Read All About It in the Los Angeles Herald, 10 February 1875

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

The newest installment of the “Read All About It” series of posts on this blog relating to historic greater Los Angeles newspapers looks at the contents of the 10 February 1875 edition of the Los Angeles Herald, one of a trio of English-language dailies and owned by The Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, which counted F.P.F. Temple as one of its owners.

The edition was issued about a half-year before the boom, the first of its kind in the region, that had been taking place since the late 1860s, suddenly collapsed with the bursting of a Nevada silver mine stock bubble in San Francisco, one of the results of which was the failure of the Temple and Workman bank, of which F.P.F. was president.

At the time, of course, no one could foresee what was distantly on the horizon and, to all observers, the flurry of development in farming, real estate, railroads, oil and other endeavors continued to be carried on as if there was no discernible end in sight. The Herald, along with its contemporaries and competitors, the Express and the Star, maintained its role as a booster for the region.

Typically, these four-page daily papers had only advertisements on the front page, with occasional general items, though rarely local news. In this case, the Herald featured a broad piece of interest, this being a calculation that, in 1870, all town, city, county and state taxes collected in the nation totaled just north of $280 million or about $7 per person. A decade earlier, the amount was only around $94 million (the article, however, left out the “9”!) or roughly $3 per head. As for federal government expenditures, that amount leapt from $60 million to above $164 million (it was added that the figures for 1840 and 1850 were $24.1 million and $37.1 million, respectively.) Adding debt interest, it was determined that the per capital costs was about $8.

There was a local item, however, and it concerned an operation conducted Dr. Joseph Kurtz, a long-time Angel City physician, and Samuel W. Brooke, a lesser-known member of the medical fraternity. The previous Friday, the 5th, the two doctors worked on the removal of the contents of an ovarian cyst from Mrs. George Wilhelm and it was observed that it was the first instance in the city of the use of an aspirator for such a procedure.

The device was only made available within about a half-dozen years and it was was stated that “the chief merit of the instrument consists in its use to imbibe or draw off accumulations of gas or fluid from any portion of the body, without admitting air or causing injury or shock.” With a needle entering the organ or part of the body and a suction pump creating a vacuum in the barrel of the device and the gas or fluid conveyed by rubber tubing, doctors Brooke and Kurtz “slowly pushed [the needle] in the direction of the tumor until the fluid contents flowed over the glass index, showing that a tumor had been pierced.”

Using the pump, the physicians were able to remove 3 3/4 gallons of “sero-sanguineous, gelotinous [gelatinous] fluid, in the space of one hour, without pain or discomfort to the patient” and with the opening in the skin only being the size of the needle. It was added that the aspirator was used for other procedures, including pleural effusions (water on the lungs), pericarditis (heart inflammation), distended bladders and other conditions, but the paper concluded, “we feel free to assert that to the medical faculty of our city belongs the credit of introducing aspiration in the treatment of ovarian disease.” The Herald also proclaimed,

For many reasons, our city may be justly proud of her medical faculty. Our medical men are daily called upon to treat “all the ills that flesh are heir to,” on account of the peculiar reputation of our city as a sanitarium. We have noticed from time to time some of the many evidences of professional ability among the alumni; but we acknowledge an especial pleasure in presenting to-day a brief statement [about the aspirator’s use.]

Real estate development being a core component of this first regional boom, we find a few pieces relating to that area, including a short piece with an extract from a Kansas newspaper, observing that “Los Angeles, situated in the county of that name in Southern California, is said to be the most beautiful small city in the world.”

Hearing that much of the land between the Angel City and the coast was owned by the Centinela Land Company, of which F.P.F. Temple was president, the paper, having been sent booster material from the Herald, suggested that “a grand boulevard, extending straight from the city to the seaboard and wide enough to admit of two rows of shade trees on each side would . . . become one of the most delightful drives in the world.” Moreover, if such a thoroughfare was to be built, “the lands on either side . . . for genteel and attractive farm residences, ought to become very valuable.”

The Herald responded that, “if our Kansas friend could glance at a map of the Centinela Company he would see that his suggestion is not new” and it was added that “the day is not distant when not one but several tree shaded avenues will extend from the city to the sea” and “be traversed by hourly trains of passenger cars and lined on either side with orange groves, garden homes and palatial residences.”

With such a foretaste of the future, it was concluded that “we are only just beginning the beautiful improvements that are to make this valley the Italy of the Pacific Coast.” Of course, over the next several decades, the “West Side” grew so that there were such boulevards as Sunset, Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic, Pico and Venice that were, more or less, lined with residential and commercial developments that were essential in the city’s phenomenal expansion.

With respect to the Centinela project, the Herald observed that as the second auction (the first was on 18 January) for lots approached on the 15th, interest was growing and “a large number of people have went out [!] from this city and visited and examined the lands for themselves.” It was claimed that there was not “a single adverse comment from any one who has inspected the premises” and this was a good sign for the developers.

Moreover, the positive reaction was such that the comments “confirm all that has been said of the soil, products and location of the Centinela grant” and it was reported that a group of San Francisco investors were coming south for the auction. Given this, the article concluded,

The general interest now taken in Centinela indicates that the sale will be a great success and that the greater portion of the land will be purchased by persons who intend to settle thereon.

The Centinela project failed to survive the resulting economic collapse, though the next boom, in the late 1880s, included the new town of Inglewood on much of the same land, while Redondo Beach was also developed by the same group of investors.

Facilitating the growth of greater Los Angeles were increasing improvements in transportation, specifically the development of railroads. A main editorial page article, “Take Stock,” stated that “the subscription list to the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad,” formed in spring 1874 with F.P.F. Temple as president, but who became treasurer when United States Senator from Nevada, John P. Jones, took a majority ownership of company stock and became president, “lengthens daily, and we shall be surprised if $200,000 worth of stock is not taken by the people of Los Angeles County alone.”

It was claimed that the total was then about 75% of that amount even as Los Angeles was not fully covered by officials seeking stockholders, major merchants had not so far acquired much stock, and no one had yet ventured outside the city to canvass for investors. A widow in the Ballona township was reported to have purchased 50 shares and the Herald added, “we commend her example to the merchants and land owners of Los Angeles valley, and advise them to go and do likewise.”

If others acted as she did, it was averred, Jones could be informed that locals could subscribe a cool half-million for the project “and in a few months trains would be speeding back and forth between Truxton Landing [the wharf at what became Santa Monica, Jones’ new seaside town under development] and Cajon Pass.”

Allowing the fantasy to full flowered expression, the paper enthused that the line would not just go to Independence, the Inyo County seat near booming silver mining town, “but stretching East to a connection with the Union Pacific,” and the transcontinental at Utah, “and opening a route to New York nine hundred miles shorter than the on we now have to travel.” This said, the Herald encouraged readers: “Take stock. It is a good investment.”

In 1872, after Congress mandated that the powerful Southern Pacific Railroad was required to build a line through Los Angeles on its route from the Bay Area to Yuma, Arizona, Los Angeles County’s voters approved a subsidy to the railroad amounting to 5% of the assessed property value in the county and control of the sole rail line in the area, the Los Angeles and San Pedro, completed in 1869 from the city to the harbor.

The line from the north was through some particularly challenging mountainous territory and a substantial tunnel, one of the longest then built in the country, was an important part of the project. In an article titled “Pushing Ahead,” the paper observed that the Southern Pacific “have resolved to close the gap between Bakersfield and San Fernando as soon as men and money will do the work.”

Moreover, engineers were on the way to determine the location of that tunnel, which was to be “a work of some magnitude, being, as we understand, nearly or quite one mile in length” and to take about eighteen months. In this timeframe, however, work was to be conducted day and night. The Herald added “it is gratifying to the people of this valley to see this manifestation of energy and dispatch on the part of the company.” Any discord between the Southern Pacific and locals “will be forgotten and forgiven and good faith and harmonious feeling soon be re-established.” The tunnel was completed and the line opened to Los Angeles in September 1876.

Elsewhere, another railroad-related piece was a short one noting that “in view of the fact that the Southern coast counties” of the state “have long been ignored” by papers north of Los Angeles, despite this region’s “great wealth and importance,” the Herald felt it important to quote the San Francisco Call and its note that the concept with the Texas-Pacific Railroad, intended to be southern transcontinental route, “has satisfied the public, at least in this State, that we must have a railroad down the coast touching Los Angeles and terminating at San Diego.” The coastal areas were “of great importance . . . too much importance to permit railroad arrangements which will interfere with them,” so the transcontinental had to connect to the two main southern metropolises, either on a main route or branch lines.

In the local news page, the third of the issue, a letter from “Veritas” from San Bernardino made reference to the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad, asserting that “a glance at the map” of that company “would convince the most skeptical that the construction of that road, through the Cajon Pass, will prove very detrimental to the interests of San Bernardino unless the latter is connected with it.”

A well-known local was said to have commented that there could be $100,000 in local stock subscriptions to make a connection realized, otherwise “unless action is taken by the people and inducements offered the company to change their proposed line, much valuable trade will be lost to this city.” The missive concluded that he had “sufficient confidence in the intelligence of our people” in this matter.

Also on this page were two items relating to entertainment. The first concerned the second performance of the cantata Esther by “Professor” O.W. Parker and a troupe of amateur players at the Turn-Verein Hall. It was stated that a good-sized audience was present and that the singing improved as performers gained more confidence and were more comfortable with each other. A third show was forthcoming that night and it was anticipated that an ample crowd would hear that last performance.

At the Merced Theatre, Charles Vivian’s “Pacific Comedy Combination” made their debut in the Angel City and it was reported that the venue, the structure of which still stands next to the Pico House hotel building off the southwest corner of the Plaza, “was crowded far beyond its seating capacity” and many stood during the performance. After discussing the several acts, including a “fairy burlesque” version of “Cinderella,” which, despite decent scenery, was praised, it was noted that “there will be an entire change of programme this evening and another crowded house.”

Among the “Local Brevities” were notes that 600 boxes of oranges and lemons were shipped from the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroad’s depot to the harbor; that four miles of the Southern Pacific’s extension east from Spadra (now part of southwest Pomona) were graded; that the Spring and Sixth Street Railway (the city’s first streetcar line, of which F.P.F. Temple was treasurer) required drivers to collect fares before proceeding from a stop; that a busy areas of development in Los Angles was near First and Alameda streets, including a dozen new dwellings in the last wo months; that Felix Signoret‘s new building was approaching completion; and that the newest issue of The New Italy, the paper of the founders of Artesia (and, later in 1875, Pomona), was “just the thing to bring our section truly and fully before the notice of Eastern people.”

We’ll continue to offer more of the selection of 1870s Los Angeles newspapers in the Museum’s holdings as posts in the “Read All About It” series on this blog, so be sure to keep a look out for those in the future.

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