Friday, July 28, 2006

Too Many Laws

July 28, 1907
Los Angeles

City officials, hampered by a bramble bush of old and unenforced laws, have appointed deputy prosecutor Eddie to prune back outdated and unnecessary regulations from the early days of Los Angeles.

Among the old regulations are bans on “rabbit coursing,” in which the animals were released to be chased down by dogs; bear baiting (an event dating to the days of Shakespeare involving a fight to the death between a chained bear and dogs); fighting between a bull and bear that were chained together; and cockfighting on public streets.

“Eddie’s office resembled a secondhand bookstore yesterday morning, when the attorney began work. Every ordinance ever passed by any council since the city’s birth was there,” The Times said.

Other antique ordinances forbid conductors to abandon their streetcars at the end of the line to go quail hunting. Another law banned mounted police officers from shooting through the windows of streetcars in Boyle Heights.

“We know that we have a big job ahead of us but we are willing to work hard at it and try to get the city laws in some kind of presentable shape,” Eddie said. “There are close to 15,000 ordinances on record. Of that number, nearly half have been repealed at some time or another.

“When a complaint is made regarding some misdemeanor under the present conditions we often file a complaint only to find that the ordinance has been repealed at some later date. In many instances, ordinances have been passed, repealed and passed again every two years as one power or the other gained political prestige.”

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Blight on the Land

July 27, 1907
Los Angeles

One of Mayor Harper’s promises in taking over City Hall, along with completing the Owens Valley aqueduct and building a library, is to purify the city’s billboards.

Although the City Council presented him with a new billboard law in March 1907, Harper vetoed the measure because it was too lax, despite lobbying by companies that said tighter laws would affect 300 sign painters and other workers.

In June, the Municipal League mounted a contest for photos of the ugliest spots in Los Angeles and entries featured billboards, dirty alleys and unkempt vacant lots. (The worst eyesore was the lot at 7th Street and South Spring occupied by the Los Angeles Express). “Many other places where neighborhoods are subjected to unnecessary and shocking disfigurement were found by the camera, including vacant lots, hideous displays of billboards, tottering shacks and other monstrosities,” The Times said.

In late June, the city passed a new billboard ordinance that imposed a sliding scale for license fees and a quarterly tax on billboards of 0.25 of a cent for every square foot. Varney and Green, one of the city’s larger billboard companies, brought a suit against the measure, charging that it was discriminatory and would put the firm out of business.

The billboard law was upheld in court in December 1907.

Above, Mayor Harper’s goals for his administration.

Note especially item No. 11--more police officers--and item No. 17: new schools.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Burning Bridges

July 25, 1907
Arcadia, Calif.

Despite the efforts of 75 volunteer firefighters, a blaze rapidly consumed a 150-foot wooden bridge on Foothill Boulevard over the Santa Anita between Arcadia and Monrovia.

Although the firefighters had a chemical apparatus, “neither pump nor hose was available to make use of the water supply in an irrigation division box within a few feet of the bridge,” The Times said. “The draft up the canyon caused the flames to spread underneath the planking and trusses more rapidly than on top and rendered futile the most strenuous efforts of the fire brigade.”

Built by the county about 1897, the bridge became city property when Arcadia was incorporated in 1903 and thus it was up to Arcadia to rebuild it. The Times said a quick replacement was vital as there was no good alternative route to Monrovia and because Foothill Boulevard was the main thoroughfare to Pasadena and Los Angeles.

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Monday, July 24, 2006

Science and the Occult

July 24, 1907
Los Angeles

On a speaking tour of America, former Columbia professor James H. Hyslop is trying to raise interest in a scientific approach to psychic research while deflating the fabulous claims of mediums and other fakers.

“There is so much fraud in connection with the physical demonstrations, said Dr. Hyslop, that much time would be wasted in making the investigation,” The Times said. “To see a table get up and prance across the floor doesn’t prove anything in connection with a future life.”

“We want this study to stand on the same plane as the search for the North Pole and experimentations in the use of balloons and airships,” Hyslop said.
In a presentation at Blanchard Hall, Hyslop told of what he described as scientific experiments involving in contacting the deceased: his brother, who died at the age of 4; his wife, who had been dead for 18 months; his father; and father-in-law.

Working with a medium identified as Mrs. Leonora Piper of Boston, Hyslop said he received accurate replies to questions although Piper knew nothing about him.

Hyslop wrote extensively about the psychic world in books like “Science and a Future Life” and “Enigmas of Psychical Research.” In 1918, he got in trouble with the family of Mark Twain over claims that he had contacted the deceased author. He died in 1920.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

A Belated Tribute to Heroic Officer

A Belated Tribute to Heroic Officer

July 23, 1907
Los Angeles

John Conroy, a career criminal, planned his work carefully: He would wait until 10 p.m., pry open the skylight of J.C. Fleming’s jewelry store at 531 S. Broadway, climb down a rope and help himself to whatever he wanted.

But Conroy didn’t know that along with putting alarms on the front and back doors, A.D.T. security service, 118 W. 3rd St., had put a sensor on the skylight as well.  As soon as the circuit was broken, supervisor J.P. Quinn called police while he sent Herbert Johnson to watch the store.

In panic, Conroy struggled to escape, first by the front door and then by the back, but he couldn’t get either one open. The police arrived and people gathered on Broadway to watch, until the crowd was so large that it blocked the streetcars.

Officer Walter H. Osterloh climbed to the roof and slid down the rope even though witnesses in the crowd said Conroy had two guns.

“Conroy could be seen from the street rushing around in his excitement to escape,” The Times said. “The crowd cheered and then there was silence until Osterloh grabbed his man, who was standing on the north side of the store near the back room.”

Former Police Officer Walter H. Osterloh died in 1935 at the age of 53.

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