Happy Holidays from 1911 Los Angeles

Los Angeles ca. 1911

The month of December in 1911 opened with rain. Fair weather followed, which the Los Angeles Times gratefully interpreted as a sign that 1912 would begin well.

The Times pegged most of its optimism on the outcome of the December 5 municipal election in which Job Harriman, the socialist candidate for mayor, was defeated. After the bombing of the Times building in 1910, Harriman had been the odds-on favorite to win and target of the paper's almost daily vilification. But his defense of the bombers and the collapse of their case in a plea bargain just days before the election derailed Harriman's bid, to the Times relief.

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Who went to the polls may also have had an impact. This was the city's first election in which women could vote, having won the franchise from an all-male electorate in a statewide special election in October. Noted Times columnist Olive Gray, "The interesting thing regarding the election is that it seems difficult to find anyone anywhere who does not believe in woman suffrage and few who will admit they have not always believed in it."

Gray's post-election enthusiasm spilled over into her observations about the coming holidays: "Put all the glittering things upon the tree! Light all the candles! Hurrah for a madly merry Christmas with all the trimmings of which we have ever dreamed in childhood's hours!" (Several stories in the paper that month focused on spending for the holidays. The Times was a big booster of old-fashion Christmas commercialization.)

Christmas in 1911 fell on a Sunday, and wives were advised by the Times to have their cook prepare much of the family's holiday meal on Saturday. The Times thought that "a good meal, which will not entail too great labor in the preparation, yet which contains all the essentials, is the following: Oyster Cocktail, Oxtail Soup, Roast Stuffed Turkey, Giblet Gravy, Salted Nuts and Celery, Mashed Potatoes, Cauliflower, Caramelized Sweet Potatoes, Fruit Salad, Plum Pudding with both Hard and Wine Sauce, Nuts and Raisins, Fruit, and Coffee."

The Times presumed that this meal would be served around noon and only a light supper later in the day would be needed. The paper recommended serving sandwiches of "potted tongue" and provided a recipe, noting that the meat would "keep for several days."

The Times had an equally appealing suggestion for a gift for boys and girls and just about anyone else - the Times own dictionary, which could be had by clipping the paper's coupons (printed in each edition) and paying what the paper called "a small expense bonus." The dictionary could even be sent to relatives back East in a box plainly marked with the book's $4.00 value (so they would plainly know).

Bound in limp leather and printed on thin Bible paper, the Times dictionary was "so modern as to make the old ones entirely out of date." It was, the paper said, both useful and "highly ornamental."

Not every girl and boy was going to get a dictionary. The Associated Charities board solicited funds for for the children of the the city's poorest families above a news column reporting the start of deluxe (extra fare) train service between New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The Times also reported, in a grim headline: "AGED COBBLER UNABLE TO FACE CHEERLESS PROSPECT; Puts Bullet Through His Brain When Wolf Howls at the Door. Officer Breaks Through Window and Finds Old Man Lying Across His Bench Lifeless."

Ballots, bullets, bombers, and a merry Christmas . . . 1911 had it all.

D. J. Waldie, author, historian, and as the New York Times said in 2007, "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history," writes about Los Angeles on KCET's SoCal Focus blog.

The image on this page is archived by the Los Angeles Pubic Library.

About the Author

D. J. Waldie is the author of "Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir" and "Where We Are Now: Notes from Los Angeles." He is a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times.
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been there :)