Saving Sinners and Skirting Scandal — Aimee Semple McPherson

No history of the City of Angels would be complete without a mention of Aimee Semple McPherson, a woman who came to Los Angeles with a mission and a message and achieved world-wide fame for both saintliness and scandal. Perusing the photo archives of the Los Angeles Public Library, you will learn of the prominent place McPherson holds in the annals of L.A.

Aimee Semple McPherson was an evangelist and philanthropist who first came to Los Angeles in 1918 at the bequest of Pentecostal minister William J. Seymour to participate in a series of revivals. At this point, Aimee had been traveling around and outside the U.S. to preach the word of the Lord for most of a decade. (In 1914, she ceased preaching to concentrate on married life and motherhood. She fell ill, became delirious, and, according to her recollection, heard voices telling her she had to preach or die.) She relocated permanently to L.A. in 1923, founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, and built Angeles Temple directly across from Echo Park in Los Angeles. The Temple was McPherson’s base and is still the headquarters for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Angeles Temple

Angeles Temple (William Reagh Collection, 1982).

McPherson’s sermons were well reviewed and well attended and often featured faith healing. Known as an electrifying speaker, she also had a theatrical bent, once giving a sermon on a motorcycle. A savvy businesswoman, she knew how to use the media to maximum effect, publishing magazines and books and broadcasting a radio program from her own radio station, KFSG, bringing evangelism into the modern age. She tirelessly preached a life made better with the Lord and love for your fellow man.

Aimee Semple McPherson preaching

Aimee Semple McPherson preaching (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, no date given).

Sermon at Angeles Temple

Church service at Angeles Temple (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1930).

Radio towers

Radio towers visible on roof of Angeles Temple (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, 1937).

Having been raised by a mother active in the Salvation Army, McPherson’s church placed an emphasis on charitable work. She believed it to be just as important to take care of a person’s physical needs as well as their spiritual needs, and organized food drives, built a commissary, and distributed necessities from blankets to baby clothes.

Angeles Temple Food Baskets

Christmas food baskets to be given to the poor by members of Angeles Temple; arrow points to Aimee Semple McPherson (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1934).

MACPHERSON DINING HALL

Angeles Temple dining hall that provided free meals for destitute men (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1932).

Always interested in making life better for the common man, McPherson supported many civic causes. One cause was the police safety campaign in 1942 aimed at making the streets of Los Angeles safer for pedestrians.

Aimee Semple McPherson pledges pedestrian safety

Aimee Semple McPherson pledges support for the Police Safety Campaign (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1942).

As with any public figure, McPherson was not without her detractors, controversies, and scandals. McPherson’s support of the war effort in WWII alienated those who remained pacifists or uncommitted. She entertained celebrities and loved the camera, which raised eyebrows with more conservative factions. A reorganization of Angeles Temple upset many staff members, with fallout leading to McPherson’s daughter, Roberta Semple, suing McPherson’s attorney for slander.

Aimee in court

Aimee Semple McPherson in court for the defamation of character suit against Angeles Temple attorney, Willedd Andrews, a suit brought by her daughter, Roberta Semple (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1944).

McPherson’s biggest scandal, however, began at Venice Beach, California, on May 18, 1926. McPherson disappeared while swimming and was believed drowned. Five days later she appeared in Mexico just across the border from Arizona, claiming to have been kidnapped and tortured before she escaped. Controversy arose when several witnesses reported seeing McPherson with a man during her five-day absence. While many welcomed her return to Los Angeles, others accused McPherson of being involved in an elicit love affair in a cottage by the sea with a married man.

Carmel by the Sea

Lorraine Wiseman-Seilaff, a key figure in the Carmel-by-the-Sea story who accused Aimee Semple McPherson of faking a kidnapping (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1937).

Aimee Semple McPherson died on September 27, 1944. While the cause of death is officially listed as unknown, it was generally agreed by the coroner and other medical officials that Aimee died of an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. Her body lay in state at Angeles Temple for three days while over forty-five thousand people paid their respects and mourned her passing.

Aimee funeral

Funeral for Aimee Semple McPherson (Herald-Examiner Collection, October 9, 1944).

The Eye and the Image – Women Photographers of Los Angeles

As March is Woman’s History Month, it is only appropriate to celebrate some of the women who helped document Los Angeles – big events and small moments – for all to see. The photos below, which can be found in the Los Angeles Public Library photo archives, were taken by female photographers who captured images of the city – its people, places, and proceedings.

Lucille Stewart was a photographer who worked for Mayor Fletcher Bowron (Mayor of Los Angeles from 1938 to 1953) and also for Currie’s Ice Cream, an ice cream parlor with locations throughout Southern California that dished up mile high cones, cherry phosphates, and other cool confections from the 1930s through the late 1960s. Her photos captured civic events, elections, parades, and folks enjoying a treat. Stewart also opened a stationery and camera shop on Pico Boulevard in 1957. She was awarded the Hall of Fame Award from Professional Photographers of California in 1992.

1966 california gubernatorial election

1966 California gubernatorial race featuring residing Los Angeles Mayor Sam Yorty (Lucille Stewart Collection, June 7, 1966)

LOS ANGELES CENTENNIAL

Centennial celebration in Los Angeles with Mayor Fletcher Bowron (Lucille Stewart Collection, August 13, 1946)

Curries Montebello

Currie’s Ice Cream shop in Montebello, California (Lucille Stewart Collection, October, 1946).

GRAND OPENING

Grand opening of Lucille Stewart’s Stationery and Camera Shop on Pico Boulevard (Lucille Stewart Collection, April 18, 1957).

Carol Westwood, born in Rochester, New York, in 1942, was a photographer whose work included architecture, portraits, and fine art stills. After relocating to California in 1979, she photographed Los Angeles architecture as well as movie and entertainment icons. Just prior to her passing in 2011,  Westwood personally donated a selection of her images to the Los Angeles Public Library.

Beverly Hills Skyline

Beverly Hills skyline at twilight (Carol Westwood Collection, 1980).

CAPITOL RECORDS

Capitol Records building (Carol Westwood Collection, 1990).

CORNERS

Corner of Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard (Carol Westwood Collection, 1980).

 

LIBERACE

Liberace Mausoleum, Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood, California (Carol Westwood Collection, 1996).

Marissa Roth is a freelance photographer and photojournalist based in California whose images have been published in newspapers and other publications throughout the world. Her photos capture celebrations and altercations, bustling streets and empty lots. Roth took part in the Los Angeles Neighborhoods Project of the Los Angeles Public Library which created a visual record of L.A. neighborhoods.

GRAFFITI

Commissioned Graffiti in the Arts District (photo by Marissa Roth for Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, May 2000)

DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

Protesters at the Democratic Convention (photo by Marissa Roth for Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, 2001).

MUSIC CENTER FOUNTAIN

L.A. Music Center Fountain (taken by Marissa Roth for Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, February, 2000).

The photography of Cheryl Himmelstein captures the colorful world of the common man, from scenes of commerce to the Venice boardwalk. Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Himmelstein attended The Art Center, College of Design in Pasadena, California, becoming a freelance photographer who documents social and economic issues.

SANTEE ALLEY

Santee Alley (taken by Cheryl Himmelstein for Industrial Los Angeles Collection, November 29, 2009).

EMPANADA FACTORY

Empanada Factory in Venice Beach (Los Angeles Neighborhoods Collection, 2004).

DRESSMAKER

Dressmaker in downtown Los Angeles (Industrial Los Angeles Collection, July 14, 2009).

YELLOW HOUSE

Yellow house in Venice Beach (taken by Cheryl Himmelstein for Los Angeles Neighborhoods Project, 2002).

Celebrating Women’s Heritage Month with Some Notable L.A. Women

March is Woman’s History Month, a great time to familiarize yourself with some of the women who helped build and shape life in Los Angeles and surrounding areas. The photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library showcases many of these women including:

Charlotta Bass

Charlotta Bass, born Charlotta Spears in 1880, moved to Los Angeles in 1910 and found work selling subscriptions to The Eagle, an African American newspaper founded in 1879 (originally titled The Owl) by John J. Neimore, a former slave. When Neimore fell ill in 1912, she took over operation of the paper, becoming the first African American woman to run a newspaper in the United States. Charlotta changed the paper’s name to California Eagle and focused on issues important to the African American community and other minorities that were often ignored by other publications. California Eagle covered such topics as discriminatory housing policies, segregated schools, and unfair treatment of minorities in the court system. She is pictured here with staff of California Eagle.

Charlotta Bass and Staff at California Eagle

Charlotta Bass with staff of California Eagle (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, no date given for photo).

Bass oversaw publication of California Eagle with her husband, Joseph Bass, until his death in 1934, and then continued to run it on her own until her retirement from the newspaper business in 1951. She then dedicated herself to political activism, becoming a leader in the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and UNIA (Universal Negro Improvement Association). She ran for Congress and was nominated as running mate for presidential candidate Vincent Hallinan of the Progressive Party, becoming the first African-American woman to run for Vice President of the United States. Here she is seen at a rally held during her congressional run.

Charlotta Bass at Rally

Charlotta Bass speaks at a rally during her Congressional candidacy (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, no date given for photo).

Another woman who contributed to getting the news of the day to Los Angeles residents was Agness “Aggie” Underwood, who started working as a reporter for the Los Angeles daily newspaper Herald-Express in 1935 and became its city editor in 1947. She maintained that position until her retirement in 1968, increasing the paper’s circulation and seeing it through its merger with the Examiner in 1962 when it became the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner. During her time as a reporter, Underwood interviewed Amelia Earhart, reported on movie star deaths, and wrote a series of articles focusing on the lives of women incarcerated in prison. In 1947, she was covering the [now infamous] Black Dahlia murder case when she was promoted to city editor. As an editor, she was known for her tough but fair attitude, often presenting the human side of criminals, but also keeping a sawed-off baseball bat and pistol at her desk, as shown below:

Aggie Underwood at Work

Aggie Underwood at work as city editor of the Herald-Express, (Herald-Examiner Collection, 1949).

In the photo below, Aggie is seen during an exclusive interview with Louise Peete, a murderer with whom Underwood had conducted several interviews previously, always referring to her as Mrs. Peete. Peete would eventually die in the gas chamber.

Peete and Underwood Interview

Aggie Underwood (right) conducts interview with murderess Louise Peete (Herald-Examiner Collection, December 22, 1944).

For more information and images about Aggie Underwood, see this exhibit page of the Los Angeles Public Library’s website.

Southern California is home for many businesses in the aerospace industry, and many women have helped in the exploration of our final frontier – outer space. The women pictured below performed scientific research and experimentation for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Altadena, helping to build rockets, launch space stations, and promote space exploration.

JPL scientists

Female scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Altadena (Valley Times Collection, June 27, 1960).

Rocketdyne, formerly located in the San Fernando Valley, also employed many female scientists and engineers who worked in the field of rocket and missile design. To view images of these women, visit the Los Angeles Public Library’s blog about the Canoga Rockettes.

And check back with this blog for more photos of fascinating L.A. women!

Happy Chinese New Year!

Monday, February 8, 2016, marks the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey; in the Chinese calendar the year is 4714. The Chinese New Year bring celebrations that include firecrackers, parades, fish, dragons, lions, and lucky money in red envelopes. The Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection contains images of such holiday celebrations held in Chinatown and other areas of Los Angeles.

Chinese New Year Parade, Monterey Park

Miss Monterey Park waves to the crowd during a Chinese New Year parade in the San Gabriel Valley. (Shades of L.A. collection; photo by Steven Gold, 1992 [Year of the Monkey])

Dragon in Chinese Parade

A golden dragon rings in the Year of the Boar in L.A.’s Chinatown. (Herald-Examiner Collection, January 30, 1971 [Year of the Pig])

Clown in Chinese New Year Parade

Wally the Clown leads children at a New Year festival in Chinatown. (Harry Quillen Collection, February 15, 1958 [Year of the Dog])

Man and niece enjoy Chinese New Year

Eugene Yee and niece Susan celebrate Chinese New Year with balloons and firecrackers. (Herald-Examiner Collection, photo taken by Howard Ballew, February 13, 1964 [Year of the Dragon])

Beauty queens in Chinese New Year parade

Beauty queens in Chinese New Year parade. (Gary Leonard Collection, 1995 [Year of the Pig])

Flute and Fiddle for the New Year

Chung Fook (left) and Luke Chan (right) play music to usher in the Chinese New Year. (Herald-Examiner Collection, January 27, 1941 [Year of the Snake])

Family enjoys Chinese New Year

The Wong family prepares to enjoy a traditional Chinese New Year’s feast. (Herald-Examiner Collection, February 5, 1965 [Year of the Snake])

Lion of Good drives away evil spirits

Tsweje, the Lion of Good, drives away evil spirits during this celebration of the Chinese New Year. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, January, 1925 [Year of the Ox])

A stroll through L.A. gardens . . .

Los Angeles boasts a number of beautiful gardens and with winters being much milder in Southern California than other parts of the country, you can take a garden stroll anytime. That said, there will be times you can’t get to the garden – bad cold, sick kids, a backlog of work. If you’re stuck indoors and dreaming of relaxing amongst lush foliage, fragrant flowers, or spiky cholla, the photo collection of the Los Angeles Public Library can help you escape. As with everything in the City of Angels, Los Angeles gardens (present and past) boast plenty of variety.

Japanese Gardens

SuihoEn (garden of water and fragrance), situated on the grounds of the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, is an authentic Japanese garden designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana and fashioned after the stroll gardens built during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese feudal lords. It features a karesansui (dry Zen meditation garden), a wet garden featuring waterfalls and ponds, and a chashitsu (tatami mat teahouse).

Japanese Garden in Van Nuys

Japanese Garden at Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, California (Photo taken by Stephen Callis, 1991)

The Botanical Gardens on the grounds of the Huntington Library in San Marino also feature a Japanese garden, complete with koi ponds and an authentic Japanese House considered to be one of the best examples of early twentieth Japanese architecture in the United States.

Huntington Japanese Gardens

Japanese Garden at Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino (Photo taken by Herman Schultheis, ca. 1937)

The Bernheimer Estate, built overlooking the ocean in Pacific Palisades in the early 1920s, featured Japanese gardens with a pagoda housing the vast collection of Oriental art acquired by Adolph Bernheimer. The Bernheimer Gardens were a popular tourist attraction until 1941, when public opinion changed due to Pearl Harbor and World War II. The property suffered erosion and two major landslides and was vacated in the late 1940s; the structures were demolished in the 1950s.

Bernheimer Bronze Elephants

Bronze elephants stroll through the Bernheimer Japanese Gardens. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, 1939)

Cactus Gardens

The weird and resilient beauty of the cactus is on display in the Desert Garden of The Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, which showcases more than 2,000 species of desert plants in one of the largest cactus gardens in the world.

Huntington Gardens Cactus Gardens

Visitors from Detroit admire the many varieties of cacti in the Desert Garden  at Huntington Botanical Gardens (Herald Examiner Collection, ca. 1965)

Will Keith Kellogg,(commonly known as W.K. Kellogg), the breakfast cereal magnate, bought acreage in Pomona, California, in 1925 on which he established an Arabian horse ranch. The land has passed through many owners (including the University of California system and the U.S. War Department) and is now the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. The grounds have changed over time, but a stroll down memory lane will show its beautiful gardens, including a huge cactus garden.

Kellogg Cactus Garden

Cactus garden at Kellogg Arabian Horse Farm (WPA collection, ca. 1930)

The Kellogg estate gardens also featured a pond complete with water flowers and water fowl.

Kellogg Garden Duck Pond

Garden and pond at Kellogg Arabian Horse Ranch in Pomona (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, date unknown)

Rose Gardens

If you are aching to smell the roses, Exposition Park Rose Garden (located just south of the campus of University of Southern California) is open to visitors from 9:00 a.m. to sunset. Unfortunately, you will have to wait for spring as the Rose Garden is closed from January 1st through March 15th every year for maintenance (time to prune the roses!)

Exposition Park Gardens

Roses in Exposition Park in Los Angeles (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, ca. 1937)

Expo Rose Garden seen from Museum steps

Rose Garden as seen from the steps of the Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park (Herman J. Schultheis Collection, ca. 1937)

French-born artist Paul de Longpre?, who painted flowers and floral scenes in watercolor, came to Hollywood in 1899 and had a home built on three acres close to what is now the intersection of Cahuenga Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. (A nearby street, De Longpre Avenue, was named after him.) He maintained a garden on this property that at one time boasted 4,000 roses. The residence, which included art galleries in addition to gardens, became a popular destination for tourists and local visitors before being demolished in 1927.

de Longpre Rose Garden

Rose Garden at estate of artist Paul de Longpre (Security Pacific National Bank Collection, date unknown)

 

The Festive Feasts of Los Angeles

Ready for the holidays? Hungry?

Wherever there are festivities, there will be food. In all cultures, eating and feasting is part of a proper celebration for any occasion. With the December holidays in full swing, Angelenos are commemorating and celebrating the holidays with traditional dinners, old family recipes, and once-a-year treats, as these pictures from the Los Angeles Public Library photo collection show:

Hanukkah donuts

Sorrina and Marcel Yitzak prepare for a Hanukkah party at which they will be serving sufganiyot, the traditional deep-fried jelly doughnuts. (circa 1985, Shades of L.A. Collection)

Hanukkah Party in Woodland Hills

The pastries, filled with jelly or custard and topped with powdered sugar, commemorate the miracle of the temple oil and are often served at Hanukkah gatherings, such as this one in Woodland Hills, California. (circa 1984, Shades of L.A. Collection)

Christmas Tamales

Tamales are a traditional item for Christmas meals in Mexico and the Southwest. In this photo, Linda Figueroa prepares tamales for a Christmas dinner. (circa 1960, Shades of L.A. Collection)

Xmas Tamalada

Tamales for holiday gatherings are often prepared in huge batches during a tamalada – a tamale-making party that is equal (somewhat) parts cooking session, family reunion, and holiday party. Here, members of the Vasquez family hold such an affair. (circa 1959, Shades of L.A. Collection)

Orthodox Christmas Eve Dinner

An Orthodox Christmas Eve dinner begins with the lighting of a single tall white candle upon the appearance of the first star in the sky. The meal is traditionally meatless and dairy-free and includes twelve courses. (December 20, 1963, Valley Times Collection)

Kiwanis Fruitcake

What’s Christmas without fruitcake? In this photo, the Kiwanis Club uses fruitcake to help employers spread good cheer to their employees while helping children’s charities throughout the San Fernando Valley. (October 31, 1961, Valley Times Collection)

If you need more inspiration for getting into the spirit of the season, you might take a gander at the Library Foundation of Los Angeles online holiday photo exhibit from last year. You can also peruse the Library’s photo collection for images of festivals, parades, decorations, and more food. Whatever holiday you may be celebrating, bon appetit!

Thanksgiving in Los Angeles

Thanksgiving celebrations in Los Angeles are as diverse as the city itself. Los Angelenos give thanks and share meals in ways that showcase the city’s unique and multi-faceted persona, as these photos from the Los Angeles Public Library’s Photo Collection demonstrate.

TRADITIONAL

Flatt Family Thanksgiving

The Flatt family hosts Thanksgiving dinner at their home in West Los Angeles. (circa 1964, Shades of L.A. Collection)

CHARITABLE

Skid Row Thanksgiving

A Thanksgiving dinner for Skid Row residents hosted by Union Mission was served by members living in Los Angeles as well as others coming into the city by bus from other states. (November 27, 1970, Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection)

HOSPITABLE

1943 Canteen Thanksgiving

Servicemen prepare for a Thanksgiving feast at the Hollywood Canteen. (November 26, 1943, Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection)

GLAMOROUS

Biltmore Thanksgiving 1955

Chef William Lacheman (far left) of the Biltmore Hotel helps his cooking staff prepare 120 turkeys to be served to hotel guests. (November 23, 1955, Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection)

UNCONVENTIONAL

Thanksgiving for Livestock at Alexandria Hotel

A steer from the Great Western Live Stock Show peruses the Thanksgiving Day menu at the Hotel Alexandria. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection)