104 YEARS AGO in LONG BEACH, CA.

News stories from the local press

1913

One of the many happenings in 1913 Long Beach - The Cage Submarine

One of the many happenings in 1913 Long Beach – The Cage/Neff Submarine

 

 

THE EMPIRE DAY DISASTER

Collapse of the pier on Empire Day May 24, 1913

Collapse of the pier on Empire Day May 24, 1913

The Irish had their holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day, the Italians Columbus Day, why not a holiday for British Americans?  In 1913, 20,000 former British subjects living in Southern California chose May 24th, Empire Day, as their day to celebrate.  The British holiday began in 1838 to commemorate young queen Victoria’s birthday.  When she died in 1901 her subjects still wanted to honor her accomplishments so Parliament issued a proclamation establishing May 24th as Empire Day.  Now the first Empire Day celebration on the west coast was to be held in Long Beach, California.

The Daily Telegram of May 23, 1913 described what was supposed to have happened:

The greatest British celebration ever held on foreign soil. That is what the committee in charge of the arrangements for the big Empire Day celebration to be held in this city tomorrow expects the fete to be.  From all over the southland will come those who formerly lived under the British flag.  Drawing card features of the day will be the presence of the British man-of-war, Shearwater, 60 of whose sailors will act as an escort for the veterans in the parade; there will be a big program of athletic stunts, national games, the parade, music and the natural attractions of Long Beach.  The parade will be  elaborate, with several floats each representing dominions or possessions of the English nation, the participants of each float being natives of the that particular country represented.  The parade will reach the auditorium where speeches will be made.  Five hundred dollars worth of prizes will be given to the winners of the various contests.”

 What was to have been a day of joy turned into one of tragedy when a rotten girder outside the entrance of the municipal auditorium gave way.

The Disaster

It was just at the close of the parade when disaster struck.  The marchers, and those in vehicles, turned from Ocean Avenue to the top level of the two-tiered pier, on their way to the auditorium for a celebration program.  The main entrance to the auditorium became blocked by the crowd, and those in the rear pressed forward in such large numbers that they caused a rotten 4 X 14 girder to break.  Masses of people fell through or on top of another crowd which packed the lower deck; then the floor of the lower deck also gave way, tumbling people to the sand and water below.  38 people died and approximately 200 were injured.

The Long Beach Press reported:

 “What must go down in history as the most terrible disaster in the annals of Southern  California, made gruesome history at 11:33 o’clock this morning when a four foot square  section of the Municipal auditorium fell to the sand below.  Heart rending scenes, never before equaled in the history of Long Beach were enacted on the beach as the dead and living were carried out and tenderly laid on the beach. ”  

It took a full ten minutes for the crowds on the pier, only a few hundred feet away from the disaster, to realize what had happened.  When the fire chief’s auto came dashing up to assist in the relief work, many thought the fire department was giving an exhibition as part of the festivities.

Long Beach felt responsible for the tragedy.  Doctors donated their services free of charge.  $10,000 was quickly raised to aid the victims.  The following statement was issued in the Daily Telegram on May 26, 1913:

“The citizens of Long Beach will courageously and promptly meet every responsibility and humane demand growing out of Saturday’s awful tragedy.  The dead will be given proper burial and the wounds of the injured will be cared for by the best obtainable medical and nursing skill.  The needs of every surviving victim will be promptly and heartily supplied.   There will be no red tape to handicap our people in demonstrating to the world, that we entertain a full understanding of our obligations to suffering humanity and propose to meet them with decision and sympathetic candor.”

 The Citizens’ Relief Committee was true to their word.  Arthur Lett, a former conductor on the Pacific Electric who lost his wife and two of his three children, was one example.  His slender savings could not cover funeral expenses nor buy lots in the cemetery.  The Committee provided money to cover the burials and purchase cemetery plots.

Twelve-year-old Margaret Reed was the 37th victim of the pier disaster.  On June 6, 1913, Margaret was buried at Long Beach’s Sunnyside Cemetery.  Among the mourners was a slight, simply dressed man who mingled with the group.  No one suspected he was a postal inspector from Los Angeles there to arrest Isaac Reed, Margaret’s father, should Isaac come out of hiding to attend the funeral. Isaac Reed was accused of taking $1072 in money order funds when he was postmaster at Dale, in San Bernardino County.  Gambling was the cause of the crime.  Just before he sent his wife and daughter to Long Beach and then disappeared Isaac told them he would be gone for a long time.  He confessed that he was harassed by debt and did not intend to come back until he made enough money to repay what he had stolen.  But Isaac did not appear at his daughter’s funeral.  Neither did Margaret’s mother who herself was hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder suffered in the Empire Day tragedy.

What Caused It

A three man board of inquiry was immediately set up with local architect W. Horace Austin selected to represent Long Beach.  Their findings were presented to a grand jury.  On June 2nd the grand jury announced the following decision:

“Every one knows the accident was caused by a rotten girder and every one knows the girder was not properly inspected.  I will let this matter simmer a while.  If Long Beach had taken 100 years to grow as much as it has in ten weeks, the accident probably would not have happened, but when cities grow fast people have a tendency to keep on doing things in a village way.”

 Attorneys advised the City that they were not financially responsible for the disaster, but Long Beach citizens believed they had a moral responsibility for the tragedy.  On June 18th, Long Beach residents overwhelmingly voted to add a special tax levy of 20 cents to each $100 of their assessed property valuation.  This was to take care of the sick, helpless and dependent victims of the disaster.  In July, with the money raised by this special tax, the city paid out $24,181.68 on claims presented from the Auditorium disaster.  But more claims were to come, and even this special tax would not cover them all.

Litigation

Many did not agree with the grand jury decision absolving Long Beach of the financial obligation towards the victims.   A Superior Court decision ruled that victims, or their survivors, had a one year statute of limitations in which to file claims against the City.  By May 23, 1914, nearly 200 suits totaling more than $3,000,000 were brought to Superior Court.  The Chafor case, filed by George E. Chafor over the death of his wife, Edith, was the first claim brought to the court.  It was to set a precedent for all the rest.

On July 9, 1914, after 18 days of testimony and five hours of deliberation the jury awarded $7,500 in damages for the death of Mrs. Chafor.  The City immediately appealed the case to the California Supreme Court listing five reasons the verdict should be overturned: that the City was engaged in a governmental enterprise; that the auditorium was constructed in a public street and by express act of the charter Long Beach was exempted from liability; that the structure was partly constructed on the tidelands of the state, which the state held in trust for the public, and therefore it could not be the property of the City; that the use of the auditorium was gratuitously loaned to the committee holding the entertainment and that the City was not responsible for the condition of the building; that the evidence conclusively showed that the City never consented to the holding of the large assemblage but that consent was given by the City Council, the Board of Public Works only having the authority, and that the board never gave its consent.  All other claims from the disaster were put on hold until the Supreme Court verdict.

In May 1916, the Supreme Court ruled Long Beach was not liable in the Empire Day Auditorium disaster.  The issue surrounded the question as to whether the City, in constructing and building the pier and auditorium, exercised a governmental or political power, or a proprietary or corporate one.  They decreed Long Beach exercised a governmental power and therefore was not liable. In February 1917 they reversed their decision.

By mid April 1918, the City had settled all 174 damage suits of the disaster.  The total amount of money sought in these claims totaled $3,447,005.08.  The City Attorney managed to settle all cases for $372,162.70.  The problem was that the City did not have any money.  On February 26, 1919, the State Supreme Court affirmed the right of the City of Long Beach to issue bonds to pay the Auditorium damage judgments.  Now the claims could be settled.

Some good did come out of the disaster — romance.  On January 1, 1915, Clement C. Bush, 76 yrs. old, who lost his wife in the disaster, married Mrs. Kate Ustes, aged 48 who was his nurse.

 

HOUSE MOVING

Long Beach in her role of fastest growing city in the nation became very adept at house moving.  Bungalows, apartments and residences of all sorts were being built on skids to allow them to be moved on short notice.  Hardly a day went buy without people seeing some neighbor’s house, an old grocery store or other building edging its way, inch by inch, toward the outskirts of the city to become the happy palace of some suburban family or merchant.  In the past a team of horses was hitched to the structure, usually a one story frame house, and pulled to a new location.  Later, when larger buildings, cottages and two story dwellings were moved it was necessary to use a windless.  The windless and old horse methods, which moved at a snail’s pace, keeping street crossings blocked for hours and snarling traffic, was being replaced by a new type of house moving apparatus – the traction engine.  Now the house was jacked up and placed on a set of house moving trucks, the engine hitched on and the house hauled along over streets, with the greatest of ease.  Corners were no problem at all, workmen could easily raise telephone and electric wires. The traction engine had greatly decreased the cost of moving houses and was one of the most profitable businesses in Long Beach in 1913.  However, there was now another hitch to house moving. A new city ordinance required that those wishing to move a building had to apply for permission (and pay a fee) and that all neighbors at both old and new locations had to approve the move. (LBPress 5/28/1913 10:3)

 

MUNICIPAL MARKET

Municipal Market 1920s

Municipal Market 1920s

On March 22, 1913, the Municipal Market opened in Lincoln Park in downtown Long Beach.  It was to become one more tourist attraction bringing visitors to the city from far and wide.

In early 1913, the Women’s City Club decided to sponsor a civic project where farmers brought their produce to sell to the folks in town.  There was a great deal of publicity about this unique venture and competing merchants were not at all pleased about this unwelcome competition.  On opening day there were sixteen stalls selling flowers, fruit, vegetables, poultry and eggs.  Customers were greeted by members of the Women’s City Club carrying parasols and dressed in colorful silk dresses.  The market was a great success with every one of the stands selling out completely before closing time.

Municipal Market 1910s

Municipal Market 1910s

The market continued to grow, expanding to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and including 140 stands.  Hours were from 7 a.m. until noon.  Today the Municipal Market is still a viable part of downtown Long Beach attracting local folk as well as tourists from all over the world.  It continues to serve as a gathering place for the community and for friends meeting friends.

AVIATION

The “Long Beach Flyer”

Frank Champion lived to fly.  In 1913 he decided to build an airplane and fly around the country advertising Long Beach.  With local financial support, he built the $4,000 Long Beach Flyer in the basement of the Hotel Virginia.   When the monoplane was finished, Long Beach became the first city in the United States to be advertised by airplane.

But Champion didn’t want to just take the contributor’s money and fly.  He promised to reimburse those who invested, even offering to pay interest to those who wanted it.  In August 1913, Arthur J. Hitt of the Marysville, Missouri, Chautauqua wrote to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce about Champion’s success:

Frank Champion and the Long Beach Flyer

Frank Champion and the Long Beach Flyer

Mr. Frank Champion made five successful flights with us this week, the most wonderful exhibition of all that modern science can accomplish and courage of man complete.  He uses the monoplane Long Beach and is certainly master of his art as well as the air.  We have been running for eighteen years the oldest and the most successful Chautauqua in the state of Missouri and are the first in the United States to have nerve enough to put some money in the monoplane flights for Chautauqua work.  We found it wonderfully successful in drawing us large crowds and pleasing the people with Mr. Champion’s beautiful flights.”

Glenn Martin

Long Beach was also one of the stops for Santa Ana aviator Glenn Martin who was trying to beat the American cross-country flying record.  On February 21st at 11:15 a.m., flying through a downpour of rain and cold wind, Martin landed on the beach in Long Beach.  Unfortunately, the people in Venice failed to let the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce know that Martin had left  their community.  Consequently the aviator came as a surprise.

Mrs. Bisby, wife of the president of the Chamber of Commerce, ran all of the way to the beach to welcome him.   Yet Martin’s schedule only allowed him to stay eight minutes, hardly sufficient time for Mrs. Bisby to round up the official reception party.

Martin returned to Long Beach on November 28, 1913, setting a new record: the first aviator in history to carry his parents in a fast cross-country flight of twenty-five miles. The unannounced flight to Long Beach was made in response to an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner on Frank Garbutt’s yacht at San Pedro.  Assured of their son’s safe flying, the elder Martins finally consented to accompany him as far as Long Beach.  All of Long Beach sighted him as he flew up the coast and a tremendous crowd was on hand to cheer the trio as the landed in front of the Hotel Virginia.

WEATHER

The rain that had plagued Martin’s February flight continued to rage.  By February 24th, more rain had fallen in a three day period than ever before.  4.54 inches of rain turned the northwest section of the city into one vast inland sea, marooned residents were rescued on horseback and in wagons.   The bad weather began with a cold snap in early January.  On January 6, 1913, the newspaper reported a temperature of 24 degrees at 3 A.M., one of the coldest in memory. From Pomona came word that 200,000 smudge pots were worked to the limit.  A loss in the citrus industry in excess of $5 million was estimated in the Redland area.

THE CAGE SUBMARINE

Cage submarine

Cage submarine

The rain didn’t affect the launch of Long Beach’s own submarine, but a succession of “hard luck” accidents did.

On January 18th, inventor John M. Cage of the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company, tried to launch his 75 foot, 42 ton, $44,000 steel submarine in the Long Beach harbor.  However, 700 pounds of lead ballast which had been insecurely placed caused the boat to list to starboard and the hatchway opened.  In came the water and the vessel sunk.

Many Long Beach residents were share holders in the Submarine Boat Company.  Since 1911, Cage had been actively campaigning in local stores and among area citizens to purchase shares of his stock.  Models of his submarine were displayed with area merchants and ads placed in newspapers extolling the virtues of this modern invention. $100 in gold (housed at the First National Bank Building in Long Beach) was offered to any person who could discover any “flaw, defect or imperfection in the theory and plans” of the Cage Submarine Boat, which was on display at the Abrams’ store at 27 Pine Avenue.  Stock in the company was first offered at 50 cents a share, gradually rising to $2.00.

On January 24th the sunken boat was raised to the surface by means of barges and compressed air; but shareholders were anxious to see a successful launch.

On March 7th, Cage ran an ad in the Daily Telegram:

“We have been rushing the repair work as fast as possible, and in a few days the boat will be demonstrating that the L.A. Submarine Boat Company’s stock is really worth what we claim for it — $100 per share.  All I ask is for an opportunity to show you, and then if you  care to sell your stock I will buy it, and I will make you a better offer than you can get from any one else.  See others, but before you sell, see me. JOHN M. CAGE.”

Finally, on March 26th the submarine was successfully launched and submerged.  Vitalized by his success and confident in his submarine, Cage was determined to break the world submergence record by twelve hours.  The past record was held by the U.S. submarine Octopus, which on May 15, 1907, remained under water for 24 hours.  Cage would remain under water for 36 hours. “However”, he stated “the boat could stay down much longer if need be.”

Breaking the World Submergence Record

Building the Cage submarine

Building the Cage submarine

On June 10th the eyes of the world were focused on Long Beach and the Cage submarine.  About 50 people, including moving picture operators, officers of the submarine boat company, newspaper men and others gathered on the municipal dock at 5 a.m. to watch the Cage craft go down.  Aboard her were John Milton Cage, inventor of the boat, who attended to the submergence valve; his brother, Will D. Cage, who operated the air and atmospheric valve; Capt. Edward Dellringer, who supervised all activities; Engineer James Marshall; Guy V.  Hoopengarner who manned the telegraph to the outside world; and Jack W. Wood who operated the valve leading to the compensating tank.

On-lookers were concerned about the quality and supply of air.  Cage assured everyone the craft contained much more air than would be needed.  There were twelve air flasks with a capacity of 200 cubic feet, into which, under pressure, 20,000 cubic feet of air was placed.  Inventor Cage estimated that each man would consume about 20 cubic feet of air per hour.  The engine room alone carried 720 cubic feet of air, enough to last the group of six men for six hours.  Whenever the air became stale the engines would be started and in a few minutes the entire boat would be reventilated, forcing the old air out through the mechanical exhaust and filling the engine room with fresh air.  The submarine could safely carry 41,000 cubic feet of air, over twice as much as was in the tanks.

On June 11th, at 5 p.m., using only 10 pounds of air to lift the submarine from the 30 feet of miring mud at the bottom of Long Beach harbor, Cage was greeted by shouts and cheers from 10,000 people gathered to witness the finale of the record breaking submergence test.  Mayor I.S. Hatch and J.P. Pitts stepped from the official launch to the top of the submarine and cut the seal placed on the hatch.  A few seconds later the hatch was raised and the head of the young inventor came into view.  All the men who had gone through the long test were in good shape except Mr. Hoopengarner, whose vigil at the telegraph key had worn him out and caused his pained fingers to swell.  He had only had about fifteen minutes sleep during the entire submergence.  Engineer Marshall showed the least bad effects from the trip, spending two hours on the Pike before going home.

Financial Problems

Articles in Scientific American and Jane’s Fighting Ships about the submarine and its record breaking submergence caused interest at home and abroad, but it brought no buyers.  In December, the submarine was impounded for unpaid debts and sold for $400 plus payment of claims amounting to $5000.  The W.L. Cleveland Company of Los Angeles said they had confidence in the boat and had no intention of tearing the vessel down and scraping it.

Patent rights to the Cage submarine were still held by the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company.  The company hired Abner R. Neff to act as agent in selling their submarine to the United States Navy.  On January 6, 1915,  Neff reported the government had given the company “the right to demonstrate the practical use of the submarine system.”  If the system, after thorough and exhaustive tests, proved satisfactory, the government would pay a reasonable price for it.  On the other hand, all risks of failure had to be assumed by the builders.  Because of the past credit problems of the company, the Secretary of the Navy asked for guarantees. Neff lined up other companies (which he refused to name) who pledged the $150,000 to $200,000 to develop, construct, install and conduct the tests and take the financial risks for a share of future profits.

Cage, though forfeiting his rights to the submarine because of unpaid debts, continued to invent.  The April 7, 1914 edition of the Daily Telegram, announced the latest Cage invention: The Cage six-cycle, three-phase silent engine.

“It has no valves, cam shafts or springs in the entire engine.  There are no mechanical sounds when the engine is running and it is impossible to tell when the engine is shooting,”   Cage said.  “Gas is taken through the engine with six positive working strokes and every   cylinder produces a working stroke every revolution. The engine I have built weighs about 200 pounds and will develop 47 horsepower.  It will make 30 or 35 miles per gallon of fuel  in a car like the Ford or 24 miles in a heavier car. For marine work this engine will run in  either direction.”

MOVING PICTURES

Long Beach had a good opportunity to become the film capital of the world when California Motion Picture Manufacturing Co. came to town in 1911.  By 1913 they had sold their holdings to the Edison Motion Film Company.  The Daily Telegram of March 22, 1913, had this to say about the change in ownership:

Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, has honored Long Beach by the establishment here of one of his many complete motion-picture producing companies that distributes in salaries to its 40 to 60 actors and mechanics the sum of approximately $3000 to $4000 each week.  The studio, a barnlike structure at Sixth and Alamitos when accepted by the Edison company, has been transformed into the most complete motion-picture workshop on the coast and the only one of the 27 operating west of Chicago, with one exception, that is equipped with an indoor studio.”

Thomas Edison had his hand in many enterprises including a film studio in Long Beach

Thomas Edison had his hand in many enterprises including a film studio in Long Beach

 Thomas Edison had been one of the first to recognize the potential of his new invention, the motion picture camera.  To make use of his camera, and envisioning its entertainment value, he established a number of film companies throughout the United States.  In December 1912 he  decided to open a studio in Long Beach.  Under the guidance of J. Searle Dawley, a troupe of fifteen people came into town around New Year’s Day to begin the Edison enterprise. On January 10, 1913 they began their first film.  Several Long Beach people were hired to act as Indians in Santa Ana, where the unnamed movie was filmed (LBPress 1/11/1913 7:8)

The old California Motion Picture studio, a barnlike structure, was  transformed into one of the most complete motion picture workshops on the coast and the only one of the 27 picture companies operating west of Chicago (with one exception), that was equipped with an indoor studio.  Between forty to sixty people were on the company’s Long Beach payroll, with total salaries of $3000 to $4000 a week. The studio was described by the Long Beach Press as “immense” so completely equipped that the studio could furnish costumes and scenery for Roman, Greek, French, Colonial and stoneage dramas all at the same time.  (LB Press 3/22/1913 3:1),

The Disappearance of the Edison Studios

By May 1913 Edison was gone.  Why?  They had made expensive investments in the old studio.  They had signed a year’s lease.  Was it the competition from all the other studios seeking a home in sunny California?  A possible clue can be found in an article entitled “California Too Familiar to Moving Picture Patrons” in the May 31, 1913 issue of Variety.

Complaints were coming in from the movie going public, both in the United States and abroad, that they were tired of seeing the same scenery over and over again.  A letter in Variety from a London firm complained that every tree, rock, and blade of grass was becoming familiar to English audiences.  One Southern California movie company posted a list of 18 locations to be avoided, including the hollow tree and giant rock at Griffith Park, and a bit of rocky coast at Santa Monica.  Some film companies were taking their crews elsewhere. Keystone going to Mexico for a change of scenery and Edison getting out of Southern California altogether.

Accomplishments of Edison in Long Beach

Edison’s stay in Long Beach only lasted five months, but during that time they turned out productions of historical interest, including The Dancer, a one-reeler, and The Dance of the Ages, starring Norma Gould and Ted Shawn.  Choreographer Shawn, a pioneer in modern dance, later formed the Denishawn Dancers with his wife Ruth St. Denis.  Their New York school produced the likes of Martha Graham, Charles Weidman and Doris Humphrey.

Harold Lloyd, attending drama school in San Diego in 1913, worked as an extra on location for The Edison Company in Jewels of the Madonna, his first film work.  Lloyd played a Yaqui Indian wearing a loincloth; he followed that the next week with a day’s work on location for another Edison film—this time in Dutch costume.

While in Long Beach,  J. Searle Dawley adapted Helen Hunt Jackson’s 1884 romance Ramona, calling it The Old Monk’s Tale.  Dawley himself filmed it, with Laura Sawyer playing Ramona, James Gordon portrayed Allesandro.

Scenes of modern society, aspects of early California days, adventures along the northwest border with Canada and stories of life at sea were also filmed.  The studio prided itself on elaborate sets and costumes.  No script was rejected because of lack of accessories needed to film it.  Stars of the Edison pictures such as Laura Sawyer, Jessie McAllister, Betty Harte, Sidney Ayres, Anna Dodge, Ben F. Wilson, Charles Sutton, Richard Allen, Gordon Sackville, Cy Palmer, Dick La Reno, Duane Wagner and James Gordon could be seen around town.  Most in Long Beach were unimpressed that their neighbor could be a film star, after all, in the volatile movie industry they too could be a star the following week.

W.I. Fahey, who became manager of the Theatorium in Long Beach in 1912, remembered Edison’s innovations in film making.  It was during Fahey’s first year at the Theatorium that he tried out one of the first talking motion pictures ever made.  It was an experimental picture which was produced by the Edison Film Company from their New Jersey studio.  Fahey told Walter Case in one of Case’s “Did You Know That?” columns that it didn’t go over too well.  The quality of the sound was too poor.

Balboa Amusement Co.

Balboa Film studio

Balboa Film studio

By May 1913, the Edison Motion Film Company had decided to close its Long Beach operations and move to New York.  For awhile, the Famous Players Company, organized by Daniel Frohman of New York, was considering leasing the studio, however the enterprise was sold to the Balboa Amusement & Producing Company headed by brothers Herbert and Elwood Horkheimer.

According to newspaper reports of the time, the new company was planning to stage a very costly production about Balboa and his discovery of the Pacific.  It was to be a quality piece taking a long time to produce, as well as lots of money to make.  A story appearing in Cinema on October 24, 1914 stated that in addition to film producing the company had decided to stage a big outdoor pageant, entitled “Balboa, or the Discovery of the Pacific”, at the San Francisco Exhibition in 1915.  A clipping from the Los Angeles Tribune of July 16, 1914 told that President Wilson had acknowledged receipt of an invitation to attend a performance of Balboa when he visited the San Francisco exposition the following year.  It was from this production that the studio took its name.

Unfortunately, it appears as if the pageant never took place.  War broke out in Europe changing the scope of what was supposed to be an “international” exhibition.  In looking at the five volume set by Frank Morton Todd entitled The Story of the Exposition no mention of the Balboa pageant can be found.  One can only surmise that the Horkheimers’ plans fell through.

Other sources claim that Dawley’s major film while at the Edison Studios in Long Beach was a film dealing with the Spanish conquistador Vasco Nuez de Balboa, the first European to set eyes on the Pacific.  Yet this film has vanished, if it ever existed at all.

The Horkheimer Brothers

On May 23, 1913, with only $7,000 in cash, H.M. Horkheimer took possession of the one little building at the corner of Sixth and Alamitos in Long Beach.  The two brothers—Herbert M. and Elwood D. Horkheimer—were the sole owners of the Balboa Company.  H.M. Horkheimer had come to Southern California in 1912 determined to get into the picture business.  At the time he had never seen a motion picture camera, but he took over the little studio vacated by the Edison Studio and started on a small scale.  He was soon joined by his brother who had been an electrical engineer up to that time.  “H.M.”, as he was familiarly known, became the president and general manager, while “E.D.” was secretary and treasurer.  The two alternated between New York and the plant.  One was always in the East looking after the selling end, while the other was in Long Beach taking charge of productions.  President Horkheimer attributed much of their success to the faithfulness of their employees, stars and laborers alike.

H. M. Horkheimer to the left and his brother, Elwood D. Horkheimer, Balboa's treasurer and secretary.

H. M. Horkheimer to the left and his brother, Elwood D. Horkheimer, Balboa’s treasurer and secretary.

H.M. grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia.  On finishing school, he went to New York and entered show business beginning at the bottom of the ladder.  H.M. Horkheimer was one of the first men of the legitimate theater to identify himself openly and actively with the film world.  This took a lot of guts, because most people at the time spurned the film trade, viewing it as an unworthy rival to the spoken stage.  But looking ahead, H.M. foresaw the demand for motion pictures, he took a chance, and he brought to the studio his wealth of experience as a stage producer.

Jack London

Author Jack London was working closely with Balboa to have his stories put on film.  It was largely due to his film commitment with the Horkheimers that they were able to purchase the studios.  On April 28, 1913 London was in town to discuss the filming requirements.

“I have just completed a deal,” Mr. London told the Daily Telegram, “by which I shall appear as the leading actor in all my own short stories and novels dramatized into motion pictures.  I am going into the pictures to give them ‘the punch’ that is almost impossible to communicate to another. What is my definition of the ‘punch’?  Well, it would take many volumes to communicate it properly but, briefly, it is making the impossible possible.”

In late July, London and the Balboa Company had a falling out.  Sydney Ayres, London’s business partner, alleged that the contract between London and Balboa was no longer valid because their first picture had not been produced by July 1st, a term of the contract.  Because of this breech of contract, London and Ayres gave the movie rights to London’s novels to millionaire yachtsman Frank Garbutt and Hobart Bosworth, an actor and close friend of London. They were to have exclusive picture rights on London’s writings for five years, with renewal options.  The Balboa studio, where Mr. Ayres had worked almost night and day for three months, would not be used in any future work on the London stories.

On August 2nd, H.M. Horkheimer issued a printed response.  He declared that he was spending thousands of dollars in Long Beach to produce Jack London’s The Sea Wolf.

“I took the contract with Mr. London and have been working on the picture,” stated Mr. Horkheimer in the Daily Telegram. “It will be finished in two weeks more.  I have four films of pictures complete now.  The Sea Wolf has cost between $7000 and $8000 for its production, beside the $14,000 expended on the plant at Sixth and Alamitos, which is now in shape.  Mr. Sydney Ayres stated through the papers that he would enjoin me if I tried to produce the London pictures.  I am working on them every day.  Why has he not brought this injunction suit?”

Who had rights to film Jack London's Sea Wolf?

Who had rights to film Jack London’s Sea Wolf?

Ayres and London did bring legal action against the Balboa Studios and, as a result, the contract they had with the Long Beach company was declared null and void.  However, there was a question of copyright.  The Balboa Company argued, in a second case brought to court, that London’s stories had appeared in magazines thus making the stories public property.  They could not be stopped producing the movies since there was no violation of the copyright law on their part.  In December, the Balboa Company released the three reel version of London’s Sea Wolf which they renamed The Cruise of the Hell Ship.   Later in December the seven reel “authorized” version was released.

Jack London was forced to institute a prolonged lawsuit against the Balboa Company, the “pirate producers”, in order to prove that an author retained the film rights to his magazine stories.  In the course of this legal battle, he helped found the Authors’ League of America with Rex Beach, Booth Tarkington, Ellen Glasgow, and many other leading writers, all of whom combined to protect their copyrights.  Their united efforts put enough pressure on Congress to change the copyright laws in favor of the authors, so that piracy by film and theater producers became more difficult.

Long Beach Woman Scriptwriter

Motion picture production was not the only claim to fame Long Beach held in the movie world.  Local resident, Olga Printziau Clark was also gaining notoriety in film circles.  In December 1913 her three-reel script The Path of Sorrow was released by Balboa.  This was the first long drama that Mrs. Clark had written, but she had had prior success.  Earlier in 1913 she had five plays accepted by the Lubin Company of Philadelphia, and four by the Edison Company of New York.  Early in 1915 The Verdict a two-reel picture, penned by Mrs. Clark and produced by the Majestic Company was released.

So phenomenal was her success in motion picture work, that her screenplays attracted the attention of the legitimate theater.  Klaw & Erlanger, a theatrical syndicate of Los Angeles, announced that they would stage a one-act vaudeville drama, A Fighting Chance, written by Mrs. Clark.

Long Beach – The World Center of Movie Making

In February 1914, following the announcement that Universal Film Manufacturing Company, the largest motion picture producing organization in the world, was preparing to leave Universal City and seek a home elsewhere, the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce quickly pointed out the many qualities Long Beach had to offer movie makers. The City had hills, mountains, a lake, wells and springs, plenty of wooded land with large trees, good roads to and from the city, a five cent electric rail line, electricity, and telephone service.  Unfortunately, for Long Beach, a new lease was reached between the studio and the land owners in Universal City.

Long Beach did have the distinction of being the only city on the Pacific Coast, and west of the Mississippi River, having a complete printing plant for the developing of positive motion picture prints.  Balboa Studios, with an outlay of some $50,000, installed a complete film printing department making it the largest establishment of its kind west of Chicago.  Now pictures taken during the day could be shown on the screens of Long Beach and Los Angeles motion picture theaters that night.

Previously all film negatives made in California by motion picture firms were shipped to Chicago and New York to print positive copies.  The Balboa Company now would not only stage and produce big feature films, but operated its own printing department.  “Regarded as a whole”, H.M. Horkheimer stated in the February 27, 1914 issue of the Daily Telegram, “the additions to the Balboa Studios constitute a record departure in motion picture making on the Pacific Coast.  The improvements are certain to result in the adoption by other leading concerns of the same policy of expansion, concentration of work, and use of the latest and most scientific methods.”

THE HARBOR AND THE OPENING OF THE PANAMA CANAL

Though failing to lure the Universal Film Manufacturing Company to town, Long Beach still had her harbor to make her fortune.  In 1906, forward looking city fathers had seen the money making possibilities of being a Pacific Coast harbor city when the Panama Canal was completed.

Major industries were beginning to move to Long Beach with the creation of a 320 acre harbor industrial area called “White City”.  Anticipating tremendous growth as a result of the completion of the Panama Canal, a steel plant, woolen mill, cannery, soap company, and potash factory all located in “White City”(which opened May 11, 1913).  A residential district was also part of the J.W. Young & Company project, with lots selling for as low as $350 with 10% down and $10 per month.  Numerous apartment houses also sprung up throughout the City to house not only the tourists who continued to visit, but the workers in the new businesses.

Panama canal 1913

Panama canal 1913

On October 10, 1913, at exactly five minutes before 11 a.m., factory whistles blew, auto horns tooted, flags were unfurled, and all of Long Beach cheered in wild excitement to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. All morning the Chamber of Commerce kept in touch with  newspaper offices to be sure of  the exact time President Wilson would touch the button in Washington that blew the Gamboa dike in Panama.  Finally, at 11 a.m., all celebration stopped for five minutes to honor the great event in Panama.

Long time residents could not help but remember a similar event that occurred on Nov. 7, 1891, in the City.  On that day a gilded iron spike was driven into the ties of the Salt Lake Railway, opening up the city to the outside world. Now an even larger transportation link had been established, and Long Beach was sure to benefit.

Long Beach Yacht First “Unofficial” Ship through the Canal

The blowing up of the Gamboa dike technically meant that the Panama Canal was completed, but it wasn’t until August 15, 1914, that the 10,000 ton steamship Ancona became the first  big ocean-going vessel to pass through the canal.

On September 6, 1914, the ninety-foot cruiser Lasata arrived home in Long Beach after a six thousand mile cruise.  Morgan Adams, owner of the Lasata, proudly showed a $57 toll receipt from the administrative office of the Panama Canal. Written across it was “For the first ship through the Panama Canal.”  Only the Ancona, the official government boat, preceded it, and that merely by a few hours.

At daybreak on October 10, 1913, the Lasata had cruised out of Gatun Lake, and on through the canal. Though newspapers reported that the Arizonan and Missourian of the American-Hawaiian steamship line were the first private vessels through the canal, they were wrong.  The Lasata had been the first, and she had the toll receipt to prove it.  Friends and relatives gathered at the Long Beach wharf to inspect the scrap of paper that looked like a check.  All agreed that it was one of the most desirable trophies a Californian could possess.

SCANDAL & BLACKMAIL

Prostitution was talked about in hushed tones, never in public, before the U.S. Senate studied the issue (published as Senate Document 196, 61st Congress, 2nd session), and John D. Rockefeller Jr. financed a “scientific” study of the “white slave” trade in New York City in 1910. Results of both studies were published in a number of popular women’s magazines, shocking the American public.  Annie W. Allen in an article entitled “How to Save Girls Who Have Fallen” published in Survey August 6, 1910, expressed the general view of the time:

“A girl must remain a virgin until she becomes a wife.  She must be made to abhor any other thought.  She must realize that if she does not remain pure, she is no longer in the company of valuable women.  She has fallen and become unfit for her proper uses, unfit for honor and praise.  The race could never have advanced without this belief.  It is absolutely essential to our life.  It is herein absolutely right.”

 It was this philosophy which led to a bitter fight over Long Beach’s maternity hospital, the Bethlehem Inn.  The hospital refused to admit unmarried women, much to the anger of those who contributed money for its support.  Dr. W. Harriman Jones, a prominent Long Beach physician, refused financial help to the institution on the grounds that all patients who were unable to pay should be received, regardless of whether they could show a marriage license at the door or not.

On January 28, 1915, the hospital association decided to give up the maternity hospital rather than surrender their cherished principle of “no marriage license, no admission.” Others said the Bethlehem Inn should have changed its name, for it was most un-like Christ, who forgave Mary Magdalen.

White Slave Traffic

“No girl should be allowed to be on the street alone, day or night”, said Mrs. F.E. Young, president of the Long Beach federation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in August 1913.  She warned young ladies to be aware of the traffic in prostitution and the possibility they might be kidnapped by white slavers.

The National Welfare League had received word through unnamed sources that white slave dealers had been asked to furnish 2000 girls for the Pacific coast during the San Francisco and San Diego expositions..  Since July 25th, several girls had disappeared from Venice.  The league warned that no girl was safe unless she had a trustworthy escort.  What the white slavers did was lure unsuspecting young women into a situation where they would be drugged and raped.  Their reputations would be soiled and they would have nowhere to turn except to prostitution.

Mrs. Young told the story of one Poly high school miss who had a narrow escape from a scheming madam who was posing as a deaconess in the Nazarene Church in Long Beach.  The  teenager had gone to a mission meeting at the church while her parents were vacationing in the east.  She became so concerned about the Africans in Africa who had not heard of Christianity that she decided she had a calling to become a missionary.  The deaconess told the girl that she could go to Africa with her, but first they would go to San Francisco to catch a ship.

When the mother returned, her daughter told her of her plans.  The older woman expressed concerns but the girl refused to listen, certain she was being guided in her course of action by God.  The mother contacted police who ran a check on the alleged deaconess.  They found that religion had been used as a front for a scheme to lure girls into prostitution.  The said deaconess was a known madam who sold girls she lured to a San Francisco white slave dealer for $300 apiece.

Young women had to beware.  There were tales of girls lured into automobiles by people asking for directions, never to be seen again.  Theaters, too, were dangerous.  Someone could sit down next to a young lady and, in the dark, apply ether to a handkerchief and put it over her mouth and nose.  When she breathed she would pass out. The culprit would act as if she had fainted and claim he was helping her outside to get some fresh air.

In order to protect young women and guard against immoral and unbecoming conduct on the beach during the evening, a powerful search light was installed upon the Sun Parlor at the end of the Pine Avenue Pier to scan the sands at night for amorous couples.  But what about the men who preyed upon unsuspecting women?  There appeared to be two prominent members of Long Beach society who did just that.

O.H.L. Mason & the Presbyterian Church

If you couldn’t trust your minister with your daughter or wife, who could you have faith in? That was the question members of the First Presbyterian Church faced in July 1913 when their minister, the Rev. O.H.L. Mason, was charged with various “indiscretions” with young women.

First Presbyterian Church, 1915

First Presbyterian Church, 1915

Mason claimed his innocence.  Were the women just lying?  That was the verdict of local church board members investigating the case when they gave Mason a morally clean bill of health.  Several board members disagreed with the “white washing” that went on in the case and resigned rather than sign the report.  What resulted was havoc in the church.

In August, after eight more church official resigned, Rev. Mason said he would leave the church if there would be no more “pot stirring” and if the entire matter was dropped.  Local church  members, however, wanted answers.  They asked the overseeing presbytery in Pasadena to re-open the Mason case.  The presbytery refused, stating they would not inquire into the guilt or innocence of Dr. Mason, but they would try to fix things up among the congregation.  A dissenting minister, Rev. Graham, expressed a different view.  He believed the presbytery committee refused to hear the case because such “indiscretions” were “common” among ministers and they must stick together.

When the founding members of the First Presbyterian Church of Long Beach threatened to withdraw from the church, the presbytery decided to hear the case, as long as there would be no women present.  A “gentlemen’s agreement” was reached that Rev. Mason should not preach again in the First Presbyterian Church, that he would resign and that the charges against him would be dropped (not withdrawn). Mason issued the following: “To the Session and members of the First Presbyterian church of Long Beach: I hereby offer my resignation.” (LATimes 9/9/1913 II-5-1) His not giving a word of explanation set tongues wagging with renewed vigor.  But not everyone was against him.  In November 1913, friends of Mason formed their own church, the Calvary Presbyterian Church of Long Beach, and made Mason their minister.  The following year Mason did vent his anger over what had occurred to the Los Angeles Times.:

“Conditions in Long Beach are somewhat similar to those in Europe. There is a social storm in this city.  Everywhere you are beset with heated conversation, and the likelihood is that any man in town may land in jail before sundown.  Newspapers can, by the publication of charges against a man do great harm and wreck a man’s life.  Such newspapers should be burned and the editors put in the penitentiary. I want to say that any editor who says `It is rumored,’ or `It is alleged,’ without having positive proof ready, should be put in jail, as should any editor who publishes charges against a man before they are proven.  If you want to get into the papers be charged with something.  If a man escapes after he is charged with something the newspapers say he has been whitewashed. Put the editors in jail and some of this business will stop.” (LATimes 11/23/1914 – II-6-1)

When the United States entered the war in 1917, Mason resigned his ministry and went to New York as a Y.M.C.A. secretary for World War service, a posting which sent him and Mrs. Mason through the war zone in Europe. His three sons, Cleon, Verne and Bruce also volunteered for military service.  Following the war, the Y.M.C.A. sent Dr. Mason to Siberia and China.  Upon his return to America he did post-graduate work at Harvard, eventually returning to the ministry in Pennsylvania and New York.  He retired in 1930, returning to Long Beach where he lived until his death on March 9, 1940.

George H.  Bixby

Scandal also surrounded Long Beach’s most prominent native son, George H. Bixby. George H., as he was called (to distinguish him from a cousin, George B.), offspring of Jotham Bixby, the “father” of Long Beach, was charged with “contributing to the downfall of Cleo Helen Barker”.  In a court case reported in the September 23, 1913 issue of the Daily Telegram, five female witnesses testified Bixby frequented the Jonquil apartments, a place of questionable moral standards.  According to testimony offered the jury, the Jonquil apartments, presided over by Josie Rosenberg, was the meeting place of many young girls and wealthy men.  Bixby, known at the Jonquil as Mr. King and “the black pearl man,” was often seen there twice a day. “The cross of the legion of dishonor,” was the name that Cleo Helen Barker and some of her girl friends gave to the gold cross she said had been given her by George H..  Other girls, recruited for the amusement of wealthy men, Miss Barker testified, wore similar crosses, and among themselves, half seriously, jested about their membership in the order of their badge.

George Bixby

George Bixby

Under questioning Miss Barker told of going to the Jonquil apartments to live, and of being introduced by Mrs. Rosenberg, the proprietor, to a man named King.  Asked if she could point out King in the courtroom the girl pointed to Bixby.  Miss Barker testified that on the occasion of their first meeting, Bixby gave her $6, on the second, $50 and afterwards varying sums, the total aggregating between $500 and $600.  She went on to add that $190 was the largest single amount he ever gave her, and Mrs. Rosenberg got half of that.

Bixby, in turn, charged he was being blackmailed by Miss Barker.  Octavius V. Morgan, a wealthy architect, testified in support of Bixby, stating that he too was a victim of blackmail.   The blackmailer’s plan was simple.  They would send a telegram to the intended victim’s place of business and ask for an appointment.  When one was set up a woman would appear and say that she had in her possession “compromising” information and demand hush money in order to keep the matter confidential.  Often the businessman would know the woman, having met her before at some social function (but unaware of her character).  In order to avoid scandal, the money would be paid.

Morgan swore he gave W.H. Stevens, attorney for the girls connected with the Bixby case, checks totaling $2500.  The defense tried to prove the checks were given as hush money to keep the relations between the architect and the girls quiet.  The Bixby attorneys said similar extortion methods had been aimed at their client, and that Bixby’s present legal problems were the result of his refusal to pay.

Though George H. fled the area in April 1913 when he heard about the charges, and was later arrested in San Diego, half a dozen friends of Bixby testified George H. had an excellent reputation and would not visit a brothel. The jury agreed that Bixby was being blackmailed and acquitted him on the first ballot.

This, and another case that would drag all the way to the California Supreme court (dealing with the flood of 1914 and how Bixby dredged land which may have caused the diversion of flood waters into other areas), took a toll on George H. Bixby’s life.  On December 30, 1922, he died of heart failure, an illness that had plagued him for three years.

Beware Susceptible Women

In August 1913, F.E. Young, a car salesman in Long Beach, was placed under arrest, charged with attempted extortion of money from women.  When taken to county jail, Young admitted to writing a number of threatening letters to local women, but claimed he was driven to do so by blackmail threats from a man who knew of Young’s arrest on a forgery charge 33 years earlier.  Because his nemesis, whom he knew only as “Sandy,” became so insistent in his demands that he couldn’t meet them, the extortion scheme evolved.

Mrs. Kittie Bahrenburg was the first to complain about Young.  She told the court that shortly after she met Young, and before she knew he was married, he made love to her.  Later she said she received a letter purporting to come from the Sunset Detective Agency in which the writer said he was aware of her relations with Young and demanding $600 for silence.  Mrs. Bahrenburg told Young of the letter and he advised her to pay the demands.

Mrs. Bahrenburg then received a letter telling her to deposit the money in a hole in a wall at the Long Beach freight depot.  When the woman tried to borrow the money from her bank, the real reason behind the need for her loan came out.  Her banker told her to complain to the district attorney, which she did.  Young was arrested.

The married con artist had decided he could get money from susceptible women.  Using Sunset Detective Agency letterhead and an alias, Young would write to himself and a woman he had wooed, alleging improprieties which would be kept quiet for a price.  Young and the woman would share their blackmail letters and come up with money to pay the blackmailer, though Young always contributed less than his female victim.  Miss N. Bell Griggs was also hooked into the scheme.  However, she was smart enough to sense his scam and filed charges against him.  She won.

MAJJI RAJJI

Announcing himself as a Hindu healer, Majji Rajji arrived in Long Beach in 1913.  Arrayed in gorgeous bracelets and rings, brooches and pins, pendants and lockets, he carried a slender wand and offered treatments by “rathmaic” breathing, general massage and a “divine power” which, he said, “created a harmonality and congeniality” in a certain part of the brain and made the mind act right.  In Long Beach a number of patients, mostly women, flocked to him, impressed with his claims.

Majji’s hair was kinky and his speech had a distinctly Southern accent, but he declared he was born in the extreme southeast of India, of royal parentage.  When Marshall Taylor of the Los Angeles Times  (LAT 1/31/1914) spoke to him in Hindustani and pointed out that Majji Rajji is an Islamic name (and misspelled at that) and a devout Hindu would never use an Islamic name, Majji Rajji claimed he left India as a small boy and didn’t remember his native tongue.  Majji Rajji then quickly ended the interview stating he was tired and under great mental strain. Taylor also pointed out that Majji Rajji’s “magic wand” consisted of two Twentieth Century lemon colored pencils bound together with tin.

Throughout his year long stay in Long Beach local police received many letters from police departments throughout the U.S. asking or giving information about the black-skinned “Wonder of the World,” who wore colorful garb and carried a wand.  Among the names under which the Hindu healer was said to have operated in other cities were “Professor R.R. Clark” and Professor R.C. Poindexter.”  There were numerous reports concerning his “unorthodox” methods, and a warrant had been issued against him in Michigan concerning his behavior with a crippled girl.  Another police department in Springfield, Massachusetts, wrote that a girl had jumped through a window to avoid him.

Long Beach authorities finally decided to get rid of the Hindu mystic by arresting him on a charge of violating the State Medical Act.  Majji Rajji was found guilty and given a suspended sentence under the promise he would leave California at once.  He did so –  for awhile. Local police later received a letter of inquiry about him from Oakland, where a woman was reported to have committed suicide in the office of “a voodoo doctor” named R.C. Poindexter, and in 1920 the Seattle police reported Poindexter’s arrest on a disorderly conduct charge.  Newspaper reports at the time of Majji Rajji’s from Long Beach indicate that among his effects were several letters written by Long Beach women declaring their love for the said mystic.  Other letters asked his help in curing serious illnesses, one from a woman who said she had heard Majji Rajji could cure her sister’s child of infantile paralysis.

FOUNDER OF CITY GETS A MARKER ON HIS GRAVE

For some he was the George Washington of Long Beach, the founder of the city.  To others he was a business failure, the butt of jokes, unable to make a success of anything he tried. He was a man who died penniless, his grave site purchased by friends who didn’t have enough money to place a marker on the grave.

William Willmore

William Willmore

Now, in 1913, the Signal Hill Civil League, feeling that it was an act of civic shame that the founder of the city should lie in an unmarked grave, took it upon themselves to erect a simple little stone of blue granite over the grave of the founder of Willmore City, later incorporated as Long Beach.

The story of the man who planned Long Beach was a sad one. William Erwin Willmore was born in England in 1844, he and his father emigrated to America in 1855, following his mother’s death.  Willmore later became a wandering schoolteacher, arriving in San Pedro in 1870.  On his was down Anaheim Road towards Anaheim he happened to stop to rest at a spot where Anaheim Road intersects what is now Pacific Avenue. Looking out over the valley, his dream of a city took place.  Over the next few years he traveled to Oregon and Washington, but the vision he had of a settlement never left his mind.  In 1876, the 33 year-old man came back to Southern California and he went to work for the California Immigrant Union.  Among his accomplishments was founding a raisin colony in Fresno.

By 1881, Willmore had saved a bit of money and gained experience in land dealings.  He approached Jotham Bixby about subdividing some of Bixby’s Rancho Los Cerritos—the land of his dream—and Bixby agreed.  Willmore had little money, but he planned to plat a part of the tract and sell lots in what he called Willmore City, small farm tracts comprising from five to twenty acres, were also laid out.  This was called the American Colony, and sold from $50 to $100 an acre.

The city was carefully planned.  The boundaries were Ocean Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, Tenth Street and Alamitos Avenue.  The streets were eighty feet wide and lots were set aside for a school, church, library and park.  Auctions were held, but the sale was not what the enterprising real estate man had anticipated and he was unable to meet the terms of his contract with Jotham Bixby, and he was forced to sell his shares in the American Colony to a Los Angeles Real Estate concern called Pomery & Mills for $1.00.

Disheartened, Willmore went to Arizona.  There, it was said, he suffered sunstroke which seriously affected his health.  Later, a pauper, he became an inmate of the Los Angeles County Poor Farm.  In 1899, knowing he was ill, Willmore walked out of the County Farm near Downey,  to come back to Long Beach to die.  Arriving in town, the ragged old man slipped into the First Baptist Church to keep warm.  It was there that Ida Crowe found him.  Willmore had been living in a tent, with no clothes except for those on his back and five cents to his name.  Despite the fact that she had seven children to care for, she took him in.  Willmore started crying when Mrs. Crowe offered him a home, saying that he wouldn’t have come if he knew she had so many to care for already.  A small fruit stand was set up on Pine Avenue, with his friends providing the fruit for him to sell.  His health was so poor that even this venture failed.  Mrs. Crowe and her family cared for him and fought off attendants from the County Farm who wanted to take him back.  Ida Crow had given her word that Willmore could die in Long Beach and she was a woman of her word.  On January 16, 1901, Willmore died in the town he had founded.

Though an apartment-hotel was named for Willmore, nowhere will you find a public building, park, street or school named for him.  Throughout the 1920’s and 30’s there would be a movement to erect a statue to him and place it in Lincoln Park, but nothing ever became of it.  Later in the 1950’s, plans to name a park after him would surface, but this too was not to be.  The only memorial to Willmore would be the one on his grave, erected by those farmers of Signal Hill who had settled on land from his American Colony and a small plaque near Anaheim and Pacific (in 14th St. Park) noting the spot where he had envisioned his dream.

TIMELINE

January

13 – Charter amendment election held.

18 – Cage submarine launched. Hatchway flies open and vessel fills with water and sinks.

23 – Cage submarine raised from harbor depths.

25 – Craig Shipyard launches new steamship, the Grace Dollar.

February

20 – Snow storm in Long Beach.  Ten minute fall of fleecy white stuff between Mira Mar Ave. and Alamitos Bay.

24 – Certified copy of amended City Charter received. Long Beach City Clerk goes to Los Angeles to have it recorded.

25 – Record rainfall hits City. 4.54 inches.

27 – City’s first bond issue for building the Magnolia Ave. pier is paid off.

March

2 – Cornerstone of Brethren Church is laid.

7 – Ostrich farm is now a memory.  Birds taken to new home in Capistrano.

8 – American Potash Company announces plans to begin building in city within 90 days.

17 – United Press service comes to Long Beach.  Local paper to subscribe.

18 – Woolen mill buys three acre harbor site.

22 – Municipal market opens.

26 – Cage submarine takes successful dip.

April

8 – Prehistoric bones found at Belmont Shore. Believed to be the skeleton of a teradactyl.

15 – First auto show held in Long Beach.

15 – Vinegar factory to be established here.

22 – Civic League collects funds for a monument to city founder, William Willmore.

24 – City’s population now figures at 28, 976.

25 – Deal closed for steel plant site.

28 – Jack London’s various works will be shown in films made by local film company, Balboa.

May

1 – Big plans announced for Empire Day: Long Beach to entertain Britishers.

15– Boulevard lights twinkle brightly: initial unit of future street lighting system tested out on Pine Ave.

15 – Craig Shipyard launches the Edgar H. Vance, largest steel lumber carrier on the Pacific Coast.

 24 – Auditorium disaster kills 30 in Empire Day celebration: congestion of people at entrance causes supports to give way.

26 – Tragedy death toll now numbers 36 people.

29 – New bridges for Naples: work on four concrete spans to start soon.

June

2 – Verdict of jury fixes blame but not responsibility for Empire Day disaster.  Find that city simply “grew too fast” to keep up with building inspections.

6 – Long Beach doctors sign an agreement to give free care to victims of the Empire Day Disaster.

11 – Cage submarine breaks world’s record for submergence; 36 hours.

16 – City is not liable for damages because of public character of ill fated auditorium says Los Angeles law firm.

18 – Long Beach citizens accept their “moral responsibility” for the Empire Day Disaster. Vote for special .20 tax.

20 – City announces water shortage.

30 – Elks take possession of their new clubhouse.

July

2 – First damage claim is officially presented: Los Angeles attorney demands $10,000 for death of victim, Edith Chafor, in Empire Day Disaster.

21 – Piling is completed for Golden Ave. pier.

21 – First brethren Church is dedicated.

24 – Twelve foot shark gives bad scare: sports about victims and then becomes hungry.  Near victims reach shore safely.

26 – Rev. O.H.L. Mason of the First Presbyterian Church charged with various indiscretions with young, church women.

26 – Tuna industry becomes an important enterprise: Los Angeles Tuna Packing co. opens for business.

28 – Rev. Mason cleared of wrong doing.

31 – Sewer and incinerator bonds voted upon and carried.

August

2 – First Presbyterian board members resign over “white washing” of Rev. Mason case.

5 – Rev. Mason says he is willing to leave City if there is no more “pot stirring.”

6 – City pays out over $24,000 in damages to victims of Empire Day Disaster.

8 – Burnett villa housing tract opens.

27 – City learns that 9 p.m. curfew for those under 14 is illegal under state law.

30 – More members of First Presbyterian Church withdraw from church over Mason case.

September

3 – Bond measure for a Belmont Pier meets defeat at polls for the third time.

5 – New home of the Elks Club formally dedicated.

8 – Balboa Motion Picture Co. said to be “on the rocks.”

9 – Seal Beach (formerly Bay City) is now connected to Long Beach with the opening of a new Pacific Electric line.

17 – Water bonds carry by a small majority vote.

23 – George H. Bixby charged with contributing to the “downfall” of Cleo Helen Barker.

30 – George H. Bixby acquitted of crime.

October

3 – Presbytery again considers Rev. Mason case.  Findings contain no comment on guilt or innocence.

9 – Long Beach sends its congratulations to Col. Goethals just before the earth barrier at Panama is blown away.

10 – Long Beach celebrates opening of Panama Canal.

19 – Cornerstone of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is laid.

22 – Council decides that Municipal Auditorium must be torn down because of damage from the Empire Day Disaster.

November

1 – Bixby’s Rancho Palos Verdes is sold for $1,750,000.

3 – Rev. Mason’s friends start new Calvary Presbyterian church.

6 – First Presbyterian Church, relieved of its troubles, re-elects old board of elders.

11 – Prof. Willey of the Municipal Band announces need for symphony orchestra.

12 – Louis N. Whealton is elected mayor.

20 – Walter J. Desmond named new postmaster for Long Beach by President Wilson.

24 – Rev. Mason accepts pastorate for new Calvary Presbyterian Church.

December

12 – Municipal Auditorium will not be ordered wrecked: uprising against action of Council secures promise that bids will be rejected.

For additional historical information click on: More Long Beach History . You will also find links to Seal Beach and Signal Hill history by clicking on Seal Beach History  and Signal Hill History.