Thursday, December 29, 2011

One hundred years ago in Santa Monica

Panorama at the mouth of Santa Monica Canyon showing Tract Office and Adelaide Drive

Annual banquet of foremen and storekeepers of the Southern California Edison Company at the Casino Cafe, Ocean Park, 1912

Santa Monica automobile road race spectators in their automobiles on Wilshire Blvd., May 4, 1912

Scenes from Imagine Santa Monica, the Library's digital archive

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Historical December holiday scenes in Santa Monica

A Christmas card of Palisades Park (n.d.)

A World War II returnee and a woman at the Douglas Aircraft Company Employees' Christmas Tree lot (1941-1945)

A festive photograph of the Third Street Mall (1969). All of these photos can be found in the Imagine Santa Monica digital photograph collection available through the Santa Monica Public Library webpage.

The Powder Puff Derby of 1929

The story goes that Will Rogers coined the phrase "Powder Puff Derby" after viewing the 19 women pilots at Clover Field take a quick look in their compact mirrors and powder their noses before take off on August 18, 1929. The race was set for a journey over several days from Santa Monica to Cleveland. At 2pm, a shot was fired, a flag dropped and the aircraft shot out of Clover Field on a short trek to San Bernardino. Notable pilots included Pancho Barnes, Amelia Earhart, Mary Haizlip, and Bobby Trout. Louise Thadden was first over the finish line, landing in Cleveland nine days after the start of the race in her blue and gold Travel Air.

Read more about the first female air race in the United States in The Powder Puff Derby of 1929: The True Story of the First Women's Cross-Country Air Race by Gene Nora Jessen, available at the Santa Monica Public Library. Digitized photographs come from the Imagine Santa Monica collection.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Around the world in 175 days!

In 1922, The United States Army Air Service turned to Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica as a souce for an aircraft that could fly around the world. They were especially interested in Davis-Douglas' Cloudster. Donald Douglas, with the help of John Northrup, began modifications to the DT-2, which they believed sturdier than the Cloudster, primarily to increase fuel capacity. Four planes, named the Seattle, New Orleans, Chicago and Boston left from Clover Field on March 17, 1924 for Seattle. The plane, Seattle needed repairs and crashed in Alaska early in the trip. The three other aircraft completed the round-the-world flight through Asia, the Middle East and Europe, before returning to Washington D.C., Seattle and home to Santa Monica. The journey was through the northern hemisphere and covered almost 29,000 miles in 175 days.

The top photograph from 1924 depicts preparation for the round-the-world flight. The second photograph shows take off day in Santa Monica. These images are viewable in Imagine Santa Monica, the Santa Monica Public Library's digital image archive. Additional information about the flight, aircraft and Douglas Aircraft is in Flight plan for tomorrow : The Douglas story - a condensed history by Crosby Maynard, Public Relations Department with Douglas Aircraft from 1962. Another book in the local history collection is McDonnell Douglas, Vol. 1 by Rene J. Francillon, c1978, 1988.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

DC 3

Design of the DC 3 by Dougals Aircraft Corporation in Santa Monica began in 1934 at the behest of American Airlines which wanted two new aircraft. One to carry more day passengers and one with sleeping berths, for overnight travel. The DC 3 was believed by many to be one of the best airlines of all times. The DC 3 made air travel possible for people before and after World War II and profitable for commercial airlines. Over 10,000 DC 3's were built as transport aircraft during the war. More information about this remarkable aircraft is available in The plane that changed the world: A biography of the DC-3 by Dougals J. Ingells, published in 1966, available at the Santa Monica Public Library.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remember Henshey's?

How many of us recall the amazing pneumatic transit tubes that would shoot money in a cylindrical container overhead somewhere else in the store, then return with your change? The first department store in Santa Monica, founded by Harry C. Henshey, was originially called Henshey's, Van Antwerp & Murdoch's. The building was designed by Charles A. Tegner and located at 400 Santa Monica Blvd. This building was demolished in the 1990s and the location is currently occupied by REI Sporting Goods. A Henshey's department store was located in Ladera Heights for a short time. The photos shown are from the Santa Monica Image Archives date from 1926 or 1927.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Civic Auditorium

As we look forward to the upcoming remodel of the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium which opened on June 15, 1958, we can take some time to look back at this landmarked structure. Designed by Welton Beckett, who also designed the Music Center in Los Angeles, LAX, and the beach facilities and life guard station in Santa Monica, the renovation will be handled by Brenda Levin with Levin and Associates. The Civic Auditorium has hosted untold concerts and trade shows and was home to the Academy Awards from 1961 to 1968. The digital images included are from the Santa Monica Public Library's Image Archive from the 1957 construction phase to just before landscaping and opening in 1958.

Halloween celebrations during World War II in Santa Monica

Although trick-or-treating by children did not take off until after the War in the late 1940s, Halloween was celebrated by children and adults. Sugar rationing during the war may have impacted the availability of sweets on Halloween. Here are photos of Halloween celebrations from the 1940s for Douglas Aircraft and the Fairview Branch Library.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Selected Santa Monica City directories available in microfilm!

Several historical Santa Monica City directories are now available on microfilm in the Periodicals' stacks at the Main Library. The City Directories, particularly the older editions, offer wonderful information about individuals and businesses in the City. Holdings include - 1911-1914 - 1915-1918 - 1919-1924 - 1925 - 1927-1928 - 1930- - 1940-, 1947- - 1952-1953 - 1958-1961. Print copies of selected Santa Monica City directories are available for use in the Santa Monica Collection Room.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

California Incline to undergo major rebuild

California Incline in the 1960s

California Incline in the 1940s

California Incline n.d. with horses and carriages

The California Incline is scheduled to undergo a complete rebuild. The Incline is considered to be a bridge joining Ocean Avenue at Palisades Park to Pacific Coast Highway. It started out as a dirt path linking the bluffs to the ocean and a train at the end of the Long Wharf. The Incline has not changed significantly since the 1940s. Take a look at earlier versions of the California Incline, which was originally called Linda Vista Drive. You can view these and additional images in the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives through the Library website.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

No plastic bags for groceries in 1902

Santa Monica's historic plastic bag ban, which passed the City Council in January 2011, took effect on Thursday, September 1, 2011. The City's sustainable mandate will result in reliance on reusable bags for grocery shopping. City officials believe 26 million plastic bags have been used annually in Santa Monica. In 1902 groceries were delivered to many. Shoppers at James R. Snow grocery located at Second and Hill Streets used baskets as well as knit, crocheted and cloth bags to carry their purchases home.

Civil defense in Santa Monica circa 1963

Following the end of World War II, tension heightened between the United States and Soviet Union. As the Soviets developed nuclear weapons, U.S. citizens became anxious about the potential for nucelar attacks. Under President Eisenhower, the federal government created the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA), which later became the Office of Civil Defense. Instructive information about building fallout shelters and how to survive a nucelar attack were distributed. Santa Monica created a Civil Defense Adminstration. The 1963 -1964 annual budget included the costs to build eight fallout shelters to protect firefighters from radioactive fallout in the event of attack, two each at fire stations 1, 2, 4, and 5, which would house 80 firefighters as key civil defense personnel. Additonal special funds amounting to $1,895 were included for training for radiological monitoring, communiations and shelter management.

The photograph included shows city workers stocking civilian defense survival supplies. Supplies considered necessary for survival in a fallout shelter, according to the FCDA, included; food, sanitation, medical, water, portable ventilations kits, and shelter radiation kits.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Santa Monica High School's jazz band

All that jazz has been emanating from talented Santa Monica High School musicians in the jazz band since 1920. The first jazz band was composed of Harry Howe on violin; Walter Maas on banjo; Ardell Hill on saxaphone and Helen Dresher on Piano, all pictured above. On March 5, 2011, the Samohi Jazz big band and combo, directed by Tom Whaley, competed in the 43rd Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival and placed first in Division 1 - Big Band and Division 1 - Jazz Combo. The Samohi Jazz Band Combo performed at the Main Library on June 25, 2011.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Lady Rose Sutton - America's Famous Psycho Analyst, Clairvoyant, Seer

Click on image to enlarge - The Seventh Police Benefit Sourvenir Book available to view in the Santa Monica Collection room at the Main Library

This advertisement is located in The Seventh Police Benefit Souvenir Book. Published in 1930 by the Department of Public Safety, Division of Police in Santa Monica, this gem contains ads as well as an index to businesses. Did you know that there was a Santa Monica Miniature Gold Course at Lincoln and Arizona with "de luxe - eighteen tricky holes?" You can learn about the science of fingerprints on page 108 in the 1930s. Or, view portraits of the five dapper police detectives for Santa Monica on page 53. On page 117 you can read about Santa Monica's Fire Department as described by Fire Chief William Mohr and see photos of the 4 fire houses. It seems that Lady Rose Sutton only practiced her skills in Santa Monica in 1930. Our directories do not show her before or after. Does anyone know anything about Miss Sutton?

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Little Guide on Where to Go and What to See in Santa Monica California

Just click on the image to enlarge for easier reading.

You may want to reconstruct the automobile trip shown above from "Senoras y Caballeros" - Welcome A Little Guide on Where to Go and What to See in Santa Monica California. You will see where Cary Grant and Louis B. Mayer lived on Beach Road in 1942 as you begin your journey from Santa Monica Pier, heading north on Palisades Beach Road. The trip will end with a spectacular view of Santa Monica Canyon from Adelaide Drive after motoring up Sunset Blvd to Westwood in your 1942 Studebaker!

This petite publication, which was produced by the Publicity Department of the City of Santa Monica, is available to view in the Santa Monica Public Library's local history materials, located in the Santa Monica Collection room at the Main Library at 601 Santa Monica Blvd. You will enjoy reading about the casting pool at Douglas Park, as well as Municipal Stadium at Fourteenth Street and Colorado Avenue, which hosted rodeos and special athletic events besides football and baseball.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Penguin Coffee Shop

You may have driven by Dr. Beauchamp Western Dental, where Lincoln Blvd. intersects the 10 Freeway, and wondered why there is a penguin on the sign for a dentistry office. Located at 1670 Lincoln Blvd. in Santa Monica, the Penguin coffee shop was designed by the architectural firm of Armet Davis Newlove, notable for defining distinctive googie style coffee shops and diners that popped up around Southern California in the 1950s. Unique characteristics of this building style incorporated high, vaulted ceilings, dining counters that were room-length and typically oversized signage. The photographs show an interior and exterior view of the Penguin when it opened in 1959.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Field first-aid kit designed and patented by Douglas Aircraft Co., Inc. nurse

On May 18, 1942, Nurse Clemetine F. Campiglia with Douglas Aircraft Company, Incorporated, filed for a patent on a first-aid kit that could be used in the field by medical personnel during World War II. It was called "First Aid Kit" and given patent number 2,324,194 by the United States Patent Office on July 13, 1943. Nurse Campiglia assigned her rights to the invention to Douglas in Santa Monica, California, where she worked during the war. The intent of the design was to improve mobility and easier access to injured persons with this body-attached first-aid kit for medical personnel in combat situations. The arrangement of pockets was to facilitate easy-access to supplies needed to provide care.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fourth of July in Santa Monica

Fourth of July picnic 1904

Float for Independence Day parade, n.d.

Firework display from 1920

Like most cities in the United States, Santa Monica has long celebrated Independence Day with parades, picnics and fireworks!

Santa Monica Public Library first to have 16mm films

The Santa Monica Public Library was the first library in California to offer 16 mm films and projection equipment for check-out by the public, beginning in 1947. In the first year, the collection grew to 22 films, which were shown at the Main Library and branches. In 1949, public interest in phonograph records resulted in donation of nearly 200 LPs. In 1951 the department was named - Films and Recordings - which grew so rapidly that in 1965 with the opening of the new Main Library, a dedicated Films and Recordings Department was included. The image of the Films and Recordings Department appears in this 1967 photograph, viewable in the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives online.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Beginnings of the Santa Monica Fire Department

Santa Monica was originally served by the Crawford Hook and Ladder Co., beginning in 1875. Subsequently Robert Eckart, who helped organize the Los Angeles Fire Department, and William Jackson organized the Santa Monica Hose, Hook and Ladder company in 1889. They had a cart equipped with some axes, ladders and one thousand feet of hose, which they placed in the old engine house on Oregon Avenue (Santa Monica Boulevard). Volunteers comprised the work force for the department early on.

Information from: Santa Monica Fire Department 1889-1989 by Kevin M. Archer (c1989) and Ingersoll's Century History of Santa Monica Bay cities by Luther A. Ingersoll (1908); photograph from Santa Monica Image Archives at

Award-Winning Author of Childrens' Books, Margaret Carver Leighton, lived and wrote in Santa Monica

Margaret Carver Leighton moved her four children to Santa Monica from Virginia in 1935 when her husband died. She wrote 22 books in her lifetime, many Junior Literary Guild choices. She went to college at Radcliffe and was an Army nurse during World War I. Her writing focused on historical characters including Cleopatra, Elstrid, General Custer, Mary Godwin Shelly and others. She also wrote several mysteries for children, using her own children as models for the characters. Mrs. Leighton was a member of the Library Board for the Santa Monica Public Library and appeared in the Children's Department of the Library signing books in 1960. She died on June 19, 1987 at the age of 90 in Santa Monica.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Douglas Aircraft plant camouflaged during World War II

In April 1942 of World War II, the Douglas Aircraft plant located at 3000 Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica, was camouflaged with burlap supported by a tension compression structure of more than 5 million square feet of chicken wire and 400 poles covering the entire factory. A dummy of the aircraft plant was built near the dummy neighborhood. From above, it appeared to be just another part of the neighborhood, with houses and cars. The design was developed by landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout. Volunteers from Hollywood film studios pitched in to create the false landscape. Photographs of the camouflaged plant are located in the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives. This was one of the most elaborate camouflage jobs of any strategic location during the war.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Alternative fuel vehicles not new to Santa Monica

Santa Monica's first electric public transportation was called the Santa Monica Air Line, built in 1875 and intended as a steam railroad from Los Angeles to Santa Monica. The first train of this electric rail line ran in October 1875 and was known as "The Los Angeles & Independent RR." The Ocean Park: Substation No. 40 was built in 1896, had four motor-generator sets of 3250 kw, housed in a brick building. Later a Santa Monica via Sawtelle Line, built in 1896 where you could catch a car and travel from Santa Monica to Ocean Avenue and Trolleyway to Windward Avenue in Venice. (Electric Railway Historical Association of southern California website A few electric automobiles were spotted in Santa Monica early on, as depicted in the photograph of an electric car from 1919 parked in the alley behind 435 Georgina Avenue in Santa Monica. Digital photographs courtesy of the Santa Monica Image Archives

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lots for Sale!

This notice appeared in the The Outlook on March 29, 1876, offering lots for sale in Santa Monica.

The photograph appeared in the special centennial edition of the Evening Outlook, May 17, 1975. The caption reads: "EAGER TO BUY -A crowd has already gathered in the background as these bidders arrive in their horse-drawn buggy for the first auction of lots in Santa Monica. Wooden stage in rear was occupied by auctioneer Alfred W. Noyes, who took bids ranging from less than $100 to around $500 on choice homesites"(187?). The first real estate boom happened in March of 1887, when an auction sold $42,000 worth of lots between Ocean Avenue and 20th Street, according to Charles S. Warren, editor of the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, in his book History of the Santa Monica Bay Region (1934).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Municipal Pier took eighteen months to build and opened in September 1909. The Pier was rebuilt a total of two times in 1917 and 1924. This photograph shows the original construction, using cement piles, which it was believed would withstand storms and wear. The Santa Monica Pier was designated a landmark in 1976.

The Santa Moncia Pier was also a film location for a handful of movies (Source AFI Database) -

The Son of Kong (1933) from RKO Radio Pictures, Inc. was a sequel to King Kong. The Strange Bargain (1949) was a suspense thriller directed by Will Price. The framed suspect throws a gun that he believes was the murder/suicide weapon off the Santa Monica Pier. Released on April 1, 1950, Everybody's Dancin', starred western swing star Spade Cooley who televised his weekly show from the Santa Monica Pier in 1948. The movie premise follows a family who run the Waltzland Ballroom on Santa Monica Pier during World War I. Quicksand came out in 1950 starring Mickey Rooney, whose petty theft of $20 in cash snowballs into murder and blackmail. A lot of the action in the film takes place on the Pier, with the main characters heading back to the Pier at the end of the film. Pretty Maids All in a Row opened in Los Angeles on May 10, 1971, starring Rock Hudson and Angie Dickinson in a coming of age farce that included murder. Roger Vadim directed this film. The Santa Monica Pier is featured when a car is driven off of its end. Cactus in the Snow, released in 1972 starred Richard Thomas in a story about a young man trying to experience life before being deployed to Vietnam. Several scenes were shot at the carousel on the Pier. Harry and Tonto starred Art Carney, who is a man in his 70s who has been displaced from his apartment in New York, along with his cat, Tonto. They wend their way west after many misadventures.

Santa Monica Municipal Airport Control Tower

Airplanes shown on the tarmac near the Santa Monica Municipal Airport Control Tower. Santa Monica Airport was previously known as Clover Field. The rotating beacon was moved from Downey in 1952 and installed at SMO. The control tower was designated as a City of Santa Monica landmark in 1988. The image is from the Santa Monica Environmental and Public Works Management Collection.

Trailer life in Santa Monica

In the 1930s trailers could be spotted on Santa Monica Beach full of visitors enjoying the sand and surf. The Miramar Trailer park was located north of the pier in this photograph from 1935. Douglas Aircraft experienced a boom during World War II, when the aircraft factory ran three shifts, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to meet production demands. At one time during the peak in employment in the mid-1940s, 44,000 people worked at the Santa Monica facility. With this massive influx of workers, demands for housing in the area grew resulting in zoning for residential housing up to the perimeter of the airport in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. Trailer parks sprung up all around Santa Monica to accommodate workers. The two remaining trailer parks in the City are Village Trailer Park on Colorado Avenue and Mountain View Mobile Inn on Stewart Street.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Portrait on Santa Monica Pier

Families visited the Santa Monica Pier in their best finery to have a portrait taken. Pictured here are Selena McDonald Brunson and Charles E.A. Brunson holding their first born, Donald A. Brunson, the first African-American baby born in Santa Monica in 1907. Charles E.A. Brunson had a cleaning business in Santa Monica. He was an expressman at one time, then worked custodial service for two banks, one the Merchants Bank in Santa Monica.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ostrich Farm

The Ostrich Farm was established in 1889 at Hill Street, between Main Street and Washington Blvd. on Ocean Park, on a 7 acre tract with 34 fenced-in birds. The ostrich farm began in Cahuenga Valley, was in Griffith Park and finally moved to Santa Monica. The farm owner, Dr. Charles S. Sketchley, an Englishman, brought the birds from South Africa where he had an ostrich farm. His plan was to build a park and menagerie, which was finally moved to Santa Monica for accessibility. The birds' large, plumy, white feathers were harvested about every eight weeks and used as decoration on hats worn by ladies. When the park lost its appeal as a tourist attraction, the remaining ostriches were moved to Anaheim in 1895.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Santa Monica Newspaper Index Now In Imagine Santa Monica

The Santa Monica Newspaper Index, a selected index of local newspaper articles spanning the 20th Century, is now available at Imagine Santa Monica, the portal to the Library's digitized historical collections.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Preservation of Local History: A Workshop

Come to the Main Library at 1pm on Saturday, March 26 to learn about preservation issues and the historical collections of the Santa Monica Public Library and the Santa Monica History Museum.