The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.
Spain lost control of California after Mexico won its independence in 1821, the consequence of a bloody war. American businessmen saw an opportunity to exploit a fledgling nation.
The American firm McCulloch, Hartnell and Co. quickly monopolized the southern California commodities market. It was an excellent example of conquest by bureaucracy. Americans, ever the cunning businessmen, profited hugely from the chaos following the Mexican war for independence.
When McCulloch, Hartnell, and Co. quit business in California, the Boston firm Bryant, Sturgis and Co. took over. The famous seaman Richard H. Dana, author of the book Two Years Before the Mast, whom Dana Point is named after, was an employee of Bryant, Sturgis and Co. His job was to export "hide and tallow," aka cow skins and cow oil, from California.
After Bryant, Sturgis and Co. went out of business, the "hide and tallow" market, along with many other California commodity markets were taken over by local merchant Abel Stearns, who would eventually open the first general store in Fullerton, Stearns and Goodman. He was, needless to say, insanely wealthy.
Gimme that hide and tallow!