This timeline was originally published on pbs.org in 2009. It has been edited to reflect current events.
The groundbreaking documentary "Inventing LA: The Chandlers and Their Times," traces the explosive emergence of multi-ethnic, modern Los Angeles during the single-family reign of four publishers of the Los Angeles Times. This annotated timeline uses archival images to present historical moments important in shaping Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Times.
December 4, 1881
First edition of Los Angeles Daily Times newspaper.
In 1884, the novel Ramona, set in Southern California, becomes a national bestselling magnet. It is accused of conjuring a colorful Spanish past and ignoring the region’s Mexican and indigenous heritage.
Santa Fe Railroad reaches Los Angeles.
L.A. Times distributes first Midwinter edition throughout the country.To encourage Americans to relocate to Los Angeles, a nationally distributed edition of the newspaper touts all that the region has to offer.
Harrison Gray Otis buys out his partners and becomes sole owner of the Times Mirror Co. Once under his total control, he made his newspaper the primary instrument of the city’s development.
Harrison Gray Otis founds the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce
First Tournament of Roses Parade. A New Year’s celebration was launched by Pasadena Valley Hunt Club to showcase California’s mild winter weather. At a club meeting, Professor Charles F. Holder announced, “In New York, people are buried in the snow. Here our flowers are blooming and our oranges are about to bear. Let’s hold a festival to tell the world about our paradise.”
Irish oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny, along with partner Charles A. Canfield, drill the first successful well in Los Angeles, setting off the oil boom in the region.
L.A. booster Charles Fletcher Lummis launches Land of Sunshine magazine.
Construction begins on Port of Los Angeles. Congress approves $3 million for a man-made harbor in the seaside town of San Pedro. The engineering feat takes seven years to accomplish; the port was open to free trade and monopolized by no one.
Automobile Club of Southern California (AAA) forms.
William Randolph Hearst starts rival newspaper, the Los Angeles Examiner.
Bomb destroys L.A. Times building, killing 21 employees. On October 1, 1910, a suitcase full of dynamite explodes in an ink supply closet at Times headquarters. The bombing is carried out by labor organizers in response to the Times’ overwhelmingly anti-union sentiments.
Owens Valley aqueduct brings water to Los Angeles. Los Angeles Water Department Chief Engineer William Mulholland masterminds a 233-mile-long aqueduct to reroute water from Owens Valley to Southern California.
Charlie Chaplin shoots his first film, Making a Living, in L.A. Times building. Chaplin plays Edgar English, a lady-charming swindler; the film predates hi iconic derby hat and small mustache.
Harrison Gray Otis dies.
Los Angeles produces 105 million barrels of oil. Modern Los Angeles materializes during the decades of the 1920s, in part thanks to the availability of oil and the recent popularity of the automobile. Harry Chandler and his business partners are instrumental in luring Ford, Chrysler, General Motors and Goodyear to what is becoming the nation’s largest auto market. For fuel, Chandler organizes several syndicates to drill for oil.
Los Angles passes San Francisco as the largest city in California. Los Angeles, with a population of 576,673, becomes the largest city in California; by 1920, San Francisco had only 506,676 residents.
Harry Chandler founds All-Year Club to promote tourism. Chandler, in collaboration wit other booster associates and with funding from the county board of supervisors, begins to promote year-round Southern California tourism.
Donald Douglas builds three planes for U.S. Navy. Chandler, wanting the city involved in the budding aircraft industry, takes a $15 thousand gamble on a young barnstorming engineer named Donald Douglas. One year later, the government orders 25 planes and Douglas builds a factory on land leased from Chandler. Douglas Aircraft launches Los Angeles’ 60-year domination of the aerospace industry.
Norman Chandler marries Dorothy Buffum. Norman and Dorothy meet while in college at Stanford University. Although Dorothy comes from a successful and politically active family, Norman’s sisters disapprove of the marriage; five of his six sisters refuse to attend the wedding. It is the first public evidence of a Chandler family divide.
L.A.’s first radio station, KHJ, broadcasts from Times building. The station, originally owned by the Los Angeles Timesm, goes on the air. The station’s call-sign stands for ‘Kindness, Happiness and Joy.’
Harry Chandler erects Hollywoodland realty sign. Chandler leads the real estate syndicate that firs develops one-time farmland called Hollywood. The Hollywoodland sign, initially intended for promotional purposes, has become a Los Angeles icon.
Aimee Semple McPherson dedicates Angelus Temple. Aimee Semple McPherson builds the “megachurch” Angelus Temple in Echo Park. She chooses Los Angeles, in part, because she believed people from all over the country would come to the city to hear her preach and then return home and spread the Foursquare gospel.
L.A. Chamber of Commerce opens “historic” Olvera Street. Olvera Street, an ersatz historic mercantile district created as a kind of ethnic theme park by the Chamber of Commerce, opens. At the same time as Olvera Street is being developed, discrimination in housing markets and employment against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans continues to plague the city.
Los Angeles hosts 10th Olympic Games. Harry Chandler muscles the city into building an 80,000 seat memorial coliseum. His plan to bring the world to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to the world comes to fruition when the city is selected to host the 1932 summer Olympics.
Harry Chandler backs mortgage on Hearst’s San Simeon estate. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst’s self-indulgent has put his media empire on the brink of collapse. Offering his beloved San Simeon castle as collateral, he receives a $600,000 loan from a Los Angeles bank controlled by Harry Chandler.
Socialist author Upton Sinclair runs for California governor. Noted author and socialist Upton Sinclair draws considerable support in his 1934 bid to be California’s governor. The Times denounces him on a daily basis, running front-page stories that quote Sinclair novels out of context, giving the impression he is anti-Christian and endorses sexual promiscuity. In the end, Sinclair is overwhelmingly defeated.
L.A. Department of Water & Power becomes largest municipal utility in the country. The L.A. Department of Water & Power continues to be the largest municipal water and power utility in the United States, delivering water and electricity to 4 million residents and businesses as of 2018.
Norman Chandler institutes the nation’s first comprehensive benefits package for his employees. Deeply dedicated to the Times employees, Norman Chandler creates a benefits package to support and protect his workers.
Arroyo Seco Parkway becomes nation’s first urban freeway.
Citizen Kane premieres. Citizen Kane, widely seen as a critical commentary on the life and career of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, opens in theaters. In response, Hearst prohibits the film from being mentioned in any of his newspapers.
Zuit Suit Riots. A series of riots occur during World War II, when racial tensions rise between white sailors and Marines stationed in Los Angeles and Latino youths who live there.
First recognized “smog attack. ”On July 26, 1943, a brown cloud forms over Los Angeles, reducing visibility to three blocks.
Harry Chandler dies on September 23, 1944 of coronary thrombosis. He is 80 years old. By his order, all of his business and personal files are burned.
L.A. Times endorses Richard Nixon’s successful candidacy for U.S. Congress. The Los Angeles Times launches the career of Richard Nixon. Political editor Kyle Palmer, known as the “Kingmaker,” helps orchestrate Nixon’s successful campaigns for Congress and the Senate by ruthlessly attacking Nixon’s democratic opponents as soft on communism and by implication un-American.
Norman Chandler launches KTTV (Times Television). KTTV, jointly owned by the Times Mirror Company and CBS, goes on the air. The Times Mirror Company will eventually sell the station in 1963 to Metromedia.
William Randolph Hearst dies. The newspaper magnate dies at the age of 88 in Beverly Hills.
Dorothy Chandler spearheads a fund drive for the failing Hollywood Bowl. In the summer of 1951, the famed Hollywood Bowl closed due to financial issues. Chandler is selected by the Symphony Association and the county supervisors to chair an emergency committee to raise funds for the venue. She organizes a series of “Save the Bowl” concerts and promotes the campaign daily in the Los Angeles Times. The campaign is successful — the Bowl reopens, and the legend of Dorothy Chandler as cultural matriarch is born.
Los Angeles becomes center of defense/aerospace industry throughout Cold War. The nation’s need for aircraft production during the Cold War period creates a thriving defense industry in Los Angeles.
Disneyland opens. The theme park, designed and built by Walt Disney, opens in Anaheim.
TIME magazine votes L.A. Times the second worst newspaper in the country. Not known for its caliber of journalism, the Los Angeles Times is named one of the worst papers in the nation.
Brooklyn Dodgers move to Los Angeles.
Dorothy Chandler brings USSR’s Bolshoi Ballet to U.S. The Bolshoi Ballet Company, among the oldest ballet companies in the world, performs in the United States.
Otis Chandler is named publisher of the Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times runs a 5-part series exposing the reactionary bigotry of the John Birch Society.
L.A. Times wins first Pulitzer Prize for reporting. The Los Angeles Times is awarded the first of what would be 44 Pulitzers to date.
Richard Nixon loses race for California governor. When Nixon loses the 1962 race for California governor, he blames the press and lashes out against the Los Angeles Times.
Otis Chandler triples editorial budget in the three years he has been editor. Otis Chandler dedicates more funds in order to turn the Times into a first-rate national paper.
Dorothy Chandler’s Music Center opens. Emboldened by her successful campaign to save the Hollywood Bowl, Dorothy Chandler raises funds to develop three venues in which to showcase theater, music and dance. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion opens its doors on December 6, 1964. The rest of the complex — including the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theater — is completed in April 1967.
Times Mirror Company goes public on New York Stock Exchange. The Los Angeles Times, through the parent Times Mirror Company, becomes the first family-owned newspaper to sell stock on the New York Stock Exchange.
TIME magazine votes L.A. Times among top ten newspapers in country.
Watts Rebellion. A large-scale six-day rebellion erupts in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, sparked by the police arrest of three black residents. The Watts Rebellion give Otis Chandler the chance to demonstrate that the Times is no longer the newspaper that once promoted Los Angeles as “The White Spot of America.” The Times coverage of the rebellion is extensive and focuses on understanding the roots causes of the insurrection.
Charles Manson murders. The infamous Tate/LaBianca murders are carried out by Charles Manson and members of his cult.
Ruben Salazar dies. Shortly after the Watts Rebellion, the Los Angeles Times hires its first Mexican-American journalist. In 1970, while covering a Chicano demonstration against the Vietnam War, Salazar is struck by a tear gas canister and dies. Some still debate whether his death was an accident.
Norman Chandler dies at the age of 74 from throat cancer.
Chinatown premieres.The acclaimed film noir directed by Roman Polanski is released. The film, which takes place in 1930s Los Angeles, loosely depicts the city’s controversial struggle for water rights in Owens Valley.
Tom Bradley becomes first African-American mayor of major U.S. city, eventually serving Los Angeles for 20 years.
L.A. Times publishes more advertising than any other newspaper in the world for the 25th consecutive year.
L.A. Times foreign and domestic news bureaus total 31. By 1977, the Los Angeles Times has 31 offices in the United States and around the world. Circulation reaches one million and advertising revenue continues to make it the most profitable daily in America.
Otis Chandler appoints Tom Johnson as first publisher outside of the Chandler family.
Times Mirror Co. becomes second largest media empire in the world behind TIME-LIFE.
Los Angeles hosts 23rd Olympic Games. The Summer Olympics returns to the city of Los Angeles for a second time.
L.A. Rebellion. A series of rebellions erupts after a jury acquits four Los Angeles police officers of beating a black man, Rodney King, after a high-speed pursuit.
Dorothy Chandler dies at the age of 96.
Tribune Co. buys Los Angeles Times/Times Mirror Co. for $8.3 billion
Otis Chandler dies.
Tribune Publishing changes its name to Tronc.
The Times newsroom votes overwhelmingly to form a union.
Tronc announces the sale of the Los Angeles Times to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.
Top Image: Los Angeles Times Headquarters, circa 1972. Everything that goes into making a city function as an entity of power – real estate, development, transportation – the Times was at the center of it. | Courtesy The Huntington Library