 1922 that no one dared to walk out of the dangerous end of town.  The Yaquis had burned railroad bridges and held up trains and murdered passengers.  At one time, the Yaqui may have numbered 30,000 souls, in 1922 there might have been 5,000 in all.  Their home was in the fertile valleys of the Yaqui and Mayo rivers, with the hills behind as hunting grounds.  They lived in shacks made of brush, preferred the meat of burros to beef, and preserved jealously the purity of Yaqui blood.  Their religion was a mixture of the rites of the Catholic Church and those of their own barbaric faith.  If the Yaqui had been let alone, they would have let the white man alone.  But he owned fertile valleys and mine-rich mountains.  The history of our own West teemed with analogous cases.  The miners and the farmers established themselves in his territory, and the Yaqui declared war.  It was true that at one time mines were opened everywhere in his mountains and the fat river bottoms were taken from him; but the troops sent against him were cut up time and again.  After one battle the Yaqui disappeared without leaving a sign.  The “bronco” Yaqui became the tame Yaqui overnight.  He traded breech clout for the blue overalls of honest labor.

That sort of thing could not be endured by the Mexican Government.  The Yaqui stood in the path of progress.  President Diaz finally resorted to a policy of extermination.  A Yaqui scalp had a cash value over the counter.  Diaz had cowed the Yaqui if he had not completely subjugated them.  The river valleys were given over to the plow and the prospectors roamed at will through the mountains.  Then Francisco Madero enlisted the Yaqui in his fight against Diaz and the Yaquis discovered that they could play a part in politics.  They were Mexico’s best fighting men.  In 1922, the tribe was being paid and fed as a part of the Mexican army.  The railroad line to Tonichi and other short lines into Yaqui country had been abandoned.  The Yaquis pursued a policy of peaceful penetration into what was once their own country.  The Yaquis strongly suggested that the Mexicans, many of whom had lived in the valleys for generations, leave Yaqui country.  Recently [in 1922], the Mexican inhabitants abandoned the post-office towns of Potam, Vicam, and Torin.  A fourth town, Bacum, was being slowly reclaimed.

 In San Blas, Sinaloa, a hand-organ began to play mournful sounds.  A dry-river prospector and the author headed towards it.  The prospector really liked the music, having only heard the music of dynamite and braying burros in the hills.  Back in California, he had a large house filled with servants and guests.  The street sights drew Mr. Corey.  A very handsome woman sat in the dust, her back against the wall, a little stand in front of her.  She sold oranges at three for a cent.  One of her eyes had been blackened, her feet were bare, and a rounded shoulder showed through the rents in her gown.  Burros swung around the corner, each dragging a pair of small logs lashed to the pack-saddle.  The keepers of the little eating-stands at the station began to get ready for the day’s one train.  Each had a five-gallon gasoline tin out of which a tiny stove had been constructed.  Three young Americans walked by. Three-inch Bain wagons jolted past in incredible noise and dust.  The white-hot sun burned deliciously upon their backs.  It devoured the filth in the streets, so that the only odor was the fragrant oranges at the pretty woman’s stand, or the acrid reek of a cigarette.  A peon came out of a store with a bar of dirty white metal on his shoulder.  He dumped it on a rough mat in the bottom of a wagon and wandered up the street.  At intervals he reappeared with bars, as the author and his friends sat in the sun chatting.  Then the peon went to a restaurant for his noon meal of beans and cake.  The bars were silver.  They were quite safe, as was gold.  There were conventions: one did not steal bullion in the streets.  There were, of course, bandits, but fewer and fewer each year.  General Flores had put an end to banditry.  In one village he shot seventeen bandits, and in another thirty-two.

In the Fuerte River country, the club at Los Mochis was maintained for the employees of a great American ranch.  Elsewhere in that delightful land one was compelled to subsist on frijoles and tortillas.  The beans, of course, were always good; but one could not live on beans alone.  Pork could be had, but after seeing the pigs in Mexico, the author opted not to have any.  The pigs ate like buzzards.  The absolute chumminess of the Mexican pig, dog, and buzzard was dismaying to Mr. Corey.  Americans were not happy on beans and tortillas, so the ranch instituted the club.  The married Americans lived in rose-covered paradises at the farther end of vistas of palms.  The Americans dressed for dinner, and met twice a week for dancing and bridge.  Add the swarming natives, ox-carts, donkeys, fine horses, and alligators in the lagoons, bears in the mountains, and a bad cat the natives called a tiger.  All the country needed was a Kipling.  All along the coast, the author’s party heard of the ranches at Los Mochis.  There were rice ranches at Cajeme, in the edge of Yaqui country, and banana ranches at San Blas, three hundred miles below, and other ranches at every step between.  But those at Los Mochis were the showplaces.  There were thousands of acres of sugarcane, tomatoes, beans, and alfalfa.  Trains did not hurry away from the stations in that country.  The engineer whistled; then he whistled again. The sleepers who had been dozing along the tracks reluctantly rose.  The roadside saleswomen put away their offering.  The sucking of oranges began again in the cars, along with gossip and cigarettes.  Everyone was friendly and happy.  A sixteen-year-old girl changed her blouse and did up her hair.  No one gave her a second glance or thought.  At the wayside stations small naked babies pattered about.  The buzzards abounded.  They became an obsession of Adams, one of the author’s companions.  He took extensive photographs of them.

Thereabouts, the Mayo Indians were the preferred laborers.  They might have been the remnant of the ancient Maya tribe, which built such superb monuments in Guatemala and Yucatan.  The author doubted it, he could not imagine that such a primitive could have developed a civilization of high order.  The port of Los Mochis was Topolobampo.  Once it had hope.  That was when Americans planned to build a railroad across the mountains.  A pier was constructed, the rotting remains were still used when an occasional boat drifted into the little bay.  A stub-end of a railroad was built up the Fuerte River.  It should have met the line being built through the mountains, but by and by the building stopped in the hills.  The Indian meaning of Topolobampo was Tiger Water.  In the rays of the setting sun, swarms of golden shrimp gave the effect of a tiger’s mottled skin.  Carloads of shrimp were sent from there during the season to the U. S.  They were caught in traps by Indians as the tide swept them on.  The party’s entrance to Culiacan pleased the author in retrospect; it was so unreal and stagy.  They tumbled down an embankment that was lighted by tallow candles, the beams from the headlight, and the lanterns of the trainmen.  A cargador, buried in their bags, scampered ahead for a cab.  The morning was crisply cold, the stars were bright.  They climbed under the half roof of a low-slung carriage, behind a driver who towered above them in buckskin and brass buttons and a cathedral-like black hat.  The neat round hoofs of the little horses pattered on the dark, cobbled streets between dark, one-story houses.  The driver hammered at the double door of a dark hotel.  Through a half door, set in one side of the great portal, two odd figures scuttled out.  They were the night porters, who led them to their beds.  Mr. Corey sank into sleep, barely conscious of the vine-tangled patio outside, of the fifteen-foot ceiling overhead, and of the stones of the floor, worn into hollows by passing generations.

A most abominable clangor woke the author, who cursed the hotel for permitting such a breakfast gong.  It was not a breakfast gong, but the church bells of Culiacan.  As they travelled on, they became accustom to the incredible uproar of the Mexican church bells; but none ever approached in horror those of Culiacan.  There was another sound that marched in the author’s memory.  Each morning, as he cursed the bells, he heard another sound under the window – the faint shuffle of barefoot Indians on their early way to work.  Through the open doorway came the light rustling of palm branches in the patio.  Outside, they watched the policemen, wide-hatted, sword and revolver in belt, riding snappy little horses.  Ice was a luxury in Culiacan, and was treated ceremonially.  The ice wagon was painted white and gold, and drawn by two mules.  Long teams of mules hauled in dyewood.  From Culiacan to Altata, a dying port, there was an ancient British built railway, of which whose ties were ebony.  Housemaids on the ranches were paid one peso weekly, which was equal to 50 cents American.  Drivers of two-horse teams waited for the four A. M. train, on the chance of a two-peso fare.  In front of the movie theater, women sat each night behind tables covered with sweetmeats, under twinkling candles.  Three dollars would buy the entire stock.  Culiacan was the capital of the State of Sinaloa.   Prosperous town once, it was ruined by the war, as were the other coastal towns.  In the handsome market-house, only the cheaper necessities were sold.  The banking-houses were for the most part empty.  Even in the most crowded hours the streets seemed almost empty.  In the mountains were mines, of which some had produced steadily since Spanish times, until their owners were compelled to shut down by the war, and the taxation which followed.

The old road down which the Aztecs marched on their way to the conquest of Mexico ran past Culiacan.  On the rock walls of the canyons, their carvings were found.  The Indians there still worshiped the old gods, confused somewhat with Christianity.  Many Aztec artifacts had been destroyed by the workmen on the great irrigation project.  Twenty miles from Culiacan was an old panocha mill.  It had a steam-engine cane-crushing device.  The juice of the cane was boiled down and sugared off in troughs of hollowed out ebony, and sold in crude cakes sold in every market in the Republic.  It tasted like our maple sugar.  Little mining villages in the nearby mountains were provisioned by mule train from Culiacan.  Trails, still the same as they were in Montezuma’s time, passed through Indian villages.  They had been used so long that hoofs had worn holes eighteen inches deep in the rock.  In those hills – somewhere – was the Lost City of Bacis.  One travelled days and miles to reach the village of Bacis, but could go no further.  The mountains became impassable.  The little river that flowed down the canyon was boxed in by precipitous walls.  Neither prospector nor Indian could traverse the heights.  Yet sometimes oranges floated down the little river, and bits of oddly woven cloth that caught on twigs, and carven wood.  A legend had grown that somewhere in the hills was the Lost City of Bacis.  At Culiacan, the author realized that the romantic and picturesque images of Mexico had blinded him to the reality of the depths of poverty in which the lower-class Mexicans lived.  They did not often starve, but they rarely had enough to eat.  They lacked all luxuries except tequila, pulque, panocha, and tobacco.  They lived on a plane of discomfort, unhappiness, and ignorance.  The author thought the Indians lazy for taking siestas, but they were not.  Well-fed and well clothed, the Mexican Indian was a fair laborer; but usually he was half starved and half dead for sleep.

Of the 15,000,000 Mexicans, 6,000,000 were pure-bred Indians; and Indians were on the border of destitution. The unvarying food in every puebla was frijoles and tortillas – beans and cake.  An Indian got a slice of meat, now and then, from pig or cattle.  There were a few chickens in each village, and he may, now and then, kill a little game or catch a few fish.  But broadly speaking, he lived on corn and beans.  To mitigate the monotony of that diet, he soaked his food in chili sauce.  He did better work when food was provided by American employers.  If a peon was given money for food, he bought beans and cake and tequila; but if he was fed in the company kitchen, he grew strong and worked hard.  In the north, he huddled in an abode hut.  The floor was mud, the only furniture a few earthen cooking pots.  His clothes were two pieces of thin cotton, with rawhide sandals sometimes.  His women wore wrappers.  He folded a blanket about his shoulders in the day and slept in it at night.  The death rate of children under one was twice that of the U. S., and the death rate of children under ten was three times as great.  The average tenure of life in Mexico was fifteen years.  As one went further south, the only difference in living conditions was that the Indian wore fewer clothes, and that his home was made of thatched poles instead of adobe.  Three sides of the shack were walled-in by poles, and the fourth was opened to the world.  A little cooking place was built up on the open side.  A rock on which to grind corn, a few round pots, a gasoline tin or two for cooking, and the home was complete.  Old tin cans were priceless to the Indian.  The Indian was what he was in 1922 because of centuries of oppression, misrule, and demagoguery; and because he knew no better.  The country had been as thoroughly developed as was possible without the aid of foreign capital.  Irrigation works on a grand scale could not be put in without government or banking aid.

It was in Mazatlan that they were abashed by a parrot.  There were parrots everywhere, from mere flashes of color to middle-sized birds that talked, and on to huge creatures that not only squawked, but had a hideous intelligence.  Indian men and women went about the streets with them for sale in cages.  During the rainy season at Mazatlan, the streets became torpid rivulets of mud.  As some measure of protection against the mud, the pavements had been elevated two feet or more above the street.  One crossed the streets by stepping-stones.  Along the pavement, one met the eyes of parrots rooting on the swinging doors of barrooms that dotted the main street.  Their parrot was a fat, high-shouldered, depraved bird who never spoke.  He watched Mazatlan pass along the pavement with a sour and cynical eye, but when he saw us, he fluffed his feathers and gave way to a fit of helpless laughter.  His body shook, his mean old eyes half closed, and his senile head laid on one side.  At first, they enjoyed it, but later became self-conscious and angry.  Not even the ten-foot snake that served as a rat-catcher in their hotel could rival the parrot’s fascination.  When he set up in business, he disposed of competition by first swallowing the hotel’s cat.  The Indian word, Mazatlan, meant the Place Where the Deer Come Down to Drink, but the author thought it should mean the Place of Girls.  And the scenery complimented the pretty girls.  Culiacan had been a dusty white, but here the houses are colored blues and pinks and browns.  Those were no glaring colors, but a demure background for the brilliance of the feminine display. The sex here was inconsistent – the grownups did not flirt, but the very young girls would powder their noses.  Mazatlan would be an important Pacific port when the planned work is completed.  The waters about Mazatlan swarmed with fish.  There were more than 100 species and subspecies within 60 miles, of which 40 were of commercial value, and of those 20 were plentiful.

There was a parade of wild birds along the crescent shores of the bay.  Wild geese flew so low that they could see their eyes glisten.  Buzzards dozed with their toes in the edge of the surf, waiting for flotsam.  Two long strings of pelicans flew parallel with the sea wall, 40 feet in the air.  Each fishing pelican had its attending gull.  When the pelican caught a fish and opened its mouth, the waiting gull would take the fish and fly away.  Ducks were not delicacies at Mazatlan.  They were merely duck.  One bought one’s duck alive in the market, just as one did other feathered foods.  After an arduous trip to the convict colony on Las Tres Marias in a small Mexican boat, one dawn found them in the Bay of Miramar, a half-moon on the coast of Nayarit.  The boat could not go within a quarter mile of shore, the water was so shallow.  Bananas were on loaded by dugout canoe.  After morning coffee, the cargo had been loaded and they went ashore by dugout.  The manor-house was German property so they pushed on to the small Indian village of Santa Cruz.  With not much to see, they returned to the boat.  They cruised along the coast, here and there, taking on more bananas.  At last, night came and the boat weighed anchor and headed for the old port of San Blas, Nayarit, where they were to be put ashore.  Once Cortez built ships there to explore the Pacific coast.  Later, galleons brought silk from the Philippines.  In 1922. even little boats needed to use care in entering its sand-filled channels.  The dugout was towed behind, for it was used in putting them on shore.  It was a black midnight.  The moon was overcast by black, sliding clouds.  They could barely make out the ragged tops of islands against the heavy sky.

In the surf, several times the canoe was checked, until at last it was beached in the soft sand on the crest of a breaking wave.  The author was carried pickaback to land by a wading Indian.  There were millions of hot-footed gnats in the sand, and they stung them almost to madness.  They danced and slapped and fumed while the Indians changed clothes for entry into the big town.  The Indians led them into town where they asked to be taken to a hotel.  They entered a white-washed room in which a lonely boy sat.  They thought they were at the hotel, but it was the custom-house.  Even at such a port as San Blas one went through customs.  The boy helped them through the formalities and they stumbled again into the dark street.  The first hotel matron turned them away.  A saloon-keeper told them of another hotel, but said it was in bad condition.  He was right about the state it was in.  The matron made no difficulties about admitting them.  Their Indian companions smiled and said their goodbyes.



Not documented on the cover and embedded in the first article is a set of eight acid-etched engravings with the internal title of “Views from Mexico” (pages 461 to 468).  These etchings, formerly referred to as photogravures, use special paper and special ink to transfer the images from metal plates.  The ink in this production has a distinctively greenish tinge.

A list of the engravings’ caption titles is as follows:

  • “Lucia of Puebla in Her Grandmother’s Mantilla”
  • “A Melancholy Reminder of The Glory That Once Was Mexico”
  • “The Morning Milk Delivery in Culiacan Rosales”
  • “A Typical Bell Tower in New Spain”
  • “In the Floating Gardens of Lake Xochimilco”
  • “From One Century to Another”
  • “In the City of Tile-Covered Domes That Glisten in the Sun”
  • “Modernity on a Mexican Balcony”



The second article in this month’s issue is entitled “Lisbon, the City of the Friendly Bay” and was written by Clifford Albion Tinker.  Of the “47 Illustrations” documented on the cover, thirty are black-and-white photographs, of which, fourteen are full-page in size.  One of those full-page photos serves as the frontispiece for this article.  Sixteen of the illustrations are plates containing full-page colorized photographs (to be discussed later).  The last illustration in this article is a sketch map of Lisbon and its bay, with an inset of entire country of Portugal, on page 510.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

Legend had it that Ulysses founded Lisbon.  For twenty years he sailed the Mediterranean, and more than once ventured beyond the rocky Pillars of Hercules.  And too, the Phoenicians found a black-eyed, raven-locked tribe in Lisbon when they took possession.  At that remote age the ancient town was called “Olisipo”.  Sun-kissed on its eleven hills, Lisbon had all the delights of a salubrious climate.  Stretching for five miles along the banks of the mighty Tagus, it offered the finest harbor in Europe.  Seven miles from the open sea, it was protected from the Atlantic’s gusty storms.  It was the center of a rich and ancient province, the capital of a nation, and the seat of culture and learning.  Lisbon was all that and more.  It was the largest and most strategically located seaport on the ocean trade lanes between London and the Mediterranean on one hand, and between London and Cape Town on the other.  Lisbon was also the central storehouse of Portugal’s outlander colonies.  Into its markets poured tributes from the Azores, Madeira, the Cape Verdes, Dakar, Guinea, Angola, Mozambique, Goa in India, Macao in China, and Malayan Timor.  Lisbon had increased its population more than 40% in twenty years.  Approaching Lisbon from the sea, one saw to port the Serra de Cintra, a mountain with a saw-toothed ridge.  It bore a castle with towers.  The ship plowed along by Cape Roca, and on by Cape Raso.  Leaving Cape Raso to port and standing broad into the bay brought into view the Riviera of Portugal.  That lovely coast had been a famous watering-place for more than two thousand years.  Immediately after the destruction of Carthage, at the end of the Third Punic War, Roman generals and senators flocked there to enjoy the baths and winter sunlight; for with the fall of Carthage, the peninsula became a Roman province.

From Cape Raso to Lisbon there was scarcely a break in the array of palaces, forts, hotels, casinos, hamlets, and beacons, lining the shore.  Smooth, sandy, curving beaches broke the rocky coast at intervals.  That stretch of seashore was one of the most charming in all Europe.  There was gem-like Cascaes, the ancient home of kings, palm-studded, brilliant with color.  Citadel, monastery, antiquated forts, and palaces vied with magnificent residences in a gamut of architectural rivalry.  A short mile up the coast was the hamlet of Mont’ Estoril, the most appealing of resorts, with its luxurious spas.  The mineral springs of Estoril became famous early in the 18th century, their fame increasing with the years.  Hence the little village blossomed into a matchless garden spot, with palaces, casinos, and elaborate estates.  Geraniums, roses, acacias, heliotrope, eucalyptus, broom, and palm lined the streets, crowded the gardens, and screened to privacy the villas along the slopes.  Estoril was a riot of color.  To avoid shoal, one steered to starboard farther into the bay.  That change of direction brought the gleaming cupola of Estrella on the skyline between Fort St. Julian and Fort Bugio, which straddled the channel.  Shortly thereafter, the Ajuda Palace came out clear against the sodded hillside in all its enormous bulk.  Below the palace, at the water’s edge, was the unique old Tower of Belem, a relic of Manueline stonework; while at the right of Estrella’s marble beacon loomed the Castello de Sao Jorge, old, but bold and commanding; and still further to the right sparkled the roadstead.

The “Friendly Bay”, so named by the Phoenicians, “Alisubbo”, in their tongue, was filled with shipping.  A certain well-known flag was much in evidence, for the harbor was dominated by a squadron of battleships of the U. S. Navy, their decks crowded with blue-clad middies on their annual practice cruise.  All that time, the bay ahead was dotted with leg-o’-mutton fishing crafts, boats just like the Phoenician boats of old, their sails many-hued, their prows turned up and carved and painted in fanciful styles.  Back and forth through those waters, and throughout history, passed Greek, Phoenician, and Roman galleys and triremes; Moorish and Spanish caravels and galleons; the tree-banked rowing-ships of northern Crusaders; and the High-pooped sailing vessel of Henry the Navigator.  The day of the author’s arrival in the bay was the 424th anniversary of the departure of Vasco de Gama from Lisbon for India by way of the Cape of Good Hope.  That voyage made him the Portuguese national hero of the age.  Again, 334 years prior to 1922, the Invincible Armada of Spain and her vassal, Portugal, gathered in the “Friendly Bay”, and on May 20, 1588, swept down the Tagus to the sea with all the pomp of the mightiest empire of the age – a fleet of 130 ships, rating 57,868 tons, armed with 2,431 guns, and manned by 30,493 veterans of Spanish conquest.  The defeat of that fleet gave England the position of Grandmother-in-chief of the Seven Seas.  As Mr. Tinker’s ship gained the offing south of Lisbon Bar, a schooner slid alongside.  The pilot, once on board, displayed his credentials as a member of the “Corporation of Pilots of the River Bar of Lisbon” and collected five American dollars for every foot of water the ship drew.  Afterwards, they sped up and pointed their steel prow in the direction of the channel between Point Lage on the port hand and Point Calha on the starboard, boundaries of the narrow gateway into Lisbon Harbor.

In a few moments, they could see the tile-roofed heights of Lisbon.  Few towers or pinnacles accentuated the city’s vivid skyline.  They were not needed.  The natural contour of the site on which the city spread its marble and tile loveliness afforded a skyline of singular impressiveness.  Lisbon was unique in that respect.  Eleven hills beside the Tagus were covered with gleaming buildings, immense gardens, and rambling palaces and battlements.  Passing through the narrows and swinging to the right along the main shipping channel, they soon gained their anchorage.  No sooner had they moored ship than it became evident that a mighty tide flowed in and out of “Friendly Bay”.  On that occasion the tide was outward bound and making a good ten knots.  They tailed straight down the stream, although a strong breeze was blowing in from the sea.  There was nothing strange about that when one considered that the estuary of the Tagus was about a mile wide near Lisbon but opened out into a tidal lake from four to eight miles wide and nearly twelve miles long.  The water in that lake was very deep; consequently, there was a tremendous volume, requiring an outlet and inlet though the estuary with each rise and fall of the tide, while behand it all was the onrush of the Tagus itself, bearing the runoff from an enormous area.  The Tagus was one of the really great rivers of the Iberian Peninsula.  It rose in eastern Spain, among the Sierra de Albarracin in the Province of Teruel, hardly sixty miles from the Mediterranean; thus, it flowed nearly the whole width of the peninsula.  Far-famed Toledo was on its banks, and beautiful Alcantara also.  Their ship was moored a short distance off the docks of Almada, a full mile, however, from the public landings of the Praca do Commercio on the Lisbon side of the estuary.

Almada was a modest suburb of Lisbon.  From the ship they could see a small town hanging from a green and yellow hillside.  An old fort crowned a hill to the eastward, and a range of quaint houses, broken by several garden-like squares, lied between the fort and the old chapel of Sao Paulo, perched on another little hillock to the west.  Packet-boats plied as ferry craft between Lisbon and Almada, Lisbon’s Brooklyn.  English Crusaders settled there in fairly large numbers after the capture of Lisbon from the Moors in 1147.  Directly in line between their ship and the praca was the selfsame mooring buoy to which the NC-4 made fast on May 27, 1919, when she landed in the Tagus after winging her way across the Atlantic, the first aircraft of any type to do so.  [See: “The Azores, Half-way House of American Transatlantic Aviators”, June 1919, The Geographic.]  From the ship’s deck, the whole waterfront of Lisbon was visible; twelve miles of clean shoreline stretched out before them.  To the west they saw far down the coast to the suburb of Paco d’Arcos and the little hill-town of Carcavellos perched above it, and a mile or so beyond.  To the east, the eye followed the city until it swept out of sight in a great bend to the northward.  In direct line behind the Ajuda Palace loomed the “Paps”, three hilltops, each between four and five hundred feet high – one topped by a beacon for sailors, and one a wireless station.  Looking at the beautiful city, it was hard to imagine that the earthquake of 1755 all but wiped it out of existence.  All the buildings between the Ajuda and the Castle of St. George had been built since that date.  Yet such was the case.  Lisbon was a Phoenix among cities.  Then came sunset.  The splendor of the scene was heightened by a background of rose-tinted summer skies.

No wonder the Moors coveted that region.  They saw in Lisbon a new capital for their growing European empire.  Having gained possession of the city, they dropped the Roman name and gave it one of their own; but it was still the “City of the Friendly Bay” – in Moorish, “Al Aschbuna”.  From that Moorish name was derived the mongrel name “Lissabona”, and from that the Portuguese “Lisboa” and the Anglicized “Lisbon”.  As the sun set, the author put ashore at the Praca landing.  Sardine fishing cutters and smacks filled the basin along the seawall, their sails were of many colors, while running boats from the squadron in the harbor monopolized the landing steps on each side of the square.  Once ashore and striding across the huge square, flanked by colonnaded buildings, a triumphal arch on the side opposite the river bank, and a striking equestrian statue in the center, the author wondered why other large seaports did not do those things.  The Praca do Commercio was known to sailors the world over as “Black Horse Square” – that was because of the statue.  The bronze horseman and steed in the Praca were effigies of King Jose and his favorite charger.  Passing under the triumphal arch, Mr. Tinker found himself in one of the cleanest and most interesting cities in Latin Europe.  Lisbon had one of the best sewerage systems in any European city.  It also had a wonderful water-supply system.  The buildings were clean, the shops were clean; so were the shopkeepers and their stocks.  The street urchins were clean; and so were the ragged beggars.  More importantly, Lisbon was morally clean.  It was not sinless, but it had fewer homicides, less thieving, and fewer troubling social problems.  Lisbon was interesting as a study in municipal planning.  Its builder after the great earthquake was Pombal.  His vision, and his building methods and codes, have saved the city several times since his day.

The author found Lisbon’s conglomerate population fascinating.  He saw representatives of all the various nationalities which characterize the urban population of Portugal in 1922.  The Portuguese language was like the race, polygenetic.  Ancient Greek, ancient and low Latin, Spanish, Gallegan, French, Moorish, a strong Celtic influence, borrowings from Hebrew, East Indian, and aboriginal Brazilian, and some obscure items from China and elsewhere, went to make up the grammar, etymology, and pronunciation of modern Portuguese.  All the above variants were easily identified in the language and showed the influence of alien hybridization in a land under colonization by strange peoples.  At the same time, it showed the adaptability of a race which had itself extended its influence to remote places “in the sun”.  The prolonged visits by the Phoenicians, Visigoths, Romans, Moors, and Spanish had little influence on the stock of Celtic-Iberian folk in the interior and mountainous districts, while along the coast the cities absorbed all those strangers into its urban life.  In Lisbon were found types which distinctly betrayed their origin from one race to another – pure Celts; Negro slaves; Jewish types, refugees from Spain; Phoenician, and Moorish types.  But by far the greater number of people on the streets were “Portuguese”, a race that combined something from each of a long list of descendants of successive invaders.  Portuguese of the upper class were among the most cultured and gracious people of the world.  Hospitality was a characteristic, also, and the arts, sciences, and ethics of civilization were appreciated and employed.  All the linguistic inheritance and racial divergences of the Portuguese had a direct influence on the life, architecture, and economics of the city.  Yet so perfectly natural and unaffected were the people that nothing seemed strange or out of place.  The city was a mosaic of civilization.

Following the great earthquake of 1755 and the rise of Pombal, modernity took root in Portugal.  Pombal had been Minister to England and to Austria.  His contact with progressive nations bore fruit along practical lines.  Every square foot of Lisbon, except for the Alfama district, the old town which survived the earthquake, was designed, and developed by him.  From the Triumphal Arch of the Praca to the Rocio, or Praca de Dom Pedro Quarto, one traversed that part of the new city, the Cidade Baixa, planned to be the location for genteel shops and high-grade mercantile houses.  Eight parallel streets ran north and south and were crossed by eight others running east and west.  Pombal gave the streets names suggestive of the trade and industries to be housed thereon.  Until 1890, Pombal’s plan was adhered to, but since that date the adoption and extension of electric car lines had made other parts of the growing city regional trade centers, and fine shops were scattered here and there along the avenues and in less congested sections.  In the Cidade, the buildings were made of light materials, with the walls covered in ceramic tile.  The tiles made for cleanliness and fire retardation.  How to gain the heights on either side of the Cidade was a matter of concern to the author.  He could have walked, but that would have been back-breaking.  Other schemes included cogwheel electric cars plying up and down the hillsides, but where the banks were sheer, huge elevators had been installed.  The giant lift was not a thing of beauty, but it was useful in the extreme.  By that method, one could visit three or four levels in as many minutes, but by climbing by winding streets, or on immense flights of stone steps, one needed time – and wind.  One ran the risk of being arrested for cruelty to animals by engaging a hack and trying to reach the heights sitting behind a struggling little pony.  Taxicabs were much in demand for getting about the mountainous streets of Lisbon.

The eight streets running north and south in the Cidade poured into the Rocio and the Praca da Figueira.  The Rocio was a beautiful square, remarkable for its pavement, laid in a mosaic pattern.  A large column in the center of the Rocio supported a bronze statue of Dom Pedro IV, one-time Emperor of Brazil, and King of Portugal.  Two bronze fountains at either end of the square, preserved its symmetry and afforded bathtubs for the pigeons.  At the north of the square was the imposing theater of Dona Maria II.  The other sides of the square were bounded by streets with mercantile establishments.  Double rows of trees on the east and west sides added shade.  From the northwest corner of the Rocio, one entered the Largo de Camoes, a small square, on the west side of which was the Central Railway Station and the Avenida Palace Hotel.  The Largo was really a connecting plaza between the Rocio and the Avenida da Liberdade.  With the Rocio and the Avenida began the formal section of Cidade Baixa.  The “new city”, the Baixa was not without its charm.  The skills of architects, horticulturist, and silviculturists had been lavished upon it; so also, the artistry of sculptors and gardeners, and the ingenuity of municipal engineers.  In consequence, the whole district was a delight.  The Praca dos Restauradores was a lovely little square.  Together with the Avenida da Liberdade, and meaning the restorers and liberty, they commemorated the struggle against Spain from the 14th to the 17th century culminating in the Portuguese Day of Independence on December 1, 1640.  The beautiful obelisk in the Praca, ninety feet high and listing the battles, was a national shire.  Bordering the Avenida were hotels, theaters, cafes, shops, residences, and clubs.  At the north end of the great boulevard was the immense circular Praca Marquez Pombal, and just beyond, the beautiful Parque Eduardo VII, a veritable fairyland of trees, shrubs, flowers, and ponds.  Farther out, one came to the Zoological Gardens, perhaps the finest in southern Europe.

At night, the Avenida became a kind of out-of-doors theater.  Lighted by rows of electric standards, it was used as a promenade as freely as at noonday.  Band concerts were given nightly, and beer gardens were opened for business.  Delightful were the summer evenings in Lisbon.  The air was charged with mildly invigorating ozone, welcomed after the heat of midday.  The stars were brighter than in less clear atmosphere.  Nightlife indoors had its devotees in Lisbon.  Theaters were numerous and a great opera house, closed in summer, stood near the Chiado.  A large number of vaudeville-shows prospered, and cinemas were most popular.  Dance halls and dansant cafes were not numerous.  Only a few were to be found during the summer season.  In direct contrast to, the level Baixa, with its wide streets, broad avenues, and beautiful plaza, the Alfama was a rough old hill, furrowed by a network of narrow, winding alleys, and street running in an indescribable tangle.  On the very top of the hill stood the ancient Moorish pile, in 1922 called the Castle of St. George.  Although a barracks and military prison, it was hallowed, and was an object of veneration to all Portuguese.  One could ride to within a few blocks of the Castle by taking the tram near the Triumphal Arch.  The tram passed the Cathedral of Santa Maria, the oldest church in Lisbon.  Founded in the year 306, the site had been dedicated to pagan gods, had borne a mosque, and had known several churches and cathedral.  The one standing in 1922 was being restored.  The author went about that hill and old city by “jitney”.  The buildings were antiques of remote times – cast about in a jumble of plaster, stone, tile, adobe, and cobble.  The streets were so narrow that, when a tram went by, the dwellers were obliged to stay indoors.  The traffic was regulated by flag signal.  Steep and crooked, narrow, and slippery, with blind turns on every hand, the streets of Alfama were dangerous for automobile traffic.

A tramp through the Alcantara district, west of Cidade, was like visiting another city.  One was forever bumping into churches, parks, cemeteries, convents, palaces, viaducts, barracks, museums, statuary, and old houses with delightful balconies.  Bronze grilles were everywhere, with wrought-iron grilles in between.  Most of it suffered greatly in the earthquake, but strangely, the churches and convents survived in nearly every instance.  The author recommended a visit to Alcantara if one was in Lisbon.  The beauties of the Misericordia Chapel must not be overlooked.  Then there was the Botanical Garden, the Horticulture Garden, the Estrella and its wonderful garden, the British Cemetery, the great viaduct which brought water 70 miles across the plains, and the palaces.  By far the most beautiful architectural group in Lisbon was that of the Church and Monastery of Santa Maria.  Not the least interesting feature of a visit to Belem, where Santa Maria was located, was the ride by tram from the Praca do Commercio.  One passed, enroute, the fish wharves, the electric power station, numerous barracks, squares, palaces, statuary, museums, and docks.  The whole locality was historic grounds, bound up with the early discoveries and development of America, Asia, and Africa.  From this shore sailed Vasco da Gama, Bartholomeu Diaz, Affonso d’Albuquerque, and the conquerors of the Orient.  Henry the Navigator had his chapel and laboratory near that beach.  The return of da Gama from India in 1499 was a triumph for the kingdom.  To immortalize the event, Manuel I erected the monastery of St. Jerome on the site of Prince Henry’s chapel-hermitage.  Buried within that gem-like cathedral were some of the nation’s most celebrated dead – da Gama, Camoens, Almeida Garrett, and Joao de Deus.  The author sailed down the Tagus at daybreak.  The ship turned down the channel toward the open bay and the ocean.  He looked back at the finest old city of the Peninsula until the ship swung around Cape Raso, hiding the city behind the mountains.



Listed on the cover above the articles are the “Sixteen Pages of Illustrations in Full Color”.  They have the internal title, "Portugal, the Land of Henry the Navigator".  These full-page colorized black-and-white photographs are also included in the “47 Illustrations” in the second article.  This set of plates, numbered I through XVI in Roman numerals, are embedded within that second article, and represent pages 517 through 532.

A list of their caption titles is as follows:

  • “In the Heart of the Portuguese Riviera”
  • “Where Water and Gossip Flow in Oporto”
  • “On the Banks of the Douro”
  • “Portugal’s finest View: the Maria Pia Bridge Over the Douro”
  • “Lisbon at the Bull Ring”
  • “At One of the Braga’s Fountain Shrines”
  • “Homeward She Drives Before the Favoring Gale”
  • “Thriving in Portugal’s Genial Sunshine”
  • “Women Afire in Their Sunday Best”
  • “Passing the Time of Day in Leiria”
  • “A Portuguese Peasant’s Prized Possessions Wearing the Family Heirloom”
  • “A Shepherd and Shepherdess of Central Portugal”
  • “After a Day in the Market at Leiria”
  • “Belles of Minho”
  • “Mother Necessity Invents a Stepladder”
  • “She Wears Her Wealth Upon Her Head”



The third and final article in this month’s issue is entitled “A Sketch of the Geographical History of Asia Minor” and was written by Sir William Ramsay, D. C. L., LL. D.  The article proper is proceeded by an italicized blurb from the editor reminding readers to study the past to understand the present, and to state that the author was the foremost authority of the geography and history of the Near East.  The article contains twelve black-and-white photographs, five of which are full-page in size.  It also contains a sketch map of “Asia Minor, the Dardanelles, and the Islands of the Aegean Sea” on page 554.

Sketch Map courtesy of Philip Riviere

The great peninsula of Asia Minor protruded toward the west from the main mass of the continent of Asia and reaches out toward Europe, from which it was divided the Aegean Sea and by the salt-water river called the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.  Until a comparatively recent geologic age, it actually reached Europe, and the Aegean Sea did not exist.  The name Asia Minor was a medieval invention; the ancients used no single name for that peninsula; it was just a collection of individual nations.  The length from east to west was from 500 to 700 miles, depending on where the eastern limit was marked.  Some extended the eastern boundary as far as the Euphrates; others made it run north from the line of Mt. Amanus.  Its breath north to south varied from 300 to 400 miles.  The eastern half was a plateau, which was surrounded with a rim of mountains.  Like fingers, five chains of mountains extended from the plateau, most of them stretching out into the Aegean Sea, as if trying to force their way Europe.  Those mountain chains were continued by chains of islands, which formed stepping-stones from Asia to Europe.  Accordingly, Asia Minor, Europe and Asia met both geographically and historically.  The main mass of the peninsula was Asiatic in character – a continuation of central Asia – monotonous, level, and unchanging.  The west coast, however, was as broken and irregular as European Greece or Scotland.  Long arms of the Aegean stretched up into land, alternating with long mountain fingers which projected far out into the sea.  Very frequently, the sea presented by far the shortest way from one point to another on the land; and during a great part of the year, it was so quiet that it tempted men to navigation, as it had tempted them from the beginning of history.  One could stand on a promontory of western Asia Minor and signal by hand across the sea-arm; but in order to reach the other side, one might have had to make a journey of 20 to 60 miles, often very difficult over mountain paths.

Here, navigation was forced upon men, or Nature tempted men and urged them to cross the easy path of the sea.  The people of those Aegean lands gradually founded a great series of colonies with which they ringed round almost the entire Mediterranean, except where the Phoenicians had established themselves too strongly.  That the seaway was the best way was marked even in language.  The word pontos, the sea, was a nasalized byform of patos, path.  Life was enjoyable, but none too easy.  A hardworking, self-confident spirit was developed among the inhabitants.  Food was scanty; the land was, in great part, either barren and rocky or in need of great care and skill in order to tame it to man’s use.  Everything encouraged the spirit of freedom, boldness, and seamanship.  On the other hand, the mass of the Anatolian Peninsula consisted of great, gently undulating plains.  At the lofty elevations of the plateau the winters were long and severe, and the summers were hot, but not long.  The soil was in large part fertile, but agriculture was dependent entirely on the chance of an uncertain rainfall.  There was a certain melancholy in the tone of the landscape which, after a time, took a strong hold on the minds of men.  The religious legends were characterized by the same tone.  To the Anatolian mind the life of nature seemed always to end in early death.  In ancient times, this great peninsula of Asia Minor one of the wealthiest parts of the Mediterranean world; and in particular; the western portion of the peninsula was renowned as the richest part of the Roman Empire.  It was richer than Egypt in the Roman period, because the wealth of Egypt belonged to the emperor, while the wealth of the country stayed more in the hands of the inhabitants of western Asia Minor.  That prosperity, though maintained by the Roman Empire, was not created by it.  It existed long before the Romans had even set foot in the eastern parts of the Mediterranean world.

The entrance of the Romans into Asia Minor during the second century B. C. was for a time injurious to its wellbeing.  The Roman governors of Asia were infected with a spirit of covetousness and rapacity which was a marked fault of the Roman character.  They were, as a rule, cruel and grasping, yet Asia was able to endure.  When the Empire was established by Julius Caesar in 46 B. C., and consolidated by Augustus during his long tenure (31 B. C. to 14 A. D.), a new system was established, based on just collection and fair incidence of taxation, and on general administration in the interest of the people of the province.  Under the emperors the well-developed system of interchange of produce and the ease and regularity of communications along the seaways and the land-roads of the Roman world tended to produce an extremely high standard of wellbeing, and even luxury and wealth, in the Mediterranean world as a whole, and particularly in Asia Minor.  The author saw his purpose in writing this article was to briefly describe the causes of that prosperity and the high standard of wealth which was obtained.  Most land was not immediately usable by man; that was especially true of Asia Minor.  The low grounds were frequently marshy, and the great central plateau was arid.  Rain fell there, but it had to be stored.  The hillsides were subject to erosion.  An elaborate system of terracing was required to retain water, and prevent floods.  In the low ground, the marshes had to be drained and transformed into highly fertile soil.  Those processes involved a large degree of engineering skill.  The author witnessed the need for such engineering skill.  In 1907 on an excavation, he noted ancient terracing on the hills that had been worn down.  Corn was growing in the field around the ruins.  The next year, the field was covered in gravel; no corn could grow.  A storm had washed the gravel down from the hills.  If the terracing had been in place, the washout would not have happened.

The author theorized that a soil that required hard work and scientific skill to make it productive stimulated hard work because that was necessary to life.  The people created an excellent system of trade-markets and intercommunications, which implied roads and inter-tribal or international markets, and safety for traders at the markets and on the roads, so that the products of the high ground and the lowlands could be freely interchanged.  The earliest accounts of western Asia Minor and the Aegean coast land that had been transmitted to us was contained in the tenth chapter of Genesis.  One of the sons of Japheth was Javan (Greek Ion).  The four sons of Javan were those Old-Ionian traders and sailors of Asia Minor who contacted the Semitic races during the second millennium B. C.  Cilicia, Tarsus, and Mallos were rival commercial cities at an extreme early period.  Along the coast, great or small Greek colonies occupied every favorable point.  None of those “Greek” colonies were peopled by Greeks alone; they contained a mixed population, whose basis was native but whose guiding spirit and governing was Greek.  The peaceful intercourse of Europe and Asia was then in process.  Exceptions to that peaceful intermixture laid in the tendency of trade to degenerate into piracy, and in the historic events in the siege of Troy.  Those old “Sons of Javan” recognized the true character of their own people – the genius to penetrate and to vivify the more quiet and stolid population of the country.  It was impossible to write an account of that early period because it had been only recorded in tradition and mythology.  Javan was more of a divine than a human figure.  Later Greek tradition delighted to picture the Greeks of the west coast of Asia Minor as colonist, who had migrated from European Greece.  The tendency to represent European Greece as the mother county of the entire Greek race constantly reappeared in history.  It was the basis of the false modern ideas which described the Byzantine Empire as Greek, although it was Roman.

The Old-Ionians were the creative and vivifying element in Asia Minor.  They sprang ever fresh from the geographic conditions of the west coast.  The most urgent problem presented, in 1922, in the realm of historical geography was to study the Old-Ionians and the Anatolian Hittites.  The Greek people were able to adapt itself to other nations, thereby assimilating nation to itself.  A host of colonies round the coast of Asia Minor; the Aegean; the Adriatic; Italian, French, and Spanish coasts; and the African coast between Egypt and Carthage, regarded themselves as Greek.  Greek was the language of education and literature, and of higher civilization.  Although it was left to Rome to construct a stable organization of unified government and society, the great cities of the west, like Marseille and many others, were founded from Asia Minor.  The history of Christianity in the first three centuries was largely influenced by Asia Minor.  There always tended to be hostility between the Greeks of Asia and those of Europe.  And sometimes a mother city was hostile toward her colonies.  The Greek colonies of Asia Minor varied at different periods, both in numbers and in power, some passing away and others were founded and re-founded.  They encircled the entire peninsula and the Black Sea.  The Greek cities of Asia played a large part in the development of Greek literature and art.  Homer’s subjects were taken from the history of the “Sons of Javan”.  The general opinion was that he was Asian Greek himself.  Lyric poetry was represented by Sappho and Alcaeus.  The Greek drama was almost entirely European, but in philosophy many of the greatest old names were Asian.  The early Greek historians mostly sprang from Asia: Herodotus was the greatest of the group.  Greek music was largely Asian in origin.  In the realm of art, the Ionian artists preceded and gave examples to the Greeks of Greece.  They were constructing great temples, adorned with sculpture and color, long before the Greeks on the west side of the Aegean.

The Old-Ionian school naturally died out; artists of the Athenian school were widely scattered over the Greek world, and they exercised a powerful influence on the art of the Ionian Greek.  Out of that sprang the Pergamenian school and the Rhodian, which had left some of the greatest monuments of Greek art to modern times.  The best-preserved Greek theater was built in Roman times, at the Pamphylian city of Aspendos.  The sepulchral monuments of Lycia and Phrygia were marvelously interesting and beautiful in different ways.  Of the “Seven Wonders of the World”, the majority belonged to Asiatic and not to European Greece.  Alongside the “Sons of Javan” there stood the little-known people called the Hittites, whose power confronted the Old-Ionians in there prime.  The Hittites were becoming a subject of modern historical investigation until interrupted by the World War.  There was no doubt that there existed far back, near the beginning of history, in Asia Minor a great central empire, represented by several noteworthy cities and on great capital, situated at Boghaz-Keui, high on the central plateau in northern Cappadocia.  In 1922, only an outline of Hittite history had been gleaned, and that was from recitals of exploits, and monuments of great kings.  The Hittite Empire broke up during the second millennium B. C.  The Lydian Empire, with its capital at the city of Sardis, was an offshoot of the old Hittite Empire; but it was divided from the main Hittite world by the incursion of the Phrygians, who came in from Europe across the Dardanelles, probably during the tenth century B. C.  During Roman times, the province of “Asia”, the western part of the peninsula, was the richest and most highly educated part of the country.  There were 230 cities, each with their own coinage and magistrates.  Each was proud of its own self-government.  Whatever its size, a town only ranked as a village if it had not the right of self-government.

The author traversed the most desolate district on the borders of Lycaonia and Cappadocia, where he drove for hours without seeing a house or a hut.  It struck him that in Roman times it was a country highly populated, therefore highly cultivated.  The contrast of former wealth and current poverty was striking.  One example of that wealth was a great inscription, found in 1882, erected about 260 A. D.  It recorded 108 subscriptions to fight for the emperor against the rise of Christianity.  The subscriptions varied from 6,000 to 500 denarii, a lot of money at the time.  That monument happened to be complete, but there were fragments of others similar in character.  In 1922, the region was almost entirely lacking in coinage.  In 1880, the author found it extremely difficult to get change for a dollar in any village.  During the third century A. D., when the Roman Empire was going to pieces, Asia Minor was exposed to invasions by barbarian tribes.  For centuries after, there was almost continuous warfare with the monarchs of Persia and Mesopotamia.  Thereafter rose the still greater menace of the Arab.  Moslem armies were knocking at the gates of Constantinople only a few years after Mohammed had fled from Mecca.  Almost every year from 660 and 965 A. D., bands of Arab raiders or even great armies crossed the Taurus and ranged over Asia Minor.  Almost every city was captured at least once by raiders; yet the strength of the highly organized society prevailed in the long run.  There arose, from time to time, some great emperor, such as Heraclius, about 600, who broke the Sassanian power and marched at will through Mesopotamia, Persia, and Armenia; or Nicephorus Phocus, who finally ejected the Arabs in 965.  Those emperors rebuilt the empire again and again.  Although the Roman civilization survived in Asia Minor, it was dislocated and out of repair.

The great highway through the Cilician Gates had been wrecked completely during those long wars.  The road system was broken up, and very few remnants of old Roman roadway could be seen in 1922.  The Roman social system had not been destroyed to the same degree.  The Arab raiders were too hurried.  There was an old religious law in Asia that invaders might destroy the annual crop, but must not destroy the trees, the olives, and the vines.  It was left to the Crusaders to inaugurate the era of total destruction of a country by cutting down the trees.  The plan was adopted of deliberately cutting down all trees in order to destroy the prosperity of a foreign country.  Asia Minor enjoyed a period of recuperation after 965.  The boundaries of the Roman Empire were extended further to the east than ever before.  But a greater danger supervened when the Turks entered Asia Minor in 1070.  With them came the wandering tribes from central Asia.  They broke the strength of an organized society by reducing a great part of the country from the agricultural to the nomadic stage.  The supply of food diminished accordingly.  With the waning food supply, the population decreased.  A decreased population, in turn, was unable to supply the labor necessary to maintain the old standards of water engineering, on which prosperity rested.  Gradually, industries languished in the towns as well as agriculture in the country.  The sultans did what they could, but they could not maintain the education which was necessary.  Moreover, the ruinous method of massacre was resorted to in order to prevent any dangerous developments among the subordinate races.  In the thirty years leading up to 1922, that had been carried to a hitherto unknown extreme.

Thus, the whole basis of prosperity was wrecked, not by intention, but by steady decay.  The author asked “Can the prosperity of this derelict land be restored?”  That was largely a question of politics, which the author refused to discuss.  There was required, for the recouperation of the land, knowledge to guide labor.  The schools and colleges established by the American missions were doing great work until the World War began.  Advisors were needed, and technical trainers, to restore irrigation.  Agriculture would be developed slowly and would take a long time to put many parts of country into cultivation.  There were minerals as well as many other forms of wealth which the country tendered.  Copper and lead were once mined, and silver mines had been worked since Hittite times until quite recently (to the author).  Gold was formerly extracted in Lydia and in Mysia.  Those and many other minerals, such as chromium, could have been or had been worked successfully.  The mines provided one of the greatest needs of the country – work for men who in times of peace were extremely eager to work.  Meanwhile, the restoration of agriculture was the indispensable basis of the country’s prosperity.



This was the November issue, meaning that, even 100 years ago, election campaigning was in full swing.  To honor this fact, (or to take advantage of it), Campbell’s Soup ran a “political ad” recognizing women’s right to vote, which they had won just two years before.



Tom Wilson

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