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Rockets, Cable Cars, and Protest Marches: Past SoCal Fourth of July Observances

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Automobile decorated for a Fourth of July Parade in Compton, 1921. Courtesy of the South Bay Photograph Collection, CSUDH Archives.
Automobile decorated for a Fourth of July Parade in Compton, 1921. Courtesy of the South Bay Photograph Collection, CSUDH Archives.

On July 4, 1847, roughly 700 U.S. troops congregated on a hill overlooking the recently captured ciudad to celebrate the Los Angeles' first American Independence Day. Californio forces under Andres Pico had surrendered just months before, and as the war raged on far to the south, the troops constituted an occupying force in what was still legally Mexican territory. They were, in fact, assembled in an earthwork fort meant to secure the Americans' hold over the city.

At sunrise, Army Lieutenant J. W. Davidson raised the Stars and Stripes. From nearly anywhere in the city, Angelenos would have seen the flag flapping in the wind atop a 150-foot mast. Later, perhaps for the benefit of the diverse and largely Spanish-speaking population below, orators recited the Declaration of Independence twice -- first in English, then in Spanish, according to one source.

Today, Southern California's Fourth of July celebrations are less fraught with high political drama. For some, the holiday is an occasion for fireworks and pool parties. For others, it is a day to raise awareness of social justice issues. Now, as the region marks the nation's 236th birthday, join us for a look through historical images at how Southern Californians have observed the holiday in the past.

In 1892, the Los Angeles Cable Railway decorated one of its cable cars to celebrate the July 4 holiday. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
In 1892, the Los Angeles Cable Railway decorated one of its cable cars to celebrate the July 4 holiday. Courtesy of the Metro Transportation Library and Archive.
A crowded Ocean Park beach on July 4, 1912. Photo by Harry Vroman, courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center.
A crowded Ocean Park beach on July 4, 1912. Photo by Harry Vroman, courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center.
Carolyn Castoe pretends to hang on to a rocket in this photograph, shot to promote a fireworks show in Pasadena's Rose Bowl. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.
Carolyn Castoe pretends to hang on to a rocket in this photograph, shot to promote a fireworks show in Pasadena's Rose Bowl. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Examiner Collection, USC Libraries.
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Many of the archives who contributed the above images are members of L.A. as Subject, an association of more than 230 libraries, museums, official archives, personal collections, and other institutions. Hosted by the USC Libraries, L.A. as Subject is dedicated to preserving and telling the sometimes-hidden stories and histories of the Los Angeles region. Our posts here provide a view into the archives of individuals and cultural institutions whose collections inform the great narrative—in all its complex facets—of Southern California.

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An image of the French district in downtown Los Angeles. The image shows Aliso Street in downtown Los Angeles, California, with signs labeling buildings "Griffins Transfer and Storage Co." and "Cafe des Alpes" next to "Eden Hotel," which are located on opposite corners of Aliso and Alameda Streets. A Pacific Electric streetcar sign reads "Sierra Madre" and automobiles and horse-drawn wagons are seen in the dirt road.

What Cinco de Mayo Has to do with the French in Early L.A.

Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated wrongly as Mexican Independence Day, but a dig into the historical landscape of Los Angeles in the early 19th century reveals a complex relationship of French émigrés with a Mexican Los Angeles.
Close up of the Los Angeles Oil Field

A Walk Along L.A.'s Original Borders Reveals Surprising Remnants from the City's Past

To walk the border of the sprawling City of Los Angeles as it is today (about 503 square miles) seems an inconceivable feat for most. But what if that walk circumnavigated the city as it was in 1781 or 1850, when Los Angeles was square-shaped measuring four square leagues?
A black and white postcard photo of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union Home in Eagle Rock probably taken a few years after the home opened in 1928. The four-story main building is in the shape of a Maltese cross with Churrigueresque ornamentation over the main door, an the elevator in the center and four wings reaching out.

A Haven for Early Feminists: Eagle Rock's Home of Woman's Christian Temperance Union

Founded by middle-and-upper-class women to push for abstinence and prohibition laws, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union at Eagle Rock became a major force for societal change and a hub for feminist activity in Los Angeles.