Catalina Island – History, Mystery, Beauty, and Buffalo

Over 9,000 years ago, members of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe built settlements on a rocky island located 25 miles off the coast of what is today Southern California. They referred to their homeland as Pimu or Pimugna and themselves as Pimungans. In the 1500s, Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed on the island and claimed it for Spain, naming it San Salvador (after his ship). In the early 1600s, another Spanish explorer, Sebastian Vizcaino, renamed the island Santa Catalina Island (in honor of St. Catherine). That name stuck.

Although the island fell under Spanish rule, American and Russian hunters set up camps on the island to hunt for seals and sea lions. Missionaries visited the island to teach the gospel. Miners searched for gold and precious minerals. Pirates of all nationalities used the islands to conduct smuggling activities. In 1846, mere days before the United States invaded Mexico, the Governor of Mexico granted ownership of Santa Catalina Island to Thomas Robbins, a naturalized citizen of Mexico. A few years later, Santa Catalina Island became part of the United States. Robbins sold the land in 1850 to Jose Maria Covarrubias. The island changed hands a number of times during the next several years with James Lick (at one point the richest man in California) purchasing the entire island in 1864.

Real estate developer George Shatto bought the island from the Lick family (James Lick had died) in 1887 with the idea of turning it into a resort. He defaulted on the loan and the property returned to Lick’s estate. Brothers Joseph and Hancock Banning (sons of Phineas Banning, “father of the Port of Los Angeles”) bought the island and did develop resort facilities, only to have them destroyed in a fire that eventually bankrupted them. In 1919, chewing gum magnate William Wrigley bought the island. He made many infrastructure improvements, built attractions (including the Catalina Casino), and made the island a destination for tourists and fun seekers. When William Wrigley died, the oversight of the island passed to his son, Phillip, who, in 1975, deeded 90% of the island to the newly formed Catalina Island Conservancy (which Phillip had created).

Today, Santa Catalina Island – generally referred to as Catalina Island or simply Catalina – is visited by over a million tourists per year. A perusal of the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection (TESSA) shows Catalina Island to be an archeological treasure trove, a seaside resort, a fisherman’s paradise, and a Southern California version of home on the range where the buffalo do indeed roam.

The Pimugnans mined the island’s vast reserves of soapstone, often traveling to the coastland (to what is today San Pedro) to sell this commodity. They had villages all over the island. In this photo, an anthropologist is seen with human remains he has unearthed from a Native American grave on Santa Catalina Island.

anthropologist on catalina

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1920.

The anthropologist (name unknown) displays a fire-making tool used by Native Americans who inhabited Catalina Island.

catalina island relics

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1920.

Pictured here is a panoramic view of Avalon Bay. The large ship in the harbor is the S.S. Catalina, also known as the Great White Steamer, which ferried passengers between Los Angeles and Avalon Harbor for over fifty years. If you click on the photo, you will be able to see a large circular building on the far right. This is the Catalina Casino, which houses a theater and ballroom (but no gambling facilities).

avalon bay

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Dick Whittington, date unknown.

The Catalina Casino (also known as the Avalon Casino Ballroom) was built in the Moorish Alhambra style and adorned with Art Deco fixtures. The Casino’s ballroom, as seen here, is the largest circular ballroom in the world and has a row of permanent seats surrounding it.

catalina ballroom

Herman Schultheis Collection, photo taken by Herman Schultheis in 1938.

The interior of the Catalina Casino features Art Deco styling. The building itself is surrounded by the sea on three sides. Here we see the Casino’s lobby and box office. (The Casino does not have any gambling facilities but does show movies and hold special events.)

catalina casino lobby

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1929.

With its temperate weather, Catalina Island is a great spot for outdoor events. Here we see an open-air theater on a hillside on the island. The theater was apparently used for concerts, as a sign on the theater shell stated: “Do not talk while band is playing.”

open-air theater on catalina island

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Folks are also able to enjoy dining al fresco pretty much all year round on Catalina Island. Here we see tables set up outside the Paseo El Encanto, a market in Avalon that featured Spanish Colonial Revival architecture.

paseo el encanto catalina island

Herman Schultheis Collection, photo taken by Herman Schultheis in 1938.

Catalina Island is known for its great fishing spots. The crew of the fishing boat Diamond Jim chose the west end of the island to cast their nets and got an unexpected catch – a 4,200 pound great white shark!

shark caught catalina island

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken by Michael Haering on September 20, 1985.

Zane Grey, author of many popular western adventure novels (the most famous being Riders of the Purple Sage), built a home on Catalina Island (which later became the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel) to use as a place to get away, write, and fish. (His primary California residence was in Altadena.)  Grey served as president of Catalina’s exclusive fishing club, the Tuna Club of Avalon. Here he poses with a swordfish he caught off the shores of Catalina Island.

zane grey with swordfish

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Of course, with all the fish available off the shores of Santa Catalina Island (tuna, mackerel, sardines), fishing was not only a recreational endeavor but also a commercial enterprise.  Pictured here are employees of Coast Fishing Tuna Cannery in Avalon.

cannery workers catalina island

Shades of L.A. Collection, photo taken in 1945.

Taxidermy of large fish was also popular. In this photo, a woman prepares a fish for mounting at a taxidermist shop in Avalon.

swordfish mounting

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1933.

Many residents built beautiful homes on the island.  The Banning brothers, who had ownership of Santa Catalina Island for over 25 years, sought to make Avalon (the only incorporated city on the island) a world-class resort. They built the Hotel St. Catherine and added attractions that included an incline railway, an amphitheater, and an aquarium. A huge fire swept through the city in 1915 and destroyed most of their property. This photo is of Descanso, the Catalina Island home of Hancock Banning.

banning residence on catalina

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Park & Co. Photo Studio, date unknown.

William Wrigley, Jr. (of Wrigley chewing gum fame) bought Catalina Island from the Banning brothers in 1919. He upgraded the island by installing utilities, building roads, planting trees and other flora, and building the Catalina Casino. He also oversaw the construction of his own personal residence which sat on a hill overlooking Avalon.

wrigley residence catalina island

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

The stately Victorian home known as the Lefmann Residence had a castle-like presence in the midst of tropical landscaping.

lefmann residence

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

While Avalon is the most populous city on Catalina Island, the town of Two Harbors — located at the Isthmus of Santa Catalina (18 miles from Avalon) and built between two harbors (Banning Harbor and Catalina Harbor) — offers beautiful views and a great place to unwind, as seen in this photo.

two harbors on catalina harbor

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Of course, not all residents of Catalina Island are human. Buffalo were brought over to the island for the filming of a movie and remained on the island after the film shoot ended. (Note: Popular consensus is that the film which introduced buffalo to the island was the 1925 silent film The Vanishing American. That film, however, has no bison in it. Some theorized that the film The Covered Wagon brought the creatures to Catalina, yet that movie (which does feature buffalo) was not filmed on the island. Another film, The Thundering Herd (released in 1925) may have brought buffalo to Catalina Island, as the Catalina Islander (the island’s newspaper) mentioned in its October 6th, 1938, edition that the herd had been brought over by the filmmakers who then gifted the herd to the island.)

buffalo on catalina island

Valley Times Collection, photo dated July 22, 1962.

Spanish missionaries brought a few goats to Catalina Island in 1827, ostensibly as food for natives living on the island. The missionaries and the natives eventually all left the island, but the goats stayed and multiplied. (The goat population on Catalina Island in the 1950s was approximately 25,000.) The goats lived on the rugged terrain at the west end of the island, surviving on any and all vegetation — grass, cacti, flowers, tree leaves and bark. In the early 1990s, efforts were made to eliminate the goat population as they were decimating the top soil and negatively affecting Catalina’s ecosystem. Today, there are no goats (other than a few pets) on the island.

mountain goats on catalina

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Not all the goats on Catalina were wild. Some were downright friendly and loved company — particularly if said company brought them something to eat. And since goats eat just about anything, it is not hard to find a snack to entice them!

goats eating hats

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1928.

The Santa Catalina Bird Park covered eight acres, housed over 8,000 different species of birds, and was Catalina’s biggest attraction for over 35 years. Known as the world’s largest birdcage, it was constructed from remnants of the Sugarloaf Dance Pavilion which had been demolished to create space for the Catalina Casino. The bird park closed in 1966 and all birds were transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo.

santa catalina bird park

Works Progress Administration Collection, photo taken by Alma Overholt on March 18, 1940.

For the Chicago Cubs, beautiful Catalina Island was not a vacation destination but rather a place of grueling exercise and intense work. William Wrigley owned the baseball team and had them come to the island for their Spring training.

chicago cubs on catalina island

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1930.

Abelardo Luis Rodriguez (man on the right), son of General Rodriguez (former President of Mexico), chose Catalina Island as a place to marry and have a honeymoon. After arriving at Catalina Island’s airport with his wedding party, he and his companions were taken to Toyon Bay where he and his fiancée, actress Lucille Bremer (female in middle of photo), were married by a Justice of the Peace. Toyon Bay is two and a half miles northwest of Avalon and was once the site of a boy’s boarding school. During World War II, the school site was used to house the Office of Strategic Services (which would later become the Central Intelligence Agency) where soldiers were trained in guerrilla warfare. The site is now occupied by Catalina Island Marine Institute which offers educational programs and summer camps for children.

Abelardo Luis Rodriguez

Valley Times Collection, photo dated August 6, 1948.

As the number of vehicles allowed on the island is restricted (and obtaining a permit to import a car or truck can take more than ten years), most people – particularly those staying in Avalon – walk, bike, or use golf carts to get around. Natural beauty and no traffic — now that is paradise!

golf carts on catalina island

Shades of L.A. Collection, Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken in 1962.

 

 

Oh Let’s Do Lunch! Dining Out During the Day (Maybe) in Los Angeles

There are many ways to “do lunch” in L.A., from a power lunch with your agent to a quick bite from a cart while you run errands. Peruse the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library and you’ll get an idea of where folks in Los Angeles – from traffic cops to studio executives – enjoy their midday meal (sometimes in the middle of the night).

Philippe’s, established in 1908 by Philippe Mathieu, created its signature sandwich – the French Dip –by accident in 1918. A police officer came to the eatery for lunch and ordered a roast beef sandwich. Mathieu – rushing to get the sandwich made quickly as the officer was in a hurry – accidentally dropped the French roll (used for all sandwiches in his restaurant) into a roasting pan filled with hot juice. The policeman said he would take the sandwich anyway. He returned the next day with fellow officers who wanted to try this new sandwich which was dipped in juice. The sandwich became known as the French Dip – perhaps because Mathieu was French, perhaps because the officer’s surname was French, or perhaps because of the French roll. No one is certain of the origin of the name, but 100 years later, Philippe’s still serves up French dips (beef, pork, lamb, turkey, or ham) to city workers, shoppers, stars, students, senators, and those wanting a good lunch with a cheap cup of coffee.

Philippe's

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken by Michael Haering on November 18, 1986.

Nick’s Café was opened in 1948 by Nick, a Navy vet, who served breakfast from early morning until early afternoon (when the café closed). Nick offered bone-in ham sliced to order (earning the restaurant the nickname “the Ham House”) in his eatery across from the River Station freight yards. Business was brisk. After a bit, Nick sold the restaurant to two LAPD homicide detectives and the diner became a regular for cops and DWP workers. Today Nick’s Café still serves up breakfast all day to its eclectic crowd. The menu has some new items, but the day for Nick’s Café still ends at 3:00 p.m.

Nick's Cafe

Gary Leonard Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken
by Gary Leonard on October 21. 2005.

Of course, Los Angeles has people – cops, film crews, hospital workers, firefighters – working all hours of the day and night, so lunch might be at 3:00 a.m. or 6:00 p.m. or midnight. Snap’s Coffee Shop was open 24/7 to serve hungry customers classic diner fare – fried chicken, meat loaf, grilled cheese sandwiches, French fries, and pie and coffee.

snap's coffee shop

 

inside snap's coffee shop

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, both photos undated.

Want to take a trip but cannot get away? Lunch inside the Zep Diner in South Los Angeles could help you feel as if you’re traveling high above the clouds (and your worries).

zep diner

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated March 21, 1931.

If you wanted a bit of fun with your lunch, the Merry Go Round Café was the place for you. Sit at the counter and watch as various meals slowly slide past you. Grab the one you want. Gustav and Gertrude Kramm had the idea of a cafe that served home-cooked food presented on a rotating conveyor belt and accessible by lifting a glass door and selecting the item. Items on the merry go round included salads, sandwiches, desserts, and relishes. Hot food was delivered by servers and fresh coffee was available every ten minutes. Lunch was 35¢; a full dinner (including two salads, a dessert, and all the rolls you wanted) was 50¢.

merry go round cafe

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1932.

Southern Californians have always been on the move and their lunch counters are no exception! Here we see a lunch wagon parked by the parking lot of a local employer (believed to be a local aviation manufacturer). During lunch hour, an employee could grab a cold drink, a hot sandwich, and a pack of smokes all in one visit to this lunchmobile. lunch wagon

Ansel Adams Fortune Magazine Collection ( Los Angeles Photographers Collection),
photo taken by Ansel Adams in 1940.

Shoppers, workers, and beach goers in Venice could enjoy delicious seafood tacos and burritos from Tania’s Catering truck, seen here parked on Lincoln Boulevard.

catering truck

Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, photo taken by Cheryl Himmelstein in October, 2002.

The L.A. Mission has been serving meals to homeless individuals since 1936. In this photo we see a typical lunch crowd (approximately 250 people) on a typical day.

l.a. mission

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in October of 1986.

If you were in Hollywood and got hungry, you could not go wrong with the lunch counter at Schwab’s Pharmacy (generally called Schwab’s Drug Store). Located near the corner of two boulevards (Sunset and Crescent Heights) for fifty years, Schwab’s was frequented by celebrities, screenwriters, set designers, directors, locals, and tourists who stopped in for ice cream, coffee, sandwiches, and light meals. Syndicated columnist Sidney Skolsky used the drug store as his office; his column for Photoplay magazine was titled From a Stool at Schwab’s. (Marilyn Monroe would leave messages bearing the signature “Miss Caswell” for Skolsky at Schwab’s.) Angela Lansbury stopped in to enjoy ice cream sodas, James Dean had prescriptions filled there, and F. Scott Fitzgerald stopped at Schwab’s to buy cigarettes and had a heart attack. Contrary to popular legend, Lana Turner was not discovered at Schwab’s (but at another eatery on Sunset Boulevard), but she did stop there to pick up her favorite lipstick. Chances are good that she also enjoyed a malted or cup of coffee while she was there.

schwab's drug store

Roy Hankey Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by Roy Hankey in 1980.

The El Rey Café at 417 E. 6th Street in downtown Los Angeles was ready for the lunch crowd with silverware settings on the counter, hot coffee perking in the kitchen, and a selection of cigars at the cash register – everything needed to serve and satisfy the hungry crowd. As the Pacific Mutual Life Building was a couple blocks away (just behind Pershing Square) and the street was lined with clothing shops, loan offices, and hotels, the café would do a brisk business serving clerks, bankers, insurance salesmen, executives, secretaries, and sightseers.

el rey cafe

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Busy? Cranky? Don’t want to get out of the car for lunch? No problem. Tiny Naylor’s Drive In served delicious food – sandwiches, malts, patty melts – and you never needed to leave your car. With the original drive-in located at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and La Brea Avenue, this eatery (one of the original Googie-style restaurants) was a favorite of film stars who wanted to grab a bite to eat without being noticed. (A chain of Tiny Naylor’s restaurants dotted greater Los Angeles at one time, with one attached to a car wash in Studio City where many a celebrity had their vehicle washed.) Tiny Naylor (who was 6 foot 4 and weighed 320 pounds) realized that folks got hungry at all hours, so this drive-in was open 24/7.

tiny naylor's drive in

Roy Hankey Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by Roy Hankey in 1980.

For an elegant lunch surrounded by tranquility and beauty, you might choose to dine at the Huntington Gardens. Here we see a couple enjoying lunchtime tea brought by a kimono-clad server. While there are no longer carts offering tea in the garden, you may still enjoy lunch at Huntington Gardens, inside or outside, by yourself, with friends, or with a party.

huntington gardens tea

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Grab some lunch and then grocery shop for meat, fish, fresh produce, spices, handmade tamales, and baked goods at downtown L.A.’s Grand Central Market. Housed in the Homer Laughlin Building (which once held offices for architect Frank Lloyd Wright), Grand Central Market still provides hungry visitors with victuals ranging from ice cream to egg rolls to oysters, chile rellenos to fried chicken to sticky rice.

grand central market

William Reagh Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by William Reagh in 1966. 

Lunch goers in Los Angeles have the luxury of enjoying authentic Mexican cuisine. Lalo’s Birrieria y Taqueria on Main Street serves up birria and other Mexican dishes with homemade tortillas. (Birria is a spicy stew traditionally made with goat meat but which may also be made with beef or pork.)

lalo's

Stone Ishimaru Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by Stone Ishimaru in 2007.

Frank Toulet opened Frank’s Francois Café on Hollywood Boulevard in 1919. Four years later, restauranteur Joseph Musso became Toulet’s partner. The two entrepreneurs hired French chef Jean Rue to create a menu and cook for their fine establishment. The restaurant was christened Musso & Frank Grill (often referred to as Musso & Frank’s by locals). Three years later, Toulet and Musso sold the restaurant to two Italian immigrants, Joseph Carissimi and John Mosso, who retained the name but moved the eatery from 6669 Hollywood Boulevard to 6667 Hollywood Boulevard where it still stands. Musso & Frank’s would become an integral part of Hollywood’s entertainment industry, serving lunch to movie stars, studio execs, screenwriters and writers of all types (including F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Steinbeck, Raymond Chandler, and William Faulkner, who used to go behind the bar to mix his own mint juleps). From humble beginnings sprang a historic venue that is still open today.

francois cafe

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

frank & musso's

William Reagh Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by William Reagh in 1991.

What better way to advertise your lunch offerings than to do so with your eatery’s architecture? The Tamale was a lunchroom in East Los Angeles that featured tamales, chili, hot dogs, malts, and other fare in a uniquely shaped building. It was just the right place for a quick lunch in a place you would not soon forget.

the tamle restaurant in east los angeles

Security Pacific National Bank Collection,  photo undated.

And you also would not forget Tail O’ The Pup in West Hollywood!

tail o the pup

Gary Leonard Collection, (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by Gary Leonard, photo undated.

Of course, location and menu are only part of a great lunch. The right dining companion can make the most mundane meal magnificent. Angie the dog and Casey the duck – the best of friends – meet in a parking lot in Studio City for a fine lunch of watermelon. (No reservations needed.)

angie and casey meet for lunch

 

watermelon!

Valley Times Collection, undated photograph taken by Dave Siddon.

Southern Californians Learn Their Trade: Images from the Los Angeles Trade-Tech Collection

Founded in 1925 as the Frank Wiggins Trade School, Los Angeles Trade–Technical College (commonly referred to as L.A. Trade–Tech) is a public community college in Los Angeles. (The school was renamed Trade–Technical Junior College in 1954 and became part of the Los Angeles Community College District in 1969.) The oldest of the nine campuses of the Los Angeles Community College District, L.A. Trade-Tech offers Associate Degrees, certification programs, and coursework for transfer to four-year colleges or universities. The school has a rich history of preparing Southern Californians for professional positions in industries such as Culinary Arts, Cosmetology, Construction Technology, and Fashion Design.

The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library offers a historical look at L.A. Trade-Tech and its predecessor (Frank Wiggins Trade School) which shows how students were trained for careers in various occupations. (Note: With the exception of the first photograph [portrait of Frank Wiggins], all photos in this post are from the Los Angeles Trade-Tech Photo Collection. Dates for the photos are given if available. )

Born in Richmond, Indiana, in 1849, Frank Wiggins came to California in 1886 for what he expected to be a short visit. A sickly 17-year old, he was not expected to live long. Instead of dying, he regained his health, fell in love with Southern California, and became the first Secretary of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce in 1890. Wiggins was influential in the construction of the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the Port of Los Angeles. He spearheaded the annexation of the City of San Pedro and traveled to various fairs with exhibitions showcasing the multitude of California’s agricultural products. (He created a large elephant out of 850 pounds of California walnuts for the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair. When not exhibiting at a fair or other event, the pachyderm resided at the Chamber of Commerce headquarters.) Innovative and tenacious, he was relentless in his marketing of Los Angeles as the perfect place to build a business, improve your health, raise a family, and forge a new life. (William Mulholland, engineer of the aqueduct and a personal friend of Wiggins, is purported to have said that the only way to stop the growth of Southern California would be to kill Frank Wiggins.)

Wiggins held the post of Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce until 1924 when he died on a steamship returning to Los Angeles from Cuba. The Frank Wiggins Trade School (now L.A. Trade-Tech) was founded and named in his honor in 1925.

frank wiggins

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken by the George Steckel Studio of Los Angeles,
used in article dated March 16, 1935.

A group of students pose at the grand opening of the Frank Wiggins Trade School. The banners they wear signify the programs offered and skills taught at the school.

grand opening of frank wiggins trade school

Photo taken in 1926.

The Walter L. Dodge House (commonly referred to as the Dodge House) was designed by architect Irving Gill and built between 1914 and 1916. Located in West Hollywood, the house was a Spanish Mission style home that many architects considered a prototype of the Modernist movement. It featured cutting-edge innovations such as a garbage disposal in the kitchen and automatic car wash in the garage. The Dodge House was purchased by the L.A. Board of Education and used for classes and instruction purposes. In this photo, we see a student of the Frank Wiggins Household Service Training Program put the finishing touches on a cake at the Dodge House.

dodge house used for frank wiggins trade school

Photo taken in 1940.

A young woman, a student of the Household Service Training Program, practices the art of properly making a bed in a bedroom setting at the Dodge House.

household service training program at dodge house

Photo taken in 1940.

A culinary student at L.A. Trade-Tech practices cutting up fruit in stylish ways.

culinary arts student at l.a. trade-tech

Photo is undated.

Students studying food services at Frank Wiggins Trade School learn to use pastry bags.

pastry chef training

Photo is undated.

Students prepare to bake rolls using an industrial oven while an instructor oversees their work.

industrial baking

Photo is undated.

Two students of Frank Wiggins Trade School assist in the building of a small house. A sign on the wooden building identifies them as apprentices of the school.

frank wigging trade school construction classes

Photo is undated.

Carpentry students build a roof for a model home.

carpentry students

Photo is undated.

Students work on various projects in a wood shop class.

woodworking classes

Photo is undated.

Pictured is the patio of a home built by students of L.A. Trade-Tech. Students designed, built, furnished, and landscaped the house.

home construction by students

Photo is undated.

A student studying the construction trade adds finishing touches to a plastered wall.

plastering instruction

Photo is undated.

Students receive hands-on training in radio operations.

radio operations training

Photo taken in 1940.

Students learn to maintain and repair machinery.

machinery repair classes

Photo is undated.

In 1925, the apparel industry in Southern California was in dire need of well-trained professionals, from seamstresses to tailors to costume designers. Local garment manufacturers offered financial support to Frank Wiggins Trade School in order to create a program in apparel arts that would produce qualified professionals ready to meet the demands of the ever-growing clothing industry. The Fashion Design program continues today at L.A. Trade-Tech, making it the oldest such program in Los Angeles. In this photo, we see students learning the art of dressmaking.

apparel arts training

Photo taken in 1940.

A student pins a jacket together with precision.

tailoring classes

Photo is undated.

A student in the tailoring class fits a jacket on a man.

clothing alterations

Photo is undated.

A student studying millinery arts at Frank Wiggins Trade School adds some stylish touches to a hat.

millinery

Photo is undated.

An aspiring fashion illustrator puts the finishing touches on a drawing of a model.

fashion illustrator

Photo is undated.

Students studying the laundry trade at Frank Wiggins Trade School practice pressing and folding shirts.

laundry services

Photo is undated.

An instructor teaches a class in laundry techniques, helping keep Los Angeles clean and pressed. (Note: Prior to the 1950s, many people did not have washers and dryers in their homes [particularly if one was renting a room or apartment] and relied on knowledgeable dry cleaners and laundry services to properly wash and press their garments.)laundering instruction class

Photo is undated.

A cosmetology student prepares to style the hair of a patron.

hair styling

Photo is undated.

A cosmetology student applies curlers to a patron’s hair in the school’s training salon.

hair styling instruction

Photo is undated.

Students paint commercial signs while an instructor oversees and evaluates their work.

commercial signage classes

Photo is undated.

A poster painted in the Art Department of the Frank Wiggins Trade School advertises Armistice Day (now called Veteran’s Day).

armistice day poster

Photo is undated.

The Fruits of Work: Los Angeles as Seen by the Works Progress Administration

In an effort to end the Great Depression that had plagued the United States since the stock market crash of 1929, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his administration created the New Deal, a series of programs, projects, and policies that would help citizens get jobs, businesses turn a profit, banks become more stable, and the country gain a better financial footing. The New Deal spawned many agencies (known as New Deal agencies and also referred to as alphabet agencies) with missions ranging from financial reform (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Farm Credit Administration, Securities and Exchange Commission) to increasing funding for the arts (Federal Theatre Project, Federal Art Project). The largest agency was the Works Progress Administration (eventually renamed Work Projects Administration) which built public roads, bridges, buildings, and other structures. The WPA employed over eight million people between its inception in 1935 and its disbandment in 1943, and almost every area in the U.S. was improved by the work of the WPA.

The WPA also produced the American Guide Series, a collection of guide books written and compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) which employed more than 6,000 writers. The guide books were printed by individual states and provided historical information on each state, descriptions of major cities, and suggestions for road trips and sightseeing. The original guide book for California was titled California: A Guide to the Golden State and was sponsored by Mabel R. Gillis, the California State Librarian. (The original and updated versions are available at the Los Angeles Public Library.)

The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library (now housed under Tessa) proudly features the Works Progress Administration Photo Collection which features photos taken by the Federal Writers’ Project for possible inclusion into the California guide book. All photos in this blog post are from said collection. (Some of the structures pictured here have been built by WPA workers – a fact duly noted in the photo’s description.)

The following two photos show the mural created by artist Edward Biberman for the post office located in the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles. The Federal Building was being built by WPA workers. Both photos were taken in 1939.


post office mural right half

Right half of mural on post office wall.

 

post office mural left side

Left half of mural on post office wall.

Philanthropist Griffith J. Griffith wanted to make astronomy accessible to the public and thus designated funds in his will to build an observatory. The Works Progress Administration began work on the Griffith Observatory and Planetarium in June of 1933 and finished in May of 1935. The observatory welcomed more than 13,000 visitors in its first week of operation.

griffith observatory

Photo taken in 1939.

St. Vincent de Paul, a Roman Catholic church built in the 1920s, was funded by local oilman Edward J. Doheny. It was located close to one of Doheny’s homes in the very posh neighborhood of West Adams in Los Angeles. It has been designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 90.

st. vincent de paul church

Photo taken in the 1940s. 

The Los Angeles Pet Cemetery (later renamed the Los Angeles Pet Memorial Park), opened in Calabasas in 1928. One of the oldest pet cemeteries on the West Coast, it is the final resting place for celebrity pets including Hopalong Cassidy’s horse and Rudolph Valentino’s dog as well as the beloved companions of more ordinary folks.

los angeles pet memorial park

Photo taken on July 17, 1939, by photographer Burton O. Burt
who later became a newspaper columnist in Pomona.

The City of Whittier was established as a Quaker colony, and thus the Friends Church was foundational to its establishment and growth.

friends' church in whittier

Photo taken on May 29, 1939, by Burton O. Burt.

The Villa Riviera Hotel was built in 1929 in Long Beach, California. Stately and sturdy, it was the second tallest building in the West at the time. (Los Angeles City Hall was the tallest.) Its architect, Richard D. King, won a prize for its design and gained international recognition. It has survived numerous owners and more than a few earthquakes with the only damage being a few easily repaired cracks.

villa riveriera hotel

Photo taken in 1937.

RKO Radio Pictures Studio, one of the big five studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age, advertises the film “Victoria the Great” which featured Anna Neagle and Anton Walbrook.

rko studios

Photo taken in 1940.

Vasquez Rocks, an area located in the Sierra Pelona Mountains in the Antelope Valley in northern Los Angeles County, was used by bandit Tiburcio Vasquez as a hideout when evading law officials. Many people have visited the natural park with its odd rock formations and caves to hike, climb, shoot films, and look for any treasure left behind by Vasquez’s gang.

vasquez rocks

Photo taken on April 22, 1937.

The Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was built in 1923 and was the largest hotel west of Chicago at the time of its opening. Located across the street from Pershing Square, it served as the “nerve center” for the 1960 Democratic National Convention.

biltmore hotel

Photo taken in 1937.

From its completion in 1928 until 1964, Los Angeles City Hall was the tallest building in Los Angeles. City Hall has classical details such as a Greek main entrance and Romanesque arcades at its base and the modern touch of a beacon light on top.


los angeles city hall

Photo taken in 1939.

The Bernheimer Estate in Pacific Palisades, designed by brothers Adolph and Eugene Bernheimer, resembled a pagoda and housed an extraordinary collection of Oriental art including priceless antiques, warrior helmets, silk tapestries, and beautiful wood carvings. The Bernheimer Gardens flourished as a tourist attraction until the outbreak of WWII. Landslides ruined the estate and it was demolished. The Bernheimer brothers built another Japanese-style estate in Hollywood which featured 30,000 species of trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants plus koi ponds, aviaries, and monkey cages. That hilltop property was eventually sold and became the Yamashiro restaurant.

bernheimer estate

Bernheimer gardens with residence in background. Photo taken in 1939.

The Santa Catalina Bird Park on Catalina Island covered eight full acres of land. Built in 1928, it was known as the “world’s largest birdcage” and housed 8,000 different species of rare and exotic birds from all over the world. The Park was an extremely popular attraction, but travel restrictions to Catalina Island that were imposed during WWII caused attendance at the Park to suffer. Alas, the Park never regained its pre-war vitality and closed its doors in 1966. All the birds were transferred to the Los Angeles Zoo.

 

santa catalina bird park

Photo taken March 18, 1940, by Alma Overholt.

Sardi’s Restaurant in Hollywood, the sister of New York City’s Sardi’s, opened on Hollywood Boulevard in 1928 and became the favorite restaurant of Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Maurice Chevalier, and other celebrities plus regular folks looking for fine dining in an elegant atmosphere.

sardi's restaurant

Photo taken in 1937.

The mural titled “Orange Harvest” was painted by Frank Bowers while he worked for the Federal Art Project (a division of the Works Progress Administration). The mural was painted in the California Citrus Exchange Building (also known as the Southern California Fruit Exchange) which was originally located in downtown Los Angeles.

orange harvest mural

Photo dated September 22, 1937.

Scripps College, a liberal arts college for women in Claremont, California, was founded by philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, who considered the college an experiment in education and desired a setting with an artistic connection between buildings and landscape. Scripps College is frequently described as one of America’s most beautiful college campuses and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

scripps college

Photo dated: August 10, 1937.

The Mission San Juan Capistrano was built in 1776, one year after Paul Revere’s ride. The grounds feature beautiful gardens including Garden of the Padres which is pictured here.

mission at san juan capistrano

Photo taken in 1937.

The First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles was built and dedicated in 1927, with the cornerstone being laid on September 18, 1927, in a ceremony officiated by the President of the American Unitarian Association, Samuel A. Eliot.

first unitarian church,

Photo taken July 21, 1937.

MacArthur Park was created in the 1880’s under the name Westlake Park. It featured tropical gardens and a large lake. It was later renamed in honor of General Douglas MacArthur.

macarthur park

Photo taken on June 21, 1939, by Burton O. Burt.

Built in the 1920s, this Spanish-style building was first owned by actor Fred Thomson. It served for a few years as a studio commissary and space for make-up and wardrobe departments for neighboring studios. It also housed shops such as Howard Greer Couturiers and Travis Banton Clothiers.

fred thomson shops

Photo taken in 1935, 50 years before the building would become the Cat & Fiddle Restaurant.

 

From Regal to Rock-n-Roll: Getting Married in the City of Angels

Tis spring, love is in the air, and June (the month for brides) is right around the corner. Weddings in Los Angeles are as varied as the Los Angelinos tying the knot – traditional, trendy, understated, and downright outrageous. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library showcases the many styles of nuptials occuring in the City of Angels, from old world to new age, solemn to silly.

Don and Dinky Zoom exchange wedding vows at the Whisky A Go Go on Sunset Strip. The wedding was held on a Sunday.

don and dinky zoom

Gary Leonard Collection, photo taken by Gary Leonard on August 2, 1981.

Princess Pale Moon (born Rita Ann Suntz and standing on the far right) poses with members of her wedding party shortly before she marries Will Rose in Los Angeles. In the second picture below, she and her new husband confer with a Cherokee medicine man.

princess pale moon wedding

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Rudolph Vetter on November 2, 1977.

cherokee medicine man at wedding

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken on November 2, 1977.

Carmen Pantages (second from left), daughter of theater magnate Alexander Pantages, married Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filmmaker John Considine, Jr. at the Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard on Valentine’s Day of 1932. At far left is the maid of honor, Marion Davies, film star and longtime mistress of William Randolph Hearst. Raised in wealth and privilege, Carmen Pantages Considine brought movies and served food to paralyzed veterans at hospitals in and near Los Angeles on a weekly basis.

carmine pantages wedding

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated February 15, 1932.

True love jumps over hurdles. Cameraman Frank Tanner kisses his bride Erna after a bedside wedding at St. Joseph Hospital in Burbank. Did he perhaps tell someone that he was considering getting married and they told him, “Break a leg!”? (Tanner actually broke his leg in an accident occurred during filming.)

hospital wedding

Valley Times Collection, photo dated November 12, 1956.

Rami and Tayo Abon’s wedding in Claremont, California, was a mixture of traditional American nuptials and African wedding garb.

Shades of L.A.: African American Community, photo taken November 6, 1996.

A newlywed couple enjoy their wedding party on September 26, 1982, at Myron’s Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles.

myron's ballroom wedding reception

Gary Leonard Collection, photo taken on September 26, 1982 by Gary Leonard.

Roberto, Margarita, and their wedding party pose for a formal wedding portrait at Ricci Studio in downtown Los Angeles. The wedding was held at St. Joseph Catholic Church, also in downtown Los Angeles.

wedding portrait at ricci studio

Shades of L.A.: Mexican American Community, photo taken by Ricci Studio in 1942.

Although not a wedding picture, this photo shows the tenacity and devotion needed for a marriage. Attorney David M. Brown (far left) represents Anthony Corbett Sullivan and Richard Frank Adams, plaintiffs in an immigration case. The men met in Los Angeles, fell in love, and went to Boulder, Colorado, where they were issued a marriage license. They would later be told by the U.S. government that their marriage was not a “bona fide marital relationship” and Sullivan, an Australian, was thus eligible for deportation. The couple fought for their marriage to be recognized as legitimate, lost, and left the States. They lived abroad before returning to live quietly in Los Angeles. Their union lasted 41 years.


Married couple Sullivan/Adams immigration case

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Rob Brown on March 15, 1979.

Baseball great Sandy Koufax married Anne Heath Widmark in in 1969 in Los Angeles. He is a left-handed pitcher who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers and was the youngest player ever elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. She is the daughter of actor/producer/director Richard Widmark and screenwriter Ora Jean Hazlewood. (Both are still living but their marriage ended in 1981.)

sandy coufax marries anne widmark

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Jay Thompson and undated.

The wedding ceremony of Ara and Aramine Tavitian is presided over by Archbishop Vatche Hovsepian and held at St. John’s Armenian Apostolic Church.

armenian wedding

Shades of L.A.: Armenian American Community, photo taken in 1995.

A couple promise to love, honor, and obey as they marry in the mouth of a whale.

wedding in a whale

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

This stylish couple donned skates (as did their minister) and became man and wife. One hopes their marriage was smooth skating.

wedding on roller skates

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Bonnie Jean Gray marries Donald W. Harris while she – and everyone in her wedding party – is on horseback in a pasture near Los Angeles. Bonnie Gray was one of the top female rodeo stunt and trick riders during the 1920s and 30s and later became a movie stuntwoman who doubled for Tim McCoy, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson, and Ken Maynard.

horseback wedding

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo undated.

Monir and Nana Deeb take part in their zaffa, a musical procession of drums, bagpipes, horns, and dancers that announce that a marriage ceremony is about to begin. This wedding march is an ancient Arab tradition.

arab-american wedding, islamic wedding

Shades of L.A.: Arab American Community and Shades of L.A.: Lebanese American Community,
photo taken on January 31, 1993.

The wedding party for Irving Thalberg, the film producer known as “The Boy Wonder” and cofounder of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Norma Shearer, Canadian-American actress who was called “the exemplar of sophisticated 1930s womanhood” pose in the backyard of the Thalberg residence in Beverly Hills.

irving thalberg marries norma shearer

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1927.

A young Japanese-American couple pose for their wedding picture in Los Angeles. The bride wears a traditional Japanese wedding kimono.

Shades of L.A.: Japanese American Community, photo taken in 1930.

Frank and Mary Tiesen enjoy a slice of their wedding cake. Also enjoying some wedding cake were 150 blind youngsters from the Foundation for the Blind in Los Angeles, an organization at which Frank and Mary worked as counselors. In the second photo below, you can see one of the guests exploring (and hopefully enjoying) the wedding cake.

Frank and Mary Tiesen marry

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by George Brich on February 4, 1963.

blind child with wedding cake

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by George Brich on February 4, 1963.

A couple pose under a huppah – Hebrew for wedding canopy – during a Jewish wedding in Southern California.

huppah

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by Harry Leach on June 14, 1963.

Child star Shirley Temple leaves Wilshire Methodist Church after marrying Sergeant John Agar Jr. (of the Army Air Corps) in an evening ceremony. Over 12,000 people lined the street to see the couple.

shirley temple and john agar marry

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Howard Ballew on September 20, 1945.

Felines Tigger and Kirby become a married couple at a wedding with Dawn Rogers officiating and her daughters Summer and September assisting. Wedding was followed by a nap.

cat wedding

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by James Ruebsamen on July 25, 1986.

A Battle, a Victory, a Holiday: Cinco de Mayo Explained and Observed

Cinco de Mayo. It inspires parades and parties and sales and even special deals at restaurants, but what exactly does the Fifth of May commemorate and why do we celebrate?

The date is observed to memorialize the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Army at the Battle of Puebla, a battle which ended on May 5, 1862. (Mexican Independence Day, when Mexico was released from Spain’s grip, is celebrated on September 16.) The triumph of the Mexican army (led by General Ignacio Zaragoza) in this battle was surprising since France had a much larger and better equipped army. The French had landed in Veracruz the previous year, ostensibly to obtain reimbursement for debts owed by Mexico to France, but with an ulterior mission of establishing a French empire in Mexico. They promptly forced President Benito Juárez and his government into retreat. After their win at Veracruz, the French army moved towards Mexico City, expecting little resistance and an easy conquest. Instead of a swift victory, they encountered fierce fighting from the Mexican army at Fort Loreto and Fort Guadalupe near Puebla. The French were defeated and the victory of the Mexican army boosted the morale of the Mexican people and created a sense of national patriotism throughout Mexico.

In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is considered a date to celebrate Mexican-American culture. As Southern California boasts a large Mexican-American population, it also boasts a number of Cinco de Mayo celebrations, from family gatherings to community events. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library reveals a wide assortment of Cinco de Mayo festivities – friendly, family, personal, public, and even political.

This Cinco de Mayo festival (like many similar events) features folk songs, traditional dance, native costumes, and native cuisine of Mexico.

cinco de mayo festival

Herald-Examiner Collection, photograph taken in 1943.

A Cinco de Mayo celebration takes place on the steps of City Hall. The event features a parade of people in traditional Mexican costume, with both the Mexican flag and U.S. flag at the head of the parade. A battalion of soldiers stands in formation while onlookers stand across the street. (NOTE: The building in the background is the Hall of Justice, built in 1925. It may look familiar as it has been featured in television shows such as Dragnet, Get Smart, and Perry Mason.)

cinco de mayo parade

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo is undated.

The Battle of Puebla is recreated for a Cinco de Mayo fete with a tug-o-war taking place between the French and the Mexicans in front of a men’s shop. As in the original Battle of Puebla, the Mexicans won.

tug of war for cinco de mayo

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken on May 5, 1960.

A group of Mexican-Americans celebrates Cinco de Mayo at the historic Avila House on Olvera Street. They placed flowers before a portrait of General Ignacio Zaragoza, who led the Mexican Army during the Battle of Puebla in 1862 where the French forces were defeated. (Note: Zaragoza died of typhoid fever four months after the victory on May 5, 1862.)

commemoration of ignacio Zaragoza

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1953.

Members of the planning committee at Lawry’s California Center view advertisements for holiday celebrations. (Note: The Center closed in the early 1990s but has reopened as the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens.)

lawry's california center

Shades of L.A.: Mexican-American Community, photo dated 1983.

Dancers compete for the honor of reigning as queen over the Mexican-American colony’s Cinco de Mayo celebration in the Los Angeles Coliseum. The festival will feature song, dance, and athletic competitions.

dance competition for cinco de mayo

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken on May 2, 1940.

Two children hold a blanket displaying the Mexican coat of arms during a celebration in downtown Los Angeles that drew 40,000 people.

mexican coat of arms

Lucille Stewart Collection, photo taken by Lucille Stewart in 1945.

A beautiful senorita performs the Mexican hat dance for such luminaries as Mayor Fletcher Bowron (second from right) and actress Celeste Holm (middle) who were attending Cinco de Mayo festivities on Olvera Street.

mexican hat dance

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1952.

Children attend a Cinco de Mayo celebration that features a maypole at Ramona Gardens, a public housing project built in Boyle Heights in 1939.

ramona gardens cinco de mayo festival

Housing Authority Collection, photo taken by Otto Rothschild in 1949.

Dancers perform at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the Watts Health Foundation.

cinco de mayo festivities in watts

Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, photo taken by James W. Jeffrey, Jr. in 2000.

At a pre-Cinco de Mayo celebration, celebrants gather at La Golondrina Cafe on Olvera Street (Calle Olvera), a street in downtown Los Angeles that is part of the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District (El Puebla de Los Ángeles Historical Monument) which encompasses the oldest section of the city.

cinco de mayo at la golondrina cafe

Herald-Examiner Collection (Box 3692), photo taken in 1951.

A Cinco de Mayo dinner is held at Los Angeles City Hall to honor Dr. Ezequiel Padilla (pictured at right with cigar in hand), Mexico’s Secretary for Foreign Relations and a former Washington ambassador. The event was attended by Mayor Fletcher Bowron plus dignitaries and prominent citizens of Los Angeles.

ezequial padilla at cinco de mayo dinner

Lucille Stewart Collection, photo taken by Lucille Stewart in May of 1945.

Mayor Fletcher Bowron, Mexican Counsel Rodolfo Salazar, and California Governor Culbert Olson wear miniature United States and Mexican flags in their lapel while attending a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

mayor fletcher bowron celebrates cinco de mayo

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo is undated.

A group of young dancers entertains the crowds at William Mead Homes Housing Project in Chinatown.

william mead homes' cinco de mayo festival

Housing Authority Collection, photo is undated.

A member of Borde Arts Workshop speaks at a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Highways, a venue for dance, song, art, and music located in Santa Monica.

highways (art space) in santa monica

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Leo Jarzomb and dated October 1, 1989.

Joseph Kennedy (on the left), son of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy, presents a bust of his father to Frank Serrano, principal of the newly opened Robert F. Kennedy Elementary School in East Los Angeles during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the school.

robert f. kennedy school

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Sergio Ortiz on May 6, 1972.

Cesar Chavez (civil rights activist, labor organizer, and co-founder of the United Farm Workers union) speaks about Cinco de Mayo at U.C.L.A.

cesar chavez

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Ken Papleo on May 5, 1979.

Preschooler Hilda Gutierrez assists the librarian at the Lincoln Heights branch of the Los Angeles Public Library. The two are filling the bookshelves in preparation for Cinco de Mayo, hoping that visitors will check out the festivities and check out some books!

cinco de mayo at lincoln heights library

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Myron Dubee in 1968.

 

 

Amelia Earhart – Flying Through the Blue and Into History

While attending the 1907 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, ten-year old Amelia Mary Earhart saw her first airplane. She was not impressed. She described it as “a thing of rusty wire and wood and not at all interesting” and asked her father, Edwin Earhart, to take her back to the merry-go-round. Edwin could not interest Meeley (as tomboy Amelia was called) or Pidge (as her younger sister Grace was called) in an airplane ride. Ten years later, working as a nurse in Toronto during WWI, Amelia and a friend attended a flying exhibition. The pilot spotted the two women watching from an isolated clearing and dived the plane at them. Amelia stood her ground as the little red plane swooped by. She was delighted by the exhibit but was still not interested in taking flight. Three years later, on December 28, 1920, in Long Beach, California, Earhart took a ride in a plane piloted by Frank Hawks (who would gain fame as an air racer). The ride took ten minutes, cost ten dollars (paid by her father), and altered the course of her life forever. She began flying lessons less than two weeks later and in May of 1923 became the 16th woman in the United States to receive a pilot’s license.

Earhart went on to set many records, including the first female pilot to reach 14,000 feet altitude and the first woman to fly the Atlantic. Congress awarded her the Distinguished Flying Cross; Earhart was the first woman to receive the award. As a tomboy growing up in Kansas, Iowa, Minnesota, and eventually Chicago, Earhart kept a scrapbook of women who excelled in positions in law, medicine, and the sciences. She felt her own prowess in aviation proved that that men and women were equal in “jobs requiring intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and willpower.”

While Earhart undertook many flights and set (and broke) many records, she also opened a flying school (in Burbank, California), authored books, taught at Purdue University, and was a charter member and first president of the Ninety-Nines (an international organization championing aviation careers amongst women). In spite of all these accomplishments, however, she is probably best known for her disappearance. While attempting to fly around the world, Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, ran into foul weather and poor visibility over the mid-Pacific. Radio contact became problematic. On July 2, 1937, at 8:45 a.m. GMT, Earhart reported via radio to Coast Guard cutter ITASCA “We are running north and south.” This was her last radio message. Earhart, Noonan, and the plane disappeared.

Recent news stories purport that skeletal remains found on Nikumaroro Island have been positively identified as the remains of Amelia Earhart. (The island, known at the time as Gardner Island, was uninhabited and desolate and it is theorized that the aviatrix starved to death.) Other reports assert that Earhart was taken as a prisoner to a Japanese-controlled island and executed. Many people believe that Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel, crashed into the ocean, and both she and Noonan drowned. Whatever scenario occurred, Earhart’s life and work still intrigues and inspires people, both on the ground and in the air.

A perusal of the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library unearths images that show Earhart as an aviatrix, a friend, a young woman enjoying life, and an influence on people even after her disappearance. During this Women’s History Month, let us celebrate the adventurous spirit she possessed and passed onto others.

Amelia Earhart and technical expert Paul Mantz study the route Earhart undertook in a flight from the Hawaiian Islands to California, the longest over-water flight ever undertaken at that time.

amelia earhart with paul mantz

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1935.

Lieutenant Commander Clarence Williams receives messages from Amelia Earhart as she flies from Honolulu to Oakland, California.

 

clarence williams communicates with amelia earhart

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated January 12, 1935.

Amelia Earhart poses with the Elks Drill Team from Jackson, Michigan, during a convention of the Fraternal Order of Elks.

amelia earhart with elks drill team

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated March 17, 1930.

Amelia Earhart (right) and Ruth Elder, an aviatrix and actress known as Miss America of Aviation, meet at an air race. Elder inspired the children’s book Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America’s Heart.

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1928.

Amelia Earhart’s flight instructor, Neta Snook Southern, shares stories of flying in a visit to the Donald Douglas Museum – also known as the Museum of Flying – in Santa Monica.

neta snook southern

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated January 10, 1981.

Aviatrix Joan Merriam Smith, the first woman to circumnavigate the globe successfully, is a guest speaker at the annual Amelia Earhart dinner sponsored by the Zonta Club of North Hollywood.

zonta club meeting

Valley Times Collection, photo dated January 23, 1965.

A tribute to Amelia Earhart and Bert Acosta (a record-setting aviator who flew in the Spanish Civil War) is given by the Brookins Aeronautical Foundation in front of the Portal of the Folded Wings Shrine to Aviation, the burial site for fifteen pioneers of aviation.

amelia earhart tribute

Valley Times Collection, photo dated April 25, 1955.

Students at the Amelia Earhart School in North Hollywood create a mural celebrating the legend of the aviatrix and the field of aviation.

amelia earhart school in north hollywood

Herald-Examiner collection, photo dated February 15, 1976.

The North Hollywood Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library on Tujunga Avenue was named the Amelia Earhart Regional Branch in 1980. The Amelia Earhart Branch is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.

amelia earhart library

Valley Times Collection, photo dated 1957.

The Lockheed 5B Vega, pictured here at the Lockheed Plant in Southern California, was utilized by Amelia Earhart (and many other aviators) and prized for its rugged design which made long distances more easily navigable.

lockheed 5b vega

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated August 25, 1928.

While Amelia Earhart is perhaps the best known of the early aviatrixes, we would be amiss not to mention those trailblazing female pilots who went before her. Gladys Roy was an aviatrix, barnstormer, and parachutist from Minneapolis who performed aerial stunts throughout the country during the 1920s and held the world’s low altitude champion record.

gladys roy

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo undated.

gladys roy the pilot and parachutist

Herald-Examiner Collection, photo undated.

Bessie Coleman was the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license. Unable to study aviation in the U.S. (no instructor or school would accept a female African-American student), she took flying lessons in France and earned an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1923.

bessie coleman, aviatrix

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1922.

Bessie Coleman with her plane and her pilot’s license.

bessie coleman and plane

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photographed by Dove & Poster (date unknown).

pilot license of bessie coleman

Aviation license for Bessie Coleman, 1921. 

In spite of racial prejudice, gender inequality, financial setbacks, and even health concerns (Earhart suffered chronic sinus problems and migraine headaches), these women proved that with determination, the sky is indeed the limit!

Speedy and His Camera: The Rolland J. Curtis Collection of Negatives and Photographs

Born in Louisiana in 1922, Rolland J. Curtis came to Los Angeles with his wife in 1946 after serving in the Marines during WWII. He worked as an LAPD officer for four years before attending USC where he played football and obtained the nickname “Speedy.” After earning a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s degree in Public Administration, Curtis ran a filling station with a friend before becoming Field Deputy to City Council member Tom Bradley. In 1967, he became the Field Deputy for City Council member Billy G. Mills. Bradley and Mills were two of the first African-American men to be elected to the Los Angeles City Council (with Bradley later becoming the first black mayor of Los Angeles) and Curtis (also African-American) served them proudly, assisting constituents, interacting with government agencies, and attending community events – always with camera in hand. Curtis served as Mills’ Field Deputy until 1973 when Mayor Sam Yorty made him director of the Model Cities program, a comprehensive five-year plan to address the social, economic, and physical problems of poor and underserved neighborhoods using public and private resources.

Curtis resigned from the Model Cities program in 1974 and opened a publicity shop. He later began working for Billy Mills again, remaining on the councilman’s staff until Governor Ronald Reagan appointed Mills to the California Superior Court. Curtis ran for Mills’ vacant council seat but was defeated. He ran a second time (in 1978) but was defeated again.

On Mother’s Day in 1979, Curtis spent his morning delivering Mother’s Day bouquets to mothers in his community. He then returned home while his wife, Gloria, remained at a Mother’s Day celebration. When Gloria entered their home later in the day, she discovered that her husband had been murdered, apparently during a burglary. The community mourned the loss of a great man. Two years later, an affordable housing complex on Exposition Boulevard as well as a nearby street and park were named in honor of Rolland Curtis.

While serving as Field Deputy, Curtis took photographs that documented African-American life in Los Angeles during the 1960s and 70s, particularly in the political realm. The Los Angeles Public Library is proud to feature the Rolland J. Curtis Photo Archive as part of its photo collection, and Photo Friends is proud to showcase Rolland Curtis’ talent during African American History Month (also known as African American Heritage Month).

All of these photographs were taken by Rolland J. Curtis and are from the Rolland J. Curtis Collection of Negatives and Photographs.

The Urban League of Los Angeles poses for a photo, with Perry Parks, its president, seated second from left in the front row.

Urban League

Photo undated.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered downtown to protest the LAPD’s use of excessive force during a raid of the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in Los Angeles. This protest underscored the poor relationship between the African-American community and the LAPD at the time.

Police brutality protest

December 11, 1969.

Political activist Angela Davis speaks at the protest.

ANGELA DAVIS

December 11, 1969.

Councilwoman Pat Russell stands in the center of a group of women involved in the Interim Assistance program which used funds from the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for neighborhood improvement.

Photo taken in 1970.

Councilman Billy Mills cuts a cake honoring the second year of operation for the Avalon Youth Opportunity Center which helped youths find employment and educational opportunities. Center Director Harry Halbandian is at the far left.


avalon youth opportunity center

Photo taken in 1968.

Curtis captures artist Charles White while painting at his home in Los Angeles. White was the third African American artist to become a full member of the National Academy of Design.

artist charles white

Photo taken in 1968.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy, acting as chairman of the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime, speaks at Markham Junior High School in the Watts neighborhood. Standing nearby is Leon Aubry, Sr., longtime community activist and barbershop proprietor who was also known as “the mayor of Jefferson Boulevard”.

markham junior high school

Photo taken in 1968.

Supporters of Operation Breadbasket, an organization founded in 1962 to improve the economic conditions of African-American communities, gather to hear City Council member Billy Mills (at podium) and the Reverend H. Hartford Brookins of A.M.E. Church (at right holding paper) speak.

operation breadbasket

Photo undated.

Jazz musician Joe Lutcher (who played saxophone and was bandleader for such notables as Sammy Davis, Jr., Nat King Cole, and the Mills Brothers) receives a Los Angeles City Council proclamation. Councilman Billy Mills presents the proclamation while Lutcher’s family watches.

Joe Lutcher

Photo taken in 1966.

A youth group supports civil rights and equality for all.

civil rights youth group

Photo taken in 1965.

Joe Louis, world heavy-weight boxing champion, poses for Rolland Curtis’s camera.

joe louis

Photo taken in 1964.

Martin Luther King, Jr. poses for Rolland Curtis at the Second Baptist Church, where King delivered a sermon to a standing-room-only crowd of 2,000 people. Reverend Thomas Kilgore, pastor of Second Baptist, is standing to the left of King.

martin luther king, jr.

Photo taken in February, 1964.

Catholics United for Racial Equality (CURE) protest discriminatory treatment of minorities by the Catholic Church.

CURE - catholics united for racial equality

Photo undated.

Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson (second person from the right) is presented a bouquet of flowers. Reverend E. Boyd Ester, founder of Community Missionary Baptist Church, is at the far right of the photo.

mahalia jackson

Photo undated.

Wilson Riles was the first African American to be elected to a statewide office in California, serving three terms as California State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Born into poverty in rural Louisiana and orphaned at an early age, Riles attended high school in New Orleans (where he supported himself by delivering milk), received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Northern Arizona University, and taught school in Arizona before relocating to Los Angeles. He became State Superintendent in a stunning defeat of Max Rafferty, a hardline back-to-basics educator who had held the office for eight years. Riles championed early education, parent participation in curriculum development, and special classes for disabled students. Here we see him campaigning with Tom Bradley outside of Magnificent Bros Hair Salon 2 in Watts.

wilson riles

Photo taken in 1970.

Activist and author Ron Karenga (on the left), the creator of Kwanza, meets with Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, the first Trinidadian to serve California as State Senator and Lieutenant Governor.

ron karenga

Photo undated.

Gloria Curtis, wife of Rolland Curtis, worked in the field of education for 35 years, with over 20 of those years being dedicated to writing biographies of famous African Americans for school textbooks. Due to Mrs. Curtis’s generosity, the Los Angeles Public Library is the proprietor of the Rolland J. Curtis Collection of Negatives and Photographs.

gloria curtis, wife of rolland curtis

Photo taken in 1960.

Rolland Curtis poses with his mother, Mathilda Curtis.

rolland curtis with mother

Photo undated.

Rolland Curtis was gregarious, generous, and always quick to smile. He was never one to deny financial assistance to someone in need. It was noted that his opening lines were never serious if he could make them comical. Here, Curtis captures a man napping while sitting on his suitcase. In spite of all the dignitaries he met and the historic events he attended, Rolland Curtis relished ordinary moments.

man napping on suitcase

Photo undated.

 

Helping everyone to help themselves — Andrew Carnegie and Libraries

Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835 and immigrated to the United States in 1848. Landing in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, 13-year-old Andrew Carnegie started working as a bobbin boy, changing spools of thread in a cotton mill. He worked twelve hours a day, six days a week. Like any young man, he looked forward to Saturday night, but not to get into mischief, but rather to visit the home of Colonel James Anderson, a wealthy local man who allowed working boys to use his personal library for free on that night. As the U.S. did not have a system of free public libraries and Carnegie could not afford to patronize a private library, this was his chance to read for entertainment, education, and enlightenment. He was forever grateful to Colonel Anderson for his generosity and vowed that, were he ever able to do so, he would arrange it that “other poor boys might receive opportunities similar to those for which we were indebted to the noble man”.

Carnegie went on to invest in railroads, oil, and steel, becoming one of the richest people in the world. He also became one of the world’s greatest philanthropists, giving away 90% of his wealth in later life. In an article written in 1889 titled The Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie noted that “In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who help themselves.”

He never forgot how Colonel Anderson’s generosity helped him to gain knowledge and learn about the world. He also never forgot his vow to help others have such an opportunity. Carnegie granted approximately $60 million in total to fund a system of public libraries (open to all) across the United States and also in Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain, and Canada. Carnegie’s grants helped build libraries in many communities that were unable to do so due to lack of funds. Moreover, libraries help people further their education, expand their horizons, and entertain themselves, so his charity was indeed helping people help themselves.

Six Carnegie libraries were constructed between 1913 and 1916 in Los Angeles. Three remain, three have been demolished. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library contains photos of these libraries plus other Carnegie-funded libraries in surrounding communities. Carnegie was feared and hated (during the worst labor dispute in history he refused to raise wages for his workers), but he was also revered and feted (high schools, concert halls, a cactus, and a dinosaur have been named after him). Nonetheless, many who never knew him (or even knew of him) and hold no opinion whatsoever of him have benefited from his charity with free use of their local public library.

The Cahuenga Branch Library of the Los Angeles Public Library (situated on Santa Monica Boulevard in East Hollywood) was built in 1916 with a $35,000 grant ($820,400 in today’s economy) from Andrew Carnegie. Built in the Italian Renaissance style, it served the local community of agricultural workers who tended the nearby orange and avocado groves and wheat fields. The Cahuenga Branch Library has been designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is still a fully functioning library.

cahuenga branch library

Entrance of Cahuenga Branch Library on Santa Monica Boulevard.
William Reagh Collection, photo taken in 1977 by William Reagh.

interior of cahuenga branch library

Interior of Cahuenga Branch Library. 
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Kenneth E. Lohman, date unknown.

The Lincoln Heights Branch Library was also built in 1916 with a $35,000 Carnegie grant. Designed by architects Hibbard & Cody, its Italian Renaissance design is based on Papa Giulia, a villa near Rome. Designated as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument and listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it originally featured an outdoor reading room. The Lincoln Heights branch is still in use as a public library today.

lincoln heights branch library

The front entrance of the Lincoln Heights Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Joe Friezer in 1966.

posada at lincoln heights branch library

A posada is held at the Lincoln Heights Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken December 14, 1971.

lincoln heights library

Interior of the Lincoln Heights Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1916.

The Vermont Square Branch Library, located on 48th Street, was built in the Renaissance revival style. Designed by Hunt & Burns, it is one of the three Los Angeles public libraries funded by Andrew Carnegie that is still operational.

The exterior of the Vermont Square Branch Library features a large lawn.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Dick Whittington in 1945.

vermont square branch library reading room

Children’s room of Vermont Square branch library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1913.

The Arroyo Seco Branch Library, funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and completed in 1914, was located at 6145 Figueroa Street. The original building was torn down in 1959 and the new Arroyo Seco Branch Library built on the same location.

arroyo seco branch library

The Arroyo Seco Branch Library, free to all.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Berne Miles in 1928.

The Benjamin Franklin Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (known as the Boyle Heights Branch Library until the early 1920s) was designed by architect W.J. Dodd in the Classical Revival style. It was one of the libraries funded by a $210,000 grant (the equivalent of slightly more than $5 million today). It was demolished in 1974.

benjamin franklin branch library

Councilman Art Snyder poses with librarian and library patrons
on demolition day for the Benjamin Franklin Branch Library.

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated January 20, 1974.

The Vernon Branch Library on South Central Avenue was built in 1915 with a Carnegie grant of $35,000 ($836,645 in today’s dollars). Boasting the Classical Revival style, it had an open air reading room with a sliding sash that would convert the space into a closed room. The building suffered severe damage in the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and was demolished in 1974.

Vernon branch library

An exterior view of the Vernon Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo dated March 30, 1928.

Vernon branch checkout desk

Check out desk in Vernon Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1915.

earthquake damage at vernon branch

Earthquake damage at Vernon Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1971.

Watts was a small working man’s city with no library of its own. The city applied for Carnegie funding. A grant of $10,000 was received in 1913 (the equivalent of $242,000 today) and the Watts Public Library was built in 1914. Architect Elmore Jeffery designed the building in the Classical Revival style. Watts became the only Los Angeles County municipality to join the county library system before 1917. In 1926, Watts was annexed by the City of Los Angeles and the Watts Library became the Watts Branch Library. A new Watts Branch Library was opened in 1960 and the Carnegie building was razed in the 1970s.

watts branch library

Watts Branch Library as seen through the trees surrounding it.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection; photo taken by Dick Whittington in 1945.

The second building to serve as the San Pedro Branch Library was built with an initial grant of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie, followed by a supplementary $375 from Carnegie and $500 from the City of Los Angeles. Designed in the Classical Revival style, it was used as a library from 1906 until 1923 when it became the site of the Chamber of Commerce. It later housed the Seamen’s Library. The building was demolished in 1966.

san pedro branch library

Front entrance to the San Pedro Branch Library.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1908.

The Long Beach Public Library, designed by F. P. Burnham in Classical Revival style, was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie. The original building served as the city’s public library from 1909 until 1972, when it was closed due to a fire. The Carnegie building was demolished in 1973.

long beach public library

Long Beach Public Library.
Works Progress Administration Collection, photo taken by Burton O. Burt on July 26, 1939.

The Glendale Public Library (in Glendale, California) was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie. Dedicated on November 13, 1914, it was enlarged to twice its original size in 1926. It was in service until 1973 when a new building was built. The original building, built in Classical Revival style, was demolished in 1977.

glendale california carnegie library

Patrons climb the stairs to the Glendale Public Library.
Works Progress Administration Collection, photo taken in 1937.

The Monrovia Public Library, designed by architect William J. Bliesner, was funded by a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie in 1905, with the City of Monrovia providing $1,000 for furnishings built by a local craftsman. The library opened on January 27, 1908 and was demolished in 1956.

monrovia public library

The Monrovia Public Library and surrounding grounds.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo is undated.

The San Bernardino Public Library was funded by a grant from Andrew Carnegie and opened in 1904. Situated at the intersection of 4th Street and D Street, it was designed by architects Burnham & Bliesner. The building was declared unsafe in 1957 and razed in 1958.

san bernardino public library

Front entrance of the San Bernardino Public Library, a Carnegie library.
C.C. Pierce Collection, photo taken by C.C. Pierce in 1905.

The Riverside Public Library, designed by Burnham and Bliesner and built by J.W. Carroll, is California’s first Mission style Carnegie library. In 1901, the City of Riverside received an initial $20,000 Carnegie grant to build the library, with an additional $7,500 coming from Carnegie in 1908 for an extension. Riverside’s Chinese Memorial Pavilion now occupies the site of the original library.

riverside public library

A view of the Riverside Public Library from across the street.
Works Progress Administration Collection, photo taken by Burton O. Burt in 1939

Seduction, Corruption, Deception, and Protection – The Black Widow and the Vice Queen (Part 2)

After Ann Forst, the Black Widow, was sentenced to serve time for pandering, one of her protégés, Brenda Allen (born Marie Mitchell and going under a number of aliases including Brenda Allen Burns, Marie Brooks, Marie Cash, Brenda Burris, and Marie Balanque) wasted no time in setting up her own prostitution ring. Having learned a thing or two from her years as a streetwalker and then working for Ann Forst, Allen made a few changes. She concentrated on catering to high class clientele and screened her customers carefully. She paid her girls a decent wage and saw to it that they lived in comfort. (Many of Ann Forst’s former employees came to work for Allen.) A teetotaler with a slight Southern drawl, she was always well dressed and well-groomed, never appearing in public without perfectly manicured nails and dark glasses. She treated everyone with unfailing politeness. By 1948, Allen was taking out display ads in Hollywood trade papers for her “escort service,” which featured over a hundred girls.

“Allen was Hollywood’s most prosperous madam, in part because she was so cautious. Rather than take on the risks that came with running a ‘bawdy house,’ Allen relied on a telephone exchange service to communicate with clients who were vetted with the utmost care. She prided herself on serving the crème de la crème of Los Angeles. By 1948, she had 114 ‘pleasure girls’ in her harem.”

John Buntin, Author of L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America’s Most Seductive City

brenda allen

Allen’s professional manner of dress included tailored skirts and dark glasses. (Allen stated in an interview years later that she wore dark glasses so that she was unrecognizable to her family back East. She wanted to spare them any embarrassment her actions [and chosen profession] might cause.)
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated July 16, 1949.

 

Vice Queen Brenda Allen

Allen sports a suit cut from imported black gabardine and a hat adorned
with primroses. As always, she wears dark glasses.

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated October 31, 1949.

Like Forst, Allen protected her business from shutdown and other problems by paying off members of the Los Angeles Police Department. (She loved to brag that she had been arrested 18 times, but never served a day in jail) Unlike Forst, her professional protection had a personal side to it. Allen became romantically involved with Sergeant Elmer V. Jackson of the LAPD’s vice squad, who became her lover and business partner. For protection from raids and other legal actions, Allen paid Jackson $50 a week (which equals $500 a week in 2017) for each woman she employed. She could easily afford to do this, as her team was bringing in between $4,500 to $4,700 per day (the equivalent of $80,000 today). Allen took a 50% cut from the profits and 30% went to paying off cops, doctors, lawyers, judges, and bail bondsmen who provided protection and other favors. The rest of the income from the ring was divided amongst the girls. (Even with all this overhead, her girls were still paid well by standards of the day.)

brenda allen in fur coat

Brenda Allen attends to legal business wearing a fur coat, one of many
luxuries affordable to her during her heyday.

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated May 12, 1948.

Allen also had protection of a less legal sort. Whereas Ann Forst had connections to Jack Dragna and Johnny Roselli, Allen’s mob connections were to Mickey Cohen and Bugsy Siegel. Ironically, it was because of Dragna and Roselli’s decision to divvy up vice operations in Los Angeles that Allen wound up under the thumb of two of the most ruthless members of organized crime on the West Coast. If a call girl or a client made a wrong move, they could wind up disfigured or dead. Allen was well aware that she could suffer the same fate. (Interestingly enough, Mickey Cohen claimed during a 1949 trial that LAPD Sergeant Elmer V. Jackson [Allen’s business partner and lover] and Lieutenant Rudy Wellpot were constantly extorting money from him.)

Mickey Cohen

Mickey Cohen and bodyguards.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated February 22, 1951.

Bugsy Siegel at one of his many court dates.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated May 26, 1941.

Brenda Allen’s illegal empire became the subject of scrutiny due to an unexpected random occurrence – a crime in which she was the intended victim. On the evening of February 21, 1947, Allen and her lover Jackson were sitting in Jackson’s car in front of Allen’s apartment at 9th and Fedora streets. Suddenly, Roy “Peewee” Lewis stuck a gun through an open window of the car and demanded money. Jackson pretended to reach for his wallet but retrieved a pistol instead. He then shot and killed Lewis. Although Jackson had protected Allen and himself, he had exposed their relationship to others in the LAPD. Jackson told responding officers that Allen was a police stenographer, but someone in the press who covered the story realized that Jackson’s sweetheart was no such thing. LAPD officials became suspicious and placed wiretaps on Allen’s phones and surveillance on her.

A raid was conducted on a house at 8436 Harold Way (just above Sunset Boulevard); it was one of the sites used by Allen’s girls. Police confiscated a box of index cards on which were recorded names, addresses, phone numbers, and notes regarding the sexual predilections of over 200 “notables of the film colony.” Brenda Allen was arrested and charged with pandering. The Los Angeles Times’ headline of May 5, 1948, read Names Found in Vice Raid Set Hollywood Agog.

brenda allen's records of clients

Vice Sergeant C. W. Bates inspects a file of index cards confiscated during
a raid on a house of prostitution managed by Brenda Allen.

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated May 8, 1948.

It is interesting to note that during the trial in which the box of cards was an exhibit, Judge Joseph Call ordered that the box be sealed because “In the box are names of dignitaries of the screen and radio and executives of responsible positions in many great industries. Publication of their names would be ruinous to their careers and cause them great public disgrace.” Whereas her customers were spared further scrutiny, Brenda Allen was not.

While law enforcement officials wanted to charge Allen with pandering, they simply could not get anyone to admit to any coercion or intimidation on the part of the Vice Queen. Whereas Ann Forst’ girls had gladly given testimony that put their Forst behind bars, not one of Allen’s girls spoke out against her. (Allen treated her girls and other staff members well, so they protected her.) The LAPD wiretapped Allen’s phone and now instructed Audre Davis, a female police officer, to call and pretend to be a woman interested in becoming a prostitute. This was an attempt to set Allen up for a charge of pandering. Davis gave testimony under oath to the Grand Jury that Allen solicited her to exchange sex for money. Allen denied the charge. The judge found Allen guilty and sentenced her to five years’ imprisonment.

brenda allen guilty of pandering

Brenda Allen learns that she has been found guilty of pandering.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken August 11, 1948.

At her trial, Allen testified about the payoffs she made to police for protection, exposing her lover, Sergeant Jackson, and Hollywood vice squad sergeant Charles Stoker as the main recipients of the money. She not only made claims against members of the LAPD, but provided financial records to prove her claims. (Interesting note: Sergeant Jackson did not speak against or offer incriminating advice against Allen. He apparently loved her very much.)

brenda allen visits vaults

Brenda Allen is escorted by police to the sites where she stored records of payments
made to police officials for protection from raids and other legal action.

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated June 16, 1949.

 

brenda allen goes to jail

Allen is taken to the jail in Lincoln Heights to begin her sentence for pandering.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated August 11, 1948.

Months after the trial, policewoman Davis recanted her testimony, admitting she lied under oath. The account she gave in court was a complete fabrication designed to entrap Brenda Allen. In May of 1949, Allen appeared in court with an appeal to have her sentence reduced.


brenda allen waits for audre davis

Brenda Allen waits for policewoman Audre Davis to appear at hearing arranged
by Judge William McKay. Davis never showed up in court.

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated July 9, 1949.

Less than four months later, on Friday, September 2, 1949, Allen was released from jail on order of the California Supreme Court. It was noted that she had been a model prisoner. She returned to incarceration, however, in 1951 to serve the remainder of an eight-month sentence.

Brenda Allen returns to prison, escorted by a sheriff’s detective.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated March 5, 1951.

Brenda Allen finally became a free woman in the summer of 1951.

brenda allen leaves jail

Brenda Allen is freed from incarceration.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated July 11, 1951.

On May 5, 1949, gangster Mickey Cohen was also in court (on a legal action unrelated to Brenda Allen). He casually mentioned that he possessed taped recordings of telephone conversations between the Vice Queen and Sergeant Jackson of the LAPD Vice Department. These calls had came to and from Jackson’s office at LAPD headquarters. This pointed to more people knowing about Allen’s payments than just Jackson and Stoker. Before the summer was over, Police Chief Clemence Brooks Horrall (Chief since 1941) resigned under threat of a grand jury investigation for investigation of perjury on his part related to the Brenda Allen scandal. (Ironically, Horrall had become chief when the previous chief, Clarence Hohmann, took a demotion to deputy chief after he became involved in a police corruption trial.) Assistant Chief Joe Reed also resigned. (Note: Assistant Chief Reed was instrumental in the creation of a radio show about the LAPD titled Dragnet, with Jack Webb starring in the program.)

police chief horrallPolice Chief Horrall is seen at a nightclub raid; he is the man in the middle wearing a hat.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated January 29, 1941.

 

jack webb

Actor Jack Webb on the set of Dragnet, a radio program (later to become an iconic television series).
Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1953.

Brenda Allen served less than one year in prison. LAPD Sergeant Elmer Jackson was demoted but managed to stay on the force until his retirement in the 1960s. Vice Squad Sergeant Charles Stoker was fired from the LAPD when he was charged with burglary (a charge he claimed was trumped up and which resulted in a hung jury at a 1949 trial).

Allen’s last appearance in the newspapers was in 1961 when, amidst accusations of domestic violence, she divorced her husband, a former Navy pilot named Robert H. Cash. Cash had married Allen (who was going by the name of Marie Mitchell and working as a hairdresser) and knew nothing of her background or history. Upon finding out that she was the notorious Vice Queen Bee (another nickname given her), he promptly sought to end the marriage.

brenda allen divorce

Brenda Allen goes to court to get a divorce.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated March 17, 1961.

She was never in the press or public eye again.

One upshot of the Allen raid and trial was that city officials finally focused on ending the systemic corruption prevalent in the Los Angeles Police Department. Police Chief Horrall was replaced by a retired Marine named William A. Worton, who acted as interim chief until 1950, when William H. Parker became Chief of Police. Parker, who served until he died of a heart attack in 1966, made ending corruption and raising the standards of professionalism in the LAPD a top priority. He was known as Los Angeles’ greatest and most controversial chief of police and had the LAPD headquarters named after him.

william a worton

Interim Police Chief William A. Worton (on the right) meets with
City Council candidate James C. Corman.

Valley Times Collection, photo dated May 24, 1957.

lapd chief william parker

William Parker (on the right) is sworn as Police Chief of the Los Angeles Public Department.
Herald-Examiner Collection, photo dated August 9, 1950.

Brenda Allen died in obscurity, place and year unknown.