by Paul R. Spitzzeri
A few posts on this blog have featured issues of Saturday Night, or Los Angeles Saturday Night, magazine, published by the obscure, but notable, Angel City publisher Samuel T. Clover. His publication was one for the upper-class and highly-education reader, with columns of art, music, drama, society, finance and other subjects more aligned to the corps d’elite than the hoi polloi.
Tonight’s edition, from the Museum’s collection, highlighted for this post is from 12 October 1929 and is notable for some of its content related to early Los Angeles history, as well as contemporary items involving music, Prohibition, unions, Christian Science and, especially, the state of the economy, given that it was under three weeks until the crash of the stock market that ushered in the Great Depression.
With respect to some of the broader issues, Prohibition, in force for almost a decade, was a few years from being repealed and the “great social experiment” deemed an utter failure. The magazine quoted Marine Corps Major General Smedley Butler, who, after his 1931 retirement, ran for United States Senate in Pennsylvania as a “dry” in favor of Prohibition, though he lost in the Republican primary, that enforcement of the law was “like using sixteen-inch guns to kill sparrows.”
The problem was that, “so long as enforcement agents concentrate on the half-pinters and let the racketeers and king bootleggers go unmolested, enforcement will be ineffective.” When Butler was the director of public safety in Philadelphia, he was tasked with shutting down speakeasies, but others opened almost immediately, while his effort to close breweries were stymied as 400 indictments did not lead to a single trial.
Consequently, he advocated that “prohibition could be made 80 per cent effective” if enforcement was directed toward “the sources of supply and the ‘higher ups’ in politics and professional life, instead of the individual citizen who takes a nip” now and then. Moreover, he emphasized the economic aspect, not the moral, observing that “he doesn’t think a person is damned because he takes a drink and disobeys the law.” The editorial went on to state that “it was a shrewd philosopher who likened the rank-and-file [hoi polloi] to a flock of sheep, to be led, not driven,” and it was stated that women, a huge influence on the enactment of Prohibition, were critical in this regard.
As for trade unions, Richard M. Boeckel, co-founder and editor of the Editorial Research Report, wrote that “it is clear that the labor movement has fallen far short of attaining the principal object” of significantly increasing membership, even as the American Federation of Labor reported, at its Toronto annual convention, a growth of over 37,000 members, a 1 1/2 percent increase. Boeckel noted that there was lagging in such areas as automotive, electrical, iron and steel, and the meatpacking industries, while the United Mine Workers lost more than half its members since the start of the Roaring Twenties.
He continued that general declines in union membership were marked through the first half of the decade, perhaps correlated with huge economic growth, after the recession following World War I, though, since 1926, “moderate gains have been made each year.” In total, however, there were only about 200,000 more card-carrying union members than there were in 1917 “and when the remarkable expansion that has taken place in American industry in the last fifteen years is considered, it is probably accurate to say that the movement is weaker today than it was in 1914.”
Not only was growth a hindrance to union increases, but better wages and shorter hours were also factors, along with the increasing accessibility to workers buying cars and radios and attending movies as distractions. More important was that companies increasingly provided benefits that were deemed to promote the concept that “generous and considerate treatment of employees will win their loyalty and will remove the incentive” to join unions, whether or not the idea was bearing out.
Then, there was the decline of the craftsperson as modern industrial practice moved more toward mass-production techniques and the result, Boeckel noted that, for companies, “the great bulk of their employes are semi-skilled workers . . . or workers who are totally unskilled.” He suggested that unions were “conservative in the extreme” as they “have denounced the ‘reds,’ have discouraged strikes” and focused on working with employers, so that the view of the general public was more favorable, but did not “win large numbers of recruits for the trade unions.”
While there were obvious signs of decline, Boeckel noted that there were those advocating that union leaders stop placating companies and return to “selling trade unionism to the workers.” He concluded that “it may be that the adoption of more militant positions and tactics is not the appropriate course” and that conservatism about unions might continue, but “there is ample ground for believing that the trade union movement in this country has reached and passed the peak of its strength and has definitely started on the down grade.”
The Great Depression, however, led to a renewed move to the left and massive strikes characterized much of the 1930s. With the upsurge in industrial development in World War II, unions grew in size, but recent declines in manufacturing and a marked effort against unions have largely reduced them to a low level, roughly a third now from what it was sixty years ago from about a third of all American workers to around 10% today.
The lengthy piece on Christian Science was from a lecture by Charles V. Winn of Pasadena, who was a member of the church’s board of lectureship, and he noted that founder Mary Baker Eddy defined its mission as “the law of God, the law of good, interpreting and demonstrating the divine Principle and rule of universal harmony.” It was added that “science tells us that the two great characteristics of a law are universality and permanency” and that the law of God was such.
Key components of the speech were the attainable knowledge of God and his true nature and “we, through scientific knowing, can increase our understanding of the divine attributes,” especially through the realization that “God is Mind” and, therefore, was “everywhere, always present and always available.” Through God’s goodness and love came the teaching that “the only law there is, is the law of love,” established by Him through His nature and “it must be constructive, healing, and positive” as well as “eternal, unchanging, and unchangeably good” and manifested in “perfection, harmony, and completeness.”
As for Christ, Eddy defined him as “the divine manifestation of God, which comes to the flesh to destroy incarnate error” and it was a Christian Science concept that “every form of disease, every phase of sin, poverty, deformity, or discord vanished before Jesus’ understanding of God and God’s law.” Moreover, Christ “completely annulled the mortal law that was seeming to hold the patient in bondage” and setting them free from imperfect laws of contagion, heredity, wrong action (either too little or too much,) age or death.”
Winn asserted that “every healing that Jesus performed was not only to liberate his patient but to prove for all time the true nature of God and man” and the only change required for humans was to correct “a false concept of God and His creation.” Moreover, such healing was metaphysical because “it is self-evident that Jesus did nothing in a material way” and “all that took place was in the mental realm,” not the physical.
The several page article went on to discuss salvation, fear, the “dream of evil,” what constituted “true prayer” in the supplicant changing thinking to correspond with God’s real nature, the destruction of sin, and the transforming power of Christian Science. With this latter, the church “is leavening the whole human thought and day by day lifting our sense of things higher,” and Winn insisted that the decreasing death rate in the United States correlated with Eddy’s publication of “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”
The claim was that a “larger and broader sense of life and being increases faith in good and diminishes and destroys our belief in death, and this leavening process will continue until the whole of human thought is uplifted to behold the divine facts of the all-ness of Life, the omnipotence of Truth, and the illimitability of Love.” It was also no accident, Winn continued, that “almost all the modern wonders of invention and more refined ways of living have come since the discovery of Christian Science” and that there was also a “great moral advance” since then, as well. His paramount example was Prohibition, which he insisted “is fast spreading over the whole world,” even though it was repealed in under four years in America.
Winn concluded with a paean to Eddy, whose “entire life was characterized by the loftiest motives, the holiest aims, the greatest unselfishness, consecration and purity.” There was no way to know Christian Science without understanding its founder and that only “a consciousness filled with the very highest degree of humility, purity, love, and spirituality” could truly comprehend her or her teachings. He added, “if we will follow where she has led and yield loving obedience to her every instruction, we can do no less than reap a rich reward.”
Locally, the magazine featured G. Allan Hancock, the son of Ida Haraszthy (whose father was a major early California winemaker) and Henry Hancock, a controversial surveyor who has been featured here before and who left Rancho La Brea to his wife and son. Allan Hancock’s aviation school, the only one modeled after military ones, at Santa Maria in northern Santa Barbara County (where Allan Hancock College is his best-known legacy), was opened in 1929 on 200 acres. He was praised not just for the curriculum, but for keeping costs to students at just a third of the actual cost to the school for a ten-month program.
Also highlighted was Rosalie Seligman Jacoby, the granddaughter of pioneer Los Angeles merchant Harris Newmark, who was also one of the leading members of the Angel City’s Jewish community. In 1926, Jacoby published Kaleidoscope Poems and which included verse about the Normal School for teacher education, which she attended; Grand Avenue, where she lived as a child; and three phases of Los Angeles history, including 1850, 1900 and her prediction for 1950.
So, with that first period, just a few years prior to her grandfather’s arrival, Jacoby wrote:
Stranded in dust and heat
The pueblo lies in summer;
In winter, mud-embedded,
The adobes stand.
A place of gambling halls,
Where stakes are high,
And pistols ready;
Where saloons are plentiful
And liquor generous;
When laws are few
And crimes are many.
Fifty years later, as the 20th century dawns, however,
The streets are lined with shady trees,
And homes are safe,
And flowers thrive . . .
And street cars carry men to town,
And stores are prosperous,
And horses amble up the street,
Content (they hardly know the whip),
And law and order smile.
With respect to the poet’s prognostications for the mid-century future, she foretells
Where beauty suns itself
In parks and boulevards;
Where art can stretch itself,
Reaching for fame . . .
And five million human kind
Are as the pollen
Coloring the brilliant wings
Of the great butterfly
That soars and soars.
Is this good poetry? The reader can, of course, decide, but Clover enthusiastically wrote that Jacoby and Sarah Bixby Smith, scion of another prominent family and whose volumes of poetry was such that her “muse was fostered in much the same environment,” were among those who “give great promise of the future literary achievements of our sons and daughters, when the Los Angeles of 1950 holds up to the world the brilliant records of her native-born.”
Clover noted that, just two hours after receiving his copy of Jacoby’s book, a delivery arrived of the newly published work of her uncles, Maurice and Marco Newmark, the Census of the City and County of Los Angeles For the year 1850. Maurice, who did much of the editing of Harris Newmark’s My Sixty years in Southern California, first published in 1916 and a second edition of which appeared a decade later, with substantial contributions by J. Perry Worden, who was hired by Walter P. Temple to write a history of the Workman and Temple family—which, however, went unfinished, died in July 1929.
It was added, however, that the book came about from a curious circumstance, namely that the original returns,
might have been lost to posterity if the quick action of [film producer and director] Cecil B. DeMille had not snatched it from a “rubbish” pile, set ablaze not far from the San Fernando Mission. With graceful liberality, Mr. DeMille presented the precious document to the Southwest Museum and thereafter followed the self-imposed task taken on by the late [museum director] Hector Alliot . . . of publishing the Census.
DeMille found the manuscript in 1915 while making a movie and Alliot worked on his publication until his death four years later. The Newmarks then took on the project and Clover added, “how this valuable MSS. strayed from the county records, to be so nearly destroyed sixty years afterward, researchers have not disclosed. Because it was written in pencil, the document was traced in ink “for its better preservation.”
Alliot noted that John R. Evertsen, later a resident of San Gabriel, made few errors, given “the difficulties confronted in gathering the data from Indians, Hispanic, and foreign-born, ill-versed in the use of English as well as Spanish.” There was also a great deal of fluidity in population during the Gold Rush, which marred the entirety of the enumeration of the Golden State in the census, which was conducted in early 1851 because of California’s admission to the Union the previous September.
The final count was so low that the state commissioned its sole census, taken in 1852, and which, in Los Angeles County, included a tally of more than 4,000 native people, whereas Evertsen only counted a couple hundred. Yet, when Clover discussed the totals, he didn’t actually cite those from 1850, but those of the state census two years later, including just over 4,000 residents of Los Angeles (Evertsen counted just 1,610) and nearly 4,200 indigenous people, for a county total of above 8,300 (Evertsen tallied 3,530.)
Clover concluded by noting that, because the Southwest, thanks for DeMille’s rescue and donation, had the original, with statistics at Washington being from copies, the Museum “is to be felicitated on its prize,” while the Times-Mirror Press was given kudos for “an excellent piece of work, typographically and otherwise.”
For the 1929-1930 winter, a Behymer Greater Elective Course, established by Los Angeles arts impresario Lynden E. Behymer, was offered on Tuesdays for “serious music” lovers to experience concerts by some prominent musicians, including opera singer Amelita Galli-Curci, violinist Efrem Zimbalist (whose namesake son was the noted television actor), opera singer Tito Schipa, and the 13-year old violinist Yehudi Menuhin, among others. Also featured, in the regular Music section, were performances hosted by the Los Angeles Grand Opera Association, including “Il Trovatore,” “Manon,” “Faust,” and “Rigoletto.”
It was also notable that the Angel City’s playgrounds and recreation department started a Playground Symphony Orchestra of 100 musicians for those aged 16-35 with tryouts and rehearsals held at the Exposition Park Community Clubhouse. Covered in the theaters and screen drama sections were such offerings as Will Rogers in “They Had to See Paris” at the Carthay Circle Theater, “After Dark” at the Biltmore Theater, “The Great Gabbo” with Erich von Stroheim.
Lastly, we note the “Stock Market Special Survey” by the brokerage firm of Leib, Keyston and Company, which reported that
having successfully withstood, in the last few weeks, one of the severest tests of its stability encountered in a long time, the stock market gives every indication of ‘finding’ itself, and although the list as a whole has not definitely resumed an upswing, enough important issues are adding daily gains to warrant the impression that the recent widespread liquidation has practically ceased.
It was added that “the money and credit situation was an important factor in stemming the decline in stocks, and as it became apparent that there would be no immediate stringency in call money supply, a definite improvement in buying set in.” Main lenders on Wall Street were said to be “out of debt to federal reserve banks” and with that call money at the lowest levels of the year, any fear of collateral borrowings that were seen as “a menace to the credit structure” appeared to be fading.
There were further assurances that the condition of broker loans, seasonal credit demands, the raise of the rediscount rate by the New York Reserve Bank, and other elements were such that “the credit situation therefore again appears in a good light.” As for industrial production, there were downturns in output in automobile and building sectors, as well as steel, but none of these were seen to be seriously detrimental to the state of the American economy. In fact, it was asserted that “American industry is in excellent shape . . . [and] the outlook is particularly bright.”
As noted at the beginning of this post, however, the crash came over a period between 24 and 29 October with well over a third of stock values lost with another bottoming out by mid-November. A slight recovery followed into April 1930 and then another long descent ensued to 8 July 1932 ( when Walter P. Temple, whose financial problems began in 1926, lost the Homestead), with almost 90% of stock values gone in three years.
So, there is plenty of interesting and notable material in this issue of Saturday Night as the Roaring Twenties neared its sobering end and we’ll share more of about a dozen issues of the publication, not already featured here, in future posts.