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 […]