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History of Los Angeles

The small town received the name El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora Reina de los Ángeles sobre el Río Porciúncula, Spanish for "The Town of Our Lady Queen of the Angels on the Porciuncula River." The name was derived from that of Santa Maria degli Angeli (Italian: "Holy Mary of the Angels"), a town near Assisi, hometown of St. Francis, and the location of his chapel, the Porziuncola. The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels would be the heart of the community.

After power was transferred to the Americans, there was much initial resistance by the Mexican born population, leading to various revolts and their subsequent hangings. Also, clashes between the growing Chinese population in Los Angeles led to the accidental death of a white person, which inflamed the anger of the white population and led to many hangings of the local Chinese.

Founded in 1871 by a Spanish governor, Los Angeles became part of Mexico in 1821.

At the end of the Mexican-American war in 1848, the area was purchased with California to become part of the US.

A permanent colonial settlement was established on 4 September 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora de los Angeles di Porciúncula. It was named in honor of the shrine to the Virgin Mary, Santa Maria degli Angeli, Our Lady of the Angels, on the plain below Assisi, Saint Francis' native village in Italy. The construction of a Presidio and town was the project of Governor Felipe de Neve, as mandated by King Carlos III of Spain. He called for volunteers to come up from Mexico; hoping to attract 24 families, he was able to convince 11 to make the journey.

Gold Discovery in the Los Angeles Area

The annexation of California and the discovery of gold brought adventurers and immigrants by the thousands to the West with dreams of "hitting pay dirt." Contrary to what is commonly believed, California's Gold Rush began in the hills southwest of the Antelope Valley in 1842, when Francisco Lopez, while stopping for lunch when he was searching for stray cattle, uprooted some wild onions and found flakes of gold amongst their roots. The canyon was named Placeritas, meaning "Little Placers," and today is called Placerita Canyon. Gold rushers quickly flocked to the canyon and mined an estimated $100,000 of gold from the region before heading north to the more exciting and well-known discovery at Sutter's Mill in 1848. A subsequent gold strike in the mountains to the north of Los Angeles provided the town with a booming market for its beef, and many prospectors settled in the area after the Gold Rush. Mining affected the region's development in profound ways, as gold seekers settled permanently in the Antelope Valley during the 1850s and 1860s. The area continued to grow during the Civil War (1860-1865), as gold, silver, and copper were extracted from the Soledad Canyon region, and when Fremont's Pass was enlarged to facilitate and speed up ore shipments.

Property Boom and Bust in L.A.

In the late 1860s there was a population boom in the Los Angeles area as the marketing to "Go West" caught on. Thousands of tourists and land speculators hurried to Los Angeles County. Lots were bought, sold and traded, and an almost instantly created industry of real estate agents transacted more value in land sales than the county's entire value of only a few years before. The boom proved to be a speculative frenzy that collapsed abruptly in 1889. Many L.A. landowners went broke. People in vast numbers abandoned the Los Angeles area, sometimes as many as 3,000 a day. This flight prompted the creation of the chamber of commerce, which began a worldwide advertising campaign to attract new citizens. The county as a whole, however, benefited. The build-up had created several local irrigation districts and numerous civic improvements. In addition, the Los Angeles population had increased from about 11,000 in 1880 to about 60,000 in 1890.

Oil Discovery in the Los Angeles Area

Oil was discovered by Edward L. Doheny in 1892, near the present location of Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles became a center of oil production in the early 20th century (by 1923 the region was producing one-quarter of the world's total supply, and it is still a significant producer).

World War and its Repercussions on Los Angeles

The area's excellent weather made it an ideal location for aircraft testing and construction, and World War II brought hundreds of new industries to the area, boosting the local economy.

During World War II, Los Angeles grew as a center for production of aircraft, war supplies and ammunitions. Thousands of African Americans and European American Southerners migrated to the area to fill factory jobs.

By 1950, Los Angeles was an industrial and financial giant created by war production and migration. Los Angeles assembled more cars than any city other than Detroit, made more tires than any city but Akron, made more furniture than Grand Rapids, and stitched more clothes than any city except New York. In addition, it was the national capital for the production of motion pictures, radio programs and, within a few years, television shows.

Los Angeles and Hollywood

In the early 1900s, east coast filmmakers landed in Hollywood, not only for the weather but to possibly escape legal trouble from using Thomas Edison's movie camera patent. The studios flourished, and Los Angeles became the capital of the entertainment industry. Los Angeles was on the world map, and the Olympics were held here in 1932.

The county's good weather and picturesque locals lent itself to the production of the silent films and "talkies."

Industry in Los Angeles

Another war, the Cold War, caused our aerospace industry to boom.

In the last fifty years, Los Angeles has lost much of the industry it developed earlier in the 20th century. The last of the automobile factories shut down in the 1990s; the tire factories and steel mills left earlier. Most of the agricultural and dairy operations that were still prospering in the 1950s have moved to outlying counties while the furniture industry has relocated to Mexico and other low-wage nations. Aerospace production has dropped significantly since the end of the Cold War or moved to states with better tax conditions, and the entertainment industry has found cheaper areas to produce films, television programs and commercials elsewhere in the United States and Canada. However, many studios still operate in Los Angeles, such as CBS Television City at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard, 20th Century Fox in Century City, NBC-Universal and Disney in Burbank, Universal Studios in Universal City, and Burbank Studios on Olive Avenue in Burbank, as well as other films that use Los Angeles for certain parts of its production. While Los Angeles remains a major center for garment production, it has become far more dependent on the service sector.

Los Angeles is also the largest manufacturing center in the United States.

The Expanding Sprawl of Los Angeles

The famed urban sprawl of Los Angeles became a notable feature of the town, and the pace of growth accelerated in the first decades of the 20th century. The San Fernando Valley, sometimes called "America's Suburb", became a favorite site for developers, and the city began growing past its roots downtown toward the ocean and eastward.

Rail in Los Angeles

But the town continued to grow at a moderate pace until it attained a railway connection with the Central Pacific and San Francisco in 1876, and with the East by the Santa Fe system (through its subsidiary California Southern Railroad) in 1885. The completion of the latter line precipitated one of the most extraordinary of American railway wars and land booms, which resulted in giving southern California a great stimulus.

Pacific Electric Railway

The growth of Los Angeles during this period, and the initial establishment of suburbs, transportation corridors and commuting patterns, was influenced to a great extent by the Pacific Electric Railway, the electrically powered passenger and freight railway established by Collis P. Huntington's nephew, Henry Huntington, in 1901. At its peak, Pacific Electric was the largest electrically operated railway in the world, with over 1,000 miles of trackage, and passengers could take interurban trains from locations as far afield as San Fernando, Santa Monica, San Bernardino, Long Beach, and Newport Beach to central Los Angeles, with destinations over three counties.

L.A. Public Transport

This is also the time when General Motors persuaded most urban regions in North America to shut down their light rail street car systems and replace them with more flexible, although polluting and inefficient bus systems. This drastically changed growth and travel patterns in the city in subsequent years and contributed to the severe air pollution events that Los Angeles became famous for.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and other agencies operate an extensive system of bus lines, as well as subway and light rail lines across Los Angeles County, with a combined daily ridership of 1.7 million. The majority of this (1.4 million) is taken up by the city's bus system, the second busiest in the country. The subway and light rail combined the remaining roughly 319,000 boardings per weekday. Altogether, public transit ridership is much lower than other large cities, with 11% of Los Angeles commuters riding public transportation. The city's subway system is the ninth busiest in the United States and its light rail system is the country's third busiest.

L.A. Airports

The fifth busiest commercial airport in the world and the third busiest in the United States, the LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) handled over 61 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo in 2006.

The world's third busiest general-aviation airport is also located in Los Angeles: Van Nuys Airport (IATA: VNY, ICAO: KVNY).[70]

The city also harbors some of the most important ports in the world, vital to trade within the Pacific Rim.

Pollution in Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley are susceptible to atmospheric inversion, further exasperated by generally low precipitation levels, meaning that the pollution in the air does not get flushed out by rainfall, as in other smoggy cities. This has led to an environmental drive to pass clean air acts and the state's lead in the country for such pollution limiting measures.

Weather in Los Angeles

Los Angeles receives plenty of sunshine, with 325 sunny days and only 27 rainy days on average every year. Summers average temperatures between 16 and 28C, and mild winters of 9-21C.

The city averages 15 inches of rain per year.

Unemployment and Poverty in Los Angeles

The major macroeconomic changes have brought major social changes with them. While unemployment dropped in Los Angeles in the 1990s, the newly created jobs tended to be low-wage jobs filled by recent immigrants and other exploitable populations; by one calculation, the number of poor families increased from 36% to 43% of the population of Los Angeles County during this time. Likewise, the number of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Latin America has made Los Angeles a "majority minority" city that will soon be majority Latino. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.9% to 6.8% in 2002, and is presently around 6%.

22.1% of the population and 18.3% of families were below the poverty line.

Multi-Ethnic Communities in Los Angeles

When the Immigration Act of 1965 opened the door to new immigrants, it initiated dramatic changes in the area. According to the U.S. Census, by 2000 36.2 percent of the residents of Los Angeles County were foreign-born - more than triple the 11.3 percent figure of 1970. The 2000 census showed the area was home to 4.2 million people of Latino/Hispanic origin--only Mexico City had a larger number. A survey taken by the Los Angeles Unified School District that year counted more than 130 different languages represented among school-age children. By 2000 Los Angeles had become the nation's major immigrant port of entry, supplanting New York City.

The Spanish Population in Los Angeles

A steady migration of Mexicans to California from 1910 to 1930 expanded the Mexican and Chicano population in Los Angeles to approximately 200,000. In 1930, the United States began expelling them, deporting over half a million Mexicans and Chicanos from California and 13,332 from Los Angeles County during that decade.

The Los Angeles-Latino community was largely disenfranchised until the 1990s, when redistriction led to the election of Latino members of the City Council for the first time since the 1950s, and the first Latino members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since its inception. With the tremendous growth of the Latino community, primarily from immigration from Mexico, but also from Central America and South America, it is now the largest ethnic bloc in Los Angeles. While Antonio Villaraigosa lost in his race for Mayor in 2001, Latino political leaders are likely to come to the fore over the next decade.

The Black Population in Los Angeles

In 1910, the city had the highest percentage of black home ownership in the nation, with more than 36 percent of the city's African-American residents owning their own homes.

In the 1940s, a booming defense industry, and the need for additional laborers, brought increasing numbers of African-Americans to the city, such that, by 1965, the black population had multiplied ten fold since 1950.

Several racial riots erupted over the years.

Since the 1980s, more middle-class black families have left the central core of Los Angeles to settle elsewhere. In 1970, blacks made up 18 percent of the city's population, while in 2000 they made up 11 percent.

Asians in L.A.

Less than a century after the founding of Los Angeles, Chinatown was a thriving community adjacent to the downtown railroad depot. Thousands of Chinese moved to northern California in the 1850s, initially to join the Gold Rush and then to accept construction jobs with the railroads. They began moving south as the transcontinental railroad linked Los Angeles with the rest of the nation.

In 1871, eleven years before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a violent anti-Chinese demonstration swept through Los Angeles' Chinatown, killing Chinese residents and plundering their dry goods stores, laundries and restaurants.

The labor vacuum created by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was filled by Japanese workers and, by 1910, the settlement now known as "Little Tokyo" had risen next to Chinatown. By the eve of World War I, many Japanese farm laborers had saved sufficient funds to purchase or lease vegetable and fruit farming lands in such outlying areas as Gardena, Beverly Hills and San Gabriel.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government authorized the evacuation and incarceration in concentration camps of all Japanese people living in California, irrespective of citizenship. The Japanese in Southern California were to report to temporary barracks located at the Santa Anita race track in Arcadia, just east of Pasadena. Nearly 20,000 of the state's 93,000 Japanese Americans were confined in these quarters before being taken farther inland to the internment camps.

Asian-Americans are now the third largest racial-ethnic group in Los Angeles, with Latinos and non-Latino whites being first and second, respectively.

Today, the ethnic makeup of the city and the politically progressive views of surrounding West Hollywood and Hollywood have made Los Angeles a strong union town. Still, many garment workers in central LA, most of whom are Mexican immigrants, work in sweat shop conditions.

As of the 2000 US Census, the racial distribution in Los Angeles was 46.9% White American, 11.2% African American, 10.5% Asian American, 0.8% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 25.7% from other races, and 5.2% from two or more races. 46.5% of the population was Hispanic or Latino (of any race). Since the mid-1980s, Los Angeles has been a minority-majority city.

Los Angeles is one of the most cultural and ethnically diverse communities in the world.

It is the largest city in the US west and second largest in the country.

It has a population of 3.8 million people and covers almost 500 square miles.

The Greater L.A. area has almost 13 million people speaking 224 languages.

Gangs in Los Angeles

Los Angeles had a reputation as one of the toughest towns in the West. "A murder a day" only slightly exaggerated the town's crime problems, and suspected criminals were often hanged by vigilante groups. Lawlessness reached a peak in 1871 when, after a Chinese immigrant accidentally killed a white man, an angry mob stormed into the Chinatown district, murdering 16 people. After that, civic leaders and concerned citizens began a successful campaign to bring law and order to the city.

Although crime has significantly declined since the mid-1990s, Los Angeles still remains home to 152,000 gang members organized into 1,350 gangs. This has led to the city being referred to as the "Gang Capital of America.

Water Supply in L.A.

To accommodate its growing population, the County instituted a number of large engineering projects, including the construction of the Hoover Dam, which channeled water to the County from the Colorado River and provided electricity from hydroelectric power.

The Los Angeles River

A history of the last two century's transformation of the Los Angeles Valley from a land of plenty to overgrown parking lots can be found in Blake Gumprecht's excellent monograph, The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth.

In 1768, when Gaspar de Portolá led the first Spanish land expedition into Southern California, there were 26 Gabrielino Indian villages within a few miles of the river, all able to survive without cultivating crops thanks to the bounty of a river that "meandered this way and that through a dense forest of willow and sycamore, elderberry and wild grape," overflowing at times "into vast marshlands that were home to myriad waterfowl and small animals. Steelhead trout spawned in the river, and grizzly bears roamed its shores in search of food." The vegetation covering much of Los Angeles was not the desert scrub and chaparral that today appears within weeks on lawns left untended, but "a sometimes impenetrable jungle of marshes, thickets and dense woods." Much of Beverly Hills, it should come as no surprise, was a fetid swamp.

The first Spanish settlers enjoyed a "full-flowing, wide river" in a "very lush and pleasing spot, in every respect," ideal for a settlement. But by the 1850s "the once tree-covered plain was now barren and desolate." The forests had been felled, the wetlands dried and the river diverted into a series of irrigation ditches, often spilling over with "garbage and foul matter." Though it once flowed plentifully near downtown all year long, by the end of the century it had become a dry wash for most of the year and "the once-ample stream had become a local joke" that's gotten no funnier in the intervening years. By the time the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had lined the river's banks with cement, they were, Gumprecht writes, "closing the coffin on a river that was by and large already dead." Today it is a river in name only: "Nearly all of the water that now flows in the river is treated sewage, authorized industrial discharges, and street runoff." The Los Angeles River has become the world's most grandly named sewage slough.

[ history pics:

The "Old Plaza Church" facing the Plaza, 1869. The brick reservoir in the middle of the Plaza was the original terminus of the Zanja Madre.

An 1887 aerial photo of Los Angeles, taken from a balloon.

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