Pío de Jesús Pico (May 5, 1801 – September 11, 1894) was a
Californio rancher and politician, the last governor of Alta
California (now the State of California) under Mexican rule. He served
from 1845 to 1846. He was also elected to one term (1853) on the Los
Angeles Common Council.
1 Early years
2 Marriage and family
3 Business life
5 Facial features and medical history
6 Later life
7 See also
9 Further reading
10 External links
Pico was a first-generation Californio, born in
Alta California to
parents who emigrated from the part of
New Spain that is now Mexico.
He was born at the
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel
Mission San Gabriel Arcángel to José María Pico
and his wife María Eustaquia Gutiérrez, with the aid of midwife
Eulalia Pérez de Guillén Mariné. His paternal grandmother, María
Jacinta de la Bastida, was listed in the 1790 census as mulata,
meaning mixed race with African ancestry. His paternal grandfather,
Santiago de la Cruz Pico, was described as a
American-Spanish) in the same census. Santiago de la Cruz Pico was
one of the soldiers who accompanied
Juan Bautista de Anza
Juan Bautista de Anza on the
expedition that left
Tubac, Arizona for California in 1775 to explore
the region and colonize it. Pio Pico and his siblings were thus of
Spanish, African and Native American ancestry.
Marriage and family
After the death of his father in 1819 Pico settled in San Diego,
California. He married María Ignacia Alvarado there on February 24,
1834. His younger brother was
General Andrés Pico.
John Bidwell, an early California settler, mentioned Pico among the
people he knew:
"Los Angeles I first saw in March, 1845. It then had probably 250
people, of whom I recall Don Abel Stearns, John Temple, Captain
Alexander Bell, William Wolfskill, Lemuel Carpenter, David W.
Alexander; also of Mexicans, Pio Pico (governor), Don Juan Bandini,
By the 1850s Pico was one of the richest men in Alta California. In
1850 he purchased the 8,894-acre (3,599 ha) Rancho Paso de
Bartolo, which included half of present-day Whittier. Two years later,
he built a home on the ranch and lived there until 1892. It is
preserved today as Pio Pico State Historic Park. Pico also owned the
former Mission San Fernando Rey de España, Rancho Santa Margarita y
Las Flores (now part of Camp Pendleton), and several other ranchos for
a total of over 500,000 acres (200,000 ha).
In 1868, he constructed the three story, 33-room hotel, Pico House
(Casa de Pico) on the old plaza of Los Angeles, opposite today's
Olvera Street. At the time of its opening in 1869, it was the most
lavish hotel in Southern California. Even before 1900, however, it and
the surrounding neighborhood declined, as the business center moved
further south. After decades of serving as a shabby flop house, the
hotel was deeded to the State of California in 1953. It is now a part
El Pueblo de Los Angeles
El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Monument. It is used on
occasion for exhibits and special events.
Pico served twice as Governor of Alta California, taking office the
first time from
Manuel Victoria in 1832, when Victoria was deposed for
refusing to follow through with orders to secularize the mission
properties. As governor pro tem and "Vocal" of the Departmental
Assembly, Pico began secularization. After 20 days in office, he
abdicated in favor of Zamorano and Echeandía, who governed the north
and south, respectively, until
José Figueroa reunified the
governorship in 1833.
Pico ran for office in 1834 as the first alcalde (magistrate) of San
Diego after secularization of the mission, but was defeated. He
Juan Bautista Alvarado
Juan Bautista Alvarado (1836 to 1842) on political
issues and was imprisoned on several occasions.
In 1844 he was chosen as a leader of the California Assembly. In 1845,
he was again appointed governor, succeeding the unpopular Manuel
Micheltorena. Pico made Los Angeles the province's capital. In the
year leading up to the Mexican–American War, Governor Pico was
outspoken in favor of California's becoming a British Protectorate
rather than a U.S. territory.
When U.S. troops occupied Los Angeles and San Diego in 1846 during the
Mexican–American War, Pico fled to Baja California, Mexico, to argue
before the Mexican Congress for sending troops to defend Alta
California. Pico did not return to Los Angeles until after the signing
of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and he reluctantly accepted the
transfer of sovereignty.
Automatically granted United States citizenship, he was elected to the
Los Angeles Common Council in 1853, but he did not assume office.
Facial features and medical history
Pío Pico in 1858
In 2010, scientists published an article about Pio Pico asserting that
he showed signs of acromegaly, a disease not characterized until later
in the nineteenth century. They say that images of Pico from 1847
through 1858 show a characteristic pattern of progressive acromegaly,
a disease caused by excessive and unregulated release of growth
hormone from a growth hormone-secreting adenoma of the anterior
pituitary gland. He demonstrates progressive coarsening of his
facial features with a large bulbous nose, broad forehead, protuberant
lips and forward-jutting jaw (prognathism). His hands reveal the
diagnostic massive enlargement so typical of this illness. With a
height of 67 inches in his forties, his acromegaly must have
begun after puberty, or he would have manifested gigantism. Images of
his younger brother
Andrés Pico and elder brother, Jose Antonio
Pico, show normal body features, suggesting Governor Pico's
condition was a disease and not a benign familial trait. Pio Pico had
never been recognized or diagnosed previously with acromegaly.
The apparent pituitary adenoma had at least three additional secondary
effects on his medical condition besides causing acromegaly. First,
his eyes show progressive misalignment, indicating the tumor grew
laterally into the cavernous sinus and compromised the cranial nerves
controlling eye muscle power. Second, he has a hairless face. Although
potentially just a personal choice, in the presence of a large
pituitary tumor, this is more likely due to testosterone deficiency.
This condition results from the enlarging tumor interfering with the
normal function of gonadotropin pituitary cells resulting in secondary
hypogonadotropic hypogonadism and infertility. Third, in 1858 his
lateral eyebrows were absent, indicating secondary hypothyroidism,
also caused by the tumor compromising the function of the normal
pituitary thyrotrope cells. The 1852 daguerreotype of Pio Pico may
be the earliest objective image of acromegaly ever recorded since the
disease was not recognized and named until
Pierre Marie coined the
term in 1886 while he was working at the clinic of Jean-Martin Charcot
in Paris, France.
The 1858 image of Pio Pico was used as an example of florid acromegaly
in the scientific review paper "
Acromegaly Pathogenesis and Treatment"
published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Acromegaly is usually a fatal illness if untreated; 80% of patients
die within 10 years of the diagnosis. But, Pico survived 36 years
after the 1858 image, when his disease was active and had been present
for at least 11 years. This unexpected situation was probably due to
spontaneous pituitary apoplexy, in this case, selectively involving
his tumor but not the remainder of his own pituitary gland. In
selective pituitary tumor apoplexy, the adenoma undergoes infarction
and shrinkage and disappears. No longer compressed by the adenoma, the
nerves controlling the eye muscles could resume normal function and
his remaining pituitary cells could restore normal levels of
gonadotropic and thyrotropic hormones. Most importantly, absent the
abnormally elevated levels of growth hormone that were released by the
tumor, the features of acromegaly quickly regress.
Pio Pico, 1873, looks healthy, suggesting pituitary tumor apoplexy
occurred between 1858 and 1873
Careful inspection of his appearance in his 90s (as shown in the full
body image at the top of this entry) reveals a dramatic reversal of
all the abnormal features that were so prominent earlier in his
life. His hands are delicate and slender, his eyes are now
precisely aligned, his eyebrows have returned and he has a full beard.
Although the beard partly obscures his facial features, his lips, nose
and forehead are no longer so large and coarse. He looks normal in
these later years. Pico was fortunate, as the mortality from pituitary
tumor apoplexy in this pre-treatment era was 50%, and over 80% of
patients who survived had inadequate function of the remaining
pituitary hormone cells. It is difficult to determine how soon after
1858 the apoplexy developed to cause his striking recovery, as until
now there had been no known photographs of Pico between age 57 and the
images of him in his 90s. In 2009 the Workman and Temple Family
Homestead Museum, burial site of Pico and his wife, received a private
1873 photograph of Pio Pico donated by a descendant of the Temple
family.Compared with the 1858 image (above and to the left) Pico at
age 72 now shows a generous beard, full eyebrows, symmetrical light
reflection on his eyes and less prominence of his acromegalic
features. His appearance at age 72 is virtually identical to that in
his 90s and supports the hypothesis that his selective pituitary tumor
apoplexy actually took place between 1858 and 1873. This new image
enhances the controversial probability that Pico was likely the
biological father of Alfredo Romero born in 1871. Pico's selective
pituitary tumor apoplexy may be the earliest recorded clinical example
of this event as documented photographically because the first
description of pituitary tumor apoplexy was published only in 1898.
Pico suffered the dual misfortune of disfigurement from acromegaly and
ridicule. Gertrude Atherton, a prominent San Francisco writer, said of
Pico in 1902: "…an uglier man than Pio Pico rarely had entered this
world. The upper lip of his enormous mouth dipped at the middle; the
broad thick under lip hung down with its own weight. The nose was big
and coarse, although there was a certain spirited suggestion in the
Following the American annexation of California, Pico dedicated
himself to his businesses.
He survived the American conquest of California, becoming one of the
wealthiest California cattlemen controlling more than a quarter
million acres. He defended his position and fortune in over 100 legal
cases, including 20 that were argued before the California Supreme
However, gambling, losses to loan sharks, bad business practices,
being a victim of fraud, and the flood of 1883 ruined him financially.
For example, in 1893, Pico made an arrangement with Bernard Cohn
(politician) in which Cohn paid Pico more than $60,000 in exchange for
a deed to Pico's property in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the county.
Pico sued Cohn but lost on appeal. The decision, Pico v. Cohn
(1891) 91 Cal. 129, 133-134, is classically cited by California
appellate courts in cases having to do with the setting-aside of a
judgment in case of fraud.
Pico was forced to liquidate his real estate holdings and his final
years were spent in near poverty. In 1893 a committee of local
boosters and history enthusiasts asked him to appear at the Chicago
World's Columbian Exposition
World's Columbian Exposition as "the last of the California
"dons". Pico refused, considering it an affront to his dignity. He
died in 1894 at the home of his daughter Joaquina Pico Moreno in Los
Angeles. He was buried in the old Calvary Cemetery on North Broadway
in Downtown Los Angeles, but his remains, as well as those of his
wife, were relocated in 1921 to a modest tomb in El Campo Santo
Cemetery, now in the
Homestead Museum in the City of Industry.
Pico held three different nationalities during his lifetime. He was
born a Spaniard in New Spain, became a Mexican citizen as a young man,
and finally a United States citizen. He was known for his extravagant
lifestyle, with fine clothes, expensive furnishings, and heavy
Pío Pico State Historic Park
Pío Pico State Historic Park was created from the ruins of
his Rancho de Bartolo (El Ranchito) in Whittier, and Casa Pico
mansion. Pico Boulevard, a major east-west thoroughfare in Los
Angeles, is named for him. An elementary and middle school in Los
Angeles' Mid-City district is also named in his honor. Pico Rivera, a
city located in southeastern Los Angeles County, is named for the last
The actor Will Kuluva played Pico in the 1966 episode "The Firebrand"
of the syndicated western television series, Death Valley Days. Robert
Anderson (1920-1996) was cast as
General Philip Kearny, with Gregg
Barton as Commodore Robert F. Stockton.
Gerald Mohr played Pico's
brother, Andrés Pico. The episode is set in 1848 with the
California Territory and the tensions between the
outgoing Mexican government and the incoming American governor.
Pio Pico State Historic Park
^ a b Estrada, William (2016-10-27). "The Life and Times of Pío Pico,
Last Governor of Mexican California". KCET. Retrieved
^ "Soldiers of the 1775 Anza Expedition", 1912, California Spanish
Genealogy. Retrieved on 2008-08-05
^ John Bidwell: "First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years,
1849-1900", Library of Congress Historical Collections, "American
John Bidwell (Pioneer of '41): Life in California Before the
Gold Discovery, from the collection "California As I Saw It."
^ a b c d Login IS, Login J (January 2010). "Governor Pio Pico, the
monster of California... no more: lessons in neuroendocrinology".
Pituitary. 13 (1): 80–6. doi:10.1007/s11102-008-0127-1.
PMC 2807602 . PMID 18597174. Open Access;
^ Portrait of Jose Antonio Pico, the elder brother of Pio Pico and
^ Melmed, Shlomo (November 2009). "
Acromegaly pathogenesis and
treatment". The Journal of Clinical Investigation. 119 (11):
3189–3202. doi:10.1172/JCI39375. PMC 2769196 .
^ a b Nawar RN, AbdelMannan D, Selman WR, Arafah BM (2008). "Pituitary
tumor apoplexy: a review". J Intensive Care Med. 23 (2): 75–90.
doi:10.1177/0885066607312992. PMID 18372348.
^ Login IS, Login J, Bennett JC (May 2010). "Selective pituitary tumor
apoplexy apparently reversed acromegaly in Governor Pio Pico between
1858 and 1873". Pituitary. 13 (3): 287–8.
doi:10.1007/s11102-010-0225-8. PMID 20446046.
^ Allen Press;
Gertrude Atherton GFA (1960). "Pearls of Loreto". The
Splendid Idle Forties. Kentfield California: Allen Press. p. 26.
^ "The Law: Another Judgement Against Pio Pico Rendered, ''Los Angeles
Times,'' February 8, 1890, page 2". Retrieved 2012-12-11.
^ For example, see Justia U.S. Law, "Kachig v. Boothe". Retrieved
October 4, 2017.
^ Estrada, William David (2008). Los Angeles Plaza: Sacred and
contested space. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 106.
^ Meares, Hadley (September 27, 2013). "Family Plots: El Campo Santo
Cemetery at the Workman-Temple Homestead". Departures Column. KCET.
Retrieved 27 July 2016.
^ ""The Firebrand" on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base.
March 24, 1966. Retrieved September 10, 2015.
Salomon, Carlos Manuel (2010). Pio Pico: The Last Governor of Mexican
California. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 256.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pío Pico.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Pío Pico
Biography from the San Diego Historical Society excerpted from
Smythe's History of San Diego (1907)
"What made Pio Pico so, well, ugly?" - Los Angeles Times
Pío Pico at Find a Grave
Pío Pico papers, 1845-1846 at The Bancroft Library
Salomon, Carlos Manuel (May 20, 2015). "Early Afro-Mexican Settlers in
California". California Historical Society. , C-SPAN Video
Governors of California
Capt-Gen. de Neve
Lt. Col. Alberní
Capt. J. Argüello
Capt. L. Argüello
Lt. Col. Echeandía
Don P. Pico
Lt. Col. Echeandía
Brig. Gen. Figueroa
Lt. Col. Castro
Lt. Col. Gutiérrez
Lt. Col. Gutiérrez
Pres. Alvarado · Uncle Carrillo (rival)
Brig. Gen. Micheltorena
Don P. Pico
Cdre. Stockton · Gen. Flores (rival)
Gen. Kearny · Maj. Frémont (mutineer)
Burnett (from 1849)
U.S. State (since 1850)
After 1850 by age