The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: 1927

From the Stacks – 'Facts You Should Know About California'





  Facts You Should Know About California  

Since March, when I examined Louis Adamic’s “The Truth About Los Angeles,” I have been hunting the other pamphlets he wrote for E. Haldeman-Julius. A box of a dozen musty tracts arrived Friday, courtesy of EBay, and I immediately dug into No. 752, “Facts You Should Know About California,” written about 1927-28. 

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Pages of History -- Morrow Mayo's 'Los Angeles'





  Los Angeles, Morrow Mayo  


Dec. 17, 1927, Express Cover
 

The Evening Express,
Dec. 17, 1927

 

 
Dec. 20, 1927, Express Cover
  The Evening Express,
Dec. 20, 1927
 


 

Dec. 17, 1927, Times
  The Times,
Dec. 17, 1927
 
Dec. 20, 1927, Times
  The Times,
Dec. 20, 1927
 

I haven’t forgotten about my little project on Morrow Mayo’s “Los Angeles,” but there are so many stories and only one Larry Harnisch. I spent part of Tuesday at one of my favorite places in the city, the Los Angeles Public Library’s History and Genealogy Department, going through microfilm of the Los Angeles Evening Express coverage of the Marion Parker killing. (Sorry about the quality of the scans. The readers at the library can only make printouts.)

I will delve into Mayo’s treatment of the Parker killing in the days to come, but I was left with some immediate impressions after reading the Evening Express.

First of all, notice the screamer headlines. The Express brought out extras nearly every day in the Parker case, unlike The Times, which mostly kept the killing on the cover of the second section. (Which is why there is nothing about the case on the Dec. 17, 1927, front page, above).

And second,  I think we tend to forget that this tragedy occurred during the holiday season. Putting  the murder in its historic context in the pages of a newspaper adds a haunting contrast between the horror of the killing and the ads for Christmas gifts and pictures of Santa Claus.

Finally, I am always thankful that I can go to my local library and have access to such a wealth of historic resources.   
 
ALSO

Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 1
Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 2
Fact-Checking “Los Angeles” – Part 3

Pages of History – Morrow Mayo’s ‘Los Angeles’





  Los Angeles, Morrow Mayo  


Morrow Mayo didn’t do terribly well in the first page of his chapter on the 1927  Marion Parker case (“Strange Interlude”) in “Los Angeles.” Let’s see if the next page is any better.

We find that once again, Mayo has trouble quoting documents accurately. This is his version of William Edward Hickman’s telegram to Parker’s father:

  Morrow Mayo, Los Angeles, Page 294  


In comparing this text with a photo of the telegram from the Los Angeles Evening Express, Dec. 19, 1927, we find that he dropped a few words and he misspelled Marion as Marian. The text actually reads:

[Marian] Marion secure. [Use good judgment.] Interference with my plans dangerous.

[Marian] Marion Parker


George Fox


[I apologize for the poor quality of the scan. It was a challenging day with the microfilm reader.]

Keep reading for a photo of a letter Hickman sent to Marion’s father compared with Mayo’s purported text of the letter. And I have to say that while Mayo’s transcription makes Hickman sound somewhat rational, seeing the actual letter, with its crazy quilt of cursive writing and printing, conveys some of Hickman’s lunacy. 

  Hickman Telegram  

ALSO

Fact-Checking ‘Los Angeles’ – Part 1

Fact-Checking ‘Los Angeles’ – Part 2

Continue reading »

Pages of History -- Morrow Mayo's 'Los Angeles'





  Hickman Telegram  

  Los Angeles, Morro Mayo  

Any day I can do research is a good day – even if I run into trouble, as I did on Tuesday. I stopped by the Los Angeles Public Library to delve into the microfilm on the Marion Parker case. And here’s what I found in the Los Angeles Evening Express for Dec. 19, 1927. (Sorry about the quality of the scan. It was a challenging day).

No, your eyes aren’t fooling you. Morrow Mayo made a slight error in transcribing William Edward Hickman’s telegram. [It should be the special delivery letter]. And the names were below the text, as signatures.

ALSO

Fact-Checking “Los Angeles,” Part 1

Continue reading »

Pages of History -- Morrow Mayo's 'Los Angeles'





  Los Angeles, Morrow Mayo  

For many people, this will be an exercise in tedium. But I’m hopeful that the research fanatics among the Daily Mirror readers will find it engaging.

I’m going to spend some time on Morrow Mayo’s “Los Angeles” to examine its reliability. In other words, I’m going to fact-check portions of the book, mostly against reports from The Times.

Mayo often quotes The Times   in his book, so we know he referred to it for some details, but we may find ourselves on a treasure hunt to unearth his other source material, so I expect to examine other period newspapers along the way, depending on just how far it’s worth carrying the whole matter. 

I’m starting with “Los Angeles” because this is where most contemporary historians begin. To be sure, there are earlier works on the subject, but where they are dry, dusty and plodding recitations of the past, “Los Angeles” is a jaunty dash through history with a guide who gives readers a wink and a sly look as he promises to tell “the real story.” Mayo is an entertaining and engaging author,  but (spoiler alert) he’s not especially accurate, and his errors, combined with his caustic commentary, have influenced generations of writers – even those who may not be aware that they are following in his footsteps.

Where to begin? I’ve decided to start in the last section of the book, rather than at the beginning, (the Portola expedition discovers the future metropolis is inhabited by “a tribe of circus freaks,” Page 6) or at the end, with Mayo’s bibliography, although it will be fun to examine his source material in another post, depending on one’s idea of fun.


In a brief biography on the book jacket, Mayo says that he spent six years in California working for various newspapers before he began “Los Angeles” in 1931, so I’m starting with an event that he observed first-hand: the sensational coverage of the 1927 abduction and killing of Marion Parker by William Edward Hickman. One would expect that a newsman would be fairly accurate in writing about an event that occurred a few years earlier and was still fresh in his memory. But is he? Let’s put him to the acid test.

Before going further I should note that the Hickman case involves a particularly gruesome  killing of a 12-year-old girl and the original accounts in The Times are extremely graphic. I’m not much on ghoulish sensationalism so I don’t plan to recount everything that was done to Marion Parker unless it’s necessary to contrast it with Mayo’s version of the crime.  

Here’s Page 293 of the chapter titled “Strange Interlude.”

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