Leaving out LA's history of car manufacturing

nhm-car-tourist.jpgThe Wall Street Journal on Wednesday ran a couple of good Leisure and Arts stories on museum exhibits in Los Angeles. Both are exhibits we've written about and liked: Never Built: Los Angeles at the A+D Museum, and Becoming Los Angeles at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the latter story observes that one of the objects on display, a 1902 Tourister, was the first car produced in Los Angeles. The story says, however, that it's "the only car to be manufactured in Los Angeles."

Oops. That leaves out a lot of cars — thousands. The WPA guide "Los Angeles in the 1930s" noted in 1939 that there were assembly plants here for General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Studebaker and Willys-Overland. Some may have been in other official jurisdictions — the Chrysler plant was in Commerce, I think, and Ford in Pico Rivera — but the big Chevrolet plant in Van Nuys built after World War II was in Los Angeles by any definition and didn't close until 1992. Those are just the biggies we know about. I queried the museum to see if the curators had a different take than mine. Nope, they agree. The WSJ "got that wrong. We're trying to get it corrected," spokeswoman Kristin Friedrich said. The car on display "was the first manufactured in LA." As of today, the online article on the Wall Street Journal website still labels The Tourist, above, "the only car ever manufactured in L.A."

Noted: The reason the big shopping center on Van Nuys Boulevard is called The Plant is that it's built on the former site of the General Motors factory.

Photo of 1902 Tourist: Edgar Chamorro/NHMLA


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