Read All About It in the Los Angeles Herald, 20 December 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

For the Workman and Temple family, the first half of the 1870s was something of a golden age. As greater Los Angeles was at the peak of its earliest boom, which started in the late Sixties, the brothers Elijah and William Henry Workman were operating a successful saddlery and harness business and increasingly involved in local politics, including service on the school board and Common (City) Council.

Elijah had a suburban ranch at Main and Tenth Street, experimented with all kinds of crops and garden plants and was active in landscaping at the Plaza and Central (6th Street) Park, now Pershing Square. William Henry, residing on the east side estate of his wife’s father, Andrew Boyle (who died in 1871,) created, with banker Isaias W. Hellman and merchant John Lazzarovich, the Boyle Heights subdivision.

Out at Rancho La Puente, septuagenarian William Workman, after some three decades, still maintained most of his vast acreage, which once totaled nearly 25,000 acres, and combined grazing cattle, horses and sheep with farming, particularly wheat and grapes, the latter of which were pressed into wine and brandy at his own winery. While he increasingly was confined to the busy management of his half-share of La Puente, Workman was tied to the business endeavors of his son-in-law, F.P.F. Temple.

Temple was, in the words of historian Remi Nadeau (in his 1948 book of the same name), a “City Maker,” one of a cadre of local capitalists who invested heavily in Los Angeles and environs during this first boom. The scope of his enterprises was significant, involving real estate, oil, railroads and others, while the scale was not on the order of later “city makers” like Henry E. Huntington, Harry Chandler, Hellman (who was certainly a major player in the 1860s and 1870s, but remained so for decades afterward) and many others.

To aid in many of these endeavors, Temple formed the second bank in the Angel City with Hellman (known simply as Hellman, Temple and Company [the “company” being silent partner Workman], but a schism occurred because Hellman was concerned that his partner’s predilection for loaning money too loosely and easily would become a significant liability. So, the brilliant financier bought out Temple and Workman, formed the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank with ex-governor John G. Downey, and went on to amazing success in subsequent years.

Undaunted, Temple convinced his father-in-law to open their own bank, Temple and Workman, and barreled forward with his wide range of development projects, many of these highly speculative (oil, mining, water, etc.), while increasingly turning over day-to-day operation of the institution to a managing cashier. By late 1874, everything seemed to be going gangbusters on the surface, but lurking below were issues that only manifested in under a year when a financial disaster hit California and the Angel City and exposed Temple and Workman as a stunningly mismanaged bank. The result was the region’s first large-scale business failure.

On 20 December 1874, when the edition of the Los Angeles Herald that is the featured artifact from the Museum’s collection for this post was issued, that was impossible to foresee. The paper, launched by Charles A. Storke of Santa Barbara in October 1873 and lost to creditors months later, leading to the formation of The Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, of which Temple was a stockholder, was one of three English-language dailies (the others being the Express and the Star) in the growing city.

With the 20th being a Sunday, the editorial page featured a piece called “Cause of Idolatry,” which concerned “a fact universally admitted that man is a religious animal” and added that “each individual . . . will adore that which [is believed] to be greatest—that which possesses most power and able to bestow or communicate the greatest good.” For “savage tribes,” this meant the worship of “a great spirit” which had control over human destiny and their identity was tied to that of this creator.

Idolatry, however, was less a part of the life of the so-called savage in the wild than among “the more cultivated, or as we term the more civilized.” The piece went on that:

As . . . nations ascend in the scale of intelligence and science their ideas of Deity change . . . when science takes on a materialistic turn, pantheism is the natural result . . . the scientists of to-day are teaching naturalism. Plants and animals, brute and human are taken to be all one, evolution causing the difference. Plants are endowed with intelligence and the ape is the father of man, and all are to end in dust. Nature is God continuously as the most, in-most of all life . . . this speculative paganism, if continued, must end in pagan idolatry.

Asserting the modern science actually “made but few, if any, new discoveries,” because ancient Egypt “taught very nearly the same materialistic doctrines,” the article continued that it was “a calf made of gold [that] was the proper object” for humans to bow down before. The conclusion remarked that “we can only conjecture as to the first idol that will grace the altar of the scientific materialist of this generation,” though it wryly observed that “doubtless gold will enter largely into its composition.”

Also on the editorial page is the second of two parts of an essay by Juan José (Jonathan Trumbull) Warner on “The Grangers and the Railroad.” The first part appeared in the prior’s day Herald and was a general historical statement about the importance of farmers (Granges were organizations of farmers banding together to protect common interests) in society and with respect to political questions relating especially to transportation. The second section was more specific concerning a long anticipated southern transcontinental railroad, which, of course, would have more direct benefit to greater Los Angeles than the northern line completed a half-decade earlier.

The transcontinental line, in fact, was planned by the federal government from the early 1850s when detailed surveys by teams from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided such a wealth of information that eleven volumes of reports were issued. While several routes were explored, those along the 32nd and 35th parallel through the southern part of the country were determined to be the easiest and cheapest to build. The problem was that, with increasing sectionalism between the North and South eventually leading to the Civil War, the route chosen during that conflict, of course, was further north than the recommendations made (those reports were under the auspices of Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, who was the president of the Confederate States of America).

Warner, then, wrote extensively of the manifold advantages of the southern route, due to better weather and fewer topographical barriers to overcome. When it came to corporate “overreach” in such projects, he advised that these examples “only serves to stimulate” the government “to greater care and watchfulness” and, thereby, it would be “better able to guard and protect the interests of the people.” Should government officials fail in their duty in this regard, it would be “an incentive to stimulate the people to bestow that care and the exercise of that sound judgment in selecting to whom is committed the management of the affairs of the nation, so as to insure an honest and efficient discharge of those duties.”

The writer noted that it would be “humiliating” if voters could not find responsible officials to operate the government, but he was “far from harboring a belief in the existence of such a fact.” After all, Warner argued, “there are not wanting among twenty millions of men a few hundred of honest, upright and competent citizens” who could select members of Congress who would make the proper arrangements for a railroad that would be built “without much, if any, risk of the peoples being defrauded.”

He ended by affirming his belief that Granges could help with the work of the federal government in the southern transcontinental line and to do so “without risk or prejudice to the agricultural, tax-paying citizens of the country.” While there wasn’t a line built in the manner of the 1869 transcontinental, there were both the Southern Pacific’s connection made through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas to reach New Orleans in February 1883. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fé completed its connection to this region not quite three years later, with the results being transformative for greater Los Angeles, including the great Boom of the Eighties, which mainly occurred during the administration of William Henry Workman as mayor of the Angel City in 1887 and 1888.

On the news page, there was a railroad related item concerning an effort to revive a project to “Truxton landing,” previously known as “Shoo-Fly Landing,” and which later became the site of the wharf at Santa Monica, the town established by United States Senator from Nevada, John P. Jones. Truxton was the name of Edward F. Beale, who had an ownership stake with Robert S. Baker (who married Arcadia Bandini, the widow of Abel Stearns, earlier in 1874) in the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, acquired from the Sepúlveda family two years prior.

It was said that the inspiration for the reexamination of the concept came from the intention of the Centinela Land Company, of which F.P.F. Temple was president, to build a railroad to the area of the Ballona Creek outfall near where Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey are now. The new Los Angeles Railroad Company was formed with James R. Toberman as president and Lewis (Louis/Luis) Wolfskill as treasurer and $200,000 in stock determined to be sufficient to build a road and wharf of 1,400 feet length in 21 feet of water. Others to be involved in seeking subscriptions to stock were Henry D. Barrows, John D. Young, and Edward Bouton, with the paper expressing support and best wishes for the project, which yielded to Jones’ Santa Monica endeavor in short order.

A short notice on the editorial page concerned the fact that the California Alden Fruit Preserving Company won gold and silver medals at the state agricultural society fair and it was noted that George B. Davis, who ran the local Alden Fruit Drying Works in the recently established neighborhood of East Los Angeles (now Lincoln Heights), also heard from a major wholesale grocery company in San Francisco that his “preserved fruit was a superior article to that from any other portion of the State” and was priced highest in the market.

This heralded (!) well “for all the fruit grown in Los Angeles valley” and a separate ad from Davis appointed Harris Newmark’s wholesale grocery firm as his agent for Los Angeles County, with Newmark, in turn, responding that “we take great pleasure in informing the public that we have in store a full assortment of the celebrated Alden Apples, Pears, and Raisins, from the Los Angeles Factory.”

As for the Herald, it took the opportunity to celebrate its eight months under current ownership for a success it deemed “unprecedented in California journalism” as “from almost nothing, the business has expanded to the utmost capacity of the largest and best appointed job and newspaper office south of San Francisco.” It’s steam presses were working 14 hours a day, the job-room was full of work “and we are doing more and of a superior quality of job work than all the other printing houses in the city.”

New type machines and presses and “first-class workmen” means that the printing and publishing firm provided “the first style of the art and in the shortest possible time,” while the newspaper side alone offered daily, semi-weekly, two weekly and monthly versions. In addition to its Taylor power press, with a capacity of “1,500 impressoins [sic]” hourly, the company was ready to add a single-cylinder press. The circulation of the daily edition was said to be “nearly or quit dogble [sic]” of any of its competitors, while the content was greater and “its editorials are intended to be frank, fair, outspoken and impartial.”

A fair amount of discussion was had about the role of the editor to provide “an honest, candid opinion” and not try to please everyone, as this lacked “individuality, force or distinctive character,” while readers, it was presumed, “will respect his honesty of purpose and independent position.” To this end, it was proclaimed

We had rather have half the world quarreling with our opinions than to have all the world saying that we were wanting in the manhood and intelligence to have an opinion. The HERALD advocates what it believes to be right and just and condemn what in its judgment is wrong and unjust. Its advocacy or denunciation is never equivocal. It is our aim to so express ourselves that all who read may understand.

Among “Local Brevities” on the news page are such tidbits as news from the Panamint mining district suggested that “the richest ores” were just found, while nearby at Coso, “recent discoveries . . . are simply enormous in their extent and value.” These areas were near Death Valley in Inyo County and south of Cerro Gordo, where F.P.F. Temple and William Workman were heavily invested, and were among several booming mining areas at the time. At Wilmington, it was reported that thirty laborers were on the extension of the wharf, a sign that increased shipping was making its mark as part of the region’s expanding economy.

With local entertainment, “Little Mac’s minstrels” performed to a large audience in the city the prior night and was heading to San Bernardino for two days before returning to Los Angeles for matinee and evening engagements at the Merced Theatre (the building of which, next to the extant Pico House, is still with us) on Christmas Day. Speaking of the holiday, it was noted that St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church “will have a Christmas tree on the Monday evening following Christmas,” while the Congregational Church was to “have the childrens’ Christmas Tree” on the 23rd. Perhaps the churches got their trees from J.R. Brown, who advertised that he had “a lot of fine Pine Trees at the Eureka woodyard and at Foster’s shop” on the 19th and 21st. An advertisement also invited readers to a Christmas Eve ball at the schoolhouse at Gallatin, where Pico Rivera and Downey are now situated.

There were also references to George Gibbs, Luther M. Holt and Joseph McComas of the Los Angeles Immigration and Land Co-operative Association establishing officers at a Spring Street address, with these men and others, namely, nurseryman Thomas A. Garey, being founders, in 1875, of the communities of Artesia and Pomona, with funding partially coming from the Temple and Workman bank. A separate article concerned the friends of Juan José Carrillo, who recently became the city marshal, presenting him a gold-plated badge, but, as this was discussed in a previous entry in the “Read All About It” series, readers are encouraged to check that out.

Finally, there is a poem, written expressly for the Herald, by someone who used the nom de plume of “Zoe Zella” that is worth sharing portions of as we conclude this post:

Dear love did you ever feel

When the shades of night draw nigh,

And star-light often steals

From the twinkling worlds on high,

As if you would like to dwell

Upon dream-land’s fairy-shore,

With nothing to break the spell,

Or open the crystal door?

The river of time flows by,

We stop at the magical isle;

Hope reareth her castle high,

Wreathing each lip with a smile.

The portals are open wide

By joy and pleasure to-day,

Either will be our guide

Leading up the dreamy way.

As always, advertisements are interesting to note with some samples from this edition shared here; meanwhile, look for future installments of “Read All About It” and 1870s newspapers from Los Angeles, which help us learn more about this notable period in our region’s history.

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