When did Southern California “Civilize”?

Of course, there are certainly many of you who will claim Southern California is still working on it. Indeed, what is “civilization”? Well, 19th century intellectuals had a pretty good idea what it was. When Irish poet and author Oscar Wilde set out on an American tour in 1882 he noted: “Like the helianthus, I shall wend my willing way toward the Occidental uttermost of American civilization.” Wilde was speaking of California…but specifically San Francisco – a city that did process the trappings of late 19th century Anglo civilization: a cultivation of the arts, the political machinations of a democrat republic, sewers.
Americans agreed with Wilde’s assessments. If you were looking for “civilization” out west, then San Francisco was the place.
In contrast, Southern California was still a little rough and tumble in the 1880s – at least from the perspective of white America and Europe. But developments leaning to a perceived American civilization were well underway. Southern California was in both a transformative and additive period. A massive influx of settlers from the east was just getting moving. Southern California was on the brink of nationalization. But like everything else in the Southland, things proceeded on different terms. Stay tuned. Hint: the weather made a difference.
Incidentally, when Wilde stepped off the train in the Golden State he was wearing a Spanish sombrero, velvet suit, puce cravat, yellow gloves, and buckled shoes. Fierce.

With compliments,

Civil War Generation Database – Los Angeles

IMG_0412 I have just kicked off an ambitious project to catalog the Civil War generation who moved to – and then died (and were thus buried) in Los Angeles. I am beginning with those who I can positively identify as veterans of the United States Army and Navy. I am also checking up on all of those who fit the Civil War generation’s bill as well. Today I came across the grave of Moses Pratt in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery on Santa Monica Blvd. His grave is located near the south-east corner of the cemetery, underneath a pair of supportive beams holding up some shrubbery, next to a few implements used to feed feral cats. My guess is that Pratt, a former private with the 154th Illinois Infantry, has been forgotten in this rarely visited section of Hollywood Forever. So I think I will get a little United States flag for his grave.

Pratt’s unit was mustered in late in the war – February 1865 to be exact – and never saw any real action. He spent his life in the army guarding the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad in Tennessee (Department of the Cumberland) until he was mustered out in September of the same year. I wonder what brought him to the Golden State?

With compliments,


PS – Naturally, once the database gets a little meat on its bones, I will make it available to all…with pictures and everything. You’re welcome.

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