by Paul R. Spitzzeri
It is certainly an interesting concept in which A.H. Dutton of Los Angeles published, in fall 1924, “a volume of original portrait-cartoon drawings of the worth-while men of our community, men who are unselfish in their zeal in contributing their hime, energy and money in advancing the best interests of the Great Pacific Southwest—the most favored spot on earth today.” Dutton went further in suggesting that “Los Angeles is destined to be the World’s greatest city.”
He added, that, its rise from a pueblo to a large city “has been wrought by strong men of the community who are uniting as never before for the common good.” The foundation of “the pioneers” was being added to, he continued by a new generation, which Dutton and the cartoonists “have tried to record and portray in good-humored caricature, the attainments of each individual minus all ego.” It was hoped that the endeavor was such a succes that “our work will be preservedand handed on down to posterity.”
Well, at least Walter P. Temple’s copy #21 of 103 of the De Luxe Edition of Builders and Developers of the Pacific Southwest in Cartoon has so far survived the ravages of time and nearly made it a century. At the time, Los Angeles was on a slight downslope from the prior year’s peak of the red-hot real estate market duing yet another of the fabled boom of the city and region.
A great aerial photograph taken from a thousand feet over the intersection of Pico Boulevard and Broadway shows the tremendous reach of the downtown business section of the Angel City and toward the upper right is the merging of Spring and Main street just below 8th Street, where Walter P. Temple and associates were involved the compeltion, earlier that year, of the Great Republic Life and National City Bank buildings, 11-story “height limit” structures that still stand, though now largely comprised of lofts.
Among these partners were his business manager Milton Kauffman and attorney George H. Woodruff, who were involved in such enterprises as the Temple Townsite Company, launched in 1923 to develop the Town of Temple (renamed Temple City five years later); the Temple Estate Company, which was involved in real estate projects in Alhambra, El Monte and San Gabriel, as well as Los Angeles; and the Walter P. Temple Oil Company.
For about a decade, Woodruff, with his law partner Clyde Shoemaker, were the attorneys for another key player in these two Angel Cityskyscrapers and who was the subject of tonight’s presentation to the Orange County Historical Society: A. Otis Birch. A previous post here went into significant detail about the strange saga of the Santa Ana-raised oil tycoon and business figure, but this caricature book and its pages about these men, along with Temple’s cousin, Boyle Workman, makes for a nice follow-up to tonight’s talk.
Birch, born in Cuba, Illinois, not far from Peoria, in 1871 settled in Santa Ana with his family when he was just two years old. His father, formerly a hardware merchant and who owned citrus land in town, died after just four years, and Birch’s mother followed only fiv year after that. Raised, along with his sister, by his aunt and uncle, Birch inherited the citrus grove, but his big break came, as it did for Temple, in oil.
Forming the Menges Oil Company with a dentist neighbor of that name and other locals, Birch was actively involved in the development of wells on the firm’s 20 acre from its establishment in 1900, though the first four “holes” were limited in their production. By 1910, Birch took control of most of the Menges stock, apparently by telling his partners that the prospects were not as encouraging as hoped, but, the fifth well, which came into production in spring 1911, proved to be a high-gravity gusher.
This was just in time for Birch to dissolve Menges and form his namesake oil company with his wife, father-in-law and nieces (his sister’s daughters whom he and wife Estelle Conaway raised after their parents died—their father was a Menges official killed in a freak accident at the Brea Canyon field.) In turn, his former Menges partners sued, claiming he mispresented the field’s possibilities and bought their stock for chump change, though Birch prevailed.
Bolstered with the big bonanza, Birch diversified into banking, insurance, a furniture company and a 22,000-acre ranch near Sacramento, as well as invested in the construction of those Los Angeles buildings. He was president of the Great Republic Life Insurance Company and headed the Central Finance Building Company, which erected the structure with the firm as its flagship tenant and namesake. His page also noted that he had “extensive oil property in the Dominguez field” near Long Beach and that his insurance and furniture compaies had memberships in several clubs, inclding the Los Angeles Athletic (Birch was a sprinter in his youth), Kiwanis, Advertising and Optimists.
As for Kauffman, who was also featured in a recent post here about the El Monte store he and his father ran ine th late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Great Republic Life Building and an oi field scene were in opposite corners of this caricature, showing him with oen in hand before a large open ledger book. His professional affiliations included his roles as secretary and director for the Temple estate and townsite companies, as well as being secretary of the Central Finance Building and National City Holding companies—developers of the aforementioned office buildings.
His memberships included the chambers of commerce in Los Angeles, Alhambra, El Monte, San Gabriel and the Town of Temple. while his fraternal associations included the Elks lodge in Alhambra and the Blue Lodge masonic order in El Monte. Under the heading of “fads and foibles” were his interests in “automobile touring, swimming, and application to business affairs.”
Woodruff’s caricature was surrounded by scenes of hunting deer, horseback riding, citrus groves and his being seated in his law office with a sheet reading “Corporation Law” conveniently indicating his specialty. He was listed as the senior partner at Woodruff & Shoemaker and a member of the state and county bar associations; president of the Standard Mortgage Corporation; director of the National City Bank; president and director of the National City Holding Company; vice-president and director of the Central Finance Building Company; and director of the Bank of Temple.
The attorney’s memberships included the chambers of commerce of the Town of Temple and Los Angeles; the executive Jonathan and University clubs; the San Gabriel Country Club; the New Century Club in Pasadena (he resided in the Sierra Madre Villa tract in the northeast corner of the Crown City); and he was a mason of the Scottish Rite and Knights Templar as well as a Shriner. Woodruff’s “fads and foibles” included what was shown in the cartoons, along with tennis, though it is not yet known where he had his citrus grove.
Walter Paul Temple was indicated as being a “Pioneer, Capitalist, Oil Producer” but his portrait was accompanied by personal images. The first is of “Patriotism,” showing his memorials at the Montebello oil fiel wher his Standard Oil Company of Califonia lease was to the first site of the Mission San Gabriel and to Kauffman’s brother, Joseph, who was killed in the Battle of the Argonne Forest during the First World War.
Below that is “Attachment” showing Temple with his German Shepherd Prince, at one of the porches of the Workman House—though a reader could only assume that the connection was between Temple and his dog! At the bottom is “Birthplace” showing the L-shaped adobe house at the Rancho La Merced, just a half-mile or so from his oil lease property, were Temple was born 55 years before. The drawing is a replica of an oil painting executed in the 1890s by Mattie Laura Jodon, though the structure was no longer extant when th book was published.
Temple’s professional attainments included his presidency of the Temple estate and townsite companies; being founder of the Town of Temple; and owner of the Temple oil lease. It was added that:
Mr. Temple is pre-eminent for his public-spirited co-operation in patriotic or commercially-advancing enterprises throughout San Gabriel Valley, has added to the endowment of the Temple [formerly La Puente] school [near where he grew up], and erected several monuments or memorials, including the monument to the soldiers [actually, just to Joseph Kauffman] of the World War.
He was a member of the chambers of commerce at Alhambra, San Gabriel and the Town of Temple and, with Kauffman, of the Alhambra Elks lodge. As for his “fads and foibles” it was noted that Temple was interested in “the development of his home and ranch estate on the historic Workman homestead, Puente, [and] entertainment of friends at his new palatial adobe residence,” this last being La Casa Nueva, which, however, was not fully completed for another three years. Finally, it was simply stated that he was a “devoted Californian.”
Across from Woodruff’s page is the one for [Andrew] Boyle Workman, noted as “of the third generation of the pioneer family of Workman in Los Angeles,” following his father, William H., the Angel City’s mayor from 1886-1888 and city treasurer from 1901-1907 (Boyle was hs father’s asistant during both tenures, and grandfather David, who brought his wife, Nancy Hook and two other sons, Thomas and Elijah, along with William H., to Los Angeles in 1854, settling first at Rancho La Puente with his brother William. After David’s untimely death, the following summer, while driving stock for his brother to the gold mines of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, his widow and three sons moved to the city and became prominent citizens there.
To the right of Boyle’s portrait is an image with the caption “His Sturdy Ancestors Crossed The Plains In a Prairie Schooner;” one showing Boyle at a desk in the American Savings Bank, where he worked from 1905 to 1917; and a larger one depicting him as presiding over the City Council, in which he was then in his second term, having started in 1919. He would complete a third as president before leaving office, though he made an unsuccessful run for mayor in 1929.
In addition to his vital role on the council, Workman was a member of of that body’s powerful budget, finance, and public service committees, as well as chair of the crucial Harbor Commission, also under the aegis of the council. His “fads and foibles” were few, consisting simply of handball, boxing and golf.
As for memberships, these included the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Greater Los Angeles Association; the California, Jonathan, Los Angeles Athletic and Los Angeles Country clubs; the Los Angeles Pioneer Society; the local parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West; the Los Angeles Elks lodge; and his role as “Dictator” of the Hollywood lodge of the Loyal Order of Moose.
In addition to his pioneer status, it was added that he “has the distinction of being the first American child born in Los Angeles east of Main Street, [in] Boyle Heights,” though this “honor” is all the more striking because the book was comprised entirely of powerful and well-to-do white men, showing just how dominant this class of Angel City citizens really was. While there were a few prominent Jews, including the brothers Marco and Irving Hellman, Jacob Stern of Orange County, and Kauffman, Walter Temple looks to be the only of the 103 men (hence the number of De Luxe editions!) who had any Latinx blood at all.
This book has many other figures of prominence in 1920s Los Angeles, so we’ll return at later dates to highlight more of them in future posts.