Thursday, September 13, 2007
1898: Year of Many Crusades for Los Angeles’ M&M
By ROGER M. GRACE
One hundred and 11 years ago, a plucky group with a vision began its operations on the second floor of the Wilcox Building in downtown Los Angeles. It foresaw Los Angeles—then a relatively fledgling and rough-around-the-edges burg—evolving into one of the world’s great cities, and was determined to accelerate that fate.
The Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Assn., around the waning days of the 19th Century and the kickoff days of the new century, pushed and prodded and prognosticated and promoted.
Few denizens of this megalopolis today appreciate that San Francisco was then the center of commerce in this state, the major city…and it was only those with particularly keen vision (or blind optimism) who back then discerned the potential of this semi-tropical spot.
Overall, the group’s success record was high, the impetus it lent the progress of the city was akin to an electric charge.
Here’s a reflection on the M & M’s successes in 1898, contained in the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday magazine section on Jan. 1, 1899:
The Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Association, has done good work during the past year. It has now a membership of nearly 400. In the line of public improvements, the association secured the passage of the so-called ‘anti-hitching ordinance, after a stubborn fight in the Council. The ordinance, as first introduced in the Council by the association, prohibited the hitching or standing of any vehicle of whatever nature on the principal business thoroughfares, but owing to the opposition of a number of individuals who were interested its repea1 [notably, the hack drivers], the ordinance was modified to allow hitching of twenty minutes in that section.
Next came the repaving of Spring street, a project that had been abandoned, owing to the opposition of a large number of property owners. Through the strenuous efforts of the association, a number of protestants were approached, and they subsequently petitioned for the repaving. At the same time, the association appealed to the Fire Commissioners for better fire protection, and as a result a number of double hydrants were placed in each block in the business part of the city.
After many years of unsuccessful warfare, the association has at last succeeded in obtaining for Los Angeles cleaner streets. The business portion is now swept every night by machine, and in the daytime by hand.
Through the instrumentality of the association the blowing of bugles and beating of drums as a means advertising has been forbidden.
The association will, in the near future undertake another matter of importance to the sanitary condition of the city in the collection and disposal of garbage and dead animals.
A measure undertaken in the interest of the mercantile community was the attempt to obtain equal freight rates per mile between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley, as are now in vogue between San Francisco and these points. Unfortunately the railroad company has not acquiesced in this just demand.
When the war revenue went into effect and Wells Fargo & Company refused to contribute its share in placing stamps on the bills of lading, this association was among the first to take up the matter and bring action against the company in the United States District Court. Only recently, a decision was rendered in that court against the association, and in favor the express company, upon technical legal grounds. As a result, however, of this agitation, the association has presented a strong memorial [petition] asking Congress to pass a law and put in operation the so-called Parcel Post Express, whereby the public can ship merchandise through the United States Post Office Department on the same terms as is now done with similar packages of less than four pounds in weight.
Another memorial to be presented at the present session of Congress relates to the building of a dry dock at San Pedro, in line with the recommendation of Chief Endicott of the Bureau of Docks and Yards, to the Secretary of the Navy.
One of the most persistent fights that the association undertook was against the inauguration of the so-called “trading-stamp” scheme in this city. While not entirely successful, that agitation has resulted in materially reducing the number of merchants who would have otherwise adopted this questionable method of attracting trade.
A monthly bulletin is now issued by the association, for the purpose of the discussion of subjects of mutual interest to the merchants and manufacturers, and matters pertaining to the welfare of the city.
The Southern Pacific Railroad justified higher freight charges between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin Valley than between there and San Francisco—though the distance was roughly the same—on the ground that there were steep grades between here and Bakersfield. Under a compromise reached Sept. 16, 1901, rates were slashed, with San Francisco now having only a slight price advantage.
On Jan. 1, 1913, a new Parcel Post system went into effect nationally. Items could weighing up to 11 pounds could now be shipped from a post office.
In April, 1899, there were massive celebrations on the occasion of the commencement of the construction of a dry dock harbor in San Pedro.
As to the battle against trading stamps…I’ll save that subject for next time.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company
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