by Paul R. Spitzzeri
We bring a close to this five-part post on the Illustrated Los Angeles Herald of September 1887 with a plethora of interesting material relating to the promotion and boosting of greater Los Angeles, starting with the financial institutions of the Angel City. The oldest and largest was The Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank of Los Angeles, which boasted the second-highest amount of deposits of any bank in California, approaching $3.2 million with $3.9 million in total assets (Wells Fargo, opened in San Francisco in 1852, has almost $2 trillion in assets!)
It was noted that President Isaias W. Hellman started “this sterling institution” 19 years before, though that was actually when he established Hellman, Temple and Company with F.P.F. Temple and William Workman before dissolving the enterprise in 1871 and opening The Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank with ex-governor John G. Downey. The financial position of the bank was far larger, of course, than the others highlighted in the publication, though the First National Bank of Los Angeles, opened by President Edward F. Spence in 1875, just before the economic crash that included the failure of Temple and Workman, had over $2.1 million in deposits and over $2.5 million in total assets.
Among other featured businesses were the Los Angeles Land and Milling Company, owned by Isaac Lankershim, his son James, and Isaac Van Nuys, son-in-law and brother-in-law of the Lankershims. The company generated 120,000 pounds of flour per day with its “opulent owners” sending wheat from 40,000 acres grown in the San Fernando Valley, where the trio invested in 1869, to the plant at Alameda and Commercial streets.
The Los Angeles Soda Works, located nearby on Sainsevain Street, was opeated since 1868 by Henry W. Stoll and produced from 300 to 500 dozen products, including soda, mineral water, sarsaparilla, syrups, cordials and “temperance beverages,” these latter “eagerly devoured by a thirsty public who do not dabble with spiritous liquors or the product of the malt kiln, or vineyard, or distillery.”
Henry H. Markham, who earlier in the year completed a single term in the House of Representatives and who would serve as California govenror from1891 to 1895, was president of the Los Angeles Furniture Company. Located on North Main Street, the firm employed forty persons in its three-story facility and made and sold “carpets, wall paper, drapery of all kinds . . . furniture of every kind, for the cottage or the palace.” Beyond supplying articles for houses, the piece added that “specimens of the rare and beautiful kinds and quality of the goods of this establishment” were found in such hotels as the Arcadia in Santa Monica, the Grand View in Monrovia, Pasadena’s Carleton and others.
It was noted that John C. Dotter, a native of Bavaria in what became Germany, and Cyrus H. Bradley “two of the old-time furniture merchants of Los Angeles, from whose large and prosperous business this company sprung” were available to show items for sale and oversee the various departments. Dotter and Bradley formed in late 1873 after Isaac W. Lord (founder of Lordsburg, now La Verne) left the business he ran with Dotter, whose first partner was Carl Rinaldi.
Another article of note regarding the Angel City’s business community was about the Board of Trade and Produce Exchange, with the former said to have the most members of any like organization on the West Coast, except in San Francisco. Established in March 1883, the Board had some 150 members and, in addition to promoting and protecting local businesses, it was involved in disputes between members, worked with insolvency cases, and lobbied for the business community.
As for the Produce Exchange, it was launched in October 1882 and had 44 members, with settling issues, establishing industry standards, rules, regulations, classification, providing information and otherwise promoting the grain and produce industry as among its stated objectives. A daily report was issued with accurate pricing information on a “call board” being of great value to members and it was noted that the exchange was, outside of San Francisco, the only of its kind west of the Mississippi River. There was talk of uniting the two with a joint board of directors and, in fact, a new Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1888 with William H. Workman, the city’s mayor and nephew of Homestead founders William and Nicolasa Workman, as one of the principals.
Articles on the University of Southern California, opened in 1880 and directly affiliated with the Methodist Church; the recently opened luxury Arcadia Hotel at Santa Monica and other hotels like the Pico and St. Elmo in Los Angeles and Sierra Madre Villa in the San Gabriel Valley; the “Rival of Lombardy” subdivison of Ivar A. Weid, which prefigured the creation of Hollywood; the harbor at San Pedro, with many statistics provided, including a table showing that over $700,000 had been appropriated by the federal government for improvements since March 1871, when a breakwater was inaugurated; the Calico mining camp in the desert in San Bernardino County; the potential for olive and mushroom growing; and the Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, of which William Workman owned a part in the 1860s, and which is now the Beverly Hills area.
There is also a piece on Boyle Heights, denoted “A Charming and Beautiful Portion of Los Angeles” and described as being “a series of beautiful gracefully rounded hills . . . made for homes of beauty.” The mayor, William H. Workman, was credited as “the first person to develop and beautify these charming heights,” though the López family first settled what was known as Paredon Blanco in the 1830s. Workman’s efforts from 1876 (the neighborhood was actually announced publicly in April 1875) were highlighted, including securing water and a street car line to the tract, with John E. Hollenbeck mentioned as a partner (Isaias W. Hellman and John Lazzarovich were early partners in the development of the community.)
Also featured was Workman’s “lovely part of fifteen acres in front of his residence which soon became an object of beauty to all the neighborhood,” including a fountain, fish-stocked reservoir, and, nearby, vineyards, yielding fruit for making 150,000 gallons per year of “some of the choicest riesling, claret, angelica and port to be found on the coast.” With his intensive work, it was stated that “Boyle Heights soon became a most beautiful and attractive place of residence, shady with trees and with air perfumed by millions of flowers.” The family flower garden was said to have been overseen by Workman’s wife, Maria (Mar-aye-ah) Boyle, whose father Andrew was the community’s namesake.
At the time of printing, “Mr. Workman is now engaged in subdividing his beautiful lands into spacious city lots for which there is an insatiate demand,” while “a beautiful avenue through his charming park” was being built and “where costly residences will be erected.” It was reported that he was offered $500,000 for 300 acres of his vineyards and orchards, but that he turned the offer down. Other landowners of note in the community were Levi N. Breed, president of the City Council; Charles W. Davis, who married the talented operatic soprano Mamie Perry (daughter of lumber man and Boyle Heights resident William Perry, whose house is now at the Heritage Square Museum); and Alfred Workman, no known relation to the mayor.
It was further reported that
During the past year about two hundred beautiful houses have been built on the Heights and fifty more are under contract. In all directions this charming place is growing in prosperity and in beauty . . . and gas works in addition to the present electric lights will only add to the attractiveness of the place.
No wonder that Mr. Workman feels proud of the result of his long years of patience and labor, and well he may.
Also of note for its connection to the Workman and Temple families is a full-page article on the “Santa Anita Tract” and the “Felipe Lugo Tract,” both owned by Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin. After securing his massive fortune from the timely sale of silver mine stock in Nevada before a boom went bust and precipitated the financial panic in summer 1875 that was followed by the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, Baldwin acquired Santa Anita from Los Angeles merchant Harris Newmark for a then-record of $225,000 for any piece of real estate in the county.
Under Baldwin’s development, Santa Anita became renowned for its agriculture, horse-breeding, wine and brandy and, of course, its colorful and controversial proprietor. With the Boom of the Eighties on, it was stated that “he now proposes to share these privileges and advantages with the world at large, and with his purpose in mind he has platted, subdivided and put on the market two thousand acres of absolutely the choicest portion of the earth.” To promote this piece of paradise, it was added that “to realize the charms of the San Gabriel Valley, one must see it with eyes of flesh” because “those of the mind cannot picture anything so supreme in all the elements of scenic beauty.”
Particularly impressive, it was added, was the view from Baldwin’s home adjacent to a natural lake, where the county arboretum is now, including views “far over the valley for many miles” along with the nearby mountains and canyons. Potential buyers were targeted with descriptions of pure mountain water delivered to their property, “perennial roses,” a climate allowing for fresh strawberries in winter and for a blanket to sleep even in August, and more.
The Potrero de Felipe Lugo along the San Gabriel River in the Whittier Narrows area was acquired by Baldwin through foreclosure of the loan he made to the Temple and Workman bank before its collapse in 1876. Here, he and his long-time agent, Richard Garvey, subdivided 1,500 acres and it was said anything would grow there that did so in the county, save citrus (thugh it was said that oranges would be possible, if not in ideal conditions of soil).
The moist lands of Felipe Lugo, however, were deemed well-suited for deciduous fruits, vegetables, as well as alfalfa, barley and wheat, while grapes and walnuts were also noted. In fact, John H. Temple had 130 acres on the ranch, held in his mother’s name when the bank loan was made, and he did well with English walnuts on his tract, now where the Whittier Narrows Nature Center is situated, though he moved in 1888 after his brother Francis died and left John (who purchased the interest of another brother, William) the Workman Homestead at La Puente. Dairy farms were also touted and these were to be part of the area’s economic structure for decades to come.
After highlighting all of the numerous agricultural possibilities of the tract, the piece ended with the observation that:
The thrifty and industrious farmer who enters on these pursuits, with intelligence, will be able to make for himself a very pleasant home in a lovely climate, and in time he will grow into affluent circumstances on such farms as are now offered so cheap as the Felipe Lugo Rancho.
There were periodic proposals, as there continue to be now, to divide the state (one proposed to make the southern part of California into the State of Colorado by state Senator Andrés Pico in 1859 actually passed the legislature and went to Congress, where it died with the onset of the Civil War) and this publication included one for “South California” or “whatever name it may be called.”
It was to embrace the counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, San Diego, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern, totaling over 167,000 people, half of which were in Los Angeles County. Robert M. Widney, who wrote a piece in the document about the wonders of Los Angeles “made a careful estimate with many valuable suggestions” regarding the cost of operating such a state government, saying that most states, much less nations, “have been governed too much.” He advocated for one that “is organized on the principle at least cost consistent with the safety, and prosperity of property and person.”
Widney called for a state constitution that “should prohibit all debt, state, county and municipal” and that no public works should be undertaken “until the money necessary to pay in full had been collected, and a contract under bonds made for the completed work” by the lowest bidder. The people should also have the power to overturn “any contemplated collection of money for public improvements ordered by the legislature.”
Widney also suggested that terms of offices, except those in the legislature, should be ten years and with lower salaries, “professional politicians will leave the State or get into some legitimate employment, for they cannot survive from one election to another.” Citizens could also be enabled to sue officeholders for any “damages or loss he suffered by any unlawful act of the officer” and that said persons could secure a judgment that would allow for the “removing an officer when he is unfit and incompetent or corrupt.”
Specifying salaries for major government officials from the governor down to clerks in departments, as well as judges and legislators, Widney determined that the expenses outlined would amount to $83,600 annually while income from the seven counties was about $300,000, leaving 70% of that revenue for “other expenses, such as care of Deaf, Dumb, Blind, Insane and Criminals.” He averred that “if a new State cannot in its Constitution provide for this economical form of government, then we do not want a new State,” but a well-run and economical one “would soon draw a large and thrifty population to the fertile lands of Southern California.”
This was deemed “entitled to profound respect” and it was added that “the advantages gained by having a State capital in Los Angeles that would attract capital and labor from abroad, to make homes for themselves, would be enormous.” If this were to come to pas, it would be expected that the Angel City “would attract at least $3,000,000 in capital . . . to be invested in various properties and industries that would spring up just because this city was the capital, and would be the center of the educational enterprises and industries of the State.” A rise in taxable property would forestall unnecessary tax increases and “this fact would remove all prominent pbjections to the new State, which seems to be a swift-coming event of the near future.” Not only did a new state not come to fruition, Los Angeles County, within two years, lost a substantial portion to the newly formed Orange County, which felt ignored and marginalized because of the power of those in Los Angeles!
Finally, it is worth noting again that people of color hardly existed in the pages of the publication, with the brief mention of Chinese vegetable farmers in the new community of Gardena and a lengthy article on the pre-American history of California and Los Angeles by Juan de Toro (1827-1907), who is a forgotten figure today. De Toro, a native of Spain and a naval officer who was married to a daughter of the prominent Agustín Olvera, was described in an introduction as “the well-known Spanish historian and searcher of records” whose “excellent and accurate history has never before been published.” The work was considered one of “impartiality and candor” and its author “a philosophic writer” whose efforts were “a labor of love.”
De Toro wrote broadly about northern México, including Alta California, of the indigenous people that “the nakedness of the inhabitants clearly showed that the native races had hardly passed the line of primitive life” and that “their miserable existence was sustained by the product of fishing, hunting, wild fruits and roots.” With the arrival of the Spanish, he continued, “besides the material interests those of a higher order, viz., those of Christianity clamored for a conquest.” It was claimed that the missionaries, being concerned with “the welfare of the native Indians,” found that the indigenous provided “a better welcome than could have been obtained by force of arms.”
When discusing the colonization of California, de Toro asserted that the social order brought by the Spanish, with misionaries at the vanguard, was necessary because “otherwise California would not have been better than a howling wilderness, since the primitive population, instead of increasing began its march to total extinction, from the time of the conquest.” There were imitations on settlement by colonists because the Missions controlled so much of the land under control of the Spanish and because these early arrivals were poor and “did not entertain any hope for the future” given their condition.
Under Governor Felipe de Neve, deemed “indefatigable, courageous and well educated,” much progress was made in colonizing California, including the founding of Los Angeles on 5 September 1781, though much later Thomas W. Temple II claimed the actual founding date was the 4th, which is still observed as such today. De Toro did cite a July 1782 letter from the Viceroy of México to de Neve that stated that there were 46 settlers (the commonly accepted number has been 44 and de Toro listed ten surnames, though most sources list 11) who established the pueblo on the 5th.
The author noted that, by 1814, there were 60 familes in Los Angeles and he claimed that the situation was stable [and] beneficent” without “the least difference between the governors and the missionaries” under “such an enviable system.” Rssidents did not have much of an education, but “really, they lived much happier” and were, he claimed, living “as if they were all members of a single family” who were “happy in the midst of their privations, because they enjoyed a profound domestic peace and the modest joys of an easy, though rustic, mediocrity.”
Significantly, de Toro’s interpretation really only covered the Spanish era and he claimed that Mexican independence “was about to upset social order and specially make the colonization of California lose its ancient uniformity.” Asserting that much had been written about the Mexican period and that it did not need “republication,” the author added that it was an era “of strife, insurrection and at times near to anarchy.” Secularizing the missions in the 1830s “created an element of discord and a hatred of Mexican rule that prepared the way for the occupation by the forces of the United States, wihch brought peace and security to person and property.”
The article is certainly an interesting examination of California’s history before the American seizure and no wonder the IIllustrated Los Angeles Herald lauded it as “excellent and accurate” and executed “with impartiality and candor” as it lionized the Spanish colonization, denigrated the Mexican period, and praised the Americans for delivering “peace and security.” Much of the “romance” of California’s history dovetailed with a good deal of de Toro’s narrative, particularly the praise of the missionaries and the assertion that the “simple” life of the Spanish-era Californios was comprised of those “modest joys of an easy, though rustic, mediocrity.”
The publication, of course, offered its own “rose-colored” lens view of the great Boom of the 1880s, interpreted through the perspective of white, well-to-do boosters and promoters, with content that, for example, offered that every town or subdivision had the perfect soil, climate, people and other attributes for eternal growth and success, even as the inevitable bust was just a couple of years away. It is a remarkable document with plenty to tell us about the boom and those who promoted it.