Read All About It in the Los Angeles Express, 4 September 1874

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

On this Labor Day as well as the City of Los Angeles’ 242nd birthday, a plunge into the pages of the 4 September 1874 edition of the Los Angeles Express newspaper provides perspective into some of the conditions of an Angel City ascendant, growing rapidly during the first boom in the region, which began in the late Sixties and continued until the dramatic financial collapse of the Bank of California in San Francisco, sunk under the weight of a burst bubble of stock in Virginia City, Nevada silver mines. The telegraph brought the news to Los Angeles and the panic culminated in the failure of the Temple and Workman bank and, of course, the sudden end of that boom.

For this holiday, perusing the abundant advertisements that largely paid for the operations of newspapers, we get a decent cross-section of the types of work being done in the city. On the front page, almost totally comprised of ads, professional cards for those in the medical and legal fields including those of Dr. Kenneth D. Wise, a well-known physician who specialized in gynecology, surgeon Dr. J.T. Wells and the homeopathic doctors J.W. Oliver and Andrew S. Shorb. There was, also, a rare woman physician, this being Mrs. N.A. Pickens, M.D., who also focused on “Obstetrics and Diseases of Women” as well as “Treats Successfully all forms of disease” at her Spring Street office.

On the legal side, Henry M. Mitchell, A.A. Wilson, the partnership of Charles Lindley and John S. Thompson, and James G. Howard and Henry T. Hazard, the latter later a mayor of the city. The “Business Cards” section included notaries public like Charles E. Beane, former proprietor of the shuttered Los Angeles News and Joseph Huber, Jr., whose use of the German “offentlicher notar” not only indicated his ancestry but his clientele in that community of Angelenos. County Surveyor Lothar Seebold, auctioneers Elipha W. Noyes and Charles A. Durfee, and searchers of record William H.J. Brooks and the firm of Albert H. Judson and Jerry W. Gillette, are also included.

Not surprisingly the “Liquors, Etc.” column was pretty lengthy and included the Blue Wing Store of N. Perasich, undoubtedly from eastern Europe, and which offered groceries, confections and tobacco products, as well a liquor. The exclusive agents for Mumm champagne were the members of the firm of Herman W. Hellman, Abraham Haas and Company, which later became today’s Smart and Final. A wholesale wine and liquor house was run by former mayor and Common (City) Council member José Mascarel, a native of France and his countrymen Edouard Naud and Emile Vache. Joseph Breson’s Sample Rooms on Main Street offered, as these places tended to state, “the CHOICEST LIQUOR and FINEST CIGARS” and Dave Main’s The Pelican served “refreshing beverages concocted in the most recherche style.”

Then, there was Colonel George Deavers who “can be found at this saloon on Commercial Street, opposite the [Southern Pacific” Depot, where he is always ready to smile with his friends.” In a separate column, Krumeich and Melchert ran a saloon, where “a lunch will be served in the evening” and where customers were not charged for use of their bowling alley and billiard saloon, situated in the basement of the U.S. Hotel where the rooms of the “Cucamongo” Wine Depot previously were situated. Also to be noted was the New York Brewery of Philip Lauth and Fritz Menz, where patrons could imbibe “The Clearest, Purest and Most Brilliant Lager Beer South of San Francisco.”

Restaurants included Louis’, in the Downey Block where were offered “Meals at all Hours!” as well as boarding by day, week or month, Joseph D. Connor’s Commercial Restaurant near Deavers’ watering hole and where there were rooms “for Families or Single Persons” at rates from two bits (25 cents) for single lodging and meals up to $4.00 board for a week or a dollar more for lodging added. At the new seaside town of Santa Monica, Steadman and Wolf ran their “Sea-Side Hotel” and called out to patrons, “Ho! for the Breakers!” where “VISITORS and CAMPERS can obtain meals, which will be served in the best style, thus avoiding the trouble and annoyance of out-door cooking and camp fires.” They had a big tent “where parties can have the best of LODGINGS, and enjoy the novelty of sea-side camp life during the sultry weather, with all the comforts of a home.”

Christian Fluhr and Charles Gerson’s recently reconstructed and furnished Lafayette Hotel had “fine sunny rooms” in singles or “suits” at “terms as reasonable as any first class hotel” so that it was “second to no hotel in the city.” In Anaheim, Christopher C. Higby, formerly a Los Angeles saloon keeper and owner of Planters’ Hotel, announced a renovation with “superior accommodations” for travelers “in the midst of luxuriant ORANGE GROVES and PURPLE VINEYARDS.” He added that his place was “convenient to good hunting and fishing grounds” and was just a dozen miles to the Pacific, with the weather claimed to be better than anywhere in California and “advantages . . . unequaled by any other portion of the Union.”

On the second page under “New, To-Day” we see that C.F. Chamberlain, just settled from St. Louis, joined C.A. Bancroft in the real estate game, while, a week prior, O.W. Parker advertised that he was a “teacher and conductor of vocal and instrumental music” as well as a tuner and repairer of pianos and organs from his Spring Street residence. Samuel Norton, whose store was in the Arcadia Block on Los Angeles and Aliso streets, where U.S. 101 runs now, had “just returned from the East and Europe” with a stock of goods to offer, mainly clothing.

Known as “French Charley” with his Los Angeles Street livery stable, Charles Cassagne, “has the honor of announcing to the public and his friends, that he has returned from San Francisco with his health completely restored, and has once more opened his Stable.” Cassagne added that he acquired “some very fine carriages” and “is disposed to sell some of them, as also some horses, at prices that are within the reach of all.

Befitting the name of his Mammoth Boot and Shoe Store, Richard Slaney took out a large two-column ad promoting the “Immense Sacrifice” of a “Great Clearance Sale” and with a rather interesting vignette of a trio of cherubs helping to fit a woman (whose lower legs are showing) into her shoes. Another rather large ad was for Charles Raphael and a partner named Wittelshoffer and their shop on Requena Street that dealt in paint, oil, varnish, brushes, mirrors, picture framing, moldings and other items.

“New Advertisements” on the third page included one for regular Tuesday and Saturday auctions by R. Davis & Co. from their room at the Arcadia Block with a focus on furniture, tableware, “China Tea Sets,” mattresses, spreads, and “Cigars, Clothing and numerous other Articles.” Also in this section, though the ads were from February, were Thornton P. Campbell’s store on the corner of the Plaza and Marchessault Street in the vicinity of what became Olvera Street and Henry Budden, a tuner and repairer of pianos, organs and “melodeons,” a reed-based organ.

Elsewhere on this page were Moses W. Perry and his book-binding business in the Temple Block; T.C. Swigart and Joseph Huber, Jr.’s gas-fitting and plumbing establishment, and Roldolfo Carreras, who convinced F.P.F. Temple that he had a refining method for petroleum that would revolutionize the use of crude oil in the area (though it never quite worked out as advertised), who wanted to buy 100,000 gallons of fruit for making olive oil at his San Fernando refinery. In mid-August, Herberger and Johannsen opened their new furniture store, but also promoted their work as upholsterers and cabinetmakers at their place in the U.S. Hotel on Requena Street, which no longer exists and went east of Main, just south of the Temple Block. The former was the upholsterer and the latter, the cabinet-maker and there is a great image of an ornate bed.

On the back page, there are others advertising their labor, including the tailors Jacob Strelitz, Isaac Hauch, and Frederick Adam, all showing vignettes of their type of work. Among the “Manufactories, Etc.” were Louis Lichtenberger and his wagon, buggy and carriage establishment; Alfred Guillory’s “River Shop” where he made wagons and was a blacksmith; machinist Constant Mangin, who promoted his work awnings, railings and balconies as well as pinions and cog wheels at his Los Angeles Street establishment. Among the bakeries were Jung and Crump’s California Bakery at the corner of Main and Marchessault at the Plaza and the New York Bakery of Burkhardt and Ebinger at the edge of downtown on Main and Third, while the long-established American Bakery, then owned by County Treasurer Thomas E. Rowan, later a mayor of the city.

There were several druggists in town, plying a trade filled at the time with “patent medicines” and other products that could well have had high concentrations of alcohol, as well as varying degrees of opium, cocaine and other later illegal drugs. Some of them, as typical then and now, offered other goods, such as perfume, “toilet articles” like hairbrushes and mirrors, and the proprietors included Pierton W. Dooner (who had a journalist background and later became a lawyer and author, but who also wrote articles for the Express under the pseudonym of “Dumnorix“), Charles F. Heinzeman, Adolph Junge and Frederick P. Howard.

Also on this page were Thomas F. Manning with his new plumbing and gas-fitting business on Spring Street across from the Court House (Jonathan Temple’s Market House), builder and contractor James M. Riley, who listed some of his well-known local clients including Southern Pacific Railroad (and, before that, the Los Angeles and San Pedro) superintendent Eldridge E. Hewitt, baker and county treasurer Thomas Rowan, and Los Angeles Star editor and author Benjamin C. Truman. Grocers Charles Brode and Peter Lunney, “practical upholsterer” Paul Strahle, and John Rumpp, proprietor of Sycamore Grove, the “Popular Resort of Pleasure Seekers, Picnic Parties, etc.,” in the Arroyo Seco in what became HIghland Park, were also advertisers.

As for the day’s news, the “Local Items” column reported briefly on the newly chartered militia, the Los Angeles Guard, having its inaugural ceremony and social; the further display of art by Charles Kaiser at the U.S. Hotel; the increasing offer of “mineral and sulphur waters in barrels . . . on tap in several business houses” in lieu of alcoholic beverages with temperance advocates gaining something of a foothold in the Angel City; and the renovation of Heinzeman’s drug store, with “an elegant new oil cloth on the floor,” calsomine (whitewash) treatment on the walls, and replenished stock.

Also noted was that,

Our “Barbary Coast,” on Los Angeles street, is rapidly assuming all the distinguishing features of the vicious quarters of other cities.

This referred to the area southeast of the Plaza where brothels, saloons, gambling houses and other essentials of the “sporting” world also extended north in the Calle de los Negros, called by Americans Negro or N***** Alley and which was also the Chinese quarter where the horrific massacre of October 1871 during which a mob of hundreds of Anglos and Latinos lynched nineteen Chinese males (including a teenage boy). This area was also given other names later in the century, as a recent multi-part post covered.

The previous day’s Common (City) Council meeting included the report of the zanjero, who oversaw the open water ditches which supplied much of the precious fluid for the city; a report that the assessed value of property in Los Angeles neared $4.3 million up from under $3.9 in August 1873, with discussion held on what to pay the assessor for his salary; Board of Public Works reports on street improvements and the need for the city marshal to enforce an ordinance on waste paper disposal; the grading of the Spring and Sixth Street Railroad, the city’s first streetcar line; stagnant water from an old zanja on Olive Street between 7th and 8th (then an underdeveloped area of town); and consideration of the purchase of a Babcock engine for the then-volunteer fire companies.

Correspondence from “Dirck Dillingham” (possibly Dooner?) on the second page and dated the prior day expressed in idiosyncratic prose his visit to the Kaiser gallery when “it happened to be on the day on which the public schools visited the collections, and while I was there the young folks came in by the dozen.” He was pondering a painting when a female high school student took him by the hand and told him, “I thought you would be scared among so many girls, so I came to reassure and protect you” while giving him a tour, as well as gossip on her classmates. There was mention of one female student gazing at painting #43 and of whom it was uttered “that’s the girl in our school that writes so much”—given that there were only seven graduates of the Los Angeles High inaugural class of 1875, this would appear to be Yda Addis, whose life has been covered here in some detail.

The main editorial, with the headline of “Opening New Streets,” began with the note that “to fully realize the vast extent of improvement going on in this city one has to take a walk in the outskirts.” While there was much building in downtown, including by F.P.F. Temple, there was also “the active work in grading streets through our hill lands, filling up gullies, leveling embankments, and increasing the area of accessible property for residences.” This included the Bunker Hill and Bellevue Terrace tracts developed by Prudent Beaudry, elected mayor two months later, and the paper continued,

Temple street will soon be one of the finest and most adjacent avenues in Los Angeles. Mr. [James W.] has done an immensity of work in reclaiming hollows and topping down hills in that direction, and now daylight can be seen almost the entire length of the street. Just beyond his property, Mr. Beaudry has placed a force of men at work on grading. He intends to fill the deep ravine which runs parallel with the line of Temple street with a bulkhead of earth, and then, from Bunker Hill Avenue, where the pipe from his large reservoir runs, he will take a stream of water into hose, and “hydraulic” the hills down to the line of the Potts property . . . the result of the important improvement will soon be seen in a general desire to build upon this airy elevation . . . Another street, which is rapidly being turned into a fine thoroughfare, is the extension of Fort Street, north of School House [Poundcake] Hill . . . [A]ll over the city there is perceptible an unprecedented activity n carving out new lots, filling up depressions, and improving streets which have lain, till the present time, just as they left Nature’s hands. Besides private energy, the action of the City Council will soon culminate in an amount of street work which will astonish the old hum-drum denizens of Los Angeles.

The rapid development of these hilly sections of the city, along with much else work in the region, including new towns like Artesia, San Fernando and Pomona, continued into 1875 before the bust brought activity to a near-standstill for several years, into the 1880s, during which, a second and much larger boom, occurring during the mayoral administration of William H. Workman, nephew of Homestead founders William Workman and Nicolasa Urioste, burst forth.

We’ll keep adding to the “Read All About It” series of posts, featuring historic regional newspapers from the Museum’s holdings, including ones from the later part of the 1870s boom, on this blog, so keep an eye peeled for those.

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