But the Line Is Straight

Feb. 28, 1907
Los Angeles

An old and massive California live oak used to mark the division between three Spanish land grants lies in pieces on the ground because an Edison foreman refused to run a transmission line around it.

“The tree was a full hundred feet in its spread,” The Times says,” and stood on the end of a little plateau, all alone in its greatness. The massive trunk could not be circled by three men stretching their arms and touching their fingertips-hardly by four men. Above, it split into four great branches that spread out and out and then again downward, containing with an evergreen shield a refuge where two full companies of soldiers might have bivouacked in comfort.”

The live oak marks the junction of the San Rafael, Los Feliz and Providencia land grants, The Times says, adding: “The tree itself stands within the Providencia but it was a starting point from which direction was taken.”

“The foreman is said to be in grave danger of losing his position and is very repentant,” the paper says. “He bawled like a spanked bad boy before the board (note: the property was owned by the Water Board, which had given Edison permission to run the line). However the great old tree is lying among a smother of chips and there is no way to replace the work of nature’s 300 years.”

Bonus fact: The San Rafael, Providencia and San Rafael land grants touched at a point in Burbank that is circled by the on-ramp for the southbound Golden State Freeway at the westbound lanes of Burbank Boulevard.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

A Secretary’s Sacrifice

Feb. 27, 1907
Los Angeles

A thick cloud of smoke from a raging fire in the basement swept through the Germain building on South Spring Street at lunch hour, engulfing businessmen and office workers. In a fraction of a second, the building’s occupants were transformed from powerful executives conducting elaborate stock deals into blind and struggling humans groping on their knees through the hallways to save their lives.


There were many daring rescues and examples of selfless sacrifice. One man was saved as he was about to commit suicide rather than die in the fire. Firefighters battled the blaze until they were at the point of collapse, left to revive themselves and then returned. The only fatality was Emma Stewart, a secretary who died because she turned back from her flight to telephone her employer about the fire.

Her last words were: “Mr. Germain, there is a fire in the basement. Come quickly.”

Reporter E.O. Sawyer dragged her to safety after finding her next to the telephone, the receiver hanging loose from its hook. Doctors spent an hour trying to revive her but she never regained consciousness.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

In Indiana, There Is No Beer

Feb. 14-26, 1907
Los Angeles

The Rev. Ervin S. Chapman, a Presbyterian minister who heads the Anti-Saloon League of California, has won a victory through an address that persuaded an Indiana judge to rule that saloons are unconstitutional.

Chapman concluded his series of points by saying:

Our national Supreme Court, in decisions which it has rendered, has designated the liquor traffic as mala in se [wrong in itself] by characterizing it as

Harmful to material prosperity.
Injurious to life.
Destructive of manhood.
Disastrous to peace and happiness.
Fatal to morals and.
Productive of crime and misery.

That court having thus characterized the liquor traffic will surely declare that traffic mala in se and hence unlawful and incapable of being granted legislative standing or protection by any branch of civil government either national or local.

Whenever the public mind has become sufficiently enlightened and the public conscience sufficiently quickened to justify and make effective such a decision our national Supreme Court, which has always led public sentiment respecting this question, will place its brand of outlawry upon that traffic which McKinley characterized “as the most degrading and ruinous of all human pursuits.”

Los Angeles saloonkeepers shrugged their shoulders and said they believed the ruling would have no effect on them.

The Times quoted one bartender: “ ‘Stop saloons unt drinking!’ one barkeeper screamed in astonishment. ‘Go vay. You might as well try to stop kissing.’ ”

Chapman died in 1921, two years after the passage of the Volstead Act.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

Architectural Ramblings

Feb. 24, 1907
Eagle Rock

Architect Samuel Tilden Norton has designed a bank building for Townsend Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in Eagle Rock, The Times says.

Just to make research interesting, The Times misspelled his name as S. Tilton Norton. According to his 1959 obituary, his mother was the first Jewish child born in Los Angeles. After studying architecture in Los Angeles and New York, he designed the Wilshire Fox Building and Sinai Temple.

He was a board member of Temple B’nai Brith during its move from Hope and 9th Street to Wilshire and Hobart and was an honorary consultant on plans for the temple, which was designed by A.W. Edelman.

Norton was lifelong friends with Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin, who presided over the funeral. Norton was a member of many professional, religious and social organizations, including Hillcrest Country Club, Nathan Strauss Israel Society, Jewish Federation, the Friends of the Hebrew University and the Zionist Organization of America.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

Blood & Dumplings Crime Bus Tour (March 17, 1pm-6pm)

If there’s one thing we at 1947project love even more than uncovering
evidence of an incredibly weird forgotten crime, it’s Chinese
food–especially dumplings! Whether fried or boiled, stuffed with
shrimp, pork, pumpkin, fish, scallions or sometimes a little dollop of
soup, nothing is more comforting and delicious.

With Blood & Dumplings, we’re combining our favorite things to bring
you the first new Crime Bus tour of 2007, a a grim and gleeful descent
into the criminal history of the San Gabriel Valley, including the battling Nazis of El Monte, the chilling (and probably incestuous) Case of the Buried Bride, missing Salvador Dali paintings, the dark history of the Lions Club’s lion meat BBQs held in eye- and nose-range of hundreds of the lovely beasts, the Man from Mars Bandit (his mystery revealed!), plus Phil Spector, neglected Manson victim Steve Parent, Geneva Ellroy and a peculiar East L.A. link to the JFK assassination, concealed Black Panthers and the coolest trailer parks in the Southland.

Included in the $55 ticket price is a special stop for Chinese comfort food at one of the best dumpling joints in Monterey Park  and an afternoon picnic surrounded by real sea monsters.

Click here to buy your ticket by paypal, or email to reserve a seat that you will purchase with a money order or check.

We hope to see YOU on the Crime Bus!

your hosts,
Kim Cooper & Richard Schave

Soccer Returns

Feb. 23, 1907
Los Angeles

The Scotch Thistles beat the English Victorias 3-2 in Southern California’s first soccer game since the Caledonians and the Pasadena team met at Agricultural Park in 1890, The Times says.

Despite the poor condition of the field, the players displayed excellent skill and teamwork. The Times said the teams were only formed three months before and notes that more teams were expected next year.

“As a good, healthful sport, requiring both athletic training and skill, ‘soccer’ seems to have a place to fill here as elsewhere. Apparently, however, it is even less qualified than rugby to take the place of American football,” The Times says.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

Speaking of the Weather

Feb. 22, 1907
Los Angeles

Here’s how The Times weather stories read a century ago:

“For all the daylight hours yesterday, the rain drizzled down, much of the time like a heavy Scotch mist, but toward nightfall the storm deepened and the rain began to fall in earnest. For two hours in the early part of the night there was a constant downpour that soon set the gutters running full and brought about the usual results to the streets near the hill district.

“The wash from the highways intersecting the hills poured down onto the streets of the business section and deposits of sand and gravel caused much inconvenience to electric cars. At several of the intersections on Broadway and Hill streets, men were stationed with shovels to keep the tracks passable for cars.

“The rain disarranged schedules for several of the car lines and much trouble was experienced on both the Belt line and the Brooklyn Avenue line to get the cars around the numerous curves overwashed with gravel.”

“No special damage was done by the storm in Garvanza, although the streets were cut up in some cases. At Highland Park, a swift current flowed down Pasadena Avenue, cutting that street badly in several places.

“Right in the midst of yesterday’s rain, a water pipe on Broadway in front of the Ville de Paris broke and when workmen made excavations to mend the pipe, the water got beyond control and shot up into the air on a level with the fourth story of the building. Hundreds of pedestrians stopped in the rain to watch the great fountain play and it added much to the waters rushing down the street.”

Normally, I don’t like to merely copy what ran in The Times, but sometimes it’s impossible to rewrite the stories and preserve the original flavor.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

Worst in Show

Feb. 21, 1907
Los Angeles

Someone who hates animals is at work in Angeleno Heights, having poisoned 10 valuable dogs and several cats, The Times says.

The killer has an eye for purebreds, the paper says, avoiding mutts and mongrels.

“Detective George Home of 901 Carrillo St. lost a fine bulldog and Patrolman C.L. Johnson of Bellevue Avenue lost a trained birddog which he had for 15 years,” The Times says.

The killer’s methods remain a mystery. Many of the poisoned animals were never allowed out of the yard and one Saint Bernard was always kept chained up, the newspaper says.


E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com

1907 Centennial Celebration Line Up

The proposals for the 1907 Centennial Celebration are in, and what wonderful performances they’ll be! We are so very pleased to host some of our favorite folks in a night dedicated to remembering the Los Angeles of one hundred years past.

When you join us at Bedlam on Thursday night, March 22, this is what you’ll being thrilling to, in order of appearance:

The invocation of Zuckerman the Potato King (Kim Cooper and Kelly Kuvo)
The strange tale of  A. Victor Segno, Mentalist with Beautiful Hair (Larry Harnisch)
A description of life in 1907 L.A. (George Garrigues)
The song stylings of Miss Figueroa Daguerre
Witty period readings from George Ade’s "Fables In Slang" (Brooke Alberts)
J. Stuart Blackton’s comic short film "The Starving Artist, or: Realism in Art" (American Vitagraph Company, 1907, live accompaniment by Laura Steenberge, presented by Ross Lipman)
Fortunes told in Madame Pamita‘s Parlor of Wonders
And the lovely Miss Janet Klein accompanied by Tom Marion revealing the next secret year to be blogged at 1947project, in song and patter.
The fun starts at 9pm sharp, and we anticipate about one hour for the show, with a potluck party to follow. Please bring an old fashioned recipe to share, dress in period duds if you’ve got ’em, and join us as we bid a centennial adieu to this great and endlessly surprising year of 1907 and welcome in the next year which we’re certain will prove every bit as worthy of obsession. Will it be 1967? 1887? Shhhh… you just have to come to Bedlam to find out!

Where: Bedlam Arts, 1275 E. Sixth Street, downtown L.A. 90021
When: Thursday, March 22, show starts at 9pm sharp
Cost: Free, but it would be neat if you brought an old timey potluck dish to share (recipe links are here)

See you then!
Kim & the 1947project gang