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Found on EBay

January 4, 2008 |  1:31 pm

Here's an interesting curio I found on EBay: A badge purportedly issued by the Pacific Electric Railway. I'm always suspicious of items like this because reproductions are common and frankly I wasn't sure the PE had a police force.


However, a quick trip to ProQuest reveals several stories in 1906 and 1907 about Pacific Electric Police Detective George Churchill, who investigated the theft of copper wire from the trolley system, the mysterious death of a car conductor and chased down a man who threw a rock through the window of Car No. 353 on the Long Beach line. He also arrested two men on the Santa Ana line who amused themselves by ringing up $30 in extra fares when the conductor wasn't looking.

(Given stories like these--and there are many more--I find it a miracle that the streetcar system has acquired sainthood in contemporary Los Angeles. Have you ever wondered what happened when a trolley car hit a horse? Think about it. The carnage on the streets of early 20th century Los Angeles is not to be believed).

And no, I don't get a percentage on this item or anything of the kind. Rather, this is another example of the amazing trove of history that turns up on EBay. It isn't a can of smog or photos of Julian Eltinge, but interesting in its own way. EBay has certainly offered me an outlet for excess cash in procuring copies of Confidential magazine for the Daily Mirror. (And to all of you who have asked: No, to the best of my knowledge no library or archive owns a complete run of Confidential).

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