Tag Archives: western civilization

When did Southern California “Civilize”?

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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,
Keith