California & the Fictions of Capital

By George L. Henderson | Go to book overview

5
Realty Redux

Landscapes of Boom and Bust in Southern California

Where Is Southern California?

Of all the booming booms in the booming city of San Bernardino, the boomiest boom is the boom in the Heart Tract, the garden spot of the Beautiful Base Line. Fourteen prizes aggregating $16,000. First 30 lots, $750; remainder, $850. Buy now and make $100.

--Advertisement in the September 1887 issue of the San Bernardino Times (quoted in Netz 1915-16)

[M]ore fortunes were made in California lands and real estate than in gold mining.

-- A. M. Sakolski ( 1932: 256)

" Southern California" did not always exist. It was defined in the acts of regional capital accumulation and intensified real estate sales. Charles Nordhoff, for example, did not know about "Southern California" when he published one of California's most popular guidebooks of the post-Civil War era, California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence ( 1874). To this New York newspaper editor lured west by the Southern Pacific Railroad (see Starr 1985), Southern California was simply whatever lay south of San Francisco. Not that this was negligible. "In fact," Nordhoff reported, it was "the Italy of this continent; its equal climate, its protection from cold by mountain ranges, its rich soil and healthfulness, give it a place alone among its sister States" ( Nordhoff 1874: 172). Nordhoff extolled the "shrewd" citrus growers around Los Angeles, but his definition of the region also included the Salinas Valley, well to the north, and the San Joaquin Valley, isolated from Los Angeles by a rugged stretch of mountains. As yet, the southern San Joaquin Valley still belonged to San Francisco: "Immense tracts of fertile land, with abun-

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California & the Fictions of Capital
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction - The Alchemy of Capital and Nature ix
  • Part I - Making Geographies 1
  • 1 - Rural Commodity Regimes 3
  • 2 - Nature and Fictitious Capital 28
  • 3 - Toward Rural Realism Variable Capital, Variable Capitalists, and the Fictions of Capital 81
  • Part II - Excavating Geographical Imaginations 115
  • 4 - Mussel Slough and the Contradictions of Squatter Capitalism 123
  • 5 - Realty Redux 150
  • 6 - Romancing the Sand 175
  • 7 - Take Me to the River 196
  • 8 - Conclusion 215
  • Notes 219
  • References 235
  • Index 251
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