Lasting Impression – J. Smeaton Chase

In 1920 J. Smeaton Chase likened the Coachella Valley’s appeal to that of Arabia in his day.

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J. Smeaton Chase's photograph A Canyon Portal of Our Araby appears in Photographing the American West: Selections from the Permanent Collection at Palm Springs Art Museum through Feb. 27, 2011.
Palm Springs Art Museum

The  Late Amerian Essayist Charles Dudley Warner applied to Southern California the term “Our Italy.” J. Smeaton Chase — in his 1920 book Our Araby: Palm Springs and the Garden of the Sun — likened the Coachella Valley’s appeal to that of Arabia in his day. Chase wrote the small volume to invite discerning travelers to the area.

Chase, whose photographs illustrate the book, wrote, “Turning to the south the view takes in a sort of bay or backwater — barring the water
— of mountain-enclosed desert [that] may be considered as Palm Springs’ private back yard. Into it open the four [canyons], which are Palm Springs’ pride, viz: Tahquitz, Andreas, Murray, and Palm, the last three being the scenic cream of Our Araby, and notable especially for their remarkable display of the native California palm.

“The scientists, writers, painters, musicians — in fact, all kinds of people who love quiet, thoughtful things and whose work or enjoyment lies in natural instead of artificial fields — come and share with us the wholesome pleasures and interests that are inherent in a clean, new, unspoiled bit of this wonderful old world.”

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