Read All About It: “The Los Angeles Express,” 22 December 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

By the end of 1874, greater Los Angeles was cresting on a long wave of growth in its first sustained development boom, which began in the late 1860s.  The population increase was more than double since the federal census four years before; businesses were growing in number and sales and production; farmers increased their productivity; education was making greater inroads; and transportation systems were developing, among other signs of improvement.

One of our best sources for tracking the growth of the region is through Los Angeles newspapers and today’s post highlights, from the Homestead’s collection, the 22 December 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Express.  Even the fact that there were three daily English-language newspapers in addition to Spanish and German-language papers is testament to the dramatic changes underway in the area during that first half of the decade.


One of the main items in the Express on that day was the changeover in Los Angeles city politics, with the seating of the new Common [later, City] Council and the mayor.  James R. Toberman completed two years as the city’s chief executive (he would serve again from 1878 to 1882) and was replaced by Prudent Beaudry.

Beaudry was a prime mover in this first boom in Los Angeles.  Born near Montreal to a well-off mercantile family, he came to Los Angeles in 1853 and ran a successful store before leaving for several years.  He returned again in the early Sixties and continued as a merchant for a few years before turning to real estate.


He wisely acquired inexpensive land in the hills west and south of downtown and developed what became Bunker Hill, Angelino Heights, Bellevue Terrace and Beaudry Park.  He built water systems (and was trustee of the water company that supplied the city) and laid out parks and also had a hand in developing Pasadena and Alhambra.

After three years on the Common Council, Beaudry was elected mayor and served a year until the bust that came in August 1875 led to the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, in which Beaudry had substantial deposits which he lost.  Described in an 1889 county history as a man who made five fortunes and lost four, Beaudry lived a much quieter life and died in 1893.  Here’s a detailed look into Beaudry’s life.


In his inaugural message, Mayor Beaudry presented “a lengthy and rosy picture of the prosperity which has so recently attended our city, stating “the field of duty on which we now enter is almost new.  The old formula is inadequate to the exigencies of the present or the demands of the near future.”  Among the areas of management needing attention were proper drainage, street grading, more and better sidewalks, better control of water supply, and improved handling of city property.

Beaudry laid out the over $220,000 in city debt, including general bonds and those for railroads and school houses, as well as outstanding warrants.  This was countered, however, by a 30% increase in assessed property since 1872 “without a corresponding increase of public expenditure,” for which he congratulated the council.


The mayor identified growing railroad facilities as “one of the strongest evidences of our material progress” and cited education as another major component, both in improvements made and wants still waiting to be addressed.  He observed, for example, that two schools were on private property and a third was on leased land, so it was imperative for the city to buy land for school purposes.  In a nod to the recent development of East Los Angeles, now Lincoln Heights, he called for a school house there (Boyle Heights, another tract east of the Los Angeles River, was soon to be opened for development, as well) and in other growing sectors of the city.

Beaudry spoke also about the public library, which was opened in 1872 (and earlier iteration in 1859 did not last long) with Thomas W. Temple, eldest child of Antonia Margarita Workman and F.P.F. Temple as a founding trustee.  He suggested that the city move to build a new city hall (the current municipal headquarters in Jonathan Temple’s Market House being considered inadequate for the growing city) “and rooms can be economically set apart in that edifice for the Public Library.”


As for that perennial issue of water, Beaudry asked the council to create a Board of Water Commissioners, as required by state law, to manage the situation, observing, “it would be equally unjust to all to demand unreasonable reductions and impose impossible conditions.”  He also recommended consideration of a delivery system “compatible with our era” and one that could irrigate 25,000 acres.  An engineer should be hired, he concluded, to study the matter and report to the city.

Policing is another constant area of concern and the chief executive stated that, with the increasing population and growing level of property, the department should be operated so that it was “as distinctive and efficient as possible.”  He added that there needed to be “a detective at large, would be unrestrained by the formal duties of an ordinary officer.”  Finally, the mayor called for a health officer and “the improvement and ornamentation of our public plazas.”


The Express seized on the street issue in a lengthy editorial, saying that there was no area of public works more important for the Common Council to address.  Observing that the 1873 city charter gave plenty of power for the council to utilize, the paper lamented that “not a single thoroughfare in this city has been rendered more pleasant to the eye, more easy to pedestrians or more agreeable to drive over.”

The editorial warned that the number of “strangers,” that is, visitors, was lower than it was a year prior and boasted and warned

there is no place in Southern California that can offer such attractions to strangers as our city, if it were only provided with decent streets and sidewalks.  Here the comforts and luxuries of a metropolis can be combined with rural advantages and the soft and seductive allurements of sub-tropical scenery and growths.  Within view of our windows are orange groves and vineyards, and but a few minutes’ walk will take the stranger into nurseries and orchards where the eye can feast on the rarest and most beautiful of nature’s gifts.  It is not to our credit that such exceptional attractions should be neutralized by a neglect on the part of the authorities to give us well-paved streets and uniform sidewalks.  No other city of our size and wealth in the Union is running its street department on a contract before the Deluge [presumably the floods of 1861-62?].  The new council can win laurels if they are equal to the demand of the times.

As for the Common Council, it began its year by divvying up responsibilities on committees to its twelve members, including Luis Wolfskill, a real estate partner of F.P.F. Temple and William Workman and Workman’s nephew, Elijah, a frequent officeholder of the period.  He’d last been on the council for his third term in 1871 and his younger brother, William Henry, served as Second Ward council member the following two years.  Elijah Workman was appointed to the finance, zanjas (public water ditches), lands, and supplies.


There were three wards in the city (that system being implemented in 1870), with four council members from each, and they drew lots to determine who would serve a shorter term of a year and who would have a longer one of two.  Workman drew the shorter term in the Third Ward and it was his last term on the council.  This was also the first year that the mayor was also made council president.  After establishing committees to establish council salaries and regular meeting days and times, the body adjourned.

Another new officeholder in the city was Marshal Juan José Carrillo, one of the very few Californios in a position of responsibility in local government at the time.  The 16th marshal and third chief of police, Carrillo was born in Santa Barbara in 1842 to Pedro Carrillo and Josefa Bandini, whose sister Arcadia was married to Abel Stearns and then Robert S. Baker and was a prominent woman in Los Angeles.  Carrillo’s grandfather was governor of the Mexican department of Alta California in 1837-38 and his great-uncle, José Antonio, served as Los Angeles alcalde on three occasions and defended Alta California against the American invasion during the Mexican-American War.


Carrillo came to Los Angeles in the mid-Sixties and was an employee at the well-known store of Caswell and Ellis prior to becoming marshal, a position he held for a single one-year term.  When the Common Council eliminated the position of marshal in favor of a chief of police, the position was given to someone else, though Carrillo remained as tax collector for another year.   He then moved to Santa Monica and administered his aunt Arcadia Baker’s estate before becoming a city trustee for a decade and mayor from 1890-1897.  Later, he was street superintendent and police judge.  Upon his death in 1916, he left a widow and several children, including Leo Carrillo, who became a well-known actor, particularly in the 1950s television show, The Cisco Kid.

In the edition was a short article about a gold badge presented to Marshal Carrillo and which cost nearly $60, with $25 in pure gold in it.  The badge was inscribed “Los Angeles City Marshal” on the front, while on the reverse was “Presented to J.J. Carrillo by his friends, December, 19, 1874.”  There was also a notable article about two criminals, captured before Carrillo took office, who’d committed a theft from a visitor to the city from Wilmington and were tracked down by two police officers.  Found guilty by Justice of the Peace Gray, the men, Frank Burns and William Cheney, were sentenced to 60 and 30 days, respectively, on the chain-gang, long in operation in the city.


Speaking of Wilmington, there was an interesting description of the recently opened Wilson College, a Methodist institution founded by Benjamin D. Wilson, a prominent regional resident who came to Los Angeles in 1841 with John Rowland, William Workman, and others.  Situated a mile from the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad (recently taken over by the Southern Pacific) depot, the campus was positively described with students enjoying “the nice climate and the abundance of very good provisions.”  The correspondent who wrote the article commented that “if Eastern people would stop sending their children to the various places in Europe, and would select our California—Italy,” they would provide great health and educational benefit to them.  When the economic crash came, though, the following year, Wilson College closed.

One other interesting item of note was a poem by Yda Addis, who’d recently graduated from the new Los Angeles High School.  Addis, who became a published writer and translator and had some controversy and legal entanglements in her love life before she vanished around 1900, penned “The New Galatea,” a reference to a statue in her garden as a reflection of one from the ancient Greek story of Pygmalion.  An image here presents the ten-stanza work of verse from the talented teenager.


Advertisements are often very interesting and informative when looking at what was going on in a given area at a particular time.  Christmas was not the huge commercial holiday it later became and remains, but there were several ads from local merchants advertising gifts for the holiday.  Some samples are shown here, including from book and music seller Louis Lewin, the “Cash Store” of Harris and Jacoby, and watch and jewelry seller Charles Ducommun.

Two other ads are worth highlighting as we close this post.  One is for Dr. Paul M. Brenan and his four lectures at the German Turnverein Hall, including one for “ladies only,” on “Health, Beauty and Happiness of Women,” and another on “Love, Courtship, and Marriage” showing “how to choose a proper companion for life.”  It was added that “subjects will be chosen from the audience after the lecture and paired off upon the stage.”


Brenan, who touted himself “The Most Successful Physician on the Pacific Coast” as he traveled through California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington delivering his presentations, died in 1886 in Portland, but, not long after his first appearance in Los Angeles, the Pacific Medical and Surgical Journal of March 1875 observed that Brenan was “a charlatan . . . [who] clipped the fleece from a number of innocent lambs” in San Francisco.

In San Bernardino, he was called out by a member of the audience contesting his claim as a legitimate doctor and he quickly made his way out of town.  At his next stop it was reported that

in Los Angeles he was still more unfortunate, having been required to depart from his hotel in that city on account of an adventure of a more private character.  With such lessons as this occurring continually, people still persevere in running after every itinerant quack who proclaims his skill in the cure of disease.

Then there was the new advertisement for “The Occidental Laundry,” a name chosen for a very particular reason; namely, to distinguish proprietors D.T. Mooney and J.G. Dixon from the several “Oriental” laundries that dominated the industry in Los Angeles.  Establishing their business on Flower Street near Sixth (in Prudent Beaudry’s Bellevue Terrace tract), the pair offered to clean the laundry of hotels, restaurants and citizens “promptly and on the most reasonable terms.”


Mooney and Dixon, however, also were very sure to advertise that “No Chinese Employed” and that “No Chinese Thrashing Machines Used,” though it is unclear what the latter means.  In an era of virulent and often violent anti-Chinese sentiment, and three years after the horrific Chinese Massacre in Los Angeles in which a mob of white and Latino men killed nineteen Chinese, the ad is another example of the attitude prevailing among some in the City of Angels.

Reading the pages of the 22 December 1874 edition of the Express is a window into the daily life of Los Angeles as it approached the peak of its first development boom and less than a year before that boom went bust.

Leave a Reply