Read All About It in the “Los Angeles Express,” 28 August 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

It was a Friday just as today is, but for the Los Angeles Express, one of three major English-language daily newspapers, along with the Herald and the Star, in Los Angeles, it was a rather light news day for its issue of 28 August 1874. This was despite the fact that it was nearing the peak of the first period of significant growth and development in greater Los Angeles.

For instance the main column on the second page, often devoted to an editorial on some major local issue was instead about a call for a “National Sportsman’s Convention” to discuss “the preservation of the game of the county from ruthless decimation.” Rampant hunting was leading to a staggering reduction of wild game throughout the United States, though the Express stated that “California has, from the start, been far in advance of some of the older states in reference to the preservation of her game by wise and just statutes.”


A state from a New York committee on the subject is notable for its summary of the history of it:

“When the primitive emigrants [the English] first arrived in this country, the found the forests, streams and seas swarming with animal life, the result of centuries of undisturbed security. From that day the destruction of those creatures began, first for the preservation of life and for raiment [clothing]; next as articles of sale and commerce, or to be used in the arts of civilized life; again, as population increased, the destruction increased for purposes of sport.”


The extermination of many species was noted, including the beaver in Pennsylvania, and deer and fish in many areas of the nation, with many laws and regulations passed to limit fishing. It was the sportsman who was expected to take more of a leadership role in the conservation of wildlife, while politicians would have to enact laws because “the preservation of the fur seal in Alaska, the bison of the plains, the fish in our rivers and streams, and the crustacea on our sea costs [sic], is of momentous importance.”

There was, in fact, more national and state news than local, it seemed. Under local items, there were short notes, such as that the “Spadra train,” this being the Southern Pacific line from the hamlet of that name, now part of western Pomona, to Los Angeles had a car of wood (presumably cut from San Antonio Canyon above modern Claremont and Upland and where F.P.F. Temple built a saw mill, six pipes of wine (perhaps from the cellars of William Workman and others), 36 bales of wool, and “a lot of green hides,” meaning cattle hides, in it. That line had opened just several months before, including a stop at Puente very near the Workman House and a little more than a decade before the town of that name was established.


At Los Nietos, in the area around today’s Santa Fe Springs, Downey, Norwalk and so on, a farmer there reported that there were “good crops” but because of more farmland being cultivated there was “the necessity of a better organized and more comprehensive system of irrigation.” This was especially needed from the San Gabriel River, the new channel of which was created by flooding following irrigation ditches of former governor Pío Pico and others to take over the Los Coyotes Creek and empty into the ocean where today’s Long Beach and Seal Beach meet and where Anaheim residents (with William Workman as an investor) quickly seized upon the idea of developing Anaheim Landing as a port closer than San Pedro and Wilmington.

Mention was also made “of the young people who are now endeavoring to establish a Literary Club in our city,” a reflection of the growing population and increased literacy of locals. It was expected that “all friends of intellectual culture” would attend a meeting at the private Lawlor’s Institute with the county school superintendent presiding.


Speaking of the Southern Pacific, there was a “railroad party” heading from Los Angeles toward San Fernando, a new town established along the line that would be constructed and connected to that company’s main route coming from the Bay Area and then east through the Spadra route to the Colorado River at Yuma. Members of the group included E.M. Phelps, the company’s engineer; E.E. Hewitt, its Los Angeles area superintendent; John Miller of a finance and construction company; and a pair of others.

The group was to trace the proposed line to Tehachapi Pass and would be “making a close inspection of it,” as they did when heading southeast from Los Angeles as far as Santa Ana, noting topography “and the resources of that section” that became Orange County fifteen years later. It was expected that, after this trip was concluded, Miller would go to headquarters in San Francisco to report on his findings and that “we shall see a lively resumption of railroad work” especially “in the difficult lapse which exists between San Fernando and Bakersfield.” That work did finally yield a completed line that was opened in July 1876, by which time the boom in greater Los Angeles went bust, including the collapse of the Temple and Workman bank.


In the report on the proceedings of the previous day’s meeting of the Common [City] Council, which included William H. Workman as among its members, an important item had to do with the Main Street sewer, the first such project in the city and a reflection of the rapid changes taking place in the nascent infrastructure of Los Angeles. The matter at hand was to certify the assessments of property owners along the central thoroughfare, listing the frontage they had as well as the dollar amount.

The property owners with the largest amount of street frontage were Arcadia Bandini de Stearns, whose late husband, Abel, built the large adobe house, El Palacio, where U.S. 101 runs through that area now and who had over 700 feet of frontage, ex-governor John G. Downey with nearly 500 feet, and his banking partner (and former Temple and Workman partner), Isaias W. Hellman at some 450 feet. Not far behind was F.P.F. Temple, whose Temple Block accounted for some 360 feet. Other names of note were former governor Pío Pico, ex-mayor and council member Jose Mascarel, Ozro W. Childs, John S. Griffin, Andrew Glassell, Harris Newmark, Cameron E. Thom, and many more. The Roman Catholic Church was on the list because of the Plaza Church, as was Los Angeles County because of its ownership of Jonathan Temple’s Market House long in use as the county courthouse, and a German school.


In the Miscellaneous section of the council report were petitions of various types, including one by Robert M. Widney, president of the Spring and Sixth Street Railway, the first streetcar system in the city (and of which F.P.F. Temple was treasurer), asking for approval of grading for the line. There were also requests for opening roads like New High and Fort [later Broadway] streets beyond existing limits. In a separate little note, John W. Potts was reported to have finished leveling “the only remaining point of hill at the head of Temple street.” which meant that “when this projection is graded, Temple street clear out will be one of our finest thoroughfares west of downtown and out towards where the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral, government buildings and other areas are today.

Stephen C. Foster, a former mayor and a collector of historical material, offered, for a $10 fee, to index and bind a recently located “volume of the city archives.” Eulogio de Celis, Jr., on behalf of Mayor James R. Toberman, told the council that “the present captain of the chain-gang is very derelict in his duty, and frequently allows prisoners to escape without reporting the same.” It was long a practice to have city prisoners engage in public works as part of a chain gang, though that did not last too much longer beyond this period.


As always, advertisements provided the bulk of the revenue for newspapers and there are plenty to peruse, with some samples provided here. There are some new enterprises, including The Southern California Co-Operative Warehouse and Shipping Association at Wilmington and which was headed by Benjamin D. Wilson and Downey (F.P.F. Temple was a director). The company would store and ship all manner of local products, including grain, lumber, merchandise and other material. Also new was the seaside resort town of Santa Monica and an ad for the “Sea-Side Hotel” called out “Ho! For the Breakers” for “visitor and campers” wanting a summer hotel, though this consisted of “a large tent” providing “the novelty of sea-side camp life” and a restaurant.

Another new ad was for a “Grand Exhibition of Oil Paintings” offered by a real estate, auction and commission firm through an agent, Charles Kaiser, located in the United States Hotel. These works were said to be from Italy, Germany and Spain and a catalog was issued for them. Admission to the gallery, perhaps the first of its kind in Los Angeles history, was twenty-five cents, while children going with their parents were admitted free.


Then there was Dr. C. Pinkham’s “Lecture on Phrenology,” which purported to decipher mental fitness and character from a detailed study of the cranium. Pinkham held forth at the Good Templar’s Hall, owned by a temperance society, from 31 August to 4 September at 8 p.m. and also charged twenty-five cents. He also offered examinations with printed charts for a dollar and magnetic healing, in which, purportedly, the practitioner would use the earth’s magnetic forces to heal patients. Pinkham provided this service at the White House on Los Angeles and Commercial streets from 1-9 p.m. daily.

A new bowling alley and saloon in the former quarters of the Cucamonga Wine Depot under the United States Hotel; the announcement of the fall semesters for the Catholic school run by the Sisters of Charity and St.Vincent’s College; the sale of seats from the synagogue on Fort Street; the opening of a doctor’s office in the Temple Block including a map of that area; a notice by the private water company about limited service for the northern part of the city; a call for 100,000 gallons of olives for refining into oil by Rudolfo Carreras at San Fernando [he claimed to be able to refiner petroleum for F.P.F. Temple, as well, but this provied to be a chimera]; and Simonds & Company’s ice cream and soda parlor are other notable ads.


Because of the continuing development boom, there are some notices for properties for sale with “A Splendid Opportunity” offered for the leasing or purchase of up to 90 acres with 7,000 grape vines, fruit trees, a house, stable and granary, as well as plows and work animals from José Patricio Chávez, a New Mexico native whose family, with others from that area, settled on John Rowland’s portion of Rancho La Puente in the 1840s. The ad noted that the property was south of “Martinez station, Spadra R.R.,” this being the same Southern Pacific line mentioned above and that stop situated in the City of Industry near Walnut and Diamond Bar. Chavez also offered 400 acres in the “Ranch of La Brea,” meaning nearby Brea Canyon.

These newspapers from the museum’s holdings are fascinating sources of information about Los Angeles and its environs during a critical phase of the region’s development during the first half of the 1870s and just before that first boom, much smaller than those that followed, went bust.

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