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Annual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and of the Pioneers of Los Angeles County (Volume yr.1902-1904) online

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them. However, we may view the matter it is certain that Los
Angeles took a number of steps forward that she has never
lost. There have been lulls and lessons of caution learned, but
this sunny land has never made any back-steps that it has not
quickly regained.

The new Los Angeles is one of the most unique cities of
modern times. The mental vision of all civilized peoples is
more or less focused on this semi-tropic capital. It is embraced
in the itinerary of all globe-trotters. It is a Mecca for all tramps
— some of whom come in palace cars, some ride break-beams,
and others walk. The circus, the theater and the hurdy-gurdy
find it a rich harvest field. The famous eastern preacher, whose



146 PIONEERS OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY.

voice has succumbed to the rigors of a bad cHmate and over-
work considers it a God-send to spend his vacation here. And
those who have been ushered by Horace Greeley's advice con-
sider this as far west as they want to go.

We have not traveled as far heavenward by the elevator
route, as New York, but we can give that rushing city pointers
in selHng real estate. We sell the climate and offer the land as
premium, and raise flowers enough to throw bouquets at any
old thing that comes along. In fact, our climate is the magnet
that draws, where everything else fails. There are only a few
hundred square miles of it and there is no more like it. Hence
we draw all kinds of people, and our social and business char-
acteristics are as farreaching as human taste and needs can make
them. In a word the Angel City is cosmopolitan.

In manufactures and trade, in mechanic and fine arts, in
science and literature, in journalism, in home-making, in fun
and folly, we are on the crest of a high-rolling wave, and the
breaking point is not yet in sight.

Notwithstanding this city is on the outer rim of the "wild
woolly west," it is a thought center. There is some sort of or-
ganized recognition of every vagary that agitates the human
mind — we have people here who believe everything, and some
who believe nothing, and every shade of thinker between these
extremes. There are churches and churches, societies and so-
cieties, clubs and clubs, and one who cannot find something to
suit him must be hard to please, indeed.

The city is making a wonderful growth, but there is method
in all this push. The former boom was a little "wild," in the
present there is a careful counting of the cost at each advance.

The Angeleno, who is thoroughly "acclimated," is not gov-
erned by the notions of slower communities. We have built a
railroad to the top of the nearby mountains; and from these
heights we amuse ourselves at night by illuminating the mil-
lionaire palaces of Pasadena with a powerful search-light. We
have also built an observatory on the same elevation and em-
ployed an expert to keep watch on the fellows on other planets,
who might possibly open up some scheme that would interfere
with our future plans.

They are also engineering some unique movements at the
seaside. There is now a stretch of resorts from Santa Monica
to Newport — a distance of some fifty miles. There wharves,
bath houses, pavihons and cottages by the thousand — and a
miniature Venice is in progress at one of the points. All of



LOS ANGELES — THE OLD AND THE NEW. 147

these seaside resorts and other places over this great valley are
reached by an electric system of railways, that spread out from
the city like the spokes of a wheel, and the accommodation is
not surpassed anywhere in the world.

************

While Los Angeles is performing some marvelous "tricks"
she is going to take herself seriously. This city is in line with
the great world movement, and there is no way to shut her out.

In a few years the "City of the Angels" will be ready for
the big ships from over the sea. The Panama canal is among
the certainties, great railway improvements are already com-
pleted, and still greater projects are in embryo. Railroad enter-
prise is planning to traverse the full length of South America.
The Central American states will continue the line to Mexico;
from which point continuous rail connection extends to Port-
land, Oregon. A preliminary movement is already on foot for
a grand rail extension up through Alaska, and we are promised
a great float (as at Port Costa) to carry trains across Behring's
strait. Russia has built a trunk line southward, and China is
getting ready to throw open her vast possessions to railway en-
terprise and trade. Powerful syndicates — starting from Cape
Colony and the Mediterranean — will meet somewhere in the
heart of the dark continent. These great trunk enterprises once
completed, tributary movements will quickly start up and the
whole world will be "gridironed" with the bands of commerce
and travel.

In the meantime, Edison, Tesler, Marconi, Dumont, and
others will go on performing "miracles," widening the road
that leads to permanent independence and comfort. All na-
tions will soon be in close touch, and the race will become more
and more homogenous, with its united interests and perhaps a
common language. The New West will send back to the Old
East not only the principal, but compound interest for past
favors.

This oneness will engender finer and more tender senti-
ments of brotherhood. Modern methods will be so complete
the machine will be the only slave, and do such faithful service
that there will be an abundance for all, and greed will retire,
shame-faced, forever from human sight. There are great things
in sight for the human family, and before the first quarter of the
20th century shall have passed, we will all have learned that the
grandest, profoundest of all lessons, — the fruitage of the long
past, is this: Man was not made to mourn; happiness is the
true eoal of human existence!



SOME HISTORIC FADS AND FAKES.
By J. M. Guinn.

The title of my subject — "Fads and Fakes" — is not classi-
cal English. It is not dictionary English. Dr. Johnson, the
great lexicographer of England, was dead a century or more
before the words were coined, and Noah Webster never heard
of a fad or a fake — so he did not get them into his Unabridged.

As to the philological genealogy of "fad" I confess my
ignorance. It may be derived from some Latin or Greek word,
or it may be Chinese or Choctow — more than likely it has no
paternity, but like Topsy "just growed." It is simply United
States slang made for an emergency — fitted to the circumstance
that called it into existence; and it stuck because it struck that
popular fancy that likes to take short cuts in its vocabulary —
a fad is a new idea — fashion, trick, notion or get-rich-quick
scheme that suddenly becomes popular, has its run wanes, dies
and is forgotten.

A fake is a near relative to a fakir. The fakirs, you know,
are a guild of oriental monks or priests who eke out an exist-
ence by begging, by tricks of legerdemain and other dubious
methods. Consequently a fake is closely allied to fraud. Fads
and fakes often hunt in couples and when a fad begins to degen-
erate into a fake it has lost all claim to respectabihty. To write
the history of all the fads that have had their day since the tulip
fad of Holland two or three centuries ago, when a rare tulip
bulb sold for $30,000 and stolid Dutch merchants traded ships
and their cargoes for choice collections of tuHp tubers that
were of no utility and scant beauty, down to the Belgian hare
craze of two or three years ago in California, when a buck hare
whose commercial value was 25 cents sold for a thousand dol-
lars — to write the history of all these would fill volumes. The



SOME HISTORIC FADS AND FAKES. 149

Story of by-gone fads and fakes, if well written would amuse
and possibly instruct — that is if credulous humanity ever profits
from the experiences of its forbears.

In my brief story I shall confine myself to fads and fakes
of California origin, and of recent date.

The famine years of 1863 and 1864 put an end to cattle
raising as the distinctive industry of Southern California and
compelled the agriculturists of the south to cast about for
some other use to which their lands could be turned. The later
60s and the early 70s might be called the era of agricultural ex-
periments. Some of these experiments took on the nature of
fads and were failures, others were moderately successful.
Olden time tillers of the soil will recall perhaps with a sigh the
silk culture craze, the Ramie plant fad, the castor bean experi-
ment, and other experience with tree and plant and vine that
were to make the honest farmer happy and prosperous, but
which ended in dreary failure and some times in great pecuniary
loss.

One of these fads — the silk culture craze — deserves more
than a passing notice.

A series of letters written by a French savant proved be-
yond controdiction that California was the natural home of the
silk worm and that if Californians would turn their attention to
seri-culture, the Golden State would outrival France in silk
production and put China out of the business. These letters
were extensively copied by the press of the state and the fad
was started.

To encourage silk culture in California, the Legislature of
1866-7 passed ^^ ^^^ giving a bounty of $250 for every planta-
tion of 5,000 mulberry trees two years old, and one of $300 for
every 100,000 merchantable cocoons. This greatly encouraged
the planting of trees and the production of cocoons if it did add
to the number of yards of silk in California.

In 1869, it was estimated that in the central and southern
portions of the state there were ten millions of mulberry trees
in various stages of growth. One nursery in San Gabriel — the
Home of the Silk Worm, as its proprietor called it' — advertised
700,000 trees and cuttings for sale, while the nurseries in and
around Los Angeles added a million more of morus multicaulis,
morus alba and morus moreti mulberry trees to feed the silk
worms.



150 PIONEERS OE I.OS ANGELES COUNTY.

At the head of the silk industry in the state was Louis
Prevost, an educated French gentleman, who was thoroughly
conversant with the business in all its details. He had estab-
lished at Los Angeles an extensive nursery of mulberry trees
and a large cocoonery for the rearing of silk worms. His en-
thusiasm induced a number of the leading men of the south to
enter into an association for the purpose of planting entensive
forests of mulberry trees and for the establishment of a colony
of silk weavers. The directors of the association cast about for
a suitable location to plant a colony. I find this item in the Los
Angeles Star of June 15, 1869, from its correspondent in San
Bernardino : "Messrs. Prevost and Garey have been here look-
ing out for land with a view to establish a colony for the cul-
ture and manufacture of silk. The colony is to consist of one
hundred families, sixty of whom are ready to settle as soon as
the location is decided upon. Both of these gentlemen are
highly pleased with our soil and climate and consider our county
far better adapted to the culture of the mulberry than any other
of the southern counties."

The directors of the California Silk Center Association of
Los Angeles, through its superintendent, Prevost, purchased
4,000 acres of the Rubidoux Rancho, where the city of River-
side now stands, and arranged for the purchase of about 4,000
acres more of the Jurupa Rancho adjoining. Here was to be
the great silk center of seri-culture in CaHfornia. The fad was
maturing into a great enterprise. Then reverses came, unmer-
ciful disacter followed it fast and followed it faster. Prevost,
the brains and the motive power of the enterprise, died; the dry
year of 1869-70 prevented the planting of mulberry planta
tions, and the Silk Center Association found itself in hard lines.
It sold its land holding to Judge North's Riverside Colony, and
now where Prevost once hoped to found a colony that would
supply the world's markets with the finest silks stand the orange
groves of Riverside.

As the millions of mulberry trees throughout the state came
of age the demands for the bounty poured in on the commis-
sioners in such a volume that the state treasury was threatened
with bankruptcy and the Legislature in alarm repealed the act
granting bounties. The immense profits that had been made in
the beginning, by selling silk worm eggs to those who had been
seized by the craze later, fell ofiF from over production. The re-
peal of the bounty put a stop to tree planting. The care ana
cost of looking after the silk worms exceeded the profits. The



SOME HISTORIC FADS AND FAKES. 151

trees died from neglect and the silk worms starved to death
The seri-culture mania quickly subsided. Of the millions of
mulberry trees that once fluttered their leaves in the breeze
scarce one is alive today.

The next agricultural fad that attracted the tillers of the
South was the ramie plant experiment. Somebody discovered,
or thought he had, that the ramie plant, a near relative of the
nettle, was an excellent substitute for hemp, if, indeed, it was
not superior to it. There had been recently quite a demand for
hemp by the numerous vigilance committees throughout the
state and it was deemed a good stroke of poHtical economy for
California to grow her own hemp or a substitute for it. The
prevalence of hemp might be a warning to evil-doers or a sug-
gestion to them to reform or move on, or it might act as a
sort of suggestive therapeutics for the cure of crime.

The fad never reached the mania-stage. If ever there was a
strand of rope, or a gunny bag or a grain sack made from
the fields of ramie, I never heard of them.

Passing rapidly down the corridors of time we come to the
Belgian hare fad. I need not describe to you a Belgian hare.
You have all seen the animal. I need not describe to you the
rabbitries in the back yards built with so much care after approved
models. Some of you have built them. And the kings and lords
and dukes and queens and princesses and their progenies that
dwelt in royal state in those same rabbitries, you have minis-
tered to them, admired them, counted the profits in them, and
suffered the losses, too. Then there were those wondrful pedi-
grees that traced the ancestry of Lord Brittons and King Fash-
odas back to the pair that Adam built a rabbitry for in the Gar-
den of Eden. There, too, were the fine points in the make up of
a thoroughbred that only an expert in hare heraldry could find —
the peculiar markings on the back, the particular shade of red
on the feet, the wink of his eye, the flap of his ears. From all
these signs the expert could read his lordships title clear to a
noble ancestry.

Exactly what the hares were good for except to sell to some
one who had an attack of the craze, no one seemed able to find
out. When the supply exceeded the demand, what then? Oh,
that never could be — all the world wanted hares. Southern
California was the only place where they could be grown to per-
fection and the craze increased — but there came a time when it
was all supply and no demand. As an article of food the most
aristocratic of the red-footed gentry was not up to the standard



152 PIONEERS OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY.

of a California jack rabbit. There was a scramble to get out
of the business, but nearly everybody got left. The lords, the
dukes and the duchesses died, but none of them of old age, and
the tenantless rabbitries were converted into kindling wood or
chicken coops. The fad at first was conducted on legitimate
business principles, but as it progressed it degenerated into fakes
that were simply frauds.

Take this as an illustration: A friend of mine was seized
with a desire to engage in the industry. She eagerly scanned
the ten or twelve columns of Belgian hare liners in the Sunday
Times until she found what appeared to be just what she wanted.
She visited a rabbitry and invested her wealth in a royal dame
with a family of eight young royalists.

The pedigree of those hares was a work of art- — the art of
lying. It ran back through long lines of royal sires and dams
to the pair that Noah took into the Ark with him, and that
Shem, Ham or Japthet (the pedigree sharp was a little uncertain
as to which) turned loose on the foothills of Ararat. Those
hares had all the marks of a noble descent, the red feet, the pe-
culiar lines on the back, the reddish tinge of the fur and all that.
Time passed as it always does and those hares shed their wmter
coats and put on their summer suits. Then a change came over
them. The reddish tinge of the fur faded into a dull gray. The
white foot — bar sinister — indicative of an ignoble birth ap-
peared. Every one of that plebian brood had been veneered
into into an aristocrat by a coat of paint or dye. Then a small
French Revolution struck those princesses, lords and dukes.
That royal family passed under the ax, were guillotined, and
there were apartments to let in a rabbitry.

When the Belgian hare fad died, like the Httle dog Rover,
"It died all over," and for the vastness of it, it demised quickly
and quietly.

Scarcely was the Belgian hare fad dead before the oil mania
began. The existence of petroleum in Southern California had
been known for fifty years. Oil wells had been sunk and an
oil industry developed witout creating a boom. The discovery
of new oil territory and the high price of oil in the fall of '99 and
the spring of two ciphers started an oil stock fad. It was a cold
day when there was not at least half a dozen oil companies in-
corporated with capitals up into the millions. Sometimes the
amount paid in by the incorporators reached as high as ten
dollars. The man on the outside was the fellow who put up
the money to get inside. It was not necessary to own oil lands



SOME HISTORIC FADS AND FAKES. 153

to incorporate a company. The profits came from selling- stocks,
not oil. I am speaking now of the fakes that followed the fad.
There were many legitimate oil companies that were unfortu-
nate in their efforts to develop new territory and money was
lost to stockholders, but the business in these was conducted
honestly. During the prevalence of the fad you could buy
stocks at all prices from a cent a share up. Stocks in a new
company would be advertised at 5 cents a share, in a short time
advanced to 10 cents, then raised to 15c, and when buyers began
♦■o lag the last call was sounded. At the last stroke of the
clock at midnight next Saturday the stock of the Grizzly Bear
Oil Development Company will be advanced to 25 cents.
Oil sand has been struck in the company's wells and all unsold
stock will be withdrawn from the market in a few days. The
amount of oil sand struck by the fake companies would have
made a Sahara desert of Southern California if it could have
been brought to the surface.

One company of enterprising promoters, to satisfy a crying
need of the times, .cheap stock — organized a company with a
capital of $5,000,000, and placed its stock at a cent a share. The
stock advanced to 2 cents a share on the report that the com-
pany had secured a derrick. It might even have gone half a
cent higher had not the boom burst and the company been
forced into insolvency. After it went out of business the only
assets of the company were found to be a second-hand derrick
on another company's land.

During the oil mania there were certain fakirs who claimed
to be gifted with occult powers that enabled them to discover
the presence of oil far down in the bowels of the earth. For a
liberal consideration in coin they would indicate the point at
which to bore a well and tell its producing capacity. It re-
quired a considerable stretch of credulity to believe in their
powers, yet there were plenty equal to the requirement. These
fakirs did not seek oil veins with a witch-hazel twig, as the old-
time water witches used to do when seeking water wells and
springs. They claimed to possess contrivances curiously con-
structed of certain sensitive substances so delicate that the efflu-
via of oil coming up through thousands of feet of rock and
earth would set their machinery in motion and they would reel
off the number of barrels a day that wells bored where the con
trivances indicated would produce. Some friends of mine, di-
rectors of an oil company, were firm believers in the mysterious
powers of a certain professor of the occult to find oil. At con-



154 PIONEERS OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY.

siderable expense the professor and his machine were trans-
ported to Ventura county, where their claim was located. After
tramping over the hills they finally came to where they thought
their claim was situated. The professor sat down with his ma-
chine under a Hve-oak tree. It had scarcely touched the ground
before it began to reel off oil wells of a thousand-barrel-a-day
capacity and as it got warmed up to the job it spun off 40,000
and 50,000-barrel wells. Had they kept it going for a week it
would have supplied the world with oil and put the Standard
Oil Company out of business. The most singular thing about
that machine was its intelligence. It was only when the pro-
fessor's palms were crossed with coin that it would exert its
powers. The directors returned greatly elated. A few weeks
later they took up a surveyor to locate their claim. To their
dismay they found that the like oak was a quarter of a mile
beyond their holdings and the clinal, or anti-clinal lines, or
whatever those subterraneous race courses are called along
which oil flows, did not run in the direction of their claim.

The oil-stock craze subsided. Beautifully lithographed cer-
tificates of stock are the only relics left to many of us for the
cash invested. They are not done in oil, if we were. Yet some
of these cost us more than paintings by the old masters would
have done.

A historical fake once conjured up like the ghost of Banquo
will not down at your bidding. Take for illustration the fake
of Fremont's alleged headquarters. It is well-known to every
one acquainted with our local history that Colonel Fremont's
official residence in Los Angeles while, for the few months in
1847, that he was military governor of California, was the upper
floor of the Bell Block, which stood on the southeast corner
of Los Angeles and Aliso streets.

Some eighteen or twenty years ago a newspaper writer made
an important discovery, namely, that an old adobe house on
South Main street, near Fourteenth, was Fremont's headquar-
ters while he was mihtary governor of California, and conse
quently one of the numerous capitols of the state. He exploited
his discovery through a column or two of his newspaper. With
that inherent capacity for believing whatever appears in print
which the average citizen possesses, there was rejoicing that
Fremont's headquarters had been discovered and that Los
Angeles possssed a historic capitol The Historical Society
published a refutation of the story, but people went on believing
it all the same.



SOME HISTORIC FADS AND FAKES. 155

It was true, as shown, that Fremont had never seen the
old adobe, which was built nearly a decade after he left Los
Angeles. It was true too, that the site of the old building was
two and a half miles from the place where Fremont's troops
encamped. The stupidity of a commander pitching his head-
quarters two and a half miles away from his troops, where he
was liable to be captured by the enemy, seems not to have oc-
curred to the repeaters of the story. It was their forte to believe,
not to reason. Notwithstanding the inconsistencies shown, not-
withstanding numerous refutations written and oral, there are
people who still believe that the old adobe house, once a dwell-
ing, later a saloon, and for the past ten or twelve years a Chinese
wash house, was once the headquarters of Colonel Fremont.

Its fame and its name have been spread far and wide. Il-
lustrated journals from the Atlantic to the Pacific, have pub-
lished pictures of it. Tourists have taken snapshots at it. Cam-
era clubs have trained their instruments on it. Souvenir seekers
have invaded its precincts much to the disgust of its Mongolian
proprietor, and have carried away bits of adobe from its walls
as precious relics. Within the past six months the oldest daily
newspaper in Los Angeles printed in its illustrated annual edi-
tion a picture of this old Chinese wash house labeled "Fremont's
headquarters."

A few years since the officers of the Historical Society were
tempted by a glittering proposal. A certain prominent pro-
moter proposed to organize a joint stock company with a capi-



Online LibraryHistorical Society of Southern CaliforniaAnnual publication of the Historical Society of Southern California and of the Pioneers of Los Angeles County (Volume yr.1902-1904) → online text (page 24 of 29)