Here is the cover for the book, “The Art of Street Lighting in Los Angeles,” published by Dawson’s Book Shop in 1972. The book began a series of books published by Dawson’s, titled “Los Angeles Miscellany.”
As Glen Dawson celebrates his 100th birthday today, here is the list of that series published from 1972 to 1985 for the enthusiast of Los Angeles history. Glen Dawson carried on the tradition started by his father, Ernest Dawson, who opened Dawson’s Book Shop in downtown Los Angeles in 1905. The tradition continues with Glen’s nephew, Michael Dawson, who continues to operate Dawson’s.
- No. 1 in the series: “The Art of Street Lighting in Los Angeles” by Eddy S. Feldman. 1972
- No. 2: “Early Cemeteries of the City of Los Angeles” by Edwin H. Carpenter. 1973
- No. 3: “The Dohenys of Los Angeles” by Ward Ritchie. 1974.
- No. 4: “Manhole Covers of Los Angeles” by Robert A. Melnick and Mimi Melnick. 1974. This book was reprinted by MIT Press in 1996.
- No. 5: “Early Film Making in Los Angeles” by Charles Galloway Clarke. 1976.
- No. 6: “Los Angeles Barrio Calligraphy” by Jerry Romotsky and Sally R. Romotsky. 1976.
- No. 7: “Bunker Hill: A Los Angeles Landmark” by Arlen Hylen. 1976.
- No. 8: “Los Angeles in Civil War Days, 1860-65” by John W. Robinson. 1977.
- No. 9: “The Observations of Benjamin Cummings Truman on El Camino Real” by Benjamin Cummings Truman; Francis J. Weber, editor. 1978.
- No. 10: “Southern California’s First Railroad: The Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad, 1869-1873” by John W. Robinson. 1978.
- No. 11: “Stephen Mallory White” by Kenneth M. Johnson. 1980.
- No. 12: “Los Angeles Before the Freeways, 1850-1950, Images of an Era” by Arnold Hylen. 1981
- No. 13: “My Own Los Angeles, 1894-1982” by Warren S. Rogers. 1982.
- No. 14: “Farewell My Book” by Tom Neal. 1983.
- No. 15: “Paul Landacre: A Life and a Legacy” by Anthony L. Lehman. 1983.
- No. 16: “Winged Mail: From Avalon to Bunker Hill [1894-1898]” by Anna Marie Hager. 1985.
May 7 - 13, 2012 is Children’s Book Week. Children’s Book Week began in 1919 and took place in November before it was moved to May in 2008. The four main department stores in early Los Angeles — Bullock’s, J. W. Robinson’s, The Broadway and May Co. — each had book departments that resembled mini-bookstores. With help from the Los Angeles Public Library, Bullock’s published a list of recommended children’s books (mostly classics) in 1921 to encourage reading and book buying. After all, as written inside this brochure: “Happy is the Child with Books!”
Southern California Quarterly
Journal of the Historical Society of Southern California
In case you don’t have enough reasons to join the Historical Society of Southern California, here’s a new one. Members now have online access to the entire library of articles published by the Society for the past 128 years. It’s an incredibly rich resource for Los Angeles history. The Quarterly is part of the Current Scholarship Program formed by the University of California Press with JSTOR (short for journal storage) which archives numerous academic journals. Members will continue to receive the print version as well which this month (Spring 2012) includes Steven W. Hackel’s 2011 Whitsett Lecture, “Digging Up the Remains of Early Los Angeles: The Plaza Church Cemetery,” among other articles and book reviews.
Brown Buck, A Californian Fantasy
by A. L. Rowse
Michael Joseph (London, 1976)
This may not look like a book about Los Angeles, my usual subject. But it is a very behind the scenes look at the Huntington Library by one of the more distinguished scholars to have researched there. And today it is my tribute to one of the Library’s longtime researchers, John Marcellus Steadman (1918-2012) who loved this book. Perhaps because he is one of the principal characters in it, the Great Orientalist (“Great in knowledge as well as girth.”) There are other characters including Mr. Longnose, Mr. Kindheart (who was Top Old Boy), Miss Mehitabel Wormwood (the Broomstick Lady), Lucy Kindheart (Top Old Boy’s wife), the Punctuation Ladies (“It was rumoured that they even understood the correct use of the colon: which hardly anybody does.”), and Diggory (the G.O.’s special friend from Cornwall), among others.
According to Rowse, Dr. Steadman was the Great Orientalist because he had been to the Orient. He had been to Japan and seen the snows of Fujiyama, he had been to Darjeeling and seen the snows of Kanchenjunga. What is more, he could pronounce those names. He was very gifted.
On Friday afternoons the G.O. served tea in the Japanese teahouse, as a mandarin dressed in his kimono. Well, wrong again — mixing up China with Japan. But the G.O. was like a Chinese mandarin, and he did wear a kimono to hand out tea.
And wha-a-a-at tea! It was very strong and bitter, without milk or sugar, and in such tiny cups.
It was all done in accordance with the Japanese tea-ceremony, which the Great Orientalist knew All About.
I nearly forgot to say that the G.O. was the best-tempered man in the world.
There are many animal characters, too, because after all this is Brown Buck’s story of a sojourn at the Huntington after escaping a forest fire in the nearby mountains. It is written for “children of all ages.”
Like John, I love this book, too, so humorous and with delightful illustrations by John Ward. The book’s blurb says, “Dr. Rowse teases gently the professors and other researchers who use the library and the staff of the building and surrounding gardens.” Dr. Steadman used to ask me when the Huntington Library was going to reprint the book (I was director of book publishing). Alas not everyone thought the teasing was gentle.
The History of Occidental College
by Robert Glass Cleland
Ward Ritchie Press (Los Angeles 1937)
This history of the first 50 years of Occidental College is one of the lesser known works of California historian Robert Glass Cleland. He tells about the beginning of the college which was founded April 20, 1887 just as the “boom of the 80s” went bust as well as something of the nature of the city at that time. In regard to educational institutions, there were already three others of higher learning: St. Vincent’s College, USC and Sierra Madre College (in South Pasadena). Cleland describes Occidental’s first campus in Boyle Heights, its later move to Highland Park, and finally its current location in Eagle Rock.
While the early years seemed to be ones of constant struggle, the college finally thrived and today celebrates its 125th birthday.
Theodore Payne In His Own Words, A Voice for California Native Plants
Many Moons Press, Pasadena 2004
It’s California Native Plants week (April 16-20) and probably no one worked harder to promote California native plants than the Englishman, Theodore Payne. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1893 with a thorough background and training in the nursery and seed business. This book includes several delightful stories about his life as a nurseryman in Los Angeles beginning with his job as a gardener on Madame Modjeska’s Ranch in Orange County to the creation of the Theodore Payne Foundation in 1960, now a 22-acre site in Sun Valley with a nursery, seed center and bookstore.
The World From Here: Treasures from the Great Libraries of Los Angeles
Cynthia Burlingham and Bruce Whitman, editors
UCLA Grunwald Center for the Graphic Arts and Hammer Museum (Los Angeles 2001)
It’s National Library Week, April 8 to 14, which seems like an appropriate time to read about the great libraries of Los Angeles in this sumptuous 464-page book. Selected treasures from thirty-two libraries are pictured and described and include the first printed map of Hollywood, the Los Angeles City and County Directory from 1872, a rare copy of Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, with watercolor illustrations, and Edward Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966).
The book was the catalog for the exhibit of the same name, installed at the Hammer Museum from October 2001 to January 2002. Preceding the catalog section are three essays about libraries, including one on library building in Los Angeles during the 20th century.
Like the X on a pirate treasure map, the X on the cover of this book marks Los Angeles as the location for bibliographic treasures.
Today is last day of the 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. In addition to books and ephemera of all types and topics, there are also many Los Angeles classics, often signed by LA writers, poets, artists, and historians (too many to name). And while there are many classics expensively priced, we found this early copy of Charles Lummis’ Land of Sunshine, 1899, for $30.
Book cover of “Tales of the Los Angeles Parks” by Leo Politi, as Politi was born November 21, 1908. Born in Frenso, Politi drew much artistic inspiration from Los Angeles landmarks. While he won the prestigious Caldecott Medal for children’s books, adults also appreciated his books with titles such as Tales of the Los Angeles Parks and his book about the now-lost neighborhood of Bunker Hill. (One suggestion, if you see either of these books at a garage sale, buy them. They are hard to find.)
Michael Dawson, of LA’s historic Dawson Books which has moved from a physical space to a virtual space, just sent out an email about his collection of WPA Guidebooks. Here’s the WPA Guide on Los Angeles (recently reprinted by UC Press) but there are other books (with great covers) available, such as “Berkeley: First 75 Years,” “History of the Ranchos of San Diego County,” and “Pioneer Tales of San Bernardino County.” [Update: Will add the link as it becomes available].