Uncertainty clouds our memory of January 13, 1847, when Andrés Pico and John C. Frémont signed a document variously called the Capitulation of Cahuenga or Treaty of Cahuenga.

It’s a perfectly ordinary table, big enough for two to sit across from each other. The grain of the wood shows through the worn finish in places. The panels of the top are uneven, but not so much to make the table unusable. It’s a piece of homely furniture that could have been found in any kitchen anywhere in Los Angeles until the middle of the 20th century.

A table like it might be in anyone’s garage today, after losing its one drawer, and now a place to set a clothes hamper or store garden tools, except this ordinary table isn’t in a garage. It’s in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. It stands, elevated and lighted in a tall glass box, as a witness to history (although both the witness and the history, in this case, are somewhat ambiguous). More

Mural photograph courtesy of the federal Works Progress Administration Collection, Los Angeles Public Library; table photograph courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Mural photograph courtesy of the federal Works Progress Administration Collection, Los Angeles Public Library; table photograph courtesy of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County