As Carey McWilliams notes in Southern California Country: An Island on the Land (1946), theatricality has persisted as a central tactic of empire in the U.S. borderlands—from the rituals Spanish missionaries used to attract Native Americans to the historical dramas of Anglo-American boosters. The early decades of the twentieth century saw a number of plays that, in the words of Chelsea K. Vaughn, “romanticized the Spanish and Mexican periods of California history before assigning them comfortably to the past.” These include John S. McGroarty’s The Mission Play (1912) and Garnet Holme’s adaptation of Ramona (1923) as well as his original drama The Mission Pageant of San Juan Capistrano (1924). Such dramas were anticipated by ceremonial pageants that took place at Mission Revival hotels throughout the early twentieth century—to wit, Governor Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to the 1899 Rough Riders Reunion at the Castañeda Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and President William Howard Taft’s 1909 Columbus Day sojourn at the Glenwood Mission Inn, in Riverside, California. Each of these “hospitality pageants” casts the visiting dignitary as a typological protagonist—the Anglo-American “antitype” of the Spanish “type” embodied in conquistadores and/or missionaries.
Taft’s Chair, Serra Cross, and Other Props: Mission Revival Hospitality Pageants with Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, 1899-1909
Stanley Orr hails from Riverside, California, and is Professor of English at the University of Hawai‘i, West O‘ahu. He is the author of Darkly Perfect World: Colonial Adventure, Postmodernism, and American Noir (Ohio State UP, 2010), which charts a trajectory of the noir ethos from fin de siècle adventure through postmodernist parody and revision. Orr has also published articles in journals such as American Quarterly, Studies in American Humor, and Jouvert: A Journal of Postcolonial Studies.
Stanley Orr; Taft’s Chair, Serra Cross, and Other Props: Mission Revival Hospitality Pageants with Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, 1899-1909. Pacific Coast Philology 1 April 2021; 56 (1): 99–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/pacicoasphil.56.1.0099
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