by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As other “Making a Statement” posts on this blog have discussed, having some of the reports of Walter P. Temple’s receipts and disbursements during the 1920s helps us better understand the evolution of his finances, as well as to learn details of his interactions with vendors and others for expenses and his sources of income.
Moreover, as a capitalist expending the remarkable windfall from royalties derived from the oil wells at his lease near Montebello with Standard Oil Company (California) and attempting to build on that wealth with his own investments in petroleum prospecting as well as intensive endeavors as a real estate developer, Temple had to spend considerable sums in these projects, which are inherently risky speculations.
The main question in reviewing the surviving statements that the Homestead has in its collection is: what are the imbalances of expenses to income and are these indicative of serious long-term problems to Temple’s financial health? In the case of the featured artifact for today’s post, the “Report of Receipts & Disbursements” for the period of 20 June to 19 August 1922, a first glance at the totals for each sets off alarm bells.
This is because the six-page document has twice as many pages for disbursements as for income and the total of expenditures is almost $74,000—for a little perspective, consider that the average American’s hourly wage was 75 cents an hour and for 40 hours per week at 52 weeks per year, the total is $1,560.00. Even for those who put in more time at work and were never sick or took no vacations, the different is stunning.
When looking at the last page and the recorded amount of income, however, the total shown is $29,572.17, which is where the alarm part comes in, because to be spending far more than twice what is coming in is not healthy in any circumstance. A little closer inspection, however, revealed that, whoever came up with that figure needed to have their eyes checked or, at least, to have a second person review the totals, because the actual income was $47,572.17.
While this is certainly much better for the bottom line, there is still a disparity of about $27,000, or about 56% above income used to pay for expenses. While there might clearly be some justification for this, especially if investment was made in oil or real estate projects that were expected to bring significant long-term returns on investment, there are still reasons to delve more deeply into the spending, particularly with personal purchases, loans and others.
Temple did have a small cadre of people working for him and so there are the expected expenses for salaries, including for Ann Raisbeck, presumably the administrative assistant, as well as E.G. Seely and Stanley Benson, who were chauffeurs and overall helpers with a variety of tasks. The wages were $25.00 for Raisbeck and $35.00 for Seely and Benson, paid biweekly, while Elmer A. Potter, who was the manager of the office, looks to have been paid $150 biweekly, though it can be hard to tell, generally, what many of the listings entail because of working like “Expense Office.”
That gets to a similar issue with the frequent use of “Expense Personal,” because, naturally, it is unclear what these would specifically involve, unless the name of a vendor makes determining the purpose easier. Some of these went into the four figures with listings of some at $2578.54, $1940.83, $1539.66, and $1500.73—just this quartet alone totaled north of $7,500 or 10% of all expenses and a year salary for several people.
More identifiable was a listing of “Cash” for $5,000 and the “For” column states “Mexico Trip,” as the Temples spent several weeks in that country during the summer—with an important result being the firing of their imaginations for the building of a new house, literally La Casa Nueva, at the Homestead. Elsewhere, there is a $655 payment to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company for the tickets to travel down there and almost $500 issues the Griffin Trunk Company for steamer trunks for that trip.
Other personal expenses of some size were to the Andrews Shirt Company for north of $300; the fine men’s apparel store of Alexander and Oviatt in Los Angeles for just above $200; $300 to the Angel City clothier Harris and Frank; jewelers Feagans and Company, housed at the Hotel Alexandria in Los Angeles, for $650; and the Los Angeles tailors Heffly and Ahonen for what were clearly fine tailored suits totaling $2,000. It should be noted that some of these were for Temple’s business manager, Milton Kauffman, who had many of his expenses, probably in lieu of a salary, paid.
These included monies expended to the Bank of San Gabriel, the Pico-Hill Drug Company, the Los Angeles Trust and Savings Bank, the Victory Monument Company (likely for a tombstone for his brother, Joseph, who was killed and buried in France during World War I and then his remains brought home and reinterred at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles), the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, the Lincoln Hospital and many others. In total, Kauffman’s expenses were above $3,500.
Aside from routine office, house and automobile expenses, most of which were somewhat incidental, there was a donation to the San Gabriel Settlement House for immigrants and their “Americanization” education and instruction; unspecified contributions of more than $700; a $250 contribution to Roman Catholic Bishop John J. Cantwell; a $150 donation to the election campaign of Sheriff William I. Traeger; membership dues with the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce; $250 paid to J. Perry Worden and Luther Ingersoll for the long-gestating, but never delivered Temple and Workman family history book; and $300 issued to Don Lee, the prominent Cadillac auto dealer in Los Angeles.
Loans are found on occasion, as well, including to Walter’s niece, Evangeline Rowland Knueven and her husband William, the latter also working extensively at the Homestead, including as a ranch foreman and who also built the second-floor dormitories in 1930 when the Golden State Military Academy leased the ranch in the wake of Temple’s deteriorating finances. The income portion of the document also reveals who borrowed money because of payments made on the interest—in fact, there were over 30 “interest received” listings and we can assume that at least a great majority of these were for personal loans, some to close friends and family like John and Natalie Vigare, Ramona de Aguayo, Benson and his wife, and Temple’s attorney George H. Woodruff.
Not surprisingly, the largest amounts concerned the purchase of property or dealing with real estate in other ways. Far and away the biggest expense was $12,500 to Farmers and Merchants National Bank (the competitor to the Temple and Workman a half-century prior) for “Bradbury Land.” Lewis L. Bradbury, who made a fortune in mining in México in the late 19th century and who was builder of the remarkable Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles, also owned a large area in what is now Duarte and Monrovia and generally was called the Bradbury Estate. What specifically this transaction was for has not yet been determined.
Another large expense involved the Thomas Berry Building at the northeast corner of Garvey and Garfield avenues in Monterey Park (formerly Ramona Acres.) This commercial structure had stores and a meeting room for a fraternal society in it and Temple had some major plans for it at the time, though he later sold the property as he moved further into investments at Alhambra and his own Town of Temple (Temple City.) So, a $3,000 payment was made to Berry, a local realtor with ties to Temple in San Gabriel, while over $6,600 was paid out to Joseph L. Worthington, a Monterey Park contactor, and another $464 went to Berry for Worthington, for work on the structure.
Another large expenditure of $5,000 was made to the First National Bank of Puente with the names of officials George S. Lower, Cyril J. Taylor, and others mentioned in the “For” section. This may have been for the purchase of property in town, specifically the Rowland Hotel, built when the town was established in 1885, though, again, this is a guess, as are what amounts paid out to J.W. Green ($1,000) and Judson D. Baldwin ($2,000) were for.
The names Frank Whyte and F.E. Taylor are provided in both the Payee and For columns with a $1,000 payment, but, later, another $2,618 was expended, but for these the “San Gabriel Post-office” was indicated, this being the construction of a structure at the corner of Mission Drive and Santa Anita Avenue across from the Mission San Gabriel. Another real estate related transaction involved $500 paid to the First National Bank of El Monte for the Meeker Lot, this almost certainly being a payment for a property where Temple soon built the city’s post office and the Rialto movie theater. $400 was also expended on fencing in this lot.
Other expenses of note included $1,100 for stock in the Bank of Alhambra, where the Temples had resided for the past five years, buying a substantial Craftsman house at the east end of town late in 1917, add where Walter was heavily involved in downtown real estate and building endeavors; $1,000 to Woodruff for his legal work in fighting, unsuccessfully, an effort to prevent the City of Montebello from annexing the Temple oil lease land—this, of course, substantially increasing Temple’s tax liability; and a $1,200 payment for insurance for the Temples’ oldest child, Thomas. There were also royalties paid out to Temple and the children and relatives of Julia Davis Cruz for oil produced on land she inherited from her mother, Venancia Peña Davis, a Luiseño Indian and who bought the land from Walter’s father, F.P.F. Temple, in the 1870s. The general royalty showed up in the income side of the report, as well.
For the 92-acre Workman Homestead, there were $350 in payments made for labor by Laura Gonzalez Temple’s brother, Frank, and John Alvarado and Tony Rosas, as well as “hired labor”; $500 paid to the aforementioned Puente bank, likely a purchase payment for the ranch; $51,99 to the Barnes Music Company, perhaps for a radio; and $100 for “new residence.” Given the recent return of the Temples from México and their enthusiasm to build La Casa Nueva, this seems to be the first known reference towards any expenditures for that structure. A $100 payment was also made to Boris Deutsch, a well-known artist, who painted a landscape scene including Mount San Antonio (Baldy) on a stage curtain the 1860s winery building renovated into an auditorium.
As for the receipts, over 80% of the monies were from the oil and gas produced at the Temple lease at Montebello and, as has been noted here previously, that revenue was declining from what, a few years prior, could be around $40,000 to $50,000 per month. The Montebello field, however, was shallow, so that it produced very heavily for a short time before there was a notable drop in production and a slow decline afterward. Unless Walter could hit it big with his other oil ventures, in addition to realize reasonable returns on his real estate endeavors, that excess of spending over income on a consistent basis, of course, posed problems.
As noted above, some of the receipts were from interest payments on the roughly 30 loans Temple issued (and he made loans to family, friends and others routinely). Rentals from businesses operating in buildings at Monterey Park, Alhambra and San Gabriel were generally from $35 to $90 monthly. There might be a stock sale, dividend on stock owned such as in Southern California Edison, a full loan payment (such as one from Worthington for his June loan), and the Cruz oil lease royalty.
Otherwise, as would always be the case from 1917 onward, the vast majority of the Temple family income came from the production of the wells at Montebello and, while that continued to ebb as the Roaring Twenties progressed, there would be undeniable consequences, especially as two of the largest expenses by far were just around the corner in August 1922—these were the building of La Casa Nueva and the development of Temple City.
It was small wonder that bonds were taken out in spring 1926 to pay for the work at the new town and for other real estate projects, as well as a mortgage on the construction of the house. By 1930 and with the Great Depression just underway, there were no further options for the financial fortunes of the family and, in July 1932, the last landholding, the Homestead, was lost by foreclosure to California Bank.
We are, again, thankful to have these surviving documents that help us better understand and interpret the history of the Workman and Temple family and we’ll keep sharing these through this blog, as well.