Read All About It in the Los Angeles Express, 20 June 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

As has been stated here many times, there are plenty of examples of artifacts in the Homestead’s collection with which what seems most obvious about their interest and value may not turn out to be the case or, alternatively, something seemingly minor and insignificant can surprisingly become more notable.

This is so with the featured artifact from the Homestead’s holdings for this post, the 20 June 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Express newspaper. There are many news items of note, for sure, but a glance at the “Professional Cards” column led to one that caught the eye and led to another avenue of investigation into an interesting person, whose story is instructive if largely unknown.

As to the news, the front page has an article titled “Ten Thousand Immigrants” and which was a reprint from a Sacramento paper about that number of migrants who came to California from the first of April and which constituted “the largest immigration the State has thus far received.” Moreover, it was reported that these folks filled 76 trains and that, if two-thirds of them remained, “the addition to the population within a year or so will be much greater than can be ascertained by a present estimate” because many were married men who would send for their families later.

In this period, there was something of an apiary boom in greater Los Angeles as bee-keepers set up their enterprises throughout the region, so the Express noted that A.J. Davidson, considered one of the more successful of these individuals, estimated that about 300,000 of honey would be shipped from growers, but this was considered lower than normal because “this is a breeding season.” Still, Davidson told the paper “he believes that the market holds flattering encouragement to the industry in California” thanks to correspondence he had with people in the eastern states.

As part of the “Our Home Industries” series, there was a feature on dairy owner Frank S. Clough (1839-1888), a native of Vermont, who lived four miles south of the city on San Pedro Road and owned 320 acres, or half a section, of former public land. Notably, it was reported that his tract was comprised of “a rich, sandy alluvial deposit, formed by overflows of the Los Angeles river centuries ago.” This is interesting because, prior to 1825, the river came out of the pueblo and made a sharp westward turn and emptied into the Pacific where Marina del Rey and the Ballona Wetlands are now. Flooding that year redirected the watercourse southward to, more or less, its current end at Long Beach/Wilmington.

The account noted that Clough settled on his land in 1868 through a “settlers’ claim,” or homestead, to establish his dairy, and added,

With no neighbors, and a treeless plain, without any shelter for man or beast, he set about making a living and a home. With industrious and temperate habits, he has diligently followed his first design, and now finds himself the owner of a farm worth fifty dollars per acre at the lowest estimate.

Real estate prices were peaking during the Angel City and environs’ first boom and it was observed that Clough had more than a hundred cows, with some sold for butchering as they were not suited for dairying. If butter prices dipped under a quarter a pound or so, the piece went on, he turned to cheese and “has just finished a neat and tasty [tasteful?] building of great strength, 30 by 40 feet, for a cheese house.”

The two-story structure had an upper room that could store 16,000 pounds of product and also contained space for curing and readying the cheese for market. The first floor had a room for separating whey as well as storing barley, using both, as well as beets to feed pigs, which were sold to local butchers. Clough was also praised for drilling an artesian well and then outfitting it with a power source to get “a six-inch stream of water from an inexhaustible source, and the trees and stock are amply provided for.”

While New Hampshire was deemed a tough state in which to farm, “there is one product in which it is not surpassed, and that is men, and Clough is ‘one of ’em’.” The article ended with “it would be well if we had more like him.” Shortly after, however, he decamped for San Timoteo Canyon south of modern Redlands in San Bernardino County and then went to Fort Scott, Kansas, but returned to Los Angeles when its next boom hit in the 1880s, though he died shortly afterward.

As Independence Day approached, a meeting was held by the organizers, including a report by the Literary Committee, including a chaplain, reader, orator (this was later District Attorney Rodney Hudson) and poet A.T. Hawley, who, in 1876, published a promotional pamphlet/booklet on Los Angeles County. The grand marshal was to be Edward Bouton, who led the 59th United States Colored (African-American) Infantry during the Civil War and also invested with F.P.F. Temple and William Workman in the Rancho San Jacinto Viejo near modern Hemet and had over $23,000 in mortgages and bills payable to the bank when it failed.

Bouton, however, was in San Francisco dealing with family illness, so Erskine M. Ross, a former Confederate soldier, attorney and nephew of Cameron Thom, several times the county district attorney and future mayor, and who would be a federal judge and associate justice on the state supreme court, was unanimously appointed. The three men selected to solicit subscriptions to help pay for the event were lawyer and future mayor Henry T. Hazard, Isaac Lord, who later founded the city of La Verne, and Elijah H. Workman, nephew of Homestead owners William Workman and Nicolasa Workman and who, later in 1874, began his fourth term on the Common (City) Council.

In the “Local Items” column are brief notes including that exams from students at Los Angeles High School were available for students to pick up at, of all places, a stationery and book store; that the San Gabriel School District was to have an election in a few weeks concerning whether to implement a tax to build a school; that repairs were completed on St. Athanasius’ Episcopal Church, the first Protestant house of worship in Los Angeles; that a farmer named Dray living in the Florence district south of town (probably near Clough) had a field of barley so productive that he had to use axes and crowbars, rather than a machine, to cut it; and that the Turnverein Germania, an association of German-born residents, was celebrating its third anniversary that evening with a one-act play about Marc Antony and Cleopatra, as well as gymnastic exercises and a comedic farce, followed by a ball.

At a meeting in Wilmington at the gradually improving harbor, the directors of the Southern California Cooperative Warehouse and Shipping Association, which included F.P.F. Temple as a founder the prior year, inspected the new wharf and watched Phineas Banning sign a deed to convey the property for the company’s warehouse. Directors included Benjamin D. Wilson, his son-in-law James de Barth Shorb, former Governor John G. Downey and others.

The paper also passed along a report from its competitor, the Herald of that morning, that a new company, the Cooperative Nursery and Fruit Company of Los Angeles, met to adopt bylaws and elect directors for the next year, including Thomas Garey (who was also named president), Ozro W. Childs, and Milton Thomas, while the secretary was Luther M. Holt and Downey was selected as treasurer. It should be noted that Garey, Thomas and Holt were also among the founders of a land development company that soon developed the new towns of Artesia and Pomona.

Speaking of schools and the end of the academic year, a list of students promoted to the next level of their educations in their respective classes was published. This included the three primary, grammar, intermediate and high schools, the latter completing its first year of existence with nine students advancing from the middle to senior classes. Among these were Henry O’Melveny, a future attorney of great prominence whose father was then the county judge; and Yda Addis, whose remarkable and strange life previously comprised a several-part post on this blog. While Latino students could be found amid the Anglos in the list, there is no reference to the “Colored School” of Black students.

Advertisements are always of interest when looking through old newspapers and new ones included a call for proposals by an Army Corps of Engineers official for dredging at the harbor at Wilmington; another such ad for builders of a wharf for the Los Angeles and San Bernardino Land Company of Anaheim at its property at Bolsa Chica Landing where Huntington Beach is now; one for a special Southern Pacific Railroad excursion to Spadra (today’s southwestern part of Pomona) and back for the 21st, which the trip, passing just north of the Homestead, to cost $2 round trip; and one by Edward Dupuy of the Pioneer Stable for an omnibus (that is, a horse-drawn conveyance) going to Santa Monica on alternate days.

Other notable, if not new, ads concerned the auction for lots on 3 July at the new town of San Fernando; the offering by Edward A. Preuss for thoroughbred Spanish Merino rams; a variety of general stores and specialty shops for furniture, jewelery, carpets, and others; and ongoing ads for stagecoaches, hotels, lines of travel, liquor and other alcoholic beverages, banks, insurance companies, and druggists, as well as legal notices.

The “Professional Cards” notice that stood out was for a rare female doctor, Mrs. H. Hoffman Larkin, who simply stated that she “will attend obstetrical calls promptly, day or night” from her home on Fort Street, renamed Broadway in 1890. Dr. Larkin, it turns out, had a short career in greater Los Angeles, though of no small amount of interest, as well as in other parts of the country. She was born Harriett Hope Hoffman about 1833 in New York and married Wallace T. Larkin, who as a Union Army major during the Civil War.

They resided in New York City during most of the 1860s, where Harriett graduated in 1863 from the Hygeio-Therapeutic College, which opened its doors in 1853 and was chartered four years later. It specialized in water-based therapies, including baths, and hygienic care, exercise and sanitation and was said to be the first of its type to allow women as equals with men in study there. The institution, which also promoted vegetarianism and operated a Hygienic Institute, later moved to New Jersey before folding in 1875.

Los Angeles Herald, 15 April 1874.

One wonders if Larkin pursued this profession because of the health of her husband, who may have suffered from wartime maladies. In 1869, she had a hygienic-based medical practice in the Big Apple with another doctor, but, shortly afterward, she and her husband moved west to California, maybe for his health. Their son, Roy, was born late in the year and a daughter died in April 1874 at just two years of age, but just after Larkin arrived alone in Los Angeles to lecture to and consult with women.

It is not known exactly what transpired with her stay and it can be assumed news of her daughter’s death, which took place on the 16th, reached her even as Larkin remained in the region, giving well-received talks in the Angel City and at Gallatin, now where Downey is today. On the day of the doctor’s daughter’s death, a group of some forty Gallatin women wrote to their sisters in Los Angeles through the Express and stated, that they took “pleasure in presenting her as a lady of education and talent” and that “her theories are purely scientific and her lectures calculated to do a great good, for the young especially.”

Express, 6 May 1874.

In its edition of 6 May, the Express published Larkin’s essay on Bathing, in which she advocated for the application of “sun bathing” and Swedish massage for patients,

which consists in exposing the unclothed body to the direct rays of magnetic sunlight until a profuse perspiration covered the surface; follow this relaxed muscular condition with manipulations that are very agreeable and energizing, and conclude with a tepid towel bath; or, in stronger subjects, finish by a tepid douche, or full bath in water warmed and electrized by the sun. This bath builds up weak persons as effectually as the invigorating sunlight in the vegetable world energizes the sickly plant.

While she offered to provide further details on her ideas of hydrotherapy, it does no appear that such an expansion of her concepts was forthcoming. She did, however, in the same day’s issue of the Herald write a letter after having seen dancers at Leck’s Hall, where “I saw in the scanty clothing of those precious girls a life-lease of suffering and misery.” She expressed alarm that “bare necks and arms have sent many young girls to the grave” as “that scantiness of attire which retards circulation and means consumption,” or tuberculosis, was simply deadly.

Herald, 6 May 1874.

Moreover, allowing too much exposure to cool or cold night air or to rooms inadequately ventilated, along with “insufficient, unbalanced attire,” was also to be condemned. Larkin concluded her communication with the hope that “good sense and good style were in sweet accord; that children might dance ‘neath green bowers, and sleep come early, bringing the balmy bath which beautifies, gives good bone and sound muscles, and hearty digestion.” She implored mothers to let “the artist Oxygen” do its work by having girls “dress the chest loosely and give ample breathing room.”

In 1875, rejoined by her husband and son, Larkin moved to the recently founded town of Orange, where she and Wallace bought 27 acres in the tract developed by Alfred B. Chapman, a Los Angeles lawyer, and his partner Andrew Glassell. There, the couple built a concrete, very rare for the time, “Hygeian Home,” accounted by one writer to the Herald of 8 June as “the handsomest building in Orange.” The two-story building measured 46 x 31 feet and accepted travelers as well as health-seekers and, in its month of operation to date, functioned more as a hotel than as a place for convalescence.

Express, 23 August 1875.

With a focus on those “sun baths” as well as “Swedish movements,” in a building that “is thoroughly fitted up in the most modern style,” the unnamed writer concluded, “one cannot wish for a cosier [sic] room or a better meal than can be had by stay in the Hygeian Home.” The Express of 23 August featured a lengthier essay by a Dr. W. Hobbs, who reported that the institution was in full operation and headed by the “amiable and indefatigable” Dr. Larkin. Hobbs employed a panoply of purple prose to promote the power of the sun bath as “a most potent agent” with sunlight “a most important hygienic agent” that served to “destroy noxious, vaporous bodies which exist in the atmosphere.”

The problem, Hobbs continued, was that decomposing animal and vegetable matter in the earth emitted “an abundance of gaseous matter, the poisonous effluvia” which caused disease. It was necessary for houses to admit more sunlight, because too much darkness led to “scrofula, the pale and dark complexion, eruptive skin, flabby and weak muscles and general sickly aspect, which are so frequently witnessed in young and old.” If, however, people were exposed to the sun-bath, “rheumatism, sciatica, neuralgia and a hundred concomitant diseases will readily succumb to the power” of that treatment.

Express, 1 April 1876.

Hobbs was glad to report that Larkin came to Orange to provide her services and noted that she’d just returned from northern California “where in every town she had large and appreciative audiences” and added that “no one can listen to her lectures without receiving great benefit in a physiological point of view.” While she was away, her husband saw to the completion of the facility and the article ended by congratulating Orange residents “that such an institution has been located in their midst.”

The next day, though, a financial panic in San Francisco burst forth and followed telegraph wires to Los Angeles, with the result that the economy fundamentally collapsed and, locally, the Temple and Workman bank failed. Brief positive references to the Larkin institution followed in October and December, but, in February 1876, Larkin advertised for the sale of 20 of the 27 acres she and her husband owned. At the end of the following month, the home was sold and the couple faced a delinquent tax bill.

Detroit Free Press, 19 January 1882.

The Larkins soon wound up in Battle Creek, Michigan, which happened to be the headquarters of the Kellogg brothers’ efforts to promote vegetarianism and medical treatment not unlike that espoused by Harriett. Wallace, who worked as an engineer in a milling plant, was badly injured in a boiler explosion early in 1882 and succumbed to his injuries. That July, Harriett sold the last of the Orange property and wound up the following year as an assistant at Heald’s Hygeian Home in Wilmington, Delaware, where she was praised for her work with patients.

In late 1889, she and her son settled in Huron, South Dakota, northwest of Sioux Falls, where she continued her medical practice and lecturing, while Roy studied agriculture, including in Texas, and went into teaching (his wife, Anna, became the first woman to serve in the New Mexico legislature after they settled there.) In mid-1898, at about age 65, Larkin died and was interred in the Riverside Cemetery in Huron.

Huron Daily Huronite, 10 January 1890.

One never knows what perusing the pages of one of the Museum’s historical Los Angeles-area newspapers will lead to and that innocuous ad for Dr. Larkin, whether she is considered a quack by modern medical standards or not, added significantly to the other contents of the Express highlighted here. Check back for future installments of “Read All About It” and we’ll see if similar surprises await!

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