The History of Los Angeles

Los Angeles is best known as the vacation hotspot of California. The city is home to over eighty theaters, three hundred museums, and a population of almost twenty million people. Another claim to fame for L.A. is the city’s baseball team – the Los Angeles Angels.

The City of Angels actually began in early 6000BC, when that region of California was occupied by a people who would come to be known as the Gabrieleño tribe. They operated as traders, working with their northern neighbors, the Chumash, and the eastern Cahuilla and Mojave. Los Angeles was given its name in the 18thcentury when an expedition by General José de Gálvez led to the foundation and establishment of a settlement known as El Pueblo de Reina de Los Angeles, which translates in English to “The Town of the Queen of the Angels”. Los Angeles gained more attention in 1821, after Spain was forced to relinquish its territorial claims in Mexico. This meant that Spanish citizens in Mexico had to move northwards; the Mexican governors seized missions in Los Angeles and divided them up into land parcels to divide among the new immigrants. Many of the citizens used the land to raise cattle. The land wasn’t to stay within Spanish hands, though – the Mexican-American War of 1846 brought Los Angeles under the control of the United States of America.

In 1848, the California gold rush brought thousands of miners to the area. Los Angeles supplied them with food, mainly beef, due to its massive herds of cattle. However, LA had no official legal system, and the city became populated with the outcasts of the north, who had been driven out. Mexicans were popular mob targets in the city, and unfortunately the subjects of numerous lynchings. Los Angeles transformed from a budding city of missions into a crime hotspot. The city was officially christened within the state of California on April 4th, 1850, and by the 1870s, the city was a business project. Residents of Los Angeles began restructuring the city to try and compete with San Francisco, which had blossomed into a modern city with banks, factories, railways and busy seaside ports. A bank, the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, graced the city in 1871, but the city would undergo more strife before it hit a golden age. 1871 also marked the year of a tragic example of mob violence against Chinese residents. A white man was accidentally killed in a fight between Chinese gangs, and this marked the descent of a mob of about 500 onto the streets of Chinatown. 19 Chinese were murdered, and stores were ransacked and destroyed.

The construction of a transcontinental railroad in 1876 marked an era of change for Los Angeles. Central Pacific Railroad ran a line to Los Angeles, which threw the city into a decade of industrial and merchant growth. The next big boom for Los Angeles came courtesy of Edward L. Dohney, when he discovered oil in 1892. Oil fields were quickly established, and by 1923, Los Angeles was supplying twenty-five percent of the world’s entire oil supply. The early 1900s bore witness to a clamor of social revolution, including the Baja Revolution (a movement to redistribute land owned by foreigners back to the original Mexican in habitants), multiple uprisings against the L.A. Times Newspaper, and an industrial strike in 1923. Los Angeles did host the Summer Olympics of 1932, and built Olympic Boulevard to honor the event.

When the United States was drawn into World War II, Los Angeles developed a name for itself as a production center for war supplies, including ammunition and airplanes. After the war, Los Angeles received unexpected attention when movie producers relocated to the city – most notably, Louis B. Mayer’s MGM Studios – making the city into an entertainment center as well as an industrial giant.

During the last half of the 20th century, Los Angeles acquired a subway system and an improved public transportation system. By 1990, the city that began as a few thousand had exploded into a metropolis of over three million, one that is still thriving and growing today.

For more information on Los Angeles, or for a more extensive look at the history of this fascinating city, please peruse the links provided below.