YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

about it is this is going to give a Latino with an
international spotlight the opportunity to show that
we can serve for everybody.' -- Assembly Speaker Fabian

Grocer, Doctor, Gambling Man, Clerk ...

July 02, 2005

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is the 41st mayor of Los Angeles, takes over a job with a colorful history. Here's a look at how L.A.'s 40 former mayors are remembered, if at all.

Alpheus P. Hodges


Hodges was mayor and coroner. He received no pay as mayor but earned $100 for each inquest of a "dead Indian." His hallmark was his youth when he took office -- 28 years old, still a record.

Benjamin D. Wilson


A winemaker and land baron, Wilson was the first elected full-time mayor. He also organized the first police force.

John G. Nichols

1852-53, 1856-59

Nichols, a grocer, lived in the first brick house and his son was the first American born in L.A.

Antonio F. Coronel


Coronel, sworn in kneeling before a makeshift altar, established the Department of Public Works. He encouraged residents to gather in the plaza at the sound of a gong and vote on city matters by a show of hands.

Stephen C. Foster

1854-55, 1856

Solidifying his "law and order" pledge, Foster scrambled atop a beer keg and announced his brief resignation to head a lynch mob. When the Yale graduate resumed the job, he started a chain gang to build new streets.

Thomas Foster


Foster, a physician, enforced a $3 fine on those who bathed or washed their clothes in the zanja madre, the city's water system. He sent a wagon dubbed the "Black Maria" to cart off smallpox victims.

Damien Marchessault

1859-60, 1861-65

A carousing onetime New Orleans gambler, Marchessault and a partner laid wooden water pipes that burst and turned streets into sinkholes. Struggling with mounting debts, he slipped into an empty City Council chamber on Jan. 20, 1868, and shot himself to death.

Henry Mellus


An entrepreneur and a bookish Bostonian, Mellus sailed around Cape Horn in 1835 with Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of "Two Years Before the Mast."

Jose Mascarel


A former French sea captain, Mascarel spoke Spanish and French but little English. During the Civil War, when the Union Army's Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell scheduled a visit, it was feared that his language skills might prove an embarrassment. Fortunately, McDowell spoke French.

Cristobal Aguilar

1866-68, 1871-72

Aguilar vetoed a proposed sale of the city water system and started the Department of Water and Power. He failed in a bid for a third term when his opponent made an issue of his flawed English. He was the last Latino mayor before Villaraigosa.

Joel H. Turner


Turner is perhaps best known for startling Secretary of State William Seward by "ambushing" his stagecoach with a band of troubadours "all tricked out in ribbons and spangles in old-time Californian style."

James R. Toberman

1872-74, 1878-82

Toberman, who sported a droopy mustache, was a bit of a skinflint. He budgeted $25 for the welcoming ceremonies for Rutherford B. Hayes, the first American president to visit L.A.

Prudent Beaudry


Beaudry was pitied as a fool for paying $517 for 20 acres of "howling coyote wilderness." He piped water to it in 1875 and, because it was the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, he named it accordingly.

Frederick Alexander MacDougall


Scottish-born MacDougall was a charter member of the city's first all-male social club.

Bernard Cohn


Appointed mayor for two weeks after MacDougall died in office.

Cameron Erskine Thom


Elysian Park was established when he was mayor. An attorney, he helped draft the City Charter.

Edward F. Spence


A businessman and banker, Spence helped found USC.

William H. Workman


A former saddle-and-harness dealer, Workman helped import water from the north, developed Boyle Heights and devised an Eastside streetcar system.

John Bryson


Bryson's wife publicly demanded that the real estate mogul live with his girlfriend outside the city limits. "I would rather die than agree to any such crazy proposition as that," he said.

Henry T. Hazard


Hazard, a businessman and attorney, was in a barber's chair, lathered with shaving cream, when the 1871 Chinese Massacre broke out. With shaving cream on his face, he drew his revolver and plunged into the murderous mob to rescue hapless victims.

Thomas E. Rowan


Owner of the American Baking Co., his real interest was politics and shenanigans. Rowan sponsored the first "La Fiesta de Los Angeles," which endures as Fiesta Broadway. Newspaper accounts report Rowan and others paraded in "weird and terrible costumes."

Frank Rader


An innocent-looking man with a handlebar mustache and wavy hair, Rader fought for federal money to develop a port.

Meredith Pinxton Snyder

1896-98, 1900-04, 1919-21

The former furniture store clerk was a durable Democrat in a period of Republican ascendancy. But he refused to clamp down on the oil industry.

Fred Eaton


A visionary engineer, Eaton tried to solve the city's water crisis. After he left office, he hatched an ambitious plan for an aqueduct to divert water to Los Angeles from the Owens Valley.

Owen C. McAleer


Los Angeles Times Articles