Tuesday, February 10

The Land of Handsome Men

The Society of Friends published a 19th century periodical filled with essays, articles, poetry, sermons and other interesting stuff. This article appeared in the The Friend - A Religious and Literary Journal, Vol. 42, 1869.


"Already, it is stated by careful observers, the inhabitants of the regions bordering on the Pacific begin to exhibit well marked physical and mental peculiarities. Charles Loring Brace, in his book called 'The New West; or California in 1867-1868,' says, as quoted by the Nation,' Here picked men, in the flush of life from most European races have gathered. They have mainly occupied themselves with vigorous pursuits, such as mining, or with out-door occupations, such as teaming and farming. They have had the best food, plenty of both fruit and meat; and (on the coast) the best climate which the Anglo-Saxon has ever enjoyed; equable, sunny, cool, and invigorating. In the interior they have had a dry, mountain, Asiatic climate, with great extremes to struggle with, but which has not yet produced its natural effect on the physique, as the people so constantly emigrate to the coast.

"'The effect of all these combined causes on the physical type of California is, that it is especially the land of handsome men. One sees great numbers of fine, manly profiles, with full ruddy cheeks and tall vigorous forms. The spare, dry, nervous type of the Eastern American is not common. City residents of course, are always inferior physically to the rural population; but even the San Franciscans begin to have an English look. I am constantly meeting young, ruddy round-faced businessmen, whom I mistake for Englishmen, but who are Yankee-born. On the Sierras (sic), especially at Virginia City, there seems no doubt that the rarefied atmosphere has expanded the chests of the people, even in these few years. The children in the country, and from the wealthier classes of the city, seem more ruddy, healthy looking, and prettier than ours in the East. Among the working people of San Francisco they are as pale, peaked, and nervous, with brains as much overworked as in our cities. It is said that babes do not suffer from teething as do ours, and mothers do not dread 'the second summer' as at home.

"'The young girls of the city show a great deal of beauty, and each rich bloom of complexion as we seldom see in the Atlantic border.

"'The coast physique will, no doubt, be merely the American type improved. The inhabitant of the Sierras and the central river-bottoms, will ultimately become more Asiatic or Arab-like in type --- darker, sparer, and, on the whole, with less muscular vigor --- for the common diet of the plains will more and more be the delicious fruits and vegetables of that region; and a fruit or vegetable eating race is never so vigorous or energetic as a meat-eating. The south of California will tend toward an Italian or Moorish type, under the enervating influence of climate and a bountiful fruit diet. A 'southern' aspect is already very perceptible even in the pure Anglo-Saxons of Los Angeles and its neighborhood."

And now, men and women of California, you know why you are so good-looking!