Friday, December 10, 2010

December in San Pedro

December in San Pedro

01 December:

1857: John G. Downey, one of Banning’s partners in the founding of New San Pedro (later Wilmington) and the future Governor of California, begins duty in San Pedro as federal customs collector; Downey may have used his appointment to ensure the success of his private investments by moving customs collections from San Pedro to New San Pedro—resulting in the federal government’s later belief that the town of San Pedro had moved and changed its name to Wilmington (see November 10)

1863: Camp Drum renamed Drum Barracks

1887: Sailors strike in San Pedro: within 2 days 350 men quit work; strikers parade streets and threaten violence against nonunion sailors; LA Sherriff Kays sends 8 men to San Pedro to protect them; expecting trouble, Kays goes to San Pedro on 12/02/1887 with an additional 6 deputies; cut off from its supply of lumber through San Pedro, LA contracting and building comes to a halt at the peak of the Great Boom (see Decenber 15)

1902: Articles of incorporation filed for the San Pedro Wholesale Company headquartered in San Pedro ($25,000 capital stock)

1905: Articles of incorporation filed for the Fraternal Hall Association of San Pedro ($25,000 capital stock)

1913: H-1 (SS-28, ex Seawolf) and H-2 (SS-29, ex Nautilus) commissioned at Mare Island Navy Yard and assigned to the 2nd Torpedo Fleet, San Pedro; both H-1 Class submarines (358 ton displacement; 150’4” length; 15’10” beam; 12’5” draft; 14 knots speed; 25-man complement; 4 18” torpedo tubes) were built at the Union Iron Works, San Francisco (H-1 launched on 05/06/1913 and H-2 on 06/04/1913); the sister ships were transferred to the Atlantic Fleet and left San Pedro on 10/17/1917; reassigned to the Pacific Fleet, the sisters left New London for San Pedro on 01/06/1920; H-1 went aground on 03/12/1920 on a shoal off Santa Margarita Island, Baja California, Mexico; H-2 stood by her sister and helped to rescue survivors (all but 4 were saved); H-2 reaches San Pedro on 03/20/1920 but the H-1 was lost during salvage efforts (pulled off the rocks by the repair ship Vestal on 03/24/1920 she sank 45 minutes later in 50’ of water and is abandoned); H-1 was struck from the Navy List on 04/12/1920 and sold for salvage scrap in June; H-2 operated out of San Pedro until 07/25/1922 (decommissioned 10/23/1922, struck from the Navy List 12/18/1930, and sold for scrap in September 1931)

1971: The Smithsonian Agreement ends import surcharges and the fixed exchange rates enforced since the Bretton-Woods Conference

02 December:

1912: U.S. Supreme Court holds the Harriman merger of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads constituted a combination in restraint of trade under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act

1925: Los Angeles City Fire Boat No. 2 Ralph J. Scott commissioned (2 captains, 2 pilots, 2 mates, 6 engineers, 2 autofiremen, and 14 firemen divided between 2 crews); built at the Los Angeles Shipbuilding and Drydock Corp. (later Todd Shipyard) in San Pedro for $214,000 and launched on 10/20/1925; 100-foot craft can pump up to 12,000 gallons of water per minute

1942: Ted Bluechel (rock vocalist and drummer) is born in San Pedro

03 December:

1845: Secretary Robert J. Walker submits his free trade Annual Report—considered one of the best arguments for free trade over protectionism ever written

1901: Los Angeles and Salt Lake railroad granted franchise for a terminal wharf on San Pedro Bay; receive tidelands grant 900 feet wide

2004: Grand opening of the Cruise Ship Promenade on the southwestern edge of what used to be Smith Island (across the slip from the cruise terminal)

04 December:

1968: Tank truck fire at Berth 174

05 December:

1831: Californians under Juan Bandini defeat Mexican Governor Manuel Victoria at Cahuenga Pass (Victoria had declared José Antonio Carrillo and Abel Stearns traitors when they petitioned for democratic reforms); 1 mule and 1 horse killed (combatants on each side were careful not to kill anyone because they had relatives in the opposing force); Victoria retreats to Mission San Gabriel and resigns; in the second battle of Cahuenga Pass (the Battle of Providencia) on 02/20/1844 the Californios under Pio Pico defeated Mexican Governor Manuel Micheltorena

1911: Pacific Navigation Company coastal steamer Harvard sets new speed record of 16 hours: 30 minutes on the San Pedro-San Francisco run; fare $8.35—$195 in 2009 dollars using the Consumer Price Index (see December 29)

1933: Prohibition repealed with ratification of the 21st Amendment (individual states are allowed to continue enforcement—Mississippi maintained prohibition for an additional 33 years)

06 December:

1863: John Sanford (Banning’s brother-in-law and younger brother of the pioneering San Pedro-Los Angeles entrepreneur William T.B. Sanford, who died earlier that year in the Ada Hancock explosion of 04/27/1863) is murdered on the trail 5 miles from Fort Tejon to Los Angeles by Charles Wilkins (the British-born vagabond and loafer from Salt Lake and past inmate of the Stockton County Hospital); Wilkins is caught a week later in Santa Barbara (still carrying Sanford’s watch and pistol), confesses, and is brought to LA for trial; while in jail he confesses to 8 additional murders (killed his first man at age 17 in the Mountain Meadow massacre); as he was escorted down the crowded street from jail to courthouse for his arraignment by Under Sherriff A.J. King, Sanford’s brother and nephew (according to H.D. Barrows), carrying a rifle and double-barrel shotgun, threaten to shoot the prisoner; Wilkins breaks free and runs for shelter in the nearby adobe of Jack Trafford; no shots are fired due to the crowd; during the subsequent trial (Judge Hayes presiding)  Wilkins confesses to the murder and other crimes; Wilkins is kidnapped immediately after the trial when the courthouse is stormed by an organized “mob” (led by Banning and a small army of his teamsters—all friends of the popular murder victim); Wilkins is taken to Banning’s corral where he’s lynched from the gatepost after begging to be shot instead of hung; Wilkins was the 7th man lynched by Los Angeles citizens within a month (see December 09)

1888: Senator Leland Stanford visits San Pedro harbor; states support for the $1 million appropriation for improvements (also declares his opposition to dividing California into 2 states); after Stanford’s death

1911: US circuit court Judge Van Fleet issues temporary restraining order preventing the railroad commission from enforcing ordered rate reductions for freight on the Southern Pacific line between San Pedro and Los Angeles

1944: USS New York arrives in San Pedro for gunnery practice; leaves for Pearl Harbor on 01/12/1945

1948: Longshoremen return to work at Pacific ports; 2nd longest maritime strike in west coast history (3 months)

1963: Starboard boiler room fire on Royal Mail Lines 8540-ton cargo ship Loch Avon; extinguished by using 85’ truck ladder to lower fire lines down a stack area duct tube

1967: Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church, the oldest church in San Pedro (first service was on Easter Sunday, 1884), is declared a Historic-Cultural Monument by the city of Los Angeles; originally built at 2nd and Beacon on North Hill (later called Barton Hill, after one of the founders of the church—the last remnants of the hill were leveled in the 1920s) overlooking the harbor; the church was moved to 10th and Mesa, a quieter residential neighborhood, in 1904 (the original tall steeple on the bell tower that served as a landmark for seamen was replaced during the move with the current hip roof; the original white siding was also covered with dark wood shingles—the 2 changes gave the building a more “modern” look); on 09/25/1956 the church was moved to its current location in the Harbor View Memorial Park (after the last move the shingles where painted white to match the trim)

07 December:

1906: San Pedro custom house report for November 1906 released: over 36% increase from October; 113 vessels with net tonnage of 59,053 tons; 40.6 million feet of lumber; 28.9 million shingles; .9 million shakes; 6,503 poles; 8,495 ties; 42.5 million laths; 63,892 barrels of oil; 1,268 tons of grain; 758 tons merchandise; 2,342 passengers arrived; 2,342 passengers departed; 1,933 tons merchandise exported

1941: USS Arizona (BB-39, launched 06/19/1915, based in San Pedro for 14 years) sinks off Ford Island in Pearl Harbor during Japanese surprise attack (1,177 crewman die); United States enters World War II; the devastated battle fleet had moved from San Pedro to Pearl Harbor in 1939 to discourage Japanese aggression toward U.S. interests in the Pacific

08 December:

1924: Water taxi La Moyne explodes in San Pedro harbor while ferrying a full load of seamen back to the anchored ships of the battle fleet; 2 dead and 19 severely burned

1939: Rear Admiral George Julian Meyers, commander of Base Force, U.S. Fleet, dies of heart attack at age 58 aboard his flagship the Argone at San Pedro

09 December:

1862: Manuel Cerradel hanged by vigilantes from the rigging of the tug Cricket on the Wilmington lagoon and dumped in San Pedro Bay; Cerradel was given a 10-year sentence in San Quentin for the murder of John Rains of Cucamonga near the Azusa Ranch on 11/17/1862; he is lynched aboard Banning’s tugboat while being ferried to the steamer Senator under the custody of the Sherriff for transport to San Francisco; Cerradel’s body is weighed with stones and dumped in the bay after hanging for 20 minutes during the harbor passage; vigilante activity in LA goes back to 1834 and LA’s second committee was very productive in the 1850s—with 20 lynching in 1854-1855; the vigilantes formed several volunteer civilian militias in LA County to fight “rampant lawlessness” (all of which petitioned for free arms and equipment from the state), including: the Los Angeles Guard (independent brigade organized 07/23/1853; mustered into the National Guard 09/08/1874-05/01/1881); the Los Angeles Rangers (08/01/1853-1857); the Monte Rangers (02/23/1854-ca.1859; mustered out on 05/01/1861); the City Guard (02/03/1855-late 1861); the Ringgold Light Artillery (06/21/1855-05/17/1857); the Southern Rifles (03/26/1857-ca.1861); the Lanceros de Los Angeles (05/021857-ca.1862); the Union Guard (12/17/1857-ca.1858; mustered out in 1862); the Los Angeles Greys (02/15/1860-ca.1862); and the Los Angeles Mounted Rifles (03/07/1861-late 1861); the exploits of the Los Angeles Rangers (and Phineas Banning) are the best known because they were celebrated in Bell’s popular memoir of 1881

1875: Secretary Benjamin H. Bristow (investigating without the knowledge of President Grant or the Attorney General) broke the Whiskey Ring—businessmen and IRS officials siphoned off millions of government dollars from the whiskey tax for personal purposes

1906: Chinese “pirate junk” Whang-Ho to arrive in San Francisco from San Pedro (William McKenzie Milne claimed he bought the 100-year-old ship from the viceroy of Nanjing but others claim it was a duplicate built in Shanghai); ship has been under seal at San Pedro since October appealing a 40% import duty charge; original Norwegian crew replaced by Chinese laborers from LA; towed to Portland for a year; leaves Portland on 01/04/1908 for return to San Francisco and trip around Cape Horn to New York for exhibition at Coney Island but arrives at Papeete, Tahiti instead on 03/12/1908 (after Captain Graham snuck off the ship when it left San Francisco Bay and the huge rudder was damaged outside Cape Horn); the ship is towed into port and deserted by its crew; leaves again for New York with a new crew in May 1909 but shows up in Australia in late 1909 after disappearing for several months

1907: LA City ordinance creates LA’s first Board of Harbor Commissioners; official founding of the Port of Los Angeles (even though the first Board wasn’t appointed until March 10, 1908 and LA did not have a harbor until after the consolidations with San Pedro and Wilmington—authorized in 1909 by voters in the 3 cities)

1933: Interstate Commerce Commission bars construction of a new rail line from Denver to San Pedro

1967: The Queen Mary, the famous Cunard line steamer, arrives in Long Beach, completing her final voyage

10 December:

1897: Government engineer E.L.B. Davis begins advertising for sealed bids to build the San Pedro breakwater

1898: Treaty of Peace with Spain

1918: USS Moody (DD-277; 1,190-ton Clemson-class destroyer) commissioned; decommissioned on 06/10/1931 and super structure sold as scrap on 06/10/1931; hull sold to MGM for about $35,000 and altered to look like a German destroyer for the film Hell Below; exploded and sunk at Catalina on 02/21/1933

1928: R. Stanley Dollar (Vice President, Dollar Steamship line), aboard the President Van Buren in San Pedro, announces plan for 3 new $3 million ships

11 December:
1978: Fire and gas spill of 136' Spirit of America at Berth 200G; $250,000 damages

12 December:
1854: H.D. Barrows, William Wolfskill (the Santa Fe trader who established the Northern Route of the “Old Spanish Trail” with George C. Yount in 1831 with a party of about 20 men and who launched the 2nd ship built in LA at San Pedro shortly thereafter) and John (or 10-year-old Joseph?) Wolfskill arrive in San Pedro via the steamer Goliath from San Francisco (fare cost $40—$1,054 in 2009 dollars using the Consumer Price Index); they come ashore on a lighter and arrive in Los Angeles by stage at around noon

1911: Chinese junk Ningpo (3-masted; 291 tons; 138’ length; 31’ beam; originally named Kin Tai Fong—or Kin Tai Foong; launched 1753 in Fu Chau) leaves Japan for San Pedro; sails the 7,000 miles from Kyushi (or Yokohama), Japan to San Pedro in 58 days (survives damaging storms to arrive on 02/19/1912); the Ningpo is the 2nd junk owned by William M. Milne of Pasadena to visit San Pedro (see December 9); towed to Venice Beach and San Diego for display in 1913; returns to San Pedro in October 1913 and is wrecked off Dead Man’s Island on 11/18/1913 when she parted her anchor chains during a storm; refloated after 4 days work by hardhat divers and the salvage tug Crescent; receives extensive repairs at Craig Shipbuilding in Long Beach; sold to Meteor Boat Company of LA in 1914 and displayed in Long Beach; visits Catalina where it hosted loud drunken parties and returns to San Diego for display in 1915; returns to Catalina after WWI as an exotic museum and prop for movies in the 1920s and 1930s; moved to Cat Harbor where it was abandoned and sinks into the sand (becoming a frequent scavenger site for people seeking exotic carving wood); in 1935 it is burned and sunk when a prop replica of a fire ship drifted out of control and ran into it; once claimed as the oldest ship afloat, the Ningpo’s colorful history included over 1½ centuries of smuggling (silk; opium; slave girls) and piracy, participation in rebellions (1796; 1861; 1911), 7 years as a prison ship (serving as an executioner’s block for 158 prisoners), multiple wrecks, fires, and captures, and 2 decades as museum and film extra (see California Wreck Divers and Hans Van Tilburg’s article and dissertation)

13 December:

2002: San Pedro Boat Works files for bankruptcy; the site of the boat works was abandoned in late November 2002 and turned over to the Port of Los Angeles by the courts on 06/10/2003; Board of Harbor Commissioners authorized expenditure of up to $275,000 for environmental clean-up on 09/24/2003; former owner receives 1-year prison sentence for 2002 hazardous wastes violations on 03/31/2006 (plus a $5,000 fine and $490,000 in restitutions)

14 December:

1886: The Harvey Mills founders in a severe gale 63 miles southwest of Cape Flattery; the ship left Seattle on 12/12/1887 for San Francisco with a cargo of coal; only 3 crewmen survive (1st Mate Cushmal and seamen Alexander Volgeur and Jacob Brown); after being lost in heavy seas for 4 days without food or water they are rescued by the Majestic bound for San Diego and brought to San Pedro for medical attention (arriving on 01/06/1887)

1887: San Pedro barkeep Henry Neitman, of the Germania Beer Hall, stabbed to death by his discarded mistress Isabella Andress

15 December:

1874: Lighthouse lamp at Point Fermin (named by Captain George Vancouver after Franciscan Father Fermin de Lasuen who considered San Pedro for a mission but chose San Juan Capistrano instead) lit for the first time; 2,100 candle power light alternates between red and white flashes at 10 second intervals; visible for 19 nautical miles from a ship’s deck 15’ above the sea (changed to a petroleum vapor incandescent lamp in 1898 and a 6,600 candlepower electric light in 1925)

1887: San Pedro strike called off by the Sailors’ Union San Francisco headquarters; broken by the anti-unionism of San Francisco’s Shipowners Association and the activities of their agent William H. Savage under the protection of the LA County Sherriff and Board of Supervisors; at the core of the strike was a conflict between the local branches of the two San Francisco-based organizations for control of the lucrative San Pedro waterfront (see December 01 and November 21)

1912: During the search for the missing hydro-plane Snookums (last seen off Point Fermin during attempt to fly from Newport Beach to San Francisco) an abandoned search plane is destroyed on the San Pedro breakwater when the launch towing the plane back to the harbor runs out of fuel (the plane had failed to take off after refueling at Point Magoo); a pontoon from the missing plane is later recovered off Redondo Beach (pilot Horace Kearney and passenger, LA correspondent Chester Lawrence, presumed dead)

2006: Daily Breeze—which, in 1998, absorbed the San Pedro News-Pilot (a century old newspaper going back to the News founded in 1898 and the San Pedro Pilot founded in 1909)—is sold to MediaNews Group, the owner of 54 daily U.S. newspapers—including the Press-Telegram (Long Beach), Pasadena Star-News, The Sun (San Bernardino), Redlands Daily Fact, Daily News (Van Nuys), Whittier Daily News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, and Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario); Affiliated Media, the holding company of MediaNews, filed a prepackaged bankruptcy on 01/22/2010 and emerged from Chapter 11 six weeks later

16 December:

1896: 1st session in Los Angeles of the federal commission (Admiral J.G. Walker, chair) designated by congress to choose the location of LA’s deep water port; visits Santa Monica on 12/17/1896 and San Pedro on 12/18/1896; public hearings are held on 12/21-30/1896; “disinterested” witnesses favoring Santa Monica found to be employed or paid by the Southern Pacific railway; Long Beach residents testify about abundant harvests of coal that was spilled by colliers unloading at San Pedro and drifted to shore along the beach; shipmaster testifies that most wrecks at San Pedro caused by over-insurance and blunders by negligent captains eager to get ashore to have “fun with the boys” (supposedly at San Pedro’s many bars and bawdy houses in Stingaree Gulch and Paradise Valley); commission begins independent investigations of port conditions on 12/31/1896 (taking a break to attend the “Rose Carnival” at Pasadena an 01/01/1897)

1916: H-3 (SS-30, ex Garfish; commissioned 07/03/1913 and assigned to San Pedro) runs aground off Eureka in heavy fog; decommissioned on 02/04/1917 during salvage operations; relaunched on 04/20/1917 at Humboldt Bay, returns to San Pedro, and serves as flagship of Submarine Division 7; leaves San Pedro for the last time on 07/25/1922; decommissioned on 10/23/1922 and scrapped on 09/14/1931

17 December:

1857: Union Guard of Los Angeles (in New San Pedro?) organized with Phineas Banning “elected” Captain and Solomon Lozard First Lieutenant; there are no records of the Union Guard except for a Muster Roll and a letter from “Captain” Banning stating his men would quit if they don’t receive arms and equipment from the state; while the brigade may never have existed except on paper, Banning insisted on using his military titles (he was later designated an honorary general in the National Guard) for the rest of his life; the “unit” was mustered out in 1862

1870: Michael Lachenais lynched by a company of vigilantes from the gateway of the Tomlinson & Griffith corral at New High (Justica) and Temple Streets (northeast of the current federal courthouse near the intersection of Temple and Spring Street, at the base of Pound Cake Hill, between the courthouse and city hall) for the murder of Jacob Bell (LAPL; USCDL); Tomlinson & Griffith were the San Pedro competitors of the Banning & Company in Wilmington for the transport of passengers and goods between Los Angeles and the harbor (the gateway of the Banning corral, located southwest of the courthouse near the intersection of Spring and 1st Street, was the site of the Wilkins lynching in 1863—see December 06)

1903: Wilbur and Orville Wright fly the first airplane; 6 years (and 1 month) later on 01/10-20/1910 the 1st US International Air Meet is held on the grounds of the Dominguez Ranch (Rancho San Pedro)

1905: The first Los Angeles Limited leaves Chicago (leaves Salt Lake City for LA on 12/19/1905); the new daily route between Chicago and LA follows the Union Pacific line from Chicago to Salt Lake and the San Pedro, Los Angeles & Salt Lake line over the old Mormon Trail to LA

1917: Submarine F-1 (SS-20), based in San Pedro, sinks after collision with F-3 (SS-22) during exercises at sea off San Diego; 19 dead; F-1 sinks within 10 seconds (post side was torn forward of the engine room); survivors rescued by sister subs; the F-3 suffers a cracked bow cap and is later used as a training ship at San Pedro (1919-1921; decommissioned on 03/16/1922); the F-1 still rests on the bottom of the sea (where she was found by a Navy oceanographic research ship in October 1975 during a routine search for a crashed aircraft)

1923: San Pedro-Panama Canal speed record: 9 days

1941: Bomb scare in San Pedro when a discarded firecracker goes off in an incinerator (in a repeat performance, over 70 years later, a firecracker caused another bomb scare in San Pedro on 10/10/2010)

1976: S.S. Sansinena oil tanker (ca.1957 supertanker; 60,000 tons deadweight, 810’ long, 104’ beam, 42’ draft, 460,000 barrel capacity, $7,300,000 insured value; Liberian registry) with 30,000 gallons of oil in its bunker tanks explodes at the Berth 46 Union Oil Terminal; blast kills 8-9 and injures 58-59 (some claim up to 100); $3.5 million damage to berth; 260 nearby vessels (mostly pleasure craft in the marinas and the San Pedro Boat Works) damaged (mostly by debris and oil); blast shattered windows for miles (window glass had to be trucked in from throughout southern California to make repairs); causes “heavy damage”  in a 1.5 mile radius and scattered minor damage up to 30 miles away; most of the heavy oil sinks to the bottom of the harbor (forming small pools of oil across 17 acres of ocean floor); $21.6 million total estimated damage ($169 million in 2009 dollars using the relative share of GDP index); the old oil terminal and supertanker berth is now scheduled to be a cruise terminal and giant cruise ship berth

18 December:

1858: Rancho San Pedro land grant recognized, M. Dominguez, et al., 43,119 acres (see December 31)

1903: 2,000 people attend the 1st flag raising on the Fort Moore commemorative flag pole (erected on Fort Moore Hill above the southern portal of the Broadway Tunnel in downtown Los Angeles); 127’ long fir pole (14” diameter base, 8” diameter tip) was hauled from San Pedro by wagon because it was too long for the railroads (arrived in LA on 09/02/1903); the entire hill is leveled in 1949 prior to construction of the Hollywood freeway

1993: The Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse in San Pedro is declared a Historic-Cultural Monument by the city of LA

19 December:

1887: Boat capsized at San Pedro harbor during a gale; 2 fishermen drowned—including “Crawfish Pete” (one of the best-known fishermen on the Pacific Coast)

1901: First moving picture filmed in San Pedro is probably the Edison Company newsreel Building a Harbor in San Pedro showing the construction of the federal breakwater;

Building a Harbor at San Pedro, California

A copy of the newsreel is posted on CinemaHistory's YouTube channel; you can also download your own copy from the Library of Congress Edison exhibit

1902: Articles of incorporation filed for the Croker White Oil Development Company headquartered in San Pedro ($500,000 capital stock)

20 December:

1849: Peter Hardeman Burnett becomes the 1st Governor of the new State of California

1884: San Pedro harbor received 2.5 million feet of lumber within one week

1896: San Francisco Call interview with Point Fermin lighthouse keeper, George N. Shaw, reveals 1860’s invention of oar-powered personal airship; Shaw successfully flight-tested his aerial rowboat in New York’s Central Park; his participation in a failed trans-Atlantic balloon flight inspired his invention (he was hired to be the lifeboat navigator in case the ship sank at sea, but the expedition was cancelled when the balloon failed to inflate due to inferior materials); Shaw cancelled plans for commercial production when Professor Wise convinced him that the antics of young thrill-seekers would result in numerous tragedies; Shaw also invented and tested a propeller propulsion system for lighter-than-air craft

1946: Round-the-world voyage of American President Lines President Polk passenger liner (16,000 tons) ends after 5 years with her return to San Pedro—“cruise” delayed by war and strike

21 December:

1853: Lt. Ord of the Coast Survey writes that the plains north of San Pedro are “much too deep with mud for a wagon to cross them”; rains began in early December and he lost 6 out of 15 work days due to bad weather

1900: Homemade steam dredge 3-masted schooner Cordelia Heald (39 tons; 76’ long; built by farmer John L. Heald in his backyard) arrives in San Pedro after a 4-month attempt to reach Alaska (left California on 08/21/1900); wife quits ship and moves to LA; Captain Heald leaves San Pedro on 07/22/1901 in a 2nd attempt—arriving in San Francisco after another 4-month voyage of 16-hour days (San Francisco Call,12/29/1901, pgs 2-3)

22 December:

1807: The Embargo Act passed by Congress and signed by President Jefferson

1834: Abel Stearns, the new owner of the old McCulloch & Hartnell hide house on the 500 varas reservation in San Pedro (which he names “Casa de San Pedro”), builds his adobe home in Los Angeles (the “Palacio de Don Abel”)

1883: San Pedro’s (1st?) newspaper, the San Pedro Shipping Gazette (founded earlier in 1883 by Janes & Gould; Alternative Title: Shipping Gazette), moves to Los Angeles; changes name to Los Angeles and San Pedro Shipping Gazette (editor and publisher: J.F. Janes; Alternative Titles: Advocate and Shipping Gazette, Shipping Gazette, Shipping Gazette Advocate, The  Advocate); editorial policy: "Devoted to politics, anti-monopoly, anti-Chinese and the laboring classes; devoted to shipping, maritime and general commercial news."; comes to be published in a combined edition with The Advocate of Los Angeles and ceases publication in August 1886; Janes was a well-known “colorful” character in San Pedro and Los Angeles who has been credited with starting the 2nd California anti-Chinese campaign (his activities in Los Angeles preceded those in San Francisco by months)

1924: U.S. Surgeon General Hugh Cumming declares the ports of Oakland, New Orleans and San Pedro to be “plague infected”—although no infected rats had been found in the LA harbor area in the over 45 days of trapping begun on 11/05/1924 (see October 29)

23 December:

1917: Dedication of the Cajon Pass Pioneer Monument; located along the old Trails National Highway at the junction of the Santa Fe and Salt Lake Trails (see December 28)

24 December:

1828: The New York brig Danube drags her anchor at San Pedro during a southeaster and is grounded; ship is a total loss (see December 31); crew of 28 survive and welcomed in Los Angeles; 2 survivors stay and become settlers: Samuel Prentice of Connecticut and Johann Groningen of Hanover, Germany; Johann came to be called Lame John or “Juan Cojo” due to his slight limp—he was also known as Juan Domingo, John Sunday and Johann Sonntag

1861: “Noachian Deluge” begins; rain continues for almost 4 weeks causing heavy floods in the LA area during the holidays; the resulting Great Flood of 1862 was the largest flood in California's recorded history

1934: U.S. naval ships in San Pedro transformed into a fairyland of giant trees and scenery for the annual Christmas fiesta held for thousands of children

1941: Japanese submarine torpedoes lumber freighter Absaroka (5,695 tons) within sight of Point Fermin (according to Martha Farrell, the explosion was seen by her friend Beatrice “Rose” Amar—daughter or granddaughter of Edouard Amar—from her home on the bluffs); 1 killed; crippled ship towed to lower Fort MacArthur in San Pedro (later docked on Terminal Island); ship was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-19 (I-15 class; launched 09/1939; 356’6” length; 30’6” beam; 16’9” draught; six 21” torpedo tubes; 17 torpedoes; under Lt. Commander Narahara Shogo) five miles off of San Pedro harbor (the I-19, one of 9 Japanese subs positioned off the West coast, also fired on the lumber schooner Barbara Olsen 4 hours earlier); military aircraft and submarine chaser USS Amethyst (PYC-3) pursue the I-19 but sink the fishing barge Kohala instead (I-19 survives to be sunk by the destroyer USS Radford on 11/25/1943 in the Gilbert Islands); the Absaroka was built in 1917 and had served in the Naval Overseas Transportation Service from 10/1918-02/1919; Captain Richard B. Coffman, commandant of the San Pedro Naval Operating Base, has movie star Jane Russell pose in the hole of the ship with the racist “Slip of the Lip” poster from the harbor area wartime security campaign (published in the 01/26/1942 issue of Life magazine)
25 December:

1934: Santa Claus travels by seaplane between ships in San Pedro harbor in Navy benefit for 1,500 poor youngsters

1936: 4,000 children are guests at Navy benefit on ships at San Pedro

1946: 179 Christmas amnesties granted to prisoners at the Terminal Island Naval disciplinary barracks

26 December:

1887: During a heavy rain storm a gust of wind causes the steamer Los Angeles to break away from its San Pedro wharf and drives it up the channel and into the railway trestle between San Pedro and Wilmington; trains delayed while ship is extracted

1926: Steam freighter J.L. Luckenbach crashes into San Pedro ferry landing; imperils people, wrecks building, but none hurt

1937: Navy spokesperson in San Pedro emphatically denies reports that the Navy, Coast Guard, and Department of Justice are engaged in a Pacific Coast counterespionage campaign against the Japanese in California

27 December:

1889: Rainstorms flood LA basin; 7 miles of Southern Pacific track on the San Pedro line under water; southbound train stopped at Compton; no trains running; San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers overflowed and merged to form a single flood plain

28 December:

1854: Southern Californian reports that William T.B. Sanford (the Santa Fe trader who was a pioneer in the San Pedro-Los Angeles freight forwarding business) and George Carson received a contract from the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors to build a new wagon road for the “old Mormon Trail” through the Cajon Pass (Jedediah Smith originated the route from Salt Lake to LA through the Cajon Pass in 1826; in June 1854 the US Congress appropriated $50,000 to improve the trail and the California legislature was working on a bill to fund road construction from San Pedro through the Cajon Pass to the state line); Gabe Allen and a crew of 20 were hired to make the 30’ cut; the new “Sanford Grade” or “Sanford Cutoff” is completed in 1855 (in 1850 Sanford had constructed the 1st wagon road through the pass 5-6 miles east of the old Spanish Trail through west Cajon valley—it was  less rough but still excessively steep at the summit and it added several miles to the route); earlier in December the new Sanford road (also built by Gabe Allen) through the San Fernando (Newhall) pass was “opened” when Sanford’s brother-in-law and ex-employee Phineas Banning (now the eager junior partner of David Alexander) recklessly drove the 1st stage through the pass before its official opening (Banning overturned the coach and damaged parts of the road going down the steep grade—luckily the terrified passengers had exited the coach at the top and refused to ride down the grade); Banning’s failure to safely drive a stage through the pass led to the creation of a cut (called Beale’s Cut after Edward Fitzgerald Beale, who enlarged it from 30 to 90 feet after it was damaged by the 1862 Great Flood); history has recorded this failure as a success and Banning often gets sole credit for opening the route (later the Banning companies would monopolized trade through the pass to Fort Tejon for many years); to this day the 2 passes remain the primary overland routes between Los Angeles and the north

1869: Patent to the Rancho San Pedro recorded in the official records of Los Angeles County (see December 31)

1967: Wharf fire and gas spill at Berth 119; $150,000 damage

29 December:

1910: Twin steamships Yale and Harvard (built 1907; 3,731 tons; 407’ long; 63’ wide; 4 decks; 1,000 passengers; 150 crew; 311 “rooms”; 28 suites), the fastest passenger ships in America, round Cape Horn en route to California from the East Coast; sister ships transferred to the Pacific Navigation Company’s San Pedro-San Francisco route after 3 years running between Boston and New York; the steamships will extend the Salt Lake Route (see December 17) from its San Pedro terminus (on Terminal Island) to San Francisco [Note the additions made to the original image to liven-up the postcard: billowing smoke from the smokestacks, a green Red Car, and additional train tracks with train]

1924: 1st pneumonic plague rat found in the harbor area was at a hog ranch 4 miles from the port; the ranch is completely demolished and relocated 10 miles from the harbor

30 December:

1905: Articles of incorporation filed for the Elk’s Building Association of San Pedro ($50,000 capital stock; lodge was built by Eloi Amar, son of Edouard Amar) and the First Norwegian-Danish Methodist Episcopal Church of San Pedro

31 December:

1822: Title to the remainder of the Rancho San Pedro (part of which had been willed by Juan José Dominguez to Manuel Gutierrez and Mateo Rubio in 1809) is re-granted by the 1st Mexican Governor of Alto California, Pablo Vicente de Sola, to Sergeant Cristobal Dominguez (the nephew and principal heir of Juan José Dominguez); the original rancho had been provisionally granted to Juan José by his former commander Pedro Fages, the Spanish colonial Governor of Alto California, in March 1784; in 1822 a large portion of the original rancho (Rancho de los Palos Verdes) was claimed and occupied by the Sepulveda family who had been given usage rights by the executor of the estate (their friend and mentor, Manuel Gutierrez) prior to their cousin’s (Cristobel) claiming of his inheritance; the celebrated Dominguez-Sepulveda land dispute continued until June 1841 when the Dominguez family signed a quit claim agreement; the Sepulveda title to Rancho de los Palos Verdes (and the Dominguez title to the reduced Rancho San Pedro) was then officially confirmed by the last Mexican Governor of Alto California, Pio Pico, on 06/03/1846; both families might have lost much of their land if the conflict hadn’t been resolved prior to the American occupation and Yankee invasion—two decades of litigation, petitions and gubernatorial decrees had also produced a much richer paper trail supporting their claims than existed for most of the other ranchos in California; the final title granted by the U.S. land patent of 1858 ceded 31,000 acres to the Sepulveda family and 43,000 to the Dominguez family (in subsequent decades the Dominguez family was much more successful than the Sepulveda family in retaining their holdings)

1828: Michael White arrives in San Pedro to salvage the brig Danube: “An American Brig called the Danube was wrecked at San Pedro on Christmas Eve and Captain de la Guerra bought her. I had a cousin named Henry Paine whom I had seen once in La Paz and met in Santa Barbara when I got there in 1828. He was my chief carpenter in constructing the schooner. The Captain, prior to buying the Danube, had sent him to San Pedro to survey the wreck, get her off, and put such repairs on her as might be necessary. He went to San Pedro and she proved to be a splendid vessel, but could not be got off. I went afterward to San Pedro; started on 30 December and got there on New Year's Eve. We had everything ready to get her off, and were waiting for the tide to rise, when a gale came on and brought her high and dry. She got on the top of the bank so that I could walk off her bowsprit on the shore. She was knocked all to pieces, and we saved all the materials and built a schooner out of them [launched at Santa Barbara]. She was named the Santa Barbara, and was the first vessel ever built in California. She was placed under command of a man called Thomas Robinson, a Nantucket man [who was granted Santa Catalina Island in 1846].” 

The wreck of the Danube was also scavenged in 1830 by Joseph Chapman for the 1st ship built in Los Angeles, the top-sail schooner Guadalupe (99.9 tons; built at the San Gabriel Mission, it was disassembled for transport by ox carts to San Pedro—where it was reassembled and launched in 1831); all that’s left of the ship is its anchor

1898: 30,784 passengers ferried from San Pedro to Santa Catalina Island by year’s end

Also in December:

1846: Kearney’s forces reach California overland from New Mexico; Santa Anna elected president of Mexico

1852: Coast Survey reconnaissance made between San Pedro and LA to determine a baseline for triangulation and to connect the Channel Islands with the mainland (see December 21)

1862: Banning’s “new” steamer, the Ada Hancock (previously known as the Milton Willis) is launched

1865: Southern Pacific Railroad incorporated

1873: 1st two naval orange trees in California arrive in San Pedro from Bahia, Brazil (for Luther C. Tibbets of Riverside); origin of the Los Angeles and California orange industry

1887: Two die in San Pedro of Typhoid Fever (7 died in Los Angeles and 15 in San Francisco)

1892: 1st official attendance of Sailors Union delegates from the city of San Pedro to meetings of the LA labor council; council is renamed the Los Angeles County Council of Labor in 1893 due to its increasingly region-wide membership


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