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L.A. Then AND NOW

December 31, 1999|LEILAH BERNSTEIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

On Jan. 1, 1900, the Los Angeles Daily Times (as it was then known) printed a three-part, 80-page magazine called the "Midwinter Number." This was Southern California boosterism at its best. In the first two pages, more than 60 "facts" about the region with the "sunniest of skies" were itemized to bolster the hopes of those living here and to lure Easterners west. Today, we dust off the report and compare two years cleaved by a century: 1899 and 1999. From agriculture to transportation, a lot has changed. But some might say the romantic notion of "this land of perfume, fruitage and perpetual summer" remains.

1899--"The section usually referred to as Southern California embraces the seven counties of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura and Santa Barbara."

1999--An eighth county--Imperial County--now joins the Southern California group. It was incorporated Aug. 15, 1907.

1899--"The total area of the seven counties is 44,901 square miles, which is 29% of the area of the state."

1999--Eight Southern California counties total 45,083.7 square miles, which is 28.4% of the area of the state.

1899--"Population of Los Angeles city in . . . 1900 (estimated): 120,000."

1999--Population of the city of L.A.: 3,629,094; for the county, 9,377,938.

1899--"The population of Los Angeles is cosmopolitan, including people from every state in the Union and from nearly every civilized country in the world. There are published in the city newspapers in the English, French, German, Basque and Chinese languages."

1999--Foreign-language publications based in the L.A. area include the Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese languages.

1899--"The school census taken in April last showed that there were in the city of Los Angeles 27,232 school children enrolled."

1999--L.A. Unified School District enrollment: approximately 700,000.

1899--"The death rate of Los Angeles city for the last 10 years averages about 14 per thousand of the population. This includes a large number of more or less hopeless invalids, who come here from the East, in advanced stages of disease."

1998--L.A. County deaths for the year: 8,966 (or about 1 per 1,000 of population).

1899--"The assessed valuation of property in Los Angeles city is $65,812,674."

1999--Assessed property value for city of L.A. is $227.45 billion.

1899--"The city post office business for the year amounted to $226,803. In 1890, it was $100,169."

1999--City post office business amounted to $475 million (1990: $439 million).

1899--"The building permits issued in Los Angeles were 1,705 in number, with a total valuation of $2,223,748."

1999--The number of permits issued was 40,550, with a total valuation of $2,340,973,433.

1899--"Skilled labor is generally in fair demand in Southern California. There is a surplus of doctors, lawyers, preachers, school and music teachers and real estate agents. Also of men who are looking for work and praying that they may not find it."

1999--As of November, 9,217,300 people were employed in Southern California. The L.A. County unemployment rate in November, according to the state, was 5.4%.

1899--"During the past year the raising of Belgian hares has become quite an important minor industry in Southern California. There are over 500 people engaged in the business in this section. . . . Many high-grade animals have been imported from the East and Europe, and some of them are valued at prices ranging from $100 to $500."

1999--More than 2,500 emus are raised in Southern California for their meat, eggs and oil, with 35 ranchers in San Diego and Riverside counties. Originally imported from Australia, the large, flightless birds are worth between $45 and $400. In the early '90s, when demand was higher, one emu generally sold for $30,000 to $50,000.

1899--"In what other civilized country can you find 'ostrich plumes plucked while you wait?' A hundred ostriches furnish amusement and feathers to visitors at South Pasadena."

1999--Peacocks roam the grounds of the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia. Peacock feathers cost $1 in the gift shop.

1899--"There are in Los Angeles over 200 miles of graded, graveled and paved streets. There are over 300 miles of cement and asphalt sidewalk and 160 miles of sewer."

1999--There are 6,500 miles of mostly asphalt concrete streets, of which 580 miles are made of Portland cement concrete and 300 miles are dirt or have a thin asphalt overlay. There are 10,000 lineal miles of concrete sidewalks, averaging 5 feet wide. And there are 6,500 miles of city-maintained sewers and 11,000 miles of private sewers.

1899--"Twelve lines of railroad center in Los Angeles, and the eyes of Eastern railroad men are directed this way."

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