This extremely rare, hard-copy map of Los Angeles is more than just a confusing jumble of numbers; it shows off the city’s townships and their precincts (or voting districts), and it also delineates districts like county supervisor, state assembly, United States Senate, and United State Congress. We can see some landmarks by their precinct number: 509 for Echo Park and Angelino Heights, 541 for the Chavez Ravine communities, 1031 for University Park, 629 for Hollywood and Vine, 412 for Brooklyn and Soto in Boyle Heights, the Hollywood Forever cemetery in 593, and the Silver Lake reservoir in 544. Precincts may be the lowest division of government, but they’re the cells that combine to form the body politic, and each has a captain voted in to manage voter registration and elections. The average precinct might only include 1,100 voters, but in 1924, with the population of Los Angeles at around 800,000, the arrangement of precincts played a big role in governing the growing city.
1924 was a presidential election year and a time of struggle between the upstart Progressive Party, led by Robert “Fighting Bob” LaFollette, and the Republican Party, headed by Calvin Coolidge. Democratic candidate John W. Davis lagged far behind. George Cryer was L.A. mayor, and California’s governor was Friend William Richardson of the Progressive Party. (Yes, his legal name really was “Friend.”) Former California governor and L.A. Times bogeyman Hiram Johnson, who lost the Progressive candidacy to LaFollette, dominated the U.S. Senate. In the presidential race, LaFollette and the Progressives were backed by big labor, and their following was largely grassroots with newspapers opposing them. Californians spoke loudly just four months after this map was created and voted to help Coolidge win with 65% of the vote, leaving LaFollette in the dust with 25%. All this in spite of a pneumonic plague outbreak in L.A. that kept many voters hiding at home!
The year 1924 also brought the Immigration Act, which responded to a wave of xenophobia by clamping down on immigration; along with it came the Indian Citizenship Act, a strange peace offering to Native Americans who had been swindled and mistreated for centuries. In other news, Los Angeles, along with the rest of the nation, was obsessed with the Teapot Dome scandal, which exposed widespread Federal corruption and sent cabinet member Albert Fall to prison. Californians took flack from “our carping critics” back East, who tried to stop westward population movement by spreading scare stories about widespread hoof and mouth disease in the cattle out here. The negative press had little effect on the rapid progress of the time. There was considerable of talk of a “round the world airplane flight” and the possibility of airmail coming to the city of angels. A building boom in L.A. saw more buildings completed here in a single year than any city west of the Mississippi. But in spite of the optimism, disaster was near. With the country basking in the false security of an economy based on pure paper, it failed to realize it was reaching the summit of a roller coaster that, in 1929, would make the drastic plunge into the Great Depression. The gilded age was just about to turn to tin.
Los Angeles Public Library map librarian Glen Creason shares a map from the Central Library’s collection at CityThink each week.