THE  LOS  ANGELES  TIMES  LETTERS  COLUMN,  1881-1889


    For the Dec. 4, 1881, inaugural issue of the Los Angeles Daily Times co-

owner Nathan Cole inexplicably chose to devote a large portion of his first 

editorial column to the British Isles.  In a lengthy paragraph the twenty-one 

year old editor upbraided the people of Wales for their unwillingness to 

abandon the Celtic language in favor of English and argued that "Welsh 

ignorance is the direct result of Welsh obstinacy." {1}  

    While the number of Angelenos of Welsh extraction in 1881 is unknown, the 

great register compiled later in the decade after the city's population had 

increased fivefold revealed only 24 voters who had been born in Wales.  

Regardless of why Cole editorialized about such an obscure topic of interest to 

but a few readers of his slim, four page publication, his remarks so upset one 

that the next issue carried a stinging, erudite reply signed "Cambro," a term 

referring to residents of Wales.  Under the heading "PUBLIC OPINION," the 

reader brilliantly defended the intellectual capacity of the Welsh and the 

classical nature of their language.  

                         {Times, Dec. 6, 1881, p. 2} {2}

                              A WELSHMAN'S PLEA.

                                     Los Angeles, Dec. 5, 1881.

         To the Editor of the Times:

              Permit me to call your attention to a few errors which 

         appeared in one of your editorials of the issue of Dec. 4th.  

         It is true that the Welsh people cling to their language (not 

         a rude dialect) with unparalleled tenacity; and why? because 

         the haughty Saxons, not content with robbing them of their 

         country through treachery, have used every conceivable 

         artifice in the vain attempt to subdue their unconquerable 

         will and annihilate their beloved language.  The most 

         abominable feature of this Saxon effort was a persistent and 

         systematic plot, inaugurated about one hundred years ago, to 

         thrust upon the Welsh an alien church, filled with alien 

         ministers who were invested with unlimited authority to carry 

         out the will of their masters.  Among the arduous duties 

         performed by those ministers was that of hiring intoxicated 

         drummers and marching at their head to the homes and churches 

         of the faithful native non-conformist clergy and there 

         compelling them to desist from their labors.  The result of 

         such and other diabolical outrages was quite natural.  Wales 

         became intensely non-conformist in sentiment, and also clung 

         to the old language more tenaciously than ever.  It is a well 

         authenticated fact that the Established Church in England 

         aggregates in its membership less than one-fifth the number 

         of the Dissenting churches, a smaller proportion even than in 

         Ireland, still there is no prospect of relief from the 

         "galling yoke," unless the people resort to Pat's method.

              With reference to the "simplicity" of the people and 

         their inferiority to other races of the British Isles, the 

         assertions are a base indignity on a people possessing 

         remarkable intelligence and morality as evidenced by the 

         following facts:  Their world renowned Eisteddfodau (National 

         festivals) inaugurated nearly one thousand years ago have 

         accomplished wonders in the work of educating and refining 

         the working classes.  The true reason why these festivals 

         have gained such control over the public mind is that the 

         people cherish them for their antiquity and also for the 

         opportunities they afford us for exercise in oratory and for 

         securing a knowledge of music and literature.  The Welch 

         delight in these pursuits just as the common people of 

         England delight in horse-racing, fox-hunting and pugilism.

              Choral music is pre-eminently the forte of the Welsh 

         people as a direct result of the fostering care afforded the 

         art by the Eisteddfodau.  The one thousand guinea cup offered 

         to the best choir of not less than five hundred voices at the 

         Crystal Palace, London, in 1872 and 1873 was won by 500 Welsh 

         people from the mining districts of South Wales.

              Dr. Thrilwall, Bishop of St. David's, says: "It is a 

         most remarkable feature of the Welsh people that they have 

         centered their national recreation in literature, and in 


              England has shamefully neglected the intermediate and 

         higher grades of education in Wales until recently, 

         consequently the working classes have depended upon the 

         Sabbath Schools and the Eisteddfodau for their education, but 

         with the exception of an imperfect knowledge of the English 

         language, I have no hesitation in making the assertion that 

         the average working man in Wales is far superior in 

         intellectual attainments to his brother in England or 

         Ireland.  In religious instruction and training they are 

         unsurpassed anywhere, the commonest laborer discussing the 

         knotty points of theology with the same facility as the 

         keenest business man or lawyer.  The churches in Wales 

         (according to its population) exceed in number those of any 

         country on earth.  The contributions toward the Bible Society 

         and other christian enterprises (of which I have statistics 

         at hand) prove to be far in excess of those of any country on 

         earth according to its population.  The Welsh bought last 

         year $11,000 worth of Bibles for their own use, although 

         their population is but 1,200,000; London with her four 

         million population purchased only $9,500 worth.

              Before I close, one word about the Welsh language.  Ten 

         years residence in Wales enabled me to completely master the 

         language, and I have no hesitancy in saying that in the 

         purity of its origin (being doubtless as old as the Greek), 

         the abundance of its words, its pathos--as witnessed in its 

         adaptability for representing every object of imagination and 

         of passion--its great simplicity and accuracy of 

         structure--each letter, wherever placed, retaining its own 

         individual sound (excepting Y, which has two)--it is 

         unsurpassed; and if the old Bardic alphabet characters or 

         others could be substituted for the uncouth lopking double 

         letters much more interest would be manifested in it than has 

         been heretofore.  Considering that Welsh words are to be 

         found in almost every known language, I think it should be 

         studied as one of the classical languages.


    Thus began, in its second issue, one of the most popular and enduring 

features of the Times: letters to the editor.  "Cambro" had the honor of 

writing the first such letter, but the second one, published later that month, 

set a standard for quality and humor that became a hallmark of Times letters, 

distinguishing them from correspondence printed by less sophisticated 

competitors.  Sometime earlier in 1881 a well-read newcomer from Bodie had 

drifted into Los Angeles for a little R&R.  Who he was, how long he stayed and 

what impact he had on the city is unknown except for the one indelible mark he 


    On Christmas day he picked up a copy of that morning's edition of the Times 

and read an editorial in which Cole made it clear that he had had enough of the 

countless stray dogs that beset the community.  Despite the fact that it was 

Christmas, "F. S.," for those were the initials he used, penned a long letter 

supporting the editor's position.  Christmas fell on Sunday and the Times did 

not publish on Mondays, but Tuesday morning found the letter prominently 

displayed atop column one, page one.  In a style akin to that of another writer 

who spent some time in Bodie, "F. S." graphically described in this Twain-like 

letter an annoyance that had plagued the city for decades.

                        {Times, Dec. 27. 1881, p. 1.} {3}

                               THE DOG NUISANCE.

                       A Reader's Remarks on the Canine

                             Curse of Los Angeles.

                                       Los Angeles, Dec. 25, 1881.

              Ed. Times--Sir:  In perusing your article in to-day's 

         issue, demonstrating the necessity of appointing an efficient 

         pound master to suppress the prevailing dog nuisance in Los 

         Angeles, I was much gratified to think this pest should 

         attract attention from the local pen of one of our numerous 

         journals.  Upon my arrival in this city, fresh from the 

         eccentricities of climate displayed among the God-forsaken 

         peaks of Bodie, the genial weather and glorious sunshine of 

         Los Angeles presented to my weary eyes a scene of unequaled 

         beauty; but alas! a "change came o'er the spirit of my 

         dream."  The first night of my arrival I retired to rest 

         congratulating myself with the knowledge that no snow-laden 

         zephyr could here disturb my peaceful slumber with discordant 

         blast, but scarcely had my head touched the pillow when my 

         ears were greeted with an unearthly howl, quickly taken up 

         and re-echoed by others of a similar nature.  These solo 

         performances finally uniting in a general and prolonged 

         chorus quickly convinced me that all the broken-voiced curs  

         in California were holding a sand-lot convention under my 

         window.  In vain I covered my head with blankets and pillow; 

         to sleep was a physical impossibility.  Finally, half 

         suffocated and wholly enraged, I sprung from the bed.  "City 

         of Angels, indeed; city of devils rather," I exclaimed, and 

         seizing my forty, horse-power, double-action, link-motion, 

         centre-fire liver searcher, I flung open the window and 

         peered into the darkness.  All was silence; the canines had 

         "been thar" before; the sound of the opening window had 

         caused a sudden adjournment.  Resting my Smith & Wesson on 

         the window sill I calmly awaited a renewal of hostilities.  

         "Patience on a monument smiling at grief" was the role I 

         filled for the next half hour, during which time I became 

         painfully conscious that however pleasant its days may be, a 

         robe de nuit was but insufficient protection against the 

         chilly influence of the Los Angeles night breeze.  My 

         perseverance was at length rewarded by hearing a plaintive 

         yell, uttered surreptitiously as though a protest against my 

         untimely interruption of festivities, followed by a serenade 

         of the "whole company."  "Turning her loose" with great 

         energy, I speedily emptied my exterminator, and as the last 

         shot was expended I heard a deep groan, followed by a death- 

         like silence, only broken by the entrance of my host, shot- 

         gun in one hand and a candle in the other.

              "Burglars!" he exclaimed.  "Did you hit any of 'em?"

              Whilst pitying his ignorance of Bodie marksmanship, I 

         modestly replied that I thought my last shot hit something; 

         if not a burglar, at least one of the infernal curs which had 

         prevented me from taking my wanted rest.

             "Great Caesar!" he cried.  "You don't mean to say you 

         were blazing away at a few dogs.  When you've lived here as 

         long as me you'll get used 'em; wont be able to go to sleep 

         till they commence their concert.  But let's go out and see 

         whether your last shot did hit anything."

              "The struggling moonbeam's misty light and the lantern 

         dimly burning" revealed the fact that I had killed, not a 

         worthless hound, but a valuable bull calf, of imported stock, 

         that my host was raising for breeding purposes.  I draw a 

         veil over the sequel.  My host retired in wrath, muttering 

         something about "Bad men, or d--d fools, from Bodie," whilst 

         I crept back sadly to bed.  This was the first of my numerous 

         experiences with Los Angeles "purps," and space will not 

         allow of my entering into details of my limited wardrobe 

         during my daily walks.  Only last night I had the doubtful 

         pleasure of seeing the right sleeve of my best coat 

         disappearing up Aliso street, propelled by a huge dog, who in 

         his haste to sample the quality of my broadcloth managed to 

         take a fair portion of the muscular development of my forearm 

         at the same time.  Last week, having business in the country, 

         I endeavored to get rid of the four-footed nuisance by hiring 

         a horse for the trip.  Upon arriving at the bridge I saw a 

         legend notifying travellers that crossing the aforesaid 

         bridge with animals at a pace faster than a walk entailed a 

         fine of fifty dollars.  As a law-abiding citizen I checked my 

         steed in order to conform to this regulation, when the 

         inevitable cur put in an appearance and proceeded to give a 

         trapeze performance, utilizing my horse's tail for that 

         purpose, by seizing it with its teeth and swinging clear of  

         the roadway.  This resulted in my crossing that bridge at a 

         walk of about seventy-six miles an hour.

              These are a few of the inconveniences arising from this 

         pest, and now that the press have drawn attention to it, I 

         sincerely hope it will be abated.  Yours, etc.  

                                                F. S. 

    Despite his optimism, the letter from "F. S." did little to diminish the 

canine problem, which continued throughout the decade.  In fact, more letters 

to the Times during the 1880s berated the dog catchers for their brutal 

treatment of the city's dogs than called for extermination of the packs of 

strays that continued to hound the city.  

    The dog nuisance that irritated "F. S." was but one indication that Los 

Angeles in 1881 was still a rough, frontier community more in touch with the 

past than the future.  But that would quickly change in mid-decade with the 

great real estate frenzy that accompanied the city's growth from 11,183 

inhabitants in 1880 to 50,395 in 1890 and forever altered its character.  By 

decade's end Los Angeles had largely shed its former image and the city emerged 

from the 1880s with the promise of the modern metropolis that it would become.

    In a city that already had two dailies, the Herald and the Express, and a 

history of failed efforts to establish several other papers, the founding of 

the Times drew only modest attention. {4}  Yet in many ways the Times would 

influence development of Southern California more profoundly than the land rush 

and population growth that coincided with the paper's first decade.

    While historians have recorded the euphoria of skyrocketing real estate 

prices, mass migration from the east, the Americanization of the city and the 

growth of specific industries and institutions, life in Los Angeles in the 

1880s can only be fully understood by examining the concerns of its citizens.  

For that, letters to the Times provide a remarkable source of information.

    The 2100-plus letters that the paper published from Dec. 4, 1881, through 

Dec. 31, 1889, offer insight into the problems of life in a city in transition.  

How did residents cope with the changes that accompanied this sudden population 

increase?  Other than an upward spiral and then a crash in land values, what 

impact did the real estate craze have on life in the 1880s?  What problems 

resulted from that upheaval?  What problems would have existed anyway?   What 

did people think of their schools, government, police, politics, religion, the 

arts and the other factors that determined the quality of life in Los Angeles 

as the end of the century approached?  What else so excited, upset or 

interested the residents that they felt compelled to write their thoughts to 

the editor of the city's newest daily in 1881, a paper that would claim to be 

its biggest daily by the end of the decade? {5} 

    Other Los Angeles papers had printed letters from readers long before this.  

In his study of the city's pioneer journal, William Rice reprinted portions of 

numerous letters to the Star's editor in the 1850s and 1860s, some by anonymous 

authors, others by prominent Angelenos. (6)  Howard Swan's history of music in Los 

Angeles utilized letters to the Express to demonstrate the city's poor response 

to professional concerts and dramatic presentations in the early 1870s. {7}  

Stephen Longstreet, in a breezy, anecdotal look at the city, quoted from 

several letters found in unidentified Los Angeles papers prior to 1880. {8} 

    Yet the idea was still novel enough for one correspondent to write to then 

editor Samuel J. Mathes in mid-April, 1882:

              Editor Times:  I am exceedingly gratified at your 

         liberality and fairness in giving room in your paper this 

         morning to a Pasadena correspondent signed "Progress," and am 

         satisfied that this discussive mode is to be the future 

         system in newspaper editorialship and correspondence, and 

         therefore hail you as (locally) its enlightened pioneer....

                                           JESSE H. BUTLER {9} 

    Neither histories of the Times nor the papers own records reveal who 

actually decided which letters would be printed. {10}  During the brief period 

that Cole was editor he apparently performed all the editorial tasks. {11}  

Mathes, who took charge on January 1, 1882, also edited the paper alone and 

presumably selected the letters that were published.  The burden of the 

editorship caused Mathes, one of the owners of the paper, to announce to his 

partners a few months later that he would not continue in that position. {12}  

Fortuitously, a former journalist who was anxious to return to the profession 

and who had close connections with the owners of the Times happened to be 


    On August 1, 1882, the day he assumed the editor's post, Harrison Gray Otis 

inaugurated a formal though initially infrequent column, LETTERS FROM THE 

PEOPLE, a title that was used over their letters columns at various times in 

the 'eighties by both the Herald and the Express. {13}  Again, there is no record 

indicating who handled the column, but the consensus of those who have studied 

the early history of the Times is that the editorial postscripts that were 

frequently appended to the letters reflect the position and style of editor 

Otis. {14}  Although the Times' editorial department grew during the decade and 

others may well have participated in supervising the column, none of the Times 

staff members who have left written accounts of the paper's early days refer in 

any way to the letters column. {15}  Since Otis was absent from the paper for 

three months in 1887 while facing a libel suit and was temporarily replaced as 

editor, at least one other journalist, perhaps his substitute William Spalding, 

had a role in editing the letters. {16} 

    Within a week of the formal column's appearance reader David Fisher 

complimented the new editor for opening this avenue of expression:

            To the Editor of The Times:

              You have kindly placed a column of your newspaper at the 

         service of the people--a kindness that is appreciated by the 

         working men of this county. . . .  {17} 

    During the next few years hundreds of other writers, some indeed "working 

men," utilized the column and, through their letters, brought to the attention 

of the editor and the public matters that each correspondent thought should be 

the immediate concern of all Angelenos.  Many opened their letters with an 

expression of appreciation to the editor for the opportunity to bring to the 

public's attention whatever crisis they were about to explore.

    But what was a "letter?"  Casual readers might mistake the regular reports 

from Times stringers in surrounding cities and communities for letters.  If the 

Times of the 'eighties had a style manual it would have noted that material 

submitted as local news items from a particular geographic area - Monrovia, for 

example - would be headed "Correspondence of the Times."  The piece would carry 

the name or more commonly the initials of the writer at the end and would 

usually deal with a variety of newsy topics concerning that locality although 

the correspondent's opinions on current issues occasionally surfaced.  Copy 

labeled "Correspondence of the Times" is not included here.

    Nor are communications from staff writers classified as letters.  During 

late 1884 and early 1885 Charles Lummis, writing under the name "Lum," provided 

the paper with a series of letters written as he walked to Los Angeles from 

Ohio.  But "Lum" was paid for each letter and had a job at the Times waiting 

for him when he reached Los Angeles.  Contributions submitted by "Lum" and 

other staff writers were feature stories by professional journalists and not 

"letters from the people." {18} 

    In the 'eighties the Times had not yet developed by-lined news articles as 

a formal journalistic feature.  "Dean" wrote what looked like letters and began 

with "To the Editor of the Times" but they were in reality dispatches written 

by a journalist covering Northern California politics in 1882.  Correspondence 

of this sort is also excluded from consideration. {19} 

    As used here, "letters" were unpaid submissions from the public, not staff 

members or stringers, and were normally addressed, in one form or another, to 

the editor of the Times.  They usually carried a signature, initials or a 

pseudonym although on rare occasions they were unsigned.  As a general rule, 

they were confined to a single subject.  Letters reprinted from other 

newspapers are not included in this survey.

    Two special categories of letters from readers were printed outside the 

regular letters column.  For a period of time during the decade "Our Boys and 

Girls," a column conducted by Eliza Otis, the editor's wife, carried letters by 

or about children.  With minor exceptions they have also been excluded. {20} 

    The second group of letters appeared infrequently in a column on farming in 

Southern California and have been included here.  Most letters on agriculture, 

however, were published in the regular letters column. {21} 

    Since no copies of the original letters exist it is impossible to determine 

to what extent the editor corrected spelling and syntax in the ones that were 

printed.  Judged by those that found their way into the column, even average 

citizens had mastered written English to the point that pronouns nearly always 

agreed with antecedents and verbs with subjects.  Rarely was a word misspelled 

or a sentence poorly constructed.  

    Whether or not the letter agreed with the editorial position of the Times 

was irrelevant to the standard of English displayed by the author.  Either Otis 

applied his editing skills in an unbiased manner or his readers were equally 

adept at writing regardless of their political and social views.  But 

occasionally the column carried a letter with particularly glaring errors, 

suggesting that the editor may have chosen to print it, without editing, solely 

for the purpose of embarrassing the author.

                      Letter from Mr. Smith, "a Lawyer."

              Pomona (Cal.), Jan. 25, 1888.--L. A. Times--Dear Sir:  I 

         am very sorry such a piece was put in the papers about this 

         little child S. Kelly.  she is a handsome little girl, and 

         you have got to take that piece out of the paper and put it 

         in different.  I am a lawyer and there are quite a lot of our 

         Pomona men who say such a piece has got to be taken out and 

         that a piece shall be put in so as to make the girl happy 

         only for such a piece every one would like her if she did go 

         away she had cause take it out and put in a other piece if 

         there is any charges I will pay you I shall see you by Friday 

         or Saturday next week or the girl herself shall see you   

         Your truly,

                                           P. C. SMITH.

              [No charges.] {22} 

    Smith's letter, assuming it to be genuine, was the rare exception.  Many 

writers, however, followed standards significantly different from those of a 

later era.  Common practice in spelling or grammatical construction seemingly 

allowed for frequent use of "he don't."  Writers more often than not 

capitalized "State" when referring to a particular level of government, they 

"criticised" rather than "criticized," and they regularly found it necessary to 

begin sentences with "Now," as though they needed to alert the reader to an 

important point that was about to be made.  

    To their credit, contributors to the column displayed a much broader 

acquaintance with history, foreign languages and literature than their modern 

counterparts.  An unusually large number of letters abound in historical 

references, are spiced with foreign phrases, or contain quotations from 

literature that reflect a cultured and widely-read background.  That was true 

of letters covering a broad range of subjects, not just those dealing with the 

arts.  A Latin phrase was as likely to occur in a letter on impassable streets 

as it was in one on education or religion.  While the quotations may not be 

familiar to a later generation, Otis did not find it necessary to explain them 

to his readers nor to translate the phrases for their benefit.

    Regardless of how well they were written, it is in their subject matter 

that the value of the letters is found.  LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE provides later 

generations with an opportunity to examine the 'eighties through the thoughts 

of those who took the time to write on the issues, and trivia, of the day.  The 

topics they discussed reveal a Los Angeles that was occupied with concerns that 

would still divide the city over a century later:  the quality of education, 

crime in the streets, unequal justice, the leniency of certain judges, 

immigration, treatment of minorities, women's rights, health care, transit, 

water, the river, the miserable condition of the city's infrastructure and 

government's negative effect on the business climate.

    But letter writers of that decade were far more concerned with prohibition 

and temperance than most of the above interests, as judged by the volume of 

mail.  Letters on religion were outnumbered only by those on politics and the 

city's infrastructure.  The "Sunday Law" and violations of it drew more letters 

(24) than the few (18) complaining about taxes.  Agriculture was a more 

frequent subject than business.  In 1888-89 as many letters were printed 

regarding agriculture as were written about business in the entire decade (42).  

Complaints about streets, sidewalks, roads and bridges inspired letters 

exceeded in number only by those on politics.  The most frequent subjects were:

               topic                              letters

         politics/elections                         206

         streets, sidewalks, roads, bridges         119

         religion                                   117

         agriculture                                100

         railroads                                   74

         sewers                                      72

         ethnic groups                               70

         prohibition, saloons, high license          66

         education                                   57

         health                                      57

    The following topics were each the subject of over 30 letters: animals, 

business, crime, culture, labor, local government, newspapers, transit, water 

and women's rights.  Some issues drew only a very limited response: four 

writers complained about guns, six about prostitution.  A survey of the letters 

revealed nearly sixty significant topics on which readers wrote to the editor.

    These statistics are based on the letters found in existing files of the 

Times and are therefore incomplete.  Unfortunately, any study of the Times 

letters column in the 1880s is frustrated by major gaps in those files and by 

the difficulty of locating the letters in the paper.  No complete run of the 

Times is held by any library, nor does the Times have one.  Winifred Gregory's 

American Newspapers, 1821-1936, compiled in the 1930s before papers were 

microfilmed, found no library with a complete file for the 1880s. {23} 

    In the 1960s the Times was microfilmed using holdings from several 

different libraries for the 'eighties: the University of California at Berkeley, 

the Library of Congress and the California State Library, primarily.  Those 

files were incomplete, missing not only individual issues but entire months as 

well.  There is no film from Dec. 3, 1882, until Mar. 4, 1883, and the only 

film for 1884 begins in mid-October.  

    What does exist on microfilm is occasionally marred by the poor quality of 

the microfilm and/or by the poor condition of the newspapers that the 

microfilmers had to work with.  Filming of bound volumes sometimes resulted in 

illegible letters if they had been printed in a column next to the spine.  That 

was limited to a relatively few letters, mostly in 1888, though an occasional 

letter elsewhere is unreadable.  Furthermore, readers clipped articles from the 

library copies, leaving holes in the pages.  The fold across the paper, which 

drew a complaint from one letter writer {see chapter on Press}, sometimes 

resulted in the loss of a few lines of type through flaking of the brittle 


    Locating letters within the paper presents another problem.  They have 

never been indexed. {24}  Modern scholars, as well as contemporary readers, had to 

search through the paper for them.  The Times began as a four page sheet with 

much advertising, even on the front page, leaving little space for letters.  In 

its first year several days might pass without any.  When they were printed 

they did not appear regularly on the same page. 

    Over the years the number of letters printed increased substantially, from 

at least 209 letters in 1882 {most issues in Dec., 1882, are missing} to 495 in 

1888 (national elections usually produced more letters}, then decreased to 366 

in 1889.  By the latter date twelve page editions were quite common, made 

possible by the paper's financial success and the purchase of expensive new 

presses, and letters ran frequently.  Even then they were located anywhere that 

suited the editor's needs, making them difficult to find. {25} 

    After Otis created a formal column for letters, readers still had to search 

through the paper to find it.  Nor could they be sure that all the letters 

printed were in the column.  Often they were not.  Historians, having found the 

column on page two, cannot skip the rest of the paper without a risk of missing 

additional letters on subsequent pages.  On rare days letters appeared on three 

separate pages of the Times, only one of which carried the formal "LETTERS" 

title. {26} 

    Occasionally the editor printed a letter in the midst of the editorial 

column rather than with the others. {27}  That was particularly true when the 

subject pricked the editor's interest to the point that he wished to comment on 

it more fully and with greater impact than he would have had in a terse 

editorial postscript at the end of a letter in the regular column.

    But most letters were printed in the LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE column.  On 

the day the column first appeared Otis announced the rules for its use in a 

brief paragraph that ran, in one form or another, beneath the column's head for 

several years:

                            LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE

              [Under this head the Times will print brief and well- 

         written communications upon topics of current interest, the 

         writers being responsible for their own opinions and 

         statements.] {28} 

    The text of the paragraph changed over time, as noted by this version from 

the column heading in 1886:

                            LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE

              [This is the TIMES-MIRROR'S Public Forum.  Those who 

         would stand thereon must first give the editor their real 

         names and be responsible for their opinions and statements.  

         Cultivate brevity, clearness of style and timeliness; write 

         plainly and on live topics, and use one side of the sheet 

         only.  Every contribution received by the editor is patiently 

         and impartially considered, but we do not, of course, 

         undertake to print everything sent us.] {29} 

Early in 1887 the paragraph disappeared from the column, and on Jan. 27, 1888, 

the column was renamed LETTERS TO THE TIMES, its current title. {30} 

    Prior to creation of the formal column, letters carried descriptive heads 

and sub-heads, written by the editor.  For most of the first year heads tended 

to be as lengthy as those in news articles, such as the head over the dog 

nuisance.  After LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE became the official column, heads were 

shortened, usually to a single line.  The editor occasionally managed to invoke 

a degree of humor while still conveying the author's subject, such as the pun 

in this head on a complaint about discriminatory railroad freight rates:

                            Long and Short Howls {31}

    There were other changes over the years.  Editors struggled with the 

question of appropriate style regarding the salutation at the beginning of each 

letter, changing the policy frequently in the 1880s.  During the first year 

there were so many different salutations - "Ed. Times," "Editor Times," "Editor 

of the Times" and "Mr. Editor," to cite the more frequent ones - that it is 

likely Editors Cole and Mathes simply printed whatever the correspondent had 

written.  When Otis inaugurated the formal column he standardized the 

salutation so that regardless of what the letter's author had written it came 

out "To the Editor of the Times."   On Oct. 23, 1886, amid major changes in the 

makeup of the paper that included a pretentious policy of referring to it as 

The Times instead of the previously used "the Times," the salutation became "To 

the Editor of The Times." {32} 

    Despite the instruction to cultivate brevity, correspondents wrote much 

longer letters than those printed by the paper a century later.  Letters 

generally were a few column inches in length, but on "live topics" the editor 

allowed a great deal of leeway and they occasionally filled an entire column, 

or more.  Letters on the outfall sewer in late 1889 far exceeded what would 

later be standard length for an op-ed piece. {33} 

    One of the great attractions of the letters column was found in the rapid 

response from other readers, with follow-up letters frequently printed the next 

morning.  A letter condemning the anti-Chinese movement, datelined Pasadena, 

April 13, 1882, ran on the 14th.  The following day the paper published another 

reader's detailed critique of that letter.  A letter from Orange, dated May 2, 

1888, was printed on May 3.  Conceding that in a city the size of Los Angeles 

in the 1880s authors could personally deliver their letters to the editor 

without being stopped by uniformed guards, it is still startling that virtually 

instantaneous responses were possible a century before the fax or e-mail.

    Some responses sparked continuing debates, involving several writers.  

"Live topics" that inspired numerous Angelenos to reply to an initial letter 

ranged from the abuse of horses and mules by transit operators to the relative 

merits of male versus female school principals.  The status of working women 

evoked several responses, and women's rights in general received a major airing 

in the column as a result of the trial of Hattie Woolsteen, charged with 

murdering the prominent, married lover who had deceived her. {34} 

    On occasion the editor felt compelled to end an ongoing argument.  After a 

heated exchange on Catholicism, Otis interjected the following judgment:

              [We are glad of the close of this unprofitable 

         discussion of a subject upon which no agreement can be 

         reached within the limits of Time by the opposing parties.-- 

         Ed. Times.] {35} 

    The editor frequently interjected his own comments at the end of a letter, 

set off by brackets and ending with a clear indication that this was an 

editorial reply, as above.  When so inclined he offered factual answers to 

questions, sometimes trivial, asked in a letter:

              [To the Editor of The Times.]  How did Wisconsin go in 

         the late election?  Which State ticket and what Congressmen 

         were successful?

                     GEORGE E. BURRALL.

              [The Republican electors and the Republican State ticket 

         were elected; also, eight Republican Congressmen to one 

         Democratic.--Ed.] {36} 

    Sometimes the editor's postscript belittled the writer's question, as 

exemplified by his reply to this brief letter on local religious history:

              To the Editor of the Times:--Sir: Can you or any of your 

         readers inform me by whom, where and when was the first 

         Protestant sermon preached in this county; also, when was the 

         first Protestant Sabbath-school held and by whom organized?

                                    GEO. T. HANLY. {37} 

    Although he printed the letter - surprisingly, on page one - Otis' answer 

reflected a rather low opinion of the question and he failed to provide the 

answer requested.  In light of the importance placed by historians and 

antiquarians of Otis' own era on the historic development of the city's 

churches, his terse reply to the letter is unexpected:

              [The information herein sought should be furnished by 

         any local historian of the Protestant church.--Ed. Times.]

    To his credit, Otis kept trivia to a minimum.  In a slim paper there was 

little room for nonsense.  Furthermore, correspondents generally had important 

things to say and provided him with more than enough material to fill a letters 

column.  But even Otis knew when trivia fulfilled a need and he joined in the 

fun through his editorial replies, as in the letters regarding the beginning of 

the 20th century, a topic that would resurface in the Times a hundred years 

later as another century loomed ahead, {38} and in the frenzied effort to solve 

the "egg problem," both of which are reprinted near the end of this volume.

    Many letters were efforts by writers to correct what they considered to be 

a personal slight committed against them.  In the 1880s it was common for 

papers to print scurrilous material that defamed an individual simply on the 

basis of someone's charge.  The Times frequently permitted those so maligned to 

rebut the charges through a letter to the editor, though an editorial 

postscript often showed that the editor was not convinced by the rebuttal. {39} 

    In contrast to late 20th century policy limiting the frequency of letters 

by the same individuals, the Times occasionally ran correspondence from the 

same people within a few days of previous submissions.  Edwin Ward even had two 

letters printed on the same day. {40} 

    Few prominent residents wrote to the paper under their own names, though 

they may have used pseudonyms.  Among the better-known, frequent correspondents 

were H. D. Barrows, Jesse H. Butler, Eli Fay, A. F. Kercheval, Abbot Kinney, J. 

W. Potts, L. J. Rose and J. J. Warner.  {Barrows and others rarely used their 

given names, only initials.}  Other well-known names - Mrs. Charles Ducommun, 

Isaias Hellman and future senator Stephen White - appeared infrequently.

    In addition to Barrows and the other prominent Angelenos mentioned with 

him, regular contributions to the letters column came from Ralph Hoyt, John 

Murray and "Tara."   Their names became familiar to readers because of their 

frequent submissions, not because they were already known.  Each of these 

writers wrote on a variety of public issues and often drew heated responses.

    But the most prolific writer of the 1880s was Frederick Moulton Shaw, whose 

letters were usually signed simply F. M. Shaw.  From his first letter in 1883 

until his last in 1887 Shaw authored at least 28 letters to the Times.  

Sometimes his offerings appeared only a few days apart.  His subjects ranged 

from the harbor {his letters not only supported construction of a harbor but 

included a plan for the breakwater, complete with crude diagram} to detailed 

comments on various aspects of Southern California agriculture. {41}   

    Shaw was an eccentric, and his letters were recognized by contemporaries as 

such.  At one point he was arrested and ordered by the court to a state mental 

hospital.  Letter writers immediately vented their outrage to the Times, 

demanding that the order be rescinded.  Shaw was eccentric but not insane, they 

argued.  Otis agreed and came editorially to his defense.  The court relented.

    His final letter was typical Shaw, a visionary who no doubt amused his 

readers with a prediction that railway trains would cross canyons without 

bridges, thereby discrediting his more prophetic scenario of Southern 

Californians hang-gliding from the bluffs overlooking the ocean to a landing in 

the sea.  Shaw's letters are discussed at length in the closing chapter of this 


    However most letters were not written by prominent residents, frequent 

contributors or eccentrics but by average citizens.  Of the 2100-plus letters 

located in the existing files of the Times, over 500 had signatures that could 

reasonably be assumed to be the author's correct name.  Several hundred others 

carried only initials and the rest either bore pseudonyms or, in about fifty 

instances, had no name attached.

    The use of pseudonyms was quite common.  The Times permitted them although 

the LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE rules indicated that the true name had to be known 

to the editor.  Otis editorially rebuked "Taxpayer" for submitting a letter, 

admittedly "interestin' readin,'" without attaching his real name.  The letter 

remained unprinted. {42} 

    Despite this admonition, not all anonymous letters were trashed:

                           CATTLE RUNNING AT LARGE.

              A correspondent, too timid to sign his name, writes to 

         the Times (thereby entitling his communication to a front 

         place in the waste basket) . . .

Despite the scolding, Otis printed the letter. {43} 

    Rarely were the true names of those who wrote under pseudonyms revealed.  

"Tara," one of the better known pen names, was never identified to the public.  

Infrequently an identity might appear in a subsequent letter, as in the case of 

"Vernon," whose name was revealed by the editor as a result of an error in one 

of the letters, and "Granite," who revealed his own identity in a second 

letter. {44} 

    An examination of the pen names shows a great deal of ingenuity, including 

the use of Latin phrases or words often directly applicable to the issue raised 

in the letter.  "Nuda Veritas," for example, was signed to a letter on art 

censorship.  "Tenderfoot" or "Pedestrian" frequently appeared on letters about 

the poor condition of sidewalks.  In the Times that tradition began with the 

original letter from "Cambro."

      The most frequent pseudonym was some form of "Citizen," used nearly forty 

times.  The paper's political slant was reflected in twenty letters by 

"Republican," only eleven by "Democrat."  Twice as many writers preferred 

"Justice" {15} to "Truth" {7}.   "Farmer" signed four letters, "Manufacturer" 

but two.  "Taxpayer" was heard from twenty-five times, but "Poor Man" wrote 

only once.  "Observer" and "Subscriber" each authored nineteen letters.  

    Names such as Veritas, Lex, Pro Bono Publico, Citizen, Taxpayer and 

Republican were not associated with any particular writer and an examination of 

the contents of their letters does not indicate that they were written by the 

same person.  On the other hand, "Medal" wrote letters about mistreatment of 

animals and those letters are likely to have come from the same source. {45}  Two 

letters by "Stranger," both about singing in church and written several years 

apart, were evidently by the same author. {46}

    Many correspondents used only the author's initials or a single letter.  

"H. D. B.," "J. H. B.," and "F. M. S." can be readily identified as letters 

from Barrows, Butler and Shaw.  There is reason to believe that "J. G. D." was 

former Democratic Governor John G. Downey and that "W. E. D." was William E. 

Dunn, a founding partner of the prestigious law firm of Gibson, Dunn and 

Crutcher.  But letters signed "A" or "S" give no clue as to their authors.

    Nor are there records at the Times to help determine authenticity or 

authorship.   Neither the histories of the Times nor the reminiscences of staff 

members help in this matter.  Regrettably, if Otis compiled a master list of 

the "real names" for each alias it has been lost.

    There is doubt about the authenticity of letters carrying pen names.  Were 

they really "letters from the people" or were they concocted by the Times

staff?  Evidence exists that some letters were written in-house.  Frank Wolfe, 

an editorial writer and managing editor on the Herald for several years after 

the turn of the century, at a time when the paper was owned secretly by Otis, 

reportedly claimed that Herald editors made up letters on topics that the paper 

wanted to promote, signing various names to them. {47} 

    On at least two occasions in the 1880s the Times printed letters allegedly 

written to the Tribune, Otis' most bitter rival, but obviously manufactured by 

the Times staff.  Otis claimed that the letters had been intercepted by the 

Times though it was apparent to readers that this was all tongue-in-cheek. {48} 

    Several of the humorous answers written in response to a reader's question 

- if a hen and a half could lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how many 

eggs could six hens lay in seven days? - appear to have been composed by Times 

staffers. {49}  The query drew an amazingly large response and after running 

numerous legitimate letters with convoluted mathematical reasoning that 

attempted to answer the reader's question, Otis terminated the subject with a 

series of silly responses, only some of which were written by readers. {50} 

    However, when asked if there was any indication that the Times made up the 

letters for its column, a more recent Times editor, Nick Williams, responded 

that it was not necessary to create them since they could never fabricate 

letters as funny as those from readers.  Current policy rejects the use of 

bogus letters produced by the editorial staff. {51} 

    Although the use of pseudonyms makes it difficult to determine the gender 

of writers, women comprised approximately 12 percent of the authors who can be 

identified by gender.  Mrs. Helen A. Watson, the city's first jail matron, 

wrote on child welfare.  Margaret Parker's interest was domestic labor.  Emily 

Bennet penned two brilliant letters in reply to "Tara" on women's rights. {52}  No 

other women wrote more than two letters under their own names.  Women's issues, 

such as domestic labor, education, suffrage or the trials of Hattie Woolsteen 

and E. J. "Lucky" Baldwin, drew numerous responses from female writers.

    Correspondents rarely gave any indication of their age or occupation, 

though some writing on labor or business matters identified themselves as 

painters, carpenters or proprietors of specific businesses.  The largest single 

occupation indicated was some form of agriculturalist: farmer, rancher, grower.

    Otis printed only a small number of letters from Hispanics and African 

Americans, as indicated by the names or letter content, but there is no reason 

to believe that he rejected letters on the basis of ethnicity.  Of the four 

letters signed "A Chinaman" only one writer actually claimed to be of Chinese 

descent and the letter's content suggests it could have been written by someone 

in the anti-Chinese movement.  Letters written on foreign policy or 

international matters hint at English, French, German, Irish, Russian or Welsh 

ancestry for their authors.  "Tara," one of the finest writers of the decade, 

identified himself as an Irish Catholic workingman. {53} 

    Considering the hostility that later developed between Otis and labor-

socialist elements, whereby Otis came to symbolize the anti-radical movement in 

Los Angeles and was the city's leading opponent of union labor, the Times 

devoted a surprising amount of newsprint to letters from union men or radicals.  

He initially supported, through the printing of favorable letters and articles, 

such projects and movements as the American socialist colony at Topolobampo, 

Mexico, the local cooperative farm colony at Clearwater and Edward Bellamy's 

Nationalist movement.  He also published several persuasive letters in defense 

of the Haymarket anarchists at the time of their execution despite his 

outspoken condemnation of the anarchists. {54}  In addition, several individuals 

who would later become prominent in socialist and labor circles contributed 

letters, unchallenged by editorial replies, to the Times: trade unionist Arthur 

Vinette, wealthy socialist congressional candidate H. Gaylord Wilshire and 

Abbot Kinney. {55} 

      While a majority of the letters on unions that the Times printed were 

decidedly hostile to organized labor, until his troubles with the printers' 

union developed into a heated conflict in the 1890s he frequently published 

pro-union correspondence.  Letters from construction workers, an especially 

important part of the labor force during the boom decade, defended with well-

stated arguments the integrity of workingmen and the cause of union labor. {56} 

    Closely related to the union question was the debate over Chinese 

exclusion.  Otis supported the use of Chinese labor, and following his 

appointment as editor in August, 1882, the anti-Chinese letters, which had 

previously appeared frequently, disappeared.  None are found in the existing 

files of the Times in 1883 or 1884, and only one in 1885.  When the issue 

became a political concern in 1886, Otis printed over two dozen letters, about 

evenly divided on the subject.  Despite the fact that in the next three years 

the total number of letters to the Times far exceeded those from 1881-1886, 

only six letters on the anti-Chinese question appeared in 1887-1889 although 

the issue remained one of great interest in California.  For letters on the 

Chinese issue and on the subjects discussed in the following paragraphs, see 

specific chapters in this volume.

    The concern about labor was in part related to economic and social changes 

brought on by the boom of the 'eighties, a subject on the minds of many 

residents if the number of letters is any indication.  Throughout the decade 

they wrote about problems of infrastructure: muddy streets and the need to pave 

them, the lack of sidewalks, barriers on both sidewalks and streets brought 

about by constant construction, and transit problems.  With a burgeoning 

population, the disposal of the city's sewage drew more letters and column 

inches in 1889 than any other single subject in any year during the decade.  

    Many criticisms and suggestions came from newcomers to Los Angeles.  

Letters frequently began with the notation that the writer was a "stranger," or 

only in town a short time.  They compared conditions in Los Angeles with the 

Eastern or Midwestern cities the recent arrivals were familiar with.  In 

general, when it came to "the way it was done where I lived before" Los Angeles 

did not compare favorably.

    Despite the serious nature of problems caused by the city's rapid growth, 

frustrated citizens managed to find humor in their dilemma.  That ability was 

illustrated by this letter, written in response to street grading by developers 

in the hills west of downtown that had left adjacent property owners on bluffs 

without access to the street:

              [To the Editor of The Times.]  Will The Times please 

         inform the property-holders of Bellevue avenue, between 

         Montreal street and Beaudry avenue, whether or not we will be 

         obliged to pay taxes this year?  As we cannot get to our  

         property without the use of a balloon, we ought to be exempt 

         from taxes.

                                            Property-Owner {57} 

    Surprisingly, there were relatively few letters about the real estate 

craze.  A few complained about unscrupulous speculators, and others were 

bothered by falling property values near the end of the decade, but for the 

most part the letters did not depict a frenzied market for land, even at the 

peak of the boom.  Writers were more concerned about railroads, development of 

manufacturing and other ways to enhance the economic base.

    Despite the rapid growth of the city in the mid-1880s, agriculture remained 

the most important economic concern of letter writers, reflecting its 

importance to Los Angeles in that decade.  Farmers wrote about opening or 

maintaining markets outside California.  They debated the wisdom of poultry 

production in Southern California and the cause of low prices for California 

wines.  Many letters offered advice regarding the profitability of a particular 

crop or farm animal.

    But overshadowing all else was the constant worry about various farm pests 

and diseases, particularly those that endangered the citrus crop.  Letter after 

letter dealt with white scale, a disease that threatened to destroy the citrus 

industry in the 1880s and was that century's counterpart to the Mediterranean 

fruit fly of a later era. 

    Economic matters were not the only concerns of Angelenos in the 'eighties.  

The decade witnessed efforts to transform the rowdy western town into a 

cultured city, or, as pioneer Horace Bell put it, to demonstrate that this was 

"a people and city emerging from an age of barbarism and entering upon an era 

of Christian civilization and good government." {58}  Letters regarding concerts 

and art exhibits commented on the poor manners of those in attendance, a large 

number of whom apparently lacked the social graces expected at cultural events, 

and on persistent efforts to censor artistic displays, whether in galleries, 

public buildings or on the street.

    The attitudes that would produce art censorship also emerged in a civic 

concern about gambling, prostitution, saloons and other vices.  The Sunday Law 

was an issue for letter writers throughout the decade: either passing a 

restrictive law or enforcing it when passed.  They also condemned the police 

for allowing gambling and prostitution to continue in violation of the law.  

When periodic raids were made to close down bawdy houses on Los Angeles and 

Buena Vista Streets, writers protested that the efforts were too limited or 

that the police selectively prosecuted specific ethnicities.  

    The great interest in moral issues equated with the emphasis placed on 

religion by correspondents.  This was an age when religious sectarianism was on 

a par with political partisanship, and the 'eighties were marked by the 

emergence of a Protestant majority, with its attendant late 19th century 

values, in the city.  As a result, on-going exchanges between Catholics and 

Protestants permeated the letters column throughout the decade, and Protestants 

debated each other on various issues.  Faith healers and evangelists were fair 

game, while writers frequently questioned the moral values of specific 


    Most political letters were of little lasting interest, concerned only with 

the current election.  As a staunchly Republican paper, especially under Otis, 

the Times often carried letters endorsing the presidential candidates of the 

Grand Old Party and knocking Democratic hopefuls.  The most significant 

political letter published by the Times in the 1880s was the so-called 

Murchison Letter, which is credited with an important role in the defeat of 

Grover Cleveland in 1888.  That letter, however, was not a letter to the editor 

although Otis was the first to print both it and the British minister's

damaging reply supporting Cleveland's election. {59} 

    By the end of the 1880s the letters column was entrenched as a permanent 

feature of the Times, a position it continued to hold.  That the letters had 

any great influence in determining municipal policy in that decade is 

impossible to demonstrate.  That they alerted the community and civic leaders 

to specific problems that were subsequently corrected is evident, however, as 

in the case of the street numbering system that was adopted in the 1880s. {60}  

The carefully reasoned, frequently biting, often humorous letters of Times 

readers helped the residents of Los Angeles sort out the pros and cons on 

issues large and small.  Even Editor Otis, on rare occasion, changed his mind 

upon reading contributions from his subscribers, as shall be seen in the 

exchange regarding the beginning of the 20th century.  More importantly, the 

letters offer residents of a later era greater insight into life in Los Angeles 

in the 1880s.

    Over a century after its establishment the letters editor would receive in 

a month more correspondence than was published in the entire decade of the 

1880s. {61}  In addition to letters printed on the editorial page, which is the 

direct descendant of the original column, correspondence from readers appears 

in at least half a dozen different sections of the paper and in several 

regional editions, though not on a daily basis.  Time has not mellowed them. 

The letters still maintain the brilliant, piercing style set forth by that 

dog-bitten arrival from Bodie in 1881 and by his contemporaries during a decade 

when so many characteristics of the city's future took shape, including the 

public forum in what would become the city's leading daily.

                                - - -


1. Times, Dec. 4, 1881, p. 2.  Cole's partner in publication of the Times was 
Thomas Gardiner, who withdrew from the venture very quickly.

2. No paper was printed on Dec. 5, a Monday.  For several years the Times only 
published six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday.  While "Cambro's" identity 
is unknown, among the handful of Welsh living in Los Angeles was George Butler 
Griffin, a reporter on the Express, who had arrived in the city earlier that 

3. The letter, as reprinted here, is exactly as it was published in the Times, 
including grammatical errors.  No other letter by "F. S." appeared in the 1880s 
and the author remains unidentified.  Existing Bodie records provide no clue to 
his identity.  However, on Dec. 15, 1881, p. 3, under the heading "A Bodie 
Journalist," the editor humorously recounts a recent visit to the Times office 
by a former, unnamed Bodie newspaper publisher-editor.  Two former Bodie 
journalists, neither of whom had the correct initials, came to Los Angeles in 
1884 and worked on the Tribune toward the end of that decade: Henry Z. Osborne 
and Edward R. Cleveland.  

4. Both the Herald and the Express dated from the early 1870s.  By 1881 the 
Daily News, the city's pioneer daily, and the Star, the second daily, had 
ceased publication.

5. As early as July 16, 1882, p. 2, the Times claimed to have the largest 
circulation of any Southern California daily, but it gave no figures.  
Actually, circulation figures for the city's papers in the 1880s are 
questionable at best.  During its brief existence in the latter part of the 
decade the Tribune, published by H. H. Boyce, a former partner with Harrison 
Gray Otis at the Times, boasted that his paper had a larger circulation than 
the Times.  The Times reported a circulation of 7177 daily for the twelve 
months ending Sept. 30, 1888. Times, Jan. 22, 1889, p. 4.

6. William B. Rice, The Los Angeles Star, 1851-1864 (1947), pp. 28, 30, 75, 95, 
103, 131, 150, 175, 185, 222, 250.

7. Howard Swan, Music in the Southwest, 1825-1950 (1952), pp. 127-128.

8. Stephen Longstreet, All-Star Cast (1977), pp. 87, 130, 366.

9. Times, April 15, 1882, p. 3.  Mathes assumed editorial control on January 1, 
1882, when Cole, plagued by financial losses, turned over ownership of the 
paper to Mathes and several other printers who had been doing the press work 
for the Times.  They were already publishing the weekly Mirror.  Cole and his 
former partner Gardiner reentered the Los Angeles newspaper field later in 1882 
with the short-lived daily Telegram.  Cole also briefly edited the Tribune.

10. For histories of the Times see Marshall Berges, Life and Times of Los 
Angeles (1984); Robert Gottlieb, Thinking Big (1977); Richard Miller, "Otis and 
His Times," Ph. D. Dissertation, U. of Calif., Berkeley, (1961).  In addition, 
an unpublished manuscript by former Times associate editor James Bassett, on 
which Berges' book  was based, is preserved in the History Center at the Times.  
W. Stanley Gordon, also a former Times staff member and one-time west coast 
editor of Look magazine, produced a "Chronology of the Times," covering 1881 to 
1970, as background for Bassett's book.  A copy of Gordon's excellent 
manuscript, by far superior to and much more in depth than the official chronology 
the paper published in 1992, is at the Huntington Library.

11. The only detailed comment on the editorial staff of the Times while Cole 
was editor was a humorous paragraph printed in the paper on Dec. 18, 1881, p. 
    "A good deal of curiosity is being manifested on the streets as to the 
constituency of the editorial staff of the Times.  As far as can be 
ascertained     ... the literary force of this paper is composed of the 
following named newspaper meteors: Jesse Yarnell, temperance editor; T. J. 
Caystile, political editor; S. J. Mathes, religious editor; J. R. Brierly, real 
estate editor; J. Davies, general scavenger; and C. Y. Benjamin, boss of the 
devils.  Besides the foregoing, there are two other geniuses connected with the 
paper: N. Cole, Jr., and W. G. Miller.  These last named gentlemen do all the 
loafing, take all the cussing, receive all the thrashings and drink all the 
whisky for the concern."

12. For Mathes role as editor after January 1, 1882, see Miller, pp. 89-90, and 
Times, Dec. 4, 1921, special anniversary section.  

13. Otis became a part-owner of the paper as well as editor.  Eventually he and 
Col. Henry Boyce became co-owners of the paper, and in 1886 Otis bought out 
Boyce.  Contrary to popular opinion, he was not the sole owner of the paper.  
Small numbers of shares were held by others.  For "Letters From The People" 
columns see Herald, Jan. 6, 1886, p. 6 and Express, Jan. 12, 1888, p. 2.

14. Richard Miller believes that Otis, and perhaps his wife Eliza, handled the 
letters column.  Miller, letter to author, April 27, 1995.  That view is shared 
by Dan Lewis, who was director of the paper's History Center, in a letter to 
the author, April 28, 1995.  In a telephone conversation with the author, April 
26, 1995, Larry Dietz, whose history of the Times awaits publication, assumed 
that Otis selected the letters and wrote most of the editorial replies to them.  
Gordon, in a letter to the author, May 3, 1993, suggests that Leroy Mosher, who 
joined the Times in 1887, may have written editorial replies.  "Otis must have 
answered some, of course, but I would guess that Mosher and/or {Charles} Lummis 
wrote the best ones.  Mosher had the liveliest wit of anybody on the editorial 
staff in the 1880s."

15. A Times fortieth anniversary issue in 1921 contains a wealth of information 
on the early days of the paper since several members of the editorial staff 
from the 1880s were still living and contributed reminiscences to the 
publication.  None of them, however, mention that they had any connection with 
the letters column.  See articles by Harry E. Brook, Charles Lummis, S. J. 
Mathes and William A. Spalding in Times, Dec. 4, 1921, special anniversary 
section.  Founding editor Cole, who had a succcessful business career after 
leaving the paper, was still living in Los Angeles at the time but did not 
contribute a reminiscence to the edition.  He died a few days later.  

16. The Times, May 15, 1887, p. 4, reported that Otis left the paper and then 
announced on Aug. 18, 1887, p. 4 that he had returned to his post as editor.

17. Times, Aug. 8, 1882, p. 4.

18. Charles Lummis received five dollars for each letter he submitted to the 
Times during his cross-country hike from Ohio to California in 1884-85. Turbese 
L. Fiske and Keith Lummis, Charles F. Lummis (1975), p. 16.  See also James 
Byrkit, Letters from the Southwest (1989).

19. See Dean's "letters" in Times: Aug. 12, 1882, p. 2; Aug. 16, 1882, p. 2; 
Aug. 17, 1882, p. 2; Sept. 15, 1882, p. 2; Sept. 16, 1882, p. 2.

20. Gordon, "Chronology" entry for July 3, 1887, p. 4, cited Eliza Otis as the 
staff member who wrote "Our Boys and Girls," the children's column.  In 
addition she also wrote a column entitled "The Saunterer," and under the name 
"Susan Sunshine" one called "Woman and Home."  See Times, Dec. 4, 1921, 
anniversary section, regarding Eliza Otis' role at the Times.  For an example 
of the children's letters, see Times, Jan. 7, 1889, p. 7.

21. See Times, Dec. 13, 1889, p. 5, for an example of the farm column.

22. Times, Jan. 26, 1888, p. 6.

23. For purposes of this study the author utilized the microfilm of the Times 
due to the unavailability of the original newspapers.  A few copies of the 
Mirror, a weekly issued by the publishers of the Times, are on the microfilm, 
having been filed with the Times.  Since the Mirror was considered to be the 
weekly edition of the Times and since letters to one paper occasionally 
referred to articles or letters in the other, letters to the Mirror are 
included in this study.  For library holdings of the Times in the late 1930s, 
see Winifred Gregory, American Newspapers, 1821-1936 (1937), p. 39.  

24. At some point the news articles, but not the letters, were indexed on 
cards, some handwritten, others typed.  The index has been microfilmed, but the 
poor quality of the film, combined with the illegibility of the handwriting and 
the selective nature of the indexing, greatly reduces its value for the late 
19th century.  Several sources at the Times report that the cards were 
subsequently destroyed.

25. Richard Miller, letter to author, April 21, 1996, suggests that dispersal 
of the letters throughout the paper might mean that Otis used them as cheap 
filler since they were free while the commercial Associated Press wire service 
cost him money.

26. On July 16, 1889, letters appeared on pp. 4, 5 and 6, and on July 27, 1889, 
on pp. 3, 4 and 5.

27. Times, Feb. 21, 1887, p. 4.  

28. The first LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE column appeared on Aug. 1, 1882, p. 3.

29. Times, Oct. 16, 1886, p. 2.  Perhaps Otis' insistence that writers "use one 
side of the sheet only" resulted from receiving too many letters such as the 
one that accompanied this editorial postscript, found below a feisty letter 
about music critics on Nov. 24, 1883, p. 3: 

     Let the writer of the above sail right in as a musical cricket and polish 
off the amateurs....  He writes well (on both sides of the sheet)....

One can appreciate an editor's desire to have all copy on one side of the paper 
to facilitate editing.  The process was made more difficult since most letters 
were handwritten.  Typewriters were still a rarity in Los Angeles in the early 
1880s.  On one occasion Otis responded to a demand for a correction by 
explaining that an error in editing a letter had been the result of the 
correspondent's poor handwriting.  

30. On Jan. 25, 1888, the letters column carried the title "The Popular Voice" 
as Otis experimented with a new title.  

31. Times, April 20, 1887, p. 9.

32. Although it borders on trivia, the decision by Otis to refer to his paper 
in mid-sentence references as The Times, instead of "the Times," is an 
interesting story worthy of further study.  With minor exceptions the paper had 
always referred to itself in mid-sentence references as "the Times" until Oct. 
23, 1886.  Then, at the beginning of a fierce competition with H. H. Boyce, his 
former co-owner of the Times and at that time the editor-publisher of the newly 
founded Tribune, Otis made major changes in the make-up of the Times and 
announced them with great fanfare on Oct. 23, the day they were inaugurated.  
One change occurred silently, however, without announcement.  That was the 
change in how the paper would be referred to in editorials, news articles and 
in the salutations on letters to the editor.  Without comment, the paper was 
now The Times.  Rival papers have ignored Otis' alteration and continue to call 
the paper "the Times."  Otis probably made that particular change because Boyce 
already referred to his new daily as The Tribune.  A decade earlier the New 
York Times had made a similar change amid major alterations of its format, yet 
it, too, did not call attention to the fact that it had adopted The Times as 
mid-sentence style.  Gordon, who was at the Los Angeles Times from 1927 until 
1942, remembers that when he began work there he was instructed that his 
employer was The Times, "with the first 't' capitalized as a symbol of the 
pre-eminence of our newspaper." Letter to author, Aug. 18, 1995.

33. Typical of the lengthy letters on sewage was one by "Engineer," July 31, 
1889, p. 6, which covered one and a half columns.  An even longer, unsigned 
letter ran on July 24, 1889, p. 2, occupying two and one-half columns.

34. For the Woolsteen case letters see the Times almost daily from April 13, 
1888 through April 19, 1888, all on p. 3.

35. Times, Aug. 20, 1885, p. 2.

36. Times, Nov. 20, 1888, p. 5.

37. Times, June 24, 1883, p. 1.

38. Times, Calendar Section, letters column, Feb. 11, 1995 and Feb. 18, 1995.

39. Times, Nov. 3, 1888, p. 6.  A good example of the editor's frequently testy 
replies to "corrections" is found on May 7, 1888, p. 3.

40. The two letters by Edwin Ward ran on Sept. 2, 1885, p. 2.

41. Times, Dec. 4, 1885, p. 2, Mar. 14, 1886, p. 5, and May 11, 1887, p. 10.  
Harris Newmark, Sixty Years in Southern California, 4th ed., (1984), pp. 610-
611.  The Star, too, had its eccentric letter writer.  William Money of San 
Gabriel was a frequent contributor to that paper, attacking clerics and the 
church.  Rice described him as "a zealot," the paper's "most eccentric 
contributor."  Rice, pp. 78, 131.

42. Times, Oct. 23, 1889, p. 4.  See also Sept. 4, 1888, p. 4, where Otis 
scolds "W.C.T.U." for submitting two letters without including her name.

43. Times, Oct. 4, 1883, p. 3.

44. Times, June 27, 1888, p. 3; May 22, 1889, p. 5.

45. Times, Dec. 13, 1884, p. 3; May 22, 1886, p. 2.

46. Times, Aug. 23, 1883, p. 2; July 16, 1889, p. 6.

47. Grace Stimson, author of History of the Los Angeles Labor Movement to 1911 
(1955) interviewed Wolfe for her book on Feb. 15, 1952 and shortly thereafter 
relayed to the current author Wolfe's comment about manufacturing letters to 
the editor.  Otis himself, in an editorial postscript, suggested that editors 
made up letters, or at least rewrote them.  In a letter to the Times a reader 
had charged that Jerry Illich could not have written a letter attributed to him 
in the Express because he was illiterate.  In his reply, Times, June 10, 1885, 
p. 4, Otis wrote:

              Jerry's able epistle to the Expressians bears ear-marks 
         of having been written in the Express office, or laboriously 
         edited by the editorial gopher who is constitutionally and 
         chronically "hard up" for a little cheap capital against the 
48. For an example of the letters allegedly written to the Tribune, see Times, 
Feb. 26, 1888, p. 2.  Rice noted what purported to be a group of letters in the 
English section of El Clamor Publico, a Spanish-language paper published in Los 
Angeles in the 1850s, that obviously were products of editor John Wheeler.  
Rice, p. 133.

49. The original "egg puzzle" letter appeared on April 30, 1888, p. 3.  Other 
letters followed on May 2, 1888, p. 6; May 3, 1888, p. 3; May 4, 1888, p. 3.

50. Times, May 7, 1888, p. 3.

51. Gordon, letter to author, May 3, 1993, is the source of the Nick Williams 
comment.  Gordon writes: "When I was on The Times (1927-42) they were careful 
to keep letters legitimate."  Mary Cox, current editor of the editorial page 
letters column, in a letter to the author, June 15, 1995, states: "I've never 
worked at a newspaper where making up letters to the editor was condoned."

52. For examples see Times, May 22, 1888, p. 3 (Watson); April 7, 1887, p. 3 
(Parker); Jan. 23, 1888, p. 3 (Bennet).

53. The only information regarding Tara's background is found on May 4, 1888, 
p. 3, and April 1, 1888, p. 3.  His letters ran only in 1888.

54. For examples of favorable letters or news articles see Times, Feb. 1, 1887, 
p. 2, for a reprint of a New York Sun letter enthusiastic about the Topolobampo 
colony; for Clearwater, see favorable news article on Jan. 1, 1887, p. 10; for 
Bellamy's Nationalists, see letter Oct. 7, 1889, p. 3.  For an interesting 
exchange between Otis and a defender of the anarchists, see Times, Feb. 5, 
1888, p. 10.

55. For letters see Times, Mar. 12, 1885, p. 4 (Vinette); Dec. 27, 1889, p. 3 
(Wilshire); July 2, 1889, p. 6 (Kinney).

56. For an example of a pro-union letter, see Times, Jan. 27, 1888, p. 3.

57. Times, July 15, 1887, p. 6.

58. Times, June 29, 1882, p. 3.

59. Otis' part in publicizing the British minister's reply to "Murchison" is 
well known.  For the first appearance of the letter see Times, Oct. 21, 1888, 
p. 4.

60. In 1883 the city council approved a system that numbered buildings in the 
first block from 1-99, the second block beginning with 101.  A vigilant reader 
won the editor's support for an alternate system, the one now in existence, 
that starts the numbering at 101.  See Times, May 12, 1883, p. 4 for letter and 
for favorable comment in the editorial column.  The council soon reversed 
itself and opted for the present system, although a subsequent letter indicated 
that property owners were inconsistent in applying the numbers to their 
buildings.  See Times, Sept. 23, 1883, p. 3.

61. Cox, letter, June 15, 1995.  While the number of letters received by the 
Times varies greatly, they averaged 1000-1200 per week in 1995.  No statistics 
exist regarding the number of unpublished letters received by the Times in the