Mission History

The Mission San Juan Capistrano historic museum collection includes many photos and artifacts pertaining to the Mission’s history.  Some of the items range in date from when Father Serra first founded Mission San Juan Capistrano on November 1, 1776 to the present day.  Learn more about the history of Mission San Juan Capistrano.

This is only a partial listing of Mission San Juan Capistrano’s historic collection.

Collection Highlights:

Forster Saddle
During the 19th century, in exchange for hides and tallow, merchants supplied Californio ranchers with manufactured goods and luxury items like this saddle which could cost as much as 150 hides. Don Juan Forster likely purchased the saddle in the 1850s, and the saddle stayed in the Forster family’s possession until the 1970s when Jerome Forster (1933-2012) placed it on a loan to a Smithsonian Institute exhibit about western saddles in North America, and thereafter graciously placed it with Mission San Juan Capistrano for its collection.

This beautiful Californio-style saddle demonstrated Don Juan Forster’s wealth. Like other Californios, he used his large landholdings to raise cattle and became wealthy by trading hides and tallow with English and American merchant ships.

In 1845, Forster purchased Mission San Juan Capistrano at auction from his brother-in-law, then Governor Pio Pico for a mere $710. For 20 years, Forster and his family called the Mission home (1845 to 1865) until is was determined that control of the Mission should be returned to the Catholic Church.

Visit the Mission Treasures exhibit to view the Forster Saddle, open daily from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.