History of Salinas: John Steinbeck and Wild West shows


The rodeo plays a special roll in the history of Salinas. The town hosts the legendary California Rodeo Salinas, originally a Wild West Show. 

DealChicken spends a lot of time roaming Salinas in search of the best deals in town. During his travels, he's managed to unearth some interesting facts. John Steinbeck, professional rodeos, and agriculture have helped shape the rich history of Salinas. Test your knowledge to see how it stacks up to DealChicken's!

While Isaac J. Harvey was the first Mayor of Salinas, getting the town up and running was definitely a family affair. His oldest daughter, Sophronia, (Yep, Sophronia) was Salinas’ first schoolteacher. In true Wild West style, she held class in an old saloon. And, the family’s youngest daughter, Mabel, was her first student.

On November 7, 1862, a large crowd gathered to greet the first train to arrive in Salinas. They expected a joyous celebration full of speeches and pomp. But something went wrong—really wrong. The engineer wasn’t able stop the train. He blew past the platform set up for the welcome ceremony, crashed through the barricade, and seemed committed to going on to Los Angeles. The engineer broke his leg, but nobody else was hurt. Now that’s what we call making an entrance.

The First Mayor’s House, also known as the I.J. Harvey House, is one of just ten homes that still stands from Salinas’ earliest days. It was also a sort of 19th century mobile home. When it was built in 1868, the structure was located on Gabilan and Main Streets. Since then, it’s been picked up and moved three times. It’s now located on Station Place. But given its historical wanderlust, we can’t help wondering—for how long? 

By the end of World War I, a booming agriculture industry had helped make Salinas one of the wealthiest cities (per capita) in the U.S. Today, it’s home to a $2 billion agriculture industry which supplies an impressive 80% of the lettuce, artichokes, and other good-for-you goodies consumed in the United States. Hmmm…guess that makes Salinas a town on the grow. (Get it?)

Salinas is a member of Sister Cities International. A very active member, it turns out. Salinas has a total of four sister cities: Cebu, Philippines (since 1964), Kushikino, Japan (since 1979), Jerecuaro, Mexico (since 1996), and the newest, Guanajuato, Mexico, established in 2007. It’s safe to say a resident of Salinas can feel at home almost anywhere in the world.

Local boy John Steinbeck graduated from Salinas High School in 1919, and moved on to Stanford. But he never graduated from there, or any other university. After a failed attempt to make a living as a freelance writer in New York, he headed home to Salinas and started writing fiction. And in 1962, he picked up a little thing called the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Maybe it’s not quite as respected as a Stanford degree. But it’s close.)

When it comes to the world of professional rodeo, Salinas is a big deal. In 1911, the Wild West Show, the predecessor to the now-legendary California Rodeo Salinas, was held for the first time. The following year, the event featured visiting cowboy Jesse Stahl, arguably the most famous African American cowboy of all time. 

Ridden through the history of Salinas? Jump back in the sadle for the Pony Express to these fun facts about Sacramento.