Vintage Snapshots

found photos & other curiosities

Category: Los Angeles

Portraits: Shoe

Oddball snapshot of woman posing upside down on grass in dance move, circa 1940s Los Angeles.

“In L.A. soon” (c 1940s)

Part of an album acquired yesterday originally spotted by John Taylor, who has an eagle eye for all sorts of photographic tributaries. The inscription on the back is nice too. It reads: “This is one of the dances June will do on the stage in L.A. soon. June, 142nd St, Haw.”

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“Enjoyment” on Mt. Wilson

Vintage photo of two hikers on Mt. Wlson in September 1907

“Enjoyment – Mt. Wilson, Sept. 1, 1907” (click to enlarge)

Mt. Wilson is a 5,712′-high mountain in Los Angeles County, and seems to have been a very popular early-20th century destination for hikers if the number of vintage snapshots taken there is any indication. According to this website, the first modern trail  up the mountain — transforming an old Indian path — was built in 1864, and by the 1880s “up to 70 hikers and horse-riders [would] climb the trail to camp at Mt. Wilson on weekends, building huge bonfires at the peak to signal their safe arrival.”

The names written on the back of this shot are “Davis” and what looks like “Goodan” —  should anyone in the area have any inkling of who they perhaps were.

Prankster

Vintage snapshot of 1950s family, with boy's face a blur

Classic 1950s family, Laura Scudder’s chips, Sun Valley, CA, May, 1957 (click to enlarge)

I’m not sure exactly what the imposing controls were used for (I can’t make out the abbreviation on the back, though the date, city and name of the family — Schepler — are clear). I assume, in any case, that the boy was quite pleased with himself when he saw this.

East of Los Angeles: Early Hiking in the San Gabriels

Vintage snapshot of a group of men and women in the San Gabriel Mountains, east of L.A.

A day in the San Gabriel Mountains, c 1908 (click to enlarge)

The San Gabriel Mountains begin north and east of the city of Los Angeles and range for over 60 miles, reaching a height of just over 10,000 feet at their highest point, Mt. San Antonio (better known as Mt. Baldy). Living in L.A. I often come across images taken on Mt. Wilson — the nearest large peak to the city and home to an Observatory as early as 1908 — and in the various nearby canyons, which have long attracted hikers. This circa 1908 shot shows one well-dressed group, and also has a rather charming approach to its border that I have not seen very often.

The San Gabriel Mountains are still quite rugged if you venture far enough into them, and are notable for remaining geologically active: they actually are said to be growing at a rate of 2 inches per year. As Wikipedia points out, “various faults crisscross the range, making it one of the steepest and fastest-growing ranges in the world. Plate tectonic activity breaks up most rock, making it unsuitable for rock climbing.”

Indeed, an interesting article on the history of the mountains on local public TV station KCET’s website observes that “although they don’t soar as high as the Sierra Nevada nor offer the same diversity of flora and fauna, the San Gabriels’ steep escarpments and deep ravines can challenge experienced adventurers. Even such a tireless trekker as John Muir met his match in the mountains. After an 1877 hike above Eaton Canyon, Muir described the San Gabriels as the place where ‘Mother Nature is most ruggedly, thornily savage.’ Chaparral provided the greatest nuisance — the prickly brush reduced Muir to crawling on his hands and knees for at least a mile — but the rugged terrain also merited a complaint. ‘The slopes are exceptionally steep and insecure to the foot of the explorer, however great his strength or skill may be,’ he wrote.”

Given the way the group in the photo is dressed, one can only assume they avoided sampling too much of that aspect of the mountains.

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