Hide Drogher

Every day at work, I take a walk at lunch along the Bluff Top Trail in Dana Point, CA.  On the trail, there is a sculpture called The Hide Drogher created in 1990 by F. Benedict Coleman.[1] The sculpture shows a shirtless 19th century sailor throwing a cowhide off the cliffs into the trading ships in the harbor below. This sculpture fascinates me because it shows how much life and movement can be put into an inanimate object.

The California hide trade or drogher trade occurred between the 1820s to 1840s. Ships would travel from New England around Cape Horn since the Panama Canal was not created until 1914, and they would trade hides, tallow, and European goods along the coast of California.[2] While Spain owned California, the 1760s to 1821, trade wasn’t permitted, but there were ships from other countries that managed to sneak in.[3] When Mexico declared independence in 1821, they allowed trading in the ports of California, but they required the goods on ships to be checked and a tax to be paid.

When taking this photo, I didn’t realize how interesting this topic would be. During my time in school, we never learned about the California hide trade and it makes sense why: we write Mexico’s history for them. In UHP 401, we learned about the rancheros being taken advantage of because they were Spanish, or Mexican, instead of white. It can be seen again in this sculpture. Instead of Coleman using a ranchero or a native in his sculpture, he chose a white New England sailor to further whitewash the history of California.

I couldn’t attach photos directly so I put them into imgur.

[1]  https://www.danapoint.org/residents/arts/dana-point-public-art/the-hide-drogher

[2] https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/drogher-trade

[3] https://factcards.califa.org/ran/hideandtallowtrade.html

One Comment

  1. AN

    I really liked how you used an example of whitewashing in history. I didn’t realize how much has happened in California’s history. Events are easy to not learn or acknowledge when what’s in front of us is all we’ve ever known. Your example of the sculpture is a microcosmic example of erasure that we even see today. People are rarely acknowledging atrocities like the persecution of the Uyghur minority in China or even the chipping away of female reproductive rights in the U.S.
    Your post reminded me of that Canadian children’s textbook referring to First Nations people. The textbook said: “When the European settlers arrived, they need land to live on. The First Nations people agreed to move to different areas to make room for the new settlements.” But anyone who has received an accurate portrayal of history knows that they were forced off of their land. But it looks much better if people left of their own volition rather than being forced off as victims of mass genocide, which is often the case.

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