Death of a Gentleman – The Unsolved Murder of William Desmond Taylor

The temperature in Los Angeles was just above freezing on the morning of Thursday, February 2, 1922. Henry Peavey was glad to get to his workplace – a stylish bungalow in the affluent Westlake district – as it would surely be warm inside. What’s more, he genuinely enjoyed his job as cook and valet for silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Mr. Taylor was very good to him, both as an employer and as a fellow man. Peavey unlocked the front door and stepped inside, ready to draw a morning bath and cook breakfast for Taylor. He ultimately did neither, as he found the director lying on his back in the living room, a pool of blood on the floor. The quiet of the morning was shattered by Peavey’s screams as he ran into the courtyard.

Thus began the saga of the murder of William Desmond Taylor – a crime unsolved to this day. Viewing images from the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, we can learn not only of the crime and the crime scene but also of the era – a time (in spite of prohibition) of cocktails, cocaine, illicit affairs, scandals, public outrage, and powerful studios that orchestrated events (and people’s lives) the same way they made movies.

William Desmond Taylor began life as William Cunningham Deanne-Tanner on April 26, 1872, in Carlow, Ireland. After an argument with his father (who frowned upon his son’s interest in the theater), he was sent at 18 years of age to become a gentleman farmer in Kansas. After a year and a half, young Tanner moved to New York City, where he met Ethel May Hamilton, a stage actress. They married in 1901 and became part of New York society. In 1908, he disappeared with neither a word nor a warning, leaving behind Ethel May and a young daughter. His wife, unable to locate her errant husband, obtained a divorce in 1912.

william desmond taylor

Portrait of William Desmond Taylor, Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

Taylor’s ex-wife, Ethel May Hamilton, reported that Taylor worked as an antiques dealer in her father’s establishment while she worked as a stage actress. Taylor was a wonderful husband and father but had bouts of amnesia during which he would wander off and forget where was his home. He wandered off in 1908 and never returned. Years later, Hamilton and her (and Taylor’s) daughter, Ethel Daisy, were watching a film in which Taylor appeared onscreen. Pointing to the screen, Hamilton exclaimed, “That’s your daddy!” While Taylor and his wife never reunited, they did meet in Los Angeles and remain friends with Taylor supporting and staying in contact with his daughter until his death.

 

ethel may hamilton

Photograph of Ethel May Hamilton, the ex-wife of Deanne-Tanner (later to be known as Taylor).
Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

ethel daisy deanne-tanner

Photo of daughter Ethel Daisy Deanne-Tanner as a young woman.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

Around the same time his wife was divorcing him, Tanner (who by that time had changed his name to Taylor) arrived in San Francisco. He had purportedly spent the time since his departure from New York traveling and working at various jobs – gold prospector, builder, soldier, horse trainer – in locales ranging from the Pacific Northwest to Alaska. With financial help from friends, he moved to Los Angeles and started acting in film. With his equestrian expertise and good looks, he was in high demand and worked with the stars of the day, but his true desire was to direct. In 1914, he directed his first film, The Awakening. Taylor was to direct 50 more films before that cold morning he was found dead.

film director william desmond taylor

Taylor directing a film. Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

william desmond taylor in automobile

Taylor at the wheel of his automobile. Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

The Alvarado Court Apartments in which William Desmond Taylor resided were located on South Alvarado Street in the (then) swanky MacArthur Park neighborhood. The apartment complex contained eight two-unit bungalows situated in a U-shape around a central garden. (It was into this garden that Taylor’s valet, Henry Peavey, ran screaming after he discovered Taylor’s body.) Taylor lived in Apartment 404B on the east side of the complex. (The complex was razed in the 1950s.)

alvarado court apartments

Photograph of bungalow home of William Desmond Taylor. Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1937.

Peavey’s screams awoke and attracted neighbors. Verne Dumas and Neil Harrington, who both worked at Cal-Mex Oil Company and lived in 408A, ran to see what was the matter, both of them still in their bathrobes. Emile Jesserun, the Jamaican-born designer and manager of the apartments, left his sick bed to go to Taylor’s apartment. Douglas MacLean, an actor who had appeared in movies directed by Taylor, joined the crowd forming at the apartment, noting that he and his wife, Faith, had heard a loud noise (which they attributed to a car backfiring) the night before and, upon looking out the window, had seen a man exit Taylor’s apartment, step back into it for a few minutes, then leave the premises. The man did not seem suspicious or strange, so the MacLeans returned to their card game.

One thing that all the men noticed was how tidy the body seemed. Except for blood beneath his head, Taylor looked as if he had willingly lain down, smoothed his clothes, and combed his hair. The position in which the body lay would be impossible for someone to achieve by simply falling down. Moreover, nothing in the premises seemed to have been disturbed. The back door was still locked, windows were closed and secured, Taylor’s wallet contained money, his watch was still on his wrist, his gun and traveling bag were undisturbed.

william desmond taylor traveling bag

William Desmond Taylor’s boots, gun, and traveling bag. Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1922.

Another neighbor who awoke to Peavey’s screams that cold February morning was Edna Purviance, a leading lady of Charlie Chaplin films living in 402A. When she learned of Taylor’s death, she promptly made calls to Famous Players-Lasky (the studio for whom Taylor worked) as someone there would definitely want to know of Taylor’s demise.

studios in hollywood 1922

Film studios in Hollywood — Famous Players-Lasky is on the right of the photo.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1922.

charlie chaplain

Charlie Chaplin cast Edna Purviance as his leading lady in over twenty films. He intended to
marry her but was forced to marry Mildred Harris when she became pregnant with his child.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1932.

When he calmed down, Henry Peavey contacted Harry Fellows, Taylor’s assistant director, who promptly called Charles Eyton, general manager of Famous Players-Lasky. Meanwhile, Taylor’s landlord notified the LAPD, who promptly sent Detective Thompson Zeigler, a 30-year veteran, to Taylor’s home. Upon his arrival, Zeigler called a doctor. The physician showed up, declared that Taylor had died from a stomach hemorrhage, and immediately left.

While the doctor was performing his quick examination, studio manager Eyton arrived at Taylor’s bungalow and began to question others on the scene. As there was no evidence of a crime and Eyton represented Taylor’s employer, Detective Zeigler saw no reason to object to any investigation on Eyton’s part. While Eyton concurred with the doctor’s diagnosis that Taylor had died of stomach ailments, MacLean began to question if the noise he and his wife had heard the previous night might not have been a car backfire but rather a gunshot. This made Eyton nervous. Regardless of the cause of death, Eyton wanted as little press as possible regarding Taylor’s death. At the time, the film industry was being labeled a bad influence on the public at large. The rape/manslaughter trial of Fatty Arbuckle was casting a shadow on entertainers, studios were losing money due to dwindling movie audiences, and various factions were demanding censorship of the cinema. Eyton wanted to avoid any whiff of a scandal in the case of Taylor’s death.

NOTE: The Fatty Arbuckle scandal began when Virginia Rappe died on Friday, September 9, 1921, four days after she claimed that Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle had raped her during a three-day Labor Day party held at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. Her bladder had ruptured (causing her death) and this was supposedly due to Arbuckle’s weight and the harshness of the assault on Rappe.

Arbuckle’s rape/manslaughter case would be tried in court three times – the first two times resulting in a hung jury, the third time resulting in acquittal and a note from the jury stating “there was not the slightest proof adduced to connect him in any way with the commission of a crime”.

After his arrest and during the trials, many theaters refused to show Arbuckle’s films and most footage of him was destroyed. Despite the courts finding him innocent of all charges, Arbuckle’s acting career was permanently ruined. (William Hays, Hollywood’s chief cinema censor and the creator of the Hays Code, banned Arbuckle from appearing onscreen for several months after he had been found not guilty.) Arbuckle eventually worked as a director, using the name William Goodrich. He died in 1933 of a heart attack at age 46.

roscoe "fatty" arbuckle

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle as seen in the 1921 film “The Dollar-A-Year Man”.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated. 

 

virginia rappe

Virginia Rappe, the woman who accused Fatty Arbuckle of sexual assault.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

arbuckle trial

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle confers with his legal team in a San Francisco courtroom.
The three court trials cost Arbuckle a total of over $10,000,000 in current day dollars and
resulted in his acquittal as well as the end of his career. Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1921.

To avoid another scandal of such magnitude (and possible financial repercussions), Eyton ordered others present on the scene (Taylor’s neighbors, many of whom were in the film industry and would obey Eyton’s commands) to remove any evidence of impropriety — love letters, liquor, racy photos, lingerie — lest the press find it when they inevitably showed up.

Before any reporters showed up, the coroner arrived and turned over the body. A bullet hole showed that Taylor did not die of stomach ailments (as suggested by the mysterious doctor) but rather was murdered. The apartment was now a crime scene. Thanks to Eyton’s quick actions, damaging (and possibly crucial) evidence had been removed. (Although Eyton did later turn over some of the removed materials to the police, there were things removed from Taylor’s apartment that remained under wraps by the studio.) The police, nonetheless, began an investigation.

william desmond taylor crime scene

Diagram of crime scene showing the location of Taylor’s apartment, his neighbors’ apartments,
and the purported route taken by the assailant. Herald Examiner Collection, image created in 1922.

The last person (besides the killer) to see William Desmond Taylor was his good friend Mabel Normand. Known as the female Charlie Chaplain, Normand was the reigning queen of comedy in silent films. Moreover, she was one of the first women to be a screenwriter, director, and producer. At one point, she had her own movie studio and production company (set up for her by ex-lover Mack Sennett). She and Taylor had been friends for years, and it was Taylor who helped Normand overcome her cocaine addiction, going so far as to threaten the drug dealers who supplied Normand with the white powder. She had gone to see Taylor on the evening of February 1 after he contacted her to tell her he had two books to give her. (The books were a translation of Nietzsche and a romance novel by Ethel M. Dell). She gifted him a bag of peanuts. They had enjoyed cocktails (Prohibition be damned!) and discussed literature. She had left at a reasonable hour.

Police questioned Normand but never considered her a suspect (although Henry Peavey did). A frequent onscreen collaborator of Fatty Arbuckle, she had recently suffered scrutiny in the press, with journalists freely writing of her addiction and questioning her morality. Although cleared by police detectives, she was viewed with suspicion and her popularity on the silver screen waned. Two years after Taylor’s death, Normand’s chauffeur Joe Kelly (who was actually Horace Greer, a man who had possibly escaped from an Oakland jail) shot Normand’s boyfriend (with Normand’s gun). The press, populace, and studios turned against her, denigrating her reputation and removing her movies from theaters. She married actor Lew Cody in 1926, retired from acting in 1928, and died of tuberculosis in 1930. One of her last utterances was, “I do hate to go without knowing what happened to poor Billy Taylor.”

mabel normand and walnut elephant

Mabel Normand, silent screen comedy queen and friend and confidante of William Desmond Taylor,
poses in front of the walnut elephant sent from Los Angeles to the Chicago’s World Fair in 1893.
Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1925.

mabel normand studios

The Mabel Normand Feature Film Studio Company stood on these grounds (now 4319 Effie Street).
Normand directed the feature film Mickey in 1916 at this studio. (The film was released in 1918.)
Roy Hankey Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken by Roy Hankey in 1980.

Mary Miles Minter (nee Juliet Reilly) was a child actress whom Taylor had directed in films including Anne of Green Gables, Nurse Marjorie, and Huckleberry Finn. Forced to work as an actress at an early age (Minter used the birth certificate of a dead cousin to appear older than she actually was and thus be allowed to work) and ruled over by a domineering stage mother (Charlotte Shelby), Minter fell in love with the attentive and gentlemanly Taylor after first working with him. It is disputed whether or not he returned the affections of Minter (who was 30 years his junior) or was simply looking out for his protégé, but love letters from Minter were found in Taylor’s apartment, thus making her a suspect in his murder. The resulting scandal ended Minter’s film career.

mary miles minter

Police found love letters from Mary Miles Minter to Taylor (and a pink negligee supposedly belonging
to Minter) in Taylor’s home after his murder. Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1921.

Fifteen years after Taylor’s murder, Mary Miles Minter was called before a grand jury to discuss her diaries. She stated that there was nothing in the diaries that would be of any value to anyone investigating the case. While she was never tried for Taylor’s murder, the insinuations that she may have been involved (Charles Higham’s book suggests that she was the killer) caused Famous Players-Lasky to decline to renew her contract. Minter attempted a career as a stage actress but eventually left show business behind.

mary miles minter's diaries

A 35-year old Mary Miles Minter poses in her Beverly Hills home.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated May 6, 1937.

Mary Miles Minter’s mother, Charlotte Shelby, was also a suspect in the William Desmond Taylor murder. A consummate stage mother, Shelby controlled every aspect of her daughter’s life and was enraged when she discovered her daughter (who was also her prime source of income) had feelings for Taylor. (Whether or not Taylor returned her affections was apparently immaterial to her.) Shelby had once threatened to shoot Taylor if he did not leave her daughter alone and many felt that she had indeed gone through with her threat. (In A Cast of Killers, Sidney Kirkpatrick theorizes that Shelby was Taylor’s killer and paid off attorneys and influential people to stay out of prison.)

charlotte shelby

Charlotte Shelby is flanked by her attorneys during a court case (unrelated to the Taylor murder).
Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated January 2, 1933. 

Taylor’s former valet, Edward F. Sands, had forged Taylor’s signature on checks and had stolen money and valuables (including a car) from Taylor’s home while the director was out of town on vacation in 1921. Investigators tracked Sands to a locale in Northern California but learned that he had quit his job and disappeared the day of Taylor’s murder. Sands was never found.

edward sands

Edward Sands, former valet of William Desmond Taylor. Herald Examiner Collection, image undated.

In spite of thorough investigation, the police were unable to make any arrests in the Taylor murder case. While none of their leads proved successful and no suspects could be charged, there were confessions to the killing.

In 1930, Russo Rinaldo, a 41-year old accountant, confessed to killing William Desmond Taylor. He stated that he was a friend of a movie actress with whom Taylor had argued and that he had gone to Taylor’s home to reprimand him for treating the actress so poorly. According to Rinaldo, Taylor drew a revolver, the two men scuffled, and the gun went off, killing Taylor in the process. Rinaldo’s estranged wife, a music teacher in Glendale, California, was questioned and told police that her husband had suffered trauma as a soldier during WWI and only knew about the murder from what he had read in newspapers. Rinaldo was released from police custody shortly thereafter.

russo rinaldo

Russo Rinaldo, accountant who confessed to killing William Desmond Taylor.
Herald Examiner Collection, photo undated.

Harry Fields claimed to have been part of a plot to kill Taylor. Fields claimed he drove the vehicle which transported the assassins (two man and one woman) to the director’s home. The killing was in retaliation to Taylor’s interference with drug trafficking in Los Angeles. Fields was in a Detroit jail when he confessed; his ex-wife told authorities that he was an inveterate liar as well as an opium user.

harry fields

Harry S. Fields during his incarceration in the Wayne County Jail,
Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1922.

J. G. Barrett was serving time in Folsom Prison when he confessed to murdering Taylor. He stated that he acted on behalf of another man. His story was discredited by a grand jury.

j.g. barrett

J. G. Barrett claimed to have murdered William Desmond Taylor at the request and
payment of another man. Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in 1926.

William Desmond Taylor’s funeral was held on February 7, 1922, at St. Paul’s Pro-Cathedral, after which he was interred in a mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Despite a number of suspects, various leads, innumerable tips, and a rash of confessions, the identity of the murderer of William Desmond Taylor remains unknown.

Taking a Peek at The Pike: Long Beach’s Oceanfront Amusement Zone

William Willmore had a brilliant idea. He was going to create a farming community on the coast of Southern California. He bought 4,000 acres of Rancho Los Cerritos and subdivided the land into plots which comprised Willmore City. Living there would be idyllic, with plenty of sunshine all year round and cool ocean breezes in the summer. People would flock there to live! Unfortunately, his plans did not pan out and he was bought out by the Long Beach Land and Water Company. His erstwhile agricultural paradise became the City of Long Beach.

Five years later, a huge bath house opened at the spot in Long Beach where the Pacific Electric Railway’s Red Car ended its traverse from Los Angeles. People did flock to the area, coming to bathe (many people did not have bathtubs or showers [or even indoor plumbing] at the time) and afterward enjoy a stroll along the Long Beach Municipal Pier. The bath house was known as the Plunge and the nearby boardwalk as the Pike.

The Pike attracted people of all ages and developed from a simple wooden boardwalk along Pine Street to an amusement zone complete with food stands, gift shops, and carnival rides. Also known as Silver Spray Pier, Nu-Pike, Queens Park, and the Walk of a Thousand Lights at various times, the Pike was an amusement extravaganza that attracted fun seekers for over 75 years. While we cannot visit it today (it was demolished in 1979), the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library enables us to take a stroll down the Pike and enjoy the pleasures of its past.

The Plunge – the bath house located near the Long Beach station at the end of the Pacific Electric Car line – featured a shallow wading pool, a deep water section, a slide, and a balcony with spectator seating.

the plunge bath house

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1920.

This photo shows the variety of entertainment one might seek at the Pike, with facilities including a theater, cafeteria, hotel, and dance hall (not to mention the roller coaster!) In the background can be seen warships on the ocean.

long beach amusement park

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1920.

The carousel at the Pike was enjoyed by all –those riding on it and those simply watching it.

carousel at the pike

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Winstead Photo Studio in the 1930s.

Sailors on shore leave enjoy a meal at a café on the midway of the Pike.

cafe on midway of the pike

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken by Inman Company in 1937.

Jack Rabbit Racer was a roller coaster built on a pier extending into the ocean. It ran from 1915 to 1930 when it was replaced by the Cyclone Racer. The flying airplanes were another ride located by the entrance to the Jack Rabbit Racer.

jack rabbit racer

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1918.

Native Americans in traditional dress enjoy a roller coaster ride at the Pike.

 

native americans on roller coaster

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1930.

Seen in the background of this photo, the Cyclone Racer replaced the Jack Rabbit Racer in 1930. A dual-track roller coaster (two trains could run at the same time), it was 94 feet high, had 17 hills and drops, and could accommodate 2,400 riders per hour. The coaster was designed by Frederick Church, built by Harry Traver, and regarded as one of the greatest wooden roller coasters ever constructed. It was featured in the hilarious climax of the movie Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. It ran until 1968.

cyclone racer

William Reagh Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken in 1963.

In the early 1950s, the Pike was still a destination for many locals but began to face stiff competition from nearby Knott’s Berry Farm (a restaurant/shop complex which added a carnival aspect in the 1950s) and the newly opened Disneyland. Moreover, the Pike had gained a free-for-all reputation which dissuaded many families from visiting the park. The amusement zone underwent a renovation, installing a Kiddieland with children’s rides plus a petting zoo. Discounts and coupons were offered to families and various facilities (the bathrooms, for example) were upgraded to give the area a more modern look. A write-in contest was held to find a new name for the amusement park, with Nu-Pike being the winner.

For those who want an aerial view (and are not afraid of heights), the Hi Ride at Nu-Pike offered excitement and unobstructed observation of the Long Beach pier and its surroundings.

hi-ride

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken in the 1970s.

The Looper was a popular ride at Nu-Pike that featured cages where one or more people would sit and be looped about (leaving you feeling loopy!)

 

the looper

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken sometime in the 1970s.

People of all ages enjoyed visiting Nu-Pike and strolling down the Midway. Note the sign directing families with children to Kiddieland.

families at the pike

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

Orphans take a ride on the “Bud” Hurlbut miniature train at Nu-Pike. The train ride kicked off a week-long benefit to raise funds for the Los Angeles Orphanage.

bud hurlbut miniature train

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken by Robert Perkins in 1950.

The sideshow on the midway of the Pike offered visitors a myriad of curiosities including a sword swallower, a snake charmer, a mystery girl, and other magnificent marvels. (NOTE: A real oddity was discovered at the Pike during the 1976 filming of an episode of the television show “The Six Million Dollar Man”. The Laff in the Dark Ride featured a hanging corpse, presumably made of fiberglass and leather. When someone on the set accidentally pulled off one of its arms, a physician examined it and discovered it to be an actual human corpse. Investigation revealed that it was the body of Elmer McCurdy, a bank robber whose corpse had at one point been displayed by a wax museum onsite at the Pike. The museum closed and McCurdy wound up in the carnival ride. An autopsy revealed that he had been killed by a bullet and had a 1922 penny in his mouth. His remains were shipped back to Oklahoma.)

sideshow at the pike

William Reagh Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken in 1950.

Madame Anna was available to those visiting the Pike who wished to utilize scientific palmistry to improve their lives and avoid future mistakes and tragedies.

fortune teller madame anna

William Reagh Collection (Los Angeles Photographers Collection), photo taken in 1973.

The Pike attracted people of all ages and stages in life from 1902 until 1979.

1916 midway of the pike

Security Pacific National Bank Collection, photo taken in 1918.

 

family fun at the pike

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

Al Brown (whose family owned Looff’s Concessions which offered pinball and various other games to visitors of the Pike) holds up a photo of the Pike as it was in its heyday. In the background is the site of the former amusement park.

photos of the pike

Herald Examiner Collection, photo taken by Mike Sergieff on February 11, 1988.

Should you wish to peruse more photos of Nu-Pike, see Stephen Brown’s book The Pike (Past Its Peak) available at the Reference Desk of the Art and Recreation Department at the Central Library branch of the Los Angeles Public Library.

 

Fly Me to the Moon — in a Bathtub: Southern California and the Race to Space

Mankind has always looked to the sky and wondered what is up there and how to get there. Southern Californians are no different. Long before Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon in July of 1969, scientists, soldiers, engineers, designers, and space exploration enthusiasts in and around Los Angeles were making plans, asking questions, drawing blueprints, and building machines in order to reach that last frontier. TESSA, the online photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library, has images showing the commitment, creativity, and curiosity surrounding the space race and Southern California’s involvement in it – in universities, research laboratories, military bases, and basement workshops.

Allyn B. Hazard, Senior Development Engineer at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, managed by CalTech and owned by NASA), poses in a space suit that he designed. The suit – referred to as the moon suit – was being examined by UCLA biology students.

moon suit

Valley Times Collection, photo dated February 16, 1961.

After completing their missions, astronauts could glide back into Earth in the “Flying Bathtub” created by the Experimental Aircraft Association, an organization of pilots and engineers dedicated to designing and building the aircraft of the future at their homes in their spare time.

flying bathtub

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by George Brich on August 29, 1964.

Dr. William Pickering (standing), Director of JPL for 22 years, discusses a satellite with Albert Hibbs, a renowned mathematician who became known as “the voice of JPL” and who took a break from graduate school to try to beat the casinos at roulette.

satellite

Valley Times Collection, photo dated March 5, 1958.

Two scientists at a physics research laboratory in Canoga Park utilize a hypervelocity chamber which simulates conditions experienced in outer space – including temperatures of 80,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

physics research

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by Dean Gordon on March 20, 1965.

Emil DeGraeve, Managing Director of Litton Industries’ Space Research Laboratories, explains to Naval Reserve officers the function and fashion of a space suit designed by Litton.

litton industries moon suit

Valley Times Collection, photo dated February 26, 1960.

Three scientists display a model of Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite successfully launched into orbit on January 31, 1958, and discuss the data obtained from this satellite’s foray into space. The panel includes Dr. Henry Richter Jr., JPL’s Group Supervisor of Explorer Design and Development; George Ludwig, a graduate student of Iowa State University who would become a chief research scientist for NASA and JPL; and Phyllis Buwalda, a JPL researcher who determined the surface topography of the moon.

explorer 1

Herald Examiner Collection, photo dated February 13, 1958.

The Dyna-Soar Project was begun in 1960 and was a collaboration between NASA and the United States Air Force. Its mission was to place a man in orbit and then return him to an exact selected spot, with the aircraft available for reuse. In this photo, Air Force Captain William J. Knight stands next to an F-104 Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base. This aircraft was used for the project. No aircraft was ever able to reach the altitudes needed for orbital flight, and Project Dyna-Soar was cancelled in 1963.

dyna-soar

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by Jeff Goldwater on April 16, 1962.

A spacecraft engineer from Lockheed-California Co. displays a model of a vehicle with mechanical arms created by the aerospace company. This vehicle could build low orbit satellites and rocket boosters and make repairs in outer space – an invaluable service for solar system exploration.

robot for space repairs

Valley Times Collection, photo dated August 14, 1960.

Seda Garapedian, an Armenian immigrant, was active in many organizations that assisted Armenian-Americans including the Armenian Allied Arts, the Armenian Film Foundation, and the Armenian Professional Society. A renowned flautist, she taught music in Los Angeles high schools and married Martin Marootian, a pharmacist who spearheaded the class-action suit that forced New York Life to honor insurance policies bought by victims of the Armenian genocide. In this photo, Miss Garapedian poses next to a rocket engine during a tour of JPL (which was building rockets before NASA even existed).

rocket engine

Shades of L.A.: Armenian-American Community, photo taken in 1948.

A mannequin wearing an X-15 flight suit is strapped to a test sled to test equipment operating at speeds of 1,700 mph. The testing took place at Edwards Air Force Base’s speed track in Lancaster, California, and was part of a rocket testing program.

speed test dummy

Valley Times Collection, photo dated August 17, 1960.

Miss Gregory of Hollywood, a fashion designer, checks the fit of the space suit she designed for an employee of the Aro Corporation. Miss Gregory also designed the model (left) on which space suits are fitted.

miss gregory of hollywood

Valley Times Collection, photo taken July 31, 1964.

Robert Stegen of Canoga Electronics in Van Nuys looks at the company’s antennae which (hopefully) will be picking up transmissions from John Glenn’s Mercury satellite which is scheduled to be passing over Southern California shortly after this photo was taken.

mercury satellite communication

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by Jeff Goldwater on February 13, 1962.

Donald May (far right), a chief engineer at Rocketdyne and also President of the Valley Amateur Astrophysical Society, speaks with two members of Reseda High School’s American Rocket Association.

valley amateur astrophysical association

Valley Times Collection, photo dated June 7, 1960.

While attending a meeting of the Valley Amateur Astrophysical Society in Northridge, Daniel W. Fry discusses his contact with an alien space craft which gave him a ride from White Sands, New Mexico, to New York City in less than 30 minutes. Fry, an explosives expert who worked a variety of jobs in the rocketry industry, wrote a book about the incident (The White Sands Incident) and founded an organization (Understanding Inc.) to promote understanding and cooperation among all people – those on Earth and those living on other planets.

white sands incident

Valley Times Collection, photo taken by Alan Hyde on October 30, 1961.

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!