1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, a city and the county-seat of Los Angeles county, in southern California, U.S.A., along the small Los Angeles river, in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains; a narrow strip, 18 m. long, joins the main part of the city to its water front on the ocean, San Pedro Bay. Pop. (1880) 11,183, (1890) 50,395, (1900) 102,479, of whom 19,964 were foreign-born;[1] the growth in population since 1900 has been very rapid and in 1910 it was 319,198. The city had in 1910 an area of 85.1 sq. m., of which more than one-half has been added since 1890. Los Angeles is served by the Southern Pacific, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fé, and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake railways; by steamers to San Francisco; and by five systems of urban and suburban electric railways, which have 300 m. of track within the city and 700 m. within a radius of 30 m. beyond its limits. Inclined railways ascend Third Street Hill and Court Street Hill, in the heart of the city; and a system of subways extends from the centre of the city to its western limits. The harbour, San Pedro Bay, originally open and naturally poor, has been greatly improved by the Federal government; a breakwater 9250 ft. long was begun in 1898 and the bar has been deepened, and further improvements of the inner harbour at Wilmington (which is nearly landlocked by a long narrow island lying nearly east and west across its mouth) were begun in 1907. Important municipal docks have been built by the city.

The situation of the city between the mountains and the sea is attractive. The site of the business district is level, and its plan regular; the suburbs are laid out on hills. Although not specifically a health resort, Los Angeles enjoys a high reputation for its climate. From July 1877 to 1908 (inclusive) the mean of the minima for January, the coldest month of the year, was 44.16° F.; the mean of the minima for August, the warmest month, was 60.1° F.; and the difference of the mean temperature of the coldest and the warmest month was about 18° F.; while on five days only in this period (and on no day in the years 1904-1908) did the official thermometer fall below 32° F. There are various pleasure resorts in the mountains, and among seaside resorts are Santa Monica, Ocean Park, Venice, Playa del Rey, Hermosa, Redondo, Terminal Island, Long Beach, Alamitos Bay, Huntington Beach, Newport, Balboa and Corona del Mar. There are excellent roads throughout the country. Los Angeles has beautiful shade trees and a wealth of semi-tropic vegetation. Its residential portions are characterized by detached homes set in ample and beautiful grounds. Towering eucalyptus, graceful pepper trees, tropic palms, rubber trees, giant bananas, yuccas and a wonderful growth of roses, heliotrope, calla lilies in hedges, orange trees, jasmine, giant geraniums and other flowers beautify the city throughout the year. There are 22 parks, with about 3800 acres within or on the borders of the city limits; among the parks are Griffith (3015 acres), Elysian (532 acres), Eastlake (57 acres), Westlake (35 acres) and Echo (38 acres). The old Spanish-Moorish mission architecture has considerably influenced building styles. Among the important buildings are the Federal Building, the County Court House, the City Hall, a County Hall of Records, the Public Library with about 110,000 volumes in 1908, the large Auditorium and office buildings and the Woman’s Club. The exhibit in the Chamber of Commerce Building illustrates the resources of southern California. Here also are the Coronel Collection, given in 1901 by Dona Mariana, the widow of Don Antonio Coronel, and containing relics of the Spanish and Mexican régime in California; and the Palmer Collection of Indian antiquities. In Los Angeles also are the collections of the Southwest Society (1904; for southern California, Arizona and New Mexico) of the Archaeological Institute of America. On the outskirts of the city, near Eastlake Park, is the Indian Crafts Exhibition, which contains rare collections of aboriginal handiwork, and where Indians may be seen making baskets, pottery and blankets. Of interest to visitors is that part of the city called Sonora Town, with its adobe houses, Mexican quarters, old Plaza and the Church of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels (first erected in 1822; rebuilt in 1861), which contains interesting paintings by early Indian converts. Near Sonora Town is the district known as Chinatown. The principal educational institutions are the University of Southern California (Methodist Episcopal, 1880), the Maclay College of Theology and a preparatory school; Occidental College (Presbyterian, 1887), St Vincent’s College (Roman Catholic, founded 1865; chartered 1869) and the Los Angeles State Normal School (1882).

The economic interests of Los Angeles centre in the culture of fruits. The surrounding country is very fertile when irrigated, producing oranges, lemons, figs and other semi-tropical fruits. Thousands of artesian wells have been bored, the region between Los Angeles, Santa Clara and San Bernardino being one of the most important artesian well regions of the world. The city, which then got its water supply from the Los Angeles river bed, in 1907 authorized the issue of $23,000,000 worth of 4% bonds for the construction of an aqueduct 209 m. long, bringing water to the city from the Owens river, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It was estimated that the project would furnish water for one million people, beside supplying power for lighting, manufacturing and transportation purposes. All the water in excess of the city’s actual needs may be employed for irrigation. Work on the aqueduct was begun in 1908, and it was to be completed in five years. From 1900 to 1905 the value of the factory products increased from $15,133,696 to $34,814,475 or 130%, and the capital employed in manufactures from $10,045,095 to $28,181,418 or 180.5%. The leading manufacturing industries in 1905, with the product-value of each in this year, were slaughtering and meat-packing ($4,040,162), foundry and machine shop work ($3,146,914), flour and grist milling ($2,798,740), lumber manufacturing and planing ($2,519,081), printing and publishing (newspapers and periodicals, $2,097,339; and book and job printing, $1,278,841), car construction and repairing ($1,549,836)—in 1910 there were railway shops here of the Southern Pacific, Pacific Electric, Los Angeles Street, Salt Lake and Santa Fé railways—and the manufacture of confectionery ($953,915), furniture ($879,910) and malt liquors ($789,393). The canning and preserving of fruits and vegetables are important industries. There is a large wholesale trade with southern California, with Arizona and with the gold-fields of Nevada, with which Los Angeles is connected by railway. Los Angeles is a port of entry, but its foreign commerce is relatively unimportant. The value of its imports increased from $721,705 in 1905 to $1,654,549 in 1907; in 1908 the value was $1,193,552. The city’s exports were valued at $45,000 in 1907 and at $306,439 in 1908. The coastwise trade is in lumber (about 700,000,000 ft. annually), shipped from northern California, Oregon and Washington, and in crude oil and general merchandise. There are rich oil-fields N. and W. of the city and wells throughout the city; petroleum is largely employed as fuel in factories. The central field, the Second Street Park field in the city, was developed between 1892 and 1895 and wells were drilled farther E. until in 1896 the eastern field was tapped with wells at Adobe and College streets; the wells within the city are gradually being abandoned. The western field and the western part of the central field were first worked in 1899-1900. The Salt Lake field, controlled by the Salt Lake Oil Company, near Rancho de Brea, W.S.W. of the city, first became important in 1902 and in 1907 it was the most valuable field in California, S. of Santa Barbara county, and the value of its product was $1,749,980. In 1905 the value of petroleum refined in Los Angeles was $461,281.

Land has not for many years been cheap (i.e. absolutely) in the southern Californian fruit country, and immigration has been, generally, of the comparatively well-to-do. This fact has greatly affected the character and development of the city. The assessed valuation of property increased more than threefold from 1900 to 1910, being $276,801,517 in the latter year, when the bonded city debt was $17,259,312.50. Since 1896 there has been a strong independent movement in politics, marked by the organization of a League for Better City Government (1896) and a Municipal League (1900), and by the organization of postal primaries to secure the co-operation of electors pledged to independent voting. Since 1904 the public school system has been administered by a non-partisan Board of Education chosen from the city at large, and not by wards as theretofore.

Los Angeles, like all other Californian cities, has the privilege of making and amending its own charter, subject to the approval of the state legislature. In 1902 thirteen amendments were adopted, including provisions for the initiative, the referendum and the recall. The last of these provides that 25% of the voters choosing a municipal officer may, by signing a petition for his recall, force a new election during his term of office and thereby remove him if another candidate receives a greater number of votes. This provision, introducing an entirely new principle into the American governmental system, came into effect in January 1903, and was employed in the following year when a previously elected councilman who was “recalled” by petition and was unsuccessful in the 1904 election brought suit to hold his office, and on a mere technicality the Supreme Court of the state declared the recall election invalid. In 1909 there was a recall election at which a mayor was removed and another chosen in his place.

The Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles was founded in 1781. The Franciscan mission of San Gabriel—still a famous landmark—had been established ten years earlier a few miles eastward. Beginning about 1827, Los Angeles, being the largest pueblo of the territory, became a rival of Monterey for the honour of being the capital of California, was the seat of conspiracies to overthrow the Mexican authority, and the stronghold of the South California party in the bickerings and struggles that lasted down to the American occupation. In 1835 it was made a city by the Mexican Congress, and declared the capital, but the last provision was not enforced and was soon recalled. In 1836-1838 it was the headquarters of C. A. Carrillo, a legally-named but never de facto governor of California, whose jurisdiction was never recognized in the north; and in 1845-1847 it was the actual capital. The city was rent by factional quarrels when war broke out between Mexico and the United States, but the appearance of United States troops under Commodore Robert F. Stockton and General John C. Frémont before Los Angeles caused both factions to unite against a common foe. The defenders of Los Angeles fled at the approach of the troops, and on the 13th of August 1846 the American flag was raised over the city. A garrison of fifty men, left in control, was compelled in October to withdraw on account of a revolt of the inhabitants, and Los Angeles was not retaken until General Philip Kearny and Commodore Stockton entered the city on the 18th of January 1847. This was the only important overt resistance to the establishment of the new régime in California. The city was chartered in 1850. It continued to grow steadily thereafter until it attained railway connexion with the Central Pacific and San Francisco in 1876, and with the East by the Santa Fé system in 1885. The completion of the latter line precipitated one of the most extraordinary of American railway wars and land booms, which resulted in giving southern California a great stimulus. The growth of the city since 1890 has been even more remarkable. In 1909 the township of Wilmington (pop. in 1900, 2983), including the city of San Pedro (pop. in 1900, 1787), Colegrove, a suburb W.N.W. of the city, Cahuenga (pop. in 1900, 1586), a township N.W. of the former city limits, and a part of Los Feliz were annexed to the city.

  1. In addition to the large foreign-born population (4023 Germans, 3017 English, 2683 English Canadians, 1885 Chinese, 1720 Irish and smaller numbers of French, Mexicans, Swedes, Italians, Scots, Swiss, Austrians, Danes, French Canadians, Russians, Norwegians, Welsh and Japanese) 26,105 of the native white inhabitants were of foreign parentage (i.e. had one or both parents not native born), so that only 54,121 white persons were of native parentage. German, French and Italian weekly papers are published in Los Angeles.