Jews in 1850 Los Angeles

In 1848, nothern Mexico ceded California to the US, and gold was discovered.  Suddenly the town of Los Angeles, located among rancheros, became a stop for gold prospectors heading north from their homes in Mexico, Central and South America.  Hearing of the exorbitant prices near the gold fields, some of these men bought their mining supplies and clothing as they passed through Los Angeles.  This was an opportunity for merchants, and competition was fiercer in San Francisco, the gateway to the gold country, than in relatively sleepy Los Angeles.

The Jews listed in Los Angeles’ first US Census outfitted these gold-seekers and the increasing number of Angelenos.  The 1850 census document, donated to a museum by Cecil B. De Mille, records 3,530 people in all of Los Angeles County, only eight of whom were Jewish.

A microcosm reflecting the settling of the American frontier, all of the Jewish residents were single men, and almost all were young.  There was a forty-year-old tailor, but all the others were merchants ranging in age from 19 to 28. These gentlemen lived behind their storefronts in the Bell’s Row block of Los Angeles.

They were born in Germany and Poland, and all had lived elsewhere in the United States, so they spoke their native languages and possibly other European languages, had learned English, and picked up Spanish in their stores, doing business with Spanish-speaking locals and gold seekers. Multi-lingualism was a key to success in early Los Angeles.

 

The two census pages listing these men were a small part of a wide-ranging exhibit, Jews in the Los Angeles Mosaic, at the Autry National Center.  I was fortunate to have a tour with a docent offering more information than was on display — guided tours are a great way to see a museum exhibit. This exhibit has a companion book of the same title, published by the University of California Press.

Fashion Plates are Pages!

Scarlett O’Hara scandalized polite society a few times in Gone With The Wind.  She opened her own lumber mill and later staffed it with convicts from a local prison.   Money was scarce in war-torn Atlanta, but proper ladies had proper jobs, like painting china at home and selling it.  Scarlett pooh-poohed that.

Magazines were very popular entertainment in the days before television.  Illustrations in were often printed on smooth, heavy paper, called plates.  (Does anyone remember books with Plate 1 and Plate 2, instead of Fig. 1 and Fig. 2?)

Fashion plates were illustrations showing the latest styles, and often showed well-dressed women in (ladylike) action.

This hand-tinted fashion plate from "Les Modes Parisiennes:  Peterson's Magazine," includes a bride. 1866.
This hand-tinted fashion plate from “Les Modes Parisiennes: Peterson’s Magazine,” includes a bride. 1866.

This was printed as a black outline and dropped off at a woman’s house, and she added the color with paintbrushes.  This was a way women could work at home, because it was not considered acceptable for a woman to work in an office with men.

Later, the term “fashion plate” came to mean a woman who wore stylish clothes.

A Lavish Golden Anniversary Party

In 1861, Mr. Busch married Miss Anheuser, and the rest is history.  Budweiser became the best-selling beer in the world.

By 1905, Lilly and Adolphus Busch had a home on Pasadena’s Orange Grove Avenue,  the street that was known as Millionaire’s Row. In 1911, the social event of the season was the Busch’s golden anniversary party.

Vintage postcard of the Busch's Pasadena home, called "Ivy Wall."  The grounds, the original Busch Gardens, were open to the public.
Vintage postcard of the Busch’s Pasadena home, called “Ivy Wall.” The grounds, the original Busch Gardens, were open to the public.

At the party celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, Adolphus Busch presented his wife with a crown and placed it on her head.  The newspapers reported the crown cost $200,000.

They gave elegant party favors.

Each guest received a set of ten wine glasses to take home.
Each guest received a set of ten wine glasses to take home.

Bob Hope Airport under Camouflage

Many visitors to Burbank Airport rush past the display cases with photos and artifacts from the airport’s past, heading toward Southwest Airlines’ security line.  Here are two photos from the case.

Just before World War II, Lockheed Aircraft Company purchased the airport next door to its manufacturing facilities.  The major airlines flew out of this airport, rather than Los Angeles.   Lockheed kept this open as a commercial airport and renamed it Lockheed Air Terminal.

During World War II, Lockheed Aircraft Company and Airport were covered by camouflage, and any enemy aircraft would see the scene below.  The second photo was snapped under the camouflage.

Burbank Airport camouflaged in WWII 004 (1024x768)

 1943
Under the Camouflage in 1943

Glamor and the Great Depression: Wedding Dresses of the 1930s

Evelyn Peters Kyle later wrote a history of early Pasadena.
Evelyn Peters Kyle later wrote a history of early Pasadena.

Evelyn Peters achieved this dreamy look with lots of affordable netting, in both the veil and dress.  Other brides wore the wedding dress their mother, grandmother or other relative had worn.  Such a dress had great sentimental value, and the price was right.

Julia Hills Whitney, 1991 and Jean Eastwood Collins, 1939.
Julia Hills Whitney, 1991 and Jean Eastwood Collins, 1939.

This classic 1890s dress has leg-of-mutton sleeves.  It was worn again in 1939. Around 1930, designers began to cut silk on the bias (on the diagonal, rather than along the horizontal and vertical threads in the woven cloth).  The bias cut gave a little stretch  and a beautiful drape, so dresses became slinky and hugged a woman’s curves.

Streamlined, architectural gowns

Women were interested in what celebrities were wearing.   Actress Jean Harlow is still famous for her dress in “Dinner at Eight.”  Wallis Simpson married the former king of Great Britain in a bias-cut gown of blue silk.

 Wilma Maguire married in a reproduction of a royal bride’s gown, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, who married Prince George, Duke of Kent, in 1934.
Wilma Maguire's train attaches at shoulders and ends with a fishtail hem.
Wilma Maguire’s train attaches at the shoulders and ends with a fishtail hem.

Barbara Cheesewright, the daughter of a well-known interior designer, apparently loved color.  Her wedding gown is aqua in natural light (but mint green in the exhibit gallery, which has colored walls).  She chose the same color for her veil and headpiece, at left above.  Under the brim of  the headpiece, she placed delphiniums, which are often blue.  I am not sure they were blue flowers, but I like to picture them that way, complementing  her aqua dress. Barbara Cheesewright's wedding gown 004 (600x800)

Barbara Cheesewright's 1936 wedding gown
Barbara’s 1936 gown has a six-foot train.

There are three seams below the neck and three at the side, where there is usually a utilitarian dart. The three seams extend under the arm to the back. These dresses are on display at the Pasadena Museum of History until July 14.  To see more online, see the Women Writing the West blog:   http://www.womenwritingthewest.blogspot.com/2013/05/four-brides-and-their-dresses.html Barbara Cheesewright's wedding gown 001 (600x800)

Barbara Cheesewright's wedding gown 002 (600x800)

Bridal Gowns of the Early 1900s

1906-09 wedding dress “Complex works of art,” curator Sheryl Peters said of wedding gowns dating from about 1906 to 1915.

In this, our first dress, the lace around this collar is the most delicate I have ever seen.  It looks as if it would dissolve if I breathe on it.

Silk cord runs just above it, at the top of the collar, and also below the lace.  It is looped.

That same silk cord is pulled through net elsewhere on this dress to make elaborate designs on the bodice, cuffs and the belt.

And around the hem.

Long gloves would have been worn with all of these dresses, extending under the sleeve.

Wedding dress and jacket (800x600)

This bridal gown was worn in 1910, with the jacket over it.

PMH wedding dresses 006 (600x800)

This silk gown was worn by bride Louvena Grace Dolson in 1911.  The long, narrow pleated portions, like the one running down the center of this dress, were made on a separate piece of silk.  That piece of silk was pleated and stitched, then cut into strips.  The seamstress then sewed lace trim all around each strip of pleated silk before she inserted them into this opulent creation.

PMH wedding dresses 008 (800x800)

This 1914 gown has faux orange blossoms.  Orange trees bear fruit and bloom at the same time, and so are a symbol of fertility.  This gown has a beautiful train that is pleated when viewed from the side.

PMH wedding dresses 018 (800x600)

When I give tours of  “I Do, I Do, Pasadena Ties the Knot, 1850-1950,” patrons ask which of the forty-two dresses is my favorite.  My favorite, pictured below, was worn in 1915 by Margaret Whitney Collins and almost fifty years later by Julia Collins Haselton.  I would have worn this dress if I’d had the chance.

Worn 1915 and 1964 (600x800)

Swags and big tassels of faux pearls.

Handle on train (800x600)

The train has a handle on it — you can see it at the top of this photo — so the bride could hold up the train at the reception while she walked.  And danced with her groom.

These and many other beautiful dresses are on display at the Pasadena Museum of History, only until July 14.  My next post will feature beaded wedding gowns from the 1920s, and the following post will highlight dresses from the 1930s in historical context.

Here’s information on seeing this exhibit in person:

http://pasadenahistory.org/thingstosee/IDoPartI.html

Springtime in a California Paradise

Poppies and Lupines by Frank Moore (1877-1967), The Irvine Museum
Poppies and Lupines by Frank Moore (1877-1967),
The Irvine Museum

The paintings in Paradise Found:  Summer in California, evoke a sunny natural landscape —  the sparsely populated Southern California of the past.  Spring brought fresh, green grass, orange poppies and purple lupines, shown above.   Even now, the hills and mountains turn green this time of year.

Beverly Hills by Paul Grimm (1891-1974), Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum
Beverly Hills by Paul Grimm (1891-1974), Private Collection, Courtesy of The Irvine Museum

Beverly Hills is no longer known for its natural landscapes.

Around 1900, people stepping off ships near Los Angeles were in luck if they arrived in springtime.  They could see, forty miles north, fields of California poppies shimmering orange in the sunshine, on a gentle slope rising above Pasadena and just below mountains.

Poppies Near Pasadena by Benjamin Brown (1865-1942). Private Collection, Courtesy The Irvine Museum
Poppies Near Pasadena by Benjamin Brown (1865-1942). Private Collection, Courtesy The Irvine Museum