Feb 272024

“The Sorceress: How an American Engineer was Sacrificed to the Aztec Gods.” by Edwin Hall Warner. 1894. The calzada principal in La Barca runs a meandering course easterly through the town to the garita. The houses on each side are of the usual Mexican type, the more pretentious of stone, others of adobe, with barred […]

Feb 222024
Art Mystery: Is this really a church in Chapala?

Two young US artists—Everett Gee Jackson and Lowell Houser—who had first met at art school in Chicago, arrived in Chapala in 1923. Apart from short trips elsewhere they spent the next three and a half years at Lake Chapala—living first in Chapala, then in Ajijic, and then returning once again to Chapala—before continuing their highly […]

Feb 152024
What was Chapala like in 1925?

In a departure from our normal style, this post looks at a 1925 editorial in the long-running Guadalajara daily El Informador titled “La Villa Veraniega de Chapala” (The Summer Resort of Chapala). Quotes used throughout this post are informal translations of the original Spanish. The most likely candidate for the editorial’s authorship is the newspaper’s […]

Feb 082024
Lake Chapala on a postcard: La Joyita and Ocotlán Station

Several popular curio shops in downtown Mexico City at the start of the twentieth century stocked all manner of wares to sell to tourists and travelers, and some even published their own postcards of Mexico. An 1898 list in The Mexican Herald of stores selling “Opals and Mexican Curiosities” included Granat & Horwitz (in the […]

Feb 012024
After living in Ajijic, Bart McDowell became a senior editor of National Geographic

Author Bart McDowell (1923-2009), who later became a senior editor of National Geographic magazine, first visited Ajijic in 1952. Born in Texas on 10 September 1923, Hobart (‘Bart’) K. McDowell Jr. graduated with a degree in political science from the University of California before completing a master’s degree in journalism at the University of Missouri. […]

Feb 012024
José de Olivares and his account of a perilous boat trip on Lake Chapala in 1901

In 1901, José de Olivares—author, poet and US diplomat—wrote a newspaper column about his adventures when visiting Lake Chapala. The column has several geographical inconsistencies which suggest that the author may have slightly embellished his real life experiences for dramatic effect. And an unfortunate editing typo resulted in the title of the piece being printed […]

Jan 262024
“Andrade”: a mystery photographer of Lake Chapala in the 1930s

Every now and again my research into the photographers who captured images of Lake Chapala used on vintage postcards draws a near-complete blank. This post considers two striking images taken by “Andrade.” The only reference I have so far found to Andrade comes in the unpublished journal (now in the archives of the California Historical […]

Jan 252024
Sculptor Lesley Jervis (aka Lesley Maddock, Lesley Sherratt) lived in Jocotepec 1968-1970

Sculptor Lesley I. Jervis (born Oct 1943, in Stoke-on-Trent, UK) and her then husband Bruce Robert Sherratt, an artist and art educator, lived in Jocotepec at the western end of Lake Chapala from 1968 to 1970. Prior to their arrival in Mexico, they had lived and traveled for some time in the USA. Jervis and […]

Jan 182024
Fashion columnist Mary Hampton first visited Chapala in 1949

Of the many journalists who have reported on Lake Chapala over the years, one of those with the most distinctive individual viewpoint was Mary Hampton, a long-time fashion editor based in California. Born on 14 September 1899 in Nogales, Arizona (at a time when there was no border wall separating the town from Nogales, Sonora), […]

Jan 042024
Snakes alive! Mrs Fannie Ward picnics at Lake Chapala in 1887

Newspaper correspondent and intrepid traveler Fanny H. Ward (née Brigham) was born in Monroe, Michigan, on 27 January 1843 and died in Kent, Ohio, on 4 October 1913. Little is known about her early education and upbringing. She married in 1862 and moved to Washington DC about a decade later. The couple had three children, […]

Dec 282023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Antonio Mólgora (father and son)

Antonio Mólgora was an Italian businessman and hotelier who ran various hotels in Chapala from about 1907 to his death in 1927. Both he and one of his sons, also named Antonio, were accomplished amateur photographers and published a number of postcards, the son generally preferring pictures of boats and people to pictures of buildings. […]

Dec 212023
Norwegian anthropologist Carl Lumholtz found votive offerings at Lake Chapala in 1902

Carl Sophus Lumholtz (1851–1922), born in Lillehammer, Norway, was a scientist, traveler and anthropologist in the generalist Humboldtian tradition. After graduating from the Theology department of the University of Christianía in Oslo, Lumholtz went to Australia as a naturalist. While living with cannibalistic aborigines in northern Queensland, he became fascinated by the study of primitive […]

Dec 192023
A Christmas Potpourri of Lake Chapala Links

Many of the artists and authors associated with Lake Chapala have clear links to Christmas. Admittedly, some links are more tenuous than others. Here, in no particular order, are some that come to mind: German-born photographer Hugo Brehme, who is credited with having introduced the first photographic Christmas cards into Mexico. Brehme photographed Lake Chapala […]

Dec 072023
Dr Leo Stanley visited Mezcala Island in 1937

We have looked previously at several excerpts from the journal written by Dr. Leo Leonidas Stanley (1886-1976) about his multi-day visit to Lake Chapala in October 1937. Jocotepec in 1937 San Luis Soyatlán and Tuxcueca in 1937 Chapala in 1937 On the morning of 15 October 1937—his final day before returning to Guadalajara—Stanley decided to […]

Nov 302023
Chapala Wishful Thinking #2: Chapala in the old days?

This is the second in a mini series identifying some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area. Estampas de Chapala by Manuel Galindo Gaitan is an outstanding two-volume collection of mainly vintage photographs of Chapala and other places around the lake. Some of the historical details in the text are […]

Nov 232023
Chapala 1912-1922: Excerpts from Bertha Kaiser's diary

Bertha Kaiser was the third wife of Swiss printer and shopkeeper Juan Kaiser, who—in addition to selling accounting books and ledgers via his store “Al Libro de Caja” in Guadalajara—also published beautiful early postcards of Chapala and Guadalajara featuring the work of such distinguished photographers as José María Lupercio and Winfield Scott. Bertha’s diary, written […]

Nov 162023
Fishing at Lake Chapala: the postcards of Mauricio Yáñez

Mauricio Yáñez was a Mexican photographer and one of the more prolific producers of postcards in Mexico during the 1930s. He took thousands of tourist photos of Mexico, showing towns, cities and people, including at least 20 related to Lake Chapala. This view of Chapala and its lakeshore (below)  includes a lakefront cantina mid-way between […]

Nov 092023
Dr Leo Stanley described searching for idols and attending a band concert in Chapala in 1937

We have looked previously at several excerpts from the journal written by Dr. Leo Leonidas Stanley (1886-1976) about his multi-day visit to Lake Chapala in October 1937. Jocotepec in 1937 San Luis Soyatlán and Tuxcueca in 1937 Stanley and Alonzo (his traveling companion) had ridden on horseback around the western end of the lake to […]

Nov 022023
Alexander Nicolas Muzenic, student of Josef Albers, taught art in Ajijic

Alexander Nicolas (“Nick”) Muzenic was born 25 September 1919 in Kansas, and died in Los Angeles 12 March 1976. His first names are variously listed as Nicolas, Nicholas, Nikolas, A. Nicolas or simply Nick. His family, of Austro-Croatian heritage, also used the anglicized surname Muzenich. He lived and worked in Ajijic from about 1948 to […]

Oct 262023
Frank Herbert, author of Dune, wrote a short novel set at Lake Chapala

As we saw in previous posts, science fiction fans everywhere should be eternally grateful that Frank Herbert (author of Dune) accompanied his friend Jack Vance to Chapala in 1953. They arrived in September and rented a house in Chapala for a couple of months. Several aspects of their joint trip to Mexico are endearingly told […]

Oct 192023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: the mysterious F. Martín from Mexico City

At least two postcards of Lake Chapala from the late 1920s bear the imprint on their reverse side of “F. Martín. Mexico, D.F.” and a stylized “FM” circular logo. According to researcher Arturo Guevara Escobar, the “F. Martín” name was registered as a trade name and used for about 50 years for several distinct series […]

Oct 122023

One of the earliest literary mentions of Lake Chapala comes in “Ixotle,” a story by Andrew Jackson Grayson published in 1870. Here is the full text of the original article: IXOTLE During a sojourn in Tepic of some six weeks, for the purpose of making collections of Ornithology, I went into the almost impenetrable mountains […]

Oct 122023
Ornithologist-artist Andrew Grayson and his early literary mention of Lake Chapala

With the exception of Bernardo de Balbuena’s mention of Chapala in his epic poem “El Bernardo,” (written between 1592 and 1602 and published in Madrid in 1624), one of the earliest literary mentions of Lake Chapala is in a story by Andrew Grayson published in 1870. Grayson, an ornithologist, rarely wrote fictional pieces and is […]

Oct 052023
Chapala Wishful Thinking #1: People on the beach at Chapala?

When cataloguing extensive photo archives, it is inevitable that errors are occasionally made. This mini series identifies some examples of photo identification errors which pertain to the Lake Chapala area. Mexico’s National Photo Archive (Fototeca Nacional INAH) includes this image, titled “Multitud en la ribera del lago de Chapala” (Multitude on the shore of Lake […]

Sep 282023
What's the story behind the 1939 rom-com Serenata de Chapala?

Serenata de Chapala was first performed at the Padua Hills Theatre, California, on 2 August 1939 and had a highly successful one-month run. This makes it the earliest Chapala-linked play I have so far come across! Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that a script still exists, since its author and director, Charles Alvah Dickinson, was […]

Sep 222023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Demetrio Sánchez Ortega, the magician behind México Fotográfico

Among the many early postcards of Lake Chapala that were published in Mexico City are several labeled with a caption and stylized “MF” logo. These cards were produced and distributed by México Fotográfico, a Mexico City firm founded by Demetrio Sánchez Ortega. Sánchez Ortega himself took many of the photographs used for the company’s early […]

Sep 142023
Lake Chapala on a postcard: Pedro Magallanes

Pedro Magallanes López was a Guadalajara photographer, active from the mid-1880s until the start of the 1920s, whose studio was initially located in the city center at Santuario #1, and then at Pedro Loza 17. This latter location was advertised in 1922 as for sale or rent, suggesting that this may be when Magallanes retired. […]

Sep 072023
Lake Chapala postcard publishers: Ruhland & Ahlschier

Librería Ruhland & Ahlschier, publisher of the earliest illustrated postcards of Mexico, was a bookstore in Mexico City owned by Emil Ruhland and Max Ahlschier. The store advertised as “Libreria Internacional de Ruhland & Ahlschier” and was located at Coliseo Viejo #16. The company published at least seven different postcards of Lake Chapala, including views […]

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