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Joseph Jacinto "Jo" Mora (1876-1947) was an American cartoonist, illustrator and cowboy, who lived with the Hopi and wrote extensively about his experiences in Californiamarker. He was an artist-historian, sculptor, painter, photographer, illustrator, muralist and author. He has been called the "Renaissance Man of the West".


Mora was born on October 22, 1876 in Montevideomarker, Uruguaymarker. His father was the Catalonian sculptor, Domingo Mora, and his mother was Laura Gaillard Mora, an intellectual French woman. His elder brother was F. Luis Mora, who would become an acclaimed artist and the first Hispanic member of the National Academy of Design. The family entered the United States in 1880 and first settled in New Yorkmarker, and then Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Jo Mora studied art in the New York and Boston, at the Art Student's League in New York and the Cowles School in Boston. He studied with William Merritt Chase. In Bostonmarker, he worked as a cartoonist for a newspaper called the Boston Traveler and then worked for the Boston Herald.

In the Spring of 1903, Mora arrived in Solvang, Californiamarker. He stayed at the Donohue Ranch. He made plans to travel to the Southwest to paint and photograph the Hopi. He spent time at the Mission Santa Inésmarker; those photographs are now maintainted by the Smithsonian Institutionmarker. Mora visited many Spanish missions in California that summer by horseback. He followed the "Mission Trail", also called the "Kings Highway".

From 1904 to 1906, Mora lived with the Hopi and Navajo near Oraibi, Arizonamarker. He took photographs, painted and otherwise recorded the daily life of these Native Americans, including the Hopi Snake Dance. He learned the Native languages and made detailed drawings of what he observed.

In 1907, Mora returned to California and married Grace Needham. Their son, Joseph Needham Mora, was born on March 8, 1908. The Moras moved to San Jose, Californiamarker, where Mora continued his work. By 1919, he was sculpting for the Bohemian Club, including a memorial plaque dedicated to Bret Harte, completed in August 1919 and mounted on the outside of the private men's club building in San Franciscomarker. In 1925, he designed the commemorative half dollar for the California Diamond Jubilee. During this period he also illustrated a number of books, made large murals, and published charts, maps (cartes) and diagrams of the West and Western themes. Beginning in 1937, Mora wrote and illustrated children's books about the West. In 1939, a Works Progress Administration project was completed, with Mora bas-relief sculpture adorning the King City High School theater building. Mora died October 10, 1947 in Monterey, Californiamarker.

In music

  • Western performer Mike Beck's album Where the Green Grass Grows includes a song about Mora entitled "In Old California". It was written by Beck and Ian Tyson.
  • The rock group The Byrds used images from a 1932 Mora poster, The American Cowboy Rodeo, as the cover art for their album Sweetheart of the Rodeo.


  • A Log of the Spanish Main (1934) .
  • Trail Dust and Saddle Leather (1946) ISBN 0-8032-8145-5.
  • Californios: The Saga of the Hard-Riding Vaqueros, America's First Cowboys (1946) ISBN 0-922029-19-9.
  • When I Get Wound Up Writing I'm a Bad Article to Squelch: The Written Words of Jo Mora (2008) ISBN 0-615-23139-X.

Museum Catalogs

  • The Year of the Hopi: Paintings and Photographs by Joseph Mora, 1904-'06, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D. C., 1979
  • Jo Mora: Artist and Writer, Monterey Museum of Art, 1998
  • Back to the Drawing Board with Artist Jo Mora, Monterey History and Art Association, Monterey, CA, 2003

Critical Essays

See also


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