L.A. Then AND NOW
On Jan. 1, 1900, the Los Angeles Daily Times (as it was then known) printed a three-part, 80-page magazine called the “Midwinter Number.” This was Southern California boosterism at its best. In the first two pages, more than 60 “facts” about the region with the “sunniest of skies” were itemized to bolster the hopes of those living here and to lure Easterners west. Today, we dust off the report and compare two years cleaved by a century: 1899 and 1999. From agriculture to transportation, a lot has changed. But some might say the romantic notion of “this land of perfume, fruitage and perpetual summer” remains.
1899--"The section usually referred to as Southern California embraces the seven counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara.”
1999--An eighth county--Imperial County--now joins the Southern California group. It was incorporated Aug. 15, 1907.
1899--"The total area of the seven counties is 44,901 square miles, which is 29% of the area of the state.”
1999--Eight Southern California counties total 45,083.7 square miles, which is 28.4% of the area of the state.
1899--"Population of Los Angeles city in . . . 1900 (estimated): 120,000.”
1999--Population of the city of L.A.: 3,629,094; for the county, 9,377,938.
1899--"The population of Los Angeles is cosmopolitan, including people from every state in the Union and from nearly every civilized country in the world. There are published in the city newspapers in the English, French, German, Basque and Chinese languages.”
1999--Foreign-language publications based in the L.A. area include the Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese languages.
1899--"The school census taken in April last showed that there were in the city of Los Angeles 27,232 school children enrolled.”
1999--L.A. Unified School District enrollment: approximately 700,000.
1899--"The death rate of Los Angeles city for the last 10 years averages about 14 per thousand of the population. This includes a large number of more or less hopeless invalids, who come here from the East, in advanced stages of disease.”
1998--L.A. County deaths for the year: 8,966 (or about 1 per 1,000 of population).
1899--"The assessed valuation of property in Los Angeles city is $65,812,674.”
1999--Assessed property value for city of L.A. is $227.45 billion.
1899--"The city post office business for the year amounted to $226,803. In 1890, it was $100,169.”
1999--City post office business amounted to $475 million (1990: $439 million).
1899--"The building permits issued in Los Angeles were 1,705 in number, with a total valuation of $2,223,748.”
1999--The number of permits issued was 40,550, with a total valuation of $2,340,973,433.
1899--"Skilled labor is generally in fair demand in Southern California. There is a surplus of doctors, lawyers, preachers, school and music teachers and real estate agents. Also of men who are looking for work and praying that they may not find it.”
1999--As of November, 9,217,300 people were employed in Southern California. The L.A. County unemployment rate in November, according to the state, was 5.4%.
1899--"During the past year the raising of Belgian hares has become quite an important minor industry in Southern California. There are over 500 people engaged in the business in this section. . . . Many high-grade animals have been imported from the East and Europe, and some of them are valued at prices ranging from $100 to $500.”
1999--More than 2,500 emus are raised in Southern California for their meat, eggs and oil, with 35 ranchers in San Diego and Riverside counties. Originally imported from Australia, the large, flightless birds are worth between $45 and $400. In the early ‘90s, when demand was higher, one emu generally sold for $30,000 to $50,000.
1899--"In what other civilized country can you find ‘ostrich plumes plucked while you wait?’ A hundred ostriches furnish amusement and feathers to visitors at South Pasadena.”
1999--Peacocks roam the grounds of the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia. Peacock feathers cost $1 in the gift shop.
1899--"There are in Los Angeles over 200 miles of graded, graveled and paved streets. There are over 300 miles of cement and asphalt sidewalk and 160 miles of sewer.”
1999--There are 6,500 miles of mostly asphalt concrete streets, of which 580 miles are made of Portland cement concrete and 300 miles are dirt or have a thin asphalt overlay. There are 10,000 lineal miles of concrete sidewalks, averaging 5 feet wide. And there are 6,500 miles of city-maintained sewers and 11,000 miles of private sewers.
1899--"Twelve lines of railroad center in Los Angeles, and the eyes of Eastern railroad men are directed this way.”
1999--Four “heavy rail” companies converge in Los Angeles. Two freight carriers, Union Pacific and Burlington Northern and Santa Fe; and two commuter trains, Amtrak and Metrolink. The three “light rail” commuter lines include MTA’s Metro Red Line, Metro Blue Line and Metro Green Line.
1899--"The street railway system of Los Angeles is very complete, there being a total mileage of 160 miles of single track, nearly all of which is electric. Electric railway lines extend from Los Angeles to the mountains back of Pasadena on one side and to Santa Monica on the other.”
1999--MTA operates 1,800 buses a day in L.A. County, with 185 bus routes in a 1,433-square-mile area. Metro Red Line spans 11.1 miles, traveling from Union Station in downtown L.A. to Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, then north to Hollywood. Metro Blue Line stretches 22 miles, connecting downtown and Long Beach. Metro Green Line is 20 miles long, joining Norwalk and Redondo Beach. The spokes of Metrolink, operated by the Southern California Regional Rail Authority, radiate from Union Station to Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, plus the Antelope Valley and the Inland Empire.
1899--"The total deposits in the banks of Los Angeles amounted last month to $21,250,000.”
1999--As of June 30, FDIC-insured banks in L.A. County held $132,057,617,000 in deposits.
1899--"There has been an immense development of water for irrigation in wells during the past year, the amount so developed being estimated at over 50,000 miner’s inches, sufficient to irrigate 500,000 acres of land. In this way the value of such land has been increased several hundred percent.”
1994--L.A. County had 850 operating wells, providing an average of 195.6 billion gallons of water per year between 1984 and 1994.
1899--"During the winter months hundreds of farmers in Los Angeles County ship every week to market green peas, ripe tomatoes and ripe strawberries. They receive 5 to 10 cents per pound for peas, as much as $3 per box for tomatoes and 20 to 25 cents per pound for strawberries.”
1999--Los Angeles wholesale market prices: snow peas, $14 to $17 per 10-pound carton; sugar snap peas, $17 to $20 per 10-pound carton; tomatoes, $13 to $14 per two-layer flat of 40; strawberries, $28 to $30 per flat of four one-pound containers.
1899--"The chief products which will be shipped from this section to the Orient are flour, pork and canned and dried fruits.”
1999--Southern California exports avocados, citrus fruits, winter-grown vegetables (lettuce, broccoli, celery), processed meat and nursery products (ornamental, cut flowers) to Asian countries.
1899--"The leading products of Southern California are citrus fruits, dried fruits, canned fruits and vegetables, grain, beet sugar, gold and petroleum.”
1997--Leading agricultural products include cattle, alfalfa, strawberries, lemons, trees and shrubs, ornamental plants, milk, table grapes, avocados and broccoli.
1899--"The orange shipments from Southern California are estimated at 15,000 [train] carloads with a market value to the growers of about $7,500,000.”
1998--Southern California orange production is 469,777 tons, valued at $124,874,000.
1899--"The raising of winter vegetables for shipment to the East and North is an important Southern California industry. The shipments of celery alone during the past year amounted to 1,000 [train] carloads, valued at $250,000.”
1998--Southern California celery production is 561,018 tons, valued at $146,224,000.
1899--"The olive crop of the past year, including pickled olives and olive oil, was estimated at $100,000.”
1999--Santa Barbara Olive Co. produced 38 barrels (13,000 pounds) of olives (down, due to cold weather, from about 50,000 pounds in 1998).
1899--"The raising of nuts, mainly walnuts, is a great industry in Southern California. There were shipped last year 450 [train] carloads, valued at $750,000.”
1998--Two growers in Santa Barbara produced 1.3 million pounds of English walnuts.
1899--"The milk production reported by the Associated Creameries of Southern California amounted to 26,436,483 pounds. Half of this was made in Los Angeles county.”
1998--Milk production in Southern California is 5,475,468,700 pounds (472,023,164 gallons). Los Angeles County reports 29,927,400 pounds (2,579,948 gallons).
1899--"Pineapples, tamarinds, bread-fruit, custard-apples, dates, kumquats, pomegranates, loquats, guavas, citrons, bananas and mangoes are among the exotics successfully fruited in the open air in the warmer portions of Southern California.”
1998--Guavas, kumquats and dates are among the Southern California “exotics.”
1899--"Chickens are found on almost every farm of Southern California and are kept by thousands of residents in the cities. The egg production of the past year was 73,000 cases, worth $330,000. The poultry marketed was valued at $240,000.”
1998--333 million dozen eggs were produced in Southern California, valued at $174.6 million. Southern California poultry (only San Bernardino and Ventura counties reporting) was valued at $11 million.
1899--"Ventura County claims the honor of being the most prolific bean country in the world, its specialty being the lima bean, of which that county has shipped nearly 2,000 [train] carloads in a single year. The estimated value of the bean crop in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is $700,000, the season not having been a favorable one.”
1998--8,049 acres of beans (mostly lima beans), valued at $11.8 million, harvested in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
1899--"California is rapidly forging to the front as a leading producer of petroleum, most of which is used for fuel. Nine-tenths of this oil is produced in Southern California, the output for 1899 being valued at $3,250,000. The present value of oil at the well ranges from $1 to $1.15 per barrel.”
1998--California ranks fourth in the nation in oil production with 331.2 million barrels (the third consecutive annual decline in production). Southern California produces 52 million barrels (32.1 million barrels from L.A. County, at about $9 per barrel), with an approximate total value of $468 million.
1899--Newspaper weight: 19 ounces.
1999--Newspaper weight: Varies. Weekdays: 1 1/4 pounds. Sundays: 3 1/4 pounds.
1899--Daily newspaper cost: 3 cents “at the office counter”; 5 cents “on streets and trains.”
1999--Daily newspaper cost: 25 cents.