Coming for Land



Along with the Gold Rush and the staggering growth of San Francisco came a massive move west for new lives and new opportunities. COMING FOR LAND examines the relatively sudden increase in settlement which lead to agricultural communities up and down the state's Central Valley. Along with the expansion of the railroads, this new emphasis on farming positions California as one of the nation's breadbaskets.


Reflecting commercial packaging of canned and dry goods of the late 1800s, the custom title lettering is based on Letterhead's Boston Truckstyle, with support from Emigre's Brothers Word Logos. Spanish was set in the regular version of Brothers.

The center of COMING FOR LAND is AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITIES, where vitrines showcase artifacts and stories from five California settlements across the state; Allensworth, Anaheim, Locke, Rancho Guajome, and Spreckels.

Extending the concept of the gallery's "collaged universe," the AGRICULTURAL COMMUNITIES case collars feature direct print graphics and text.

TAKING NATIVE PEOPLES' LAND tells the honest and rather lurid account of how through a combination of broken treaties, the subsidizing of encroaching settlers, and direct military aggression, Native Americans were often forced off their land and relocated to reservations.

The frenzied pace and volume of transactions, both legal and otherwise, is impressed upon the visitor by a seamless, tiled wallpaper of broadside advertisements, maps, deeds, and other legal documents that form a visual tapestry of California's partitioning following the state's entry into the Union. The design was finalized by Auburn Leigh

The LAND GRAB interactive table allows visitors to explore specific grants, deeds, maps and information about particular land cessions throughout California during the second half of the 19th century. 

This map demonstrates, through the single story of the Klamath and Yahooskin, how lands were ceded and native peoples were forced onto much smaller reservations.

In CALIFORNIA CORNUCOPIA, the narrative of the Land Rush continues with the state becoming the leading agricultural producer of the nation. The thematic design juxtaposes two elements, a refrigerated railroad car and a State Citrus Fair, to tell the story of produce from local farms to national market. 

Based on extensive research of actual refrigerated railroad cars that carried produce beginning in the 1890s, this large format design was developed digitally, and then cut into stencils and hand painted by local artisan Gil Flores. All the typefaces samples are true to the period. The phrase "California Feeds the World" is an example of embedded exhibit text; where curatorial voice in injected directly into a design element, most often a vernacular piece.

Directly across from the railroad car, ORANGES FOR HEALTH - CALIFORNIA FOR WEALTH is presented as an ersatz Citrus Fair, many of which were held throughout California in the early 1900s. All of the elements are based on photographic research; at one such celebration, the words CITRUS FAIR were indeed spelled out in oranges. Support text is set in Emigre's Brothers.

This custom large format map locates major growing regions for various types of produce. The border was assembled from scans of vintage fruit crate labels, of which the Oakland Museum of California has the largest collection in the state. These labels were also reproduced as wall graphics. The subsection text is embedded on the same style of banner carried at these fairs; a company in Pennsylvania still makes them to this day for local fairs and exhibitions.

Farm and livestock statistics are embedded in County Fair prize ribbons, again produced by an actual company that makes them today. Vintage photographs are displayed in folksy frames culled from thrift stores.

In the final example of embedded exhibit text, produce statistics are typeset on cans of vegetables. "California Feeds the World" is again embedded, this time as a vernacular design of Del Monte's vintage logo, which was an Oakland company.