As we say au revoir to 2013, Long Beach historian and author Claudine Burnett wants you to say hello to 1913, a year in our fair town that proved to be both experimental and prosperous. This two part series highlights the events that occurred and the people that molded that year 100 years ago. Click here for Part II.
THE EMPIRE DAY DISASTER
The Irish had their holiday, Saint Patrick’s Day, while the Italians had Columbus Day–so why not a holiday for British Americans?
In 1913, 20,000 former British subjects living in Southern California chose May 24, Empire Day, as their day to celebrate. The British holiday began in 1838 to commemorate young queen Victoria’s birthday. When she died in 1901 her subjects still wanted to honor her accomplishments so Parliament issued a proclamation establishing May 24 as Empire Day, with the first celebration of the holiday on the west coast to be held in Long Beach at the Municipal Auditorium with a parade, athletic conpetitions, games, music and speeches.
It was at the close of the parade that disaster struck, as the marchers and vehicles travelled up the ramp leading to the double-decked pier and auditorium, where the program was to begin. The main entrance to the auditorium became blocked by the crowd and those in the rear pressed forward in such large numbers that they caused a rotten 4 x 14 foot girder to break. Masses of people fell through onto another crowd packing the lower deck; then the floor of the lower deck also gave way, tumbling people into the sand and water below. You can read all about what the press of 1913 called “the greatest tragedy to ever have occurred in California” in Murderous Intent.
A traction engine moving a home. Photo courtesy of Museum Victoria.
In the 1910 U.S. Census, Long Beach became known as the fastest growing city in the nation. As a result, many entered the house moving business. Bungalows, apartments and residences of all sorts were being built on skids to allow them to be moved on short notice. Hardly a day went buy without seeing a neighbor’s house, an old grocery store or another building edging its way, inch by inch, toward the outskirts of the city to become the happy palace of some suburban family or merchant. In the past, a team of horses was hitched to the structure, usually a one story frame house, and pulled to a new location. Later, when larger buildings, cottages and two story dwellings were moved it was necessary to use a windlass.
The windlass and old horse methods, which moved at a snail’s pace, keeping street crossings blocked for hours and snarling traffic, was being replaced by a new type of house-moving apparatus: the traction engine. Now the house was jacked up and placed on a set of house-moving trucks, the engine hitched on and the house hauled along over streets with the greatest of ease. Corners were no problem at all, workmen could easily raise telephone and electrical wires.
The traction engine had greatly decreased the cost of moving houses and was one of the most profitable businesses in Long Beach in 1913. However, there was now another hitch to house moving. A new city ordinance required that those wishing to move a building had to apply for permission (and pay a fee) and that all neighbors at both old and new locations had to approve the move. (Long Beach Press 5/28/1913 10:3)
Photo courtesy of the Long Beach Public Library.
On March 22, 1913, the Municipal Market opened in Lincoln Park in downtown Long Beach, becoming one more tourist attraction bringing visitors to the city from far and wide.
In early 1913, the Women’s City Club decided to sponsor a civic project where farmers brought their produce to sell to the folks in town. There was a great deal of publicity about this unique venture; however, competing merchants were not at all pleased about this unwelcome competition. On opening day there were sixteen stalls selling flowers, fruit, vegetables, poultry and eggs. Customers were greeted by members of the Women’s City Club carrying parasols and dressed in colorful silk dresses.
The market was a great success with every one of the stands selling out completely before closing time. The market continued to grow, expanding to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and including 140 stands. Hours were from 7AM until noon. Today, farmers markets are still a vibrant part of life in Long Beach, attracting local folk as well as tourists from all over the world. They continue to serve as a gathering place for the community and for friends meeting friends.
AVIATION: FRANK CHAMPION AND GLENN L. MARTIN
Known as the “Long Beach Flyer,” Frank Champion lived to fly.
In 1913 he decided to build an airplane and fly around the country advertising Long Beach. With local financial support, he built the $4,000 Long Beach Flyer in the basement of the Hotel Virginia. When the monoplane was finished, Long Beach became the first city in the United States to be advertised by airplane. But Champion didn’t want to just take the contributor’s money and fly. He promised to reimburse those who invested, even offering to pay interest to those who wanted it.
In August 1913, Arthur J. Hitt of the Marysville Missouri Chautauqua wrote to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce about Champion’s success: “Mr. Frank Champion made five successful flights with us this week, the most wonderful exhibition of all that modern science can accomplish and courage of man complete. He uses the monoplane Long Beach and is certainly master of his art as well as the air. We have been running for eighteen years the oldest and the most successful Chautauqua in the state of Missouri and are the first in the United States to have nerve enough to put some money in the monoplane flights for Chautauqua work. We found it wonderfully successful in drawing us large crowds and pleasing the people with Mr. Champion’s beautiful flights.”
Long Beach was also one of the stops for Santa Ana aviator Glenn L. Martin, who was trying to beat the American cross-country flying record.
On February 21, 1913, at 11:15AM, flying through a downpour of rain and cold wind, Martin landed on the beach in Long Beach. Unfortunately, the people in Venice failed to let the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce know that Martin had left their community. Consequently the aviator came as a surprise. Mrs. Bisby, wife of the president of the Chamber of Commerce, ran all of the way to the beach to welcome him. Yet Martin’s schedule only allowed him to stay eight minutes, hardly sufficient time for Mrs. Bisby to round up the official reception party.
Martin returned to Long Beach on November 28, 1913, setting a new record: the first aviator in history to carry his parents in a fast cross-country flight of twenty-five miles. The unannounced flight to Long Beach was made in response to an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner on Frank Garbutt’s yacht at San Pedro. Assured of their son’s safe flying, the elder Martins finally consented to accompany him as far as Long Beach.
All of Long Beach sighted him as he flew up the coast and a tremendous crowd was on hand to cheer the trio as the landed in front of the Hotel Virginia. More about Southern California aviation can be found in Soaring Skyward.
Clipping from the Pacific Rural Press discussing the SoCal “freak freeze” of 1913. Courtesy of the University of Redlands.
The rain that had plagued Martin’s February flight continued to rage.
By February 24, more rain had fallen in a three day period than ever before: 4.54 inches of rain turned the northwest section of the city into one vast inland sea; marooned residents were rescued on horseback and in wagons. The bad weather began with a cold snap in early January. On January 6, 1913, the newspaper reported a temperature of 24 degrees at 3AM, one of the coldest in memory. From Pomona came word that 200,000 smudge pots were worked to the limit while a loss in the citrus industry in excess of $5 million was estimated in the Redlands area.
THE CAGE SUBMARINE
Photo courtesy of Navigation Source.
The rain didn’t affect the launch of Long Beach’s submarine, but a succession of hard-luck accidents did.
On January 18, inventor John M. Cage of the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company tried to launch his 75-foot, 42-ton, $44,000 steel submarine in the Long Beach Harbor. However, 700 pounds of lead ballast which had been insecurely placed caused the boat to list to starboard and the hatchway opened. In came the water and the vessel sunk, with many Long Beach residents watching their investments sink, given they were shareholders in the Submarine Boat Company.
Since 1911, Cage had been actively campaigning in local stores and among area citizens to purchase shares of his stock. Models of his submarine were displayed with area merchants and ads placed in newspapers extolling the virtues of this modern invention. $100 in gold (housed at the First National Bank Building in Long Beach) was offered to any person who could discover any “flaw, defect or imperfection in the theory and plans” of the Cage Submarine Boat, which was on display at the Abrams’ store at 27 Pine Avenue. Stock in the company was first offered at 50 cents a share, gradually rising to $2.00. On January 24th the sunken boat was raised to the surface by means of barges and compressed air; but shareholders were anxious to see a successful launch.
On March 7, Cage ran an ad in the Daily Telegram: “We have been rushing the repair work as fast as possible, and in a few days the boat will be demonstrating that the L.A. Submarine Boat Company’s stock is really worth what we claim for it — $100 per share. All I ask is for an opportunity to show you, and then if you care to sell your stock I will buy it, and I will make you a better offer than you can get from any one else. See others, but before you sell, see me.
Finally, on March 26th the submarine was successfully launched and submerged. Vitalized by his success and confident in his submarine, Cage was determined to break the world submergence record by twelve hours. The past record was held by the U.S. submarine Octopus, which on May 15, 1907, remained under water for 24 hours. Cage would remain under water for 36 hours.
“However,” he stated “the boat could stay down much longer if need be.”
Breaking the World Submergence Record on June 10, the eyes of the world were focused on Long Beach and the Cage submarine. About 50 people, including moving picture operators, officers of the submarine boat company, newspaper men and others gathered on the municipal dock at 5AM to watch the Cage craft go down. Aboard her were John Milton Cage, inventor of the boat, who attended to the submergence valve; his brother, Will D. Cage, who operated the air and atmospheric valve; Capt. Edward Dellringer, who supervised all activities; Engineer James Marshall; Guy V. Hoopengarner who manned the telegraph to the outside world; and Jack W. Wood who operated the valve leading to the compensating tank.
On-lookers were concerned about the quality and supply of air. Cage assured everyone the craft contained much more air than would be needed. There were twelve air flasks with a capacity of 200 cubic feet, into which, under pressure, 20,000 cubic feet of air was placed. Cage estimated that each man would consume about 20 cubic feet of air per hour. The engine room alone carried 720 cubic feet of air, enough to last the group of six men for six hours. Whenever the air became stale the engines would be started and in a few minutes the entire boat would be reventilated, forcing the old air out through the mechanical exhaust and filling the engine room with fresh air. The submarine could safely carry 41,000 cubic feet of air, over twice as much as was in the tanks.
On June 11, at 5PM, using only 10 pounds of air to lift the submarine from the 30 feet of miring mud at the bottom of Long Beach Harbor, Cage was greeted by shouts and cheers from 10,000 people gathered to witness the finale of the record breaking submergence test. Mayor I.S. Hatch and J.P. Pitts stepped from the official launch to the top of the submarine and cut the seal placed on the hatch. A few seconds later the hatch was raised and the head of the young inventor came into view.
All the men who had gone through the long test were in good shape except Mr. Hoopengarner, whose vigil at the telegraph key had worn him out and caused his pained fingers to swell. He had only had about fifteen minutes sleep during the entire submergence. Engineer Marshall showed the least bad effects from the trip, spending two hours on the Pike before going home.
Articles in Scientific American and Jane’s Fighting Ships about the submarine and its record breaking submergence caused interest at home and abroad, but it brought no buyers.
In December, the submarine was impounded for unpaid debts and sold for $400 plus payment of claims amounting to $5000. The W.L. Cleveland Company of Los Angeles said they had confidence in the boat and had no intention of tearing the vessel down and scraping it. Patent rights to the Cage submarine were still held by the Los Angeles Submarine Boat Company. The company hired Abner R. Neff to act as agent in selling their submarine to the United States Navy. On January 6, 1915 Neff reported the government had given the company “the right to demonstrate the practical use of the submarine system.”
If the system, after thorough and exhaustive tests, proved satisfactory, the government would pay a reasonable price for it. On the other hand, all risks of failure had to be assumed by the builders. Because of the past credit problems of the company, the Secretary of the Navy asked for guarantees. Neff lined up other companies (which he refused to name) who pledged the $150,000 to $200,000 to develop, construct, install and conduct the tests and take the financial risks for a share of future profits.
Cage, though forfeiting his rights to the submarine because of unpaid debts, continued to invent.
The April 7, 1914 edition of the Daily Telegram, announced the latest Cage invention: The Cage six-cycle, three-phase silent engine [pictured right].
“It has no valves, cam shafts or springs in the entire engine. There are no mechanical sounds when the engine is running and it is impossible to tell when the engine is shooting,” Cage said. “Gas is taken through the engine with six positive working strokes and every cylinder produces a working stroke every revolution. The engine I have built weighs about 200 pounds and will develop 47 horsepower. It will make 30 or 35 miles per gallon of fuel in a car like the Ford or 24 miles in a heavier car. For marine work this engine will run in either direction.”
Long Beach had a good opportunity to become the film capital of the world when California Motion Picture Manufacturing Co. came to town in 1911. By 1913, they had sold their holdings to the Edison Motion Film Company.
The Daily Telegram of March 22, 1913, had this to say about the change in ownership: “Thomas A. Edison, the great inventor, has honored Long Beach by the establishment here of one of his many complete motion-picture producing companies that distributes in salaries to its 40 to 60 actors and mechanics the sum of approximately $3000 to $4000 each week. The studio, a barnlike structure at Sixth and Alamitos when accepted by the Edison company, has been transformed into the most complete motion-picture workshop on the coast and the only one of the 27 operating west of Chicago, with one exception, that is equipped with an indoor studio.”
Thomas Edison had been one of the first to recognize the potential of his new invention, what would be called the motion picture camera. To make use of his camera—and envisioning its entertainment value—he established a number of film companies throughout the United States. In December of 1912, he decided to open a studio in Long Beach. Under the guidance of J. Searle Dawley, a troupe of fifteen people came into town around New Year’s Day to begin the Edison enterprise.
On January 10, 1913 they began their first film.
Several Long Beach people were hired to act as Native Americans in Santa Ana, where the unnamed movie was filmed (Long Beach Press, 1/11/1913 7:8).