The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: City Hall

Matt Weinstock, Feb. 22, 1961

  Feb. 22, 1961, Comics  

Feb. 22, 1961: The Arriba Poulson group has been formed in East Los Angeles to support the mayor in his upcoming campaign, Matt Weinstock says.  

DEAR ABBY: My Mommy and Daddy got a divorce and I live with my Mommy. My Mommy says that Daddy is a very nice man. When Daddy takes me to his place on Sundays, he says that Mommy is a very nice woman. If my Daddy is so nice and my Mommy is so nice, please tell me why they couldn't get along with each other and stay married?


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Black Politics in L.A., 1913

  Feb. 22, 1913, Robert M. Lusk Dies  

  March 1, 1913, C.C. Flint  

Feb. 22, 1913: Councilman Robert M. Lusk died in office and the African Americans of Los Angeles called on the council to appoint one of several black contenders to complete his term.

Charles C. Flint, a grocer at 1101 Santa Fe Ave., was the leading contender. The other candidates were T.W. Troy, a furniture dealer at 12th and San Pedro; J.M. Alexander, head of the Afro-American Council and the Afro-American Commercial Co., 818 Wall St.;  and R.C. Owens, 1327 W. 10th, "one of the wealthiest Negroes in Los Angeles," according to The Times.

The Times quoted an appeal to the council by J.J. Edmunds, editor of the Liberator, "a publication for Negroes."

"After detailing the status of the Negroes of Los Angeles and the advance they have made as property owners and in aiding the material prosperity of the city, Edmunds said:

"When it looked as though the entire city was going to be overwhelmed by an undesirable element, you depended upon the Negro votes to help carry the day, and they fully responded. Without this vote the results would have been vastly different. We feel that this, as well as the many other reasons given, entitle us to a representation in this council."

Despite these pleas, the council nominated Wesley J. Bryant to fill Lusk’s term. 


Black Politics in L.A.

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Black Politics in L.A.

  Police Commission, Aug. 28, 1946  

Charles H. Matthews, African American member of the Police Commission, at a 1946 meeting.

I was intrigued by the remark on L.A. Observed, quoting the Root, “According to historian Raphael J. Sonenshein, ‘No African-American, Latino or Jewish person held elected office in the city of Los Angeles between 1900 and 1949, when a Latino, Edward Roybal, was elected to the City Council.’ ”

Not quite.

April 2, 1941, Fay E. Allen Without looking too far into the historic record for this era, we find Fay E. Allen, an African American music teacher at Jefferson High who after an unsuccessful attempt in 1937, was  elected to the Board of Education in 1939. In 1943, Allen was opposed by The Times, which alleged that she had communist support (although she was a registered Democrat), and she was defeated by Marie M. Adams. She ran for Board of Education in 1945 but was defeated again. That year, she became a labor organizer to unionize nonteaching employees in Los Angeles.

As might be expected, The Times wrote very little about Allen and I can’t find an obituary for her, so further digging is required. 

And although he was appointed rather than elected, one of the most notable African American figures in Los Angeles city government in this era is Charles H. Matthews (d. 1985), a deputy district attorney from 1931 to 1945, who was appointed to the Police Commission in 1946.  As far as I can determine, Matthews was the first African American on the commission and was followed by  John Somerville, Herbert Greenwood and Everette M. Porter.

According to Matthews' obituary, he was the only African American in his law class at UC Berkeley, the only black in the district attorney's office and the first African American on the California State Law Review Commission. He was twice denied membership in the Los Angeles County Bar Assn. because he was black and refused to join when it became desegregated, although he accepted an honorary membership.


Edward R. Roybal on the Daily Mirror

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USC Fraternity Pledges Stealing Hotel Spittoons!

  Jan. 13, 1911, Pantaloon Skirt  

  Jan. 13, 1911, Population

Jan. 13, 1911: The population of Los Angeles is 319,198, The Times says. In our bustling city, USC fraternity pledges are caught stealing spittoons from hotels …  a post office official is accused of taking items from the mail to give to women …. some Mission Indians come to Los Angeles to search record books for information on their tribal lands… and The Times reports on an ailing city employee hidden away in a small room in the tower of City Hall.

The Times’ slogan is: The Best Paper, Read by the Best People.

USC fraternity pledge dies during hazing, 1959

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Yorty Runs for Mayor!

Jan. 10, 1961, Yorty Jan. 10, 1961, Mayor's Race

Jan. 10, 1961: Incumbent Norris Poulson and  challenger Sam Yorty are about to get into a nasty campaign for mayor. Should I mention the $2-million slander suit? The Times editorial headlined “Either Poulson or Calamity?” (So much for the value of a Times endorsement.) And yes, The Times' Ed Ainsworth wrote the Yorty biography "Maverick Mayor."

Stay tuned! 


Norris Poulson on the Daily Mirror

Sam Yorty on the Daily Mirror

"Maverick Mayor" on Bookfinder

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Found on EBay – Norman Chandler

Norman Chandler
This portrait of Times Publisher Norman Chandler is part of an album of photographs that has been listed on EBay. Other subjects include Francis Cardinal McIntyre, Will Rogers and Mayor Norris Poulson. Bidding starts at $9.99.

Paul Coates, Aug. 24, 1960

Aug. 24, 1960, Mirror

Aug. 24, 1960: The Mirror reports a shouting match between Mayor Norris Poulson and Police Chief William H. Parker over a proposed police cadet program. It sounds like a great item, but alas, so many stories and only one Larry Harnisch, who is focused on the 1910 bombing of The Times these days.

Paul Coates follows up on a story about Emery Newbern, “the Perry Mason of the drunk tank.” 

Aug. 24, 1960, Paul Coates

Earl Rogers and L.A.'s Picketing Ban

Earl Rogers
Los Angeles Times file photo

Attorney Earl Rogers, who drafted L.A.’s ban on picketing and defended Clarence Darrow on charges of attempting to bribe jurors in the trial of the McNamara brothers in The Times bombing.   

July 16-19, 1910: While we were occupied with the Democratic National Convention of 1960, our friends in 1910 were busy approving the famous ban on picketing that was a key element in the bombing of the Los Angeles Times Building on Oct. 1, 1910.

The Times published the complete text of the proposed ordinance, which was written by attorney Earl Rogers, one of the major figures in the events leading up to the bombing and the defense attorney for Clarence Darrow on charges of attempting to bribe jurors in the bombing case.  Rogers was hired to write the ordinance by the Merchants and Manufacturers Assn., and I’ll have more about them later.

Rogers was noted for his courtroom rhetoric, and here’s a bit of his speech in favor of the picketing ban, as quoted in The Times: 

"It is war. Do you want it to be war in your streets or do you intend to pass the law and conserve the public peace? The men who want to go to and from their work peaceably must have the right to do so and be protected from the importations now busy here, some of whom I have seen before in the streets of San Francisco during times of disturbance there. It is the refusal of San Francisco to pass just such an ordinance there that led to the scenes where I saw men shot down in cold blood; where the hospital records show 732 killed and injured; where a mob of one thousand overturned a streetcar and killed the motorman and conductor and which led to the throwing of great steel beams from the heights of a 10-story building on a car beneath. Are you going to sit and wait for these things to be repeated in Los Angeles or are you going to stop it at the beginning?"

Speaking of Rogers, I was down at the Los Angeles Public Library the other day reading Alfred Cohn and Joe Chisholm’s 1934 biography of Rogers, “Take the Witness!”I must say it’s well worth a look, not only for material on Rogers but for what they have to say about Los Angeles.

I suppose it’s a sign of a complete research drudge, but whenever I pick up a book on history I always check the index and bibliography first, for here is where authors establish their credentials.

Oddly enough, “Take the Witness!” doesn’t appear in the bibliography of Howard Blum’s “American Lightning” (which isn’t indexed) or in the bibliography of Kevin Starr’s “Inventing the Dream.” Even more curious, Earl Rogers merits precisely one mention in Starr’s “Inventing the Dream” and that’s in relation to the Fatty Arbuckle case rather than The Times bombing and the Darrow trials. That doesn’t bode well, does it?

There’s more on Rogers in “Final Verdict,” by his daughter, Adela Rogers St. Johns;  W.W. Robinson’s highly recommended “Lawyers of Los Angeles”; and Michael Lance Trope’s “Once Upon a Time in Los Angeles: The Trials of Earl Rogers.”

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Pages of History

Fire Commission, 1885
Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

I went to the city archives on Monday to see what I could find about the Oct. 1, 1910, bombing of The Times. There wasn’t too much (the Police Commission minutes for that period are missing, btw)  but I did get to examine the first volume of Fire Commission minutes, including Ordinance 205, establishing the Fire Department.  I was hoping that there was some sort of record on fire inspections of The Times Building as it was under construction in 1886, but according to one entry, it wasn’t until 1887 that the Fire Commission asked the city attorney to draft an ordinance giving it authority over building construction.

Fire Commission minutes in the early years are quite brief and consist mainly of an accounting of money (buying feed for all those horses), equipment and such things as the placement of fire plugs. By 1910, the commission was far more involved in granting permits for gasoline engines, electric motors, boilers, fuel storage tanks and that sort of thing. And the minutes are typewritten – thank goodness! 

On the jump, the text of Ordinance 205 from The Times, Dec. 2, 1885.

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A Blow to Strikers

June 18, 1910, Pastries

June 18, 1910, Picketing, Editorial

June 18, 1910: The stage is set for the famous anti-picketing ordinance approved by the City Council in July 1910. For further reading, I would recommend Grace Heilman Stimson’s “Rise of the Labor Movement in Los Angeles,” published in 1955 by the University of California Press. Stimson’s book is a bit dry, but offers a far more measured, scholarly account than Louis Adamic’s 1931 “Dynamite: The Story of Class Violence in America,” and the books that rely heavily on his work, Morrow Mayo’s 1933 “Los Angeles” and Carey McWilliams’ 1946 “Southern California: An Island on the Land.”

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Architect Submits Plan for New City Hall

June 11, 1910, City Hall

June 11, 1910: If this building looks unfamiliar it’s because it never left the drawing board. This is a proposal by Lyman Farwell for a new City Hall to be built on the Temple Block at Spring and Main streets. If you know Los Angeles history, you know that the present City Hall didn’t open until 1928, which means it took 18 more years. As long as that may seem, it’s a blaze of lightning compared to the construction of Union Station, which was proposed about 1905 and opened in 1939.  Lesson: Large civic projects take forever in Los Angeles.

Notice that the story refers to the odd shape of the Temple block and remember that Spring Street took an oblique angle at 1st that was straightened out during construction of City Hall to alleviate traffic congestion.  

On the jump, an update on the metalworkers' and brewery strikes, and the capture of an athletic burglar.
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LAPD Captain Accused of Corruption


June 10, 1910, Doctors Convention

June 10, 1910: An AMA convention in St. Louis finds out what a Nautsch dancer is.

On the jump, the complicated case of Police Capt. Charles E. Dixon and Hampshire Hotel operator William D. Gage. Dixon, the head of the department’s “purity squad,” summoned Gage for questioning and accused him of “practices  of degeneracy,” The Times said. Unfortunately, despite all the coverage of the case, none of the stories alludes even obliquely to what sort of “degeneracy” was involved. I would assume Gage was accused of being gay, but that’s only a guess. Whatever the accusation, Gage reacted furiously. 

I’m posting quite a few stories about this incident because it reflects the nature of graft in this era. Gage was apparently falsely accused, complained to the Police Commission and was pressured to withdraw his accusations. When Gage refused to yield, he received threatening phone calls and his hotel on South Broadway was apparently targeted by a large number of unsavory guests, a technique that will appear in the 1930s harassment of Clifton’s Cafeterias and Clifford Clinton. (See also the Harry Raymond bombing.) 

Dixon was eventually fired and became a rancher in Orange County. In 1911, he testified before a grand jury about misconduct in the "Good Government” (Goo-Goo) administration. Buried way down in one of the stories is a line that Sgt. Charles E. Sebastian, the future police chief and mayor, has been promoted to lieutenant.
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