Los Angeles, population 611,656: Rare images from before the motion picture boom
On a recent rainy Sunday, a group of friends and I took a trip to the Cordelia Junction Antique Mall. The galleria is housed in an old fruit processing building, surrounded by built-in railroad cars. I came across a brochure called "Los Angeles To-day." I was drawn to the images of the "City of Angels" before talkie films were the rage. The brochure states that "the city was founded September 4, 1781 by a band of pobladores or colonists, who had been recruited in the Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora and brought here under command of a government officer, to found an agricultural colony" that would feed Mexican soldiers at the presidios.
The pamphlet captures a snapshot in the transition between agricultural outpost and entertainment mecca.
In 1886, there were no paved streets. 25 years later, in 1921, there were 1,255.33 miles of improved streets and a sewer system running 975 miles, according to the booklet. The banks had a total of deposits at $443,480,349, equal to $5,950,708,897 today, according to the Westegg inflation calculator.
In 1921, this was still the silent film era, and there was no mention of that industry. The only hint of what was to come was a photo of moving picture studios. The population at that time was 611,656. The most recent census figures list the city of LA population at 3,928,864 and the greater Los Angeles number (covering 5 counties) at 18,550,000.
In 1919, Los Angeles County was ranked first in the value of all crops in the United States, according to the brochure. In California, it ranked first in farm property value, value of crops, value of fruits and nuts, hay and forage, dairy products, bearing lemon trees, beet sugar production and the number of bearing olive trees.
There were 800 schools in the city, canals were being dredged to accommodate the biggest ships, due to the ideal climate, there was a proliferation of country clubs and the petroleum industry was starting to grow. At the time, four barrels of oil at seventy-five cents was equal to one ton of coal costing $8.00.
Per the brochure, one of the biggest enterprises ever undertaken by a city - the Los Angeles Aqueduct. That project started in 1908 and was completed in 1913, bringing a fresh water supply 250 miles, from the snow-clad Mt. Whitney. At that time, it was the longest aqueduct in the world, and cost $25,000,000 to build.
To accomplish this, 225 miles of mountain roads, and 350 miles of telephone system had to be built, according to the brochure. It also gave birth to the Nevada and California Railroad, a system that ran 142 miles across the Mojave Desert.
The pamphlet announces three to five room cottages with bath that cost $40 to $75 per month, five to six room cottages with bath and electricity cost from $50 to $100 per month, and five and six room flats, twenty minutes from the business center could be had for $60 to $100 per month. Flat and apartments with all the modern conveniences, from five to seven rooms, in a good location, went for $75 to $150 per month.
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