Jo Mora

Like many Renaissance cartographers, Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora (October 22, 1876 – October 10, 1947) was something of a polymath. He was a renowned illustrator, painter, muralist, and sculptor, but also a respected art-historian, a cowboy, and a pioneering ethnographic photographer. 

Mora was originally from Uruguay, but emigrated with his parents to the United States when he was still a child. Settling on the East Coast, Mora went to art school in New York and later worked as a cartoonist for various newspapers in Boston. In 1903, Mora decided to leave the East Coast for California. He would not stay long though, for the following year he moved again. This time to Arizona, where he sought out Hopi and Navajo communities, where he would settle for extended period and learn about their languages and cultures. As part of his work on Hopi and Navajo customs, Mora was one of the first to be allowed to document ceremonial events and specific individuals using a camera. His systematic effort to document the life and customs of these people is today one of the finest ethnographic collections on the Native tribes of Arizona.

In 1907, Mora got married and moved with his wife to California. Slowly building his career as an illustrator and graphic artist, he settled in Pebble Beach in 1922, where he established a large studio within his home. With his base now established, Mora illustrated a number of popular books including Dawn and the Dons. The Romance of Monterey (1926), Benito and Loreta Delfin, Children of Alta California (1932), and Fifty Funny Animal Tales (1932). He also wrote three books himself: A Log of the Spanish Main (1933), Trail Dust and Saddle Leather (1946) and Californios (1949), which was only published two years after his death.

Outside his work as an illustrator, Jo Mora is best know for his innovative approach to cartography. After moving to Pebbel Beach, Mora began producing a range quickly yet attractive maps that drew audiences in with their combination of cartoons and reliable information. Among his more important maps we find Monterey Peninsula (1927), Seventeen Mile Drive (1927), California (1927 & 1945), San Diego (1928), Grand Canyon (1931), Yosemite (1931), Yellowstone (1936), Carmel-By-The-Sea (1942), and his Map of Los Angeles (1942).

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