The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Random Shot -- Update

Los Angeles Times file photo
I received a couple of interesting notes about the photo of the Marsh-Strong Building. Although the photo isn't dated, it's evident the building hadn't opened yet, so I would place it about 1913.

Marsh_strong_kioskRetired LAPD Officer Max Hurlbut writes:

Call Box Sam (SAM FLOWERS) & I have been communicating regarding your excellent photos of the Marsh-Strong Building at the triangle of Spring/Main Streets, between & 8th & 9th.

I asked SAM about the street car semaphore signal on the N/E corner of Main & 8th in your photo.  He pointed out the control kiosk/tower across the street.

Downtown horse & auto traffic, by 1911, was horrendous.  The 34-man Traffic Squad of Sergeant J. L. BUTLER used the "whistle system" (one blast for east/west traffic & two for north/ south) to keep things moving.

The Acme Traffic Signal Company (located in 621 Marsh-Strong) convinced the City they could coordinate heavy traffic with the world's first connected system of mechanical traffic devices.  The "Acme" used moving semaphore arms like railroad signals, a red & green light, and a gong to sound changes.

The first five were installed along Broadway in 1920 and, by 1926, expanded to 100.  The Acme monopoly ended in 1931 with tri-light signals installed along Wilshire Boulevard.  (I have the last Acme, pulled from North Main Street at the Plaza in December 1956).

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Comments (2)

One of the most vivid memories of going for that Sunday ride in Los Angeles in the 40's was watching those bright silver traffic signals ring their bell and raise the sign telling my Dad whether it was time to go or stop. When they disappeared in the fifties I really missed their animation for some time to come. The memory faded until I saw a movie entitled "the two Jakes" Ever since I have been on a quest to find one of these to put in my little auto museum. To date I have only seen one in miserable shape at the trolly museum in Peris Ca. I'll just keep hoping that all were not destroyed.

The image at the top of this page is not of an Acme Traffic Signal. Instead the it is a photo of an unknown lower quadrant railroad semaphore signal for the trolleys that ran in the streets. There were two other sets of these signals in front of the Pacific Electric 6th and Main Street Station controlling train traffic in and out of the Main Street train entrance off of Main Street. For a look at where these signals were, visit - Steve CRise


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