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Poster, Western Americana, Evolution of the Cowboy, Jo Mora, Vintage Print, 1941


Jo (Joseph Jacinto) Mora (1876-1947)
The Evolution of the Cowboy
Jo Mora: 1933 (copyright)
Jo Mora Publications, Monterey, California: 1941
Color process print
30.25 x 22.75 inches, image
32.25 x 25 inches, overall

A brightly colored poster presenting a wide ranging compendium of information about the history and culture of the North American cowboy. The artist, Jo Mora, is better known as a designer of pictorial maps, which he referred to as “cartes.” Although his maps tend to be filled with whimsy, this work combines a busy, lighthearted rodeo scene in his humorous cartoony style in the center surrounded by straightforward naturalistic illustrations of cowboys. These vignettes show cowboys from different regions and eras, demonstrations of riding and roping techniques, and riding accessories such as saddles, stirrups, and spurs, all accompanied by hand-lettered captions. Across the top is a frieze showing the evolution from 16th-century Spanish conquistadors, through early rancheros, to working cowboys of the modern era. Overlooking the rodeo scene is a heart-shaped vignette of a cowgirl labeled “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” The complex yet highly readable design places the figures and objects against solid color backgrounds of black, yellow, blue, red, and pink.

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Cowboys and their role in Western history were favorite subjects of Mora’s that he explored in different media, as described in a special issue of the Quarterly Bulletin of the Monterey History and Art Association devoted to Mora’s life and works:

Fascinated by the Texas cowboys and the California vaqueros, sharing their Hispanic roots, and aware that they, too, were an imperiled species, the young Jo Mora succeeded in becoming one of them. His acute observation of their way of life subsequently enabled him to replicate cowboy costumes, techniques, and equipment with unrivaled accuracy — whether in sculpture, two-dimensional works on paper, or in the greatly admired books he wrote towards the end of his life, Trail Dust and Saddle Leather [1946] and Californios: The Saga of the Hard-Riding Vaqueros, America s First Cowboys [1949].

This print was originally issued in 1933 to be sold in Salinas, and thus included in the overall complex design a small map of Salinas and related illustrations. The second state, issued in 1939 by The Jo Mora Maps, Carmel, California, was revised for broader appeal by substituting the Salinas map and imagery with a black-on-yellow silhouette of cowboys on horseback and a horse drawn wagon. The offered example, published by Jo Mora Publications, Monterey California in 1941, is a glossy paper reissue of the 1939 map. Mora’s print Indians of North America (1936) — somewhat of a companion print to this one — was also reissued in 1941. The Evolution of the Cowboy was the most popular of all Mora’s maps and prints, with later reprintings in the 1950s licensed to Levi Strauss and Company, and after that, to the Beef Council. Meanwhile, the Sweetheart of the Rodeo illustration from the map was reproduced on the cover of the folk-rock band The Byrds’ 1968 record album with that title. The central portion of the print is reproduced in Nigel Holmes’ book Pictorial Maps.

Joseph Jacinto “Jo” Mora was one of the foremost pictorial mapmakers of the 20th century. According to art historian Mary Murray, it is in the pictorial maps that he created “an art form uniquely his own” that “exemplify the popular, entertaining, direct, and informative art at which Mora excelled.” His maps are characterized by humor — often with portrayals of whimsical cartoonish characters and pun-related references — simultaneously combined with detailed geography and historical references. The intent, as described by geography historian Stephen J. Hornsby, was to use “humor to make other content more interesting.”

The year after he was born in Uruguay, Mora’s family moved to the United States, eventually settling in Boston. He attended the Art Students League in New York, and by his early 20s was working as a cartoonist and illustrator for Boston newspapers and children’s book publishers. He began taking trips to the American west and Mexico in the 1890s and relocated permanently to the West in 1903, spending three years living in Arizona, drawing and studying the Hopi and the Navajo cultures. In 1920 he moved to the Monterey Peninsula of California, where he spent the rest of his life in Pebble Beach and Carmel. Like many pictorial mapmakers, Mora had wide-ranging interests and a combination of talents as an artist proficient in many media, a cartographer, a historian and an author. Over a career spanning almost 50 years, Mora illustrated several books for children as well as books on California history, completed commissioned realist sculpture and murals, and made paintings in oil and watercolor. His most original and best-known works, however, are his distinctive pictorial maps and chartswhich he referred to as “cartes.” These were mainly of places in California and include California’s Playground (1926), Monterey Peninsula (1927), The Seventeen Mile Drive (1927), California (1927), Grand Canyon (1931), Yosemite (1931) Yellowstone (1931), Ye Old Spanish Main (1933), Carmel-By-The-Sea (1942), Map of Los Angeles (1942) and a later version of California (1945). He also designed and illustrated the posters Indians of North America (1936) and The Evolution of the Cowboy (1933).

Condition: Generally very good, recently professionally cleaned and deacidified, with only light remaining toning, wear, handling.


“About.” Jo Mora Trust. 2021. (7 June 2021).

Burton-Carvajal, Julianne. “Back to the Drawing Board with Artist Jo Mora: Illustrated Chronologies of his Life, Works, and Exhibitions.” Noticias del Puerto del Puerto de Monterey, Quarterly Bulletin of the Monterey History and Art Association. Vol. 52: 3. Fall 2003. p. 6, 54 and 57. (25 March 2022).

Hiller, Peter. The Life and Times of Jo Mora: Iconic Artist of the American West. Kaysville, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2021.

Holmes, Nigel. Pictorial Maps. New York: Watson-Guptill, 1991. p. 45

Hornsby, Stephen J. Picturing America: The Golden Age of Pictorial Maps. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017. pp. 28-31, 57.

Pilchen, Lloyd. “Exhibition of Jo Mora’s Whimsical Map Delights.” 29 January 2022. The American Surveyor. (22 March 2022).

Additional information


20th Century