Thursday, November 15, 2007
1900: M & M Stages Exposition, Invites President to Fiesta
By ROGER M. GRACE
As the 20th Century arrived, the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Assn. of Los Angeles was involved in such endeavors as staging a three-week “Industrial, Mining, and Citrus Exposition” at Hazard’s Pavilion.
Such uncontroversial activities were still part of its mission...though in the years ahead, the M & M would more and more become linked in the public’s mind with a single cause, ultimately to consume all of its attention: maintaining “open shops” in Los Angeles.
The 1900 exhibition—reminiscent of a show put on by the M & M in 1897 featuring “home products”(that is, ones made locally)—began Feb. 19 and closed March 10. The idea was to lure visitors here and sell them on the notion that they just had to acquire items from this region.
The array of products was wider than that displayed at the Home Products show three years earlier or at the ill-fated “permanent” exhibition (in a rented building) in 1898 that closed after six months.
Hazard’s Pavilion (at the northeast corner of Fifth and Olive), where the 1897 exposition had also been held, was a three-story structure…the closest thing Los Angeles had to a convention center. (A goal of the M & M adopted May 12, 1899, was to erect a world-class convention center in Los Angeles, its campaign being ahead of the times, and realized only in relatively recent years.)
A portion of the pavilion was dubbed during the 1900 event “Machinery Hall.” There, new mechanical devices—including electrical ones—were to be found.
Elsewhere in the wooden structure (later the site of Philharmonic Hall, now a parking lot) was a mock mining tunnel featuring specimens of ores.
Hot cakes, soda pop, and other refreshments were free. The Catalina Band provided two daily concerts.
On Feb. 23, a “baby show” took place, with about 120 entrants. These were white babies; a separate show featuring Chinese babies was scheduled for March 5, but parents had no interest in putting their toddlers on display, to be judged like preserves at a county fair. Instead, Chinese “children’s day” was held on March 9 sans competition; about 43 youngsters, ranging in ages from a few months to about 15 years, attended with their mothers, in ceremonial garb.
The Board of Directors of the M & M, meeting on Aug. 17, 1900, in their quarters on the Second Floor of the Wilcox Building, drafted a letter to the City Council in which they declared:
“If the office of sealer of weights and measures was created to protect the general public from dishonest methods of merchants in their transactions with the public, we submit that the compensation of the sealer should be borne by all the taxpayers and not exacted as a special tax from the merchants.”
That position makes sense to me. It also makes sense to me that the costs of admitting and disciplining lawyers—which inures to the benefit of the general public—“should be borne by all the taxpayers and not exacted as a special tax,” in the form of dues from lawyers.
The M & M got what it wanted. The City Council ordered the sealer to stop collecting fees from merchants when he came to test their scales, and set a salary for him at $100 per month.
“La Fiesta de Los Angeles” had been held each year from 1894 to 1897. It was that project that brought together a group of businessmen. They decided to name their ad hoc committee the “Merchant’s Association”; merging in 1896 with the “Manufacturers’ Association,” the organization became the M & M.
A fiesta was planned for 1897, but anti-Spanish fervor engendered by the impending Spanish American War, resulted in the cancellation of the event. This was not a time for caballeros to be parading on horseback.
The M & M decided in 1900 to stage a street fair the following year. On Oct. 5, a special committee made plans, and came up with the name, “Fiesta de Las Flores.”
Not only would the M & M stage a big show...it would invite the president of the United States to come to it.
It was known that President William McKinley would be in San Francisco in the spring for the launching of a ship in San Francisco. Could he be induced to stop off in Los Angeles?
One of California’s U.S. senators, Thomas R. Bard, as well as U.S. Rep. Eugene Francis Loud and Rep.-Elect James McLachlan (a former Los Angeles district attorney), in November pledged to use their influence with the president to secure an acceptance.
The president responded to the invitation. Yes.
In May, 1901, the president and most of his cabinet were in Los Angeles to attend the M & M’s shindig.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company
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