Boosting Boundaries of Power:
Revealing Future Los Angeles in a 19th Century Pueblo Town
Los Angeles is the city of the future. Urban destiny in the making, people, American and Non-American place their fears and dreams into its budding metropolis. Los Angeles plays a central role in defining malleable cultural, geographical barriers. Los Angles, centered as a geographic nucleus, many commuters situate their geospatial location on how far away they sit from Los Angeles’ destination and destiny. However, commodifying and assigning Los Angeles’ borders commenced before California’s 1850 entry into statehood. City selling itself on the commodity of promise, appealed to both Anglo-Americans and non-Anglo Americans, much like the entire Western region in the nineteenth century. Inherently, the cityscape and its space promote a mythicized culture and consistent class shift resulting in Los Angeles’ geographic reassignment. In the twentieth-century, the term gentrification is utilized to describe class shift within a geographic region. Historians utilize this social science term to describe a distinct pattern of cultural movement over a period. Notably, gentrification is defined by two greater areas:
- A class shift in a given area in which wealthier residents and consumers replace poorer residents and consumers, or in which residents and consumers with more cultural or financial capital replace residents and consumers with less cultural or financial capital.
- The restoration, rehabilitation, or adaptive reuse of existing buildings rather than large-scale slum clearance and redevelopment.
Despite historians’ understandings of who created Los Angeles boundaries and discussions held on the treatment of non-Anglo elites, the two intersections are rarely discussed in conversation with one another. Historians, often focus on broader themes of nineteenth-century Los Angeles. Frameworks like the ‘stockade state,’ heterogeneous political responses, tourism of spatial memory, who qualifies as ‘American,’ transnationalism, booster industrialization and reconstruction in the West are analyzed with mono-lensed mentality of ‘us versus them’ methodology. Methodological approaches in nineteenth-century spatial and cultural assignment contain these frameworks, but seldom speak of how non-Anglo authority and identity is reconstructed with the influencing booster and working class Anglo-Americans. Further, works on Los Angeles infrequently examine how reassignment of cultural and geographic containment affected the established population of non-Anglo communities. These frameworks and methodologies accurately establish occurring pre-gentrification movements in the late-nineteenth century Los Angeles. Also, these systems grossly neglect the perspectives, principles, and cultural relationships in Orange County history. Cultural assignment of geography and stories of navigating built rival geographies rarely find their way out of the Orange County’s agricultural and citrus fields. Applying nineteenth-century frameworks to founding Orange County cities’ history, like Santa Ana, provides an opportunity for significant revisions to the way we understand Anglo American and non-Anglo-American cultures co-existing south of Los Angeles. Moreover, examining these cultural frameworks provides a new diversified perspective in early Orange County History. This essay considers why did Los Angeles Anglo-Americans transform geographic borders and shift cultural boundaries of non-Anglo groups? Also, how did this assignment of cultural boundaries affect non-Anglo groups’ identity and authority within the California? Examining these intersections provides new insights into how racial and economic perspective influences memory of non-Anglo groups?
Los Angeles adapted from a small pueblo city, El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles del Río Porciúncula, in the late eighteenth-century to a burgeoning metropolis by the early twentieth-century. Scott Zesch describes Los Angeles as “undoubtedly the toughest town of the entire nation during the 1850s and 1860s.” The Union’s ‘stockade state’ amplified Los Angeles’ persona. Post Civil War, the United States operated a collection of outposts throughout Central and Western regions. Gregory Downs and Kate Mansue argue, these posts, limited in reach, were, “sometimes overpowered, almost always beset by both competing power centers and individuals who sought to live beyond the read of most authority.” This lack of federal control aided in Los Angeles’ long history of vigilante justice. Limited federal power allowed space for vigilante justice to thrive in Los Angeles. Lawless vigilante’s were “successful tradesmen who believed the legal system…had failed to bring order to the community in which they were investing their lives work.” Zesch asserts this violence, often inflicted on non-Anglo-Angelenos, “although both Anglos and Latinos participated in these illegal executions, roughly three-quarters of the victims were Latinos, leading some historians to speculate that ethnicity and class were driving forces behind the vigilantes’ killings.” He states, “the people of Los Angeles paid lots of attention to those immigrants from the Far East who were engaged in high-profile criminal activities.”
Contrary to this argument, Scott Truett argues the violence of vigilante groups detract the rich borderland history. “The borderlands remain ensnared in their ‘wild west past’….thus as unstable as they are divided.” Forgetting the violent past of Los Angeles imposed by its citizens controls the city’s history and geography. Truett continues, “such ad hoc practices destabilized state power.” Methodologically, limited reconstruction in the West restricted the access of federal protection for non-Anglo Angelenos. Violent vigilantes did not desire imposed federal government fortification. Successful political leaders are breaching their order and progress, via geographies of containment, challenged the federal government’s claim to authority. Truett’s theory of shifting territories allowed mapping, “out new geographies of labor, discipline, and economic exchange.” These changes of social geography gentrified early Los Angeles.
William Estrada argued, “when history and fantasy converge, both a profound political symbolism and a clear expression of cultural hegemony emerge, particularly when we consider the dialectic relation between who is doing the “preserveing” and what is being “preserved.” Hise focused on contested space and theoretically illustrated newly constructed geography becomes a place of political struggle. The industrialization of Los Angeles provided booster Anglo-Angelenos opportunity to generate wealth. City boosters, engaged in environmental cognition, created a complex Los Angeles urban environment by assigned social space, creating industry, and romanticizing mythical cultural of non-Anglo Angelenos. Navigating created ‘rival geographies,’ immigrant clusters of communities formed geographic space into place by creating enterprise through tourism, cross-ethnic communities, and established an agency within forced cultural boundaries.
Boosters furthered their social and cultural discourse by relating race and ethnicity with land-use and value. “Industry, Political Alliances, and the Regulation of Urban Space in Los Angeles,” by Greg Hise examined the Cudahy Packing Company. Arriving boosters created legislation, firms and crafted city alliances for industrial economic gain. Hise utilized association records, contracts, and legal proceedings to argue border-making processes through industrialization, created an immigrant removal strategy, thus defining the social geography of Los Angeles. The slaughterhouse located on Macy Street left the poor and ethnic minorities health concerns on city council deaf-ears. ‘You would not allow a slaughtering house in the west end among fashionable homes,’ minorities declared. Hise asserts the 1904 Macy Street neighborhood petition, fighting new slaughterhouse encroachment boundaries, failed due to its geographic placement. ‘East’ of the Los Angeles, thus, associated with common ground. Methodologically, Hise states “space, alliances and regulation are fundamental factors when analyzing why” of elite cultural assignment in Los Angeles. Further, border-making processes defined Los Angeles’ social geography. These assigned ethnic groups formed a community in the topographical landscape. Theoretically, examining contested geographies and how Los Angeles boosters raise capital to intersect with specific industries “allow historians to articulate macro-scale processes such as capital flows and industrial location.” The examination of nineteenth-century urban land development provides a new framework to examine twentieth-century joint public-private initiatives. Hise argues this framework as critical as enterprise “continues to be seen as private sector initiative.”
Additionally, Greg Hise’s article, “Border City: Race and Social Distance in Los Angeles,” he explained that Anglo-Angelenos, often Boosters, viewed both erected building structures and political legitimacy as their hegemony. The topography of Los Angeles served as a ‘punitive divide’ separating landscapes of leisure, production, labor, and privilege. Geographic directional boundaries like ‘North’ and ‘West’ and ‘East and ‘South,’ became associated with Angeleno-Angelo exceptionalism, and created social segregation and divided social relations. The larger framework of who is counted as American in the nineteenth-century, Hise’s methodology explores the functional separation of geography created social and racial divided Los Angeles’ past. “Functional segregation, zoning space in cities assigning these to discrete districts, is an equally powerful sign and structure for the modern city.” He disagrees with the historical methodology of “social space (nearness and remoteness, us and them) being independent of the space of practice (territory, land use, locality).” Field reinterpretation is required to understand the connections between social geography, cultural assignment, and geospatial assignment. Social segregation affects social relations, and they need consideration when placing value on Los Angeles’ future. Hise candidly states, “There are reasons why a zoning map registers so closely with a census map when one is overlaid on the other.”
These border-making processes provided an opportunity to create ‘old world’ romantic Spanish and Chinese culture. The incorporation of these constructed spaces not only created boundaries of power but places of political struggle and reconciliation. Both William Estrada and Phoebe Kropp reconcile built environment through border making processes. William Estrada argues in, “Los Angeles’ Old Plaza and Olvera Streets: Imagined and Contested Space,” Boosters saving the Avila Adobe space created political symbolism and Anglo-Angeleno hegemony preserving the preserved remembrance of winning in the Mexican War. The socially assigned space of Olvera Street provided a ‘renewed sense of identity’ where Mexican and Chinese could express their heritage through the monetization of culture. Methodologically, investigating the intersections of social, geographical assignment and business and political elite ideology provided new ways of exploring non-Anglo authority within assigned Los Angeles’ space. Estrada contends that assigned space of both Olvera Street and China City created by elite Los Angeles boosters’ continued their upward mobility via romanticized tourist consumption of traditional values. Los Angeles space turned into place created new political struggle and contested cultural memory.
Phoebe Kropp’s California Vieja illustrated that Christine Sterling, the godmother of Olvera Street, utilized Booster Harry Chandler’s influence to raise money to save the Avila Adobe. However, occupying a significant urban space, established Anglo-Angeleno confidence in their regional and national image. Estrada propels hegemonic Anglo space further by examining both Olvera Street and China City. Although he agrees that space is assigned, within the space non-Anglo Angeleno agency is created through enterprise tourism. Both Mexican and Chinese cultures created agency heritage by capitalizing these old-world versions of culture within designated ‘heritage sites.’ On the contrary, Kropp argues “racial discourses were fundamental to the ways that Southern California Anglos defined local identity, made national claims, boosted economic progress and interpreted history.” Focused on the same methods of exploring the interaction of ‘Anglo memory promoters’ and non-Anglo groups gave form and meaning to Southern California’s history. Theoretically, Kropp believes it is necessary to create a commodity-based memory to keep Los Angeles’ past in the present. Driving urban and cultural diversity through Los Angeles’ romantic history, “enabled Anglos somehow to comfortable maintain a stance that now appears to be a severe ideological fallacy.” Creating this invented history, diverged from post-Civil War narratives. Pressing away from national identity forged through federal presence connects to Los Angeles’ focus on future, and not the past.
Scott Zesch illuminates the original outbreak of racial violence in Los Angeles in The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871. Zesch describes the Chinese immigrant’s experience within the geographic boundaries of Calle de Los Negros, located near the center of developing Los Angeles. Zesch chronicles mounting racial tensions held by the Anglo-American Angelenos, vigilante justice culture, conflicting Chinese community associations, and neutral settlers. La Fiesta De Los Angeles: Race, Ethnicity, and History on the Parade in Los Angeles, 1894-1903 starts where Zesch’s evaluation of Los Angeles’ urban and social landscape ends. Shuen utilizes La Fiesta De Los Angeles, a multiethnic parade created by the Merchants Association, to examine the intersections of race, gender, class and nationality within late nineteenth century Los Angeles. La Fiesta utilized a forced diversity as an opportunity to highlight racial and ethnic distinctions in Los Angeles between Anglo-Americans and all other Non-Anglo Americans. Agreeing with Zesch, Shuen argues, “Experiences of people of color in Los Angeles demonstrate how immigrants and indigenous peoples were racialized in relation to one another. Racial stigmas persisted, and as a result, help to institutionalize racial hierarchy as well as local legislation that targeted specific ethnic groups.” While Los Angeles tried to overcome the stigma of Chinese Massacre trails, both agree that it set racial epistemologies within the Los Angeles’s urban landscape discourse. La Fiesta was an attempt to regain back the city’s national identity as a diverse cultural space while attracting the traveling tourist and their dollars through the expansive development hotel, shopping, and cultural districts.
Shuen first contextualizes the historical background of La Fiesta, by focusing specifically on tracing the history of the Chinese culture in developing Los Angeles. Shuen then examines La Fiesta itself: addressing the different cultural images portrayed in the parade planners and the first controversies involving the inclusion of the lawfully segregated Chinese community. She pointedly describes how race in Los Angeles focuses on the Mexican heritage gained and lost within the shifting geographic boundaries of Mexico within the annexed city. Utilizing parade photographs, newspaper articles, travel literature and eyewitness accounts captured by paper media outlets about Chinese parade participation, Shuen asserts the cultural commodification, segregation laws, cultural bias and urban development around these topics shaped the social structure in Los Angeles’ racial environment. Methodologically, Shuen interplays cultural authority and ethnic stratification in Los Angeles to the question, ‘why the city’s leaders used the past as a cultural tool to build the city and its regional identity while also trying to “whitewash” Los Angeles’ early history.
William Deverell in Whitewashed Adobe, the problem revolved around culture and cultural space. Examining the density of the Mexican population in ninetieth-century, threatened the creation of booster cultural space. Agreeing with Hise and Truett examining neighboring border relationships to Mexico allows Los Angeles businessmen to distort geographic boundaries. “In thinking of Mexico, elite Anglos deliberately muddied the distinctions between what is “ours” and what is “theirs.” Anglos tried diligently to do the same to the Mexicans in their midst, to fix them in space and around a particular set of characteristics or traits tied to social and ethnic categories.” The maturation of Los Angeles through race and ethnicity relied solely on ‘specific responses to Mexican ethnicity and Mexican spaces. Deverell argues examining the excluders is “critical to the forging of a city true to a different Southern California future.” Analyzing the growth of Los Angeles examines the intersections of ethnic relations, ethnic contact, and conflict and ethnic representations. Looking at city-building whites specifically elites, he focuses on how space reassignment created social and racial tensions in Los Angeles.
These social and racial tensions are examined in On Gold Mountain. Lisa See chronicles her Chinese-American family lineage starting with her great-great grandfather’s journey from Canton to America. See’s great-grandfather, Fong See, traveling from China to Sacramento spoke with his uncle about the opportunities for Gold Mountain financial success. His uncle dashed Fong See’s dream by explaining the ‘white demon’ does not desire more Chinese entering the country, proclaiming, “We are the ones who risk out lives and sometimes die to build the railroad that opened this land to them. Now they forget.” His uncle asserted the fortune in California is for the ‘fan gway’ only. He continues this argument by explaining that the ‘white demon’ desired to work and wanted their jobs and for the Chinese to go away. Their conversation illustrates the change in Chinese immigrant’s life. When California experienced depression in the 1870s, “30 percent of the people of California lost their jobs, had contributed significantly to the antagonism between Caucasians and Chinese.” With dropping gold production, and a tourism drop, Anglo-Americans felt entitled to the working-class positions that Chinese immigrants held. This entitlement leads to hostilities toward the Chinese culture and would give rise to the national ‘Chinese Question’ and many exclusionary laws for Chinese immigrants. In an 1886 California Congressional hearing Geo. D. Roberts argued that the Chinese labor class be a significant advantage within the workforce to provide upward mobility to booster Anglo-Americans.
“Q. Do you believe that the tendency of the Chinese laboring classes of this country is detrimental to white labor?—A. possibly, to a certain class of white labor; but, to the general prosperity of the country, I think the wealth they product stimulates prosperity to such an extent that it give white men higher positions.”
See’s assessment of Fong See’s disappointment in working opportunities continued the social history of her Chinese immigrant family by providing an additional story that Fong See desired to become his boss as a western merchant. Scott Zesch agreed boundaries of power Chinese working-class labor jobs, was a probable tension before Los Angeles’ Black Tuesday. Moreover, federal and state Chinese exclusionary laws created a legally binding boundary of power for Chinese immigrants. These tax regulations and immigration exclusion reforms created liminal space for current Chinese immigrants. See exemplifies the threat to ‘racial impurity’ as an inflammatory side-effect to Chinese exclusion. She argues “whenever the Chinese began making a profit; the Caucasians took it from them by enacting laws- laws not only acted as a constant, niggling persecution but denied this specific race the very things that brought most European immigrants to American shores.”
By setting up boundaries of power, hegemonic Angelo-Americans contained cultures, like the Chinese community. Examining works like See as a primary source allows us to further the field by expanding sources taking a ‘bottom up’ approach. Utilizing oral histories, and ephemera sources provide additional avenues for more of the discourse of cultural boundaries in nineteenth-century America. Theoretically, oral histories recalled after the initial event provide a genuine challenge. Further, taking oral histories from an aged interviewee creates problems of exaggerated collective memory and facts. Booster-created borders, through the geographic assignment and the industrialization of Los Angeles, created a new transnational identity for non-Anglo Angelenos. See illustrated many boundaries of powers, created by Anglo-Americans, her family encountered. However, examining these sources many years after they occurred and analyzing her families history, creates difficult navigating. Examining this with other oral histories and period periodicals, On Gold Mountain provides an opportunity to explore an individual like Fong See as a founding entrepreneur that faced diversity. The challenges that See’s great-grandfather Fong See encountered establishing his lingerie garment factory provided opportunities to gain authority, transnational identity, and sole proprietorship amidst assigned geographies. Examining similar non-Anglo stories assist in validating See’s family claims. Transnational History of a Chinese Family examines how Chinese immigration history inhabits two spaces at once, creating a transitional identity. Inhabiting transitional spaces, both geographical and cultural, allowed the Chang’s family to establish their transnational identity. Liu argues that immigrating Chinese viewed the United States as an opportunity for upward mobility and not a short adventure. Aspiration of social advancement and creating new identities through immigrant social networks, her work explores “how transnational social and cultural networks created adaptive strategies use collective by Chinese immigrants to ensure their survival and social mobility in a hostile racial environment.”
Transnationalism and Globalization shaped and confined Los Angeles nineteenth-century urban culture geography. Thematically, many reviewed sources share arguments that border-making processes have defined 19th century Los Angeles social geography. Immigrant clusters of communities formed geographic space into place, within the social boundaries created by Los Angeles Anglo-American boosters and working for classes. The future of Los Angeles lays within understanding its past.
In pursuit of both cultural geography and economic factors, the historical field has many new opportunities to observe Los Angeles in its previous form. There are many uncovered histories associated with Los Angeles’ wild west identity. The state of the field speaks of elite boosters industrializing and creating an economy out of a small pueblo town. Further, the field speaks of marginalizing the established non-Anglo groups. However, the assignment of culture and the interactions between both the excluders and the excluded are not quite explored.
Boosting Boundaries of Power Sources Cited
Bee, Fred A, B F. A, and F. A B. 1971. The Other Side of the Chinese Question: Testimony of California’s Leading Citizens; Read and Judge. (Saratoga: R and E Research Associates, 1971 reprint of 1886).
Bell, Maj. Horace. Reminiscences of a Ranger; or, Early Times in Southern California. Los Angeles. Yarnell, Caystile, & Mathes, 1881.
David, Leon Thomas. “The Oral History of Leon Thomas David: This History of Los Angeles as Seen from the City Attorney’s Office”. California Legal History, (2011).
See, Lisa. On Gold Mountain: The One-hundred-year Odyssey of My Chinese-American Family. New York: Vintage Books, 2012.
Camp, Stephanie M. H. 2004. Closer to Freedom: Enslaved Women and Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Deverell, William. 2004. Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Downs, Gregory P., Mansur, Kate. 2015. The War the Civil War Made. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
Estrada, William D. “Los Angeles’ Old Plaza and Olvera Street: Imagined and Contested Space.” Western Folklore. 58, no. 2: 107-129.
Hise, Gregory. “Border City: Race and Social Distance in Los Angeles.” American Quarterly. 56, no. 3:545-558, http://jstor.org (accessed Oct. 25, 2016)..
Hise, Gregory. “Industry, Political Alliances, and the Regulation of Urban Space in Los Angeles.” Urban History. 36, no. 3 (2009), 473-497, http://jstor.org (accessed Oct. 27, 2016).
Kropp, Phoebe. 2006. California Vieja: Culture and Memory in a Modern American Place. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Liu, Haiming. 2005. The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.
Osman, Suleiman “Gentrification in the United States,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, May 2016, accessed December 1, 2016, http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-135.
Shuen, Rachel. 2014. La Fiesta De Los Angeles: Race, Ethnicity, and History on Parade in Los Angeles, 1894-1903. n.p. http://jstor.org (accessed Nov 8, 2016)..
Truett, Samuel. 2006. Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Zesch, Scott. 2012. The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871. London; New York: Oxford University Press.
 Coined by Sociologist Ruth Glass in 1964, defined geographic reassignment of poor East London families. Similarly, the United States utilized the term gentrification around in the late 1970s describing a similar trend.
 Suleiman Osman, “Gentrification in the United States,” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, May 2016, accessed December 1, 2016, http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199329175.001.0001/acrefore-9780199329175-e-135.
 Scott Zesch, The Chinatown War: Chinese Los Angeles and the Massacre of 1871 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012).
 Gregory P. Downs and Kate Mansur. The War the Civil War Made (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2015), 6-7.
 Zesch., p. 30.
 Zesch., p.30.
 Zesch, 34.
 Samuel Truett. Fugitive Landscapes: The Forgotten History of the U.S- Mexico Borderlands (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 5.
 Truett, 66.
 Truett, 22.
 William Estrada. “Los Angeles’ Old Plaza and Olvera Streets: Imagined and Contested Space.” Western Folklore 58, no. 3 (Winter, 1999), http://jstor.org (accessed Oct. 20, 2016), 118.
 Stephanie M. H Camp. Closer to Freedom Enslaved Women & Everyday Resistance in the Plantation South (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004).p. 7
 Greg Hise. “Industry, Political Alliances, and the Regulation of Urban Space in Los Angeles.” Urban History 36, no. 3 (2009), http://jstor.org (accessed Oct. 27, 2016).
 Hise, 495.
 Hise, 495.
 Hise, 474.
 Hise, 474.
 Hise, Greg. “Border City: Race and Social Distance in Los Angeles.” American Quarterly 56, no. 3 (Sep., 2004), http://jstor.org (accessed Oct. 25, 2016).
 Hise, 550.
 Hise, 549.
 Hise, 549.
 Hise, 549.
 Kropp, Phoebe S. California Vieja: Culture and memory in a Modern American Place. Berkeley: University California Press, 2006.
 Estrada, 112.
 Kropp, 7.
 Kropp 7.
 Rachel Grace Shuen, La Fiesta De Los Angeles: Race, Ethnicity, and History on Parade in Los Angeles, 1894-1903 (n.p., 2014).
 Shuen, 5.
 Shuen, 9.
 William Deverell. Whitewashed Adobe: The Rise of Los Angeles and the Remaking of Its Mexican Past. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).
 Deverell, 32-32.
 Lisa See. On Gold Mountain: The One-hundred Odyssey of My Chinese American Family. (Vintage Books: New York, 2012).
 See, 23.
 See, 43.
 Bee, Fred A, B F. A, and F. A B. The Other Side of the Chinese Question: Testimony of California’s Leading Citizens; Read and Judge (Saratoga: R and E Research Associates, 1971 reprint of 1886), 26.
 Zesch., p.67.
 See, 43.
 Haiming Liu. The Transnational History of a Chinese Family: Immigrant Letters, Family Business, and Reverse Migration. (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press), p. 12.