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Los Angeles County
1866 to 1886

Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad becomes the first railroad in Southern California in 1869. Source: USC Digital Library.


Kern County is established from a portion of northern Los Angeles County. The Los Angeles town square, later to be renamed in 1918 after General John J. Pershing, is established.


Developer Prudent Beaudry buys land that he would later develop into Bunker Hill. A great rainstorm cuts Los Angeles off from the outside world for a month. A large lake is formed by the rains along Ballona Creek.


Former California Governor John C. Downey establishes the first bank in Los Angeles. Phineas Banning begins construction of Southern California's first rail line, a twenty-mile track running between Los Angeles and San Pedro. Los Angeles’ first artesian well is sunk near Wilmington. Los Angeles’ first street lights appear.

Los Angeles Plaza, Circa 186. The Plaza Church is on the left. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Phineas Banning begins operating the Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad - Southern California's first railroad. It links San Pedro and Los Angeles and becomes the beginning of the modern Port of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Board of Education is established. A Wells Fargo stagecoach is robbed just outside Los Angeles. Two hundred boxes of oranges are shipped by sea from Los Angeles to San Francisco. The first Los Angeles city fire company is established. The first bicycle in Los Angeles appears on the streets. Pio Pico, the last governor of Mexican California, begins building Pico House in downtown Los Angeles.

Drawing of First School in Los Angeles (originally Sisters of Charity Orphanage), 1869. Drawing by I.J. Hughes. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The U.S. Census records 5,728 people in the City of Los Angeles and 15,309 people for all Los Angeles County. Los Angeles houses are numbered for the first time in order to create a city directory. The last recorded lynching in Los Angeles takes place when a suspect is hanged for the murder of Jacob Bell. Both Pico House and the Merced Theatre open for business. For a time, Pico House is the finest hotel in Southern California. The Los Angeles County Medical Society is established. For the first time, whites outnumber Hispanics and Indians. The first permanent bridge is built across the Los Angeles River.

Pico House today at El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historical Monument. Los Angeles Almanac Photo.

Pico House, circa 1878. Courtesy of California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.


The death of an Anglo man attempting a citizen’s arrest on a Chinese merchant provokes an angry white mob to attack the Chinese quarter. At least 17 Chinese men and boys are killed by bullet, beating, or lynching. The Sheriff, with little backing and only after several desperate attempts, finally quells the attacks. For these crimes, 150 men are later indicted, but only six are convicted. All six are released on technicalities. The Los Angeles Volunteer Fire Department is formed. The Farmers and Merchants Bank is opened. The first bookstore in Los Angeles by Brodrick & Reilly opens next to the Post Office on Spring Street. Los Angeles’ first ice cream parlor opens. The Federal Government begins making improvements on the Wilmington Harbor.

1871 lithograph of Los Angeles with Pico House at center in front of Los Angeles Plaza. Courtesy of California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.


An earthquake hits Los Angeles, but little serious damage occurs. Congress passes a railroad bill that stipulates that a rail line south from San Francisco must pass through Los Angeles. Charles Nordhoff’s book, California: For Health, Pleasure, and Residence, appears, drawing thousands of newcomers to Southern California. The first public library is opened. A portion of Los Angeles County breaks away as part of the newly established Ventura County. A Los Angeles city ordinance directs the City Marshal to register and license dogs. Former slave Bridget Mason (Biddy Mason), now a successful businesswoman and landowner, along with son-in-law Charles Owens, founds and finances the first African American church in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles branch of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.

Book "California: for Health, Pleasure, and Residence. A book for travellers and settlers." Written by Charles Nordhoff, 1872. Published by Harper & Brothers.


The first Jewish synagogue is built. The first high school in Los Angeles is built at Temple and Broadway. The first trolley line in Los Angeles begins operations. 100,000 eucalyptus trees arrive from Australia. Frederick Eaton, who would later become mayor of Los Angeles, purchases the old home of Cyrus Burdick at the northeast corner of Second and Spring streets. There he builds the Burdick Block, one of the first modern business blocks in Los Angeles. Phineas Banning sells his Los Angeles & San Pedro Railroad to Southern Pacific Railroad. Charles A. Storke founds the Los Angeles Daily Herald to appeal to mainly working class readers in Los Angeles. Many decades later, the newspaper becomes a Hearst property and is merged to become the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.

Los Angeles High School - first high school in Los Angeles, 1873. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


After committing a long series of highly publicized robberies in the Los Angeles area, the Mexican bandit Tiburcio Vasquez is captured and becomes a folk hero while in the city jail. He is later convicted and hanged in San Jose in 1875. His was the last public hanging in California. The first street car in Los Angeles begins operating. Prostitution is outlawed in Los Angeles.


Two years after the great bank panic began in the east, depositors in the Temple & Workman Bank begin panic withdrawals. Francis Temple and John Downey of Farmers & Merchants Bank agree to close their respective banks for 30 days to ward off a local banking disaster. This event eventually leads to the ruin of both Temple and Downey. The first labor union (typographers) in Los Angeles is organized. Wine is Los Angeles County’s principal product.

Los Angeles Plaza in foreground with Los Angeles River in background, 1876. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The Cathedral of St. Vibiana is opened. The Southern Pacific completes its rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles. Pico oil well no. 4 in the Pico Canyon Oil Field begins producing 25 barrels per day becoming California’s first commercially successful oil well.

Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Los Angeles, 1885. Courtesy Historic American Buildings Survey and Library of Congress.


The city marshal’s office is abolished. J.F. Gerkins is appointed as Chief of Police. The first kindergarten in Los Angeles opens. Hundreds of thousands of sheep die in a great drought. Calle de Los Negros (commonly called "Nigger Alley") is renamed Los Angeles Street. Oranges from Los Angeles are shipped for the first time to the east. William Mulholland arrives in Los Angeles.

Orange Groves in Hollywood on Krotona Hill, 1880. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The Los Angeles Bar Association is established.

Corner of Main and Spring Streets, viewing north from Temple Street in Los Angeles, circa 1878. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The Los Angeles Athletic Club is opened.

Carriage ride in Elysian Park in Los Angeles, 1879. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The U.S. Census records 11,183 people in the City of Los Angeles and 33,381 people for all Los Angeles County. The University of Southern California is founded. Los Angeles receives its first paved road on Main Street. The first oil pipeline in Los Angeles is laid. Helen Hunt Jackson visits Los Angeles. She later publishes the famous novel Ramona in 1884 about the life in the early California missions. President Rutherford B. Hayes becomes the first sitting U.S. President to visit Los Angeles.

Robert Maclay Widney, circa 1885, key founder and promoter of University of Southern California. Photo by By Westervelt, Los Angeles, courtesy of Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley.


The Los Angeles Times begins publication as the Los Angeles Daily Times. Los Angeles is linked to the east coast by the completion of the Southern Pacific transcontinental rail line. The harbor jetty is completed at San Pedro. Harry Chandler arrives in Los Angeles from New Hampshire. He would later become publisher of the Los Angeles Times. The first record of snowfall occurs in Los Angeles.

First edition of the Los Angeles Daily Times, later to be the Los Angeles Times, December 4, 1881. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times.


The Los Angeles Telephone Company receives permission to erect telephone poles in the city, bringing telephone service to Los Angeles. Service begins with seven subscribers and three operators. Forerunner of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the Southern Branch of the California State Normal School, opens. Harrison Gray Otis begins writing for the Los Angeles Daily Times. Later in 1886, Otis becomes owner-publisher of the newspaper (later to be known as the Los Angeles Times) and becomes one of the most influential members of the community. The Brush Electric Lighting Company installs the first electric streetlights in Los Angeles. Chinese immigration is barred.

Student teachers at State Normal School (present-day UCLA), 1884. Photo by C.C. Pierce, courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Nearly one hundred people bound for Los Angeles are killed in a catastrophic train disaster in the Tehachapi Mountains in Kern County. Former Governor John D. Downey of Los Angeles, who is a passenger, survives the accident, but his wife, Maria Jesus Guiradois, is killed. Southern California’s first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth A. Follansbee, begins practicing medicine in Los Angeles. J.W. Robinson opens a dry goods store in downtown Los Angeles.


Charles F. Lummis arrives in Los Angeles after hiking 3,507 miles from the east coast. Articles about his trip were submitted to eastern publications stimulating further interest in Southern California. Oranges from Southern California win over those from Florida at the New Orleans International Exposition. The novel Ramona, a stylized story of Indian life in Southern California during the mission era, is published. The Times Mirror Company, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, is incorporated. Heavy flooding causes the Los Angeles River to alter its course east to Vernon and then south to San Pedro. A channel for the river is built through downtown Los Angeles.

First Street bridge over Los Angeles River collapsed after severe flooding, 1884. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.

First Long Beach Hotel, 1884. Destroyed by fire in 1888. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The Santa Fe Railroad completes a second transcontinental rail line into Los Angeles, breaking the Southern Pacific Railroad’s monopoly. The University of Southern California opens its medical school. The Los Angeles Fire Department hires its first full-time paid firefighters. Los Angeles’ original water system, the Zanja, established with the first settlement, is abolished. The last Zanjero (keeper of the Zanja) ends his service in 1904.

Plaza Church in Los Angeles, circa 1885. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


A terrible flood washes away every bridge and many other structures in the city and causes a great loss in lives. Los Angeles receives land for a park that would later be renamed in 1942 in honor of General Douglas MacArthur. Pasadena and Santa Monica are the first cities incorporated in Los Angeles County after the City of Los Angeles. William Mulholland, once a ditch tender for the Los Angeles Water Company, becomes its chief executive. A railroad rate war opens between Southern Pacific and Santa Fe. The price of a ticket between Kansas City and Los Angeles drops to one dollar, sparking a major influx of visitors and newcomers to Los Angeles. Harrison Gray Otis buys out the one-half interest of Colonel H.H. Boyce in the Times Mirror Company (publisher of the Los Angeles Times) and gains control of the company.

First "Fast Fruit Train" leaves Los Angeles for eastern markets, 1886. Perishable fruit had to be quickly shipped. Courtesy of Herald-Examiner Collection Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.