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Los Angeles County
1887 to 1909

Los Angeles City Oil Field in 1895 - California's top-producing oil field. Photo from Two Years of Progress in Los Angeles City and County, 1894-1895 issued by the L.A. Chamber of Commerce. Courtesy of the British Library.


Oil and Real Estate Boom and a Proliferation of New Cities Begins

Monrovia becomes Los Angeles County's fourth incorporated city. A great speculative land boom occurs, driving up the price of city land 500 percent. Whittier is settled by a group of Quakers. Burbank and Glendale are incorporated. An initial attempt to move the Los Angeles High School building from atop (then) Poundcake Hill to Sand Street (now part of Hollywood Freeway) fails when the mover misjudges the cost and runs out of money. The structure is abandoned in the middle of Temple Street. It has to be raised high enough with scaffolding so that street cars could run underneath. Pomona College is founded in Claremont. Prohibitionist Harvey Wilcox founds Hollywood. The first city-owned fire station is opened in Los Angeles.

Plaza Fire House, 1887. Photo by W.A. Boring, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Pomona, South Pasadena and Compton are incorporated as cities. Long Beach is also incorporated for the first time, but is disincorporated years later in 1897 (but then reincorporated before the end of that year). Heavy floods occur. The Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce is established at a meeting of the city’s principal boosters. Los Angeles Times publisher, Harrison Gray Otis, makes the motion. A small African American community forms in Los Angeles, initially centered around First and Los Angeles Streets. Occidental College is founded in Eagle Rock.

Map of Los Angeles County, 1888

Map of Los Angeles County in 1888. The lower part of the county secedes to form Orange County the following year.
Schmidt Label & Litho. Co, courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Click on map for larger image.


Heavy floods occur. The first college football game in Los Angeles is played between USC and Saint Vincent’s College (Loyola). After 20 years of political maneuvering, voters in the southern portion of Los Angeles County elect to break away to form Orange County, California.


Heavy floods occur. The U.S. Census records 50,395 people in the City of Los Angeles and 101,454 people for all Los Angeles County. The first Tournament of Roses Parade is held in Pasadena. Edwin T. Earl invents the refrigerated railcar in which to ship oranges to the east coast. The official flag of the City of Los Angeles is designed. The Los Angeles City Oil Field is discovered.

Tournament of Roses Parade, 1893. Photo by Charles Betts Waite, courtesy of Herald-Examiner Collection Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.

Tournament of Roses Parade float, 1893. Photo by Charles Betts Waite, courtesy of Herald-Examiner Collection Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Heavy floods occur. Amos G. Throop founds the Throop Polytechnic Institute of Pasadena, which would later become the California Institute of Technology. Whittier College is founded.

Throop Polytechnic Institute, as seen in 1898. Detroit Photographic Co., courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Old Los Angeles County Courthouse, circa 1892. The courthouse was completed in 1891 and remained until 1936 when demolished due to 1933 earthquake damage. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.


Redondo Beach is incorporated as Los Angeles County's ninth city. Edward Doheny is the first to succeesfully drill in the Los Angeles City Oil Field and launch California's top-producing field into the next century. Abbot Kinney buys swampy coastal land upon which he planned to build a "Temple of Culture." The location would later be named Venice. The Banning brothers begin developing Avalon on Santa Catalina Island as a summer resort. The Angeles National Forest is established, the first national forest in California.

Abbot Kinney, 1905. Courtesy of the Historic American Engineering Record at Library of Congress.

Avalon Bay, Santa Catalina Island, 1908. Photo by Lester Clement Barton, courtesy of Library of Congress.


Four Los Angeles banks close due to nationwide economic problems. Sunkist is adopted as the brand name of all California oranges. Mt. Lowe Railway opens. The Bradbury Building opens.

Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, today. Photo by Felicia Aparicio.


During the nationwide railroad strike, labor rioting breaks out in Los Angeles. U.S. Army troops are deployed to Los Angeles to restore order.

Adobe built in 1840s in Santa Monica. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library.


A heavily traveled Los Angeles thoroughfare is given the name Wilshire Boulevard. William Denton discovers the first saber-tooth cat fossil at La Brea Tar Pits (once referred to as saber-tooth tigers to enhance the image of their ferocity). Later, in 1901, Union Oil geologist William Orcutt uncovers more fossils.

Los Angeles High School Class of 1895. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Congress appropriates $3.9 million to build an artificial harbor at San Pedro. Griffith J. Griffith donates 3,015 acres to the City of Los Angeles that will ultimately become Griffith Park, the largest urban park in the nation.

Los Angeles orange grove pickers, circa 1895. Photo by B.W. Kilburn. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The first known automobile to appear on Los Angeles streets appears, built by S.D. Sturgis in a downtown Los Angeles shop for J. Philip Erie. Erie drives the vehicle with W.W. Workman and a few others for the first ride as L.A.’s first auto passengers. The Mission San Fernando is restored. The City of Long Beach is disincorporated by residents due to dissatisfaction with city taxes and prohibition but is reincorporated before the end of the year. Morris Cohn, who had brought the first powered sewing machine to the West Coast, opens Morris Cohn & Company, the first garment manufacturing business in Los Angeles, making overalls and shirts. It is the first business in what will ultimately become the gigantic Los Angeles fashion industry. Frederick Blechynden creates the first motion picture made in Los Angeles when he films 25-seconds of traffic on South Spring Street.

Hollenbeck Park, Circa 1897-1924. Detroit Photographic Co-Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, courtesy of wikimedia.


Whittier and Azusa are incorporated as Los Angeles County's 10th and 11th cities. The fifth symphony orchestra established in the nation is formed in Los Angeles.

Panorama of Los Angeles, circa 1898-1905. Detroit Photographic Co-Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


The Los Angeles Stock Exchange is established. San Pedro beats out Santa Monica and Redondo Beach to become the new deep water port for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Harbor looking towards Terminal Island, circa 1890. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


The U.S. Census records 102,479 people in the City of Los Angeles and 170,298 people for all Los Angeles County. The Automobile Club of Southern California is established. Rapid communications between Los Angeles and Catalina Island are established via carrier pigeon.

Automobile Club of Southern California sign. Los Angeles Almanac Photo at Petersen Automotive Museum.


Covina is incorporated as a city. Henry Huntington forms the Pacific Electric Railway Company that would link Los Angeles by a network of rail cars. The first Japanese settlers arrive in Los Angeles. They begin the fishing and fish-canning industry in Los Angeles. Angels flight is built. The famous cable cars continue to run until 1969.

Opening day, July 4, for Pacific Electric Railway line in Long Beach. Courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.


The first Tournament of Roses football game is played between Michigan and Stanford. Michigan wins 49-0. The first production automobiles in California are built by the Auto Vehicle Company in Los Angeles. Thomas Lincoln Tally opens the Electric Theatre in Los Angeles as the nation's first permanent motion picture theater.

One of Tally's Electric Theatres, circa 1909. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


Alhambra and Arcadia are incorporated as cities. William Randolph Hearst establishes the Los Angeles Examiner (later to become the LA Herald-Examiner). Doubling the size of the African American population in Los Angeles, the Southern Pacific Railroad brings in almost 2,000 African American laborers to break a strike by Mexican American workers.

Los Angeles High School Camera Club, Circa 1900. Courtesy of Security National Bank Collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.


William Mulholland announces that Los Angeles has outgrown its local sources of water. The Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners begins looking into Owens Valley as the new source of much needed water. Fred Eaton, formerly mayor of Los Angeles, had already begun buying up properties in the Owens Valley and champions the idea. Thus begins a long battle between Los Angeles and Owens Valley residents known as the Owens Valley Water Wars. The Mount Wilson Observatory is founded. The number of automobiles in Los Angeles reaches 1,600. Clarence Thompson becomes the first African American to graduate from the University of Southern California (USC).

William Mulholland, circa 1908-1913. Courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.


Vernon is incorporated as a city. The Owens Valley water project is publicly announced. Los Angeles voters approve a bond to build an aqueduct from the Owens Valley.

Long Beach Pier & bathers , circa 1905. Photo by Guy Carleton Hovey, courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Glendale, La Verne and Huntington Park are incorporated as cities. Using access to water as a bargaining tool, the City of Los Angeles manages to annex a shoestring strip of land extending south to San Pedro. California's first woman attorney, Clara Shortridge Foltz, moves to Los Angeles from San Francisco. She brings with her fight for women's rights and the establishment of public defenders for indigent defendants. Immaculate Heart College opens. Fossil excavations begin at the La Brea Tar Pits. San Francisco is originally set as the launching point for the first Transpacific Yacht Race to Hawaii, but, due to the destruction by the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the race launches from Point Fermin in Los Angeles to Hawaii. Except for a nostalgic 1939 launch from San Francisco, the race has started in Southern California since. Koreans establish the Korean Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles.

Santa Fe Railraod passengers departing Los Angeles, circa 1905. George R. Lawrence Co., courtesy Library of Congress.


Hermosa Beach, Sierra Madre and Claremont are incorporated as cities. Hawaiian George Freeth introduces surfing to Southern California at Redondo Beach. The great Sunkist advertising campaign begins.

Home of Los Angeles Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis on Wilshire Boulevard, circa 1890-1898. Courtesy of the California Historical Society Collection & USC Library.


Inglewood is incorporated as a city. Taxicabs appear in Los Angeles for the first time.


First modern factory building in Los Angeles built for Cohn, Goldwater and Company, 1909. Courtesy USC Libraries.

Wilmington and San Pedro are annexed by the City of Los Angeles. Los Angeles is the first large city in the nation to adopt zoning ordinances that distinguish between residential and commercial properties. The first modern factory (and first steel-reinforced) building in Los Angeles opens at 525 East 12th Street for garment-maker Cohn, Goldwater & Company. Launched a decade earlier by the partnership of Morris Cohn and Lemuel Goldwater, Cohn, Goldwater & Company is one of the earliest garment-makers in what will become the Los Angeles fashion industry. Attracted by Southern California’s climate, William Selig and his Selig Polyscope Company set up a temporary studio in Los Angeles behind a Chinese laundry on Olive Street (between Seventh and Eighth Streets). There, director Francis Boggs, having started filming in Chicago, completes his motion picture, The Count of Monte Cristo. It is the first feature film completed in Los Angeles. A few months later, Selig moves his studio into a permanent facility in an Edendale rented bungalow at Clifford and Allesandro Street (now Glendale Boulevard). Francis Boggs there makes In the Sultan’s Power as the first motion picture feature completely made in Los Angeles. Los Angeles Mayor Arthur Harper resigns rather than face a recall election for corruption and vice protection. Southern California Edison is founded.

Selig's permanent studio in Edendale, 1910. Courtesy of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.