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Without much room for luggage or other cargo, this horse-drawn cart was an efficient mode of conveyance for people travelling light. Made in the early nineteenth century, it belonged to the last governor of the Mexican state of Alta, or Upper, California – Pio Pico.

Pico was active in state politics in the 1830s and 40s and led Alta California during a pivotal time in history. During his temporary governorship in the early 1830s, he followed the Mexican government's decree that the system of Catholic mission churches be sold and secularized.

During his second turn as governor in the mid-1840s, American settlers seized northern California and declared it the "Bear Flag Republic". Pico ordered a counteroffensive, but it failed and Pico fled south. After it became clear that the Americans would stay, Pico returned to California and reclaimed his twenty-two thousand acres of ranch land.

For a while he also returned to the good life. His family lived well and he'd often be seen in town in a carriage like this one. But Pico loved to gamble and his debts eventually got the better of his estate. In 1893 he died nearly penniless, at the age of ninety-three.

A photograph and portrait of Pico, as well as some of his personal items, are in the adjacent gallery California Legacies: Missions and Ranchos.

Step11-Pio Picos Carriage


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