by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Poring through the pages of Los Angeles newspapers is one of the best ways for us to understand what was transpiring in the Angel City during its first significant and sustained period of major growth, a boom lasting from the late 1860s through the mid 1870s and one in which William Workman and F.P.F. Temple enthusiastically partook as two of the region’s wealthiest citizens.
Their work, really Temple’s with his aged father-in-law contributing funding but having little to do directly in their investments, embraced such areas as oil, railroads and real estate and was largely centered in their Temple and Workman bank, one of only two commercial institutions (the other being the Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank of Los Angeles, run by their former partner, Isaias W. Hellman.)
Another avenue for Temple’s myriad and diverse business interests was his part-ownership of The Los Angeles City and County Printing and Publishing Company, which operated the Los Angeles Herald, formed in October 1873 by Charles A. Storke, a long-time resident of Santa Barbara who established the sheet and competed against the other English-language dailies in the Angel City, the Express and the Star.
When Storke quickly got into financial distress, local capitalists, such as Temple and Prudent Beaudry, acquired the paper under the company banner and it went on to be published for more than a half-century until media tycoon William Randolph Hearst took it over in 1931. He merged it with the Express, which was launched in 1871, and the join enterprise lasted for another three decades before another merger with a Hearst paper established the Herald-Examiner. That paper folded 34 years ago yesterday, on 2 November 1989.
With the Star run by Benjamin C. Truman, whose work in 1874 led to the publication of his book, Semi-Tropical California, and the Express published by George Tiffany and others, there was plenty of rivalry among the trio, especially between the latter and the Herald. In late 1874, this was further enhanced by the impending city election and, specifically, the candidacy of Herald part-owner Prudent Beaudry against Frank Sabichi, president of the Common (City) Council and an interesting figure.
Sabichi (1842-1900) was the son of Josefa Coronel, sister of California’s former state treasurer Antonio Franco Coronel, and Mateo (Matias) Sabichi, of Italian from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1852, after his mother’s death, he and a brother, also Mateo were taken by the father to Europe for their educations, but he died on the trip. The orphans were taken in by the American consul in England and educated with Sabichi also serving for a few years in the British Navy.
The brothers returned to Los Angeles after eight years, in time for the 1860 federal census, which recorded Frank as a mariner and Mateo, who died in a hunting accident shortly afterward, as a clerk. Sabichi studied law and was admitted to the bar, though he hardly practiced his profession because, in 1865, he married Magdalena Wolfskill, daughter of the prominent rancher and orchardist William Wolfskill, and, after the latter’s death the following year, Sabichi turned to managing his wife’s share of a very large estate.
This included ranches in what became Orange County and her portion of the Los Angeles tract planted to oranges, the first commercial grove in California, and, which, during the Boom of the 1880s, was sold for subdivision at great profit to the Wolfskill heirs. The Sabichis purchased property at the southern edge of Los Angeles and built a fine house, which was later adjacent to the Thomas Stimson house featured in this blog and which became part of the St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church property (a parking lot is there now.)
The highlighted object from the Museum’s collection for this post is the 3 November 1874 edition of the Herald, which includes an editorial page item titled “Straws,” as in grasping for them, that revealed some of the enmity between the paper and the Express. Specifically, it was noted that at the end of 1873, Charles Storke purchased two lots in Los Angeles from Beaudry for $800, with half paid in monthly terms and the remainder tendered to the mayoral candidate with the Herald noting that “he paid the last $400 by a check on the bank of TEMPLE & WORKMAN.” Tomorrow’s post, in fact, will feature a Temple and Workman check.
The transaction was duly recorded and reported as part of real estate transactions regularly listed by the Angel City press, but the Express thought it important to note that the Storke-Beaudry one was “a straw which shows who owns the HERALD,” meaning that the purchase was something apparently pernicious. This led the latter paper to fulminate,
This is an imaginary straw through which the ex-gauger’s organ is trying to spirt [spurt] its venom, but it is not half as large a straw as indicated the Express’ treachery to the party which furnished it the means on which it lived when it saw and accepted the “inducement” to advocate the election of a Democratic candidate. It was yet a taller straw when one of the Express proprietors was discovered at “prayer” with certain leading Democrats in the [Board of] Supervisor’s rooms. It was yet a taller straw when, after finding that German-born citizens could not be wheedled into the support of the ring’s candidate for Mayor, Mr. TIFFANY, the Express attacked those citizens and insulted them by an invidious comparison of their mother tongue with the Chinese language. But the tallest straw of all is the zeal with which the Express obey[s] the becks of its master, the ring, and assails Mr. BEAUDRY.
It was commonplace in 1870s Los Angeles to characterize Republicans or Democrats as controlled by a “ring,” or a shadowy syndicate of powerful figures in town, or to vaguely refer to an individual said to be at the head of such an organization. This could include banker Hellman, Beaudry or F.P.F. Temple at different election cycles, but the most notable of the “straws” mentioned by the Herald was its claim that its rival mocked German-American residents, a substantial group, of the Angel City by linking them to the Chinese, who were almost universally despised during the era—three years before, the horrific Chinese Massacre of 24 October 1871, took place in the city.
It turned out that Sabichi, the Democratic candidate for mayor, was badly beaten by Beaudry, this being a sign that the longstanding dominance of local politics by the Dems was being challenged by the upstart Republicans. This was further embodied when Temple narrowly won election as County Treasurer in 1875, though his two-year term was marred by his status as a failed banker, following the collapse of Temple and Workman. By the 1880s, the G.O.P. became the dominant part in Los Angeles politics.
Though not directly connected to this area, an editorial about “Our Boys” reported that, with the contractor of the palatial Palace Hotel in San Francisco employing 160 young boys to put up lath in the building, it was found that widows responded to a “Help Wanted” newspaper advertisement “giving distressing accounts of want at home as a reason for urging employment for their sons.” The Herald deemed this “a step in the right direction and worthy of imitation” because in Los Angeles, there were concerns of “bad boys, hoodlums, etc.” not having constructive (literally) lives and it added, “the boys are not so much to blame as the parents and grown people.”
It was the duty of the latter to “provide employment for the boys of the community in which they live” and doing so had two principal benefits and their consequences:
First, it cultivates industrious business habits in the boys; second, it prevents the contraction of a thousand evil and viscious [sic] habits; they become self-reliant at an early age; they learn to put in practice all useful information they receive at school. No man should be considered educated until he can make himself useful, and he cannot make himself useful without employment. The boys of this city who tramp the streets from morning till night, are not lazy; they are idle only because there is no employment for them. If a card appeared in the morning papers, calling for fifty boys to work at anything which boys can do, here would be a hundred applications by noon. There are a hundred buildings now in progress of erection in this city and each building could give profitable employment to one, two, or half a dozen boys. Men neglect the boys and this neglect is the fruitful source of crime in every community.
The Herald concluded by opining that the Palace Hotel contractor deserved a medal “as a benefactor of his race,” but it didn’t seem to consider both the desirability of universal, compulsory education of youth through high school or the pernicious effects of child labor in reality as opposed to theoretical musings.
Another editorial, “Exorbitant Taxation,” concerned the age-old concerns about onerous taxation with the paper decrying that “there is not perhaps another people in the world so heavily taxed as we of the United States” with these imposed on the municipal, county, state and federal levels and leading, it continued, to revenues “almost beyond computation” and comprising “a fabulous sum.” The Herald queried, “what becomes of all this money?” and commented on the purported fact that the “ravenous [tax] collector has forced the last cent from” citizens, who do not bother to wonder where their hard-earned money goes.
Insisting that “we are taxed to poverty—to death—and we cannot show even a semblance of value received for the money,” the paper added that “the city of Los Angeles has borne a heavy taxation cross.” It went on to suggest that “not only has her private property been taxed in every conceivable shape, but her land—broad acres of rich and valuable soil—has been sold to increase her revenue.” Finally, the comment was made that
It is said the government of the city has been directed by one little coterie [of Democrats?] for the past twenty years. This being the case, it is time for a change. An English colonial city with the revenue Los Angeles has paid during the last ten years would have paved streets, flagged sidewalks and public buildings and public parks of the finest order and amplest accommodations. What has Los Angeles? Drainage that would disgrace a Hottentot [the Khoikhoi people of South Africa] village; streets that become seas of fathomless mud after six hours rain; sidewalks that a rat would break his neck on if he attempted a moonlight promenade over them; public buildings that are remarkable only for their venerable shabbiness and immense cost of construction, and parks that are innocent of tree, shrub or flower as on the day when the continent was heaved from beneath the ocean depths.
The paper castigated local authorities crying out that “there has been gross mismanagement, if not dishonest conduct in the management of our city” and the upcoming election was crucial. It asked, “shall these unfaithful stewards—these officers placed in power by the manipulations of a selfish ring—be retained in their places, or will the people break the shackles” in voting for a new administration? To do so would, it concluded, “run counter to he will, wishes and private interests of the ring whose ‘exclusive franchise’ claims,” such as with the water system, which operated privately from 1868 to 1898, “are retarding the development and blighting the prosperity of city and community.”
In the “Local Brevities” column, news was somewhat light, with mention of the newly formed Real Estate Associates, established the engage in development projects in the city; the departure of a steamer from Wilmington for San Francisco with the largest amount of goods shipped for some time, including bullion, asphaltum (presumably from the oil fields of San Fernando, in what is now Santa Clarita, and where F.P.F. Temple was actively prospecting), wool and borax; performances by singers and actors at the Turn-Verein Hall on Spring Street having performed the previous night at the Merced Theatre next to the Pico Hotel off the Plaza; and the opening of Samuel Norton’s new store at the corner of Arcadia and Los Angeles streets, about where US 101 goes through downtown today.
A short notice also mentioned that
Yesterday was All Souls Day, an occasion commemorated by the Catholic Church and set apart for people of that religion to visit the graves of their dead friends. The day was properly observed by the members of the church in this city.
For the past three decades, Calvary Cemetery (the burial grounds were formerly located on the south side of the Plaza Church) was situated at the base of the Elysian Hills where the Catholic Cathedral High School is now. By the end of the century, that site was abandoned and the New Calvary was established in what became East Los Angeles.
Speaking of cemeteries, the short report of the meeting, also the prior day, of the Board of Supervisors noted that the county clerk Andrew W. Potts “was authorized to make a contract with some undertaker to bury the pauper dead.” Likely, these interments were conducted at the Fort Moore, or City, Cemetery, on the hill west of the Plaza and which was basically replaced by the establishment, in 1877, of Evergreen Cemetery at the eastern limits of the city in the newly established (by William H. Workman, Isaias W. Hellman and John Lazzarovich) community of Boyle Heights.
Also of note were lectures at Good Templars Hall on “Irish Nationality” or the movement to free Ireland from the control of England and the pair of speakers, introduced by former governor John G. Downey, a native of the Emerald Isle, focused on the history, rights, wrongs wrought upon, and present status of Ireland. At the same venue on the 5th was to be a lecture to local granges, of farmers’ organizations, these becoming very popular as concerns about the agricultural sector mounted throughout the country during the era, with further orations to take place throughout greater Los Angeles over the following few weeks.
We’ll continue sharing notable content from 1870s Angel City newspapers in the Museum’s holdings under the “Read All About It” banner, so be on the lookout for those in future posts.