News stories from the local press



Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 election because of Long Beach

Some say Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 Presidential election because of Long Beach

           The United States presidential election of 1916 had incumbent President Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, pitted against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, representing the Republican party.  After a hard-fought contest, Wilson defeated Hughes by nearly 600,000 votes in the popular vote and secured a narrow majority in the Electoral College by winning several swing states with razor-thin margins.  One of those states was California, and many believe the reason the California electoral vote went for Wilson was because of Long Beach.

Did Charles Evans Hughes running in 1916 for President on the Republican ticket purposely snub Johnson while both were staying at Long Beach's Hotel Virginia?

Did Charles Evans Hughes running in 1916 for President on the Republican ticket purposely snub Johnson while both were staying at Long Beach’s Hotel Virginia?

          In November 1916, Long Beach became the pivotal point in keeping President Woodrow Wilson in office, all because of a misunderstanding. Events began on a hot day in August 1916.  Governor Hiram Johnson of California, running for the U.S. Senate on the Republican ticket, and Charles Evans Hughes, GOP candidate for president, had both checked into the Hotel Virginia. Neither was purportedly aware of the other’s presence.  Hughes checked out a short time later and, to his surprise and only after he had arrived in Los Angeles, learned of Johnson’s presence at the Virginia.  Johnson and his followers remained in their quarters until after Hughes had left and considered that Hughes had snubbed them when they learned of his leaving.

A snub between California Governor Hiram Johnson (shown here, governor of California and Charles Evans Hughes was the reason.

California Governor Hiram Johnson

     Proud Californians, piqued because they considered their favorite son had been purposely ignored, went to the polls en masse.  And the rock-ribbed Republican state of California amazingly voted for Woodrow Wilson, Democrat.

     Voting over the nation was close, and it was California that defeated Hughes and re-elected Wilson.  Long Beach, solidly Republican, also voted Democrat allowing Wilson to win California’s electoral vote by a slim 3,000 ballots.

            Later in November Long Beach boosters suggested that President Wilson’s summer capitol be here since Long Beach was responsible for his election. (LB Press 11/25/1916)


Long Beach troops sent to fight in the Mexican Revolution

            On March 15, 1916, under the command of General Pershing, United States troops entered Mexico in retaliation for Pancho Villa’s attacks on U.S. border towns.  In reality, President Wilson wanted a quick end to the troubles on our southern borders before he committed American troops to the conflict in Europe.  Prior to the outbreak of the European war Wilson had favored the Villistas, now he thought that by siding with Jose Carranza the conflict would end more quickly. Carranza was from a rich, northern landowning family; despite his position as head of the northern revolutionary movement, he was concerned that Mexico’s land tenure not be fundamentally restructured by the Revolution. He was far more conservative than either Southern peasant leader Emiliano Zapata or Northern revolutionary general Pancho Villa. Once firmly in power in Mexico, Carranza sought to eliminate his political rivals. Carranza won recognition from the United States and Wilson committed troops to Carranza’s cause.

            On June 25, 1916, the Long Beach unit of the National Guard, Company H, left to join the Seventh Regiment in Mexico.  Escorted by the veterans’ drum corps and the Municipal Band, the seventy-nine militiamen marched from the armory to Pacific Electric cars loaded with their equipment.  Thousands lined Pine Avenue to bid goodbye to the gallant lads. Balboa Studios filmed the scene which was shown to the surprised boys in Nogales in October.

            On the night of July 6, Company H was attacked by Mexican soldiers.  One of the California national guardsmen (not from Long Beach) was killed.  On October 18th, 25-year-old Charles B. Hollis of Long Beach was killed in Nogales, Arizona,  from a bullet wound received while on sentry duty.

Nogales, Arizona, where a significant confrontation betwen U.S. and Mexican forces took place Aug. 27, 1916.

Nogales, Arizona, where a significant confrontation betwen U.S. and Mexican forces took place Aug. 27, 1916.

            On November 13, the boys of Company H returned home to a rousing reception.  Following an official welcome given at the armory by city officials, the guardsmen marched to the Hotel Virginia, headed by the Municipal Band, and were treated to a royal banquet.  Tables in the hotel were arranged in the form of the letter “H” to honor the members of Company H.  Captain A.D. Border of Company H, was presented with a large silver loving cup as a homage from his men.

Pancho Villa

Pancho Villa

            Pancho Villa and his men continued to evade Pershing’s troops.  On January 29, 1917, President Wilson announced the U.S. punitive expedition would be withdrawn from Mexico.  Carranza would now have to fight his own battles against Villa.  Hunting Villa had been an expensive proposition for Uncle Sam. Transporting men to the border had cost $6,000,000; transportation of food, $500,000; transportation of baggage, $3,500,000; food for militia and regulars, $35,000,000; special motor equipment, $3,500,000; clothing and equipment, $2,500,000; medical supplies, $2,000,000; horses for militia, $3,000,000; federal relief for militiamen’s dependents, $2,000,000; transportation of militiamen from border to home, $4,500,000; wear and tear on equipment, $15,000,000.  (LB Press 1/29/1917 2:3).

            President Wilson knew war with Germany was inevitable. He wanted General Pershing home to prepare for a new battle.


 The Horkheimer Brothers & The Balboa Film Studio

            On May 23, 1913, H.M. Horkheimer had taken possession of the one little building at the corner of Sixth and Alamitos, which had been the Edison Western Moving Picture studio.  In three years the motion picture producing company had become Long Beach’s most prominent industry.  Now, in 1916, it was the largest independent moving picture producing plant in the business. The movie industry had grown at a staggering rate.  In 1915,  $350,000,000 was spent nationwide in moving pictures; a hundred million of that total was spent in production; $250 million was spent by movie goers. Seventy-five percent of all the pictures shown in the United States were produced in Southern California.  Film making was now the fifth largest industry in the United States (the first four being oil, steel iron and automobiles). (LB Press 1/20/1916 1:1)

         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, E.D. Horkheimer, who had been an electrical engineer up to that time.  H.M. 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.

            By 1916, the Balboa studio occupied all four corners of Sixth and Alamitos. It represented an investment of approximately $300,000.  One of the company’s rules was that its employees must live in Long Beach and in May 1916 there were 250 local people employed in its various departments.

            The Balboa movie people were very much a part of the Long Beach community.  In April 1916 a fire broke out in a home near the studio while two young children were making lunch while their mother was at work at the Long Beach Laundry.  Fortunately the children escaped harm, but all the family belongings were consumed, leaving the single mother and her children destitute. The “Balboans” as they called themselves, immediately passed the hat and raised $55.  The letter accompanying the $55 read:

Mrs. Caroline Rickey, California and East Seventh Streets, Long Beach, Cal.

Dear Madam: the fire yesterday noon which destroyed your home and household effects is a misfortune in which we grieve with you.  To help lighten the burden, we beg to hand you herewith the sum of $55 (about $1250 in today’s currency), consisting of contributions by the actors of the Balboa Amusement Producing Company.  Please do not construe this as a charity, but rather credit us with having a neighborly interest in you, although we have not the pleasure of your personal acquaintance.  But having had good reports of you and knowing that you are bringing up a family, it gives us sincere pleasure to extend this little aid toward your  re-establishment.” (LB Press 4/14/1916 6:5)

            From the standpoint of arrangement and equipment, the Balboa studio was to be envied by those who knew anything about the business.  The prop rooms contained 100,000 items.  The furniture department included all sorts and styles.  Most studios rented these necessary articles, but Balboa found it more economical to own what it was to use time and again.

            The studio also boasted of having the most up-to-date players’ dressing rooms in the world.  Here actors and actresses had running water, enamel wash stands, electric fans, carpeted floors, telephones, and locked closets.  The Horkheimers cared about their employees, and the motion picture industry in general.  In April 1916 the two brothers and Archie Levy of the Laughlin Theater, joined together to arrange a benefit for the Actors’ Fund.  This fund was created to build an actors’ home for retired or out-of-work thespians.  All of the Balboa staff joined together on April 21st to present a star-studded extravaganza.  Never before had so many popular performers been assembled together on one stage and worked so hard to give the audience an evening that would not be matched again until the Academy Awards ceremonies a decade away.

Stop-Motion Film Making

            Few people realize that miniature stop-motion film making originated in Long Beach at the Mission Film Company.  Two Long Beach men, Ridley F. Taylor and Wilkins W. Wheatly were the joint inventors of what they called manikin-movies.  The Taylor-Wheatly invention used characters that were only 16 inches tall. Their movie manikins were flexible, jointed dolls, fashioned to represent any sort of human character or animals. The faces were made up like real actors’, using cosmetics adaptable to artificial lights. They constructed small sets, proportional designed to fit their characters, which appeared life size on film.  Dolls had been used to a limited extent in picture production in France, but producers had to manipulate the figures by hand, whereas the Mission Film Company’s device allowed the figures to be moved mechanically.  The biggest advantage was that by using miniature sets, proportionally designed to fit their characters, (which appeared life size on film) the company saved money on scenery and even more money on actors.

            Universal Pictures purchased the Mission Film Company’s first set of reels and signed contracts for future productions. (LB Press 1/22/1916 1:1)


            In January 1916 the Cage prototype submarine, built in 1913, sank in the Long Beach harbor on its way to the Markham Machine and Iron Works to be scraped.  The W.L. Cleveland Company of Los Angeles, present owners of the craft, had received a large offer for the steel plates of the boat.  In February, the ship was raised and dismantled.

Cage submarine

Cage submarine

            High school senior, George Chalker, who had been taking special correspondence courses on boat building for nearly two years, designed a 64-foot power boat for the Catalina Island passenger service.  Two 100-horsepower 6-cylinder Buffalo engines, which were formerly the power plant for the Cage submarine, powered his ship.

John Cage

            In November 1916 John Cage, who had moved his operations to Detroit to better his chances for marketing a patent for a 6-cycle three phase engine for automobiles, was given an all expenses paid trip to England to explain his new submarine design.   His new submarine was different from the one he had built for the Long Beach based Los Angeles Submarine Manufacturing Company.  This one could stay continuously under water for ninety days and maintain a uniform speed of 30 knots per hour submerged.  Another feature of the submarine was that its periscope could be replaced in three seconds and used fifty-six successive times.  The replacing of the periscope was one of the problems which had been bothering naval engineers for years and had never been satisfactorily solved. If successful in convincing the English naval experts that his submarine was the long expected ideal of underwater craft, the inventor would receive a cash royalty of $100,000 for each vessel built.  Unfortunately, he was not successful.

            Until his death in 1964, Cage continued to invent.  He was a prolific inventor holding more than eight hundred patents in electrical, chemical, biochemical and mechanical fields.  Devices and techniques which he developed were eventually applied to submarine and space travel, television, national defense, lightning prevention, and cold remedies.  He and his wife Lucretia Harvey, had one child, the famous composer John Milton Cage Jr.

Abner Neff & the Original Cage Submarine Design

Design of the Cage/Neff Submarine

Design of the Cage/Neff Submarine

         Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company was still attempting to market the original Cage design.  An agent was hired to try to sell their submarine to the U.S. Navy.  Because of prior credit problems during Cage’s involvement with the company, the Secretary of the Navy would not commit himself to purchase the submarine until substantial assurance was given that the construction, the installation, and the financial requirements would be assumed by a manufacturing concern who could risk $500,000 to build the craft.  The agent, Abner R. Neff, assumed this financial responsibility.  In return, the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company turned the patents over to him in exchange for a share of the profits.  In May 1916 a new system of propulsion, the “Neff system” was developed from the original Cage design.

            The Cage and Neff systems did away with the use of storage batteries, which had been the cause of frequent submarine accidents.  Instead, a gas engine was developed giving higher submerged speed and greater power of attack and escape.  The lack of batteries meant freedom from the stinking, dead atmosphere of oil particles and from acid smells.  It was this novel gas engine system that the government wanted more research on.  In 1917 when the “Big Navy Bill” passed, $250,000 was allocated to build and install an experimental set of machinery using Neff’s plans in an already existing E-type submarine.

            In May 1917, following U.S. entry into World War I, Abner Neff returned to Southern California because of ill health.  He asserted that German U-boats were utilizing, with tremendous success, the principles of the submarine boat invented by John M. Cage and perfected by Neff himself.

            The August 25, 1917 issue of Scientific American magazine published an illustrated write-up of the single power unit Cage submarine.  The pictures showed the original Cage boat floating on an even keel and rising from the Long Beach harbor after its famous 36 hour submergence.  An interior view revealed the operating mechanism of the submarine.  The article referred to “definite proof” that the Germans were using the Cage propulsion system.

            Ironically, the Germans were using American technology to win the war against the allies.  Allied submarine chasers were geared to listen only for the whine of electric motors, not the murmur of the Cage gas engine.  The German subs, using the Cage power system, could not be detected.


 Aviation School

            In November 1915, San Francisco aviator Harry P. Christofferson sent a telegram to Jay W. Boyd of Long Beach asking his help in opening an aviation school in Long Beach.  What they needed was a hangar to house the airplane and advertising for their flying school.  Henry P. Barbour graciously gave the two permission to erect a hangar on his lot on East Seaside Boulevard, and the local newspapers provided free advertising.

            According to Boyd, Christofferson was the most careful and accurate aviator flying in the United States at the time.  He had made 1500 flights and never had an accident.  He was always very careful and did not believe in foolhardy stunts.  Christofferson already had one aero school in San Francisco.  He believed aviation was a great art and wished to make it more popular by opening another flying school in Long Beach.

Four of the seven Christofferson brothers took up aviation, Silas was one of the brothers killed in an airplane accident.

Four of the seven Christofferson brothers took up aviation, Silas was one of the brothers killed in an airplane accident.

          Christofferson was one of seven brothers, four of whom took up aviation.  Silas Christofferson was killed in an aeroplane accident in December 1916.  Brother Gridsol was killed when a Long Beach student he was instructing nose dived into the surf at Eleventh Place in April 1918.

            On January 21, 1916, aviator  H.P. Christofferson took up his first Long Beach student.  Christofferson reported he had several students waiting for lessons and would need an additional flying machine.  The Long Beach Chamber of Commerce was quick to see the potential of aviation.  They began a campaign to raise funds for the construction of hangars on the beach to accommodate and house six more aeroplanes.  They thought there would be a good chance for Long Beach to become the headquarters for the government aviation school which was looking for a home in the area.

Long Beach’s first airport was on the beach

            In May, Malcolm and Allen Loughheep, well known hydroaeroplane aviators, visited Long Beach with a view of establishing a local seaplane aviation school.  Malcolm, the younger brother, had operated in China just before the outbreak of the war in Europe.  He had also flown in Mexico for the Carranza forces.

Local Aviators Leave for Seal Beach

            Nearby Seal Beach had established an entertainment zone similar to the Pike.  Amusement men there were quick to realize the value of the aeroplane in drawing crowds.  As an enticement to aviators, they erected three aeroplane hangers and offered free rentals to aviators that moved to Seal Beach.

            In May, a petition bearing the names of more than 200 Long Beach citizens was submitted to the City Commissioners.  In it they characterized flying as “a nuisance and menace to human life as well as a danger to hundreds of people who used the beach.”  In view of this petition and many previous complaints about airplane noise, local aviators Earl Daugherty, Harry P. Christofferson, J.W. Boyd and Thor Polson decided to move to Seal Beach.

            Many local residents expressed regret over losing the aviators, feeling  Long Beach had lost a valuable asset in attracting large crowds and providing thrills for visitors .  In addition they believed the City had lost the chance to become the aviation center of Southern California.


            On May 2, 1916, one of the most horrible accidents in the history of Long Beach nearly wiped out the executive staffs of two municipal departments.  Fire truck No. 1, driven by Assistant Fire Chief, Clarence Craw, crashed into the auto of Fire Chief J.E. Shrewsbury at the intersection of Broadway and American Avenues.  Shrewsbury, who had been fire chief for nearly twenty years, died one hour later from a basal fracture to the skull and internal injuries.  Crew sustained a broken arm and collar bone.  The driver of the fire engine, George Wright, was in serious condition having suffered a fractured skull and internal injuries.  Clark H. Shaw, engineer of the Municipal Water Department, also suffered bruises, cuts and a wrenched spine.

Fire Chief Shrewsbury killed while rushing to a fire.

Fire Chief Shrewsbury killed while rushing to a fire.

            The accident occurred while the two fire heads were answering an alarm received from Roswell Avenue and Second Street.  Chief Shrewsbury, who was at the city hall annex on business, responded to the alarm.  He jumped into his car with engineer Shaw at his side.  Assistant Fire Chief Crew, driving fire engine No. 1, left the central station with George Wright.  Heading due east on Broadway at approximately 40 miles an hour, the high powered truck struck the fire chief’s car just as they reached the center of the street.  The force of the collision carried the fire truck up to the curb and completely demolished the black touring car which the chief was driving.

            The City was stunned by the loss. Shrewsbury was a dedicated, humble man who had done much for the fire department and Long Beach.  In 1912 he invented the “Long Beach fire hydrant” which took no space, cut hydrant cost in two, and offered no obstruction or danger to traffic. The invisible hydrant sat in a little box at the edge of the curb, shielding the hydrant from view and damage. Shrewsbury, who refused to patent his invention, said it would only work in cities that didn’t have snow, but he offered the design free to any city that wanted it, with only one stipulation: it be known as the “Long Beach hydrant.” (LB Press 12/6/1912 12:1)

            Two thousand persons formed the largest funeral cortege in the history of the city.  Practically every business closed during the hours of the funeral.  Local aviators, with muffled engines, formed a squadron of three airplanes and dropped flower wreaths from the sky.  The Municipal Band, playing a funeral dirge, headed the funeral procession


            In September 1916, the Long Beach Board of Education decided that many girls and boys in high school paid more attention to each other than to their studies.  The Board started a campaign to segregate the sexes, asking for a $150,000 bond to build an all girls’ high school.  Though the Board claimed they weren’t planning this segregation for moral reasons, others knew differently.  Dances were forbidden in the high school as were silk socks and loud ties by boys and powder puffs, rouge and low-necked blouses for girls.  Still, problems remained.

            Poor Foster Strong.  His mother was on the school board and when school officials found out about a high school booze party held on campus students were sure that Foster had snitched.  Young Foster was stripped naked by fellow students and he was thrown into the cold waters of a pond on Willow Street.  Though Foster Strong recognized all his captors, he refused to name names.

            America’s entry into the war put a temporary halt to the campaign for a separate high school for girls.  The issue would come up again 83 years later, in 1999, when Jefferson Middle School decided to segregate the sexes in its 8th grade.




3 – New ship company, California Shipbuilding, now in control of Craig Shipbuilding plant.

4 – $130,000 of federal monies awarded Long Beach for harbor work.

7 – City council votes to allow overtime pay for all city employees in all departments.

31 – Tuna canning plants to increase capacity: demand for “Chicken of the Sea” encourages Long Beach companies to enlarge facilities.


24 – Aviators Earl Daugherty and H.P. Christofferson stage a 20 mile air race. It is filmed by Balboa Studios for national distribution. Daugherty wins.


15 – U.S. troops cross border into Mexico.


4 – Six airplane hangars to be built on beach for accommodation of aviators.


3 – Anaheim Road to be named Anaheim Street.

16 – Fire Department loses its chief , J.E. Shrewsbury, in an auto accident.

19 – Plans are announced to send Cal Rodgers’ airplane to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it will be on display at the Carnegie Institute.  (It would later be given to the Smithsonian by Rodgers’ mother, with no mention of the Long Beach donation).


1 – Lifeguard service established at Belmont Pier.

7 – Adelaide Tichenor donates house and property to the Long Beach Day Nursery.

16 – Liberty Theater opens.

26 – Company H, the local national guard unit, leave to join the Seventh Regiment in Mexico.


11 – Boys of Company H see action – Long Beach man Charles Hollis is killed.


3 – Health Department starts its campaign to annihilate pest of mosquitoes by liberal use of crude oil on stagnate pools.

31 – First L-boat submarine launched by California Shipbuilding.


14 – New industry is launched: sixth potash manufacturing company prepares for business.


17 – $25,000 wave motor plant to be built on southern end of Long Beach pleasure pier.

21 – Tuna canning is one of the city’s biggest industries. Season’s pack so far ahead of last year’s total output of 90,000 cans.


7 – Police Department establishes new bureau to handle auto thefts.


11 – Japanese syndicate announces plans to establish shark fishing operations in Alamitos Bay.

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.