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Los Angeles History

Los Angeles changed rapidly after 1848, when California was transferred to the United States as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War. Much greater changes were to come from the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1876. For the next 120 years of Los Angeles’ growth, it was plagued by often violent ethnic and class conflict, reflected in the struggle over who would control the city’s identity, image, geography and history.



Recent archeological studies show there was a seafaring culture in Southern California in 8,000 B.C.

By 3,000 B.C. the area was occupied by the Hokan-speaking people of the Milling Stone Period who both fished, hunted sea mammals, and gathered wild seeds. They were later replaced by migrants — possibly fleeing drought in the Great Basin — who spoke a Uto-Aztecan language called Tongva, who were later named by the Spanish as the Gabrielinos and Fernandeños. The Tongva people called the Los Angeles region Yaa in Tongva.[1]

By the time of the arrival of the Spaniard in the 18th century A.D., there were 250,000 to 300,000 native people in California and 5,000 in the Los Angeles basin. Since contact with Europeans, the people in what became Los Angeles were known as Gabrielinos and Fernandeños, after the missions associated with them.[2]

The land occupied and used by the Gabrielinos covered about four thousand square miles. It included the enormous floodplain drained by the Los Angeles and San Gabriel rivers and the southern Channel Islands, including the Santa Barbara, San Clemente, Santa Catalina, and San Nicholas Islands. They were part of a sophisticated group of trading partners that included the Chumash to the north, the Cahuilla and Mojave to the east, and the Juaneños and Luiseños to the south. Their trade extended to the Colorado River and included slavery.[3]

The lives of the Gabrielinos were governed by a set of religious and cultural practices that included belief in creative supernatural forces. They worshipped a creator god, Chinigchinix, and a female virgin god, Chukit. Their Great Morning Ceremony was based on a belief in the afterlife. In a purification ritual similar to the Eucharist, they drank tolguache, a hallucinogenic made from jimson weed and salt water. Their language was called Kizh or Kij, and they practiced cremation.[4][5][6]

Generations before the arrival of the Europeans, the Gabrielinos had identified and lived in the best sites for human occupation. The survival and success of Los Angeles would depend greatly on the presence of a nearby and prosperous Gabrielino village called Yaanga. Its residents would provide the colonists with seafood, fish, bowls, pelts, and baskets. For pay, they would dig ditches, haul water, and provide domestic help. They often intermarried with the Mexican colonists.[7]


Spanish Era 1769–1821

The “Old Plaza Church” facing the Plaza, 1869. The brick reservoir in the middle of the Plaza was the original terminus of the Zanja Madre.

In 1542, the first Europeans to visit the Los Angeles region were Captain Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew. They were sailing up the coast looking for a new passage to Asia. In 1602, Captain Sebastián Vizcaíno dropped anchor at Santa Catalina Island and near San Pedro. It would be another 166 years before another European would visit the region.[2]

The Spanish expedition of Alta California

Los Angeles had its beginnings between 1765 and 1771 in the plans of a royal bureaucrat visiting New Spain, General José de Gálvez. He was in charge of implementing Bourbon administrative reforms. His reorganization included plans for the further exploration of Alta California and the settlement of a whole line of missions and presidios (“military forts”). The military forts were not self-sustaining, and the missions would supply them with goods and food.

Galvez petitioned the king to approve these plans with these arguments: 1. It would provide new revenues for the Vice Royalty governing New Spain. 2. It would protect the Spanish Empire in North America, especially from the encroaching Russians. 3. It would provide a base for increasing trade with Asia. The plans also had the support of the Franciscans who wanted to open new missions in Alta California.

Galvez’s petition resulted in the formation of a joint land-and -sea expedition. Its primary purpose was to occupy Monterey (which had been visited by Vizcaíno in 1602) and establish new missions and presidios there and in San Diego.

To lead the expedition, Galvez appointed the new governor of California Lieutenant Colonel Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra, Franciscan head of the former Jesuit missions in Baja California.[8]

During the land expedition from San Diego to Monterey, engineer Michael Costanso and Father Juan Crespi accompanied Portola. They kept careful notes of all they observed. Reaching the future site of Los Angeles, the party camped out along side a river. Portola named the river Porciuncula.

The name came from an approaching Franciscan religious celebration that honored the mother church of the Franciscans, the Porziuncola (“small piece of land”) in the Italian frazione of Saint Mary of the Angels.[9]

Father Crespi made these observations:

Thursday, 3, 1769. At half past six, we left the camp and forded the Porciuncula River, which runs down from the valley, flowing through it from the mountains to the plain. After crossing the river we entered a large vineyard of wild grapes and an infinity of rosebushes in full bloom. All the soil is black and loamy, and is capable of producing every kind of grain and fruit which may be planted. We went west, continually over good land well covered with grass. After traveling about half a league we came to the village of this region, the people of which, on seeing us, came out to the road.[10]

Plans for the pueblo

The one person most responsible for the founding of Los Angeles was the new Governor of California, Felipe de Neve.

In 1777, Neve toured Alta California and decided to establish civic pueblos for the support of the military presidios. Neve was a Renaissance person. The new pueblos would reduce the secular power of the missions by reducing the dependency of the military on them. At the same time, they would promote the development of industry and agriculture.

Neve identified Santa Barbara, San Jose, and Los Angeles as sites for his new pueblos. His plans for them closely followed a set of Spanish city-planning laws contained in the Laws of the Indies promulgated by King Philip II in 1513. Those laws were responsible for laying the foundations of the largest cities in the region, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson, and San Antonio—as well as Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Fe, San Jose, and Laredo.[8]

The royal regulations were based on the ancient teachings of Vitruvius, who set down the rules for founding of new cities in the Roman Empire. Basically, the Spanish laws called for an open central plaza, surrounded by a fortified church, administrative buildings, and streets laid out in a grid, defining rectangles of limited size to be used for farming (suertes) and residences (solares).[11]

It was in accordance with such precise planning—specified in the Law of the Indies—that Governor Neve founded the pueblo of San Jose de Guadalupe, California’s first municipality, on the great plain of Santa Clara on 29 November 1777.[12]

The Los Angeles Pobladores

The Los Angeles Pobladores (“townspeople”) is the name given to the 44 original settlers, 22 adults and 22 children, who founded the town.

In December, 1777, Viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa and Commandant General Teodoro de Croix gave approval for the founding of a civic municipality at Los Angeles and a new presidio at Santa Barbara. Croix put the California lieutenant governor Fernando Rivera y Moncada in charge of recruiting colonists for the new settlements. He was originally instructed to recruit 55 soldiers, 22 settlers with families and 1,000 head of livestock that included horses for the military. After an exhausting search that took him to Mazatlan, Rosario, and Durango, Rivera y Moncada only recruited 12 settlers and 45 soldiers. Like the people of most towns in New Spain, they were a mix of Indian and Spanish backgrounds. Croix instructed Rivera y Moncada to delay no longer and proceed north. The soldiers, settlers, and livestock were assembled at Alamos, Sonora, before departure.[13]

They were divided into two groups. One group, under Alfèrez Josè de Zúñiga and Alfèrez Ramon Laso de la Vega, set out for the coast. They crossed the Gulf of California on launches and then travelled overland to San Diego and up to San Gabriel.[13]

The second group, under Rivera y Moncada, took an overland route over the desert, passing by the new missions on the Colorado River, La Purísima Concepción and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer. The group arrived at the Colorado River in June 1781. Rivera y Moncada sent most of his party ahead, but he stayed behind to rest the livestock before their drive across the desert. His party would never reach San Gabriel. The Quechan and Mojave Indians rose up against the party for encroaching on their farmlands and for other abuses inflicted by the soldiers. The Quechan Revolt was swift and killed 95 settlers and soldiers, including Rivera y Moncada.[13]

Governor Neve had arrived in San Gabriel in April to finish his plans, El Reglamento, and select the exact location for Los Angeles. He carefully attended to every detail.

While waiting for the colonists to arrive, he visited Yaanga, the Indian village near his selected site. He selected several children for reception into the Church and baptized a young couple and had their marriage blessed. In his Reglamento, the newly baptized Indians were no longer to reside in the mission but live in their traditional rancherias (villages). Neve’s new plans for the Indians’ role in his new town drew instant disapproval from the mission priests.[14]

Zúñiga’s party arrived at the mission on 18 July 1781. Because they had arrived with smallpox, they were immediately quarantined a short distance away from the mission. Members of the other party would arrive at different times by August. They made their way to Los Angeles and probably received their land before September.[14]

The founding

The official date for the founding of the city is September 4, 1781. According to a written message sent by Governor Neve to report the pueblo’s juridical foundation, that was when 44 pobladores, or settlers, gathered at San Gabriel Mission and, escorted by soldiers and two padres from the mission, set out for the chosen spot that Crespí had recorded twelve years earlier. According to historian Antonio Rios-Bustamente, however, the families had arrived from Mexico earlier in 1781, in two groups, and that some of them had most likely been working on their assigned plots of land since the early summer.[15]

The name first given to the settlement is debated. Historian Doyce P. Nunis has said that the Spanish named it “El Pueblo de la Reyna de los Angeles” (“The Town of the Queen of the Angels”). For proof, he pointed to a map dated 1785, where that phrase was used. Frank Weber, the diocesan archivist, replied, however, that the name given by the founders was “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula,” or “the town of Our Lady of the Angels of Porciuncula.” and that the map was in error.[9]

The early pueblo

At the end of the first year, only 8 of the original founders were still in the pueblo. Three had been forced out “for being useless to themselves and the town.” But the town grew as soldiers and other settlers came into town and stayed. In 1784, a chapel was built on the Plaza. The pobladores were given title to their land two years later. By 1800, there were 29 buildings that surrounded the Plaza, flat-roofed, one-story adobe buildings with thatched roofs made of tule.[16]

By 1821, Los Angeles would grow into a self-sustaining farming community, the largest in Southern California. Its development conformed strictly to the Law of the Indies and the Reglamento of Governor Neve. The pueblo itself included a square of 10,000 varas, five and a quarter miles on each side. The central Plaza was in the middle, 75 varas (208 ft.) wide and 100 varas (277 ft.) long. On the west side of the Plaza facing east, space was reserved for a church and municipal buildings. Each vecino (neighbor) received a solar 20 varas wide (55.5 ft.) and 40 varas long (110 ft.).[12]

Each settler also received four rectangles of land, suertes, for farming, two irrigated plots and two dry ones. Each plot was 200 square varas. The farm plots were separated from the pueblo by a tract of land 200 varas wide. Some plots of land, propios, were set aside for the pueblo’s general use and revenue. Other plots of land, realengas, were set aside for future settlers. Land outside the city, baldios, included mountains, rivers, lakes, and forests and belonged to the king.[8][17]

When the settlers arrived, the Los Angeles floodplain was heavily wooded with willows and oaks. The Los Angeles river flowed all year. Wildlife was plentiful, including deer, antelope, and bear, even an occasional grizzly. There were abundant wetlands and swamps. Steelhead and salmon swam the rivers.

The first settlers built a zanja water system consisting of ditches leading from the river through the middle of town and into the farmlands. Indians were employed to haul fresh drinking water from a special pool farther upstream. The city was first known as a producer of fine wine grapes. The raising of cattle and the commerce in tallow and hides would come later.[18]

Because of the great economic potential for Los Angeles, the demand for Indian labor grew rapidly. Yaanga began attracting Indians from the islands and as far away as San Diego and San Luis Obispo. The village began to look like a refugee camp. Unlike the missions, the pobladores paid Indians for their labor. In exchange for their work as farm workers, vaqueros, ditch diggers, water haulers, and domestic help, the Indians were paid in clothing and other goods as well as cash and alcohol. The pobladores bartered with them for prized sea-otter and seal pelts, sieves, trays, baskets, mats, and other woven goods. This commerce greatly contributed to the economic success of the town and the attraction of other Indians to the city.[7]

During the 1780s, San Gabriel Mission became the object of an Indian revolt. The mission had expropriated all the suitable farming land. The Indians found themselves abused and forced to work on lands that they once owned. A young Indian healer, Toypurina began touring the area, preaching against the injustices suffered by her people. She won over four rancherias and led them in an attack on the mission at San Gabriel. The soldiers were able to defend the mission and they arrested 17, including Toypurina.[19]

Because the Indians were exploited, starved, beaten, and raped in the pueblo as often as anywhere else, the officials knew they had to protect them to assure a cheap supply of labor. In 1787, Governor Pedro Fages drew up his “Instructions for the Corporal Guard of the Pueblo of Los Angeles.” The Instructions included rules for employing Indians, not using corporal punishment, and protecting the Indian rancherias. As a result, Indians found themselves with more freedom to choose between the benefits of the missions and the pueblo-associated rancherias.[20]

In 1784, California’s first three ranchos were granted to soldiers, all in Los Angeles County. Rancho San Pedro was given to Juan José Dominguez, Rancho San Rafael to José María Verdugo, and Rancho Los Nietos to Mañuel Nieto. The grants stipulated that Indian employees stay clear of San Gabriel, further drawing them away from the missions and closer to the life of the pueblo.[15]

In 1795, Sergeant Pablo Cota led an expedition from the Simi Valley through the Conejo-Calabasas region and into the San Fernando Valley. His party visited the rancho of Francisco Reyes. They found the local Indians hard at work as vaqueros and caring for crops. Padre Vincente de Santa Maria was traveling with the party and gave us these observations:

The whole pagandom (Indians) is fond of the pueblo of Los Angeles, of the rancho of Reyes, and of the Zanja (water system). Here we see nothing but pagans, clad in shoes, with sombreros and blankets, and serving as muleteers to the settlers and rancheros, so that if it were not for the gentiles there would be neither pueblos nor ranches. These pagan Indians care neither for the missions nor for the missonaries.[21]

Not only economic ties but also marriage drew many Indians into the life of the pueblo. In 1784—only three years after the founding—the first recorded marriages in Los Angeles took place. The two sons of settler Basilio Rosas, Maximo and José Carlos, married two young Indian women, María Antonia and María Dolores.[22]

The construction on the Plaza of La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Angeles took place between 1818 and 1822, much of it with Indian labor. The new church completed Governor Neve’s planned transition of authority from mission to pueblo. No longer would angelinos have to endure the bumpy 11-mile (18 km) ride to Sunday Mass at Mission San Gabriel.

As much as many Indians benefited from assimilation into the life of the pueblo, traditional Indians remained at the bottom of the social ladder and were exploited as workers.

The Mexican Era 1821–1848

Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821 was celebrated with great festivity throughout Alta California. No longer subjects of the king, people were now ciudadanos, citizens with rights under the law. In the plazas of Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and other settlements, people swore allegiance to the new government, the Spanish flag was lowered, and the flag of independent Mexico raised.[15]

The new winds of democracy brought other advantages, including economic growth. There was a corresponding increase in population as more Indians were assimilated and others arrived from America, Europe, and other parts of Mexico. Before 1820, there were just 650 people in the pueblo. By 1841, the population nearly tripled to 1,680.[23]

Secularization of the Missions

During the rest of the 20s, the agriculture and cattle ranching expanded as did the trade in hides and tallow. The new church was completed, and the political life of the city developed. Los Angeles was separated from Santa Barbara administration. The system of ditches, the Zanja—which provided water from the river—was rebuilt. Trade and commerce further increased with the secularization of the California missions by the Mexican Congress in 1833. Extensive mission lands suddenly became available to government officials, ranchers, and land speculators. The governor made more than 800 land grants during this period.

Much of this progress, however, bypassed the Indians of the traditional villages who were not assimilated into the mestizo culture. Being regarded as minors who could not think for themselves, they were increasingly marginalized and relieved of their land titles, often by being drawn into debt or alcohol.[24]

In 1834, Governor Pico was married to Maria Ignacio Alvarado in the Plaza church. It was attended by the entire population of the pueblo, 800 people, plus hundreds from elsewhere in Alta California. In 1835, the Mexican Congress declared Los Angeles a city, making it the official capital of Alta California. It was now the region’s leading city.

The same period also saw the arrival of many foreigners from the United States and Europe. They would play a pivotal role in the U.S. takeover. Early California settler John Bidwell included several historical figures in his recollection of people he knew in March, 1845.

It then had probably two hundred and fifty people, of whom I recall Don Abel Stearns, John Temple, Captain Alexander Bell, William Wolfskill, Lemuel Carpenter,[25][26][27] David W. Alexander; also of Mexicans, Pio Pico (governor), Don Juan Bandini, and others.[28]

The Battle of Los Angeles

In May, 1846, the Mexican American War broke out. Because of Mexico’s inability to defend its northern territories, California was exposed to invasion. On August 6, 1846, Commodore Robert F. Stockton anchored off San Pedro and proceeded to march inland to occupy Los Angeles. On August 13, accompanied by John C. Frémont, Stockton marched into the Los Angeles Plaza with his brass band playing “Yankee Doodle” and “Hail Columbia.” Stockton’s troops occupied the headquarters and home of Governor Pico, who had fled to Mexico. After three weeks of occupation, Stockton left, leaving Lieutenant Archibald H. Gillespie in charge.

Subsequent maltreatment by Gillespie and his troops caused a local force of 300 locals to rise up in protest, led by Captain José María Flores, José Antonio Carrillo, and Andrés Pico. Flores demanded the Americans surrender and promised safe passage to San Pedro. Gillespie accepted and departed, ending the first phase of the Battle of Los Angeles.[15]

Full-scale warfare came to the area when Los Angeles residents dug up a colonial cannon that had been used for ceremonial purposes. They had buried it for safe-keeping when Stockton approached the city. They used it to fire on American Navy troops on 8 October 1846, in the Battle of Dominguez Rancho. The victorious locals named the cannon el piedrero de la vieja (the old woman’s gun). In December, the Mexicans were again victorious at the Battle of San Pascual near present-day Escondido.

Determined to take Los Angeles, Stockton regrouped his men in San Diego and marched north with six hundred troops, along with U.S. Army General Stephen Watts Kearny and his guide Kit Carson. Captain Frémont marched south from Monterey with 400 troops. After a few skirmishes outside the city, the two forces entered Los Angeles, this time without bloodshed.

Confronted with overwhelming force, Andrés Pico, who had succeeded Flores as military commander and acting as chief administrative officer, met with Fremont. At a ranch in what is now Studio City, they signed the Treaty of Cahuenga on 13 January 1847. That formally ended the California phase of the Mexican-American War. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed on 2 February 1848, ended the war and ceded California to the U.S.[15]

The Transitional Era 1848–1870

According to historian Mary P. Ryan, “The U.S. army swept into California with the surveyor as well as the sword and quickly translated Spanish and Mexican practices into cartographic representations.”[29] Under colonial law, land held by grantees was not disposable. It reverted to the government. It was determined that under U.S. property law, lands owned by the city were disposable. Also, the diseños (property sketches) held by residents did not secure title in an American court.

California’s new military governor Bennett C. Riley ruled that land could not be sold that was not on a city map. In 1849, Lieutenant Edward Ord surveyed Los Angeles to confirm and extend the streets of the city. His survey put the city into the real-estate business, creating its first real-estate boom and filling its treasury.[30] Street names were changed from Spanish to English. Further surveys and street plans quickly replaced the original plan for the pueblo with a new civic center south of the Plaza and a new use of space.

The fragmentation of Los Angeles real estate on the Anglo-Mexican axis had begun. Under the Spanish system, the residences of the power-elite clustered around the Plaza in the center of town. In the new American system, the power elite would reside in the outskirts. The emerging minorities, including the Chinese, Italians, French, and Russians, joined with the Mexicans near the Plaza.[8]

The gangs of Los Angeles

In 1848, the gold discovered in Coloma first brought thousands of miners from Sonora northern Mexico on the way to the gold fields. So many of them settled in the area north of the Plaza that it came to be known as Sonoratown.

During the Gold Rush years in northern California, Los Angeles became known as the “Queen of the Cow Counties” for its role in supplying beef and other foodstuffs to hungry miners in the north. Among the cow counties, Los Angeles County had the largest herds in the state followed closely by Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties.[31]

With the temporary absence of a legal system, the city was quickly submerged in lawlessness. Many of the New York regiment disbanded at the end of the war and charged with maintaining order were thugs and brawlers. They roamed the streets joined by gamblers, outlaws, and prostitutes driven out of San Francisco and mining towns of the north by Vigilance Committees or lynch mobs. Los Angeles came to be known as the “toughest and most lawless city west of Santa Fe.”[32]

Some of the residents resisted the new Anglo powers by resorting to social banditry against the gringos. In 1856, Juan Flores threatened Southern California with a full-scale revolt. He was hanged in Los Angeles in front of 3,000 spectators. Tiburcio Vasquez, a legend in his own time among the Mexican-born population for his daring feats against the Anglos, was captured in present-day Santa Clarita, California on May 14, 1874. He was found guilty of two counts of murder by a San Jose jury in 1874, and was hanged there in 1875.

Los Angeles had several active Vigilance Committees during that era. Between 1850 and 1870, mobs carried out approximately 35 lynchings of Mexicans—more than four times the number that occurred in San Francisco. Los Angeles was described as “undoubtedly the toughest town of the entire nation.”[33] The homicide rate between 1847 and 1870 averaged 158 per 100,000 (13 murders per year), which was 10 to 20 times the annual murder rates for New York City during the same period.[34]

The fear of Mexican violence and the racially motivated violence inflicted on them further marginalized the Mexicans, greatly reducing their economic and political opportunities.[35]

John Gately Downey, the seventh Governor of California was sworn into office on January 14th 1860, thereby becoming the first Governor from Southern California. Governor Downey was born and raised in Castlesampson, County Roscommon, Ireland, and came to Los Angeles in 1850. He was responsible for keeping California in the Union during the Civil War.

The plight of the Indians

In 1836, the Indian village of Yaanga was relocated near the future corner of Commercial and Alameda Streets. In 1845, it was relocated again to present-day Boyle Heights. With the coming of the Americans, disease took a great toll among Indians. Between 1848 and 1880, the total population of Los Angeles went from 75,050 to 12,500. Self-employed Indians were not allowed to sleep over in the city. They faced increasing competition for jobs as more Mexicans moved into the area and took over the labor force. Those who loitered or were drunk or unemployed were arrested and auctioned off as laborers to those who paid their fines. They were often paid for work with liquor, which only increased their problems.[36]

Los Angeles was incorporated as an American city on April 4, 1850. Five months later, California was admitted into the Union. Although the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo required the U.S. to grant citizenship to the Indians of former Mexican territories, the U.S. did not get around to doing that for another 80 years. The Constitution of California deprived Indians of any protection under the law, considering them as non-persons. As a result, it was impossible to bring an Anglo to trial for killing an Indian or forcing them off their property. Anglos concluded that the “quickest and best way to get rid of (their) troublesome presence was to kill them off, (and) this procedure was adopted as a standard for many years.”[37]

When New England author and Indian-rights activist Helen Hunt Jackson toured the Indian villages of Southern California in 1883, she was appalled by the racism of the Anglos living there. She found they treated Indians worse than animals, hunted them for sport, robbed them of their farmlands, and brought them to the edge of extermination. While Indians were depicted by whites as lazy and shiftless, she found most of them to be hard-working craftsmen and farmers. Jackson’s tour inspired her to write her 1884 novel, Ramona, which she hoped would give a human face to the atrocities and indignities suffered by the Indians in California. And it did. The novel was enormously successful, inspiring four movies and a yearly pageant in Hemet, California. Many of the Indian villages of Southern California survived because of her efforts, including Morongo, Cahuilla, Soboba, Temecula, Pechanga, and Warner Hot Springs.[38]

Remarkably, the Gabrielino Indians, now called Tongva, also survived. in 2006, the Los Angeles Times reported that there were 2,000 of them still living in Southern California. Some were organizing to protect burial and cultural sites. Others were trying to win federal recognition as a tribe to operate a casino.[39]

An 1887 aerial photo of Los Angeles, taken from a balloon.

Industrial Expansion and Growth 1870—1913

In the 1870s, Los Angeles was still little more than a village of 5,000. By 1900, there were over 100,000 occupants of the city. Several men actively promoted Los Angeles, working to develop it into a great city and to make themselves rich. Angelenos set out to remake their geography to challenge San Francisco with its port facilities, railway terminal, banks and factories. The Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles was the first incorporated bank in Los Angeles, founded in 1871 by John G. Downey and Isaias W. Hellman.

The Chinese Massacre of 1871

The first Chinese arrived in Los Angeles in 1850. The great majority came from Guangdong Province in southeastern China, seeking a fortune in Gum Saan, (“Gold Mountain”) the Chinese name for America. Instead of finding fortunes, they were exploited for their labor in the gold mines and in building the first railroad into California. Henry Huntington came to value their expertise as engineers. He later said he would not have been able to build his portion of the transcontinental railroad without them.[40]

After the transcontinental railroad was completed, the Chinese sought jobs in the burgeoning California cities, where they faced massive discrimination on the part of organized labor. As a result, they filled in where there was less competition, running laundries, restaurants, and vegetable stands.

In a time of great exploitation and monopoly by the railroad barons, the unions blamed Chinese for lowering the wages and living standards of Anglo workers. The newspapers of both Los Angeles and San Francisco were filled with anti-Chinese propaganda.[40]

The thriving Chinatown, on the eastern edge of the Plaza, was the site of terrible violence on October 24, 1871. A gunfight between rival Chinese factions over the abduction of a woman resulted in the accidental death of a white man. This enraged the bystanders, and a mob of about 500 Anglos and Latinos descended on Chinatown. They randomly lynched 19 Chinese men and boys, only one of whom may have been involved in the original killing. Homes and businesses were looted. Only ten rioters were tried. Eight were convicted of manslaughter, but their convictions were overturned the following year on a legal technicality. This was later referred to as the Chinese Massacre of 1871.

The massacre was the first time that Los Angeles was reported on the front pages of newspapers all over the world, even crowding out reports of the terrible Chicago fire that happened two weeks before. While the racist Los Angeles Star went so far to call the massacre “a glorious victory,” others fretted about the city’s racist and violent image. With the coming economic opportunities of the railroads, city fathers set themselves to wipe out mob violence.[8]

Their efforts, however, led to more restrictive measures against the Chinese. In 1878-79, the City Council passed several measures aversely affecting Chinese vegetable merchants. The merchants went on strike. Los Angeles went without vegetables for several weeks, finally bringing the city to the bargaining table. Historian William Estrada wrote: “This little-known event may have helped the Chinese to better understand their role in the community as well as the power of organization as a means for community self-defense. The strike was a sign that Los Angeles was undergoing dramatic social, economic, and technological change and that the Chinese were a part of that change.”[8]

The coming of the railroads

Historian Blake Gumprecht wrote, “The completion of a transcontinental railroad to Los Angeles in 1876 changed Southern California forever.”[18]

The first railroad, San Pedro Railroad, was inaugurated in October, 1869 by John G. Downey and Phineas Banning. It ran 21 miles (34 km) between San Pedro and Los Angeles.

The town continued to grow at a moderate pace until its connection with the Central Pacific and San Francisco in 1876, and more directly with the East by the Santa Fe system (through its subsidiary California Southern Railroad) in 1885.

The Central Pacific Railroad had a significant impact in the immediate growth of the City of Los Angeles. The Central Pacific Railroad owners could have chosen San Diego over Los Angeles to be their final freight destination but the owners and the City of San Francisco feared that San Diego would become a rival importing power with its large natural bay. Instead, Central Pacific picked Los Angeles to be their southern hub and prompted the rapid expansion of the city’s economic growth and expansion. The completion of the latter line precipitated one of the most extraordinary of American railway wars and land booms, which resulted in giving southern California a great stimulus.

Phineas Banning excavated a channel out of the mud flats of San Pedro Bay leading to Wilmington in 1871. Banning had already laid track and shipped in locomotives to connect the port to the city. Harrison Gray Otis, founder and owner of the Los Angeles Times, and a number of business colleagues embarked on reshaping southern California by expanding that into a harbor at San Pedro using federal dollars.

This put them at loggerheads with Collis P. Huntington, president of the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and one of California’s “Big Four” investors in the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific. (The “Big Four” are sometimes numbered among the “robber barons” of the Gilded Age). The line reached Los Angeles in 1876 and Huntington directed it to a port at Santa Monica, where the Long Wharf was built.

April 1872, John G. Downey went to San Francisco and was successful in representing Los Angeles in discussions with Collis Huntington concerning Los Angeles’s efforts to bring the Southern Pacific Railroad through Los Angeles.

The San Pedro forces eventually prevailed (though it required Banning and Downey to turn their railroad over to the Southern Pacific). Work on the San Pedro breakwater began in 1899 and was finished in 1910. Otis Chandler and his allies secured a change in state law in 1909 that allowed Los Angeles to absorb San Pedro and Wilmington, using a long, narrow corridor of land to connect them with the rest of the city. The debacle of the future Los Angeles harbor was termed the Free Harbor Fight.[41]

In 1898, Henry Huntington purchased the Los Angeles Railway. Two years later, he founded the Pacific Electric Railway. These two systems, one with yellow cars serving the city and the other with red cars serving the rest of the county, came to be known as best public transportation system in the world. At its peak, the Pacific Electric was the largest electrically operated interurban railway in the world. Over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of tracks connected Los Angeles with Hollywood, Pasadena, San Pedro, Venice Beach, Santa Monica, Pomona, San Bernardino, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and other points.

Oil discovery

Oil was discovered by Edward L. Doheny in 1892, near the present location of Dodger Stadium. The Los Angeles City Oil Field was the first of many fields in the basin to be exploited, and in 1900 and 1902, respectively, the Beverly Hills Oil Field and Salt Lake Oil Field were discovered just a few miles west of the original find.[42] Los Angeles became a center of oil production in the early 20th century, and by 1923 the region was producing one-quarter of the world’s total supply; it is still a significant producer, with the Wilmington Oil Field having the fourth-largest reserves of any field in California.[42]

[edit] Winds of revolution

The immigrants arriving in the city to find jobs often brought the revolutionary zeal and idealism of their homelands. These often included anarchists such as Russian Emma Goldman and Ricardo Flores Magón and his brother Enrique of the Partido Liberal Mexicano. They were later joined by the socialist candidate for mayor Job Harriman, Chinese revolutionaries, the novelist Upton Sinclair, “Wobblies” (members of the Industrial Workers of the World, the IWW), and Socialist and Communist labor organizers such as the Japanese-American Karl Yoneda and the Russian-born New Yorker Meyer Baylin. The Socialists were the first to set up a soapbox in the Plaza, which would serve as the location of union rallies and protests and riots as the police attempted to break up meetings.[8]

Chinatown in Los Angeles became the center of a world movement that would lead to the Chinese Revolution and the overturning of the empire in 1911. Homer Lea, an Anglo graduate of Occidental College and Stanford, was sympathetic to the Chinese cause. At the turn of the century, he opened a military school near the Plaza called the Armory. Ostensibly for training young Chinese men to be good U.S. citizens and leaders, what it really did was train them for leading the revolution in China.

In June, 1904, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, the leader of the revolution came to Los Angeles to raise money and support for his cause. He came again in September, when he met with Lea and together they plotted the final stages of the revolution. On September 30, before giving a speech at a Chinatown restaurant, Sun was attacked by two imperial assassins who tried to kill him with knives. Escaping unharmed, Sun delivered his speech, winning over the crowd of 600. As a result, Dr. Lea, several of his cadets, and other members of the community followed Sun back to China to take part in the revolution that changed world history.[43]Class conflict surges

At the same time that the L.A. Times was whipping up enthusiasm for the expansion of Los Angeles it was also trying to turn it into a union-free or open shop town. Fruit growers and local merchants who had opposed the Pullman strike in 1894 subsequently formed the Merchants and Manufacturers Association (M & M) to support the L.A. Times anti-union campaign.

The California labor movement, with its strength concentrated in San Francisco, had largely ignored Los Angeles for years. It changed, in 1907, however, when the American Federation of Labor decided to challenge the open shop of “Otis Town.”

In 1909, the city fathers placed a ban on free speech from public streets and private property except for the Plaza. Locals had claimed that it had been an Open Forum forever. The area was of particular concern to the owners of the L.A. Times, Harrison Grey Otis and his son-in-law Harry Chandler.

At the turn of the century, Otis and Chandler as part of a syndicate had acquired thousands of acres of farmland in Baja California that stretched across the border into Imperial County. It was called the California-Mexican Land and Cattle Company, or the C-M Ranch.

In exchange for favorable reports about the presidency of Porfirio Diaz in Mexico, Otis and his associates enjoyed unfettered business freedom in Baja California. Under Diaz, American capitalists bought millions of acres of Mexican land, mines, factories, banks, oil rights (Doheny), public utilities, and most of the nation’s railroads. The Diaz regime was marked with increasing poverty, violent political repression, and the support of President Wilson.

The Otis-Chandler plans for both their Mexican holdings and the city required a steady supply of cheap labor and keeping the unions from succeeding as they had done in San Francisco.[44]

In 1910, the century’s first full-scale revolution took place in Baja California, led by two factions, wealthy landowner Francisco Madero and the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM). The PLM was based in the L.A. Plaza and led by anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón, a talented journalist and charismatic speaker who occupies a special place in the story of Los Angeles. He is the prototype of the 20th-century Mexican-American political and social activist.[45]

Publishing the popular bi-lingual Regeneracion newspaper in Los Angeles, Magon’s movement posed a direct challenge to Otis and Chandler’s hold on the border region. The paper not only reported on the revolution in Mexico, but also social and political conditions in the U.S. It examined the U.S. penal system, the plight of agricultural workers, child labor, Margaret Sanger’s crusade for women, and most of all the battle against the open shop in Los Angeles. The paper also connected readers with the social services and cultural happenings available in the expanding Plaza area.

Magon wrote: “We do not struggle for abstractions, but for materialities. We want land for all, bread for all. Inevitably blood must run, so that conquests obtain benefits for all and not for a specific social class.”[46]

The insurgents of the Baja Revolution consisted of no more than 200 anarchists, socialists, and Wobblies. Their basic goal was the redistribution back to Mexican peasants of Baja California land, of which 78 percent was owned by foreign interests.[46]

The owners of the Times drew the conclusion that the Mexican rebels and union organizers in L.A. were connected. This conflict came to a head with the bombing of the Times in 1910, which killed 10 people, and injured 17. Two months later, the Llewellyin Iron Works near the plaza was bombed. A meeting was hastily called of the Chamber of Commerce and Manufacturers Association. The L.A. Times wrote: “radical and practical matters (were) considered, and steps taken for the adaption of such as are adequate to cope with a situation tardily recognized as the gravest that Los Angeles has ever been called upon to face.”[47]

The authorities indicted John and James McNamara, both associated with the Iron Workers Union, for the bombing; Clarence Darrow, who had successfully defended Big Bill Haywood, Moyer and Pettibone in Idaho, represented them.

At the same time the McNamara brothers were awaiting trial, Los Angeles was preparing for a city election. Job Harriman, running on the socialist ticket, was challenging the establishment’s candidate.

Harriman’s campaign, however, was tied to the asserted innocence of the McNamaras. But the defense was in trouble: the prosecution not only had evidence of the McNamaras’ complicity, but had trapped Darrow in a clumsy attempt to bribe one of the jurors. On December 1, 1911, four days before the final election, the McNamaras entered a plea of guilty in return for prison terms. The L.A. Times accompanied its report of the guilty plea with a faked photograph of Samuel Gompers trampling an American flag. Harriman lost badly.

The Otis-Chandler interests were further challenged when Madero became President of Mexico in 1911. Commercial interests in L.A. felt radical measures had to be taken. Mexican and labor organizers were scapegoated.

In June 1911, the police raided the offices of Regeneracion. Magon and his younger brother Enrique were arrested with two others and charged with conspiracy to lead an armed expedition against a “friendly nation.” The trial was a great media event and drew great crowds. Among those who showed up to speak in behalf of the brothers were socialist labor organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, American anarchist Emma Goldman, and Eugene V. Debs.

The four were convicted and sentenced to 23 months at the federal prison in Macneil Island, Washington.[46]

On Christmas Day, 1913, police attempted to break up an IWW rally of 500 taking place in the Plaza. Encountering resistance, the police waded into the crowd attacking them with their clubs. One citizen was killed. In the aftermath, the authorities attempted to impose martial law in the wake of growing protests. Seventy-three were arrested in connection with the riots. The City Council introduced new measures to control public speaking. The Times scapegoated all foreign elements even calling onlookers and taco venders as “cultural subversives.”[48]

In 1916, the Magón brothers were arrested on charges of defamation and sending indecent materials through the mail. Ricardo was able to get released on bail. He gave a rousing speech at Italian Hall to 700 of the International Workers Defense League. He called Mexican President Carranza a “lackey of President Wilson” and Wilson “the bandit of Wall Street.” The speech was given wide circulation in the press throughout the Southwest and in Mexico.

Ricardo was convicted and sent to Leavenworth. In 1922, he died in his cell, maybe murdered by a guard. His body was returned by train to Mexico City, where he was given a hero’s welcome by a crowd of thousands consisting of workers, labor organizers, and government officials singing La Marsellaise and the Internationale.[49]

The open shop campaign continued from strength to strength, although not without meeting opposition from workers. By 1923, the Industrial Workers of the World had made considerable progress in organizing the longshoremen in San Pedro and led approximately 3,000 men to walk off the job. With the support of the L.A. Times, a special “Red Squad” was formed within the Los Angeles Police Department and arrested so many strikers that the city’s jails were soon filled.

Some 1,200 dock workers were corralled in a special stockade in Griffith Park. The L.A. Times wrote approvingly that “stockades and forced labor were a good remedy for IWW terrorism.” Public meetings were outlawed in San Pedro, Upton Sinclair was arrested at Liberty Hill in San Pedro for reading the United States Bill of Rights on the private property of a strike supporter (the arresting officer told him “we’ll have none of ‘that Constitution stuff'”) and blanket arrests were made at union gatherings. The strike ended after members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Legion raided the IWW Hall and attacked the men, women and children meeting there. The strike was defeated.

Los Angeles developed another industry in the early 20th century when movie producers from the East Coast relocated there. These new employers were likewise afraid of unions and other social movements: during Upton Sinclair‘s campaign for Governor of California under the banner of his “End Poverty In California” (EPIC) movement, Louis B. Mayer turned MGM‘s Culver City studio into the unofficial headquarters of the organized campaign against EPIC. MGM produced fake newsreel interviews with whiskered actors with Russian accents voicing their enthusiasm for EPIC, along with footage focusing on central casting hobos huddled on the borders of California waiting to enter and live off the bounty of its taxpayers once Sinclair was elected. Sinclair lost.

Los Angeles also acquired another industry in the years just before World War II: the garment industry. At first devoted to regional merchandise, such as sportswear, the industry eventually grew to be the second largest center of garment production in the United States.

Unions began to make progress in organizing these workers as the New Deal arrived in the 1930s. They made even greater gains in the war years, as Los Angeles grew even further.

Today, the ethnic makeup of the city and the politically progressive views of surrounding West Hollywood and Hollywood have made Los Angeles a strong union town. Still, many garment workers in central LA, most of whom are Mexican immigrants work in sweat shop conditions.

The battle of the Los Angeles River

The Los Angeles River flowed clear and fresh all year, supporting 45 Gabrielino villages in the area. The source of the river was the aquifer under the San Fernando Valley, supplied with water from the surrounding mountains. The rising of the underground bedrock at the Glendale Narrows (near today’s Griffith Park) squeezed the water to the surface at that point. Then, through much of the year, the river emerged from the valley to flow across the floodplain 20 miles (32 km) to the sea. The area also provided other streams, lakes, and artesian wells.[18]

The problem with the river was not too little water but, occasionally, way too much..

Early settlers were more than a little discouraged by the region’s diverse and unpredictable weather. They watched helplessly as long droughts weakened and starved their livestock, only to be drowned and carried off by ferocious storms. During the years of little rain, people would build too close to the riverbed, only to see their homes and barns later swept out to sea during a flood. The location of the Los Angeles Plaza had to be moved twice because of previously having been built too close to the riverbed.[8]

Worse, floods would change the river’s course. When the settlers arrived, the river joined Ballona Creek to discharge in Santa Monica Bay. A fierce storm in 1835 diverted its course to Long Beach, where it stays today.

Early citizens could not even maintain a footbridge over the river from one side of the city to the other. After the American takeover, the city council authorized spending of $20,000 for a contractor to build a substantial wooden bridge across the river. The first storm to come along dislodged the bridge, used it as a battering ram to break through the embankment, and scattered its timbers all the way to the sea.[18]

Some of the most concentrated rainfall in the history of the United States has occurred in the San Gabriel Mountains north of Los Angeles and Orange Counties. On April 5, 1926, a rain gauge in the San Gabriels collected one inch in one minute. In January, 1969, more water fell on the San Gabriels in nine days than New York City sees in a year. In February 1978, almost a foot of rain fell in 24 hours, and, in one blast, an inch and a half in five minutes. This storm caused massive debris flows throughout the region, one of them unearthing the corpses in the Verdugo Hills Cemetery and depositing them in the town below. Another wiped out the small town of Hidden Springs in a tributary of the Big Tujunga River, killing 13 people.[50]

The greatest daily rainfall recorded in California was 26.12 inches on January 23, 1943 at Hoegees near Mt. Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains. Fifteen other stations reported over 20 inches in two days from the same storm. Forty-five others reported 70 percent of the average annual rainfall in two days.[51]

Quibbling between city and county governments delayed any response to the flooding until a massive storm in 1938 flooded Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The federal government stepped in. To transfer floodwater to the sea as quickly as possible, the Army Corps of Engineers paved the beds of the river and its tributaries. The Corps also built several dams and catchment basins in the canyons along the San Gabriel Mountains to reduce the debris flows. It was an enormous project, taking years to complete.[50]

Today, the Los Angeles River functions mainly as a flood control. A drop of rain falling in the San Gabriel Mountains will reach the sea faster than an auto can drive. During today’s rainstorms, the volume of the Los Angeles River at Long Beach can be as large as the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

The drilling of wells and pumping of water from the San Fernando Valley aquifer dried up the river by the 1920s. By 1980, the aquifer was supplying drinking water for 800,000 people. In that year, it was discovered that the aquifer had been contaminated. Many wells were shut down, as the area qualified as a Superfund site

Water from a distance

For its first 120 years, the Los Angeles River supplied the town with ample water for homes and farms. It was estimated that the annual flow could have support a town of 250,000 people—if the water had been managed right. But Angelinos were among the most profligate users of water in the world. In the semi-arid climate, they were forever watering their lawns, gardens, orchards, and vineyards. Later on, they would need more to support the growth of commerce and manufacturing. By the beginning of the 20th century, the town realized it would quickly outgrow its river and need new sources of water.[18]

Legitimate concerns about water supply were exploited to gain backing for a huge engineering and legal effort to bring more water to the city and allow more development. The city fathers had their eyes on the Owens River, about 250 miles (400 km) northeast of Los Angeles in Inyo County, near the Nevada state line. It was a permanent stream of fresh water fed by the melted snows of the eastern Sierra Nevada. It flowed through the Owens River Valley before emptying into the shallow, saline Owens Lake, where it evaporated.

Photograph of Bunker Hill in 1900, looking northeast from today’s Pershing Square

Sometime between 1899 and 1903, Harrison Gray Otis and his son-in-law successor, Harry Chandler, engaged in successful efforts at buying up cheap land on the northern outskirts of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley. At the same time, they enlisted the help of William Mulholland, chief engineer of the Los Angeles Water Department (later the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power or LADWP), and J.B. Lippencott, of the United States Reclamation Service.

Lippencott performed water surveys in the Owens Valley for the Service while secretly receiving a salary from the City of Los Angeles. He succeeded in persuading Owens Valley farmers and mutual water companies to pool their interests and surrender the water rights to 200,000 acres (800 km²) of land to Fred Eaton, Lippencott’s agent and a former mayor of Los Angeles. Lippencott then resigned from the Reclamation Service, took a job with the Los Angeles Water Department as assistant to Mulholland, and turned over the Reclamation Service maps, field surveys and stream measurements to the city. Those studies served as the basis for designing the longest aqueduct in the world.

By July 1905, the Times began to warn the voters of Los Angeles that the county would soon dry up unless they voted bonds for building the aqueduct. Artificial drought conditions were created when water was run into the sewers to decrease the supply in the reservoirs and residents were forbidden to water their lawns and gardens.[citation needed]

On election day, the people of Los Angeles voted for $22.5 million worth of bonds to build an aqueduct from the Owens River and to defray other expenses of the project. With this money, and with a special Act of Congress allowing cities to own property outside their boundaries, the City acquired the land that Eaton had acquired from the Owens Valley farmers and started to build the aqueduct. On the occasion of the opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct on November 5, 1913 Mullholland’s entire speech was five words: “There it is. Take it.”

Boom town 1913 – 1941

Wilson Block, Spring & First Streets, 1920

Notable events

Los Angeles hosted the 1932 Summer Olympics. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which had opened in May, 1932 with a seating capacity of 76,000, was enlarged to accommodate over 100,000 spectators for Olympic events. It is still in use by the USC Trojans football team. Olympic Boulevard, a major thoroughfare, honors the occasion.

The devastating Griffith Park Fire on October 3, 1933, killed 29 and injured another 150 workers who were clearing brush in Griffith Park.

Annexations and consolidations

Christmas in Los Angeles, 1928

Walkway and front façade of Los Angeles Public Library‘s Central Library, circa 1935

The City of Los Angeles mostly remained within its original 28 square-mile (73 km²) landgrant until the 1890s. The original city limits are visible even today in the layout of streets that changes from a north-south pattern outside of the original land grant to a pattern that is shifted roughly 15 degrees east of the longitude in and closely around the area now known as Downtown. The first large additions to the city were the districts of Highland Park and Garvanza to the north, and the South Los Angeles area. In 1906, the approval of the Port of Los Angeles and a change in state law allowed the city to annex the Shoestring, or Harbor Gateway, a narrow and crooked strip of land leading from Los Angeles south towards the port. The port cities of San Pedro and Wilmington were added in 1909 and the city of Hollywood was added in 1910, bringing the city up to 90 square miles (233 km²) and giving it a vertical “barbell” shape. Also added that year was Colegrove, a suburb west northwest of the city near Hollywood; Cahuenga, a township northwest of the former city limits; and a part of Los Feliz were annexed to the city.

The opening of the Los Angeles Aqueduct provided the city with four times as much water as it required, and the offer of water service became a powerful lure for neighboring communities. The city, saddled with a large bond and excess water, locked in customers through annexation by refusing to supply other communities. Harry Chandler, a major investor in San Fernando Valley real estate, used his Los Angeles Times to promote development near the aqueduct’s outlet. By referendum of the residents, 170 square miles (440 km²) of the San Fernando Valley, along with the Palms district, were added to the city in 1915, almost tripling its area, mostly towards the northwest. Over the next seventeen years dozens of additional annexations brought the city’s area to 450 square miles (1,165 km²) in 1932. (Numerous small annexations brought the total area of the city up to 469 square miles (1,215 km²) as of 2004.)

Most of the annexed communities were unincorporated towns but ten incorporated cities were consolidated into Los Angeles: Wilmington (1909), San Pedro (1909), Hollywood (1910), Sawtelle (1922), Hyde Park (1923), Eagle Rock (1923), Venice (1925), Watts (1926), Barnes City (1927), and Tujunga (1932).

Annexation references: Municipal Secession Fiscal Analysis Scoping Study, Annexation and Detachment Map (PDF)

Olvera Street—an idealized Mexican past

In 1926, socialite Christine Sterling became alarmed when the City Council posted a condemn sign on the old Francisco Avila Adobe near the Los Angeles Plaza. She became very dedicated to the preservation of the area and developed the idea of creating a tourist site with a romantic theme of Old Mexico.

Her efforts finally won the attention of Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times who staged a $1000-a-plate luncheon on her behalf. Chandler also set up a for-profit business, the Plaza de Los Angeles Corporation, with himself and Sterling in charge.

Chandler’s interest in developing the idealized Mexican marketplace was twofold: 1. It would give him a way to control the level of free-speech activities on the Plaza and 2. it would present an image of “good Mexicans” who did not include union organizers and angry workers protesting their exploitation. Ceramic figures of a Mexican sleeping at the foot of a cactus with a sombrero over his head would symbolize the stereotype Chandler wanted to project.

Sterling and Chandler’s efforts finally paid off with the opening of Olvera Street in 1930. Sterling spent the rest of her life managing the tourist attraction as a profitable business.[8]

Civic corruption and police brutality

The downtown business interests, always eager to attract business and investment to Los Angeles, were also eager to distance their town from the syndicated crime and violence that defined the stories of Chicago and New York. In spite of their concerns, massive corruption in City Hall and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)—and the fight against it—were dominant themes in the city’s story from early 20th-century to the 1950s.[52]

In the 1920s, for example, it was common practice for the city’s mayor, councilmen, and attorneys to take contributions from madams, bootleggers, and gamblers. The top aide of the mayor was involved with a protection racket. Thugs with eastern-Mafia connections were involved in often violent conflicts over bootlegging and horse-racing turf. The mayor’s brother was selling jobs in the LAPD.

In 1933, the new mayor Frank Shaw started giving out contracts without competitive bids and paying city employees to favor crony contractors. The city’s Vice Squad functioned city-wide as the enforcer and collector of the city’s organized crime, with revenues going to the pockets of city officials right up to the mayor.

In 1937, the owner of downtown’s Clifton’s Cafeteria, Clifford Clinton led a citizen’s campaign to clean up city hall. He and other reformers served on a Grand Jury investigating the charges of corruption. In a minority report, the reformers wrote:

A portion of the underworld profits have been used in financing campaigns [of] … city and county officials in vital positions … [While] the district attorney’s office, sheriff’s office, and Los Angeles Police Department work in complete harmony and never interfere with … important figures in the underworld.[53]

The police Intelligence Squad spied on anyone even suspected of criticizing the police. They included journalist Carey Williams, the district attorney, Judge Bowron, and two of the County Supervisors.

The persistent courage of Clinton, Superior Court Judge, later Mayor, Fletcher Bowron, and former L.A.P.D. detective Harry Raymond turned the tide. The police became so nervous that the Intelligence Squad blew up Raymond’s car and nearly killed him. The public was so enraged by the bombing that it quickly voted Shaw out of office, one of the first big-city recalls in the country’s history. The head of the intelligence squad was convicted and sentenced to two years to life. Police Chief James Davis and 23 other officers were forced to resign.[53]

Fletcher Bowron replaced Shaw as mayor in 1938 to preside over one of the most dynamic periods in the history of the city. His ‘Los Angeles Urban Reform Revival would bring major changes to the government of Los Angeles.

In 1950, he appointed William H. Parker was sworn in as Chief of Police. Parker pushed for more independence from political pressures that would enable him to create a more professionalized police force. The public supported him and voted in charter changes that isolated the police department from the rest of government.[54]

Through the 1960s, the LAPD was promoted as one of the most efficient departments in the world. But Parker’s administration would be increasingly charged with police brutality—resulting from his recruiting of officers from the South with strong anti-black and anti-Mexican attitudes.

Reaction to police brutality resulted in the Watts riots of 1965 and again, after the Rodney King beating, in the Los Angeles riots of 1992. Charges of police brutality dogged the Department through the end of the century. In the late 1990s, as a result of the Rampart scandal involving misconduct of 70 officers, the federal government was forced to intervene and assumed jurisdiction of the Department with a consent decree. Police reform has since been a major issue confronted by L.A.’s recent mayors.

Social critic Mike Davis has recently argued that attempts to “revitalize” downtown Los Angeles decreases public space and further alienates poor and minority populations. This enforced geographical separation of diverse populations goes back to the city’s earliest days.[55]

World War II and postwar 1941 – 1950

Listening post and air raid lights, Pershing Square, 1941

“Fifty years ago this house at 201 N. Flower St. was offered for rental at $20 a month. Today [1946] its four apartments are bringing in $70 monthly. — LA Times, 5-7-46 This house no longer stands, and is in the approximate location of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

During World War II, Los Angeles grew as a center for production of aircraft, war supplies and ammunitions. Thousands of African Americans and European Americans from the South and the Midwest migrated to the West to fill factory jobs.

By 1950, Los Angeles was an industrial and financial giant created by war production and migration. Los Angeles assembled more cars than any city other than Detroit, made more tires than any city but Akron, made more furniture than Grand Rapids, and stitched more clothes than any city except New York. In addition, it was the national capital for the production of motion pictures, radio programs and, within a few years, television shows. Construction boomed as tract houses were built in ever expanding suburban communities financed by the largess of the Federal Housing Administration.

Los Angeles continued to spread out, particularly with the development of the San Fernando Valley and the building of the freeways launched in the 1940s. When the local street car system went out of business, Los Angeles became a city built around the automobile, with all the social, health and political problems that this dependence produces.

The famed urban sprawl of Los Angeles became a notable feature of the town, and the pace of the growth accelerated in the first decades of the 20th century. The San Fernando Valley, sometimes called “America’s Suburb“, became a favorite site of developers, and the city began growing past its roots downtown toward the ocean and towards the east.

This is also the time when General Motors persuaded most urban regions in North America to shut down their light rail street car systems and replace them for more flexible, but polluting and inefficient, bus systems. This drastically changed growth and travel patterns in the city in subsequent years[citation needed] and contributed to the severe air pollution events that Los Angeles became famous for.

The years 1950-2000

Beginning November 6, 1961, Los Angeles suffered three days of destructive brush fires. The Bel-Air—Brentwood and Santa Ynez fires destroyed 484 expensive homes and 21 other buildings along with 15,810 acres (64 km²) of brush in the Bel-Air, Brentwood, and Topanga Canyon neighborhoods. Most of the homes destroyed had wooden shake roofs, which not only led to their own loss but also sent firebrands up to three miles (5 km) away. Despite this, few changes were made to the building codes to prevent future losses.

The repeal of a law limiting building height and the controversial redevelopment of Bunker Hill, which destroyed a picturesque though decrepit neighborhood, ushered in the construction of a new generation of skyscrapers. Bunker Hill’s 62-floor First Interstate Building (later named Aon Center) was the highest in Los Angeles when it was completed in 1973. It was surpassed by the Library Tower (now called the U.S. Bank Tower) a few blocks to the north in 1990, a 310 m (1,018 ft) building that is the tallest west of the Mississippi. Outside of Downtown, the Wilshire Corridor is lined with tall buildings, particularly near Westwood. Century City, developed on the former 20th Century Fox back lot, has become another center of high-rise construction on the Westside.

During the latter decades of the 20th century, the city saw a massive increase of street gangs. At the same time, crack cocaine became widely available and dominated by gangs in the 1980s. Although gangs were disproportionately confined to lower-income inner-city sections, fear knew no boundaries citywide. Since the early 1990s, the city saw a decrease in crime and gang violence with rising prices in housing, revitalization, urban development, and heavy police vigilance in many parts of the city. With its reputation, it had led to Los Angeles being referred as “The Gang Capital of America”.

A subway system, developed and built through the 1980s as a major goal of mayor Tom Bradley, stretches from North Hollywood to Union Station and connects to light rail lines that extend to the neighboring cities of Long Beach, Norwalk, and Pasadena, among others. Also, a commuter rail system, Metrolink, has been added that stretches from nearby Ventura and Simi Valley to San Bernardino, Orange County, and Riverside. The funding of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority project is funded by a half cent tax increase added in the mid 1980s, which yields $400 million every month. Although the regional transit system is growing, subway expansion was halted in the 1990s over methane gas concerns, political conflict, and construction and financing problems during Red Line Subway project, which culminated in a massive sinkhole on Hollywood Boulevard. As a result, the original subway plans have been delayed for decades as light rail systems, dedicated busways, and limited-stop “Rapid” bus routes have become the preferred means of mass transit in LA’s expanding series of gridlocked, congested corridors.

The 1995 murder of Stephanie Kuhen in Los Angeles led to condemnation from President Bill Clinton and a crackdown on Los Angeles-area gangs.[56][57]

Proposition 14 and the battle for space

Since its beginning, the city was geographically divided by ethnicity. In the 1920s, Los Angeles was the location of the first restrictive covenants in real estate. By the Second World War, 95 percent of Los Angeles housing was off-limits to blacks and Asians. Minorities who had served in WWII or worked in L.A.’s defense industries returned to face increasing patterns of discrimination in housing. More and more, they found themselves excluded from the suburbs and restricted to housing in East or South Los Angeles, Watts, and Compton. Such real-estate practices severely restricted educational and economic opportunities.

Historian Peter Radkowski wrote:

By the 1960s, the fair housing conflict of California would evolve into a collision of legislative action, racial backlash, and judicial ruling: the Rumford Act on the floors of the state capitol; Proposition 14 at the ballot box; Mulkey v. Reitman before the Supreme Court of California, and Reitman v. Mulkey before the Supreme Court of the United States. These events explicitly shaped a gubernatorial election in California, and arguably set in motion a sea change in political allegiances and presidential elections.[58]

In 1955, William Byron Rumford, the first black from Northern California to serve in the California State Legislature, introduced a fair-housing bill. In 1959, the California Legislature passed the California Fair Employment Practices Act sponsored by Augustus Hawkins of Los Angeles. That same year, the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act addressed fair housing but did not have any teeth. The aggrieved party had to sue to get compensation.

In 1963, California Legislature passed and Governor Pat Brown signed the Rumford Fair Housing Act which outlawed restrictive covenants and the refusal to rent or sell housing on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, marital status, or physical disability.

In reaction to the Rumford Act, a well-funded coalition of realtors and landlords immediately began to campaign for a referendum that would amend the state Constitution to protect property owners’ ability to deny minorities equal access to housing. Known as Proposition 14, it caused a storm of deep and bitter controversy across the state. Radkowski wrote:

The debate over Proposition 14 cultivated a whirlwind of information and misunderstanding, marked by angry exchanges on the merits, and running through the entire debate a plague of bitterness, ill feelings, and slurs. On any given day, the effort to overturn the Rumford Act might involve highbrow jurisprudence, righteous indignation, or racial epithet. In many ways, the Rumford Act played as bawdy and violent as the land and mineral grabs of the original California Gold Rush: Rumford received an invitation to a stag dinner party—complete with one hour of “entertainment”—that was sponsored by the Associated Home Builders of the Greater East Bay; while across the state, pamphlets and pickets revealed the ugly fascist undercurrents of support for Proposition 14.[58]

While conservatives such as Cardinal McIntyre of Los Angeles argued that blacks are “better off in Los Angeles than anywhere else,” blacks knew that they were kept out of participating in the city’s prosperity. On May 26, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told a crowd of 35,000 at Wrigley Field, “We want to be free whether we’re in Birmingham or in Los Angeles.”

In November, 1964, California voters passed Proposition 14 by a wide margin.

In August, 1965, the Watts Riots broke out. Lasting six days, it left 32 dead, 1,032 injured, 3,952 arrested, $40 million in damage, and 1,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. According to later reports, the riot was a reaction to a long record of police brutality by the LAPD and other injustices suffered by blacks, including discrimination in jobs, housing, and education.[59]

In 1966, the California State Supreme Court, in Mulkey v. Reitman, ruled that Proposition 14 violated the State Constitution’s provisions for equal protection and due process.

In 1967, in Reitman v. Mulkey, the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the California Supreme Court and ruled that Proposition 14 had violated the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution.[58] The federal Civil Rights Act of 1964[60] also addressed the issue, but made few provisions for enforcement.

The U.S. Fair Housing Act (Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) introduced meaningful federal enforcement mechanisms.[61] [62][63]

Economic changes

The last of the automobile factories shut down in the 1990s; the tire factories and steel mills left earlier. Most of the agricultural and dairy operations that were still prospering in the 1950s have moved to outlying counties while the furniture industry has relocated to Mexico and other low-wage nations. Aerospace production has dropped significantly since the end of the Cold War or moved to states with better tax conditions, and the entertainment industry has found cheaper areas to produce films, television programs and commercials elsewhere in the United States and Canada. However, many studios still operate in Los Angeles, such as CBS Television City at the corner of Fairfax Avenue and Beverly Boulevard and 20th Century Fox in Century City.

Those macroeconomic changes have brought major social changes with them. While unemployment dropped in Los Angeles in the 1990s, the newly created jobs tended to be low-wage jobs filled by recent immigrants and other exploitable populations; by one calculation, the number of poor families increased from 36% to 43% of the population of Los Angeles County during this time. At the same time, the number of immigrants from Mexico, Central America and Latin America has made Los Angeles a “majority minority” city that will soon be majority Latino. The unemployment rate dropped from 6.9% to 6.8% in 2002, and is around 11.6% currently.

The desire for residential housing in the downtown area has been noticed, and several historical buildings have been renovated as condos (while maintaining the original outside design), and many new apartment and condominium towers and complexes are being built.

Since the 1980s, there’s been an increasing gap between the rich and the poor, making Los Angeles the most socioeconomically divided city in the United States.[64]

On November 10, 2004, the Los Angeles Daily News reported plans to turn the northeast San Fernando Valley into an industrial powerhouse, which would provide new and more jobs.

Demographic changes

Many communities in Los Angeles have changed their ethnic character over time. For many decades, Los Angeles was predominantly white, American-born, and Protestant until the late 20th Century.[65][66][67] South L.A. was mostly white until the 1950s, but then became predominantly black until the 1990s, and is now mostly Latino. While the Latino community within the City of Los Angeles was once centered on the Eastside, it now extends throughout the city. The San Fernando Valley, which represented a bastion of white flight in the 1960s and provided the votes that allowed Sam Yorty to defeat the first election run by Tom Bradley, is now as ethnically diverse as the rest of the city on the other side of the Hollywood Hills.

By the end of the 20th century, some of the annexed areas began to feel cut off from the political process of the megalopolis, leading to a particularly strong secession movement in the San Fernando Valley and weaker ones in San Pedro and Hollywood. The referendums to split the city were rejected by voters in November 2002.

Population growth

The population of Los Angeles reached more than 100,000 with the 1900 census (Los Angeles Evening Express, October 1, 1900), more than a million in 1930, more than two million in 1960, and more than 3 million in 1990.

Year Population
1790 131
1800 315
1810 365
1820 650
1830 1,300
1840 2,240
1850 1,610
1860 4,385
1870 5,730
1880 11,200
1890 50,400
1900 102,500
1910 319,200
1920 576,700
1930 1,238,048
1940 1,504,277
1950 1,970,358
1960 2,479,015
1970 2,816,061
1980 2,966,850
1990 3,485,398
2000 3,694,820

Special topics in Los Angeles history

African-Americans in Los Angeles

Despite the fact that Los Angeles is one of only U.S. major cities founded by settlers who were predominantly of African descent, the city had 2,100 Black Americans in 1900, according to census figures, and by 1920 approximately 15,000. In 1910, the city had the highest percentage of black home ownership in the nation, with more than 36 percent of the city’s African-American residents owning their own homes. Black leader W. E. B. Du Bois described L.A. in 1913 as a “wonderful place” since they were less subjected to racial discrimination due to their population being small and the ongoing tensions between Anglos and Mexicans. That changed in the 1920s when restrictive covenants that enforced segregation became widespread. Blacks were mostly confined along the South Central corridor, Watts, and small enclaves in Venice and Pacoima, which received far fewer services than other areas of the city.[65][68]

After WWII, the city’s black population grew in substantial numbers as many continued to flee from the South for better opportunities although they remained in segregated enclaves. Even after the Supreme Court banned the legal enforcement of race-oriented restrictive covenants in the Shelley v. Kraemer case (1948), black homeownership declined severely [68] although the population continued to increase. The city had 63,774 blacks in 1940 and by 1950, they were approximately 170,000 of the population. By 1960, Los Angeles had the fifth largest black community in the United States, larger than any city in the South.

The Watts riots of 1965 followed a minor traffic incident and lasted four days after decades of mistreatment toward blacks. Thirty-four people were killed and 1,034 injured at a cost of $40 million in property damage and looting. So many businesses burned on 103rd Street that it became known as “Charcoal Alley.”

The City did help take a few steps to deal with the lack of social services for the black community, but black unemployment was relatively high following de-industrialization that closed all of the high-paying industrial jobs that opened up to black and Latino workers. Things got worse following the Watts riot – gang warfare and the drug trade reached crisis levels by the 1980s which were disproportionately high in minority communities.[65][69]

By 1990, the LAPD, which had followed a para-militaristic model since Chief Parker’s regime in the 1950s, became more alienated from minority communities following accusations of racial profiling.[66] In 1992, a jury in suburban Simi Valley acquitted white Los Angeles police officers involved in the beating of a black motorist, Rodney King, the year before. After four days of rioting, more than fifty deaths, and billions of dollars of property losses, mostly in the Central City, the National Guard and the police finally regained control.

The black population in Los Angeles remained steady in the 1970 and 1980 censuses, making up around 17 percent or over 500,000 of the city’s population. Since the 1980s, more middle-class black families have left the central core of Los Angeles to settle. In 2000 they made up 11 percent or 413,000 of the population resulting from many moving to other California municipalities or out of state.[65] Los Angeles still has the largest black population of any city in the Western United States.

Latinos in Los Angeles

The anti-union, open-shop heritage of the Chandlers and the Los Angeles Times continued to assure Los Angeles of a steady supply of cheap labor from Mexico and Central America throughout the 20th century. This was met by the increasing opposition of anti-immigration forces throughout the country.

A steady migration of Mexicans to California from 1910 to 1930 expanded the Mexican and Latino population in Los Angeles to 97,116 or 7.8%. In 1930, a large repatriation of 400-500,000 Mexican immigrants and their children began after the onset of the Depression, massive unempoyment, encouragement by the government of Mexico, the threat of deportation and welfare agencies willing to pay for the tickets of those leaving (some 2 million European immigrants left as well).[70]

At the same time, the city celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1931 with a grand “fiesta de Los Angeles” featuring a blond “reina” in historic ranchera costume. By 1940 the Latino population dropped to 7.1%, but remained at sightly over 100,000.[65]

During World War II, hostility toward Mexican-Americans took a different form, as local newspapers portrayed Chicano youths, who sometimes called themselves “pachucos” as barely civilized gangsters. Anglo servicemen attacked young Chicanos dressed in the pachuco uniform of the day: long coats with wide shoulders and pleated, high-waisted, pegged pants, or zoot suits.

In 1943, twenty-two young Chicanos were convicted of a murder of another youth at a party held at a swimming hole southeast of Los Angeles known as the “sleepy lagoon” on a warm night in August 1942; they were eventually freed after an appeal that demonstrated both their innocence and the racism of the judge conducting the trial. Today, the event is known as the Zoot Suit Riots.

In the 1990s, redistricting led to the election of Latino members of the City Council and the first Latino members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors since its inception. In 1994, California Voters passed Proposition 187, which denied undocumented immigrants and their families in California welfare, health benefits, and education.

With the growth of the Latino community, primarily immigration from Mexico, but also from Central America and South America, it is now the largest ethnic bloc in Los Angeles. By 1998, Latinos outnumbered Anglos in the city by over a million and account for 50 percent of the County’s population. The Latinos are re-establishing their position and visibility in the city’s economic and political life. By anyone’s account, Los Angeles is once again a Latino city.

City Council member Antonio Villaraigosa was elected mayor in 2005, the first Latino elected to that office since the 1872.[71]

In 2006 anti-immigration forces supported the federal The Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437). The act would make “unlawful presence” an “aggravated felony.” On 25 March, a million Latinos staged La Gran Marcha on City Hall to protest the bill. It was the largest demonstration in California history. Similar protests in other cities across the country made this a turning point in the debate on immigration reform.[8]

Asians in Los Angeles

Less than a century after the founding of Los Angeles, Chinatown was a thriving community near the downtown railroad depot. Thousands of Chinese came to northern California in the 1850s, initially to join the Gold Rush and then taking construction jobs with the railroads. They began moving south as the transcontinental railroad linked Los Angeles with the rest of the nation. The town’s continuous Chinese presence dates from 1850, when two house servants, Ah Luce and Ah Fon, appeared in the census. The Chinese population increased to 16 in 1860 and 178 in 1870. Eighty percent of the Chinese residents then were male, and most worked as launderers, cooks and vegetable peddlers.[72]

Later, Chinese workers who helped to build the aqueduct to the Owens River and worked in the fields of the San Joaquin Valley spent their winters in a segregated ethnic enclave in Los Angeles. In 1871, eleven years before the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a violent anti-Chinese demonstration swept through Los Angeles’ Chinatown, killing Chinese residents and plundering their dry good stores, laundries and restaurants.

The labor vacuum created by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was filled by Japanese workers and, by 1910, the settlement now known as “Little Tokyo” had risen next to Chinatown.

During the years between the two world wars, Los Angeles’ Asian American community also included small clusters of Korean Americans and Filipinos, the latter filling the void which followed the exclusion of the Japanese in 1924.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government authorized the evacuation and incarceration in concentration camps of all Japanese living in California irrespective of citizenship.

Since World War II, immigration from Asia and the Pacific has increased dramatically. The influx of immigrants from the Philippines, Korea, Taiwan, the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia has led to the development of identifiable enclaves such as Koreatown in the central city and Samoans in Wilmington and a Thai neighborhood in Hollywood.

Asian-Americans are now the third largest racial-ethnic group in Los Angeles, with Latinos and non-Latino whites being first and second, respectively.[citation needed]

See also

Other articles which contain relevant history sections.



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Guides, architecture, geography

  • Herman, Robert D. Downtown Los Angeles: A Walking Guide‎ (2004) 270 pages
  • Fodor. Los Angeles: plus Disneyland & Orange County‎ ed. by Maria Teresa Burwell, (2007) 368 pages excerpt and text search
  • Mahle, Karin, and Martin Nicholas Kunz. Los Angeles: Architecture & Design‎ (2004) 191pp
  • Nelson, Howard J. The Los Angeles Metropolis. (1983). 344 pp. geography
  • Pitt, Leonard and Dale Pitt. Los Angeles A to Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County. (1997). 605 pp. short articles by experts excerpts and text search

Contemporary issues

  • Abu-Lughod, Janet L. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles: America’s Global Cities (1999) online edition
  • Dear, Michael J., H. Eric Schockman, and Greg Hise, eds. Rethinking Los Angeles (1996) interprets LA in terms of “postmodern urbanism” model. It consists of several fundamental characteristics: a global-local connection; a ubiquitous social polarization; and a reterritorialization of the urban process in which hinterland organizes the center (in direct contradiction to the Chicago School model of cities). The resultant urbanism is distinguished by a centerless urban form termed “keno capitalism.”
  • Fine, David. Imagining Los Angeles: A City in Fiction. (2000). 293 pp.
  • Flanigan, James. Smile Southern California, You’re the Center of the Universe: The Economy and People of a Global Region (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Fulton, William. The Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles. (1997). 395 pp.
  • Gottlieb, Robert. Reinventing Los Angeles: Nature and Community in the Global City‎ (2007) excerpt and text search
  • Scott, Allen J. and Soja, Edward W., eds. The City: Los Angeles and Urban Theory at the End of the Twentieth Century. (1996). 483 pp.


  • Bills, Emily, “Connecting Lines: L.A.’s Telephone History and the Binding of the Region,” Southern California Quarterly, 91 (Spring 2009), 27–67.
  • Bollens, John C. and Geyer, Grant B. Yorty: Politics of a Constant Candidate. (1973). 245 pp. Mayor 1961-73
  • Fogelson, Robert M. The Fragmented Metropolis: Los Angeles, 1850-1930 (1967), focus on planning, infrastructure, water, and business
  • Friedricks, William. Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California (1992), on Henry Edwards Huntington (1850–1927), railroad executive and collector, who helped build LA and Southern California through the Southern Pacific railroad and also trolleys.
  • Garcia, Matt. A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles, 1900-1970. (2001). 330 pp.
  • Hart, Jack R. The Information Empire: The Rise of the Los Angeles Times and The Times Mirror Corporation. (1981). 410 pp.
  • Jaher, Frederic Cople. The Urban Establishment: Upper Strata in Boston, New York, Charleston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. (1982). 777 pp.
  • Klein, Norman M. and Schiesl, Martin J., eds. 20th Century Los Angeles: Power, Promotion, and Social Conflict. (1990). 240 pp.
  • Lavender, David. Los Angeles, Two Hundred Years. (1980). 240 pp. heavily illustrated popular history
  • Leader, Leonard. Los Angeles and the Great Depression. (1991). 344 pp.
  • Mullins, William H. The Depression and the Urban West Coast, 1929-1933: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Portland. (1991). 176 pp.
  • Nicolaides, Becky M. My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965. (2002). 412 pp.
  • O’Flaherty, Joseph S. An End and a Beginning: The South Coast and Los Angeles, 1850-1887. (1972). 222 pp.
  • O’Flaherty, Joseph S. Those Powerful Years: The South Coast and Los Angeles, 1887-1917 (1978). 356 pp.
  • Payne, J. Gregory and Ratzan, Scott C. Tom Bradley: The Impossible Dream. (1986). 368 pp., mayor 1973 to 1993 and a leading African American
  • Raftery, Judith Rosenberg. Land of Fair Promise: Politics and Reform in Los Angeles Schools, 1885-1941. (1992). 284 pp.
  • Rolle, Andrew. Los Angeles: From Pueblo to City of the Future. (2d. ed. 1995). 226 pp.; the only historical survey by a scholar
  • Sitton, Tom and Deverell, William, eds. Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s. (2001). 371 pp.
  • Verge, Arthur C. Paradise Transformed: Los Angeles during the Second World War. (1993). 177 pp.
  • Verge, Arthur C. “The Impact of the Second World War on Los Angeles” Pacific Historical Review 1994 63(3): 289-314. 0030-8684 in JSTOR

Planning, environment and autos

  • Bottles, Scott L. Los Angeles and the Automobile: The Making of the Modern City. (1987). 302 pp.
  • Davis, Margaret Leslie. Rivers in the Desert: William Mulholland and the Inventing of Los Angeles. (1993). 303 pp.
  • Davis, Mike. City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles. (1990). 462 pp
  • Desfor, Gene, and Roger Keil. Nature And The City: Making Environmental Policy In Toronto And Los Angeles (2004) 290pp
  • Deverell, William, and Greg Hise. Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Metropolitan Los Angeles‎ (2006) 350 pages excerpt and text search
  • Dewey, Scott Hamilton. Don’t Breathe the Air: Air Pollution and U.S. Environmental Politics, 1945-1970. (2000). 321pp., focuses on LA smog
  • Hise, Greg. Magnetic Los Angeles: Planning the Twentieth-Century Metropolis. (1997). 294 pp.
  • Keane, James Thomas. Fritz B. Burns and the Development of Los Angeles: The Biography of a Community Developer and Philanthropist. (2001). 287 pp.
  • Longstreth, Richard. The Drive-In, the Supermarket, and the Transformation of Commercial Space in Los Angeles, 1914-1941. (1999). 248 pp.
  • Longstreth, Richard. City Center to Regional Mall: Architecture, the Automobile, and Retailing in Los Angeles, 1920-1950. (1997). 504 pp.
  • Mulholland, Catherine. William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles. (2000). 411 pp. online edition
  • Post, Robert C. Street Railways and the Growth of Los Angeles (1989). 170pp.
  • Rajan, Sudhir Chella. The Enigma of Automobility: Democratic Politics and Pollution Control. (1996). 202 pp.


Hollywood sign.jpg

  • Balio, Tino. Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise, 1930-1939. (1993). 483 pp.
  • May, Lary. The Big Tomorrow: Hollywood and the Politics of the American Way (2000)
  • Schatz, Thomas. The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filmmaking in the Studio Era. (1988). 492 pp.
  • * Smith, Catherine Parsons. Making Music in Los Angeles: Transforming the Popular. University of California Press, 2007. (A social history covering c. 1887-1940)
  • Vaughn, Stephen. Ronald Reagan in Hollywood: Movies and Politics. (1994). 359 pp.
  • Wells, Walter. Tycoons and Locusts: A Regional Look at Hollywood Fiction of the 1930s (1973) online edition

Ethnicity, race and religion

  • Abelmann, Nancy and Lie, John. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. (1995). 272 pp.
  • Acuña, Rodolfo F. Anything but Mexican: Chicanos in Contemporary Los Angeles. (1996). 328 pp.
  • Allen, James P. and Turner, Eugene. The Ethnic Quilt: Population Diversity in Southern California. (1997). 282 pp.
  • Bedolla, Lisa García. Fluid borders: Latino power, identity, and politics in Los Angeles‎ (2005) 278 pages; excerpt and text search
  • Cannon, Lou. Official Negligence: How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. (1997). 698 pp. online edition
  • Degraaf, Lawrence B. “The City of Black Angels: Emergence of the Los Angeles Ghetto, 1890-1930”. Pacific Historical Review 1970 39(3): 323-352. in JSTOR
  • Engh, Michael E. “‘A Multiplicity and Diversity of Faiths’: Religion’s Impact on Los Angeles and the Urban West, 1890-1940,” Western Historical Quarterly 1997 28(4): 462-492. 0043-3810 in JSTOR
  • Engh, Michael E. Frontier Faiths: Church, Temple, and Synagogue in Los Angeles, 1846-1888. (1992). 267 pp.
  • Greenwood, Roberta S., ed. Down by the Station: Los Angeles Chinatown, 1880-1933. (1996). 207 pp.
  • Griswold del Castillo, Richard. The Los Angeles Barrio, 1850-1890: A Social History. (1979). 217 pp.
  • Gutierrez, Ramon A., and Patricia Zavella, eds. Mexicans in California: Transformations and Challenges essays by leading scholars (2009)
  • Hamilton, Nora and Chinchilla, Norma Stoltz. Seeking Community in a Global City: Guatemalans and Salvadorans in Los Angeles. (2001). 296 pp.
  • Hayashi, Brian Masaru. “For the Sake of Our Japanese Brethren”: Assimilation, Nationalism, and Protestantism among the Japanese of Los Angeles, 1895-1942 (1995). 217 pp.
  • Horne, Gerald. Fire This Time: The Watts Uprising and the 1960s. (1995). 424 pp.
  • Keil, Roger. Los Angeles: Globalization, Urbanization, and Social Struggles. (1998). 295 pp.
  • Leclerc, Gustavo; Villa, Raúl; and Dear, Michael, eds. Urban Latino Cultures: La Vida Latina en L.A. (1999). 214 pp.
  • Loza, Steven. Barrio Rhythm: Mexican American Music in Los Angeles. (1993). 320 pp.
  • Min, Pyong Gap. Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles. (1996). 260 pp.
  • Modell, John. The Economics and Politics of Racial Accommodation: The Japanese of Los Angeles, 1900-1942. (1977). 201 pp.
  • Monroy, Douglas. Rebirth: Mexican Los Angeles from the Great Migration to the Great Depression. (1999). 322 pp.
  • Moore, Deborah Dash. To the Golden Cities: Pursuing the American Jewish Dream in Miami and L.A. (1994). 358 pp.
  • Oberschall, Anthony. “The Los Angeles Riot of August 1965,” Social Problems, Vol. 15, No. 3 (Winter, 1968), pp. 322–341 in JSTOR, black riots in Watts
  • Ong, Paul, ed. The New Asian Immigration in Los Angeles and Global Restructuring. (1994). 330 pp.
  • Ríos-Bustamante, Antonio and Castillo, Pedro. An Illustrated History of Mexican Los Angeles, 1781-1985. (1986). 196 pp.
  • Saito, Leland T. Race and Politics: Asian Americans, Latinos, and Whites in a Los Angeles Suburb. (1998). 250 pp.
  • Sánchez, George J. Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. (1993). 367 pp. online edition
  • Sides, Josh. L. A. City Limits: African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present (2003) online edition
  • Valle, Victor M. and Torres, Rodolfo D. Latino Metropolis. (2000). 249 pp.
  • Waldinger, Roger and Bozorgmehr, Mehdi, eds. Ethnic Los Angeles. (1996). 497 pp. studies by sociologists
  • Weber, Francis J. Magnificat: The Life and Times of Timothy Cardinal Manning. (1999). 729 pp. The Catholic archbishop from 1970 to 1985.
  • Weber, Francis J. His Eminence of Los Angeles: James Francis Cardinal McIntyre. (1997). 707 pp. Catholic archbishop from 1948 to 1970.
  • Weber, Francis J. Century of Fulfillment: The Roman Catholic Church in Southern California, 1840-1947. (1990). 536 pp.

Primary sources

  • Caughey, John and LaRee Caughey, eds. Los Angeles: Biography of a City. (1976). 510 pp. short excerpts from primary and secondary sources
  • Diehl, Digby, ed. Front Page: 100 Years of the Los Angeles Times, 1881-1981. (1981). 287 pp.
  • Rodríguez, Luis. Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. (1993); autobiographical novel online edition
  • Violence in the City—An End or a Beginning?, A Report by the Governor’s Commission on the Los Angeles Riots, 1965 Official Report online, report on 1965 black riot in Watts; called the “McCone Report” after its chairman
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The history of New York begins around 10,000 BCE, when the first Native Americans arrived. By 1100 CE, New York’s main tribes, the Iroquoian and Algonquian cultures, had developed. New York was discovered by the French in 1524 and first claimed in 1609 by the Dutch. As part of New Netherland, the colony was important in the fur trade and eventually became an agricultural resource thanks to the patroon system. In 1664, England renamed the colony New York. New York City gained prominence in the 18th century as a major trading port in the Thirteen Colonies.

New York played a pivotal role during the Revolutionary War. The Battle of Saratoga was the turning point of the war. New York’s constitution was adopted in 1777, and strongly influenced the United States Constitution. New York City was the national capital at various times between 1785 and 1790, and Albany became the permanent state capital in 1797. New York was the eleventh state admitted to the Union, in 1787.

New York hosted significant transportation advancements in the 19th century, including the first steamboat line in 1807, the Erie Canal in 1825, and America’s first regularly-scheduled rail service in 1831. These advancements led to the expanded settlement of western New York.

Far from any of its battles, New York sent the most men and money to support the Civil War. Thereafter, the state helped create the industrial age and consequently was home to some of the first labor unions.

New York City was the main entry point for European immigrants. Millions came through Castle Clinton in Battery Park before Ellis Island opened in 1892 to welcome millions more. The Statue of Liberty opened in 1886 and became a symbol of hope. New York boomed during the Roaring Twenties, before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. New York City hosted the tallest building in the world from 1913–74.

World War II turned around the state’s economy, as hundreds of thousands worked to defeat the Axis powers. Following the war, the state experienced significant suburbanization, and most cities shrank. The Thruway system opened in 1956, signalling another era of transportation advances.

Following a period of near–bankruptcy, New York City renewed its stature as a cultural center, attracted more immigration, and hosted the development of new music styles. The City became a media capital over the second half of the 20th century, hosting most national news channels and broadcasts, as well as globally–renowned national newspapers. The state’s manufacturing base eroded over the period, as the state transitioned into service industries.

The September 11 attacks destroyed the World Trade Center, killing almost 3,000 people; they were the largest terrorist attacks on United States soil.


Map of New York showing Algonquian tribes in the eastern and southern portions and Iroquoian tribes to the western and northern portions.

New York was dominated by Iroquoian (purple) and Algonquian (pink) Indian tribes.

The first peoples of New York are estimated to have arrived around 10,000 BCE. Around 800 CE, Iroquois ancestors moved into the area from the Appalachian region. The Point Peninsula Complex, the predecessors of the Algonquian peoples of New York, moved into the state around 1000 CE.[1] By around 1100, the distinct Iroquoian and Algonquian cultures that would eventually be encountered by Europeans had developed.[2] The Iroquois were the most notable New York Indians; they used their dominance over the fur trade as a bargaining chip with Europeans, while other New York tribes were typically at the mercy of either European destruction or assimilation within the Iroquoian confederacy.[3] Algonquian tribes were less united with neighboring peoples and typically lived along rivers, streams, or the Atlantic Coast.[4] Despite European beliefs at the time, the natives were well-established peoples with sophisticated cultural systems. The natives had “a complex and elaborate native economy that included hunting, gathering, manufacturing, and farming…[and were] a mosaic of Native American tribes, nations, languages, and political associations.”[2]

New Netherland

Main article: New Netherland

A native looks over New York Harbor to see the arrival of Henry Hudson in 1609.

The first European to visit New York was Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524.[5] The Dutch claimed the land in 1609 following Henry Hudson‘s search for a Northwest Passage. In 1614 the Dutch–built Fort Nassau, the first European settlement, in present-day Albany. Fort Orange replaced it in 1624. Fort Amsterdam was built in 1626 at Manhattan Island‘s southern tip. The resulting town of New Amsterdam became the largest settlement in New Netherland. During its early decades, the colony was dependent on the fur trade. The patroonship of Rensselaerswijck—a feudal manor surrounding Fort Orange—developed an agricultural industry. By the 1650s, under the leadership of Director Peter Stuyvesant, the colony was a main exporter of tobacco, wheat, and lumber; most of these commodities came through the village of Beverwijck, Albany’s precursor. A surprise attack with overwhelming force allowed the English to conquer New Netherland in 1664;[Note 1] lenient terms of surrender most likely kept local resistance to a minimum. The colony and city were both renamed New York (and “Beverwijck” was renamed Albany) after its new proprietor, James II of England, who was the Duke of York and Duke of Albany at the time.[Note 2] The population of New Netherland at the time of English takeover was 7–8,000.[1][8]

Province of New York

Main article: Province of New York

Large manors emerged during the 18th century, including Livingston, Cortlandt, Philipsburg, and Rensselaerswyck.[Note 3] The manors represented more than half of the colony’s undeveloped land. The Province of New York thrived during this time, its economy strengthened by Long Island and Hudson Valley agriculture, in conjunction with trade and artisanal activity at the Port of New York; the colony was a breadbasket and lumberyard for the British sugar colonies in the Caribbean. New York’s population grew substantially during this century: from the first colonial census (1698) to the last (1771), the province grew ninefold, from 18,067 to 168,007. Europe, including English, Scottish, Palatine German, and Irish immigrants, was the main source, though the slave trade brought in many Africans. New York at one time had the largest African slave population north of the Mason-Dixon Line; the group peaked in 1720 at 16% of New York’s population.[10]

Merchant and landlord factions dominated New York’s political scene. Manorial families also had significant influence. The colony was the center of conflicts between the British and French throughout the 18th century. The French and Indian Wars raged on and off for more than 70 years. New York was one of only two colonies that regularly housed British troops before 1755. The fighting pitted the native bands against each other, as the Europeans formed expedient alliances with them. Even during wars, the colonists sought control of Iroquoia, while the confederacy strained to stay together. Regardless of the Covenant Chain, the British and French continued to expand into Indian land; the French eventually found themselves being punished by the Iroquois through bloody raids in 1701 that forced the French to briefly retreat.[10]


John Trumbull‘s Surrender of General Burgoyne stylizes the American win at Saratoga.

New York played a pivotal role in the Revolutionary War. The colony verged on revolt following the Stamp Act of 1765, advancing the New York City–based Sons of Liberty to the forefront of New York politics. The Act exacerbated the depression the province experienced after unsuccessfully invading Canada in 1760.[11] Even though New York City merchants lost out on lucrative military contracts, the group sought common ground between the King and the people; however, compromise became impossible as of the April 1775 Battles of Lexington and Concord.

New York’s location made it key to control of the colonies. England assembled the century’s largest fleet: at one point 30,000 British sailors and soldiers anchored off Staten Island. General George Washington barely escaped New York City with his army in January 1776; General Sir William Howe was successful in driving Washington out, but erred by expanding into New Jersey. By January 1777, he retained only a few outposts near New York City. The British held the city for the duration, using it as a base for expeditions against other targets.

In October 1777, American General Horatio Gates won the Battle of Saratoga, later regarded as the war’s turning point. Had Gates not held, the rebellion might well have broken down: losing Saratoga would have cost the entire Hudson–Champlain corridor, which would have separated New England from the rest of the colonies and split the future union.[12]

Statehood to the Civil War

Upon war’s end, New York’s borders became well–defined: the counties east of Lake Champlain became Vermont and the state’s western borders were settled by 1786.

Many Iroquois supported the British (typically fearing future American ambitions). Many were killed during the war; others went into exile with the British. Those remaining lived on twelve reservations; by 1826 only eight reservations remained, all of which survived into the 21st century.

The state adopted its constitution in April 1777, creating a strong executive and strict separation of powers. It strongly influenced the federal constitution a decade later. Debate over the federal constitution in 1787 led to formation of the groups known as Federalists—mainly “downstaters” (those who lived in or near New York City) who supported a strong national government—and Antifederalists—mainly upstaters (those who lived to the City’s north and west) who opposed large national institutions. In 1787, Alexander Hamilton, a leading Federalist from New York, wrote the first essay of the Federalist Papers. He published the series in New York City newspapers in support of the proposed United States constitution. Antifederalists were not swayed by the arguments, but the state ratified it in 1788.[13]

The Stadt Huys in Albany became the state’s first permanent capitol when Albany became the capital in 1797.

In 1785, New York City became the national capital and continued as such on and off until 1790; George Washington was inaugurated as the first President of the United States in front of Federal Hall in 1789.[13] From statehood to 1797, the Legislature frequently moved the state capital between Albany, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and New York City. Thereafter, Albany retained that role.[14]

In the early 19th century, New York became a center for advancement in transportation. In 1807, Robert Fulton initiated a steamboat line from New York to Albany, the first successful enterprise of its kind.[15] By 1815, Albany was the state’s turnpike center,[16] which established the city as the hub for pioneers migrating west to Buffalo and the Michigan Territory.[17]

In 1825 the Erie Canal opened, securing the state’s economic dominance. Its impact was enormous: one source stated, “Linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, the canal was an act of political will that joined the regions of the state, created a vast economic hinterland for New York City, and established a ready market for agricultural products from the state’s interior.” In that year western New York transitioned from “frontier” to settled area. By this time, all counties and most municipalities had incorporated, approximately matching the state’s is organized today.[13] In 1831, the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad started the country’s first successful regularly–scheduled steam railroad service.[18]

Advancing transportation quickly led to settlement of the fertile Mohawk and Gennessee valleys and the Niagara Frontier. Buffalo and Rochester became boomtowns. Significant migration of New England “Yankees” (mainly of English descent) to the central and western parts of the state led to minor conflicts with the more settled “Yorkers” (mainly of German, Dutch, and Scottish descent). More than 15% of the state’s 1850 population had been born in New England. The western part of the state grew fastest at this time. By 1840, New York was home to seven of the nation’s thirty largest cities.[Note 4]

New York culture bloomed in the first half of the 19th century: in 1809 Washington Irving wrote the satirical A History of New York under the pen name Deitrich Knickerbocker, and in 1819 he based Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in Hudson Valley towns;[20] Thomas Cole‘s Hudson River school established itself in the 1830s by showcasing dramatic landscapes of the Hudson Valley.[21] The first baseball teams formed in New York City in the 1840s, including the New York Knickerbockers. Professional baseball later located its Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Saratoga Race Course, an annual summer attraction in Saratoga Springs, opened in 1847.[22]

Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of New York’s young men fought during the Civil War, more than any other Northern state. A war was not in the best interest of business, because much of New York’s trade was based on moving Southern goods. The city’s large Democrat community feared the impact of Abraham Lincoln‘s election in 1860. By the time of the 1861 Battle of Fort Sumter, political differences had vanished and the state quickly met Lincoln’s request for soldiers and supplies. While no battles were waged in New York, the state wasn’t immune to Confederate conspiracies, including one to burn various New York cities and another to invade the state via Canada.[23]

In 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed the slaves in states that were still in rebellion against the union. In March 1863, the federal draft law was changed so that male citizens between 20 and 35 and unmarried citizens to age 45 were subject to conscription. Those who could afford to hire a substitute or pay $300 were exempt. Antiwar newspaper editors attacked the law. Democratic Party leaders raised the specter of a deluge of southern blacks. On the lottery’s first day, July 11, 1863, the first lottery law was held. On Monday, July 13, 1863, five days of large-scale riots began.[24]

Civil War to the turn of the century

Companies such as Eastman Kodak (Rochester headquarters pictured ca. 1900) epitomized New York’s manufacturing economy in the late 19th century.

In the following decades, New York strengthened its dominance of the financial and banking industries. Manufacturing continued to rise: Eastman Kodak in Rochester, General Electric in Schenectady, and Endicott-Johnson Shoe Company in the Triple Cities are some of the well-known companies founded during that time. Buffalo and Niagara Falls attracted numerous factories following the advent of hydroelectric power in the area.[25] With industry blooming, workers began to unite in New York as early as the 1820s. By 1882, the Knights of Labor in New York City had 60,000 members. Trade unions were able to use political influence to limit working hours as early as 1867. At the same time, New York’s agricultural output peaked. Focus changed from crop-based to dairy-based agriculture. By 1881, the state had more than 241,000 farms.[25] In the same period, the area around New York harbor became the world’soyster capital, retaining that title into the early twentieth century.[26]

Ellis Island immigration footage.ogg

Scenes showing immigrants arriving at the Immigration Depot at Ellis Island in 1906

Immigration increased throughout the latter half of the 19th century. Starting with the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, New York became a prominent entry point for those seeking a new life in the United States.[25] Between 1855 and 1890, an estimated 8 million immigrants passed through Castle Clinton at Battery Park in Manhattan.[27][Note 5] Early in this period, most immigrants came from Ireland and Germany. Ellis Island opened in 1892,[27] and between 1880 and 1920, most immigrants were German Jews, Poles, and other eastern and southern Europeans. By 1925, New York City’s population outnumbered that of London, making it the most populous city in the world.[25] Arguably New York’s most identifiable symbol, Liberty Enlightening the World (the Statue of Liberty), a gift from France for the American centennial, was completed in 1886. By the early 20th century, the statue was regarded as the “Mother of Exiles”—a symbol of hope to immigrants.[29]

New York’s political pattern changed little after the mid–19th century. New York City was already heavily Democrat and Upstate, Republican. In the 1850s, Democratic Tammany Hall became one of the most powerful and durable political machines in United States history. Boss William Tweed brought the organization to the forefront of city and then state politics in the 1860s. Tammany maintained influence until at least the 1930s. Outside the city, Republicans were able to influence the redistricting process enough to constrain New York City and capture the Legislature in 1894. Both parties have seen political success: in the 39 presidential elections between 1856 and 2010, Republicans won 19 times and Democrats 20 times.[25]

1900 through the Great Depression

A frameworker tightens bolts on the Empire State Buildingin 1930; the recently-completed Chrysler Building is seen in the background.

By 1900, New York was the richest and most populous state. Two years prior, the five boroughs of New York City became one city.[30] Within decades, the city’s emblem had become theskyscraper: the Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world from 1913, surpassed by 40 Wall Street in April 1930, the Chrysler Buildingin 1930, the Empire State Building in 1931, and the World Trade Center in 1972 before losing the title in 1974.[31]

In the early 20th century, governor Theodore Roosevelt and fellow Republicans invented Progressivism, later known as “the New York Idea”.[citation needed] “Its main concerns included the righting of social ills, conservation, the discarding of ineffective and corrupt urban government, and control of trusts and other industrial combinations.” Democrats continued the ideology. However, they were “more concerned about factory labor and urban problems and had closer ties to immigrants and organized labor.” Democrats’ efforts in Progressivism impacted the national party: “The Democratic Party developed a new image—at once urban and reform minded, pro-immigrant and welcoming to African Americans—that increasingly defined the northern Democratic Party.”[30]

Following a sharp but short-lived Depression at the beginning of the decade,[32] New York enjoyed a booming economy during the Roaring Twenties. New York suffered during the Great Depression, which began with the Wall Street crash on Black Tuesday in 1929. The Securities and Exchange Commission opened in 1934 to regulate the stock market.[33] Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected governor in 1928, and the state faced upwards of 25% unemployment. His Temporary Emergency Relief Agency, established in 1931, was the first work relief program in the nation and influenced the national Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Roosevelt was elected President in 1932 in part because of his promises to extend New York–style relief programs across the country via his New Deal.[30][34] In 1932, Lake Placid was host to the III Olympic Winter Games.[8]

World War II and the modern era

As the largest state, New York again supplied the most resources during World War II and suffered 31,215 casualties.[35] The war affected the state both socially and economically. For example, to overcome discriminatory labor practices, Governor Herbert H. Lehman created the Committee on Discrimination in Employment in 1941 and Governor Thomas E. Dewey signed the Ives–Quinn bill in 1945, banning employment discrimination. The G.I. Bill of 1944, which offered returning soldiers the opportunity of affordable higher education, forced New York to create a public university system since its private universities could not handle the influx; the State University of New York was created by Governor Dewey in 1948.[36]

World War II constituted New York’s last great industrial era. At its conclusion, the defense industry shrank and the economy shifted towards producing services rather than goods. Returning soldiers disproportionately displaced female and minority workers who had entered the industrial workforce only when the war left employers no other choice.[36] Companies moved to the south and west, seeking lower taxes and a less costly, non–union workforce. Many workers followed the jobs.[37] The middle class expanded and created suburbs such as the one on Long Island. The automobile accelerated this decentralization; planned communities like Levittown offered affordable middle-class housing.[37]

Larger cities stopped growing around 1950. Growth resumed only in New York City, in the 1980s. Buffalo’s population fell by half between 1950 and 2000. Reduced immigration and worker migration led New York State’s population to decline for the first time between 1970 and 1980. California and Texas both surpassed it in population.[citation needed]

New York entered its third era of massive transportation projects by building highways, notably the New York State Thruway. The project was unpopular with New York City Democrats, who referred to it as “Dewey’s ditch” and the “enemy of schools”, because the Thruway disproportionately benefited upstate. The highway was based on the German Autobahn and was unlike anything seen at that point in the United States. It was within 30 miles (48 km) of 90% of the population at its conception. Costing $600 million, the full 427-mile (687 km) project opened in 1956.[38]

Nelson Rockefeller was governor from 1959–1973 and changed New York politics. He began as a liberal, but grew more conservative: he limited SUNY‘s growth, responded aggressively to the Attica Prison riot, and promulgated the uniquely severe Rockefeller Drug Laws. The World Trade Center and other profligate projects nearly drove New York City into bankruptcy in 1975. The state took substantial budgetary control, which eventually led to improved fiscal prudence.[37]

The Executive Mansion was retaken by Democrats in 1974 and remained under Democratic control for 20 years under Hugh Carey and Mario Cuomo. Late–century Democrats became more centrist, including US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1977–2001) and New York City Mayor Ed Koch (1978–1989), while state Republicans began to align themselves with the more conservative national party. They gained power through the elections of Senator Alfonse D’Amato in 1980, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in 1993, and Governor George Pataki in 1994. New York remained one of the most liberal states. In 1984, Ronald Reagan was the last Republican to carry the state, although Republican Michael Bloomberg served as New York City mayor in the early 21st century.[37]

The last decades of the 20th century

In the late 20th century, telecommunication and high technology industries employed many New Yorkers. New York City was especially successful at this transition. Entrepreneurs created many small companies, as industrial firms such as Polaroid withered. This success drew many young professionals into the still–dwindling cities. New York City was the exception, in part because changes in policing and urban development dramatically reduced crime rates and urban decay.[37]

This in turn led to a surge in culture. New York City became, once again, “the center for all things chic and trendy”.[37] Hip-hop and rap music, led by New York City, became the most popular pop genre. Immigration to both the city and state rose. New York City, with a large gay and lesbian community, suffered many deaths from AIDS.[37]

New York City increased its already large share of television programming, home to the network news broadcasts as well as two of the three major cable news networks.[citation needed] The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times became two of the three “national” newspapers, read throughout the country.[citation needed] New York also increased its dominance of the financial services industry centered on Wall Street, led by banking expansion, a rising stock market, innovations in investment banking, including junk bond trading and accelerated by the savings and loan crisis that decimated competitors elsewhere.

Upstate did not fare as well as downstate; the major industries that began to reinvigorate New York City did not typically spread to other regions. The number of farms in the state had fallen to 30,000 by 1997. City populations continued to decline while suburbs grew in area, but did not increase proportionately in population.[37] High-tech industry grew in cities such as Corning and Rochester. Overall New York entered the new millenium “in a position of economic strength and optimism”.[8]

September 11, 2001 to the present

United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the September 11 attacks.

New York entered a new era following the September 11 attacks,[39] the worst terrorist attack to ever take place on American soil. Two hijacked passenger jets crashed into the World Trade Center, destroying them, and killing almost 3,000 people.[40] Thousands of New Yorkers volunteered their time to search the ruin for survivors and remains in the following weeks.

Following the attacks, Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani and President George W. Bush announced plans to rebuild the World Trade Center site. 7 World Trade Center became the first World Trade Center skyscraper to be rebuilt in five years after the attacks. One World Trade Center, four more office towers, and a memorial to the casualties of the September 11 attacks are currently under construction as of 2011.

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Super Bowl XLIV
Feb. 7, 2010
Miami Gardens
MVP: Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans
New Orleans Saints 31
Indianapolis Colts 17
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Super Bowl XLIII
Feb. 1, 2009
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida
MVP: Santonio Holmes, WR, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Steelers 27
Arizona Cardinals 23
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Super Bowl XLII
Feb. 3, 2008
U. of Phoenix Stadium
Glendale, Arizona
MVP: Eli Manning, QB, New York
New York Giants 17
New England Patriots 14
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Super Bowl XLI
Feb. 4, 2007
Dolphin Stadium
Miami, Florida
MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis
Indianapolis Colts 29
Chicago Bears 17
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Super Bowl XL
Feb. 5, 2006
Ford Field
Detroit, Michigan
MVP: Hines Ward, WR, Pittsburgh
Seattle Seahawks 10
Pittsburgh Steelers 21
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Super Bowl XXXIX
Feb. 6, 2005
Alltel Stadium
Jacksonville, Florida
MVP: Deion Branch, WR, New England
New England Patriots 24
Philadelphia Eagles 21
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Super Bowl XXXVIII
Feb. 1, 2004
Reliant Stadium
Houston, Texas
MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England
Carolina Panthers 29
New England Patriots 32
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Super Bowl XXXVII
Jan. 26, 2003
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego, California
MVP: Dexter Jackson, FS, Tampa Bay
Oakland Raiders 21
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48
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Super Bowl XXXVI
Feb. 3, 2002
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England
St. Louis Rams 17
New England Patriots 20
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Super Bowl XXXV
Jan. 28, 2001
Raymond James Stadium
Tampa, Florida
MVP: Ray Lewis, LB, Baltimore
Baltimore Ravens 34
New York Giants 7
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Super Bowl XXXIV
Jan. 30, 2000
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
MVP: Kurt Warner, QB, St. Louis
St. Louis Rams 23
Tennessee Titans 16
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Super Bowl XXXIII
Jan. 31, 1999
Pro Player Stadium
Miami, Florida
MVP: John Elway, QB, Denver
Denver Broncos 34
Atlanta Falcons 19
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Super Bowl XXXII
Jan. 25, 1998
Qualcomm Stadium
San Diego, California
MVP: Terrell Davis, RB, Denver
Green Bay Packers 24
Denver Broncos 31
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Super Bowl XXXI
Jan. 26, 1997
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Desmond Howard, KR-PR, Green Bay
New England Patriots 21
Green Bay Packers 35
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Super Bowl XXX
Jan. 28, 1996
Sun Devil Stadium
Tempe, Arizona
MVP: Larry Brown, CB, Dallas
Dallas Cowboys 27
Pittsburgh Steelers 17
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Super Bowl XXIX
Jan. 29, 1995
Joe Robbie Stadium
Miami, Florida
MVP: Steve Young, QB, San Francisco
San Diego Chargers 26
San Francisco 49ers 49
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Super Bowl XXVIII
Jan. 30, 1994
Georgia Dome
Atlanta, Georgia
MVP: Emmitt Smith, RB, Dallas
Dallas Cowboys 30
Buffalo Bills 13
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Super Bowl XXVII
Jan. 31, 1993
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
MVP: Troy Aikman, QB, Dallas
Buffalo Bills 17
Dallas Cowboys 52
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Super Bowl XXVI
Jan. 26, 1992
Minneapolis, Minnesota
MVP: Mark Rypien, QB, Washington
Washington Redskins 37
Buffalo Bills 24
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Super Bowl XXV
Jan. 27, 1991
Tampa Stadium
Tampa, Florida
MVP: Ottis Anderson, RB, New York
Buffalo Bills 19
New York Giants 20
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Super Bowl XXIV
Jan. 28, 1990
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers 55
Denver Broncos 10
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Super Bowl XXIII
Jan. 22, 1989
Joe Robbie Stadium
Miami, Florida
MVP: Jerry Rice, WR, San Francisco
Cincinnati Bengals 16
San Francisco 49ers 20
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Super Bowl XXII
Jan. 31, 1988
Jack Murphy Stadium
San Diego, California
MVP: Doug Williams, QB, Washington
Washington Redskins 42
Denver Broncos 10
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Super Bowl XXI
Jan. 25, 1987
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
MVP: Phil Simms, QB, New York
Denver Broncos 20
New York Giants 39
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Super Bowl XX
Jan. 26, 1986
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Richard Dent, DE, Chicago
Chicago Bears 46
New England Patriots 10
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Super Bowl XIX
Jan. 20, 1985
Stanford Stadium
Palo Alto, California
MVP: Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco
Miami Dolphins 16
San Francisco 49ers 38
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Super Bowl XVIII
Jan. 22, 1984
Tampa Stadium
Tampa, Florida
MVP: Marcus Allen, RB, Los Angeles
Washington Redskins 9
Los Angeles Raiders 38
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Super Bowl XVII
Jan, 30, 1983
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
MVP: John Riggins, RB, Washington
Miami Dolphins 17
Washington Redskins 27
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Super Bowl XVI
Jan. 24, 1982
Pontiac Silverdome
Pontiac, Michigan
MVP: Joe Montana, QB, San Francisco
San Francisco 49ers 26
Cincinnati Bengals 21
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Super Bowl XV
Jan. 25, 1981
Louisiana Superdome
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Jim Plunkett, QB, Oakland
Oakland Raiders 27
Philadelphia Eagles 10
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Super Bowl XIV
Jan. 20, 1980
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
MVP: Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh
Los Angeles Rams 19
Pittsburgh Steelers 31
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Super Bowl XIII
Jan. 21, 1979
Orange Bowl
Miami, Florida
MVP: Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Steelers 35
Dallas Cowboys 31
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Super Bowl XII
Jan. 15, 1978
New Orleans, Louisiana
Randy White, DT, Dallas
Harvey Martin, DE, Dallas
Dallas Cowboys 27
Denver Broncos 10
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Super Bowl XI
Jan. 9, 1977
Rose Bowl
Pasadena, California
MVP: Fred Biletnikoff, WR, Oakland
Oakland Raiders 32
Minnesota Vikings 14
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Super Bowl X
Jan. 18, 1976
Orange Bowl
Miami, Florida
MVP: Lynn Swann, WR, Pittsburgh
Dallas Cowboys 17
Pittsburgh Steelers 21
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Super Bowl IX
Jan. 12, 1975
Tulane Stadium
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Franco Harris, RB, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Steelers 16
Minnesota Vikings 6
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Super Bowl VIII
Jan. 13, 1974
Rice Stadium
Houston, Texas
MVP: Larry Csonka, RB, Miami
Minnesota Vikings 7
Miami Dolphins 24
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Super Bowl VII
Jan. 14, 1973
Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
MVP: Jake Scott, S, Miami
Miami Dolphins 14
Washington Redskins 7
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Super Bowl VI
Jan. 16, 1972
Tulane Stadium
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Roger Staubach, QB, Dallas
Dallas Cowboys 24
Miami Dolphins 3
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Super Bowl V
Jan. 17, 1971
Orange Bowl
Miami, Florida
MVP: Chuck Howley, LB, Dallas
Baltimore Colts 16
Dallas Cowboys 13
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Super Bowl IV
Jan. 11, 1970
Tulane Stadium
New Orleans, Louisiana
MVP: Len Dawson, QB, Kansas City
Minnesota Vikings 7
Kansas City Chiefs 23
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Super Bowl III
Jan. 12, 1969
Orange Bowl
Miami, Florida
MVP: Joe Namath, QB, New York
New York Jets 16
Baltimore Colts 7
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Super Bowl II
Jan. 14, 1968
Orange Bowl
Miami, Florida
MVP: Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay
Green Bay Packers 33
Oakland Raiders 14
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Super Bowl I
Jan. 15, 1967
Memorial Coliseum
Los Angeles, California
MVP: Bart Starr, QB, Green Bay
Kansas City Chiefs 10
Green Bay Packers 35

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Usa History

The history of the United States traditionally starts with the Declaration of Independence in the year 1776, yet its territory was occupied first by the Native Americans since prehistoric times and then also by European colonists mostly following the voyages of Christopher Columbus starting in 1492. The Thirteen Colonies declared independence from the British Empire during the American Revolution and as states ratified the Articles of Confederation. In 1789 the Constitution became the basis for the United States federal government. The young nation continued to struggle with the scope of central government and with European influence, creating the first political parties in the 1790s, and fighting a second war for independence in 1812.

U.S. territory expanded westward across the continent, brushing aside Native Americans and Mexico, and overcoming modernizers who wanted to deepen the economy rather than expand the geography. Slavery of Africans was abolished in the North, but heavy world demand for cotton let it flourish in the Southern states. The 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln calling for no more expansion of slavery triggered a crisis as eleven slave states seceded to found the Confederate States of America in 1861. The bloody American Civil War (1861–65) redefined the nation and remains the central iconic event. The South was defeated and, in the Reconstruction era, the U.S. ended slavery, extended rights to African Americans, and readmitted secessionist states with loyal governments. The present 48 contiguous states were admitted by early 1912.

The U.S. rose as an industrialized power by the early 20th century. Lifestyle changes led to the Progressive movement, which pushed for reform in industry and politics and is associated with women’s suffrage and Prohibition of alcohol (the latter failed by 1933). Initially neutral in World War I, the U.S. eventually declared war on Germany in 1917, yet popular support for non-interventionism derailed post-war attempts to foster international cooperation. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 punctuated the onset of the Great Depression, to which the federal government responded with New Deal recovery programs. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the U.S. entered World War II alongside the Allies and helped defeat Nazi Germany in Europe and, with the detonation of newly-invented atomic bombs, Japan in Asia and the Pacific.

The Soviet Union and the U.S. emerged as opposing superpowers after the war and began the Cold War confronting indirectly in an arms race, the Space Race, and intervention in Europe and eastern Asia. Liberalism reflected in the civil rights movement and opposition to war in Vietnam peaked in the 1960s–70s before giving way to conservatism in the early 1980s. The Cold War ended when the Soviet Union dissolved in 1991, leaving the U.S. to prosper in the booming Information Age economy that was boosted, at least in part, by information technology. International conflict and economic uncertainty heightened by 2001 with the September 11 attacks and subsequent War on Terror and the late-2000s recession.

Pre-Columbian era

Main article: Pre-Columbian era

The first residents of what is now the United States emigrated from Asia over 30,000[1] years ago by crossing Beringia into present-day Alaska then headed south. Archaeological evidence of these people, the ancestors of the Native Americans, dates back to between 40,000 and 16,500 years ago.[2][3][4]

The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during the Early Modern period. While technically referring to the era before Christopher Columbus‘ voyages of 1492 to 1504, in practice the term usually includes the history of American indigenous cultures until they were conquered or significantly influenced by Europeans, even if this happened decades or even centuries after Columbus’ initial landing.

Colonial period

The Spanish conquistador Coronado explored parts of the American Southwest from 1540 to 1542.

After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. In the 16th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe maize, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash. The disease environment was very unhealthy for explorers and early settlers. The Native Americans became exposed to new diseases such as smallpox and measles and died in very large numbers, usually before large-scale European settlement began.

Spanish, Dutch, and French colonization

Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States with Christopher Columbussecond expedition, which reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493; others reached Florida in 1513.[5] Quickly Spanish expeditions reached the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon[6] and the Great Plains. In 1540, Hernando de Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present U.S. and, in the same year, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led 2,000 Spaniards and Native Mexican Americans across the modern Arizona–Mexico border and traveled as far as central Kansas.[7] The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565, but it was in such a harsh political environment that it attracted few settlers and never expanded. Much larger and more important Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most Spanish settlements were along the California coast or the Santa Fe River in New Mexico.[8]

European territorial claims in North America, c. 1750

Kingdom of Great Britain

New Netherland was the 17th century Dutch colonial province on the eastern coast of North America. The Dutch claimed territory from the Delmarva Peninsula to Buzzards Bay, while their settlements concentrated on the Hudson River Valley, where they traded furs with the Native Americans to the north and were a barrier to Yankee expansion from New England. Their capital, New Amsterdam, was located at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan and was renamed New York when the English seized the colony in 1664. The Dutch were Calvinists who built the Reformed Church in America, but they were tolerant of other religions and cultures. The colony left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, including a secular broadmindedness and mercantile pragmatism in the city, a rural traditionalism in the countryside typified by the story of Rip Van Winkle, and politicians such as Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt.[9]

New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period extending 1534 to 1763, when Britain and Spain took control. There were few permanent settlers outside Quebec, but fur traders ranged working with numerous Indian tribes who often became military allies in France’s wars with Britain. The territory was divided into five colonies: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana. After 1750 the Acadians—French settlers who had been expelled by the British from Acadia (Nova Scotia)—resettled in Louisiana, where they developed a distinctive rural Cajun culture that still exists. They became American citizens in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase.[10] Other French villages along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers were absorbed when the Americans started arriving after 1770.

British colonization

The Mayflower, which transported Pilgrims to the New World. During the first winter at Plymouth, about half of the Pilgrims died.[11]

The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that employed forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude,[12] and by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect) that permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders.[13] Over half of all European immigrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants.[14]

The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. It languished for decades until a new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and the Revolution, the British shipped an estimated 50,000 convicts to their American colonies.[15] During the Georgian era English officials exiled 1,000 prisoners across the Atlantic every year.[16] One example of conflict between Native Americans and English settlers was the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Native Americans had killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip’s War in New England,[17] although the Yamasee War may have been bloodier.[18]

The Plymouth Colony was established in 1620. New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.[19] The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733.[20] Several colonies were used as penal settlements from the 1620s until the American Revolution.[21] Methodism became the prevalent religion among colonial citizens after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival led by preacher Jonathan Edwards in 1734.[19]

Political integration and autonomy

Join, or Die: This 1756 political cartoon by Benjamin Franklin urged the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War.

The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. The influence of the main rivals of the British Crown in the colonies and Canada, the French and North American Indians, was significantly reduced. Moreover, the war effort resulted in greater political integration of the colonies, as symbolized by Benjamin Franklin’s call for the colonies to “Join or Die”.

Following Britain’s acquisition of French territory in North America, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the goal of organizing the new North American empire and stabilizing relations with the native Indians. In ensuing years, strains developed in the relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the British victory in the Seven Years’ War.

The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists did not share this view. Rather, with the French and Indian threat diminished, the primary outside influence remained that of Britain. A conflict of economic interests increased with the right of the British Parliament to govern the colonies without representation being called into question.

Two ships in a harbor, one in the distance. Onboard, men stripped to the waist and wearing feathers in their hair are throwing crates overboard. A large crowd, mostly men, is standing on the dock, waving hats and cheering. A few people wave their hats from windows in a nearby building.

Nathaniel Currier‘s 1846 depiction of the Boston Tea Party.[22]

The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct action by colonists in the town of Boston to protest against the taxes levied by the British government. Parliament responded the next year with the Coercive Acts, which sparked outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies. Colonists convened the First Continental Congress to coordinate their resistance to the Coercive Acts. The Congress called for a boycott of British trade, published a list of rights and grievances, and petitioned the king for redress of those grievances.

The Congress also called for another meeting if their petition did not halt enforcement of the Coercive Acts. Their appeal to the Crown had no effect, and so the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the defense of the colonies at the onset of the American Revolutionary War.

Formation of the United States of America (1776–1789)

Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River, one of the rebels’ first successes in the Revolutionary War

The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776 as the United States of America. The United States defeated Britain with help from France especially, and also the United Provinces and indirectly from Spain in the American Revolutionary War. The colonists’ 1777 capture of the British invasion army at Saratoga secured the Northeast and led the French into an open alliance with the United States.[23]

In 1781, Washington led a combined American and French army, acting with the support of a French fleet, and captured a large British army led by General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, thus virtually ending the land war. Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset observes, “The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first ‘new nation’.”[24]

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, still meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of “the United States of America” in the Declaration of Independence. July 4 is celebrated as the nation’s birthday. The new nation was founded on Enlightenment ideals of liberalism in what Thomas Jefferson called the unalienable rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” and dedicated to republican principles. Republicanism emphasized the people are sovereign (not hereditary kings), demanded civic duty, feared corruption, and opposed aristocracy.[25] The new nation was governed by Congress, and until 1789 followed the Articles of Confederation of 1777.

After the war finally ended in 1783, there was a period of prosperity.[citation needed] The national government was able to settle the issue of the western territories, which were ceded by the states to Congress and became territories (and after 1791 started to become states). Nationalists worried that the new nation was too fragile to withstand an international war, or even internal revolts such as the Shays’ Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts. Nationalists—most of them war veterans—organized in every state and convinced Congress to call the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The delegates from every state wrote a new Constitution that created a much more powerful and efficient central government, one with a strong president, and powers of taxation. The new government reflected the prevailing republican ideals of guarantees of individual liberty and upon constraining the power of government through a system of separation of powers.[26]

To assuage the Anti-Federalists who feared a too-powerful national government, the nation adopted the United States Bill of Rights in 1791. Comprising the first ten amendments of the Constitution, it guaranteed individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religious practice, jury trials, and stated that citizens and states had reserved rights (which were not specified).[27]

Early national era (1789–1849)

Economic growth in America per capita income

George Washington—a renowned hero of the American Revolutionary War, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention—became the first President of the United States under the new Constitution in 1789.

The major accomplishments of the Washington Administration were creating a strong national government that was recognized without question by all Americans, and, following the plans of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, assuming the debts of the states (the debt holders received federal bonds), creating the Bank of the United States to stabilize the financial system, setting up a uniform system of tariffs (taxes on imports) and other taxes to pay off the debt and provide a financial infrastructure. To support his programs Hamilton created a new political party—the first in the world based on voters—the Federalist Party. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led the opposition, forming an opposition Republican Party (usually called the Democratic-Republican Party by historians). Hamilton and Washington presented the country in 1794 with the Jay Treaty that reestablished good relations with Britain. The Jeffersonians vehemently protested, and the voters aligned behind one party or the other, thus setting up the First Party System. The treaty passed, but politics became very heated.[28]

The Whiskey Rebellion in 1794, when settlers in the Pennsylvania counties west of the Allegheny Mountains protested against a federal tax on liquor and distilled drinks, was the first serious test of the federal government.[29]

At the end of his second presidential term, George Washington made his farewell address, which was published in the newspaper Independent Chronicle on September 26, 1796. In his address, Washington triumphed the benefits of federal government and importance of ethics and morality while warning against foreign alliances and formation of political parties.[30]

Vice President John Adams, a Federalist, defeated Jefferson in the 1796 election. War loomed with France and the Federalists used the opportunity to try to silence the Republicans with the Alien and Sedition Acts, build up a large army with Hamilton at the head, and prepare for a French invasion. However, the Federalists became divided after Adams sent a successful peace mission to France that ended the Quasi-War of 1798. Jefferson defeated Adams for the presidency in the 1800 election.[31]

Territorial expansion of the United States, omitting Oregon and other claims.

Although the Constitution included a Supreme Court, its functions were vague until John Marshall, the Chief Justice (1801–35), defined them, especially the power to overturn acts of Congress that violated the Constitution, first enunciated in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison.[32] The Louisiana Purchase, in 1803, removed the French presence from the western border of the United States and provided U.S. settlers with vast potential for expansion west of the Mississippi River.[33]

In response to multiple grievances, the Congress declared war on Britain in 1812. The grievances included humiliating the Americans in the Chesapeake incident of 1807, continued British impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy, restrictions on trade with France, and arming hostile Indians in Ohio and the western territories.[34] The War of 1812 ended in a draw after bitter fighting that lasted until January 8, 1815, during the Battle of New Orleans. The Americans gained no territory but were cheered by a sense of victory in what they called a “second war of independence”. The war was a major loss for Native American tribes in the Northwest and Southeast who had allied themselves with Britain and were defeated on the battlefield.

As strong opponents of the war, the Federalists held the Hartford Convention in 1814 that hinted at disunion. National euphoria after the victory at New Orleans ruined the prestige of the Federalists and they no longer played a significant role.[35] President Madison and most Republicans realized it had been a mistake to let the Bank of the United States close down, for its absence greatly hindered the financing of the war. So they chartered the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. The Republicans also imposed tariffs designed to protect the infant industries that had been created when Britain was blockading the U.S. With the collapse of the Federalists as a party, the adoption of many Federalist principles by the Republicans, and the systematic policy of President James Monroe in his two terms (1817–25) to downplay partisanship, the nation entered an Era of Good Feelings, with far less partisanship than before (or after), and closed out the First Party System.[36][37]

The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed the United States’ opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the Americas. This was a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States. The Monroe Doctrine was adopted in response to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the Western Hemisphere.[38]

Settlers crossing the Plains of Nebraska

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which authorized the president to negotiate treaties that exchanged Native American tribal lands in the eastern states for lands west of the Mississippi River. This established Andrew Jackson, a military hero and President, as a proponent of the forcible removal of native populations to the West.[39] The act resulted most notably in the Trail of Tears, a forced migration of several native tribes to the West, with several thousand people dying en route, and the Creeks‘ violent opposition and eventual defeat. The Indian Removal Act also directly caused the ceding of Spanish Florida and led to the many Seminole Wars.[40]

After 1840 the abolitionist movement redefined itself, mobilized its supporters (especially among religious people in the Northeast affected by the Second Great Awakening), escalated its attacks, and proclaimed slave ownership a sin, not just an unfortunate social evil. It gained tens of thousands of followers. William Lloyd Garrison published the most influential of the many anti-slavery newspapers, The Liberator, while Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave, began writing for that newspaper around 1840 and started his own abolitionist newspaper North Star in 1847.[41]

The Republic of Texas was annexed in 1845.[42] The U.S. army, using regulars and large numbers of volunteers, defeated Mexico in 1848 during the Mexican-American War. Public sentiment in the U.S. was divided as Whigs[43] and anti-slavery forces[44] opposed the war. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California, New Mexico, and adjacent areas to the United States, about thirty percent of Mexico. Westward expansion was enhanced further by the California Gold Rush, the discovery of gold in that state in 1848. Numerous “forty-niners” trekked to California in pursuit of gold; land-hungry European immigrants also contributed to the rising white population in the west.[19] In 1849 cholera spread along the California and Oregon Trails. An estimated 150,000 Americans died during the two cholera pandemics between 1832 and 1849.[45]

Civil War era (1849–1865)

The Union: blue (free), yellow (slave);
The Confederacy: brown
*territories in light shades

In the middle of the 19th century, white Americans of the North and South were to reconcile fundamental differences in their approach to government, economics, society and African American slavery. The issue of slavery in the new territories was settled by the Compromise of 1850 brokered by Whig Henry Clay and Democrat Stephen Douglas; the Compromise included admission of California as a free state and the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act to make it easier for masters to reclaim runaway slaves.[42] In 1854, the proposed Kansas-Nebraska Act abrogated the Missouri Compromise by providing that each new state of the Union would decide its stance on slavery.[46]

By 1860, there were nearly four million slaves residing in the United States, nearly eight times as many from 1790; within the same time period, cotton production in the U.S. boomed from less than a thousand tons to nearly one million tons per year. There were some slave rebellions—including by Gabriel Prosser (1800), Denmark Vesey (1822), and Nat Turner (1831)—but they all failed and led to tighter slave oversight in the south.[47]

After Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election, eleven Southern states seceded from the union between late 1860 and 1861, establishing a new government, the Confederate States of America, on February 8, 1861.[48] Along with the northwestern portion of Virginia, which became West Virginia, four of the five northernmost “slave states” did not secede and became known as the Border States.[48]

Civil War

Further information: American Civil War

The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.[49] In response to the attack, on April 15, Lincoln called on the states to send detachments totaling 75,000 troops to recapture forts, protect the capital, and “preserve the Union”, which in his view still existed intact despite the actions of the seceding states. The two armies had their first major clash at the First Battle of Bull Run, which ended in a surprising Union defeat, but, more importantly, proved to both the Union and Confederacy that the war was going be much longer and bloodier than they had originally anticipated.

The war soon divided into two theaters: Eastern and Western. In the western theater, the Union was quite successful, with major battles, such as Perryville, producing strategic Union victories and destroying major confederate operations.

Anger at military conscription during the American Civil War led to the New York Draft Riots of 1863, one of the worst incidents of civil unrest in American history. The city’s Irish and Excelsior brigades were among the five Union brigades with the most combat dead.

In the Eastern theater, things did not start well for the Union. In the summer of 1861, General Irvin McDowell was given the task of destroying the Confederacy in one quick battle with the newly created Army of Northeastern Virginia. Union and Confederate forces engaged in combat at Manassas Junction (Bull Run), which resulted in a surprising Union defeat due in part to steadfast Confederate defense. Following McDowell’s failure, Major General George B. McClellan was put in charge of the Union armies. After reorganizing the new Army of the Potomac, McClellan failed to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia in his Peninsula Campaign and retreated after attacks from newly appointed Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Feeling confident in his army after defeating the Union at Second Bull Run, Lee embarked on an invasion of the north that was stopped by McClellan at the bloody Battle of Antietam. Despite this, McClellan was relieved from command for refusing to pursue Lee’s crippled army. The next commander, General Ambrose Burnside, suffered a humiliating defeat by Lee’s smaller army at the Battle of Fredericksburg late in 1862, causing yet another change in commanders. Lee won again at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, while losing his top aide, Stonewall Jackson. But Lee pushed too hard and ignored the Union threat in the west.[citation needed] Lee invaded Pennsylvania in search of supplies and to cause war weariness in the North. In perhaps the turning point of the war, Lee’s army was badly beaten at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1–3, 1863, and barely made it back to Virginia.

Simultaneously on July 4, 1863, Union forces under the command of General Ulysses S. Grant gained control of the Mississippi River at the Battle of Vicksburg, thereby splitting the Confederacy. Lincoln made General Grant commander of all Union armies.

The last two years of the war was bloody for both sides, with Grant launching a war of attrition against General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. This war of attrition was divided into three main campaigns. The first of these, the Overland Campaign forced Lee to retreat into the city of Petersburg where Grant launched his second major offensive, the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign in which he sieged Petersburg. After a near ten-month siege, Petersburg surrendered. However, the defense of Fort Gregg allowed Lee to move his army out of Petersburg. Grant pursued and launched the final, Appomattox Campaign which resulted in Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia on April 9, 1865, at Appomattox Court House.[48] Other Confederate armies followed suit and the war ended.

Based on 1860 census figures, about 8% of all white males aged 13 to 43 died in the war, including about 6% in the North and approximately 18% in the South,[50] establishing the American Civil War as the deadliest war in American history. Its legacy includes ending slavery in the United States, restoring the Union, and strengthening the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the Reconstruction era, which lasted through 1877, and brought about changes that would eventually help make the country a united superpower.

Reconstruction and a rise in power (1865–1918)


Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad (1869) at First Transcontinental Railroad, by Andrew J. Russell

Reconstruction took place for most of the decade following the Civil War. During this era, the “Reconstruction Amendments” were passed to expand civil rights for black Americans. Those amendments included the Thirteenth Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment that guaranteed citizenship for all people born or naturalized within U.S. territory, and the Fifteenth Amendment that granted the vote for all men regardless of race. While the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbade discrimination in the service of public facilities, the Black Codes denied blacks privileges readily available to whites.[51]

In response to Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) emerged around the late 1860s as a white-supremacist organization opposed to black civil rights. Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1870 and vigorous enforcement closed down the Klan and classified the KKK as a terrorist group. However, an 1883 Supreme Court decision nullified the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and ended federal efforts to stop private acts of violence designed to suppress legal rights.[52]

During the era, many regions of the southern U.S. were military-governed and often corrupt; Reconstruction ended after the disputed 1876 election between Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes and Democratic candidate Samuel J. Tilden. Hayes won the election, and the South soon re-entered the national political scene.[53]

Gilded Age and Progressivism

Further information: Gilded Age and Progressive Era

The “Gilded Age” was a term that Mark Twain used to describe the period of the late 19th century when there had been a dramatic expansion of American wealth and prosperity. Reform of the Age included the Civil Service Act, which mandated a competitive examination for applicants for government jobs. Other important legislation included the Interstate Commerce Act, which ended railroads’ discrimination against small shippers, and the Sherman Antitrust Act, which outlawed monopolies in business. Twain believed that this age was corrupted by such elements as land speculators, scandalous politics, and unethical business practices.[54]

By 1890 American industrial production and per capita income exceeded those of all other world nations. In response to heavy debts and decreasing farm prices, wheat and cotton farmers joined the Populist Party.[55] An unprecedented wave of immigration from Europe served both to provide the labor for American industry and create diverse communities in previously undeveloped areas. From 1880 to 1914, peak years of immigration, more than 22 million people migrated to the United States.[56] The workers’ demand for control of their workplace led to the often violent rise of the labor movement in the cities and mining camps. Industrial leaders included John D. Rockefeller in oil and Andrew Carnegie in steel; both became leaders of philanthropy, giving away their fortunes to create the modern system of hospitals, universities, libraries and foundations.

Mulberry Street, along which Manhattan’s Little Italy is centered. Lower East Side, circa 1900. Almost 97% of residents of the 10 largest American cities of 1900 were non-Hispanic whites.[57]

Dissatisfaction on the part of the growing middle class with the corruption and inefficiency of politics as usual, and the failure to deal with increasingly important urban and industrial problems, led to the dynamic Progressive Movement starting in the 1890s. In every major city and state, and at the national level as well, and in education, medicine, and industry, the progressives called for the modernization and reform of decrepit institutions, the elimination of corruption in politics, and the introduction of efficiency as a criteria for change. Leading politicians from both parties, most notably Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, and Robert LaFollette on the Republican side, and William Jennings Bryan on the Democratic side, took up the cause of progressive reform. Women became especially involved in demands for woman suffrage, prohibition, and better schools; their most prominent leader was Jane Addams of Chicago. Progressives implemented anti-trust laws and regulated such industries of meat-packing, drugs, and railroads. Four new constitutional amendments—the Sixteenth through Nineteenth—resulted from progressive activism, bringing the federal income tax, direct election of Senators, prohibition, and woman suffrage.[58] The Progressive Movement lasted through the 1920s; the most active period was 1900–1918.[59]


Further information: American imperialism

The United States emerged as a world economic and military power after 1890. The main episode was the Spanish–American War, which began when Spain refused American demands to reform its oppressive policies in Cuba. The “splendid little war”, as one official called it, involved a series of quick American victories on land and at sea. At the Treaty of Paris peace conference the United States acquired the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Cuba became an independent country, under close American tutelage. Although the war itself was widely popular, the peace terms proved controversial. William Jennings Bryan led his Democratic Party in opposition to control of the Philippines, which he denounced as imperialism unbecoming to American democracy. President William McKinley defended the acquisition, and was riding high as the nation had returned to prosperity and felt triumphant in the war. McKinley easily defeated Bryan in a rematch in the 1900 presidential election. After defeating an insurrection by Filipino nationalists, the United States engaged in a large scale program to modernize the economy of the Philippines, and dramatically upgrade the public health facilities.[60] By 1908, however, Americans lost interest in an empire, and turned their international attention to the Caribbean, and especially the building of the Panama Canal. The canal opened in 1914, and increased trade with Japan and the rest of the Far East. A key innovation was the Open Door Policy, whereby the imperial powers were given equal access to Chinese business, with no one of them allowed to take control of China.[61]

World War I

While World War I raged in Europe from 1914, the U.S. pursued a policy of neutrality until disputes with Germany over unrestricted submarine warfare, among other disagreements, erupted into an American declaration of war in April 1917.[62] The U.S. had previously shown interest in world peace by participating in the Hague Conferences. American involvement in the war proved essential to the Allied victory in 1918. President Woodrow Wilson also implemented a set of propositions titled the Fourteen Points to ensure peace, but they were denied at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Isolationist sentiment following the war also blocked the U.S. from participating in the League of Nations, an important part of the Treaty of Versailles.[19]

Woman suffrage

Alice Paul stands before the Woman Suffrage Amendment's ratification banner.

Alice Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, whose passage would become an important goal of the Women’s Liberation Movement half a century later.

The women’s suffrage movement began with the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, organized by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, and the Declaration of Sentiments demanding equal rights for women. Many of the activists became politically aware during the abolitionist movement. The women’s rights campaign during “first-wave feminism” was led by Mott, Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, among many others. The movement reorganized after the Civil War, gaining experienced campaigners, many of whom had worked for prohibition in the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. By the end of the 19th century a few western states had granted women full voting rights,[63] though women had made significant legal victories, gaining rights in areas such as property and child custody.[64]

Around 1912 the feminist movement, which had grown sluggish, began to reawaken, putting an emphasis on its demands for equality and arguing that the corruption of American politics demanded purification by women, because men could not do that job.[65] Protests became increasingly common as suffragette Alice Paul led parades through the capital and major cities. Paul split from the large National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), which favored a more moderate approach and supported the Democratic Party and Woodrow Wilson, led by Carrie Chapman Catt, and formed the more militant National Woman’s Party. Suffragists were arrested during their “Silent Sentinels” pickets at the White House, the first time such a tactic was used, and were taken as political prisoners.[66]

Finally, the suffragettes were ordered released from prison, and Wilson urged Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment enfranchising women. The old anti-suffragist argument that only men could fight a war, and therefore only men deserve the right to vote, was refuted by the enthusiastic participation of tens of thousands of American women on the home front in World War I. Across the world, grateful nations gave women the right to vote. Furthermore, most of the Western states had already given the women the right to vote in state and national elections, and the representatives from those states, including the first woman Jeannette Rankin of Montana, demonstrated that woman suffrage was a success. The main resistance came from the south, where white leaders were worried about the threat of black women voting. Nevertheless Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment in 1919. It became constitutional law on August 26, 1920, after ratification by the 36th required state.[67]

NAWSA became the League of Women Voters and the National Woman’s Party began lobbying for full equality and the Equal Rights Amendment which would pass Congress during the second wave of the women’s movement in 1972. Politicians responded to the new electorate by emphasizing issues of special interest to women, especially prohibition, child health, and world peace.[68][69] The main surge of women voting came in 1928, when the big-city machines realized they needed the support of women to elect Al Smith, while rural dries mobilized women to support Prohibition and vote for Republican Herbert Hoover.[70]

Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II (1918–1945)

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol in Chicago, 1921

Following World War I, the U.S. grew steadily in stature as an economic and military world power. The United States Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles imposed by its Allies on the defeated Central Powers; instead, the United States chose to pursue unilateralism, if not isolationism.[71] The aftershock of Russia’s October Revolution resulted in real fears of communism in the United States, leading to a three-year Red Scare. In 1918 the U.S. lost 675,000 people to the Spanish flu pandemic.[72]

In 1920, the manufacture, sale, import and export of alcohol was prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment. Prohibition encouraged illegal breweries and dealers to make substantial amounts of money selling alcohol illegally. The Prohibition ended in 1933, a failure. Additionally, the KKK re-formed during that decade and gathered nearly 4.5 million members by 1924, and the U.S. government passed the Immigration Act of 1924 restricting foreign immigration.[73] The 1920s were also known as the Roaring Twenties, due to the great economic prosperity during this period.[citation needed] Jazz became popular among the younger generation, and thus was also called the Jazz Age.

Great Depression

Further information: Great Depression

Dorothea Lange‘s Migrant Mother depicts destitute pea pickers in California, centering on a mother of seven, age 32, in Nipomo, California, March 1936.

During most of the 1920s, the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity: farm prices and wages fell, while new industries and industrial profits grew. The boom was fueled by an inflated stock market, which later led to the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929.[74] This, along with many other economic factors, triggered a worldwide depression known as the Great Depression. During this time, the United States experienced deflation, unemployment soared from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, and manufacturing output collapsed by one-third.

In 1932, Democratic presidential nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised “a new deal for the American people”,[75] a phrase that has endured as a label for his administration and its many domestic achievements. The desperate economic situation, along with the substantial Democratic victories in the 1932 elections, gave Roosevelt unusual influence over Congress in the “First Hundred Days” of his administration. He used his leverage to win rapid passage of a series of measures to create welfare programs and regulate the banking system, stock market, industry and agriculture, along with many other government efforts to end the Great Depression and reform the American economy. Some programs that were a part of Roosevelt’s New Deal include the Works Progress Administration (WPA) relief program, the Social Security Act, the Emergency Banking Act, and the Economy Act. The recovery was rapid in all areas except unemployment,[citation needed] which decreased yet remained fairly high until 1940.[76]

World War II

The Japanese hoped to cripple American naval power in the Pacific with the attack on Pearl Harbor, a naval base in Hawaii.

In the Depression years the United States remained focused on domestic concerns while democracy declined across the world and many countries fell under the control of dictators.[77] Imperial Japan asserted dominance in East Asia and in the Pacific.[78] Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy militarized to spread their influence[79] while Britain and France attempted appeasement to avert another war in Europe.[80] U.S. legislation in the Neutrality Acts sought to avoid foreign conflicts, however policy clashed with increasing anti-Nazi feelings following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 that started World War II.[81] Roosevelt positioned the U.S. as the “Arsenal of Democracy[82]—arming the fight against the Nazis—and embargoed Japan’s oil supply.[81] Japan tried to neutralize America’s power in the Pacific by attacking Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, which catalyzed American support to enter the war.[83]

The Americans joined the British and the Soviets as one of the three “Great Powers” of the Allies in the fight against the Axis: Germany, Italy, and Japan.[84] In accord with the Allies believing Germany the main threat, America focused on offensives in Europe first, while checking Japanese expansion in the Pacific, until European victory would allow resources to be reallocated to the Far East.[84] The American Navy in the Pacific had two early successes against the Japanese, stopping them at the Battle of the Coral Sea (May 1942) and inflicting a decisive blow at Midway (June 1942).[85] American ground forces assisted in the North African Campaign that eventually concluded with the collapse of Italy’s fascist government in 1943.[86] A more significant European front was opened on D-Day, June 6, 1944, in which American and Allied forces invaded Nazi-occupied France from Britain.[87]

The Normandy landings began the Allied march toward Germany from the west.

On the home front, mobilization of the U.S. economy was managed by Roosevelt’s War Production Board.[88] The wartime production boom led to full employment, wiping out this vestige of the Great Depression.[81] Indeed, labor shortages encouraged industry to look for new sources of workers, finding new roles for women and minorities.[89] However the fervor also inspired anti-Japanese sentiment, which was codified by the government in Japanese American internment.[90] Research and development took flight as well, best symbolized by the Manhattan Project, a secret effort to harness nuclear fission to produce highly-destructive atomic bombs.[91]

The Allied spearhead progressed through Nazi-controlled Europe in the months following D-Day, but later in the year was slowed by near-disasters in Operation Market Garden[92] and the Battle of the Bulge.[93] The Allies soon entered Germany, the Americans and British from the west and the Soviets from the east.[94] The western front stopped short, leaving Berlin to the Soviets as the Nazi regime formally capitulated in May 1945, ending the war in Europe.[95] Back in the Pacific, the U.S. implemented an island hopping strategy toward Tokyo, establishing airfields for bombing runs against mainland Japan from the Mariana Islands[96] and achieving hard-fought victories at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945.[97] In lieu of further invasions, American airplanes dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities, forcing the empire’s surrender in a matter of days and thus ending World War II.[98] The U.S. occupied Japan (and part of Germany), sending Douglas MacArthur to restructure the Japanese economy and political system along American lines.[99]

Though the nation lost more than 400,000 soldiers,[100] the mainland prospered untouched by the devastation of war that inflicted a heavy toll on Europe and Asia.[101] Britain and the U.S. suspected the Soviet Union would abuse its influence in territories it had conquered, and sought Soviet assurances against a unified communist dictatorship.[102] Participation in postwar foreign affairs marked the end of predominant American isolationism.[81] The development and use of nuclear weaponry, with destructive force far greater than seen before, proved controversial[103] and inspired both optimism and fear. Nuclear weapons were never used after 1945, as both sides drew back from the brink and a “long peace” characterized the Cold War years, 1947–1991. There were, however, regional wars in Korea and Vietnam.[104]

The Cold War begins (1945–1964)

Following World War II, the United States emerged as one of the two dominant superpowers. The U.S. Senate on a bipartisan vote approved U.S. participation in the United Nations (UN), which marked a turn away from the traditional isolationism of the U.S. and toward more international involvement.

The primary American goal of 1945–48 was to rescue Europe from the devastation of World War II and to contain the expansion of Communism, represented by the Soviet Union. The Truman Doctrine of 1947 provided military and economic aid to Greece and Turkey to counteract the threat of Communist expansion in the Balkans. In 1948, the United States replaced piecemeal financial aid programs with a comprehensive Marshall Plan, which pumped money into the economy of Western Europe, and removed trade barriers, while modernizing the managerial practices of businesses and governments. The Plan’s $13 billion budget was in the context of a U.S. GDP of $258 billion in 1948, and was on top of $12 billion in American aid to Europe between the end of the war and the start of the Marshall Plan. Soviet head of state Joseph Stalin prevented his satellites from participating, and from that point on Eastern Europe, with inefficient centralised economies, fell further and further behind Western Europe in terms of economic development and prosperity. In 1949, the United States, rejecting the long-standing policy of no military alliances in peacetime, formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which continues into the 21st century. In response the Soviets formed the Warsaw Pact of communist states.[105]

In 1950 the Soviets tested their first nuclear weapon, thereby escalating the risk of warfare. Indeed, the threat of mutually assured destruction prevented both powers from going too far, and resulted in proxy wars, especially in Korea and Vietnam, in which the two sides did not directly confront each other.[106] Within the United States, the Cold War prompted concerns about Communist influence. The unexpected leapfrogging of American technology by the Soviets in 1957 with Sputnik, the first Earth satellite, began the Space Race, won by the Americans as Apollo 11 landed astronauts on the moon in 1969. The angst about the weaknesses of American education led to large-scale federal support for science education and research.[107]

In the decades after World War II, the United States became a global influence in economic, political, military, cultural, and technological affairs. Beginning in the 1950s, middle-class culture had a growing obsession with consumer goods. White Americans made up nearly 90% of the population in 1950.[108][clarification needed]

In 1960, the charismatic politician John F. Kennedy was elected as the first and—thus far—only Roman Catholic President of the United States. The Kennedy family brought a new life and vigor to the atmosphere of the White House. His time in office was marked by such notable events as the acceleration of the United States’ role in the Space Race; escalation of the American role in the Vietnam War; the Cuban missile crisis; the Bay of Pigs Invasion; the jailing of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Birmingham campaign; and the appointment of his brother Robert F. Kennedy to his Cabinet as Attorney General. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, leaving the nation in profound shock.[109]

Climax of liberalism

The climax of liberalism came in the mid-1960s with the success of President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963–69) in securing congressional passage of his Great Society programs, including civil rights, the end of segregation, Medicare, extension of welfare, federal aid to education at all levels, subsidies for the arts and humanities, environmental activism, and a series of programs designed to wipe out poverty.[110][111] As recent historians have explained:

“Gradually, liberal intellectuals crafted a new vision for achieving economic and social justice. The liberalism of the early 1960s contained no hint of radicalism, little disposition to revive new deal era crusades against concentrated economic power, and no intention to fast and class passions or redistribute wealth or restructure existing institutions. Internationally it was strongly anti-Communist. It aimed to defend the free world, to encourage economic growth at home, and to ensure that the resulting plenty was fairly distributed. Their agenda-much influenced by Keynesian economic theory-envisioned massive public expenditure that would speed economic growth, thus providing the public resources to fund larger welfare, housing, health, and educational programs.”[112]

Johnson was rewarded with an electoral landslide in 1964 against conservative Barry Goldwater, which broke the decades-long control of Congress by the Conservative coalition. But the Republicans bounced back in 1966 and elected Richard Nixon in 1968. Nixon largely continued the New Deal and Great Society programs he inherited; conservative reaction would come with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The Civil Rights Movement

Meanwhile, the American people completed a great migration from farms into the cities and experienced a period of sustained economic expansion. At the same time, institutionalized racism across the United States, but especially in the South, was increasingly challenged by the growing Civil Rights movement. The activism of African American leaders Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which launched the movement. For years African Americans would struggle with violence against them, but would achieve great steps towards equality with Supreme Court decisions, including Brown v. Board of Education and Loving v. Virginia, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which ended the Jim Crow laws that legalized racial segregation between Whites and Blacks.

Martin Luther King, Jr., who had won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to achieve equality of the races, was assassinated in 1968. Following his death others led the movement, most notably King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who was also active, like her husband, in the Opposition to the Vietnam War, and in the Women’s Liberation Movement. Over the first nine months of 1967, 128 American cities suffered 164 riots.[113] The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the strengthening of Black Power, however the decade would ultimately bring about positive strides toward integration.

The Women’s Movement

Further information: Second-wave feminism

Gloria Steinem at a meeting of the Women’s Action Alliance, 1972.

A new consciousness of the inequality of American women began sweeping the nation, starting with the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan‘s best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, which explained how many housewives felt trapped and unfulfilled, assaulted American culture for its creation of the notion that women could only find fulfillment through their roles as wives, mothers, and keepers of the home, and argued that women were just as able as men to do every type of job. In 1966 Friedan and others established the National Organization for Women, or NOW, to act for women as the NAACP did for African Americans.[114][115]

Protests began, and the new Women’s Liberation Movement grew in size and power, gained much media attention, and, by 1968, had replaced the Civil Rights Movement as the U.S.’s main social revolution. Marches, parades, rallies, boycotts, and pickets brought out thousands, sometimes millions; Friedan’s Women’s Strike for Equality (1970) was a nation-wide success. The Movement was split into factions by political ideology early on, however (with NOW on the left, the Women’s Equity Action League (WEAL) on the right, the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC) in the center, and more radical groups formed by younger women on the far left).

Along with Friedan, Gloria Steinem was an important feminist leader, co-founding the NWPC, the Women’s Action Alliance, and editing the Movement’s magazine, Ms. The proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in 1972 and favored by about seventy percent of the American public, failed to be ratified in 1982, with only three more states needed to make it law. The nation’s conservative women, led by activist Phyllis Schlafly, defeated the ERA by arguing that it degraded the position of the housewife, and made young women susceptible to the military draft.[116][117]

However, many federal laws (i.e. those equalizing pay, employment, education, employment opportunites, credit, ending pregnancy discrimination, and requiring NASA, the Military Academies, and other organizations to admit women), state laws (i.e. those ending spousal abuse and marital rape), Supreme Court rulings (i.e. ruling the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applied to women), and state ERAs established women’s equal status under the law, and social custom and consciousness began to change, accepting women’s equality. The controversial issue of abortion, deemed by the Supreme Court as a fundamental right in Roe v. Wade (1973), is still a point of debate today.[118]

The Counterculture Revolution and Cold War Détente (1964–1980)

Amid the Cold War, the United States entered the Vietnam War, whose growing unpopularity fed already existing social movements, including those among women, minorities and young people. President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s Great Society social programs and the judicial activism[citation needed] of the Warren Court added to the wide range of social reform during the 1960s and 1970s. Feminism and the environmental movement became political forces, and progress continued toward civil rights for all Americans. The Counterculture Revolution swept through the nation and much of the western world in the late sixties and early seventies, dividing the already hostile environment but also bringing forth more liberated social views.

United States Navy F-4 Phantom II shadows a Soviet Tu-95 Bear D aircraft in the early 1970s

Johnson was succeeded by Republican Richard Nixon in 1969, who turned the war over to the South Vietnamese forces and ended American combat roles; he negotiated a peace treaty in 1973, secured the release of POWs and ended the draft. The war had cost the lives of 58,000 American troops. Nixon manipulated the fierce distrust between the Soviet Union and China to the advantage of the United States, achieving détente (cooperation) with both parties.[119] The Watergate scandal, involving Nixon’s coverup of his operatives break-in into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex destroyed his political base, sent many aides to prison, and forced Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. He was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford, who was subsequently helpless to prevent the conquest of South Vietnam when North Vietnam invaded in 1975.[120]

The OPEC oil embargo marked a long-term economic transition, as for the first time energy prices skyrocketed and American factories faced serious competition from foreign automobiles, clothing, electronics and consumer goods. By the late 1970s the economy suffered an energy crisis, slow economic growth, high unemployment, and very high inflation coupled with high interest rates (the term stagflation was coined). While economists agreed on the wisdom of deregulation, many of the New Deal era regulations were ended, as in transportation, banking and telecommunications.[121]

Jimmy Carter, running as someone who was not a part of the Washington political establishment, was elected president in 1976.[122] On the world stage, Carter brokered the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt. In 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took 66 Americans hostage, resulting in the Iran hostage crisis. With the hostage crisis and continuing stagflation, Carter lost the 1980 election to the Republican Ronald Reagan.[123] On January 20, 1981, minutes after Carter’s term in office ended, the remaining U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Iran were released, ending the 444-day hostage crisis.[124]

The end of the Cold War (1980–1991)

Ronald Reagan at the Brandenburg Gate challenges Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1987, shortly before the end of the Cold War

Ronald Reagan produced a major realignment with his 1980 and 1984 landslide elections. Reagan’s economic policies (dubbed “Reaganomics“) and the implementation of the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 lowered income taxes from 70% to 28% over the course of seven years.[citation needed] Reagan continued to downsize government taxation and regulation.[125] The U.S. experienced a recession in 1982; unemployment and business failures soon entered rates close to Depression-era levels. These negative trends reversed the following year, when the inflation rate decreased from 11% to 2%, the unemployment rate decreased from 10.8% in December 1982 to 7.5% in November 1984,[126] and the economic growth rate increased from 4.5% to 7.2%.[127]

Reagan ordered a massive buildup of the U.S. military, incurring a costly budget deficit. Reagan introduced a complicated missile defense system known as the Strategic Defense Initiative (dubbed “Star Wars” by opponents) in which the U.S. could, in theory, shoot down missiles with laser systems in space. Though it was never fully developed or deployed,[128] the Soviets were genuinely concerned about the possible effects of the program[129] and the research and technologies of SDI paved the way for the anti-ballistic missile systems of today.[130]

The Reagan administration also provided covert funding and assistance to anti-Communist resistance movements worldwide. Reagan’s interventions against Grenada and Libya were popular in the U.S., though his backing of the Contra rebels was mired in controversy.[131] The arms-for-hostages scandal led to the convictions of such figures as Oliver North and John Poindexter.[132]

Reagan met four times with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who ascended to power in 1985, and their summit conferences led to the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Gorbachev tried to save Communism in the Soviet Union first by ending the expensive arms race with America,[133] then by shedding the East European empire in 1989. The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ending the U.S.–Soviet Cold War.

The World Superpower (1991–present)

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USAF aircraft fly over Kuwaiti oil fires during the Gulf War

The United States emerged as the world’s sole remaining superpower and continued to intervene in international affairs, including the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. During the 1990s, following his election in 1992, President Bill Clinton oversaw one of the longest periods of economic expansion and unprecedented gains in securities values, a side effect of the digital revolution and new business opportunities created by the Internet. Under Clinton an attempt to universalize health care failed after almost two years of work on the controversial plan.[134] Charged with perjury and obstruction of justice from lying about a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, Clinton was impeached in 1998 by the House but he acquitted by the Senate. [135]

The presidential election in 2000 between George W. Bush and Al Gore was one of the closest in the U.S. history, and helped lay the seeds for political polarization to come. Following Election Day, Florida entered dispute over the counting of votes due to technical issues over certain Democratic votes in some counties,[136] which the Supreme Court resolved in Bush v. Gore by ending the recount with a 5–4 vote and certifying Bush as president.[137]

9/11 and the War on Terror

Once again the United States was attacked by terrorism with the September 11, 2001 attacks (9/11) in which al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four transcontinental airliners and intentionally crashed two of them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon killing 3,000 people.[138] President George W. Bush announced a “War on Terror” in response. The United States and NATO launched an invasion of Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime that had harbored al-Qaeda and its founder, Osama bin Laden. The federal government established new domestic efforts to prevent future attacks. The controversial USA PATRIOT Act increased government’s power to monitor communications and removed legal restrictions on information sharing between federal law enforcement and intelligence services. A cabinet-level agency called the Department of Homeland Security was created to lead and coordinate federal counter-terrorism activities in the largest reorganization of the federal government since the creation of the Defense Department.[139]

A U.S.-led invasion deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the Iraq War.

Long-standing tension with the Iraqi government led by Saddam Hussein came to a head as the U.S. led the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which overthrew and captured Hussein. Using the language of 1998 Iraq Liberation Act and the Clinton administration, the reasons cited by the Bush administration for the invasion included the spreading of democracy, the elimination of weapons of mass destruction[140] (a key demand of the UN as well, though later investigations found parts of the intelligence reports to be inaccurate)[141] and the liberation of the Iraqi people.

The invasion and continued Iraq War fueled international protests and gradually saw domestic support waver.[142] After he was re-elected in 2004 on a narrow margin, Bush saw his approval ratings decline significantly, mostly due to his handling of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina.[143] In response the Democrats gained control of Congress in the 2006 mid-term elections, appointing Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House of Representatives.[144] After years of violence by the Iraqi insurgency, including al-Qaeda in Iraq, in January 2007 President Bush introduced “the surge” as part of a “new way forward in Iraq”.[145]


The economy peaked in December 2007, as the nation, and most of Europe, entered the longest post-World War II recession,[146] which included a housing market crisis, a subprime mortgage crisis, soaring oil prices,[147] an automotive industry crisis, rising unemployment, and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.[148][149][150] By the end of 2008, the U.S. had lost a total of 2.6 million jobs[151] and the national unemployment rate reached 7.2%.[152]

Obama sworn in as the 44th President of the United States

The financial crisis hit a critical point when Lehman Brothers and other important financial institutions failed in September 2008.[153] With legislation passed in the following October, the federal government lent $245 billion to financial institutions through the Troubled Asset Relief Program.[154] Barack Obama, elected as the first African American President of the United States, signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a $787 billion economic stimulus package aimed at helping the economy recover from the deepening recession. The act included increased federal spending for health care, infrastructure, education, and tax cuts for families and businesses.[155]

In addition to the stimulus package, the government enacted measures aimed at rescuing the auto industry and preventing a future economic meltdown. These included a bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, putting ownership temporarily in the hands of the government, and the “cash for clunkers” program which temporarily boosted new car sales.[156] Congress enacted the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, making sweeping changes to financial regulation.[157] The recession officially ended in June 2009 as the U.S. economy began to expand once again,[158] however the unemployment rate has continued to linger at 9% and above into 2011.[159]

Recent events

The Obama administration decreased troop levels in Iraq, withdrew all combat troops by August 31, 2010, and retained 50,000 troops to assist Iraqi forces, help protect withdrawing forces, and work on counter-terrorism until December 31, 2011, the date Bush scheduled for the full withdrawal.[160][161] The administration increased American involvement in Afghanistan, starting a surge strategy using an additional 30,000 troops, while proposing to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011.[162]

Percent of self-identified conservatives in the United States, broken down by state, according to Gallup, August 2010. Darker colors mean more conservatives per state (click image for details).

In the 111th Congress the GOP was unified in almost total opposition to the programs of the Congressional Democrats. Heated national debates emerged over numerous issues such as health care reform, which was rekindled by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.[163] Public approval for Obama declined gradually in his first two years as president, yet his ratings consistently surpassed those of Congress, forming the widest gap between the two since the presidency of George H. W. Bush.[164] In the 2010 midterm elections, the Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives and cut into the Democratic majority in the Senate.[165] Another factor in these results was the Tea Party, a populist conservative movement that since 2009 has promoted political candidates and protests[166] with the goal of adherence to an originalist interpretation of the Constitution and reductions in government spending, taxes, and the federal budget deficit.

As of 2010, with high levels of voter anger, debates continue over distrust of politicians, the sluggish economy with 9.5% unemployment, the bailout of banks and auto companies, the stimulus spending, health care reform, the financial crisis in state government, and the role of corporate spending in election campaigns.[167]

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Incredible India-Agra

The history of Agra testifies the glorious past of the heritage city of modern India. Today, millions visit Agra round the years who love to know the spellbinding history of the city. The history of Agra is provided briefly in the famous Hindu epic Mahabharata as the forest of Agraban close to Mathura. Badal Singh founded the city of Agra in 1475, later Sikandar Lodhi made Agra his capital city. In the ancient history of Agra, when the Aryans dwelled in the Indian sub-continent, Agra finds a mention as Arya Griha. Ptolemy, the Greek philosopher first referred Agra by its present name.

Eventually, Babur defeated the Lodhis to seize this city situated on the banks of River Yamuna and thus, the long association of Mughals with Agra started. The Mughal love of architecture made beautiful monuments such as Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort, and Sikandra in the city. The history of Agra was at its peak of glory during the reign of Akbar, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Akbar made Agra the center of culture, art, commerce and learning and Shah Jahan saw it in full bloom. Akbar laid the foundation of the contemporary city in 1558 and named it Akbarabad. Most of the buildings of Agra belong to the period between mid-16th century and 17th century and were of high quality. These monuments were built in the contemporary Mughal style that created a distinguished trait in the history of Agra. Mughlai cuisine and the skilled craftsmen are still to be found in the narrow lanes of the city as a reminiscent of the lost times.

Agra FortThere are three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the city itself. These world heritages are the Taj Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri and Agra Fort. For about fifteen years, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital city around which the governance of Akbar`s kingdom that was operational. Mughal emperor Jahangir decorated Agra with breathtaking gardens and palaces. After the demise of wife Mumtaz, emperor Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra and shifted his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad. But Agra regained the status of a Mughal capital in 1658, when son Aurangzeb dethroned his father and restored the capital in Agra.

The modern history of Agra precisely says the city to be one of the most popular tourist destinations for her priceless monuments and heritage buildings. The present location of Agra is within about 200 kilometers from New Delhi, the capital city of India. History of Agra is quite fascinating; the rich cultural, tradition and religious aspects of the city make it a very interesting place to know about.

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Incredible India-New Delhi

The history of New Delhi is rich and chequered, enigmatic and enchanting. It evolved from the mists of myth, and its recorded history is full of invasions and the rise and fall of dynasties. In the ancient times, Delhi was known as Indraprastha, which according to popular belief, was founded by the mythical Pandavas. However, even if we leave aside the mythology, the recorded history of New Delhi is also quite old. In Delhi, more precisely in the area to the vicinity of Qutab Minar, the Tomar Rajputs established the capital of their kingdom in 736 AD. They named their capital as Lal Kot. Lal Kot was conquered by the Chauhans who renamed it as Quila Rai Pithora. The Chauhans were also responsible for enlarging the ambit of this ancient city of Delhi. The ancient city of Qila Rai Pithora was followed by the creation and eventual destruction of five more cities, within the geographical area of what is now known as Delhi.

They were Siri, built by Alauddin Khlji, Tughlaqabad by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, Jahanpanah by Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Kotla Feroz Shah by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, and Dinpanah by Humayun. Finally, the Mughal emperor Shahjahan built Shahjanabad, around the Red Fort. This seventh city of Delhi is still there, as a part of old Delhi.

New Delhi History

The New Delhi, or the Delhi conceived and created by the world famous architect Edwin Lutyens in the fag end of the colonial period, is the eighth version of Delhi. Today the ruins of these above mentioned ancient and medieval royal citadels, together with Shahjahanabad and Lutyens’ Delhi, are part of the Delhi of the twenty first century. Overall, the city of Delhi has evolved through continual metamorphosis since the ancient times, and had the distinction of being the capital and the epicenter of politics and intrigue since the Sultanate period.

The history of New Delhi is dotted with the creation of several architectural masterpieces, and many remnants and ruins, which are now an integral part of the heritage of this great metropolis. Though Delhi had its famed Qutab Minar since the early thirteenth century, and Humayun’s Tomb since the mid sixteenth century, it was Shah Jahan’s regime which saw the creation of the outstanding architectural glories of Delhi, namely Red Fort and Jamma Masjid.

When the British colonial rule was established in Delhi, in 1857 AD, soon the Britishers shifted their capital to Calcutta, now known as Kolkata. However, in 1911, Delhi was reinstated with its capital status; this time as the capital of the British empire. After independence, it became the capital of the Union Government of India. In 1956, it became an UT. The National Capital Territory Act was passed by the Parliament in 1991, which conferred a diarchy status to Delhi. Under this arrangement, though the elected state government of Delhi was given wide legislative and executive powers, the law and order remained within the purview of the Union Government.

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Incredible India-Mumbai

History of Mumbai

Ancient yet modern, fabulously rich yet achingly poor.

The city of Bombay originally consisted of seven islands, namely Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman’s Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion. This group of islands, which have since been joined together by a series of reclamations, formed part of the kingdom of Ashoka, the famous Emperor of India.

After his death, these islands passed into the hands of various Hindu rulers until 1343. In that year, the Mohammedans of Gujerat took possession and the Kings of that province of India ruled for the next two centuries. The only vestige (mark) of their dominion over these islands that remains today is the mosque at Mahim.

In 1534 the Portuguese, who already possessed many important trading centers on the western coast, such as Panjim, Daman, and Diu, took Bombay by force of arms from the Mohammedans. This led to the establishment of numerous churches which were constructed in areas where the majority of people were Roman Catholics. There used to be two areas in Bombay called “Portuguese Church”. However, only one church with Portuguese-style facade still remains; it is the St. Andrew’s church at Bandra. The Portuguese also fortified their possession by building forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra, and Bassien which, although in disrepair, can still be seen. They named their new possession as “Bom Baia” which in Portuguese means “Good Bay”.

A hundred and twenty-eight years later the islands were given to the English King Charles II in dowry on his marriage to Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662. In the year 1668 the islands were acquired by the English East India Company on lease from the crown for an annual sum of 10 pounds in gold; so little did the British value these islands at that time. The Company, which was operating from Surat, was in search for another deeper water port so that larger vessels could dock, and found the islands of Bombay suitable for development. The shifting of the East India Company’s headquarters to Bombay in 1687 led to the eclipse of Surat as a principal trading center. The British corrupted the Portuguese name “Bom Baia” to “Bombay”. The Kolis used to call the islands “Mumba” after Mumbadevi, the Hindu deity to whom a temple is dedicated at Babulnath near Chowpatty’s sandy beaches.

The first Parsi to arrive in Bombay was Dorabji Nanabhoy Patel in 1640. The Parsis, originally from Iran, migrated to India about 900 years ago. This they did to save their religion, Zoroastrianism, from invading Arabs who proselytized Islam. However, in 1689-90, when a severe plague had struck down most of the Europeans, the Siddi Chief of Janjira made several attempts to re-possess the islands by force, but the son of the former, a trader named Rustomji Dorabji Patel (1667-1763), successfully warded off the attacks on behalf of the British with the help of the ‘Kolis’, the original fisher-folk inhabitants of these islands. The remnants of the Koli settlements can still be seen at Backbay reclamation, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Bassien and Madh island.

Sir George Oxenden became the first British Governor of the islands, and was succeeded later by Mr. Gerald Aungier who made Bombay more populous by attracting Gujerati traders, Parsi ship-builders, and Muslim and Hindu manufacturers from the mainland. He fortified defenses by constructing the Bombay Castle (the Fort, since then vanished except for a small portion of the wall) and provided stability by constituting courts of law.

Map based on a plan published in 1843Between 1822 and 1838, cattle from the congested fort area used to graze freely at the Camp Maidan (now called Azad Maidan), an open ground opposite the Victoria Terminus. In 1838, the British rulers introduced a ‘grazing fee’ which several cattle-owners could not afford. Therefore, Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy spent Rs. 20,000 from his own purse for purchasing some grasslands near the seafront at Thakurdwar and saw that the starving cattle grazed without a fee in that area. In time the area became to be known as “Charni” meaning grazing. When a railway station on the BB&CI railway was constructed there it was called Charni Road.

The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence on Malabar hill were built by Seth Modi Hirji Vachha in 1672. The Zoroastrians believe in venerating the earth, fire, and water and hence they prefer to expose their dead to the elements and flesh-eating birds within the confines of the Towers of Silence. The first fire-temple was also built in the same year by Seth Vachha opposite his residence at Modikhana within the British fort. Both of the these structures can still be seen today although they have been expanded and strengthened.

The inroads of the sea at Worli, Mahim, and Mahalaxmi turned the ground between the islands into swamps making Bombay an extremely unhealthy place at that time. Many commuters going to the Fort by boat between islands lost their lives when there was a storm during the monsoons (July to September). During the next 40 years much was done to improve matters. Reclamation work to stop the breeches at Mahalaxmi and Worli were undertaken. The Hornby Vellard was completed in 1784, during the Governorship of Mr. Hornby. In 1803 Bombay was connected with Salsette by a causeway at Sion. The island of Colaba was joined to Bombay in 1838 by a causeway now called Colaba Causeway and the Causeway connecting Mahim and Bandra was completed in 1845 at the total cost of Rs.1,57,000 donated entirely by Lady Avabai Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, wife of the first baronet Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy with a stipulation that no toll would be charged to citizens for its use by the government. Initially the cost was estimated at Rs.100,000 but as the work commenced in 1842 the cost escalated. When the initial sum was exhausted and work about to stop Lady Jeejeebhoy once again dipped in to her personal purse with a second donation to the treasury of Rs.57,000.

Sir Robert Grant (1779-1838) governed Bombay from 1835 to 1838 and was responsible for the construction of a number of roads between Bombay and the hinterland. The Thana and Colaba Causeways were built during his tenure as well as the Grant Medical College attached to the Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (J.J.) Group of hospitals.

On Saturday 16th of April, 1853 a 21-mile long railway line, the first in India, between Bombay’s Victoria Terminus and Thana was opened. The Great Indian Peninsular (GIP) and the Bombay Baroda and Central India (BB&CI) Railway were started in 1860 and a regular service of steamers on the west coast was commenced in 1869. Also during this period Bombay enjoyed great economic wealth. Raw cotton from Gujerat was shipped to Lancashire in England through Bombay port, and after being spun and woven into cloth, returned to be sold in the Indian market. The outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 increased the demand for cotton in the West and several personal fortunes were made during this period from the resulting trade. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 brought the West closer to Bombay, and as the city became more prosperous, many schemes were launched for reclaiming additional land and building more roads and wharves. Bombay began to attract fortune hunters by the hundreds and the population had swelled from 13,726 in 1780 to 644,405 in 1872, in a little less than a hundred years. By 1906 the population of Bombay was to become 977,822.

In 1858, following the First War of Independence (the British called it the “Sepoy Mutiny”) of 1857 in which the Rani of Jhansi and her infant son strapped on her back were killed, the East India Company was accused of mismanagement and the islands reverted to the British Crown. In 1862 Sir Baartle Frere was appointed Governor, an office which he held until 1867. By 1862 the town had spread over the lands reclaimed through constructions of causeways and it is from this date we have the rise of the modern city of Bombay. In 1864 a fountain was to be erected in his honour at the Victoria Gardens by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India. Somehow, the plans were changed at the last moment and the fountain, named after the Greek goddess Flora, was placed in the centre of the city on what used be known as Hornby Road. Unfortunately, no plaque was placed on the fountain to commemorate the name of Governor in whose memory it was supposed to have been erected.

Around 1860 the piped water supply from Tulsi and Vehar lakes (and later Tansa) was inaugurated. One reform which met with much superstitious opposition, before it was implemented, was the sealing and banning the use of water from open wells and tanks that bred mosquitoes. A good drainage system was also constructed at the same time. However, several decades later, the same wells were to serve Bombay by providing non-potable water to supplement the same from the lakes. This was true especially during those years when the monsoons failed to provide sufficient water in the catchment areas of the lakes. However, well water is now used all over the city to supplement the water received from the lakes.

The later half of the 19th century was also to see a feverish construction of buildings in Bombay, many of which such as, the Victoria Terminus, the General Post Office, Municipal Corporation, the Prince of Wales Museum, Rajabai Tower and Bombay University, Elphinstone College and the Cawasji Jehangir Hall, the Crawford Market, the Old Secretariat (Old Customs House) and the Public Works Department (PWD) Building, still stand today as major landmarks. The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of king George V and Queen Mary for the Darbar at Delhi in 1911.

The docks at Bombay are a monument of the industry, enterprise and integrity of the Wadia family which moved in from Surat at the instigation of the British. In 1870 the Bombay Port Trust was formed. In 1872, Jamshedji Wadia, a master ship-builder constructed the “Cornwalis”, a frigate of 50 guns, for the East India Company, a success which led to several orders from the British Navy. In all the Wadias, between 1735-1863 built 170 war vessels for the Company, 34 man-of-war for the British Navy, 87 merchant vessels for private firms, and three vessels for the Queen of Muscat at Bombay docks.

The Princess Dock was built in the year 1885 and the Victoria Dock and the Mereweather Dry Docks in 1891. Alexandra Dock was completed in 1914. The closing years of the 19th Century were tragic for Bombay as the bubonic plague caused great destruction of human life once more. One significant result of the plague was the creation of the City Improvement Trust which in later years encouraged the development of the suburbs for residential purposes to remove the congestion in the city.

As Bombay’s superintendent of police in 1885, Charles Forjett was a favourite of the Indian people. Many wept openly when he returned to England. He sacked British constables who unduly harassed the locals and cracked down on the Parsi mafia which was involved in the liquor business in the Falkland Road area, which included the famous “Play House” which the locals corrupted to “pillhouse”. The “Pillhouse” area would acquire notoriety in later years as the infamous “cages” area housing Bombay’s infamous red-light district.

Lord Sandhurst governed Bombay between 1895 and 1900 and it was during his tenure that the Act was passed which constituted the City Improvement Trust which, among other things, built the Sandhurst Road in 1910 and handed it over to the municipality. The Sandhurst Road railway station (upper level) was built in 1921.

As a result of a mysterious fire which started in one of its holds, on a very hot summer’s day on Friday April 14, 1944, the ship “Fort Stikine” (7420 tons) blew up in the Bombay docks. At the time the ship was about to unload a lethal combination of cargo of dried fish and cotton bales (loaded from Karachi), timber, gun powder, ammunition, and gold bars from London (the latter to stabilize the Indian Rupee, which was sagging due to the Second World War and fear of invasion from Japan). The gold bullion was valued at approx. two million Pounds Sterling at that time. Nobody is certain as to how the fire started but the two explosions which followed were so loud that windows rattled and/or shattered as far away as Dadar, a distance of 8 miles. The destruction in the docks and surrounding area was immense and several hundred dock workers were killed instantly. A majority of brave men of the Bombay Fire Brigade, who answered the call to duty immediately after the first blast, lost their lives in the second explosion (a monument has been erected in the docks in their honour). The population of the city was panic stricken as rumours spread rapidly that the explosions signaled the commencement of hostilities by the Japanese on the same style as the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian islands in December 1941. The Japanese were in fact nowhere near Bombay since they were engaged in fighting a losing battle with the British army in Burma at that time. Nevertheless, the Bombay Central (BB&CI) and Victoria Terminus (GIP) stations were packed to capacity with terrorized people fleeing the city in whichever train they could board for their villages with all belongings they could carry. At the time of the explosion, one of the gold bars crashed through the roof of the third floor apartment of a Parsi named D.C. Motivala more than a mile from the docks. He promptly returned the gold bar to the authorities. Almost all of the other gold bars were subsequently recovered from different parts of the city; the last ones to be found were hauled up from the bottom of the sea in the docks. However, during normal dredging operations carried out periodically to maintain the depth of the docking bays one or two gold bars were found intact sporadically as late as the 1970s and returned to the British government. The government took full responsibility for the disaster and monetary compensation was paid to citizens who made a claim for loss or damage to property.

The Port Trust Railway from Ballard Pier to Wadala was opened in 1915. Along this railway were built grain and fuel oil depots. The kerosene oil installations were developed at Sewri and for petrol at Wadala. In the same year the first overhead transmission lines of the Tata Power Company were erected, and in 1927 the first electric locomotives manufactured by Metropolitan Vickers of England were put into service for passenger trains up to Poona and Igatpuri on the GIP railway and later electric multiple unit (EMUs) commuter trains ran up to Virar on the BB&CI railway and up to Karjat and Kasara of the GIP railway. During the Second World War these EMUs were joined together to form long trains which carried troops and small arms and ammunition to and from Bombay to the hinterland.

The Fort (downtown) area in Bombay derives its name from the fact that the area fell within the former walled city, of which only a small fragment survives as part of the eastern boundary wall of the St. George’s Hospital. In 1813 there were 10,801 persons living in the fort, 5,464, or nearly 50%, of them Parsis. With the growth of the city more people came from the Fort to such suburbs as Byculla, Parel, Malabar Hill, and Mazagaon. European sports clubs for cricket and other games came in to existence early in the 19th Century. The Bombay Gymkhana was formed in 1875 exclusively for Europeans. Other communities followed this example, and various Parsi, Muslim, and Hindu gymkhanas were started nearby with fierce sports competitions among them being organized on a communal basis. This was opposed by several secular minded persons, such as the late A.F.S. Talyarkhan, and sports teams based on community, especially cricket teams, came to an end gradually after independence from British rule in 1947.

The historic session of the All India Congress Committee began on the 7th of August 1942. Its venue was the Gowalia Tank Maidan, where the congress was born in 1885. It was at this session that the “Quit India” call was given by Mahatma Gandhi and other Indian National Congress leaders. The Indian leaders were arrested by the British soon afterwards but the momentum of the Quit India movement could not be stopped and led to the final withdrawal of the British on 15 August 1947. The last British troops on Indian soil left for England through the archway of the Gateway of India on that day. They bade farewell from where they had entered 282 years before. The people of Bombay, in a gesture of generosity wished them bon voyage, forgetting the bitter memories of the fight for independence. Today the maidan from where the call to “Quit India” was given is called the “August Kranti Maidan”.

After independence the Congress party led by Jawaharlal Nehru at the Center was swept to power in most of the Indian States, which were constituted on the basis of language spoken by the majority of its people. The Bombay State included the city as its seat of government. In 1960 the state of Bombay was split into Maharashtra and Gujarat states again on linguistic basis, the former retaining Bombay city as its capital. The Congress party continued to administer Maharashtra until 1994 when it was replaced by the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition.

With the success of the back-bay reclamation scheme in the late 1960s and early 1970s Nariman Point became the hub of the business activity. Several offices shifted from the Ballard Estate to Nariman Point which ultimately became one of the most expensive real estate in the world as high demand pushed prices to astronomical limits. Nariman Point is named after K.F. Nariman, president of the Bombay Provincial Congress Committee and former mayor of Bombay. Churchgate Street was also renamed as Veer Nariman Road after independence.

The Stock Exchange at Bombay was established in 1875 as “The Native Share and Stockbrokers Association” which has evolved over the decades in to its present status as the premier Stock Exchange in India. It is one of the oldest in Asia having preceded even the Tokyo Stock Exchange which was founded in 1878. In the early days the business was conducted under the shade of a banyan tree in front of the town hall. The tree can still be seen in the Horniman Circle Park. In 1850 the Companies Act was passed and that heralded the commencement of the joint stock companies in India. The American Civil War of 1860 helped Indians to establish brokerage houses in Bombay. The leading broker at the time, Premchand Roychand, assisted in framing conventions, ground rules and procedures for trading which are respected even now. He was the first Indian broker who could speak and write in fluent English. The exchange was established with 318 members with a fee of Re. 1/-. This fee has gradually increased over the years and today it is a over a crore.

In January 1899, the Brokers’ Hall was inaugurated by James M. MaClean, M.P. After the First World War the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) was housed in an old building near the Town Hall. In 1928, the present plot of land was acquired surrounded by Dalal Street, Bombay Samachar Marg, and Hammam Street. A building was constructed in 1930 and occupied in December of that year.

In 1995 the operations and dealings of the BSE were fully computerized and thus the famous out-cry system of share trading was replaced by screen based trading as in other modern stock exchanges around the world. Today Bombay is the financial and business capital of India. The BSE is housed in the 28-storied Phiroze Jeejeebhoy Towers in the same place where the old building once stood. Sir Phiroze Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy was the Chairman of the Exchange from 1966 till his death in 1980. The building has been named after him since its construction commenced during his Chairmanship and was completed just as he passed away.

Compiled and abridged from several sources by Dr. Ardeshir B. Damania

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Incredible India-Calcutta

In 1690, Job Charnok, an agent of the East India Company chose this place for a British trade settlement. The site was carefully selected, being protected by the Hooghly River on the west, a creek to the north, and by salt lakes about two and a half miles to the east. There were three large villages along the east bank of the river Ganges, named, Sutanuti, Gobindapur and Kalikata. These three villages were bought by the British from the local land lords. The Mughal emperor granted East India Company freedom of trade in return for a yearly payment of 3,000 rupees.
What was Calcutta like before the British came?
It was a village; the capital city of Bengal was Murshidabad, around 60 miles north of Calcutta. In 1756, Siraj-ud-daullah, Nawab of Bengal, attacked the city and captured the fort. Calcutta was recaptured in 1757 by Robert Clive when the British defeated Siraj-ud-daullah on the battle field of Plassy. In 1772, Calcutta became the capital of British India, and the first Governor General Warren Hastings moved all important offices from Murshidabad to Calcutta. Till 1912, Calcutta was the capital of India, when the British moved the capital city to Delhi. In 1947, when India gained freedom and the country got partitioned between India and Pakistan, Calcutta was included in the Indian part of Bengal, West Bengal. Calcutta became the capital city of the state of West Bengal.

  • At the end of the fifteenth century, a reference to Kolkata was found in the famous novel of Manasa Mangal written by Bipradas. The character of Chand Saudagar in the novel paid a visit to Kalighat to offer puja to the Goddess Kali on the way to Saptagram.
  • When the Portugese first began to frequent Bengal about the year 1530, the two great centres of trade were Chittagong and Saptagram.
  • In the Ain-i-Akbari, a work written in 1596 by Abul Fazal in the court house of Emperor Akbar, a reference to Calcutta is noticed under the Government of Satgaon(Saptagram).
  • 1690 August, Job Charnok, an agent of East India Company (established 1600) settles in the village of Sutanutee.
  • 1693 Charnok died.
  • 1696 Fort at Calcutta Factory commenced.
  • 1698 East India Co. bought three villages (Sutanuti, Kolkata, Gobindapur ) from local landlord Sabarna Chowdhury.
  • 1699 East India Company started developing Calcutta as a Presidency city.
  • 1707 Mughal Emperor Aurongajeb died.
  • 1715 British people completed building the Old Fort.
  • 1717 The Mughal emperor Farrukh-siyar granted the East India Company trading privileges in return for a yearly payment of 3,000 rupees.
  • 1727 As per the order of King George I, a civil court was set up. The city corporation was established and Hallwell became the first mayor of the city.
  • 1740 Ali Vardi Khan became the Nawab of Bengal.
  • 1756 Ali Vardi Khan died and Siraj-ud-Dawlla (Mirza Muhammad) became the Nawab of Bengal. Siraj-Ud-Dawlla attacked and captured Calcutta. He changed the name of the city to Alinagar.
  • 1757 23rd June, British people (under the leadership of Robert Clive) defeated Siraj-Ud-Dawlla at Plassey (in Nadia district).
  • 1757 British first printed currency bill in Calcutta mint.
  • 1765 Clive took Bengal, Bihar and Orissa from Badsha Alam II ( Delhi) with an agreement of paying excises.
  • 1770 Infamous famine.
  • 1772 Calcutta became the capital of British India when the first Governor General, Warren Hastings, transferred all important offices to the city from Murshidabad.
  • 1775 Nandakumar, a local landlord was hung in a false allegation when he accused Warren Hastings of corruption.
  • 1780 James Hicky established a printed press and published  first news paper “The Bengal Gazzette”.
  • 1784 The first official news paper  “The Calcutta Gazzette”, was published.
  • 1784 Sir William Jones took initiative and established The Asiatic Society.
  • 1795 First Bengali drama ‘Kalpanik Song Badol’ was staged by Gerasim S. Lebedef at Bengali Theatre.
  • 1801 Fort William College was established.
  • 1804 The Governor House (presently Raj Bhawan) was built.
  • 1813 The Town Hall was built.
  • 1818 First Bengali Magazine Digdarshan was published from Srerampur, with the help of David Hare.
  • 1817 The Hindu College (presently Presidency College) was established with efforts from Rammohan Roy, David Hare and Radhakanta Dev. Initially the college started with 20 students.
  • 1828 Sahid Minar (Octorloney Monument) was built.
  • 1829 Rammohan Roy was successful in making ‘satidaho‘ (a Hindu rule) banned by British Governor General William Bentinck.
  • 1839 Sangbad Prabhakar, the first Bengali daily was published.
  • 1854 First Railway line in India was inaugurated (from Calcutta to Hooghly).
  • Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh came to Calcutta in 1857. He built the town of Metiaburj and died in 1887.
  • 1857 The University of Calcutta was established.
  • 1864 The GPO (General Post Office) building was constructed.
  • 1873 First Tram car (horse drawn) in the city was launched.
  • 1875 “The Statesman”, leading English Daily newspaper, started.
  • 1875 The Indian Museum was built.
  • 1883 Surendra Nath Banerjee called for a National convention (which led to the forming of Indian National Congress in 1885 at Bombay).
  • 1883 First telephone communication between Calcutta and Howrah through a cable laid beneath the floating Howrah bridge.
  • 1886 Second convention of Indian National Congress happened at Calcutta.
  • 1888 Indian Football Association established.
  • 1895 Scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose experimented on transmission through radio waves at Town Hall.
  • 1896 First motor car appeared on city’s street.
  • 1899 For the first time in Calcutta, electricity was generated.
  • 1902 First Electric tram car from Esplanade to Kidderepore.
  • 1905 Lord Curzon, viceroy of India, tried to partition Bengal. There was a strong protest. Finally he failed to do so.
  • 1911 British moved the capital of India from Calcutta to Delhi
  • 1911 A local football team, Mohan Bagan defeated British team in IFA shield final and created national sensation.
  • 1913 Rabindranath Tagore, the great philosopher, poet and writer received Nobel Prize in literature.
  • 1921 King Edward VIII inaugurated the Victoria Memorial building.
  • 1922 Popular Bengali Daily Anandabazar Patrika started.
  • 1924 Chittaranjan Das was elected as the first Indian mayor of the city of Calcutta.
  • 1929 Agnes Goinxha Bejaxhiu (Mother Teresa) came to Calcutta to join Bengal Loreto Mission.
  • 1939 The World War II hit Calcutta.
  • 1941 Tagore died.
  • 1941 Subhash Chandra Bose escaped from house arrest by British.
  • 1943 Thousands of people got killed in famine.
  • 1946 Communal riot killed thousands of people in and around the city.
  • 1947 India gained independence. Bengal got partitioned; Calcutta became the capital city of the state of West Bengal in India. Dr. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh became the first Chief Minister of West Bengal, followed by Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy. Calcutta and suburban area received thousands of  people from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as a result of the partition.
  • 1952 The National Library was moved to Alipore from Esplanade. Alipore Mint inaugurated.
  • 1962 India-China war affected Calcutta.
  • 1962 Bidhan Chandra Roy passes away. He was the chief minister from 1948 through 1962. Prafulla Chandra Sen became the chief minister and remained till 1967 (1962-1967).
  • 1971 Tension of India-Pakistan war on freedom of Bangladesh.
  • 1970-71 The Naxalite Movement hit the city resulting arrests of hundreds of youths and creating enormous tension among city dwellers.
  • 1975 First TV transmission started in the city from August 9th.
  • 1977 Left Front led by CPI(M) Party won the state election and came into the power of state Government.
  • 1977 The world famous football player Pele played in a football match in the city.
  • 1978 A major flood hits Calcutta.
  • 1979 Mother Teresa, a permanent resident of Calcutta was awarded Nobel Peace Prize.
  • 1984 Metro, the first underground railway in India, started from Tollygunge to Esplanade.
  • 1984 First color TV transmission started from the TV centre (DoorDarshan).
  • 1989 France’s highest civilian award, Legion d’Honour was conferred upon Satyajit Ray by President F. Mitterrand in Calcutta.
  • 1992 Satyajit Roy, film director, received prestigious “Life Time Achievement” Oscar award and “Bharat Ratna”. He died in the same year.
  • 1995 First cellular phone service starts in the city.
  • 1997 Mother Teresa died in Calcutta.
  • 1998 Amartya Sen (grew up in Shantiniketan and studied at Calcutta) received Nobel Prize in Ecomonics
  • 2001 Calcutta was officially renamed as ‘Kolkata’ from 1st of Januray.
  • —————————————————————
  • —– Chief Ministers of West Bengal —–
    • Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (15.AUG.1947 – 22.JAN.1948)
    • Bidhan Chandra Roy (23.JAN.1948 – 01.JUL.1962)
    • Prafulla Chandra Sen (02.JUL.1962 – 28.FEB.1967)
    • Ajoy Mukherjee (01.MAR.1967 – 21.NOV.1967)
    • Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (21.NOV.1967 – 19.FEB.1968)
    • President’s Rule (1968-1969)
    • Ajoy Mukherjee (25.FEB.1969 – 30.JUL.1970)
    • President’s Rule (1970-1971)
    • Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (02.APR.1971 – 25.JUN.1971)
    • President’s Rule (1971-1972)
    • Siddhartha Shankar Ray (20.MAR.1972 – 30.APR.1977)
    • Jyoti Basu (21.JUN.1977 – 05.NOV.2000)
    • Buddhadeb Bhattacharya (06.NOV.2000 -)
  • —————————————————————
How did the city get the name Calcutta ? Different opinions:
  • Kalikata is derived from the Bengali word Kalikshetra meaning “Ground of the Goddess Kali.”
  • Some say the city’s name is derived from the location of it’s original settlement on the bank of a canal (khal).
  • Some match the name to the Bengali words for lime (kali) and burnt shell (kata), since the area was noted for  manufacturing shell-lime.
  • Another opinion is that the name is derived from the Bengali term kilkila (meaning, “flat area”), which is mentioned in the old literature.
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