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Before L.A.

Before L.A.: Race, Space, and Municipal Power in Los Angeles, 1781-1894

David Samuel Torres-Rouff
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Before L.A.
    Book Description:

    David Torres-Rouff significantly expands borderlands history by examining the past and original urban infrastructure of one of America's most prominent cities; its social, spatial, and racial divides and boundaries; and how it came to be the Los Angeles we know today. It is a fascinating study of how an innovative intercultural community developed along racial lines, and how immigrants from the United States engineered a profound shift in civic ideals and the physical environment, creating a social and spatial rupture that endures to this day.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15662-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. INTRODUCTION. Finding the Past
    (pp. 1-22)

    Six divisions of insurrectionists mustered at the intersection of Hill and Ninth Streets at 11:30 a.m. in Los Angeles on April 10, 1894. Many of them were armed and in full military dress. At City Hall, only a few blocks away, Mayor Thomas Rowan called to order an emergency session of the Common Council. Almost immediately, a detachment of rowdy citizens stormed the council chamber. They forced the mayor’s abdication, deposed the council, and marched Mayor Rowan to Sixth Street Park, where an assembly more than ten thousand strong cheered the coup. The rebel leaders, calling themselves the Angels, crowned...

  5. CHAPTER 1 A Pueblo by the Porciuncula, 1781–1840
    (pp. 23-54)

    During the winter of 1780–81, eleven families recruited from Sonora and Sinaloa set out with their military escort and a phalanx of livestock for Alta California. Along the way they divided into two parties. One proceeded up the coast, crossed the Gulf of California by boat, and then traveled over land through Baja California; another took the livestock along Juan Bautista de Anza’s trail through the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts. The twelve men, eleven women, and twenty-one children converged at Mission San Gabriel over the course of July and August. During August and September 1781, they completed their long...

  6. CHAPTER 2 “Members of the Same Family with Ourselves”: Intercultural Civic Ideals, Identities, and Spaces, 1840–1855
    (pp. 55-93)

    In September 1841 a wagon train arrived in Los Angeles, completing a long and dusty journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Following a route then becoming quite popular for U.S., European, and New Mexican traders, this particular caravan brought immigrants as well as products. Twenty-three heads of families, some born in New Mexico and the rest born in the United States, along with nearly eighty family members, Indians, and others, had come to make Los Angeles their home. John Rowland and William Workman, who would become prominent landowners and merchants in the city, led the party. Another member, Tennessee-born Benjamin...

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Impossible to Ascertain with Any Degree of Certainty”: Choosing Between Cooperation and Confrontation, 1855–1856
    (pp. 94-132)

    Two men, Felipe Alvitre and Dave Brown, met their deaths at the ends of ropes in Los Angeles, California, on January 12, 1855. Sheriff Barton executed Alvitre, a Mexican Californian, in the jail yard as scheduled. Brown, an immigrant from the eastern United States regarded as a notorious criminal, fell victim to a lynch mob that included a broad cross-section of Angelenos: Yankees and Native Californians, city leaders and working people. Despite the differing circumstances of their deaths, both men awoke that morning in the city jail and both had been tried and convicted of murder in the county court....

  8. CHAPTER 4 “Upon This Thread Hangs the Welfare of Our City”: Society, Space, and Public Policy, 1857–1861
    (pp. 133-168)

    Cannon fire reverberated through the streets, shattering the silence of a rosy Saturday dawn. The opening salvo in a carefully orchestrated Independence Day celebration, the shots called to arms participants in the festivities. By ten o’clock pedestrians and riders filled the streets leading to the Plaza. Members of the Southern Rifles, a local militia group, led the half-mile-long procession away from the Plaza, followed by the Band of the First Dragoons, U.S.A., from Fort Tejon. Falling in behind, carriages carried the mayor, common council, and the day’s appointed speakers. The members of the Masonic order (in full regalia), the Odd...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Judging “an ‘Ethiopian by His Skin’”: Politics, Violence, and the Power of Racialized Place, 1862–1872
    (pp. 169-203)

    On Christmas Eve 1861 rain began to fall over Los Angeles. The late December storm was hardly uncommon, but the rain “continued, until the morning of the 23 of January with but two slight interruptions.”¹ Probably connected to a potent El Niño event creating a substantive warming of the waters off the coast of California, a series of “pineapple express” storms trained tropical moisture northwesterly across the Pacific and deposited it on Los Angeles.² On Saturday, January 18, the storm reached peak intensity, sending down such “torrents of water” that “it seemed as if the clouds had been broken through...

  10. CHAPTER 6 “Looking Across the Gulf of Immeasurable Distance”: The Divergent Paths of Los Angeles’s Places and Peoples, 1870–1894
    (pp. 204-253)

    As the rising sun banished night’s darkness, ringing church bells shattered a quiet dawn. The tolls emanated from Los Angeles’s old Catholic church, La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles, and they reverberated across the Plaza’s dusty, horse-beaten, treeless square. The church sat on the Plaza’s west side, dominating the scene. Its six o’clock chimes joined with the roosters to wake the sleeping town. On June 19, 1870, like every other day, the bells summoned the devout to Mass, laborers to work, and proprietors to their shops. As the sun rose in the morning sky, pedestrians, horses,...

  11. CONCLUSION. “A Story Hidden Behind Every Crumbling Wall”: History and Memory in Los Angeles
    (pp. 254-268)

    By 1894, race, space, and municipal power had configured Los Angeles through three distinct periods. Of course, their interrelationship did not end where this book does. Despite Los Angeles’s staggering growth from 5,000 to 50,000 residents between 1870 and 1890, its population continued to expand rapidly during the four following decades, doubling to 100,000 at the turn of the century, then quintupling to 500,000 by 1920, and passing 1.2 million in 1930. In addition to the ceaseless tide of newcomers arriving from points east, including a growing contingent of black Americans, many new immigrants arrived from Asia. Still more—100,000...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 269-338)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 339-361)