Greetings all – today I have been doing a good deal of reading about my most favorite city and adopted hometown, Los Angeles. This metropolis, the City of Angeles, emerged, grew, and prospered in the most unlikely of ways. As part of my web-course series, I am in the beginning stages of organizing themes and a narrative that will tackle the history of this great city for a world of viewers…and perhaps offer something instructive for the thousands who move here each month. These few words, penned by writer Morris Markey in 1932, struck me as good a starting place as any:
As I wandered about Los Angeles, looking for the basic meaning of the place, the fundamental source of its wealth and its economic identity, I found myself quite at sea. The Chamber of Commerce people told me about the concentration of fruit, the shipping, the Western branch factories put up by concerns in the East. But none of these things seemed the cause of a city. They seemed rather the effect, rising from an inexplicable accumulation of people – just as the immense dealings in second-hand automobiles and the great turnover of real estate were an effect. It struck me as an odd thing that here, alone of all the cities in America, there was no plausible answer to the question, “Why did a town spring up here and why has it grown so big?”
Big indeed…and incessantly, inexorably growing. Traffic alone will attest to that. As it were, I have made a three-picture study of LA traffic on Instagram today…just for the visual recognition that the issue seems to have been with us for some time now. At any rate, I believe there is an answer to the riddle of Los Angeles, and I am thus putting together the skeletal framework for the web-course City of Angeles: A History of Los Angeles as I finish production of my American Civil War course. The flesh is on deck…and those of you who are part of the crew will get the first crack at it.
PS – if you want to get a head start, here are a couple of books worth reading.
The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 by Robert M. Fogelson
Southern California: An Island on the Land by Carey McWilliams