Sharing Santa Monica History This Afternoon

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It’s always great when the Homestead can share information and artifacts with other museums, historical societies and individual collectors.  Today was one of those days after I met with Roger Genser, who is a longtime prints dealer with his business “The Prints and the Pauper”, a collector, and a resident of Santa Monica.

Roger came to the museum’s table at last year’s Archives Bazaar, an annual event hosted by the U.S.C. Libraries and LA as Subject, and talked to my colleagues, Collections Coordinator Michelle Muro and Collections Assistant Melanie Tran (who is now at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento), about what the Homestead’s collection had on Santa Monica.  They told him to get back in touch with us, which is why Roger visited with us today.

A former member of the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission and a current member of the city’s Arts Commission, Roger has had a passion for the history of his city and a recent focus of his interest was a ca. 1872 stereoscopic photograph, published by Henry T. Payne of Los Angeles, that shows the beach at Santa Monica and is parenthetically titled “Watering Place.”  A few folks are on the broad sand and below steep cliffs are tents.  He noticed, however, that the Homestead had one by William M. Godfrey that we attributed to about 1870 and that was the same image, except that the identification number on the caption was 132 instead of 133.

SV 132 Santa Monica Watering Place 2007.98.1.1
A scanned and restored copy of the Homestead’s William M. Godfrey stereoscopic photograph of the “watering place” at Santa Monica Canyon, ca. 1870.  This is believed to be the oldest image of the Santa Monica area.

Roger turned to Philip Nathanson, a collector of early Los Angeles photography, for more information on his Payne photo and was told that the Godfrey that the museum has is the oldest photograph of the Santa Monica area.  Roger’s main reason for visiting was to see the Godfrey and compare it to his Payne.  What we discussed was that Godfrey, one of the first photographers in the region, sold his business to Payne, including negatives and the latter reprinted photos from the former under his own name–a common practice of the time.  What is unexplained is why the numbers are slightly different.

In my reply to Roger’s first email inquiry, I mentioned that another element of Santa Monica history of interest to us was about the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, of which F.P.F. Temple, son-in-law of William and Nicolasa Workman, was the first president and then treasurer.

The L.A. & I. which was intended to go from Los Angeles to silver mining territory in Inyo County in eastern California, had a line built to Santa Monica, when that town’s founder, Nevada Senator John P. Jones, who was also a major investor in silver mining in Panamint along the intended route of the L.A. & I., became the principal investor in the railroad.

A very rare January 1875 broadside owned by Roger Genser soliciting support for the building of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, with F.P.F. Temple, the line’s first president and then treasurer, as one of the subscription committee members.  Roger provided this for copying by the Homestead.

Roger not only did not know of Temple’s involvement, assuming that Jones was a founder, but then indicated that he had a very rare broadside (flyer) concerning a mass meeting held in Los Angeles in December 1874 to raise money for the railroad and that he would bring it down for today’s visit.

The broadside was an all-out sales job that began by stating

That the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad ought to be built, if possible, and that, speedily, is the honest belief of a majority of our people.

The document continued that “the value, direct and indirect” of completing the line “is almost beyond computation.”  It also averred that “some of us who have lived long in this goodly land, have witnessed the anomaly of bountiful crops, and no market.”  Continuing along this line, it asserted

with the most fertile valleys and the finest climate on earth, do we act wisely in losing sight of the vast extraneous sources of wealth and prosperity that surround us?

Modern civilization demanded that success followed railroad lines but also those in contact with ocean travel through shipping, but the added benefit of the railroad line was its connections to those silver mining regions in the mountains on the east side of the Owens Valley.  Moreover, there were plans to extend the line to Utah and join with the transcontinental line completed five years prior.

Roger also provided this 1876 timetable for the L.A. & I., another extraordinarily rare piece for copying.  Note that a trip from Santa Monica to Los Angeles took an hour at 20 miles per hour maximum speed.

The products of the regions adjoining the proposed line included, according to the broadside, more than 3,000 tons of silver bullion; 2 million gallons of wine; above 4 million pounds of wool; thousands of tons of field crops like hay, barley and corn; oranges; asphaltum (from oil deposits in present-day Santa Clarita); and more.

The item then stated that the presumed building cost would be $4 million and that annual earnings of about $564,000 less the interest on the capital stock and the operating costs would leave an annual profit of about $164,000.  While the hope, hence the meeting, was to raise the funds from local sources to build the line, potential investors “deeply interested in having the road built speedily” stated that if $300,000 could be raised locally, the line would get built.

Finally, the broadside warned that there was an intent to divert the silver bullion trade emanating from eastern California through Tehachapi and then on to San Francisco via the Southern Pacific route, which had just finished greater Los Angeles lines as part of its required link to the city from the north (this being completed in 1876).  Time was of the essence to get local control of the shipment of bullion rather than let it escape to the north.

The item included the names of those on the subscription committee including Temple, ex-governor John Downey and three other Los Angeles merchants.  Waiting in the wings, however, was Senator Jones, who, in fact, became the major subscriber, the new president, and the driving force for the completion of the Santa Monica line.

On the reverse of the timetable is the “Rules and Regulations for Employees” of the L.A. & I.  These were often printed in pocket-size booklets that railroad workers could carry in their jacket, vest or pants pockets.

In addition to this great document, there was, however, a bonus.  Roger also has in his collection a L.A. & I. timetable from 1876 with “Rules and Regulations for Employees” on the reverse.

With regard to the timetable portion, the line had five stops.  The first was at the wharf at Santa Monica, also built by the company, with the depot at that town locate 1 1/4 miles away.  Thirteen miles east was “Park Station,” which might have been at what was called “Agricultural Park” now Exposition Park.  Then, 1 1/2 miles beyond was the San Pedro Street Curve and two more miles north the final stop near Sixth Street towards the Los Angeles River.  The total trip time was exactly an hour.

As for the rules and regulation, one that Roger pointed out immediately was rule 19, which reads:

Great care should be taken to prevent the killing of stock [cattle, sheep, horses, etc.] Come to a full stop if necessary.  If an Engineer kills stock when it is apparent he might avoid doing so, the value of the stock so killed will be deducted from his pay.

Another rule mandated that the train’s whistle must be sounded within a mile of a station and a bell rung “within eighty rods” of a highway crossing and then continued through that junction.  That distance would be a quarter-mile.

Naturally many of the regulations concerned safety issues relating to crossings, approaching stations, what to be done in the event of a decoupling of train cars and engines and more.  However, rules 34 and 35 are also worth noting:

Rudeness, profanity, or incivility to passengers, will not be tolerated [34]

Smoking or using intoxicating drinks, while on duty, is strictly prohibited.  Any employee, known to have been intoxicated while on duty, will be immediately dismissed. [35]

There have been high-profile incidents in aviation and train travel of both these that have caused immense publicity and legal problems for both industries.

So, today’s visit with Roger was profitable for him, because, in addition to seeing our Godfrey view of the earliest Santa Monica photo, he saw other great photos of 19th century Santa Monica that he had not previously seen.  And, of course, it was great for the Homestead because of access to rare documents for one of the many business enterprises engaged in by F.P.F. Temple and, by association, his banking partner and father-in-law, Workman.

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