For L.A. history junkies only


In writing books about the city's past -- and learning that it pays to Google every topic and name, no matter how dated -- I've stumbled into marvelous online troves of raw Los Angeles history. Here are two that make unexpected fun reading, especially for newspaper junkies.

Ralph E. Shaffer of the History department at Cal Poly Pomona compiled -- verbatim and unsanitized -- 2,000 letters to the editor printed in the Los Angeles Times between 1881 and 1889. He has broken them down by topic, and indexed them by author so you can see what the blog commenters ("mad taxpayer," "anarchist," "Nuda Veritas") of 120 years ago fixated on. Shaffer calls it Letters From the People: The Los Angeles Times Letters Column, 1881-1889.

And then here, journalist George Garrigues has reprinted stories, drawings and ads from Los Angeles newspapers of 1900-1909. You can read about old feuds between the Times and the Herald, Hearst's coverage of the Examiner's first edition and the Times' scoffing, various political scandals and jail terms for speeders.

This post is partly inspired by Virginia Postrel's discovery of a site that archives every mention of Mark Twain in the New York Times since 1867. She's a former Angeleno so I'm also pleased to report that Postrel's new book, The Substance of Style, is about to come out.

Earlier: The More L.A. changes...

More by Kevin Roderick:
Ralph Lawler of the Clippers and the age of Aquarius
Riding the Expo Line to USC 'just magical'
Last bastion of free parking? Loyola Marymount to charge students
Matt Kemp, Dodgers and Kings start big weekend the right way
LA Times writers revisit their '92 riots observations
Recent History stories on LA Observed:
The other horrible April 29 date in Los Angeles history
KNBC 'live-tweeting' the run-up to '92 riots
When Muhammad Ali boxed in LA - and posed for pictures *
MALDEF sues sheriff over withheld Ruben Salazar files
Scenes from a convention - Los Angeles, 1960

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