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.
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