The Los Angeles Book
Photography by Max Yavno
Text by Lee Shippey
Houghton Mifflin (Boston, 1950)
The Los Angeles Book
Photography by Max Yavno
Text by Lee Shippey
Houghton Mifflin (Boston, 1950)
Within the Vale of Annandale
A Picture History of South Western Pasadena and Vicinity
by Donald W. Crocker
A Fund Raising Project of Cub Pack 40 and Scout Troop 35
Sponsored by the San Rafael Elementary School PTA (Pasadena, 1968)
This detailed history of the San Rafael area that borders northeast Los Angeles (think Eagle Rock) includes a preface by Edwin H. Carpenter (1915-1995), meticulous editor, historian, and bibliographer for the Huntington Library. Dr. Carpenter points out, “Good local history is the sub-stratum which underlies more general studies of the American heritage. All who are interested in southern California history, as well as those who are pleased to see any segment of the American background preserved, will delight in this book and be grateful to those who have put so much effort into producing it.”
The book is indeed a delight, illustrated with many previously unpublished historic photos documenting such now-gone landmarks as the Beaudry tunnel, the toll road to Pasadena (20 cents for a horse and buggy, “more for an empty hayrack and even more for a loaded hayrack” but no charge for passengers), and the Scoville Bridge across the Arroyo Seco.
The story begins with the first occupants of the land, the Gabrielino Indians followed by the Spanish (Ranchos San Pasqual and San Rafael), and later Alexander Campbell-Johnston, an Englishman, who bought 2,000 acres on a visit to Southern California in 1883. He named his property San Rafael Ranch but referred to it as Annandale, after his ancestral home in Scotland. The Campbell-Johnsons operated the toll road, which ran across their land between Pasadena and Eagle Rock. After Mr. Campbell-Johnson’s death, his wife had the Church of the Angels built in 1889 as a memorial to him.
Some nearby points of interest are also covered: Busch Gardens (gone), the Eagle Rock (with a picture of maneuvers by Chinese troops preparing for the revolution in 1911), Poppy Peak, and the Annandale Golf Club. A handy map on the last page locates 52 sites of historic interest in the area.
The 72-page paperback was a popular fundraiser. We don’t know how long it took Mr. Crocker to research, write, and publish it but very likely much longer than it took to sell out the first edition—2000 copies in six weeks. It has since gone through four editions, the latest in 1990.
Receipts from Katharine’s Kitchen
Personal Recipes of Katharine Stewart Banning
The General Phineas Banning Residence Museum (Wilmington, 1978)
This is just one of many cookbooks featuring the recipes of pioneer cooks in Los Angeles (see previous post on the Landmarks Club cookbook, for example). This one sprinkles vintage photos, correspondence, and family stories among the recipes. Tested by the cookbook committee (but not this writer), the recipes are a mix from Minnesota (where Katharine grew up), Delaware (Banning ancestors), and other sources, with occasional suggestions for modern kitchens added by the committee.
Phineas Banning arrived in Los Angeles from Delaware in 1853 and soon began his very successful stagecoach/freight business from San Pedro. He died in 1885 and Joseph Brent Banning’s brothers gave him the mansion when he married Katharine in 1888. The couple lived there until 1894 when they moved to Los Angeles.
Both Phineas and Katherine loved to entertain. He would invite “the whole population of the country for …patriotic activities on the grounds …” via announcements in the Los Angeles Star, the town’s first newspaper. No doubt both would have enjoyed the party planned to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the vintage showplace on August 16. Guests are encouraged to wear boots and cowboy hats for the concert, cake, and dancing. In the book, Joseph Brent Banning describes a similar celebration for the visit of Katharine’s parents from Minnesota in 1891. However, that one was to include cooking and eating one or two big steers!
The book’s cover is an adaptation of the design on a nineteenth-century Imari soup tureen. Perhaps Katharine served her lettuce soup from such a tureen.
Leaf-Shadows and Rose Drift
Being Little Songs from a Los Angeles Garden
By Olive Percival
(Cambridge: Printed at the Riverside Press, 1911)
Sometime in August we expect Mayor Garcetti to announce a new poet laureate for Los Angeles, and Eloise Klein Healy, the city’s first laureate, will step down. With this book we are remembering one of the city’s early poets, Olive Percival, who might have competed for poet laureate if there had been one in those days. Percival was a multitalented bibliophile, diarist, collector, writer, artist, photographer, and working woman who gardened and entertained at her home—which she called The Down-hyl Claim—in the Arroyo. See KCET Departures for a three-part series on Percival
She was pleased by the response to the publication of her poetry in The Graphic in 1909, writing in her diary “I am very thankful for the good things friends and acquaintances and strangers are saying about my verses… Some are compared alas! with Emily Dickinson, Arthur Symons, Browning!” In addition to The Graphic, her poems were published in The Butterfly, The Lotus, Smart Set, and Sunset. Her poem Paganism was included in volume one number one of Silhouette, a quarterly magazine of stories in profile, that also included a poem by Ina Coolbrith, California’s first poet laureate (1915).
The poems in this book are indeed “little songs.” But among her unpublished manuscripts is a book-length narrative poem called “Aunt Abby and Others,” which she described as a memoir in free verse. Hoping to win the $5,000 prize, she submitted it to an Atlantic Press competition but alas she did not win. The typescript resides with her diaries and other writings in the Huntington Library.
In this book she organized her poems by season. Here are some of her summer songs:
The garden’s parched and dusty flow’rs
Grow sweet, grow cool with dew;
The country silence sings and brings
A sommer of white dust-smother! Meads
All silence; the foothills bleaching weeds!
Garden and bee are dead and pools are dry!
Pray! Pray! For devil-fires enflame the sky!
With gay nasturtiums embroidered o’er,
Is Summer’s dusty, dusty gown;
Lobelia-blue is her jeweled belt;
An oleander-wreath her crown!
All sweetness, brightness; yet we tire of her perfection
And dream of winter verdure, with unfair affection!
Note: This image is of the back cover of the book; it was in better condition than the front cover
Jack Smith’s L.A.
by Jack Smith
McGraw-Hill Book Company (New York, 1980)
Jack Smith, Los Angeles Times columnist from 1958 to 1996, unabashedly loved Los Angeles and Los Angeles loved him back. This is one of several books of his columns and it is filled with the minutiae of city history.
Smith sometimes takes issue with out-of-town writers and journalists: “No other city on earth attracts as many critical journalists as Los Angeles…[but] the real Los Angeles is invisible. It cannot be seen by visitors who hole up in the Polo Lounge or the Bistro or the steam room at the Beverly Hilton.” The book is not meant to be definitive but is “simply a glimpse into that invisible Los Angeles which is real.”
Los Angeles historians noted the birthday of Elizabeth Short (the Black Dahlia) on July 29 and Smith shares his account as a reporter on the Daily News at the time. He once thought he was the first reporter to get the term “the Black Dahlia” in print but others credit Bevo Means, a police reporter for the Herald Express.
On a lighter note, only in a Jack Smith column or a Caltech history are you likely to find the story of the Caltech musicals created and produced by Professor Kent Clark and friends. In his column, Smith announced that one of Clark’s musicals, “Let’s Advance on Science,” was now available on a phonograph record (possibly a collector’s item today). Smith noted that some of the songs are inside jokes (understood by scientists) but anyone who has lived in Los Angeles long can enjoy the one about Charley Richter in the chapter Men of Science. Here’s the verse about the Long Beach quake:
Nineteen hundred thirty-three and Long Beach rocked and rumbled
Schoolhouse walls and crockery and oil derricks tumbled
Hollywood got hit but good, it even shook the stars
Shattered glass and spilled martinis on a hundred bars,
Six three on the Richter scale…
In The Capital of Kitsch, Smith worries that “the city might lose its gift for doing the preposterous and become as sensible as, say, Toledo.” But he is reassured when he reads that the county will be planting $76,000 worth of plastic trees and flowers along a mile or two of parkway on Jefferson Boulevard. One day he drove to City of Commerce to make sure the Assyrian rubber factory building was still there because, “Our landmarks have a way of vanishing overnight, like baby teeth.”
When we are taking ourselves or the city too seriously, a dose of Jack Smith is a good antidote.
The American Italy: Southern California
By J.W. Hanson, A.M., D.D.
W.B. Conkey Company (Chicago, 1896)
The Boom of the 1880s, fueled by the railroads competing for passengers, promotional efforts by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, and books and magazine articles waxing poetic about the Land of Sunshine, drew hordes of visitors and new residents. One book, Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, even created a tourist industry all its own.
While his book fits the genre of booster literature, Hanson assures readers that “Not a word has been written in the interest of any locality or from any local prejudice.” He has written for “the average stranger, whether tourist, invalid, pleasure seeker, or intending settler” providing them with all the information they might need.
Hanson was certainly not in the same category as the colorful Benjamin C. Truman who wrote a similar book twenty years earlier, titled Semi-Tropical California. Among Truman’s many endeavors was chief of the literary bureau of the Southern Pacific Company where he was responsible for producing the company’s promotional brochures. Both men served in the Civil War, Hanson as a chaplain and Truman as a war correspondent. Hanson was a Universalist minister based in Chicago known for his writings on history and religion, including his own edited version of the New Testament. Truman is remembered as a journalist and too much more to cover in this essay.
Modern readers might find the prose of both books a bit florid, but they yield nuggets of history (often not in textbooks) that help us visualize what this heavily populated area of today was like just over one hundred years ago.
Hanson’s book evolved from notes on photographs he had collected. In late nineteenth century Los Angeles, photographic images sold from photographers’ studios or curio shops were popular with residents and tourists alike and also with magazine publishers, property owners, and merchants. Hanson was especially drawn to views attesting to the area’s superlative climate and fertility like one of a rose bush that covered an entire house or tomato plants so huge one needed to climb a ladder to pick all the ripe fruit.
Not surprisingly, his prose often lapses into religious allusions like this description of the route to Los Angeles: “ … at all approaches, except by sea, the paradise is guarded, as by an angel with a drawn sword. The horrors of the desert interpose to ward off intruders. Heat, thirst, desolation assail those who would enter the modern Eden.” He follows that with a 40-page chapter on the climate and 30 pages on soil products (the soil may look like a gravel bed, but “its fertility is astonishing”), to confirm Southern California’s status as Eden. Other chapters discuss the flora, the mountains, and the seaside. In the section on Los Angeles County, we are told the correct pronunciation is “Lows Ahnheles—popularly corrupted into Laws Angelis.”
As perfect as Southern California might sound, Hansen acknowledges that it has shortcomings which he discusses in a chapter called “Outs.” The most prominent “out” is “the difference in temperature between noon and night, and sunshine and shade. The invalid and the delicate must guard against this change.” But he concludes “this lowering of the temperature more than compensates for its inconvenience, for it gives a night that no land can surpass for sleep.” Other “outs” include earthquakes, of course, but the “tornadoes, cyclones and blizzards in all the states east of the Rockies, work more mischief in one season than all the earthquakes of Southern California have ever wrought.” Another out is the absence of lakes and rivers: “an acknowledged defect in the scenery here … the rivers during a large part of the year are upside down—-that is, sunk in the sand.” And in those days the California flea was “ famous—away from California … After four years I have never encountered the ‘wicked flea.’”
Hanson was based in Chicago where he would have connected with his publisher, W.B. Conkey Co. He and his wife purchased a home in Pasadena and spent many winters here, which is how he became so knowledgeable about the area. Sadly, he was on his way to Pasadena in 1901 for his yearly visit when he died of a heart attack on the train in Flagstaff.
American Italy is one of the sobriquets writers and promoters used to describe Southern California. According to the author, others were “The Land of Sunshine,” The Land of the Sundown Sea” “Poppy Land,” “The New Italy,” “The Better Italy,” “our Italy….” But “In fact, no name has yet been suggested that fully describes the fascinating realm that weaves a spell of enchantment around all comers from all lands and climes.” The sobriquets for Los Angeles have changed over the years, but the city still weaves its own spell of enchantment for some, if not all, comers.
A Southern California Album, Selected Photographs 1880-1900
By Wayne Bonnett, Foreword by Gary F. Kurutz
Windgate Press (Sausalito, California, 2006)
This album features the photographs of William H. Fletcher who arrived in Los Angeles from Vermont in 1884 along with hordes of other emigrants from the East and Midwest looking for Paradise and to get rich growing oranges. After all, that’s what the city’s promotional literature promised. Fletcher planned to open a drug store and cater “to invalids with respiratory ailments.” But alas, there were already enough druggists so he pursued photography, real estate, fruit growing, and oil drilling to make his living. He did not have a studio or gallery and despite the excellence of his work, is not well known today. The Huntington and Los Angeles Public libraries have some examples of his work but most of his images—including the ones reproduced in this book—are in the California State Library in Sacramento.
Fletcher photographed all over Southern California from Redondo Beach to Mount Lowe capturing the wide-open spaces of the Cahuenga Valley (from the tower of the Belmont Hotel) and the bustling streets of downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena. He documented special events like San Pedro’s free harbor jubilee in 1899 and the fanciful floats of La Fiesta de Los Angeles. Among his 1,300 surviving images are examples of both public buildings and private homes, including J. Cather Newsom’s delightful Victorians.
The album shows the work of more than two dozen other photographers, in addition to Fletcher, including these two familiar ones, William Henry Jackson and Charles C. Pierce. Many of the more than two hundred photographs had not been published previously.
While many of the images may be found online, “viewing them reproduced in a book such as this is a much more enriching experience,” wrote Kurutz in the Foreword. We agree – the reproductions are stunning and the book an important contribution to the photographic history of Los Angeles.
Los Angeles and its Environs in the Twentieth Century
A Bibliography of a Metropolis
Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., Editor
The Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles, 1973)
If you need suggestions for books to read about Los Angeles, this bibliography has almost 10,000 entries covering the years 1900 to 1970. And the complementary volume (same title) for the years 1970 to 1990 has more than 5,000 entries, assembled by the city’s first archivist, Hynda Rudd. The listings include articles, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations as well as books, grouped in more than 80 categories from agriculture to welfare. The first entry is an article on agricultural in 1929 and the last one, #9895, William Stewart Young’s history of the Hollenbeck Home in the category of welfare. While in the welfare section, our eyes landed on the entry for Tom Griswald’s “A Bum’s Guide to Los Angeles,” American Mercury, December 1940. It’s a fun read. Here’s a link: http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmMercury-1940dec-0040
Rudd’s complementary volume was published by the Los Angeles Historical Society in 1996 and features lists of public and special libraries, community, ethnic, and religious newspapers, and photographic and oral history collections in addition to the bibliography.
The amazing variety of articles culled from such diverse publications as Southern California Business, the Pomona Valley Historian, Publishers Weekly, Saturday Night, and Los Angeles Realtor results in a dizzying array of entries, documenting seemingly everything of possible importance in twentieth century Los Angeles. Not everything, noted Nunis, who hoped the bibliography would inspire more research and more articles on areas not covered or covered inadequately. The goal of the bibliography is to assist “anyone who had a question about, or who sought background reading in any aspect of life in greater Los Angeles.”
While these two are perhaps the most ambitious bibliographies of the city, there are other more modest lists, including Msgr. Francis J. Weber’s California Bibliographies (Historical Society of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1991). We picked up a free copy at LA Heritage Day recently. Weber first compiled this bibliography in 1968 with 121 entries. Reprinted in 1991 to celebrate the centennial of the historical society, the list had grown to 292 titles. As noted bibliographer (and Henry Huntington’s first librarian) George Watson Cole pointed out “No bibliography is, in an absolute sense, complete.”
Among his entries, Weber lists Gregg Layne’s Books of the Los Angeles District (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1950), “a minutely detailed compilation of fifty-five titles published between 1872 and 1948.” Layne used his introduction to tell us why he did not include some important books, especially ones that have a lot of information about Los Angeles. For example, he was “sorely tempted to include Robert Glass Cleland’s History of California: The American Period for the reason of his one chapter in that book, ‘Queen of the Cow Counties,’ which has more than once been referred to as a gem of historical writing.” He stressed that the books in his list are “wholly or in the main about the Los Angeles District alone.”
Weber listed his own bibliography of Los Angeles, A Select Los Angeles Bibliography 1872-1970 (Dawson’s Book Shop, 1970), in which he “appraises 250 representative titles which deal exclusively with the sixty-mile radius which comprises the city’s land area.”
These are just a few examples of the many bibliographies on Los Angeles subjects. There’s even a bibliography for the Dodgers: The Dodgers Bibliography: From Brooklyn to Los Angeles by Myron J. Smith (Mecklermedia, 1988). We love bibliographies so will share other ones we like from time to time.
A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles
& Southern California
by David Gebhard and Robert Winter
Peregrine Smith, Inc (Santa Barbara and Salt Lake City, 1977)
Once called The Blue Brick by Los Angeles Times columnist, Jack Smith, this 728-page book is chock full of photos (600), maps (120) and hundreds of examples of L.A.’s built environment. The introduction offers a good overview of the city’s architectural history and is illustrated with images of iconic buildings now gone. If the introduction inspires you to learn more, you can choose from among the titles listed in the ten pages of bibliography. The acknowledgement list is long and includes many familiar names (Esther McCoy and Julius Shulman, for example) and unfamiliar ones like Sally and Eugene Lesner who tracked down every entry in the Los Angeles section of the earlier guide, “noting address and map difficulties and making sometimes sharp criticisms of our choices.”
A modest version of this book was written as a guide for members attending the joint meeting of the College Art Association and the Society of Architectural Historians in Los Angeles in 1964. Later distributed as a member benefit for the opening of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1965, it was updated in 2003 with new photography and re-titled An Architectural Guide to Los Angeles. Some readers prefer the1977 edition because “it has more information,” including listings for all of Southern California; the later edition is limited to Los Angeles County.
Occidental College is awarding an honorary degree to Robert Winter on Sunday, June 22, in recognition of his teaching career there from 1964-1996. (Co-author David Gebhard, professor at University of California Santa Barbara, passed away in 1996.)