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Inventory of the Abel Stearns Papers, Collection II, 1821-1831; 1879
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Subject matter
  • Significant persons represented by 2 or more letters
  • Important or interesting items
  • Bibliography

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Abel Stearns Papers, Collection II,
    Date (inclusive): 1821-1831; 1879
    Creator: Stearns, Abel, 1798-1871
    Extent: 81 pieces
    Repository: The Huntington Library
    San Marino, California 91108
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Gift of Mr. George W. Alfs, September, 1980.


    Collection is open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information please go to following URL .

    Publication Rights

    In order to quote from, publish, or reproduce any of the manuscripts or visual materials, researchers must obtain formal permission from the office of the Library Director. In most instances, permission is given by the Huntington as owner of the physical property rights only, and researchers must also obtain permission from the holder of the literary rights. In some instances, the Huntington owns the literary rights, as well as the physical property rights. Researchers may contact the appropriate curator for further information.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Abel Stearns Papers, Collection II, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


    Abel Stearns was a pioneer ranch owner and businessman of Los Angeles. Orphaned in 1810, he left his native Massachusetts and went to sea, making trips to China, the East Indies, and Latin America. By the early 1820s he was back in the United States trying to establish himself as a businessman, dealing mainly in shoes. In 1826 he left for Mexico, settling in Mexico City. As partner in a colonization enterprise for Upper California, he became a naturalized citizen and moved to Monterey in 1829. While awaiting approval of a land grant, he turned to merchandising. In about 1833 Stearns settled in Los Angeles, joined Juan Bandini in the trading business, and married Bandini's daughter Arcadia. Stearns became involved in almost every type of business, held minor political offices, and was sent as a representative of the Los Angeles district to the state constitutional convention in Monterey in 1849. He began acquiring rancho property and by 1858 was the owner of vast landholdings and cattle herds and the wealthiest man in Los Angeles county. As a member of the state assembly in 1861, he took an active part in promoting the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad. Stearns was forced to sell a great deal of his property when he became bankrupt after the drought of 1863-1864, which caused the decline of the cattle industry in California. He died in San Francisco in 1871.

    Scope and Content

    The Abel Stearns Papers, Collection II, comprises papers from the early part of Stearns's life, supplementing the papers in the Stearns Collection I, which come predominantly from the California period of his career.

    Subject matter

    American trade in Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and California, with comments on the political situation in those countries and the United States; the early business affairs of Abel Stearns; the shoe trade in Cuba and the United States

    Significant persons represented by 2 or more letters

    Eayrs, George Washington
    3 letters (1829-1830)
    Jones, John Coffin
    2 letters (1830-1831)
    Peck, Sherman
    12 letters (1828-1830) (written from Mexico, California, and Hawaii)

    Important or interesting items

    HM 49002-49003 Daniell, Josiah. To Abel Stearns. 1823. (Two letters describing in part the political situation in the Brazils, Chile, and particularly in the Rio de la Plata region, including some of the early exploits of Juan Manuel de Rosas.)


    Doris Marion Wright, A Yankee in Mexican California: Abel Stearns, 1798-1848. Santa Barbara: Wallace Hebberd, 1977.