Cowboys and Indians

January 10, 1927
Unincorporated Los Angeles

Sheriff’s officers responded to a desperate cry of murder after a corpse was found by oil field workers digging ditches in Brea, but when they investigated they determined it was merely the aged skeleton of an Indian, disinterred from his ancient grave. The corpse was reburied without ceremony, and the diggers advised to avoid the spot in the future.

And in another Sheriff’s case with a fresher body, the peculiar suicide by gun of Charles Norton, shopkeeper at 1760 East Slauson, was explained away rather ingeniously. Why was the man found dead in his bed in the store’s back room, when his brother said he had no reason to do away with himself? Deputy Sheriff Hackett believes the cause was a nightmare, triggered by the story "Shooting Mad" in the Wild West-themed magazine lying beside the dead man. Hackett suggests Norton dozed off while reading, dreamed a gunman was in the room, reached under the pillow for his own weapon and inadvertently shot himself. Stranger things have happened in Los Angeles.

When Dry Agents Go Wet

April 7, 1927
Los Angelesdryagentsgowethed

A Coroner’s inquest commenced today in an effort to determine just what happened when two inebriates—Frank Farley and George H. Hudson—pixilatedly plowed their car head-on into the auto driven by Union Oil bigwig E. Percy Ingmire & wife near Wilmington.  Two things are certain:  Ingmire is dead, and the two sots being held for murder are Prohibition Agents, drunkenly driving a government car on government business.

Seems our Boys of the Eighteenth, Farley  and Hudson, were out carousing (with liquor in the car on the wrong side of the road and with excessive speed) in the company of three seamen from the steamer Pomona and a Mrs. Margaret “Bessie” McCallister (at whose home they’d earlier had a drinking party) when the accident occurred. ingmire Normally, drunken vehicular homicides under the auspices of Volstead-Feds get swept under the rug, but unfortunately Ingmire was former president of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, Past Master of the San Pedro Masonic Lodge, Past Exalted Ruler of San Pedro Elks’ Lodge, President of the San Pedro Industrial Association, ad infinitum.  As such, all and sundry jumped into the fray:  the DA appeared for the State, the Dep US Atty for the Feds, the prohibition administrators for themselves—the last of which entering into a fray with folks from the Customs Dept, who are fond of hampering prohibition enforcement in California.  (The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Section of the Treasury Department are on deck.)

Dry Agent Farley, driver of the killer flivver, is a real catch.  He had been arrested for a street holdup in 1923, was caught sneaking onto the Dutch steamer Eemdyk looking for booze (outside the official capacity of his employment, that is) and, according to Customs officials, was often insolent and acted beyond his authority.  Of course, those Wet Agents from Customs would say that.


On September 20, a US District Judge gave Farley one to ten in San Quentin.  Of course, the Federal Comptroller refused to pay Farley’s railroad fare to Q, on the grounds that Farley was a State Prisoner.  The State controller stated that Farley is a Federal prisoner and if anyone was going to pay his fare, it was the Feds.  So Farley stayed a spell in County, where he made pals with one Maj. Donald McRae, on trial for robbing government liquor warehouses.  Inside County they got liquor all the time, until Farley went up north and subsequently testified about his involvement in McRae’s phony alibis, whereafter McRae threatened his life.  And so go our drunken, fallen Feds.

Some Interesting Oil Facts, 1907-style

November 6, 1907oilfirst
Los Angeles

Oil facts, you say?  And you continue to comment, I thought this was a crime blog!  Well, the way most people talk about oil companies, you’d think the SS was Toys for Tots.  So it’s apropos, especially as we head into Tuesday and face the outcome of Proposition 87.

On this day in 1907, according to the US Geological Survey, the numbers were in:  in 1906, California produced 23,098,598 barrels of oil.  That’s more than Oklahoma and Kansas combined.  (Texas came in with a paltry 12.5 million barrels.)  Our oil came primarily from Kern River, Coalinga, Santa Maria, with Los Angeles finishing fourth.  The value of California’s 23M barrels came in at 9.5M dollars ($194,973,917 USD 2005).  One-sixth of that oil was exported to Japan, Chile, and the American Panama Canal Works.  

Today, California is no longer number one (behind Louisiana, Texas and Alaska) but we’re far ahead of those dried-up old fields in Oklahoma and Kansas.  In 2007 California should come in with about 274M barrels, over ten times that of 1907.  And that, with a value of approximately 16.5B (804M USD 1907).  And we’re at our lowest oil production since WWII.  



Notes from the Hydrocarbon Front

July 19, 1907
Los Angeles

After Doheny hit oil near (what’s now) Dodger Stadium back in ’92, Los Angeles went brea-happy, depressing world oil prices with its outstanding production and eventually producing 3/4 of the world’s supply after the 20s hits in Wilmington, Dominquez Hills, Huntington and Long Beach, et al.

In 1907 everybody was getting into the act. Including the mayor. Mayor A. C. Harper has announced the formation of the Los Angeles-Utah Oil Company, the other directors of the corporation a coterie of mayoral cronies picked from the Police and Fire Commissions, and, interestingly, there’s a Councilman by the name of Clampitt. The Mayor has been spending much of his time not in City Hall, but in his new oil company offices at the Bank of Commerce, across from the Times building. (Though "Clampitt" should be a propitious name in the oil production game, Utah’s Virgin Valley field never really pans out–which taught the mayor not to go wildcatting outside of LA [or perhaps their failings were due to the misspelling of Clampett.])

Meanwhile, a grassroots movement has started in the Seventh Ward to throw oil refineries and storage tanks out of the city in and into the country. The Eighth Ward, also known for tanks with 500+ barrel capacity (21,000 gallons) has joined in to make noise about a tank’s ability to incinerate large swaths of the city should a refinery explode. (Of course, it was the location of these tanks that brought manufacturing and worker’s housing to southeastern Los Angeles in the first place.)

While everyone was worried about being blown up by oil storage tanks, today one Ernest Malcom, of the Los Angeles City Dye Works, was cleaning a suit of clothes in some distillate…when there was a tremendous flash and a roar. He was thrown thirty feet backward and into a door, which gave way and he tumbled into the street uharmed. A series of tremendous inflammable cleaning fluid explosions incinerated the rest of the building, although firefighters were able to save the surrounding houses.