Perusing the Chicago daily Inter Ocean1 for 25 June 1887 in search of United States Navy items from the Far East provided a surprise: a long article (more than 10,000 words plus pictures) headed “SAN DIEGO: The Brilliant, Booming Metropolis of the Extreme Southwest” (“San Diego, Cal., June 17. — Special Correspondence“). Conceding that much had been written on San Diego’s history and its natural beauties, and that “the beautiful city deserves all the wealth of descriptive praise that has been lavished upon it,” the author (who modestly identified himself only as C.A.) determined to utilize a different approach. Feeling that “modern San Diego is truly a marvel in this age and land of marvels,” as this “struggling town of a few years ago has with surprising rapidity grown into a compact and handsome city of 14,000 people,” C.A. decided to focus on those who had been most influential in developing it into a dynamic commercial city with “no equal and only one rival on the entire Western coast of the North American continent.”
No identification of “C.A.” was given. The obvious guess that he was a professional journalist is substantiated by the appearance of another article of similar content but shorter scope on San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley in the daily Inter Ocean, 28 September 1887. Again, the article is simply signed C.A. with no identification of these initials.
This lengthy article on San Diego may have been commissioned by the chamber of commerce, or by a group of business “boomers.” It is clearly a striking example of what historian Glenn S. Dumke terms “a basic cause of the boom” of the 1880s: “the extensive advertising and publicity campaign which carried information about southern California to all parts of the world.”2 If individual businesses were assessed on an advertising basis for their appearance in the article, fees must have varied widely according to total lines of coverage. Thus one grocery store obviously paid the minimum for its one short line of four words: “Cowden, the cash grocer”; while R.J. Pennell surely paid dearly for the extensive coverage of his developments in El Cajon Valley.
As this lengthy article by C.A. promised to focus on the “business enterprises” of San Diego, a “booming metropolis,” it is not surprising that realtors and developers dominated the businesses considered. More than forty of them were listed and discussed to varying degrees. Therefore this study will focus on that group of “boomers” and their concept of what should be conveyed “to all parts of the world” about that “marvel,” San Diego, in a “land of marvels.” Obviously the competition among them must have been tremendous, even in a booming market. Thus it is understandable that each realtor desperately sought to make his agency stand out from the others.
Perhaps the firm of Hanbury and Garvey represented the best of these enterprises; at least C.A. placed them “In the front rank of those who are building San Diego into a mighty city,” by being a “pushing, wide awake real estate firm.” An illustration of their office building, “the magnificent Pierce-Morse Building,” accompanied this article. “Here an army of clerks are kept busily engaged attending to the details of the vast enterprises carried on by this firm.” They not only offered “a large list of bargains” in city and suburban property, but handled rentals of business and residence properties and “attend carefully to all matters which may be entrusted to them by non-residents.” The most impressive of their “vast enterprises” had been added only recently when they were “appointed general land agents of the International Company of Mexico, whose 18,000,000 acres of fertile lands in Lower California are now open to colonists and settlers.” It was claimed that these vast virgin lands were “especially adapted for fruits and cereals, sheep and cattle ranges.”
Only two other real estate agencies were granted the impressive honorific categorization of “pushing.” Davis, Bivens & Simmons had also “come to be known as one of the active, pushing, and reliable firms of the city.” And Kaufman & Syford were “one of the pushing firms who are hoping to settle Southern California.” So pushing, whatever this might entail, was obviously a commendable trait in San Diego in 1887.
Such esteem as Hanbury & Garvey enjoyed was difficult to match by other firms, although several made valiant efforts. Choate & Storey claimed to be “the oldest established and foremost real-estate agency [in San Diego].” Thompson, Sutherland & Co. contested this, claiming that they were in fact “the oldest real estate office in San Diego.” C.A. made no attempt to adjudicate the controversy.
Woolwine, Sprigg & Nerney declared that they had “the only complete set of abstract books in the county.” But potential customers would find Donecken, Thomas and Lynn Real Estate and Trust Company’s offices “open in the evening,” where they could read “daily papers from Eastern and Western cities.” The linguistic skills of a few realtors doubtless attracted some customers. Chalmers and William Scott, for example, were “prepared to transact business in both the French and Spanish languages.” Realtor B.L. Muir, who maintained both Coronado and San Diego offices, offered “free carriages to show property.” His only competitor making a similar offer was Lewis, Allen & McDonald who also provided free carriages for viewing their “large list of choice city and country property.”
In a region where Karl Marx apparently was not widely read, Smith & McRae distanced themselves from their bourgeois competitors by an unusual accolade: “They are both capitalists and men whose words are as good as their bonds.” Yet Thomas J. Daley, “for many years one of the prominent real estate men of San Diego,” surely represented the transcendent culmination of dialectical materialism for the entire area by having reached the ultimate synthesis: “[he] is now a retired capitalist.”
Someone coming into San Diego from out of state to participate in the real estate boom would certainly have needed more than the services of a simple realtor. Help with loans, money transfers, title searches, insurance, legal counsel, etc., would have been readily available at several “full service” real estate offices mentioned in C.A.’s document. Perhaps a new arrival from Indiana would have been attracted to the firm of Dougherty & Vauclain, “who stand among the foremost business men of San Diego, are actively engaged in the real estate, loan, and insurance business,” with an office at 722 Fifth street. Not only were they “well posted regarding Southern California’s resources, property values, etc.,” but even more important they were “thoroughly reliable.” H.H. Dougherty, the senior partner, had almost 20 years of experience; J.S.P. Vauclain, the junior member, had come from Indiana five years before. Surely he would recognize and welcome a fellow Hoosier at sight.
The mail order real estate business was obviously lucrative as evidenced by the large number of realtors who sought to tap it. Somers & Francisco made “a specialty of investing in real estate for non-residents, and will give information, by correspondence, to those seeking profitable investments in San Diego or the adjacent country.” Arnold, Jeffrey & Mouser announced that they would “buy, sell, rent, pay taxes, and manage property for non-residents.” Mertzmann & Scott even had “special facilities for making investments for non-residents. Correspondence solicited.” Thomas & McGiffert made “a specialty of city property and investments for non-residents.” “Rents collected, taxes paid, and general business transacted for non-residents” was the helpful offer of Bryant & Cushman. H.W. Smith, who was “the pioneer real estate man of the eastern and growing end of the city,” solicited “the correspondence of non-residents, who may always depend upon it that they will be honestly dealt with and get the best bargains that can be had in the city, either for cash or on time.” Thus such offers continued for providing assistance to any who might want to purchase San Diego property as an investment, sight unseen, and perhaps even never to be seen.
Essential to the proper functioning of the complex financial infrastructure of a booming metropolis was an adequate banking system. Yet, in this critically important area San Diego seemed but marginally well served. There were only two local banks, the First National Bank of San Diego with a capital of $290,000; and the Consolidated National Bank (San Diego’s pioneer bank) with a capital of $100,000, soon to be increased to $250,000. Both institutions carried on a full range of general banking business and services. A third institution, W.N. Fos & Co., “investment bankers,” offered “money to loan in any quantity” and “Mortgages for sale.” This appears to have been a loan company which conducted “a general loan business” rather than a traditional banking operation. If this seems hardly adequate banking services for a dynamic, booming city it should be explained that many other banks had attempted to serve San Diego. Historian Richard F. Pourade notes that, “In the thirty years between 1870 and 1900 there were fifteen banks established in the city of San Diego, but with four failures and numerous mergers and closings, only five survived into the Twentieth Century.”3
There appears to have been an abundance of attorneys ready to assist any San Diegans or outlanders with their legal problems. Of the 23 attorneys listed by C.A., eighteen had no obvious qualifications that would distinguish them from the rest of the lawyers in San Diego. Twelve were in practice with a partner such as Luce & Henderson and Fitch & Fuller, while one firm was the trio of Wellborn, Jones & Van Dyke. Only one attorney indicated his law school; the others may well have studied by correspondence or “read the law” in an attorney’s office as Lincoln did. Theodore Bayrhoffer had attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He also claimed proficiency in German.
“One of the best informed men in San Diego,” attorney Chalmers Scott, was also a civil engineer. With “thirty-three years’ practical experience in California life,” Scott was “recognized as high authority in real estate, mining, and engineering matters, and upon all legal questions affecting those interests.” His claimed proficiency in both Spanish and French evidently was based on realistic experience as he had purportedly been in “immediate charge of the railroad constructed by the Stanford and Crocker syndicate in Guatemala.”
Also possessing special qualifications for legal work in San Diego was J.O.W. Paine. This former resident of Ottawa, Kansas, had practiced law for 20 years, the last eight in San Diego. “He makes a specialty of land litigation, conveyancing, and examination of abstracts of title,” the article declared. “Is familiar with the values of property, and buys and sells real estate.” Inexplicably the only woman attorney in San Diego, Mrs. Clara Shortridge Foltz, was not listed. “Mrs. Foltz lived in San Diego during the boom years,” one historian later explained, “…and while managing a newspaper [the Bee], she also practiced law.”4
Even a casual inspection of the backgrounds of the prominent San Diego residents discussed by C.A. reveals that many of them had moved there from other states, territories, and even from abroad. Eleven different states had representatives in San Diego, with Nebraska and Wisconsin having three each; Colorado, Florida, and Illinois, two each; and the remaining states (Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee) a single representative each. New Mexico Territory contributed one man and nearby Arizona Territory provided three. One M.D. had come from Ireland and another physician had trained and practiced in England, Scotland, and Canada. With such diversity of origins in the business and professional community many new immigrants to San Diego and its nearby regions could immediately feel welcome. Also they could more readily find a geographic kinsman whom they could trust for counsel in a strange land.
What sort of ethnic environment an immigrant to San Diego would find can only be partially perceived from the many names in this recruitment document. But rather clearly the great majority of names indicate roots in western Europe, primarily Great Britain. An occasional name might betray other origins: France (J.R. LaTourette); Italy (Dr. P.C. Remondino); Spain (C.F. Francisco); and perhaps Germany (John A. Helphingstine). No African origins are evident from names. And names alone would not reveal the existence of any of San Diego’s considerable Mexican population. Ah Quin had to represent all of Asia, but in a confused way. His name was clearly Chinese but his ethnicity and his representation of San Diego’s sizable Chinese population were confused by his offering “a general assortment of Japanese goods and novelties” for sale at his store at the corner of Third and J streets, well within the area of Chinatown. 5
The reputation of the West as liberal towards women’s rights and liberation was hardly well served by San Diego in 1887. Of the only four female names that appeared in C.A.’s report, two were in hotel work — Mrs. Dodge and Mrs. M.J.Birdsall, and one, Mrs J. Petitt, was a milliner. The last one was a truly liberated woman, Clara Foltz, mentioned earlier as editor of the San Diego daily Bee and also a practicing attorney.
Living accommodations, an obviously essential service for a booming city besieged by streams of visitors with ready money, was generously met by San Diego. These hotels ranged from the St. James, “fully equipped with all the modern luxuries that go to make up a first-class hotel”; the New Carlton, “one of the finest hotels in the city…[with] superior accommodations for families”; and the Horton House, “San Diego’s old and favorite hotel.” At the bottom of the listings was the Cottage Hotel, “the best dollar-a-day house in the city.” Distributed between these extremes were the Hotel Adelphi; the Arlington; the Tremont House, “an entirely new hotel”; the Windsor, “a new and handsome brick hotel conducted on the European plan”; and the Commercial Hotel, “a large, comfortable, and homelike establishment.”
One hotel then going up was a monument to faith in a booming future for San Diego. The Coronado Beach Company was building an impressive new hotel “immediately on the beach,” the “mammoth” Hotel del Coronado, which would cover “more ground than any other hotel in existence [sic].” “A number of fine hotels, besides the Hotel del Coronado, are contracted to be built; also hundreds of residences and seaside cottages.” C.A. gave considerable coverage to the impressive developments at Coronado which Dumke thought was the “outstanding boom project in the San Diego area…by all odds.”6
Also essential for such a booming community was an adequate system of public transportation which was being met in a variety of ways. The California Southern Railroad was at the heart of such vital services with a total of 278 miles of track in operation. Also “the plans of the great Santa Fe system, of which it is a part, will make this one of the most beautiful routes of travel in the United States.” In addition to passengers this railroad was attracting freight shipments; during the first three months of 1887 their freight business more than doubled that of the previous year. And a “handsome new passenger depot” was soon to be erected at “a central position on the bay shore.”
Other railroad news was equally encouraging. Santa Fe had established a terminus in San Diego for its extensive rail network. “A railroad encircling the bay is in process of construction,” C. A. noted. Poway also had “the prospect of early connections by two railroads, whose surveys skirt the edge of the town site.” At the local level a street car line was proposed to run from San Diego’s waterfront up to the City Park (later Balboa Park). And “an electric street railway” was under construction to Ocean Beach which would “afford direct communication with the city by way of Old Town.”
Then there were the old faithful and colorful stages for filling in the gaps between railroad and trolley lines. A two mile stage line connected La Jolla Park with the California Southern Railway. The new development town of Piermont (sometimes “Peermont”) boasted of “daily mails and stage lines.” Frank P. Frary operated the impressive San Diego and Julian City Stage Line with tri-weekly runs to El Cajon, Alpine, Viejas, Descanso, Stonewall Mine, and Julian. And in these places a passenger could surely rent a horse or carriage from a livery stable, such as Hinton & Gordon’s Fashion Stables in San Diego which for 17 years was “noted for their elegant turnouts and reliable horses.” Transportation on San Diego Bay was to be improved by “A large and elegant new ferry boat” then under construction which would carry “1,000 people and fifty vehicles.” How people got to Coronado in the meantime was not explained.
“The magnificent land-locked harbor of San Diego,” C.A. declared, “affording as it does accommodations for an immense commerce, already presents a scene of constant activity in shipping affairs.” Most immediate was a developing trade with nearby Mexico. The San Diego-based International Company of Mexico was “accomplishing wonders in the way of settling the rich fruit and grain lands of the Peninsula of Lower California which adjoins San Diego County on the South.” The principal means of communication “with this rich territory” was “by the fine steamer Carlos Pacheco,”7 which would “soon be supplemented by three more steamers, a stage line, and a railroad now building.” Under the leadership of Major General H. Sisson,8 the general manager of this dynamic international company, plans were already well developed to establish “a line of new steamships between San Diego and twenty Mexican and Central American ports, which will ultimately be extended to South America.”
Sailing northward out of San Diego to Puget Sound and Humboldt Bay were “six large vessels” employed by the San Diego Lumber Company. In the previous April they had unloaded 3,400,000 feet of lumber to help meet the needs of San Diego’s building boom. Also sailing northward were the “elegant passenger steamers of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company” on their “semi-weekly trips between San Diego and San Francisco and intermediate ports.” Negotiations were then “in progress for the landing of the New Zealand and Australian mails at San Diego for transportation across the continent by the Santa Fe Railroad, which has made this city its Pacific Ocean terminus.”
Although some attention was given to mining business in this report, it was minor compared to the promotion of a wide variety of agricultural pursuits. And the positive advantages San Diego offered farming, principally in climate and soil, were frequently emphasized. Thus F. R. Wetmore & Co. claimed to have had “the finest farming lands in large and small tracts, improved and unimproved, all over the county.” They also offered “some beautiful places surrounding the city for suburban homes, with orange groves, lemons, figs, limes, pomegranates, guavas, grapes, etc.” Howard & Lyons offered “large and small tracts of choice fruit, vineyard and grazing land at low prices and on easy terms of payments.” In addition to buying and selling property on commission, Flower, Jones & Co. dealt in “ranches, farms, vineyards, and mining claims.”
Several outlying areas, such as Ramona, Julian, and El Cajon, were particularly emphasized for agriculture. Milton Santee of Ramona, for example, could provide full particulars about the “kindly soil” there which was “particularly adapted for vineyard culture and the raising of deciduous fruits.” Additionally, no irrigation was needed which made Ramona “one of the choicest spots in California.”
Sawday & Beasley had established the San Diego Back Country Bureau “for the purpose of bringing to the attention of investors and home-seekers the advantages possessed by the rich agricultural districts of San Diego County localities.” They promised that “good lands” were available there at “moderate prices. In fact, there are no better or cheaper lands in Southern California.”
El Cajon Valley (“pronounced El Cahone, meaning ‘The Box,'” C. A. helpfully explained) was described as “the best valley in the county, and is said to be the most productive of any in California.” It was “the natural home of the grape” and its raisins were “world famed.” It also boasted of a variety of other fruit: oranges, lemons, peaches, apples, apricots, figs, olives, English walnuts, bananas, pomegranates, “in fact almost everything semi-tropical flourishes in El Cajon Valley.”
Promoters of development in the far south-western corner of the United States had to deal realistically with the pervasive belief that this was basically desert country with inadequate water supplies. But in a public relations promotional document it was obviously considered wise to accent the positive elements and eliminate the negative. Thus little or nothing was said about water shortages and abundance of good water was emphasized wherever found. The truth of Harry C. Hopkins’s statement about this chronic condition, however, was evident to anyone at all knowledgeable about San Diego: “Water has ever been the outstanding cry of San Diego, as well as the back country.”9
In El Cajon Valley, as C. A. pointed out, the San Diego River provided “an inexhaustible supply of mountain water for city purposes…and enough for irrigation on a large scale, were irrigation required.” And if river water proved inadequate, “On scarcely any of the valley lands is water more than twenty feet below the surface at any time of the year.” Twenty miles north of San Diego in the Poway Valley, “site of the new town of Piermont,” the water supply was “abundant and of excellent quality.” And in the “Back Country” around Julian there was “an abundance of timber and water.” Thirty miles north of San Diego there were no water problems for Ramona. A beneficent Nature had already generously solved this problem: “The elevation of the great Santa Maria plateau brings it within the second rain belt, which has an average of double the rainfall of the coast, and insures fruit crops each year.”
If there should ever be a water shortage for San Diego in the future, it would be more than adequately met by the recently organized San Diego Flume Company which would bring, “by means of a flume, pure mountain water from the Cuyamaca range, east of San Diego some fifty miles, to supply the mesa lands and the city.” “The completion of the grand enterprise will be an event of great importance to San Diego,” C.A. confidently declared. “The benefits resulting from a bountiful supply of soft mountain water to San Diego and vicinity are beyond computation.” Thus it was “without doubt the most important undertaking now in progress in this go-ahead city of the far Southwest.”
Apparently the medical needs of San Diego and environs were reasonably well met for those times by several men identified as “doctor” (significantly no woman was so designated).10 Dr. I. Tabor was identified as a physician and surgeon with an office at the corner of Sixth and E streets. Dr. E. Nugent was formerly a physician and surgeon at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. D. McSwegan, M.D., was ex-President of the San Diego County Medical Society. Thomas Keefe, M.D., claimed singularity as “late surgeon for Southern Pacific Railroad Company, and United States examining surgeon for pensions, New Mexico.” W.N. Smart, M.D., declared himself to be an “oculist and aurist,” and President of the San Diego County Medical Society. And the credentials of T.J. McDonald, M.D.C.M., were certainly impressive: “Victoria University, Canada. Medical practitioner for Great Britain and Ireland. Late from the hospitals of London and Edinburgh.”
Two other “doctors” were clearly more distinguished then as entrepreneurs than as physicians. Dr. M.B. Kellar, “an Eastern gentleman of wealth and taste,” was developing his estate at Marilou Park, some two and one half miles east of San Diego. He promised to develop the “handsome property…into a great sanitarium and resort for the tourist and invalids.” C. A. enthusiastically declared “that a better location for such an institution would be difficult to find.” Dr. Peter C. Remondino had retired from practice in 1887 to become the builder and proprietor of one of San Diego’s “excellent” hotels, the St. James, which was “fully equipped with all the modern luxuries that go to make up a first-class hotel.” After the boom period Dr. Remondino returned to medicine and was practicing into the 20th century.11
Of the essential drug store, San Diego had at least three. One druggist with the striking name of Chase A. Chase, had “a fresh and full stock of pure drugs and medicines, toilet articles, etc.” But competitor “M.E. Munger & Co., druggists and pharmacist,” also claimed “a carefully selected stock of drugs, medicines, chemicals, perfumery, toilet articles, and everything required to the furnishing of a first-class drug store, including the finest soda fountain in Southern California.” And E.M. Boscher, druggist and pharmacist, had “one of the handsomest and completest establishments in the State,” with the interior “beautifully finished in California redwood, and filled with an immense stock of pure drugs, chemicals, patent medicines, choice perfumery, toilet articles, and all articles usually sold in a first-class drug store.”
Probably most San Diego “boomers” would have argued that their unique geographic features — such as fine water, abundant sunshine, and salubrious climate — made doctors much less needed than in the more unhealthful areas of the United States. Understandably there were several health resorts that capitalized on these prized assets. The nearby “seaside watering place” of Carlsbad possessed “valuable mineral waters, [an] ocean beach drive, and excellent surf bathing” which were “sure to make Carlsbad one of the most fashionable health resorts in the world.” Encinitas, 30 miles north of San Diego, also had an “elegant bath-house.” And El Cajon Valley offered “very superior advantages…as a health resort.”
Fortunately health seekers did not have to leave San Diego to obtain the benefits of healthful bathing while maintaining proper decorum. The Tropical Natatorium offered “first-class facilities for hot and cold water bathing,” and with a swimming pool “filled with fresh sea water by the action of the tide every day.” And the San Diego Bath House (“an institution which stands in high favor with the people of San Diego, and is a credit…to the city”) “provided excellent arrangements for sea-water baths.” The salt water was “pumped directly from the bay…[and was] always perfectly fresh [sic].”
It is disturbing to note that this promotional essay made no mention of hospitals, clinics, or hospices, although plans for resort-sanitariums were frequently mentioned. Where would the sick and wounded and terminally ill — and there must have been such even in that healthful environment — go for treatment was not indicated. Could it be that as late as 1887 all medical problems in the booming metropolis of San Diego were still handled in doctors’ offices (often just a room in their residences) or in the patients’ homes? Was that venerable and horrifying image of the faithful horse-and-buggy doctor performing surgery on the kitchen table a continuing reality in this corner of America? And were the incurably ill left to die at home or in some depressing rooming house?12
“The press of San Diego is in the hands of journalists of ability and enterprise,” C.A. declared, “and the number and the variety of the publications indicate a high degree of literary appreciation on the part of their readers.”
There were an impressive six daily newspapers: the Union, Sun, San Diegan, Bee, Daily News, and the Coronado Evening Mercury. The first three also published weekly editions. There were also three monthly publications: the Golden Era (“an illustrated magazine”), the Semi-tropical Planter, and the West American Scientist.
Although San Diego’s press may have indicated “a high degree of literary appreciation” to C.A., this assumption was not supported by what he reported on her schools. He made an occasional reference to schools: Encinitas had a “public school” and Coronado promised that “a fine public school house [sic]…[would] be built at once.” No mention was made of any of San Diego’s schools (although it was making steady progress with its public school system),13 nor of any high schools there or in surrounding areas. 14
Surprisingly, two “colleges” were mentioned; yet they would not have stood up well to an accreditation check as basic liberal arts colleges. San Diego Commercial College, “one of the prominent and valued institutions of this city,” provided “young ladies and gentlemen…practical instruction in bookkeeping, penmanship, mathematics, stenography, type-writing and commercial law.” Regrettably tuition and degrees granted were not discussed, although the college did have “the most modern equipments [sic] and methods,” with instruction emphasizing the “details of actual business from the beginning.”
Apparently the only genuine institution of higher learning in the area was but a dream way off in tiny Ramona: a “seminary…[was] to be established [there]…by the University of Southern California.” No further information on such a commendable project was provided.
Yet such a dismal educational picture does not indicate that all elements of western civilization and culture had failed to take root in San Diego. A careful reading of C.A.’s account is, on the contrary, really quite encouraging. There were at least some remnants of vaunted American education although humanizing, liberal higher education seemed not to have survived the hazardous journey from New England. Churches also were only vaguely discernible in this report.15 Fraternal associations and secret societies as well were not in evidence. And public libraries were ignored.16
American medicine had arrived but without dentistry, adequate hospitals, or nurses. That great American institution, the multi-purpose drug store, was thriving to supply drugs and patent medicines and that marvel of civilization, the soda fountain. And happily that essential soda fountain was provided with “artificial ice” from a “branch department” of the Enterprise Planing Mills.
That the situation was serious but not entirely desperate was shown by the amazing impact of French culture at that staggering distance from Paris. G.Y. Harry, plumber and steam-fitter, offered “French ranges” for sale, whatever they might have been. And Everhart’s millinery emporium, which claimed to be “the leading establishment in that line in the city,” featured “the latest Parisian patterns and novelties.” Yet homes in an adequately civilized metropolis certainly demanded proper furnishings beyond one of Harry’s “French ranges.” Two furniture stores offered their services to meet this basic need: Gray & Co were “dealers in furniture and carpets, wall paper, etc. Upholstering and repairing a specialty.” Chadbourne Furniture Co. sounded more impressive with their “extensive establishment well filled with the latest designs and most desirable qualities of goods from all the leading factories of the United States.” S.W. Craigue stocked wines, liquors, and cigars. L.F. Binz, proprietor of the Tenth street grocery, also carried “fine cigars and tobaccos.” But the A. Fortiouis store, “importers and jobbers of wines and liquor,” kept a sensible American balance by including “the leading brands of Kentucky whiskies.”
Thus one of the critical ingredients in the eat, drink, and be merry syndrome was seemingly quite well supplied in San Diego. But where was the essential food? No restaurants were mentioned by C.A., not even in connection with the finest hotels, such as the St. James, the Tremont House, or the Horton House, although there must have been many eateries in such hotels. Apparently there was little “eating out” then, with most cooking being done at home for which five grocery stores were mentioned, both wholesale and retail, including “Cowden, the cash grocer” and S.J. Sill, “the old reliable grocery house of the city,” which would supply the basic raw materials for home cooking.
There was apparently no opera house in San Diego until later; at least this venerable and essential building in all Western cities was not mentioned by C.A. But fortunately there was the Avon Music Hall in the Bancroft Building, which offered nightly “entertainment” of unspecified kinds. That the city was not entirely lacking in music was evidenced by the presence of Blackmer & Co., “dealers in musical merchandise,” including Steinway pianos and Story & Clark organs. Apparently there were enough pianos in the city to justify the presence of professional piano movers, Westcott, Web & Frary.
Dance halls, bars, and saloons were not mentioned, certainly an unusual situation for an active naval and maritime port. But Charles Shafus’s felicitously named Snug Harbor suggested that the needs of sailors had not been entirely neglected. And it must be remembered that Munger’s drug store contained “the finest soda fountain in Southern California.” But C.A. had clearly decided in the interests of good promotion to downplay the topic of saloons as other sources indicate that this frontier institution also boomed in San Diego.17 Perhaps believing that the best approach to law and order problems was to ignore them, C.A. did not mention police or jails. Neither was fire protection considered. But these important topics have been adequately covered by other writers.18
Other artists besides those musicians working at the Avon Music Hall had established residence in San Diego. F.L. Heath was a “portrait and landscape painter,” while W. Thurston Black specialized in portraits in oils. Artist supplies were sold by two stores. For those who preferred the artistry of photography, J.A. Sherriff offered “portraits and landscape views” which were “so well known to all visitors.” His competitor, known simply as “Parker, the premium photographer,” who boasted of using something termed “the instantaneous process,” offered “the finest and largest assortment of scenic views in Southern California.”
Surely for many the level of civilization and culture in San Diego would have been most easily measured by the dress of its men and women. And for covering savage nakedness generous assistance was provided, at least for the male of the Southwestern species, as many businesses apparently offered very adequate supplies for his needs. Perhaps his first visit should have been to Brown & Weitsch’s International Store, “Jobbers and retailers of clothing, boots and shoes, hats and caps, furnishing goods, trunks, valises, notions, and novelties of all countries.” And they seemingly welcomed any immigrant as they proclaimed “All modern [sic] languages spoken” — certainly a significant evidence of a high level of civilization. “The Lion” (Kuhn, Wurzburg & Co.) was also available with “the largest and best stock of fine clothing, gents’ furnishing goods, hats, caps, boots, shoes, trunks, and valises in the country.”19 They also had another store at Prescott in Arizona Territory.
Or if San Diego’s gentlemen desired very personalized clothing there were several tailors at their service: J. Vernon, “the fashionable merchant tailor”; “Marcus Cohen, the tailor, dealer in clothing, boots, and shoes, etc.”; or the ultimate in prestige, at least in his own estimation, “J.F. Ryan, the bon ton tailor,” who as a “practical cutter” made “fashionable suits to order in the best style” from “a very fine stock of the latest fabrics.” If any fashion conscious San Diego man wanted specialists they were there to meet his needs from head to foot. Thompson’s hat store made “a specialty of fine head wear,” including “the latest novelties and fashions.” Then there was William Llewelyn, “importer of and dealer in all kinds of fine boots and shoes.”
For the clothing of San Diego’s female residents there appears to have been a seriously dysfunctional mercantile response. There were no stores dedicated to women’s overall needs nor any tailors to serve them. The only exception was for hats, with two millinery establishments: “Everhart’s millinery emporium” considered itself to be “the leading establishment in that line in the city”; but Mrs. J. Petitt believed that she was “San Diego’s fashionable milliner…and enjoys a high class of trade.”
Where did the women buy their shoes? No one seems to have met this basic need. Nor the absolute necessity for dresses, coats, and other basic clothing. Perhaps they were expected to make their own clothes, with some assistance from professional seamstresses. Certainly supplies for such domestic production were available. The “Great Eastern” store, which called itself “the largest business establishment in the city,” surely could have assisted San Diego’s women from its “immense assortment” of “dry goods, clothing, fancy goods….” But George W. Marston was “the leading dry goods merchant of the city…in business in various lines for fifteen years.” He carried “a large stock of dry goods…fine dress goods…Butterick patterns and White sewing machines.” That Marston was one of San Diego’s outstanding businessmen was evident from “an increase of over 100 per cent in his trade during the last twelve months.”
So now that the best ladies and gentlemen of San Diego were properly attired they could display their civilized selves with a suitable ride out among their publics. For such an excursion they had a choice between a stylish Columbus buggy from Harville Bros. & Co. down opposite the Pacific Coast Steamship wharf, or a “celebrated” Studebaker carriage from Putnam, Buckley & Co. And if they were not yet ready for such a major purchase there was always Hinton & Gordon’s Fashion Stables which had been supplying San Diego with “elegant turnouts and reliable horses” for 17 years.
But where should they ride to make a suitable display of their wealth and culture? Regrettably there was as yet no zoo in then San Diego City Park (later Balboa Park); there were no beautiful college or university campuses to visit; there was apparently no opera house; and no fancy churches or cathedrals were mentioned in this long article. A leisurely ride to Tia Juana might seem a reasonable excursion — but who of importance would have viewed this splendid and expensive spectacle if they rode that direction? So at this remove the most reasonable suggestion based on the evidence provided by C.A. would appear to be a nice ride out to El Cajon Valley which was then the “flower garden of Southern California,” or to “La Jolla (pronounced Lah Hoeyah) Park…a favorite resort.”
This impressive article in the Chicago Inter Ocean ended on a romantic and optimistic note with a promise of glorious clipper ships from New York via Cape Horn regularly arriving off Point Loma, after having sailed past mammoth Hotel del Coronado which would rival the ancient pyramids of Egypt as one of the wonders of the world. Thus San Diego would be opened to the world and the world to San Diego as this unique metropolis moved self-confidently towards the twentieth century.
Yet this article may now end on a depressing note for the reader who wallows in a deadly sea of vain regrets because his ancestors failed to purchase some of the tremendous investment opportunities in San Diego property that C.A. so movingly described. Did C.A. himself succumb to his own siren songs and plow his fees back into Coronado, El Cajon, Ocean Beach, Poway, or Ramona property? Or did he just visit briefly to enjoy what he had described as “a delightful climate during all the year, and every imaginable comfort and luxury that is demanded by the modern tourist”?
1. In a chapter titled “The Great and the Colorful,” a history of American newspapers refers to the Chicago Inter Ocean, which began in 1862 with Charles Dana as editor and had such talented writers as Marquis James and Ring Lardner, as “Chicago’s Famed Inter Ocean.” Edwin Emery and Michael Emery, The Press and America: An Interpretive History of the Mass Media, 4th ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1954), p. 291.
2. Glenn S. Dumke, The Boom of the Eighties In Southern California (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1991), p. 28.
3. Richard F. Pourade, The History of San Diego: The Glory Years, (San Diego: Union-Tribune Publishing Co., 1964), p. 242. William E. Smythe provides considerable detail on this volatile history in his History of San Diego, 1542-1908: An Account of the Rise and Progress of the Pioneer Settlement on the Pacific Coast of the United States (San Diego: The History Co., 1908), pp. 636-47.
4. Nicholas C. Polos, “San Diego’s Portia of the Pacific: California’s First Woman Lawyer,” Journal of San Diego History 26 (Summer 1980), p. 189.
5. Ah Quin was a San Diego merchant who began as a labor contractor for the California Southern Railroad in 1881 and eventually “amassed both wealth and influence, and became recognized as a spokesman for the Chinese community and the unofficial ‘Mayor of Chinatown.'” Andrew Griego, ed., “Rebuilding the California Southern Railroad: The Personal Account of a Chinese Labor Contractor, 1884.” Journal of San Diego History 25 (Fall 1979): p. 329.
6. Dumke, Boom of the Eighties, p. 144.
7. Jerry MacMullen rather ungraciously refers to her as “the little Mexican steamer Carlos Pacheco.” They Came by Sea: A Pictorial History of San Diego Bay (San Diego: Ward Ritchie Press, 1969), p. 37.
8. “Its guiding genius” and “a Michigan lawyer” was how Dumke identified Sisson. Boom of the Eighties, p. 155. No one explained the origin of his military rank.
9. Harry C. Hopkins, History of San Diego: Its Pueblo Lands & Water (San Diego: City Printing Co., 1929), p. 264. As Deputy City Attorney in Charge of Land Title Litigation, Hopkins spoke from extensive professional experience.
10. When William E. Smythe listed San Diego’s physicians in 1907, he referred to them as “a fine body of men and women, who held the professional high standard.” Yet he did not discuss any of the women physicians or show their pictures. The women physicians listed with indisputably feminine names numbered 8 of the 65 M. D.’s, or more than 12%: Maria B. Averill, Charlotte J. Baker, Alice H. Crandall, Mary E. Hoffman, Lelia Latta, Eva M. Lewis, Anna M. L. Potts, and Minnie E. J. Verity. Of the 6 Osteopaths listed, 2 were obviously women, or more than 33%: Lena Creswell and Anna B. Woodhull. Smythe,History of San Diego, pp. 607-09. Thus did firm evidence of a social revolution slink unobtrusively into the public record.
11. Dr. Remondino was clearly one of San Diego’s most respected physicians. Born in Turin, Italy, he came to America with his parents when young, graduated from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1865, and came to San Diego to practice in 1874. “He was city physician in 1875-76; county physician for several terms; surgeon for the California Southern Railroad Company for some time; surgeon of the Marine Hospital, also surgeon of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company.” In addition to all of this he had authored several works on medical subjects “which have a wide popularity, and is engaged in the preparation of others.” And especially impressive for a doctor in a frontier town, “His technical library is one of the best in the United States.” Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 603-04. Pourade claims that this remarkable doctor also “settled in Minnesota, where he learned to speak Sioux and French, and after serving in the Civil War as a physician and surgeon, he was commissioned in the French Army in 1870 and 1871.” See, Pourade, The Glory Years, p. 198.
12. San Diego had no adequate county hospital until a “magnificent new brick hospital building” was erected in Mission Valley in 1903-04. Before that the county hospital had occupied a former jail in Old Town followed by a series of older residences. Smythe,History of San Diego, p. 607.
13. See Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 568-81.
14. San Diego had actually had a high school building for several years. Russ High School had been built in 1881 from lumber donated by Joseph Russ of the Russ Lumber Company, but the school was not organized until January 1888. See, ibid., p. 575 and Hopkins,History of San Diego, p. 337.
15. C.A. unfortunately neglected to cover the dynamic growth of organized religion in San Diego. For an extensive corrective, see Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 537-67.
16. There was a small public library in San Diego in 1887, but it was inconspicuous so C. A. could easily have missed it. The city did not get a good public library until the new Carnegie Library in 1904. See, Hopkins, History of San Diego, p. 347 and Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 610-15.
17. For example, Pourade declares that “There were at least sixty saloons [in 1886], ten opening within eight days, and…many of them were the scenes of nightly brawling….” The Glory Years, pp. 173-74.
18. For the first topic, see Pliny Castanien, “San Diego Police: A Look Back,” Journal of San Diego History 26 (Winter 1980):21-52. For the second topic, see “Account of the Fire Department,” in Smythe, History of San Diego, pp. 665-71.
19. For more on this business, later acquired by Samuel I. Fox, see Robert A. Burlison, “Samuel Fox, Merchant and Civic Leader in San Diego, 1886-1939,” Journal of San Diego History 26 (Winter 1980): 1-10.
Frederick G. Hoyt is Emeritus Professor of History at La Sierra University in Riverside, California. A naval veteran of World War II in the Pacific Theater, Professor Hoyt received his Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate School focusing on Philippine and American history and the U. S. Navy in Asia from 1865 to 1900. He was a Fulbright Scholar to the Philippines, 1955-56.