by Paul R. Spitzzeri
On this day 142 years ago, the Los Angeles Herald newspaper’s edition featured a variety of interesting material–in terms of news, editorials, advertisements, notices and listings. A careful look at an individual issue of a paper can give some interesting insights into the operations of a local society. In this case, we’re dealing with a Los Angeles that was moving from being a small, remote frontier town to a growing city and a hub of the southwestern United States.
The Herald had only been in existence for just over a year by late 1874 and it was one of a trio of dailies operating in Los Angeles. The others were the Express, which began publication a couple of years prior to the Herald and the Star, which was the town’s first newspaper when it began in 1851 and, except for a four-year period from 1864-68, operated until the late 1870s. Even having daily newspapers was still pretty new, at least within the last few years. Weekly or semi-weekly papers were the norm prior to the Seventies.
The Herald, in late 1874, was operated by the Los Angeles City and County Publishing Company, a consortium owned by some prominent Angelenos who incorporated when the paper’s creator and their debtor, Charles A. Storke, of Santa Barbara, went into bankruptcy.
Founders included Prudent Beaudry, a French-Canadian who held much property and would soon by mayor; Jotham Bixby, owner of the Rancho Los Cerritos in which is now Long Beach; Thomas A. Garey, an orchardist and nurseryman who founded, the next year, Pomona with a group of investors; Isaac W. Lord, another real estate investor who, among other projects, founded what is now La Verne; John S. Thompson; John W. Potts; Robert M. Widney, an attorney, judge and real estate promoter; and F.P.F. Temple, whose Temple and Workman bank was one of the two commercial institutions in town.
Given the involvement of most of these men in promoting real estate and other business endeavors, it was natural that they would look to have the Herald promote the potential for greater Los Angeles to continue in the boom that was taking place, the first in the town’s history.
The LACCP incorporated in February 1874 with a modest $15,000 in capital, and an editor was hired. Widney, in an 1895 reminiscence in the Herald about the paper’s early days, recalled that the editor would not agree to the company’s desire to promote and boost Los Angeles, so Widney assumed the role of editor instead.
Notably, he stated in his review of the paper’s origins that he asked persons coming into town from outlying areas of the county for any news from those locales, wrote up articles on those topics, and then credited the source for the information, which meant he had unpaid reporters keeping expenses low for the Herald!
After a few weeks of running the paper, Widney turned the editorial function over to J.M. Bassett, who served for several years. It was not long, however, before the LACCP decided to abandon the idea of continuing with publishing the Herald and Temple’s banking rival, Isaias W. Hellman took the reigns for a short time. In 1875, though, he leased the paper to Ayers and Lynch, proprietors of the Express. Lynch took over day-to-day management of the Herald and Ayers handled the other paper’s operations.
In November 1874, though, the LAACP still controlled the paper, though not for long. In fact, there was an ad in the edition of the 4th regarding the company issuing an assessment of stockholders, this was to raise capital for operating costs, but, as noted above, the company soon relinquished the paper to Hellman.
Meantime, promoting efforts of company owners was very much in the issue, at least in two main examples. First, was the praise heaped upon Thomas Garey’s business partner, Milton Thomas, for all he had done to promote regional agriculture and business. The two were part of a group that founded the new town of Pomona in 1875 and Garey and Thomas avenues run parallel north to south in that city today.
The other was to highlight survey work done for Temple’s Los Angeles and Independence Railroad project, which was intended to build a line from the town to silver mines in eastern California’s Inyo County.
The work referred to had to do with company engineer Joseph U. Crawford’s efforts to survey in Cajon Pass, a vital point for the line, but which was hungrily eyed by the Southern Pacific Railroad, whose lines through the San Gabriel Valley and Rancho La Puente, within a short distance of the Homestead were recently opened to the public.
A set of editorials also dealt with two intertwined themes–the upcoming election for mayor of Los Angeles and the journalistic jousting between the Herald and its rival, the Express.
On the former point, Herald part-owner Prudent Beaudry was one of the mayoral candidates, while, the editorial claimed that Express co-owner George Tiffany was primed to run against Beaudry. The piece taunted the opposition for “losing its temper”, stated that it was given to “whine and whimper,” and that the Express was writing attacks on Beaudry and the Herald that “produces such strong symptoms of rabies.”
With regard to the other bits of sniping between the rival sheets, most of it was political, but there was a strange bout between the two papers over a comment made by the Express about the German language being less useful than Chinese. Those were fightin’ words if for no other reason than that anti-Chinese sentiment was powerful in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the western U.S. at the time.
It being a boom period, there are some references in the issue to land matters, including the sale of lots at the new town sites of San Fernando and East Los Angeles (the latter now the Lincoln Heights neighborhood) and advertisements promoting land sales at I.W. Hellman’s Rancho Cucamonga and among the massive landholdings of the late Abel Stearns, who controlled much of modern Orange County.
Then, there are the many interesting advertisements which range from Slaney’s boot and shoe store to the several mercantile establishments of the City of Paris, the Important, Elias Laventhal’s store, and the Los Angeles Poultry Market.
Ads for the two commercial banks, Temple and Workman and Hellman’s Farmers and Merchants, along with the Los Angeles Savings Bank; for two hotels, the Pico House and the Lafayette; notices from the county for proposals to build bridges, including one crossing San Jose Creek along what is now Brea Canyon Road in the City of Industry; and an ad touting the Herald‘s booster pamphlet, “Ten Thousand Questions Answered” are also of interest.
Yet all the fervent activity, whether economic, political or social, that accelerated markedly during the boom soon came to an abrupt halt. The state’s roaring economy, fed largely by silver mine stock speculation in Virginia City, Nevada, collapsed in late August 1875 when the speculative bubble burst.
The disaster led to the failure of the bank of Temple and Workman and ushered in a decade of economic malaise that did not break until a transcontinental railroad line reached Los Angeles from the east in 1885 and the great Boom of the Eighties followed.
The Herald survived and later became part of William Randolph Hearst’s newspaper empire. In 1931, it merged with its old rival and sister paper, the Express and then later took on the moniker of the Herald-Examiner, which had a powerful rivalry with the Los Angeles Times for many years before it shut down for good in 1989.