Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Geil J. Norris Family Papers, Vault MS 156

Geil J. Norris Family Papers, Vault MS 156

            These New Year cards—printed in Mexico City in 1881 for Sam Brannan and Manual Castro, with the Mexican coat of arms and, yes, real feathers affixed in the shape of birds—are part of the recently cataloged Geil J. Norris Family Papers. Though small, the collection contains many notable and exquisite examples of Californiana documenting the Pico, Castro, and Sanchez families, from which Mr. Norris was descended, throughout the nineteenth century. Highlights of the collection include: an 1844 broadside announcing Thomas O. Larkin’s appointment as United States consul; letters by Zamorano, Pío Pico, Thomas O. Larkin, and Manuel Castro; documents pertaining to the Mexican War, including an 1846 bando and a letter of protest written by the minister of the missions at Santa Clara and San José; and the pictured greeting cards. 

            The cards (and a letter in the collection) tell an interesting story in their own right, suggesting that Mormon pioneer Sam Brannan and Mexican War general Manual Castro were business associates in Mexico in the early 1880s, when Brannan was involved in land speculation schemes in Sonora. The collection as a whole reminds us of the complex and historic interconnections—political, economic, and familial—between Mexico and California.

            A detailed guide to the collection is available on the Online Archive of California:

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian 
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