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.

Introduction: Spanish Fantasy at the Casa del Prado Theater

Volume 55 of Pacific Coast Philology features a striking cover photograph of the Casa del Prado Theatre in Balboa Park, a nod to San Diego for hosting the 2019 Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference and a fitting prelude for this special issue on “Actors, Roles, and Stages.” Occupying the former site of a Kumeyaay village and a modern Native American urban neighborhood, the Casa del Prado is a recreation of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition’s Varied Industries and Food Products Building designed by architect Carleton Monroe Winslow under the direction of head architect Bertram G. Goodhue. Throughout the twentieth century, the building housed by turns U.S. navy trainees, the Red Cross, the San Diego Public Library, the San Diego Aerospace Museum, and other concerns until it fell into disrepair and was replaced in 1971 with a reconstruction devoted to arts and culture organizations. The new building features Winslow’s elaborate Mexican-Churrigueresque architecture, retaining the concept of a grand Spanish city as originally conceived by Goodhue (Bokovoy 56)—a city, in the words of one contemporary reviewer, “such as Cabrillo and his men must have dreamed of as they stood, perhaps, on that same lofty mesa, and looked down toward the sea” (qtd. in Kropp, California Vieja 121). The Casa del Prado also conserves another prominent feature of its 1915 predecessor. Winslow’s Varied Industries Building included a courtyard apse dominated by a bas-relief of Serra with the inscription: “To the memory of Fray Junípero Serra and to his fellow pioneers whose saintly devotion and dauntless courage established Christianity and civilization in Alta California, 1769–1915” (qtd. in Young 76). Following demolition of the Varied Industries Building, the Serra memorial and other staff plaster ornamentation pieces were consigned to the Chollas Landfill; but these pieces were later rescued for the Casa del Prado’s Panama-California Sculpture Court (1973). With a gesture that approaches mise en abyme, the Casa del Prado purports to preserve that which itself emerged from the larger conservation initiative of the 1915 Exposition. As Matthew Bokovy points out, the reimagined Spain of Balboa Park went hand-in-hand with efforts to restore the crumbling Franciscan missions (224). Goodhue and his colleagues were part of a large-scale shift in Anglo-American narrations of their Spanish predecessors. In keeping with the English “Black Legend,” Jacksonian travelers and explorers often ridiculed Hispanic California as a “black hole” of backwardness and decay—this in keeping with the racist empire-building ideology of Manifest Destiny. Following the U.S.-Mexican War, however, victorious American boosters replaced denigration with a nostalgia, a “romantic revival” (Rawls 349–50) that evolved into what Carey McWilliams terms the “Spanish fantasy heritage.” In his book North From Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States (1948), McWilliams criticizes the ways in which historiography, literature, religion, civic life, and other media have fallen under the sway of a boosterism that romanticizes the Spanish colonial past while marginalizing what he terms the contemporary Mexican-Indian presence: “Los Angeles is merely one of the borderlands which has fed itself on a false mythology for so long that it has become a well-fattened paradox. . . . Mexicans are still not accepted as part of the community. When one examines how deeply this fantasy heritage has permeated the social and cultural life of the borderlands, the dichotomy begins to assume the proportions of a schizophrenic mania” (44). Two strands of the Spanish fantasy heritage emerge throughout the course of McWilliams’s writing. On one hand, writes McWilliams in North From Mexico, “The Latins were the great discoverers and explorers: Columbus, Magellan, Balboa, Cortez, Coronado, De Soto; and many in them were grandees and nobles. Somehow, they invited the romantic apotheosis, the heroic summation.” In this iteration, “the Spanish explorations in the Southwest will live forever, gleaming like fine Toledo blades in the history of the region” (30). Envisioning a Spanish city worthy of Cabrillo and other conquistadores, Goodhue’s team taps into this adventurous strand of the Spanish fantasy heritage.

Within and against this courtly tradition, which encompasses the idealized lifestyle of the Mexican ranchos, the Mission Revival supplies an even more hegemonic mythos. “[B]affling, at first blush, is the intense preoccupation of Southern California with its Mission-Spanish past” (70) wonders McWilliams in his 1946 book Southern California Country: An Island on the Land. Tracing the development of this Spanish fantasy heritage element, McWilliams outlines the career of Helen Hunt Jackson and her pivotal role in romanticizing the missions once thought of as monuments to a failed civilization. In 1883, Helen Hunt Jackson published her two-part article “Father Junipero and His Work,” a panegyric followed a year later by Ramona, a sentimental novel intended as protest against persecution of Mission Indians. Ramona spurred not only preservation of the Franciscan missions themselves but also development of a Mission Revival architecture defined by stuccoed arches, pitched and tiled rooves, curved parapets, and bell-laden campanarios. McWilliams goes on to survey the outpouring of pietistic missioniana, in various forms, that spread the myth of European benevolence and Indigenous infantilism amidst a pastoral setting. “ According to this legend,” writes McWilliams, “the Missions were havens of happiness and contentment for the Indians, places of song, laughter, good food, beautiful languor, and mystical adoration of the Christ” (70). McWilliams concludes that the Protestant Anglo- Americans of the region find this iconic image, together with that of “the Franciscan padre praying at sundown in the Mission garden” (21), alluring alternatives to Mexican field workers and pachucos (83). Although the architecture of the Varied Industries Building and the Casa del Prado departs from the austerity of Mission Revival design, these structures contribute to the “Mission Myth” (Rawls 350) through celebration of Junípero Serra. The prominent Serra memorial of 1915, reconstituted in 1973, represents an Anglo-American historiography of conquest by which boosters allied themselves with Serra’s project of colonization (Young 76).

The various aesthetic and ideological gestures enacted throughout the history of the Casa del Prado tell us much about the Spanish fantasy heritage; it is also fitting that the edifice now houses a theater, for architecture, interior design, and dramaturgy often commingle within the Anglo-American imagination of the Spanish borderlands. McWilliams notes that the Franciscan missionaries skillfully deployed “ceremonies, rituals, music, processions, and pageants to stimulate the curiosity of the Indians and to lure them into the Mission compounds”(30); he goes on to suggest that the Spanish fantasy heritage is itself a great theatrical production: “A land of magical improvisation, Southern California has created its own past, with a special cast, and a script written by its favorite troubadours, John Steven McGroarty, George Wharton James, and Charles Fletcher Lummis. Unquestionably, the production, with its improvised traditions and manufactured legends, has been a huge success.” Even as he uses dramatic production as a master-trope for the Spanish fantasy heritage, McWilliams also acknowledges the literal importance of theatrics: “With a boldness more comic than brazen, the synthetic past has been kept alive by innumerable pageants, fiestas, and outdoor enactments of one kind or another” (21). 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” (221). 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.

Narrating Empire with Roosevelt at La Castañeda

Our first hospitality pageant takes place in 1899 at the Castañeda Hotel, part of Fred Harvey’s “Harvey House” chain and one of the first Mission Revival hotels in the American West. Although the Castañeda may have appeared an unlikely location for the first Rough Riders Reunion, this site had much to recommend it. Las Vegas not only reflected the predominance of New Mexicans among the Rough Riders (some 40 percent hailed from the Territory), but the town also enjoyed a frontier provenance suitable to the regimental mythos. Often compared to lawless frontier towns such as Dodge City and Tombstone, Las Vegas had been the haunt of Bat Masterson, Billy the Kid, Dave Rudabaugh, Doc Holliday, and Jesse James. With his earlier Las Vegas hotel, the Queen Anne style Montezuma (1883), Harvey had established a reputation as a “food missionary” bringing civilization to the Wild West. One representative anecdote finds the couth Britisher schooling rowdy cowboys in the hotel’s elegant bar; the story goes that Harvey actually manhandled the cowboy “Red John,” pulling him bodily across the hotel bar and then placating him with first-class food and drink (Fried xvi–xv). Whereas Wyatt Earp pistol-whipped the hell-raisers of Dodge City and Tombstone, Harvey tempered his lessons in decorum with hospitality. The Castañeda furthers this idea, integrating Harvey House cultural evangelism with the Spanish fantasy heritage. Opened in 1899 only a few months before the Rough Riders’ first reunion, the Castañeda features conspicuous Mission Revival architecture, including arches, shaped parapet, and a central bell tower. In terms of layout, the hotel also mimics a floorplan common to Franciscan missions, the closed cuadrángulo here reimagined as a u-shaped structure bordered by the Santa Fe railroad tracks by which guests arrived. This concept of the Spanish fantasy resort would be elaborated at other Harvey ventures—Albuquerque’s Alvarado Hotel in (1902) and La Posada (1930) in Williams, Arizona. Las Vegas’s colorful past, meliorated by Harvey’s touristic development, proved attractive to visitors eager to explore the Wild West via the Santa Fe Railroad. All of these factors came into play as the Santa Fe went in with Las Vegas’s city fathers to sponsor the Rough Riders Reunion, an early instance of corporate sponsorship (Fried 155).

Roosevelt assured his comrades that he would have traveled as far as Alaska to join them for their first reunion; but the extended train trip supplied the pretext for a whistle-stop campaign tour anchored in the Governor’s wartime exploits as well as his connections with the frontier West. As reported by the Los Angeles Herald, Roosevelt was greeted by thousands as he joined the reunion on the anniversary of the Battle of Las Guasimas:

Nearly every survivor of the troop was present. Col. Roosevelt arrived at 1:30 this afternoon and was greeted as he stepped off the platform of the rear car with tremendous cheering from 5000 people massed around the depot. The noted New Yorker was clad in his Rough Rider uniform and was easily recognized by the crowd. He was almost lifted bodily from his feet by the press of persons anxious to grasp his hand, and as he and his party made their way slowly to the Castaneda hotel, the crowds started after him. He looked in excellent health and seemed to appreciate the hearty enthusiasm of the people who greeted him. As he walked down the depot sidewalk a line of Rough Rider veterans saluted and joined in the general ovation. (“Reunion” 1)

With its open-air setting, large audience, and uniformed procession, Theodore Roosevelt’s arrival in Las Vegas sets the pageantic tone for the 1899 Rough Riders Reunion. According to Glynne Wickham, pageants are special events, often political or civic, characterized by uniformed processions and flag-draped streets—“rituals bringing ruler and subject into mystic communion” (51–52). Further, Annelise K. Madsen argues that the American pageant movement, which reached its apex throughout the years 1910–1914, was characterized by outdoor events that “brought together playwrights, dancers, and citizens for the staging of a dramatic ritual, typically narrating the history of a community (or expressing the ideals of a particular cause) through a series of episodes or tableaux” (161). Roosevelt’s arrival becomes the first episode in a pageant that cultivates “mystic communion” between T.R. and his Rough Riders and the other attendees. These generic conventions further coalesce throughout the ensuing episode at the Hotel Castañeda.

Without question, the Rough Riders Reunion served as an auspicious grand opening for the Castañeda, one in which the Santa Fe Railroad and Las Vegas invested considerable resources. At the same time, this hospitality pageant captures an ever-present tension in the Spanish Fantasy mythos—that between the staid and sentimental Mission Revival and the adventurous legacy of the conquistadores. While these elements could be poised and balanced in sites such as the Panama-California Exposition, the Rough Riders Reunion lived up to its name insofar as the cowboys and collegians of Roosevelt’s volunteer regiment inflicted a good deal of property damage on the new Harvey House before turning to a rodeo and other athletic competitions (Fried 157). With respect to pageantic conventions, however, the contending forces of the reunion support a drama that situates Roosevelt as a typological hero. The Castañeda here operates as a dramatic set that registers Spanish Fantasy typology: its flag-draped parapet, which would become common set dressing for Mission Revival pageants, suggests that the United States has inherited the mantle of Spanish imperialism. Another iconic image lies in the photograph of Roosevelt posing with a group of Native American attendees, in traditional dress, and U.S. army officers in front of the Castañeda’s distinctive arches. Spanish conquest and colonization hereby form a backdrop against which Manifest Destiny (the U.S. subjugation of Native Americans) gives way to an era of global empire symbolized by the scene’s visual dominant: Roosevelt costumed in his khaki Rough Rider uniform. This meaning of the tableau also emerges through adjacent commercial materials. In a 1961 promotional book for the for the Rough Riders Reunion, which was observed in Las Vegas through 1972, historian Lynn Perrigo writes of Roosevelt’s 1899 visit: “On that gala occasion, the threads of several separate historical skeins had been drawn together and woven into a grand design.” For Perrigo, Roosevelt’s visit to the Castañeda represents the “climax” of a story that begins with Spanish conquistadores such as Columbus and Coronado:

First in the historical sequence had been the exploration and settlement of this frontier by the courageous Spanish pioneers. Next had come the stirring events of the “American” occupation, the local campaigns of the Civil War, and the development of the area as a territorial unit in the United States. Simultaneously our nation had been surging forward as a world power, and this power had been wielded swiftly and effectively in sympathetic support of the Cuban insurgents who were engaged in a valiant struggle for independence.

“At that moment,” Perrigo concludes, “the wealthy city-bred Theodore Roosevelt, who had acquired his good health and strong spirit out West, emerged as a national leader” (Las Vegas and the Rough Riders, Three). Early twentieth-century American pageants often integrate historical and allegorical elements (Madsen 163) and, here as elsewhere, Roosevelt comes across as an allegorical figure— his persona as Rough Riders C.O. symbolizes his future role as Commander in Chief as well as a nation “surging forward as a world power.”1 In this instance, however, Roosevelt enjoys the benefit of typology as well as allegory.

Standing before the arches of La Castañeda, Roosevelt emerges as the antitype of Pedro de Castañeda, the chronicler of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado’s 1540–42 expedition to New Spain. According to María DeGuzmán, nineteenth-century Anglo-American “imperial histories” extol the “civilizing and glory-gaining accomplishments” of Spain as the “type” fulfilled by the “antitype” of U.S. expansionism (76). Roosevelt made good on his role as a new Castañeda in his address at the Rough Riders Association meeting. After greeting his comrades and lauding the valor of the Rough Riders, he memorializes those who lost their lives “under the flag of the United States in one of the most righteous wars which this country has seen.”

I am proud of you, my comrades, not only because you were very brave in battle, but because when once the battle was over, you showed yourselves always merciful to the weak. . . . I shall ever keep in mind the valor you showed, as you fought in the jungles of Las Guasimas, as you charged up the slopes of San Juan Hill, and I shall keep in mind no less the way in which you shared your scanty rations with the poor miserable refugees at El Caney, the way in which you tried to help the women and children upon which war had laid its heavy hand. (“Reunion” 1)

Proceeding with the idea that the Rough Riders embody chivalric valor and compassion, TR suggests that his jungle fighting regiment “was but a microcosm of our great country and the principles which enabled us to make so much out of it are those upon which we must act in the nation itself if we are to stand level to the needs of our great destiny.” At the conclusion of his address, Roosevelt leaves no doubt that this destiny is global in reach. He congratulates California’s senators for joining him in supporting President McKinley’s campaign to “put down the armed savagery to which we are opposed in the Philippines” and concludes, “The United States is to be the great Power of the Pacific and we men of the Atlantic Coast are good Westerners and are as resolutely bent upon upholding our power in the Pacific as the men on the Pacific slope themselves” (“Reunion” 1).

Roosevelt’s allusion to “good Westerners” suggests not only commitment to West Coast regional concerns but also the notion that all Americans should partake of the frontier spirit that “won the West.” As Richard Slotkin observes, Roosevelt often resorts to Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Myth “to argue that imperialism was the logical and necessary extension of the nation’s ‘westering’ course of development, the fulfillment of our destiny among the ‘fighting races’ of the world, and the means to personal and racial re-invigoration” (106). Although Roosevelt does not explicitly mention the Spanish in his address, he does suggest that the Rough Riders exemplify a spirit of chivalric conquest bequeathed by the Spanish explorers of yesteryear. In The Winning of the West (1889), Roosevelt salutes “the age of the great Conquistadores; the age of Cortes, Pizarro, De Soto, and Coronado”; but he also argues, “it was evident [Spain’s] grasp had grown feeble”: “Every bold, lawless, ambitious leader among the frontier folk dreamed of wresting from the Spaniard some portion of his rich and ill-guarded domain”(178). Speaking as the antitype of Castañeda, Roosevelt finds in the Rough Riders an ideal combination of “knightly gallantry” (as Eleuterio Baca has it in his poem on the regiment2) passed down by Spanish chivalry and the bold ambition inherited from the Jacksonian “frontier folk.” By extension, the United States is the only superpower fit to govern Spain’s “rich and ill-guarded domain,” whether it be in New Mexico, Cuba, or the Philippines.

Roosevelt would go on to star in other Mission Revival hospitality pageants throughout the borderlands. In 1903, for example, T.R. traveled as President through the Western states, stopping at Fred Harvey’s Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque as well as the Riverside’s Glenwood Mission Inn. He returned to the Alvarado in 1916 to speak on behalf of Republican Presidential candidate Charles E. Hughes. As with the Rough Rider Reunion, these visits occasioned many pageantic moments. In Riverside, Roosevelt planted the Southern California citrus industry’s parent navel orange tree in front of the Mission Inn’s flag-draped campanario. He punctuated the tableau with the line “I am glad to see that this tree . . . shows no signs of race suicide.”3 In 1916, Roosevelt returned to the Alvardo; this visit to Fred Harvey’s elaborate Mission Revival hotel was captured in a newsreel, T.R’s. Reception in Albuquerque, N.M., 1916. While contributing to Roosevelt’s persona as a “genuine war hero” (Tillapaugh 99), the film also presents T.R. as a typological Mission Revival protagonist; framed by the Alavarado’s Mission Revival arches, Roosevelt pauses over a Native American woman and her child and gives her a coin. The cinematography of this sequence situates Roosevelt in conventional tableau of the Franciscan monk ministering to Native neophytes. This mise-en-scène is altogether consistent with McWilliams’s reading of Spanish fantasy imagery and also what Kevin Starr deems the central tableau of the mission myth derived from Ramona: “grateful Indians, happy peasants in an Italian opera, knelt dutifully before the Franciscans to receive the baptism of a superior culture, while in the background the angelus toiled from a swallow-guarded campanile and a choir of friars intoned the Te Deum”(Inventing the Dream 58). Following his stay at the Mission Inn in 1903, Roosevelt visited the Mission Santa Barbara and delivered an address at that city’s Plaza del Mar. Facing the Mission Revival bathhouse Banos del Mar, Roosevelt commented on the importance of “memorials to an older civilization”:

Here I speak in a region where there remain memorials of an older civilization that was in California three-quarters of a century before the first hardy people of the new stock crossed the desert, crossed the mountain chains, or came by ships up from the isthmus, and I want to congratulate you upon the way in which you are perpetuating the memorials of that elder civilization. It is a fine thing in a new community to try to keep alive the continuity of historic interests; it is a fine thing to try to remember the background which even those of us who are most confident of our future may be pleased to see existed in the past; and I am pleased to see how in your architecture of new and great buildings going up, and in your old buildings, and in many other ways, you are, by keeping the touch and flavor of the older civilization, giving a peculiar flavor to our own new civilization. (Compilation 350)

In this illuminating moment, the central protagonist of U.S. imperialism stands at the western edge of the continent, lecturing his auditors on material culture. Here again, Roosevelt’s comments recurrently emphasize the linear march of western empire, firmly locating the recently vanquished Spanish competitor as the “elder civilization” that has blazed the trail for and then given way to “the hardy new stock.” Kevin Starr has suggested that the Santa Barbara architecture itself prompted Roosevelt, along with President McKinley before him in 1901, to comment on the “Spanish Californian atmosphere” (Material Dreams 253–54).

To Have Taft Occupy the Chair

It is also possible that Roosevelt’s interpretation of Santa Barbara was inspired by his stay at the Glenwood Mission Inn a few days before the Santa Barbara event. The Mission Inn began life in 1876 as the Glenwood Cottage, a small adobe guest house owned and operated by engineer Christopher Columbus Miller; purchasing the business from his father in 1880, Frank Augustus Miller elaborated the structure into a vast and eclectic homage to the missions and their Franciscan builders. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Mission Inn emerged as one of the world’s most celebrated hotels—a cultural and political crossroads that entertained luminaries such as Susan B. Anthony, Albert Einstein, Booker T. Washington, Zitkála-Šá, and Will Rogers, who characterized the inn as “a monastery, a mission, a fine hotel, a home, a boarding house, a museum, an art gallery, an aviator’s shrine. It combines the best features of all the above”(89). Appearing in many films and TV commercials, the Mission Inn also enjoys cameo appearances in literary and cultural history scholarship. McWilliams cites the Mission Inn as the “initial fillip for Mission architecture”4 and Franklin Walker devotes several pages to this “most missionized institution” (238) in his seminal Literary History of Southern California (1950). Kevin Starr deems it “a Spanish Revival Oz: a neo- Franciscan fantasy of courts, patios, halls, archways, and domes . . . furnished with the statuary, stained glass windows, and religious artifacts of Spain, Italy, and Mexico, gathered on pilgrimages abroad.” Miller’s “orgy of aesthetic hyperdulia,” he argues, rendered missionless Riverside “the Southern Californian center of the mission cult” (Inventing the Dream 86). Little wonder, then, that the Mission Inn furnished the set for a Columbus Day hospitality pageant on par with Roosevelt’s performance at the Castañeda. But whereas Roosevelt was cast as the antitype of the conquistador, Taft emerged as the fulfillment of the monastic type exemplified by Serra and the Franciscans.

In the 1909 Sunset Magazine piece “Sentiment as an Asset: A Christmas Sermon,” Jacob Riis lauds Frank Miller as “not merely a hotelkeeper [but] a poet”—“that is his real office and function” (562). Miller’s poetic impulse was nowhere more clear than in his efforts to develop the Mission Inn as a stage for Mission Revival theatrical productions. Indeed, it was Miller who conceived of the original concept for The Mission Play and recruited writer John Steven McGroarty to write a pageant about Serra and the founding of California’s Franciscan Missions. He took McGroarty to the top of Mt. Rubidoux and, in the words of Elizabeth Murray, “Beneath the shadow of the cross erected to the memory of Father Junipero Serra, the plan was unfolded” (374). Cloistered in the Mission Inn, McGroarty wrote the drama that would by some estimates entertain some 2.5 million viewers throughout three thousand performances.5 Although Miller intended to stage The Mission Play at the Mission Inn, the production was ultimately housed in another of Arthur B. Benton’s buildings, the specially constructed San Gabriel Mission Playhouse in Los Angeles. “For his own Mission Inn theatrical productions,” writes Maurice Hodgen, “Miller contented himself with an annual costumed pastiche of the New Testament nativity theme, with seasonal songs and robed Franciscan friars performing in the Music Room, entertaining staff, their families, and hotel guests” (212). Miller played Serra and he conscripted students of the nearby Sherman Indian School as the neophytes of the production. Later Mission Inn pageants include DeWitt Hutchings’s 1916 drama honoring Juan Bautista de Anza (the Spanish explorer most immediately associated with Riverside). In her gloss on Mission Inn pageants, Emily McEwen argues that in the wake of the Panama-California International Exposition, and its integration of the “pious mission heritage with the imperial grandeur and machismo of Spanish conquest, the Inn’s theatrical endeavors focused less on the Franciscans and more on demonstrating a teleological progression of Manifest Destiny, Native conquest, and Anglo settlement, as if these events were inevitable and preordained by God” (81).

While Miller obviously produced forthright stage plays, his flair for Mission Revival dramaturgy also informed the hospitality pageant with which he commemorated Taft’s 1909 visit to Riverside. The President stopped briefly in Riverside as part of a nation-wide tour intended to offset criticism of his administration by “jollying” voters and stumping for his positions on issues such as tariff, trust control, and the postal savings bank. Due to poor coordination between Taft’s secretary and local welcoming committees, the President had suffered a series of awkward moments and outright debacles (Rosen 65–66). Southern California promised another perilous encounter as various townships wrangled over the few hours allotted to the President in communities outside Los Angeles. Riverside ended up carrying the day; its delegation met Taft at the San Bernardino train station and whisked him at 65 mph through Colton and Redlands where he was greeted by “nearly 1000 school children, every one waving a tiny flag. It was like one huge national emblem and it called forth the praise of President Taft and every member of his party” (“President” 8).

Even before his arrival, circumstances had conspired to frame Taft’s October 12 visit with tantalizing semiotics. He arrived on Columbus Day, which would have held special meaning for Frank Miller not only because of its meaning for Spanish exploration, but also because his father, the founder of the Glenwood Mission Inn, was named Christopher Columbus Miller. To add to the suggestiveness of the occasion, Taft made San Bernardino in his private Pullman car, the Mayflower. Here was an occasion then with manifold symbolic possibilities—President Taft would arrive in Riverside, the “center of the mission cult,” amidst powerful allusions to the European origin-story of the United States. As if acknowledging this symbolic potential, Frank Miller confided to a reporter, “I do not want to exploit him. I want to save him for the country.”6 Throughout the rest of the day, Miller saved Taft for the country by inscribing him as the protagonist of a pageant suffused with Mission Revival rhetoric. When Taft reached Riverside, he found a prosperous city “gaily decorated” with palm wreaths “hanging from the trolley wires” ( “President” 8). For Charles Sepulveda, such greenery created the effect of a desert oasis, though one that elides the Indigenous uses of washingtonia filifera (California Fan Palm) (193). With respect to pageantry, the palm decorations also symbolize victory and convey, whether intended or not, a messianic suggestion.7 Refreshed with orangeade, Taft was driven up Mount Rubidoux through a file of National Guardsmen. At the summit, accompanied by a bugler, Taft was asked to pull a silken cord that unveiled a tablet that declared Serra’s work “The Beginning of Civilization in California” with a “relief showing a padre pointing skyward and surrounded by a number of Indians listening to his appeal. A mission building is in the background” (“President” 8).

While the rumors of subterranean passages between Mount Rubidoux and the Mission Inn may be the stuff of urban legend (Ogden 191), the semiotic ties between these two sites are undeniable. Mount Rubidoux and its environs harbored multiple Cahuilla villages, one of which was named Pachappa (Sepulveda’s 172). This Indigenous name was removed to another hill a few miles south and supplanted with that of the Missouri settler Louis Rubidoux, who bought up tracts of the local Mexican ranchos. In 1906, Miller went in with Henry E. Huntington and Charles M. Loring to purchase the hill and its adjacent land. Later developments would see a Peace Tower with a bridge modelled on the Alcántara Bridge in Spain. In 1907, Miller organized the installation of Serra Cross itself, recruiting Thomas J. Conaty, Bishop of the Diocese of Monterey-Los Angeles, to preside over the dedication ceremony. During this time, other boosters were weaving Mount Rubidoux into the Mission Revival mythos. McGroarty, for example, personified Mount Rubidoux itself as “brown-robed like a Franciscan” (13). Dedication of the Serra Cross tablet may have been the geographical and dramaturgical high-point of Taft’s visit to Riverside; but this “act” in the pageant also represents the apex of settlers’ reinscription of Mount Rubidoux.8

Taft later admitted that he knew nothing of the role that he was expected to play atop Mount Rubidoux. Creating the ideal conditions for yet another logistical gaff, this lack of preparation was offset by Miller’s heavy-handed direction; for his association of Taft with Serra literally set the stage for the next act of the Taft pageant, which ratified the typological message proclaimed on the mountain. After unveiling the Serra tablet, Taft was driven down Magnolia Avenue to Sherman Institute, the Indian boarding school built and named for James S. Sherman, who was at that point serving as Taft’s vice president. As with Mount Rubidoux, Sherman Institute was treated by Miller as an adjunct to the Mission Inn. Nathan Gonzales has argued that Miller was the prime mover in relocating the school from Perris, California to Riverside, where its operations would be folded into his commercial operation; in Miller’s vision, the Mission Inn, Mount Rubidoux, and Sherman Institute would serve as anchors of a Spanish fantasy tourist complex (218). Anticipating their roles as neophytes in the Mission Inn Nativity pageant, Sherman students were mustered to greet the President. According to the Los Angeles Herald, “Here the Indian girls and their fresh white waists and dark skirts, and the boys in their gray uniforms, presented an impressive and beautiful sight. President Taft said a few words of cheer to the government’s wards and was on his way back to Glenwood Inn” (“President” 8). Speaking to the assembled Indian wards of Sherman, with its Ramona-themed Mission Revival architecture (Gonzales 214), Taft forms the centerpiece of a tableau that corresponds to the Serra tablet image. Indeed, in Miller’s dramatic vision, Taft symbolizes a civilization that had realized the imperial promise of the Franciscans.

Following the example of Roosevelt’s Rough Rider Reunion, the hospitality pageant concludes with an oration that takes the hospitality pageant into the realm of global empire. Returning to the Mission Inn, Taft bathed and rested for an hour before attending a dinner in his honor. In keeping with the pageantic decorations enjoyed throughout the afternoon, the President was seated beneath a mission bell fashioned from pepper boughs in an enormous Mission Style chair specially made for the occasion. This bit of set dressing was of prime importance to Miller, who assured the Riverside Chamber of Commerce that he “would give a thousand dollars to have Taft occupy the chair” (Lawton 155). With the exception of Serra Cross, this is the central prop of Miller’s pageant and it has in some ways outlived and overshadowed all other memories of the Taft visit, persisting to this day as a prominent attraction and photo opportunity in the Mission Inn’s lobby.9 To be sure, in Abraham Polonsky’s 1969 film Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, the chair again serves as a prop, this time as a metonymic stand-in for Taft himself. Miller’s eagerness to have Taft take this seat reflects the dramaturgical character of the Presidential visit. Having been associated with Serra earlier in the afternoon, Taft would now supply an iconic tableau illustrating the United States as the antitype of imperial Spain. On one hand, the chair reiterates the general notion that Mission Revival furnishings enable Anglo-American settlers to inhabit a exotic world occupied by other cultures and peoples.10 After all, the Mission Inn’s motto, emblazoned on an escutcheon featuring Serra, St. Francis, and a supine Indian, reads “Entre, es su casa, amigo” (McEwen 159–60). In another sense, however, the chair exerts a meaning consistent with the Taft’s visit typology; it resembles a “bishop’s throne” which in turn derives from the chair that symbolized the power of Roman officials. As Arthur C. Danto observes, the bishop’s chair “would have been designated, in Latin, as cathedra, and even now, when one speaks with the weight and authority of one’s position in a relevant hierarchy, one speaks ex cathedra- from the chair . . . [which] carried administrative and doxological authority”(157–58).

Although Taft cannot “speak from the chair” in an ecclesiastical sense, he confides, “I have preached so many sermons and have come in such close contact with the churchmen that I feel a good deal like a bishop” (“President” 8). Serenaded by the Sherman Indian Girls’ Mandolin Club (“Riverside” 14), Taft delivered a homily on the afternoon’s events, a commentary that underscores the various rhetorical gestures that he has witnessed and participated in over the last hours. He begins by situating the Serra monument within the context of his own experience as Governor of the Philippines:

I had not anticipated the honor of unveiling a tablet to so great a man as Father Serra. Had I known what was to come, I would have prepared myself with more in preparation about the missionary fathers. I first became aware of the padres in the Philippines; there I learned of the heroic side of the Spanish character. . . . When you consider the hardships of the Spaniards, the Portuguese and the Maules of the early days, it is hard to believe the work we see today was done then. Those pioneer missionaries converted the only Christian people in the Orient today. It is fitting that we pay tribute to one of those pioneers today. (“President” 8)

As with the Casa del Prado memorial, Taft characterizes Serra as a “pioneer” of Spanish California, one whose fellow missionaries achieved great things in the Philippines. Although he invokes the Mission Revival element of the Spanish fantasy heritage, rather than the martial conquistadores that interested Roosevelt, Taft yet feels impelled to script the padres as “pioneers”—colonial adventure heroes contending not only with “heathens” but with unscrupulous adventurers who “advance themselves into heathendom . . . for the purpose of buying or getting from the heathen what the heathen regards as but little, and they know to be valuable”(“President 8). For Katherine D. Moran, Taft’s hagiographic celebration of the padres should be understood as part of his larger efforts to promote Protestant/Catholic relations throughout Progressive era. Commercial boosters such as Miller elaborated a “stadial vision of California history” in which “the Anglo-American takeover was part of the region’s progressive development from Indian to Spanish to American and part of the larger project of the extension of the U.S. empire of liberty” (464). In the Philippines, however, American colonial officials and others strove “to administratively construct and rhetorically defend a nascent and contested colonial state” (437). Charles Sepulveda argues that Taft’s Mission Inn address “helps us understand why he was a perfect head of state to unveil a monument to Junípero Serra”: whether interpreting California or the Philippines, Sepulveda suggests, Taft sets forth Spanish Catholic colonialism as the “White Man’s Burden” rather than a genocidal campaign of apocalyptic violence against Indigenous peoples. Following Dylan Rodriguez, Sepulveda contends that Taft forgoes the rhetoric of bloodthirsty racism in favor of a more rational and ethnographic idiom that is nonetheless deployed in the service of white supremacist empire building (209).

Like Roosevelt, Taft directly addresses the significance of Mission Revival architecture. As recorded in the Los Angeles Herald, the President declares,

It is fitting that my visit should end in a building like this which commemorates the regions in which it is situated and the architecture of a departed race. I believe that the missions of Southern California should be preserved for they are the greatest historical relic of the west. I am heartily in accord with the sentiment of the men of Riverside, who want to build their government building on a site of one of the old missions. California has a past and it is well that you here are trying to make that past live through its architecture. (“President” 8)

Falling into a common misconception among Mission Inn visitors (McEwen 20), Taft incorrectly assumes that Riverside was founded upon the site of a Franciscan mission. In a different version of the oration (published in a collection of Taft’s addresses), the mistake has been corrected; Taft here characterizes the Mission Inn as a “beautiful mansion . . . suggestive of all the sweet romance of the early history of the State” and further assures the audience: “I sympathize with the people of Riverside in desiring their government building to be erected on the mission plan. When we have any past of a picturesque character we ought not to destroy it, and California is one of the few states that reaches back far enough into the past to have an ancient picturesque architecture with which she can well make her present architecture accord” (Taft 358). Whether speaking to preservation of the missions themselves or recreations such as the Mission Inn and Sherman Institute, Taft used his bishop’s chair to ratify the booster’s vision of Mission architecture as the “ancient history,” relics of a “departed race.”

Taking center stage in hospitality pageants at the Castañeda and the Glenwood Mission Inn, Roosevelt and Taft played their respective roles as antitypical heroes who fulfilled the type of Spanish imperialism. In keeping with his military character, Roosevelt assumed the aspect of a latter-day Pedro de Castañeda, a soldier-historian setting down the valor and chivalry of his knightly Rough Riders. This performance realized the martial dimension of the Spanish fantasy past—the celebration of explorers and conquistadors such as Alvarado, Cortez, and Coronado (each of whom would lend their names to famous hotels throughout the Southwest). As we see in Roosevelt’s Rough Rider Reunion speech, such typology might seek to temper the apocalyptic violence of empire with notions of “knightly gallantry”; but the reality of bloodshed is never too distant. Hence, Roosevelt might invoke the Spanish and Anglo histories of continental conquest in order to call for suppression of “armed savagery” in the Philippines. And yet the sentimental Mission Myth represents an even more audacious and ambitious form of what Mary Louise Pratt terms “anti-conquest”— “the strategies of representation whereby European bourgeois subjects seek to secure their innocence in the same moment as they assert European hegemony” (7). Within this variation on the Spanish fantasy heritage, heroic padres patiently civilized their wayward Indian charges, often rebuking the conquistadores for their excesses. By sanitizing Serra and the Franscisan missions, and then typologically identifying themselves with this ethos, Anglo-American boosters such as Miller laundered their own settler- colonial project. Speaking from his bishop’s chair at the Mission Inn, President Taft venerates the pioneering sacrifices of Serra and blesses the dramaturgical myth-making of Miller and his colleagues—“God bless every one of you,” Taft intoned as he left the boosters (“President” 8).

Conclusion: Trouble in Willie Boy’s Country

However well delivered, Taft’s concluding benediction did not yield the tranquility that Miller may have intended. An October 19 article from the San Bernardino Evening Index begins, “More trouble in ‘Willie Boy’s country’— Riverside.” Although Taft was sometimes known as “Billy Boy,” this is not a misprint but rather a stage review for Willie Boy, A melodrama in four acts. Written by Robert Clarke and produced by Harry Hollingsworth, the play concerns a doomed romance between two Native American characters—the titular “outlaw of the Riverside deserts,” played by Hollingsworth himself, and his ill-fated paramour Loleta (Maxine Miles). Staged at Riverside’s Auditorium Theater, Willie Boy excited the ire of Riverside’s ministers, who lodged a protest “on the ground that such a bloodthirsty show would have a decidedly bad effect on the minds of the youthful ones in the audience.” According to the San Bernardino reporter, theatergoers of all ages were stirred by the prospect of Willie Boy: with the headline “Howling Mob Stops Cars in Riverside,” the notice goes on to describe (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) a community gone mad: amidst the “wild scramble for tickets . . . the scene was enlivened by the fainting of one woman, a dog-fight of the most approved kind, a lost child and one howling demon with some powers of a ventriloquist, who let forth blood- curdling Indian yells that made women shriek with nervousness.” The reporter stops short of attributing these war-whoops to Indians, but adds, “Sherman Institute Indians reached over with bits of silver in their hands.” When the doors opened, Riverside’s police were unable to maintain order and “the whole crowd surged into the theater . . . taking seats helter skelter, catch as catch can, without regard for the over-ridden ushers.” In short, over half of the review is devoted to painting Riverside as a city on the verge of bedlam, this in stark contrast to reports of the prosperous and well-ordered town that had recently hosted President Taft’s Columbus Day visit.11 Applauded by the San Bernardino Evening Index, Clarke’s melodrama was inspired by adjacent headlines. While President Taft toured Yosemite with John Muir in a stagecoach, Chemehuevi fugitive Willie Boy contended with a Sheriff’s posse some eighty miles to the east in the Mojave Desert. Willie Boy was purported to have shot and killed another Chemehuevi, William Mike, because he objected to a relationship between his daughter Carlota and Willie Boy (they were distantly related). Willie Boy fled with Carlota, running from Gilman Ranch near Banning to Twentynine Palms and thence to a site known as The Pipes near Yucca Valley. They were pursued by a Sheriff’s posse and, in the midst of the chase, Carlota was shot and killed. The posse and the press laid this crime at the feet of Willie Boy; but James Sandos and Larry Burgess, the first historians to study the case, argue that circumstantial evidence points to a long-range shot taken by a posseman who mistook Carlota for Willie Boy (120). After the death of Carlota, Willie Boy led the posse to Ruby Mountain near Landers, California. Throughout the next several days, the posse approached and retreated from Willie Boy’s position; one member of the posse was wounded. Ultimately, the posse claimed that they found Willie Boy dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But the posse produced no evidence of Willie Boy’s death (they purportedly burned his decomposing body) and Indian people from the region widely affirm that Willie Boy escaped the posse to live out his days in southern Nevada.12

While some journalistic accounts construed this incident as an assassination plot against Taft, others suspected the beginnings of a Paiute uprising. Sandos and Burgess contend that coverage of the affair predictably turned upon a rhetoric of Indian-hating: “Getting Willie Boy would be an act of national defense and a point of national pride” (29). One headline declares, “Taft in Willie Boy Land,” “The President Divides Attention with Bad Indian.” The article goes on to suggest that while Taft did visit Riverside to unveil the Serra tablet and visit the government’s Indian wards at Sherman, his party would be protected by “Fred Russell Burnham, the old Texas Ranger and scout. He is a friend of John Hays Hammond and was with him when he was under sentence of death in South Africa” (“Taft in Willie Boy Land” 5). The article claims that Taft’s visit to Riverside was unsettled by the pursuit of Willie Boy, which transpired many miles away and had nothing to do with Taft’s tour— a point underscored in Harry Lawton’s nonfiction novel Willie Boy: A Desert Manhunt (1960) and its film adaptation, Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here. Without question, such lurid journalism forms part of a racist mythos that distorts non-Native perceptions of all the Indigenous people associated with the Willie Boy case (Trafzer 190). At the same time, however, sensational accounts of “trouble in Willie’s Boy’s country,” as well as coverage of the ballyhoo surrounding Clarke’s “gory melodrama” Willie Boy,13 present a counterpoint to the Spanish fantasy narrative. Southern California is not the subdued “Home of the Padres” (as Bishop Conaty dubs it in his introduction to Taft) but rather a contested border zone where Native Americans fight colonization and the President will need the services of a Texas Ranger bodyguard. The adjacent Willie Boy incident therefore represents a return of repressed violence and Indigenous resistance that unsettled the typological verities of Miller’s Mission Revival pageant.

Notes

1.

See Slotkin 106.

2.

Qtd. in Perrigo, Las Vegas and the Rough Riders, 16.

3.

Qtd. in Carpio 61; see also Carpio’s gloss on this utterance.

4.

See Southern California Country, 78.

5.

For detailed discussions of Miller’s involvement with The Mission Play, see McEwen 69–74 and Deverell ch. 6.

6.

Quoted in Lawton 152.

7.

As commemorated on Palm Sunday, New Testament Gospels find Christ greeted in Jerusalem by onlookers waving palm fronds.

8.

On June 26, 2020, Rubidoux’s Serra Cross was spray-painted with the words “Serra was a pedophile murderer” and “N8V Land.” Long enjoyed as a site of Easter Sunday services, Serra Cross is hereby transformed into a palimpsest that, for a moment at least, reveals the contestatory layers of signification directed to interpreting Serra and his legacy. See also Sepulveda 170–71 as well as Brian Rokos and Ryan Hagen, “Mount Rubidoux cross in Riverside is vandalized in latest rebuke of St. Serra legacy.”

9.

See Patterson 244.

10.

See Kropp 172; Fried 238.

11.

See “Howling Mob” 1.

12.

See Trafzer, ch. 6.

13.

For an extended discussion of contemporary journalism on the Willie Boy case, see Sandos and Burgess, ch. 2

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