Wednesday, August 3, 2016

History Keepers: Knife and Trunk of Tiburcio Vásquez

Knife and Trunk of Tiburcio Vásquez, c. mid-1800s
San Fernando Valley Historical Society  
They are Los Angeles’s history keepers. They research, organize, store, repair, and care for historical artifacts and make them available to us online, at exhibitions, through publications, or in their homes. This summer, from August 5 to August 27, the California Historical Society celebrates Los Angeles’s history keepers with an exhibition at the historic El Pueblo National Monument: History Keepers: Traversing Los Angeles. This month, several objects from the exhibition will be featured through a series of blogs. We begin with the story of an infamous Californio bandido.

Tiburcio Vásquez 
Tiburcio Vasquez, c. 1874
Reproduction, California Historical Society

In the mid-1800s the legendary, controversial Tiburcio Vásquez—son of a prominent Californio family—traversed the passes and foothills of the state, robbing and terrorizing inhabitants and romancing others. Remembered for his womanizing and crimes purportedly committed in the name of justice for his people, the bandido/outlaw—and folk hero to some—traveled with this trunk packed with his personal effects. The knife is all that remains of its contents.

Knife and Trunk of Tiburcio Vásquez, c. mid-1800s
San Fernando Valley Historical Society 
Active in the Antelope Valley, Vásquez left the trunk with the first settler in the region, Timothy Nava of Barrel Springs, near Pear Blossom. He never returned for his possessions. He was captured (a woman was reputedly his downfall) at an adobe in the San Fernando Plains (present day Melrose Place in West Hollywood), and hanged for murder on March 19, 1875, at age 39at the Santa Clara County jail in San Jose. Vásquez Rocks in the Antelope Valley, one of the bandidos hideouts, and other landmarks bear his name today. 

Benjamin Truman Cummings, Map of the Scene of Vasquez’ Capture, 1874 
“Tiburcio Vasquez, The Life, Adventures, and Capture of the Great Californian Bandit and Murderer”;

Invitation to the Hanging of Tiburcio Vásquez, 1875 
California Historical Society

Noose used at Vasquez' Execution and the Cravat He Wore, which was removed to accommodate the Noose, 1875
California State Library. Tiburcio Vasquez Collection

Vasquez Rocks Natural Area County Park, Agua Dulce, California, 2009 
Courtesy Rennett Stowe
Timothy Navas granddaughter, Mrs. Lastenia Tapia Weatherwax of San Fernando, an artist with early California roots, preserved the trunk and the stories passed down by her grandfather. She donated the trunk (with portraits of President and Mrs. McKinley on the inside lid) to the San Fernando Valley Historical Society.  

Trunk of Tiburcio Vásquez, c. mid-1800s
San Fernando Valley Historical Society

History Keeper: San Fernando Valley Historical Society 
The San Fernando Valley Historical Society serves as caretaker of the historic Andrés Pico Adobe in Mission Hills and the Pioneer Cemetery in Sylmar. The societys mission is to share and make known the organizations significant archive and collections of San Fernando Valley history. 
Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager


John Boessenecker, “Bandido: The Countless Love Affairs of Tiburcio Vasquez,” California State Library Foundation Bulletin, no. 102, 2012;  

Tiburcio Vasquez, Agua Dulce/Vasquez Rocks; 

An exhibition by the California Historical Society and LA as Subject 
Presented in partnership with El Pueblo Historical Monument and the El Pueblo Park Association 

El Tranquilo Gallery & Visitor Center 
634 N. Main Street (entrance on Olvera Street, W-19) 
El Pueblo de Los Ángeles Historical Monument, Los Angeles, California 
Tuesday–Friday, 10:00 am–3:00 pm 
Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 am–4:00 pm 

Opening reception: Friday, August 5, 2016, 6:00–8:00 pm 

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