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September 1981 - Los Angeles Celebrates Its Bicentennial

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The official logo of Los Angeles' 1981 Bicentennial celebration
The official logo of Los Angeles' 1981 Bicentennial celebration. | Photo: Elson Trinidad

On September 4, 1981, Los Angeles celebrated its Bicentennial, two centuries to the day of the founding of "El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Rio de Porciuncula" by 44 Spanish-era settlers, known as "Pobladores." The anniversary concluded a year-long celebration of the city and its heritage.

The Los Angeles 200 Committee, headed by USC professor Jane Pisano, consisted of 44 community leaders, civic figures, and businesspeople who planned the Bicentennial festivities. On the anniversary date, they dedicated a Bicentennial Plaque and time capsule at the former location of the Angels Flight Railway, near 3rd Street and Grand Avenue.

A number of events were staged from September 1980 to September 1981, with mayor Tom Bradley present at many of them, as a city long accused of not having a history explicitly celebrated it. The city was growing, and in the 1980 U.S. Census, the populations of Chicago and Los Angeles were virtually equal, with a difference of a mere 38,000 in the official count, with L.A. anticipated to overtake Chicago at America's 2nd largest city at any time. The celebrations were also a rehearsal of sorts for the upcoming Olympic games, which would take place less than three years after the Bicentennial.

The city's 200th anniversary even had its own slogan, "L.A.'s the pLAce," and its own logo, a stylized angel figure with a multicolored rainbow design over its head, symbolizing the City of the Angels and its cultural diversity. The logo and slogan was seen all over the city and in commemorative merchandise.

The Los Angeles Dodgers wore the bicentennial logo on the sleeves of their uniforms for the duration of the 1981 Major League Baseball season. Incidentally, the team went on to win its fifth World Series championship in October, defeating the New York Yankees in six games.

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