by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Charles F. Lummis (1859-1928) was one of the most interesting and eccentric of Los Angeles’ prominent figures during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, working as an archaeologist, ethnologist, journalist, librarian, photographer, poet, preservationist and much else during his more than four decades in the Angel City after his 1884 arrival which followed a solo 143-day walk from Cincinnati.
Another of his important ventures was as a magazine editor and publisher from 1894 to 1905 through his Land of Sunshine, which was renamed Out West in 1901, with these bringing history, fiction, poetry and other contents to readers in a way that reflected Lummis’ interests and attitudes. In 1903, Lummis was joined as editor by Charles Amadon Moody, who had interests in mining as well as in journalism and the worked together until the former left in November 1909.
Towards the end of that tenure, the duo put together the April 1909 issue of Out West, which was later reissued as “Los Angeles and Her Makers: A Record.” The publication contained Lummis’ lengthy essay, “The Making of Los Angeles,” which we’ll look to share in a future post and which is something of a complement to his “The Right Hand of the Continent,” an essay that appeared in the March 1903 edition of Out West and which has been featured on this blog.
The focus for this post, which we’ll present in parts, is a section comprised of “biographical studies of Some of the Men Who Have Helped in the Making” of the Angel City and of which there are 120. We can’t possibly feature them all, but will try to find a decent sample, including the few women and even fewer people of color, who were selected to be representatives of the “Makers of Los Angeles.”
Moody penned a short introduction that, while not as idiosyncratic in style as that of his partner, certainly befits the boosterism that characterized much of the work of Lummis and others during the period when greater Los Angeles underwent a series of booms, the first of which came in the late 1860s through the mid-1870s, with others taking place in the late 1880s and the first years of the 20th century. Moody asserted that
To the making of Los Angeles have gone the best that thousands and tens of thousands had to give—the best of their heart and brain and downright sturdy grip with circumstance, the best of their love and loyalty and faith—the uttermost of strenuous endeavor to justify that faith in fullest measure.
For those who came as young persons as well as those who were “of ripened experience,” the editor averred that “Los Angeles has given royally, and has received from them right royally in return.” Moody added that of “the great multitude of those who have so served and so loved Los Angeles but a few score are set apart by name in these pages,” but he was careful to note that this was “not because they loved more profoundly or served more faithfully than many another.” Rather, he insisted that “the curt life-records . . . are typical of the living forces which yesterday were making the Los Angeles of today, and today are building the city of tomorrow.”
Limits of space were such that “a genuine chapter of history has been barely hinted at in a sentence,” while he claimed that “eulogy has formed no part of the plan of these brief sketches.” A few were by his effort, but all were composed in the office of Out West and were reviewed by him and he knew almost all of the subjects. Moody concluded that any errors were actually “of understatement rather than of exaggeration” and he took ownership of any sentiment that “may seem to be one of special appreciation” or “an attempt at judgment of values.”
The first figure in the alphabetically organized roster was Mayor George Alexander, who was a native of Glasgow, Scotland and came to America with family in 1850, residing first in Chicago before moving to Iowa. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War under generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman and returned to Iowa when the terrible conflict ended in 1865. He worked in a grain warehouse and became a buyer and shipper until, when vacationing in Los Angeles in 1886 as the great Boom of the Eighties was underway, he relocated to the Angel City.
After a brief period operating a feed mill, Alexander became involved in city government as an employee in the street department and then becoming chief deputy of the recorder’s office before securing election to the county board of supervisors in 1901. He served for eight years before winning the mayoral race as a good government advocate and becoming the city’s 28th chief executive. He completed two terms through 1913 and lived another decade, dying not long before he would have turned 84 years old.
Fred L. Alles, a native of Pittsburgh, was a Union Army camp boy when barely in his teens and then became a journalist in his hometown and in Chicago through the early 1880s. He moved to greater Los Angeles in 1883 and was president of the San Antonio Water Company in the new town of Ontario, before running the Rural Californian at Los Angeles for a few years. He briefly edited a Riverside newspaper and for ten years was secretary of the Los Angeles Printing Company, in addition to working for the Express and Herald papers.
In 1902, Alles founded his namesake printing firm, but also was involved in many areas of public life, including immigration, irrigation, the formation with Charles Dwight Willard of the League for Better City Government ad the Sunset Club, and as a director of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Mechanics’ Institute. Alles’ work with these and other issues and organizations led the writer of his sketch to observe that “perhaps no man in the city has given for so long a time so much of this time and energy to unpaid work in the city’s behalf.”
Architect John C. Austin was from Oxfordshire, England and was educated in private schools there. He migrated to the United States and settled briefly in Philadelphia before coming to California and then relocating in Los Angeles in 1894. It was noted that “since coming he has done much of the important work of this section” with respect to designing buildings, with examples being hotels, commercial edifices, churches, college and school structures, along with residences. His fame grew in following years including such iconic projects as the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles City Hall, the Griffith Observatory and many others and he lived well into his 90s, dying in 1963.
One of the few women listed in the section was Arcadia Bandini Stearns de Baker, who was in her early eighties, but, perhaps not surprisingly, her bio was more about her grandfather José, father Juan and first husband Abel Stearns, than about herself. It was stated that her grandfather, who hailed from Andalusia, Spain came to California at the onset of Mexican rule in 1822 and settled in San Diego.
Juan Bandini was noted for his involvement in California and Mexican politics, including service in the Congress of México before he came back to the department of Alta California as vice-president of the Hijar and Padres colony. It was recorded that he was a supporter of the Americans during the invasion coming in the Mexican-American War and that Arcadia’s mother made the first American flag “using strips from the clothing of her daughters.”
Abel Stearns, who was from Massachusetts and came to Los Angeles just after Jonathan Temple, also from that state, married the 14-year old Arcadia when he was 42 and the union, it was written, “did not certainly tend to lessen his significance.” Nothing was actually said of his long tenure as a merchant and owner of several ranchos embracing a huge amount of land in what is now southeastern Los Angeles County and much of Orange County.
What was determined to be important was
this romance of the young girl of proud linage, giving her hand and heart to a man of alien race, older than her father and his close friend, loyal mistress of his home for well beyond a quarter of century, her beauty, wealth, and position combining to make her social queen—and then to survive him by forty years, administering his broad acres. Few persons yet alive so fully typify the blending of forces which wrought the city out of the pueblo as does Doña Arcadia.
It was only in passing that her marriage to Robert S. Baker was mentioned—he was a founder of Santa Monica and owner, with Edward F. Beale, of a large swath of Rancho La Puente, but Arcadia, who lived until 1912, was a formidable business person and philanthropist and this was not given nearly the credit or due in this bio as she deserved.
Dana W. Bartlett, who was from Maine and educated in Iowa before attending the Yale Theological Seminary and the Chicago Theological Seminary, was a minister in St. Louis and Salt Lake City before coming to Los Angeles in 1896 and held the pastorate of the Bethlehem Institutional Church, renamed the Bethlehem Institute. His focus was on the poor with the Institute having a half-dozen lots on which there were night schools for immigrants, a bath-house, dispensary, employment bureau, reading room and library, an athletic club and much else. He authored The Better City in 1907 and was a Progressive reformer of great significance in the Angel City, living in the city until his death at age 81 in 1942.
Herbert P. Barton, was a doctor and surgeon whose great-aunt was the famous Clara Barton of the American Red Cross. Barton remained in his native Massachusetts and worked in insurance until he went to medical school. After stints in New York City and Denver, followed by four years back in his home state, Barton came west and resided and worked in Ontario for about two years before settling in Los Angeles. In 1904, he formed the Clara Barton Hospital, serving as its main stockholder and president until his death in 1925.
Another architect of note profiled in the publication was Arthur B. Benton, who was born in Peoria, Illinois and studied his profession in Kansas, where he was able to find early work with the Santa Fe and Union Pacific railroads. In 1891, he moved to Los Angeles and quickly made his mark with many iconic building projects, including the buildings of the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., the chapels and crematories at the Evergreen, Inglewood Park and Rosedale cemeteries, many churches and women’s club houses and, perhaps most notably, the Mission Inn at Riverside. Benton continued his busy career until his death in 1927.
Robert N. Bulla, an attorney and politician, was born in Ohio the day before California’s statehood in September 1850 and was educated and admitted to the bar in his home state, beginning his law career in Cincinnati before hanging his shingle in New York City. He arrived in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1883 and joined the prominent law firm of John D. Bicknell and Stephen M. White, the latter later a United States Senator and the so-called father of the Port of Los Angeles. Bulla was also a partner with Percy Wilson for eleven years before Bulla moved into business, including oil and banking. He also served in the state Assembly and Senate at the end of the 19th century and died in 1935.
Robert J. Burdette was a prominent minister as well as a writer and orator, who was from Pennsylvania and spent much of his youth in Illinois. He served in the Union Army during the Civil War and was in more than twenty battles, including some of the same ones as Mayor Alexander, and, returning to Peoria, worked for the postal service. After a brief time in New York City studying art and writing for newspapers, he went back to Peoria and became known for his humor columns as well as starting his own paper. He expanded his profile while editing a paper in Iowa and from 1876 to 1906, was a regular on the lecture circuit thanks to his growing reputation as a humorist.
He spent some years in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, then an independent city, and, while residing in Bryn Mawr, a suburb of the former, he became a Baptist minister and was still pastor even though he moved to Pasadena in 1899 and was named acting pastor of the First Presbyterian Church there, though he remained a Baptist. After a couple of years writing for the Los Angeles Times, Burdette became founding pastor of the Temple Baptist Church, while still maintaining a busy schedule as a lecturer, writer, social work and politics until his death in 1914. His second wife, Clara Bradley Baker, was also praised for her religious work alongside her husband, including the construction of the auditorium that later became home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Another couple of note profiled in the publication were the physicians and surgeons Frank and Rose Bullard. Frank, who was born in Maine and had a long-standing New England heritage, was a teacher and principal as a young man and, in 1885, was hired to supervise the schools of the San Gabriel Valley town of Azusa. In 1888, he earned his medical degree from the University of Southern California, then under a decade old, and also taught chemistry and ophthalmology there. After some study in Germany and Vienna, he returned home and specialized in anesthetics as well as diseases of the ear, eye, nose and throat, while for a decade he published a medical journal, The Southern California Practitioner. He died in 1936.
Rose Talbott was born in Iowa and was the daughter of a doctor. She studied at Northwestern University outside of Chicago and earned her M.D. there in 1886. After marrying Frank in Los Angeles in 1888, she joined him for study in Europe, following that with additional work in Chicago and at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. She became an instructor in gynecology at USC in 1907 and was also an examiner for insurance companies, while working as a gynecologist and surgeon. She was involved with her husband in running the journal and serving in the Los Angeles County Medication Association, including as secretary and, in 1903, president, while also being an active member of the regional, state and national medical associations. She also wrote frequently in medical journals on her specialties and died in 1915.
We’ll return with part two and feature more of the “Makers of Los Angeles” featured in this issue of Out West, so be sure to check back for that.