Any Ideas?

Picture 1I found this image extremely interesting. For one, it is remarkably clear and detailed considering the era and the presence of movement. But I can’t figure out the location or the precise year. The LOC websource where I found the image states simply: “general view, Los Angeles California, between 1880 and 1899.”

That’s not particularly helpful. I’m thinking that the shot is closer to 1899 – judging by the clothing and the well-manicured grounds. Any ideas?

With compliments,

Keith

Confederate Sympathies Run Hot in San Bernardino

mission1152 years ago this week the first troops of the First Regiment of California Volunteers encamped on the north bank of the Santa Ana River southeast of San Bernardino. Why you ask? The war was thousands of miles away. But the 1500 or so residents of San Bernardino and and the nearby Holcomb Country mines were kicking up a bit of a fuss over the war – and leaning in a southern direction. This, you might say, caught the attention of the US army. Troops were dispatched, not to put down an insurrection…things had not yet escalated to that point, but to keep an eye on the citizens…just in case. They had to. If California fell to the Rebels then so would the famous California gold.

There had been some trouble – a few southern “cutthroats” firing shots in the air, one politician had been killed over an argument in defense of the Union, and “drunken desperadoes” had been reported doing what “drunken desperadoes” do.

So on August 26, 1861, about 250 Union troops under the command of Captain William A. McCleave set up camp after completing a march through the Jurupa Valley (to avoid ambush). By election day in September (for state senate), the troops were met with taunts from men armed with sticks…”Hurrah for Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy!” McCleave had this to say: “I told them free discussion was one thing, the utterance of treasonable language another; that these men had expressed their opinions at the ballot box that day, but that openly hurrahing for the Southern Confederacy was seditious, and I, as a Federal officer, was bound to put it down.”

Well – he didn’t help the Union candidate much. He lost by a landslide. I would like to thank Keith M. of Brooklyn, NY for directing me to this article. Check it out if you want the longer version of the story.

With compliments,

Keith

The Oldest Known Aerial Photograph of Los Angeles

first-aerial-laAs far as I know – this is the first aerial shot of the City of Angels. Taken on the afternoon of June 26, 1887  from a hot air balloon at 9,000 feet by photographer Edwin H. Husher, the image was a publicity stunt orchestrated by young newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst – meant to sell advertising. From what I gather after a little Internet poking, this stunt caused quite the stir below…residents gathered on their rooftops to have a look at the lofty spectacle.

But more interesting is the city itself. By 1887 it still remained somewhat rough and tumble – not yet rivaling it’s northern metropolis sister, San Francisco. This image captures LA in its formative years – the 1880s were the height of a Southern California boom cycle…and here we can see the outline a future urban behemoth. I can imagine the construction below on Bunker Hill…Victorian mansions overseeing a growing city. The mansions are all gone now, which is a shame. But if you want to have a look at a few at the end of their lives, have a look HERE.

With compliments,

Keith

Tourism – Selling the Known and the Mysterious

Picture 1Today I offer a Southern Pacific Railroad broadside promoting California tourism. This example, a William Howard Bull print from 1897, features elements of the known: Christianity, combined with the foreignness of Spanish mission architecture.

This type of imagery proved enticing indeed for well-to-do easterners looking to broaden their life experiences with a trip to the Pacific coast. Many found the region so appealing that they stuck around (and gave me something to write about…thanks).

But whether they stayed temporarily or set up housekeeping one thing is for sure: tourism never really faded. Anyone trying to find a parking place on a weekend day in Hollywood can attest to that.

With compliments,

Keith

 

Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth – A Significant First

Picture 1Allen Allensworth was born into slavery in Kentucky in 1842. Like many others, the Civil War brought an opportunity to escape to Union lines. Allensworth took this opportunity and joined with the Union hospital Corps after escaping to an encampment of the 44th Illinois Volunteer Regiment – a unit camped near Louisville. In 1863, he joined the US Navy, where he was soon promoted to Captain’s Steward serving on the Gunboat Queen’s City.

After the war, he pursued a life of preaching, married, and eventually returned to the Army as the Chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment – the Buffalo Soldiers – holding the rank of Captain, he was among the few black officers in the Army. By the time of his retirement in 1906, he had reached the rank of Lt. Colonel – the first black man to do so.

Allensworth is quickly becoming a person of great interest to me. After his retirement, he moved to Los Angeles, California and worked to develop a black community north of Bakersfield. The town of Allensworth, founded in 1908, was meant to be entirely self sufficient – free from racism, and free from the travails of the post Reconstruction South.

Sadly, the town failed. The problem – no water: a problem that comes up a lot in California. AllensPicture 2worth returned to Los Angeles where, in 1914,  he was ingloriously killed in a motorcycle accident. He is buried in the GAR plot at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Allensworth is among several men in my current study of Union veterans who moved Southern California after the war. Did Allensworth develop an identity as a westerner? What sort of identities was he dealing with in a post-Union victory United States that helped inform a possible western outlook? Several identity layers may indeed surface – racial, sectional, gender, class. We shall see – I am planning several trips to the archives including a road trip to the remnants of what was once Allensworth, California.

One thing that is great about this project – it turns out that Los Angeles has a much richer Civil War connection than I had previously thought.

With compliments,

Keith