Iva Tutt, Electrical Pioneer

It’s difficult to imagine a world without electricity, but it wasn’t until October 21, 1879, after spending more than $40,000 in fruitless experiments that Thomas Edison invented the incandescent lamp, and it wasn’t until 1887 that he perfected electric lighting. From 1895-1899 Long Beach made international news, not because of its growth, tourist attractions, or weather, but because of an oddity: Mrs. Iva E. Tutt, the world’s first female electrician.  On September 6, 1895, the Long Beach Electric Light Company incorporated with Iva Tutt as sole member, owner and manager.  Her company contracted with the town of Long Beach to erect and maintain poles, wires and lamps for lighting the municipality, and to furnish the electricity for one year, beginning October 1, 1895, at the rated of $42 a month. The Long Beach Electric Light Company wasn’t the first electric company in the city.  On April 18, 1895, Robert Benzie, operator of the Long Beach Steam Laundry, received a 25 year franchise to operate an electric light plant for his business and provide lighting for the City of Long Beach.  It was enough to generate electricity for his business, but not effectively for the entire city. It seemed the lights put in at the Tabernacle (Long Beach’s largest meeting hall at the time) , and attempts to light the streets often met with failure, according to the August 3, 1895 Los Angeles Herald. Much hope had been put on the wave motor generator erected on the old Pine Avenue Pier, but that too failed to meet expectations.  Mrs. Iva Tutt thought she had a solution.   On October 1, 1895, Mrs. Tutt sold a one-fifth interest in the power plant to Charles C. Glass, and […]

Frog Farms

Opportunities to be an independent women were out there for farm women as well as those who lived in cities.  The Los Angeles Times Woman and Home section of March, 7, 1897, described a new and profitable enterprise for women—frog farming.  Author Millicent Arrowpoint quickly dismissed the mistaken notion that eating frog legs was restricted to “eccentric and abnormal French people.”  Diners in Boston, New York and Philadelphia were consuming hundreds of pounds of this juicy, flavorsome flesh daily, driving the price for a pound of legs up to $1 a pound.  The reason the price was so high was that few people had thought to farm frogs.  The procedure was simple.  First the enterprising woman needed to be close to a railroad with a refrigerated car (to transport the delicate meat) and near a stretch of low, well-watered ponds (which undoubtedly could be found on most farms). She needed a wire net fence encircling the pond (to keep out ducks, geese and the midnight prowler, the weasel), rubber boots, a net, a short skirt, and a few frogs (which could be bargained for with neighborhood boys).  For the first six months nothing need be done, the frogs taking care of themselves, then they would be harvested.  During that time the businesswoman need to scout her market, visiting fish dealers, hotel proprietors, and restaurant owners to negotiate a price.  Next step was to hire a young boy to do all the unpleasant work such as catching and killing the frogs, severing the legs and then dropping the remains back into the pond for the survivors to feed upon.  It was profitable.  One English lady invested $10 and in a year cleared $500.

Nellie Campbell, Potato Chip Queen

Some women in the early 1900s did improve their lot in life, other than by a well-connected marriage.  Miss Nellie Campbell, the Potato Chip Queen, was such an example. Miss Campbell came to Long Beach for her health and wanted to stay.  When her money ran out she realized she either had to return to her relatives back East or earn her own living.  One memorable day in 1908 she bought some potato chips which turned out to be limp and tasteless.  This got her thinking.  She went to the public library, read several cookbooks, and started experimenting.  She bought a sack of potatoes, a new pan, and a gallon of olive oil.  The chips she prepared were crisp and delicious.  She convinced local markets and restaurants to buy them and within two years Campbell’s Chip sales had grown from a few pounds to over 1,000 pounds per month.  An advertisement in the September 8, 1913 Santa Ana Register described her product as “always fresh, pure and crisp.” Nellie set up a manufacturing business at 337 ½ First Street in 1909 and remained at that location until America entered World War I in 1917.  Seeing her success others in Long Beach tried to get into the business, such as Alfred Von Grunigen (501 Alamitos), William Schmitt (347 The Pike), and E.R. Weaver (21100 E. 4th Street) but they couldn’t compete with Nellie and remained in business for less than a year.  Nellie gave up the potato chip business sometime in 1917.  She disappeared from Long Beach City Directories after that time.  Where she went after 1917 remains unknown, unless one of our readers has additional information.  But she left a tradition of potato chip making […]

Olga Printzlau, Screen Writer

  Did you know that Long Beach was one of the centers of movie making up until the early 1920s? The Long Beach film industry launched the career of many well-known stars such as Harold Lloyd, Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton, to name just a few. Motion picture production was not the only claim to fame Long Beach held in the movie world, it was also home to one of the industry’s leading screen writers—Olga Printzlau Clark. Olga was the wife of Fred T. Clark, whom she had married in July 1908 when she was just 17-years-old and Fred a mere 21 years of age.  While Fred worked as a barber, Olga assumed the role of housewife at their home on Pine Avenue (343 Pine Avenue). She was active in several women’s clubs, loved to paint, and some of her art work was so good they were put on display at the public library. In January 1911 their daughter Virginia was born at the same time a new industry came to town—motion pictures. Long Beach had a good opportunity to become the film capital of the world when California Motion Picture Manufacturing Company opened operations 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 […]

Predators

Beware Susceptible Women In August 1913, at least four Long Beach women told the district attorney’s office they had received threatening letters alleged to have been written and mailed them by F. E. Young, teacher of the young women’s Bible class in the Bethel Friends’ Church.  F .E. Young, who also worked as 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.  District Attorney John D. Fredericks denounced Young saying Young was really a professional blackmailer hiding under the cloak of religion. 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 […]

White Slave Traffic

           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.”              This was a belief that led Mrs. F.E. Young, president of the Long Beach federation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, to tell members in August 1913 that “No girl should be allowed to be on the street alone, day or night.” 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 nearby Venice.  The league warned that no […]

Tired of Being a Girl

  On September 26, 1905, Marguerite Scott was taken into custody by Long Beach police who found the young woman, dressed as a boy, wandering the streets late at night. The following morning she was brought before Judge Brayton and had an interesting tale to tell—she was tired of being a girl.   According to her story, her father, Joseph W. Scott of Los Angeles, was a broker and well able to care for her but she would rather be a sailor and enlist in the United States navy.  Attired in a blouse, such as those worn by sailors, a long blue serge skirt and white tennis shoes, Marguerite made quite a striking appearance, according to the press, though, they added, she might easily be mistaken for a boy in disguise since she  had cut her hair short and wore it parted in the middle. She told the judge she had been in Long Beach over a week and had spent most of her time hanging out at the harbor or the pier. At night, she said, she slept in a small cave in the bluff near Alamitos Bay.  She told police officer Williams that she loved books like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. The idea to join the navy hadn’t come from anything she read, but from her own mind.  She went on to add that she did not care for trashy reading, but she did like music. She also stated vehemently that she did not like her home and if the judge made her go back she would sleep out of doors in the back yard, under the stars, like sailors did.  She also confessed that she […]

Marriage Could be Hell

In her book America 1900, Judy Crichton writes that in 1900 twenty percent of American women had jobs and the numbers were growing, but most went to work because they had no choice, working until they found a husband who could support them.  Women were led to believe that marriage was their ultimate goal; they were raised to be dependent.  Subservience was the mark of a well-trained woman and marriage the primary means of livelihood for most. Young women were too often moving from girlhood into marriage and overnight dependency on men they barely knew or didn’t necessarily like, let alone love.  No story better represents the plight of poor women at this time than that of Jannie Stock.  Her tale appeared in the Long Beach Press July 2, 1908. Mrs. Stock had enough of a humdrum life and a loveless marriage in which she born seven children in seven years. She ran away.  When the Long Beach woman was located in Santa Barbara she told police: Liberty to me now means life.  I was married in 1901, when I was 16. I have had seven children in seven years.  Two of them are living.  I was not allowed by my father to marry the man I loved and I practically had to marry Walter to prevent me from marrying the other.” Her husband Walter was a road contractor, but had no business sense.  It was up to Mrs. Stock to straighten out his business affairs and do estimates on job proposals.  When he did get work she went with him, cooking and cleaning for his road crew and even taking care of the horses.  Jannie said her husband was a good man, but she […]