History of Los Angeles - Chronology of Events, Iconic Developments and Success

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The Californian city of Los Angeles is renowned for fervent nightlife, exotic landscapes, beaches and thrilling entertainment. Known to be one of the most urban cities of America, Los Angeles has a long history dating back to 1542 when it was nothing but a group of 11 Mexican families who wanted to utilize the farming lands on the banks of the Los Angeles river. The area now known as Los Angeles was claimed by Spanish governor Felipe de Neve in 1781 wherein the historic journey of the city began.

The Historic Journey of Los Angeles

In Memorial of Felipe de Neve, Founder of LA
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Earliest Known History of Los Angeles

Indian Americans Arriving to California
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Los Angeles was occupied by Hokanese people of the Milling Stone Era by 3000 B.C. Next came the Tongva tribes who were migrants rushing into the Los Angeles basin area, fleeing the drought in their homeland. These people settled down and called LA “Yaa'' in Aztecan Tongva language. By 1700 A.D., Tongvas turned into natives of California and the average population in the basin region is calculated to be 5,000. It is said that LA survived and flourished due to the presence of Yaanga, a nearby Tongva village supplying the basin with fish, water, salt, bowls and pelts.

Spanish History of Los Angeles

Cathedral of St. Vibiana, Second & Main Streets, Los Angeles
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Period: 1769 - 1821 A.D.

Captain Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Sebastian Vizcaino were the first Spanish people to arrive in the LA region. Even though their entry is recorded between 1542 and 1602, Los Angeles essentially became a recognized non-native establishment in 1777. These new pueblos preached the gospel of industrialization and agriculture to give Los Angeles a progressive outlook. He coined the name Los Angeles after Our Lady, Queen of Angels.

The Spanish government built an open central plaza with a fortified church and grid system of streets. Portions of land were allocated for administrative buildings, farming and residency. Viceroy Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua recruited 55 soldiers, families of 22 settlers and 1,000 livestock to make Los Angeles their home. These people were a mix of Indian and Spanish blood.

Arrival of the Mexicans in Los Angeles

Mexicans in Los Angeles
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Period: 1821 - 1848

When Mexico gained independence from Spanish rule in 1821, they ventured into California to celebrate the victory. Alongside trade in tallow and hides, agriculture and cattle ranches expanded during this period. By 1841, the original population of 650 tripled to 1,680 in Los Angeles

Jean-Louis Vignes arrived in Los Angeles in 1831 and purchased 104 acres of ranchland. This brilliant settler began to make wine along the banks of the Los Angeles river which succeeded as an industry. The Los Angeles market was not satisfactory enough for his expectations so he loaded a shipment bound for North America. This brought a lot of unforeseen money to the basin and was mostly used for development of infrastructure and equipment.

Industrial Growth and Expansion

Los Angeles in 1909
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Period: 1870 - 1913

Los Angeles was not a village anymore in the 1870s. The 100,000 occupants in the city by 1900 actively promoted the city’s imminent success, hoping to make themselves rich. Angelenos began to use their education for altering the ways they could utilize the natural topography. They began to construct ports, railroads, large-scale factories and banks. Till 1945, the city was mostly farmlands and cattle-rearing grounds. Eventually these ranches were converted into tracts for houses. 

The first incorporated bank in this city was Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles in 1871, built by John G. Downey. In 1876, the first railway was built in town, connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco and Pacific Central. Tourists flooded in with this ease of access and many kept returning and relocating to LA.

First International Shipment to Los Angeles
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The discovery of oil had an eminent impact on the expansion of Los Angeles. Oil was first discovered in Beverly Hills and Salt Lake which were mostly barren suburbs in the 1900s. They were later incorporated into the main city. By 1923, Los Angeles was producing one-fourth of the total oil supply in the world.

Iconic Battles and Revolts in the History of Los Angeles

Evacuating Japanese Americans During WWII
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  • Battle of Los Angeles, 1846: The Mexicans were unable to defend the northern Californian lands, exposing Los Angeles to American invasion. After a strenuous struggle for almost 3 years, a group of 300 locals drove the American force out, thereby ending the battle’s first phase. A few suburban skirmishes ensued in the next year (1847) after which the Californian phase of this war ended, costing Mexicans a lot of precious and innocent blood.
  • Bombing of the Times, 1910: The Times, the first newspaper company based in Los Angeles, began to gather commoners who demanded reforms in administration. They were mainly fruit sellers, farmers, fishermen, factory laborers and mechanics. When their conflict gained momentum via the Times’ spread of vital news, the Times plaza was bombed. This led to a massive economic downfall which even to this day is regarded as the gravest LA ever faced.
  • Breaking up the IWW Rally, 1913: The Industrial Workers of the World gathered longshoremen to their clubs in Los Angeles. The law at that time strongly opposed anti-national activity, completely ignoring the needs and crises of the less unfortunate social classes. The police encountered resistance, raided the clubs and formed the “Red Squad” to annihilate their protests. Hundreds of strikers were arrested and locked up till the city jails were filled to the brim.
  • World War II, 1941 - 1945: Los Angeles has interesting history during the Second World War as it became of manufacturing hotspot. Aircrafts, war supplies like ammunition and battleships were being built by companies like Hughes and Douglas Aircraft, Northrop Corporation, Vultee Aircraft and Lockheed Corporation. This was able to meet the nation’s demand in supplying strategic bombers, war machines and fighter planes, one of the best being P-51 Mustangs. The Japanese-American elites were heavily affected by the Pearl Harbor bombing and over 80,000 families were evacuated from Los Angeles into camps.


Modern History of Los Angeles

Angels Flight - Third and Hill Street
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After World War II, thousands of land developers purchased cheap estates, built homes and got rich. This was the first step in building the infrastructure of Los Angeles we are familiar with today. In July 1955, the world’s first theme park, Disneyland was opened by Walt Disney. Consecutively after 9 years, Universal Studios built their own, giving birth to the world-famous Hollywood industry. The Giants of baseball left New York and moved to LA in 1958.

Post-War Baby Boomers in Los Angeles

Rose Bowl, Pasadena, LA
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By 1970, 20 million people were living in Los Angeles, leading to the baby-boom age. Ever since, the city has shown historic growth. They collected cars, adopted fashion, built mansions and helped the poor get rich. Los Angeles became the abode of motion pictures while trending songs like “Hotel California” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” preached the city’s glamour worldwide. As tourism increased as ever, surfing became a thriving and unique opportunity.

The Futuristic Growth Continues

Metro Railway at Los Angeles' Union Station
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During the 1980s, the subway system was constructed and officially launched in the 1990s. Rapid bus routes were beginning to grow as a local’s favorite with increase in private jobs. Automobile factories were shut down in 1990 and film, television and celebrity power became a major economic force. Today, the ports of LA and Long Beach are the largest on the planet. Real estate was popular and socioeconomic discrimination against the Blacks toned down to zero.


Los Angeles, Winter 2016
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Today, Los Angeles is famous for its sunny Mediterranean climates, turquoise beaches, entertainment industry and sprawling residential metropolis. Have you visited LA before? Would you like to add something you know about the iconic history of Los Angeles? Let us know in the comments below!

This post was published by Koushiki Kundu

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