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The Forgotten Plague | Primary Source

The Land of Sunshine

In 1886, writer Charles Willard arrived in Los Angeles, California. He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and, like thousands of other Americans, had made the journey to Los Angeles to improve his health. When Willard got a job at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, he was tasked with luring health seekers to California. He started a journal called The Land of Sunshine, which was filled with residents’ testimonials to the healing powers of the California climate. Some notable writers who contributed to the journal include Jack London and John Muir. Below are two such testimonials by W.C. Patterson, the president of the Land of Sunshine Publishing Company, and E.P. Johnson, president of the Los Angeles Furniture Company.

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The Land of Sunshine. Credit: Huntington Library

Why am I here?

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W.C. Patterson. Credit: Huntington Library

Firstly – Because, although I came to Los Angeles a physical wreck – pale, haggard and debilitated – my health has been restored. I am now simply robust, and my avoirdupois [weight] has been augmented by over thirty pounds.

Secondly – Because I found the opportunities for business more promising here than in almost any other section, which fact has enabled me to make a living, "and then some."

Thirdly – Because the "glorious climate" (which is all that has been claimed for it, and more) enables me to enjoy life better and appreciate life more, than where the uncertainty of tomorrow’s weather impinges upon the planning for that day; and because there are here no blizzards, cyclones, hydrophobia, lightning rods, lightning-rod peddlers, nor sunstrokes, and no earthquakes so frightful as those which sometimes afflict the Eastern portion of our continent.

Fourthly – Because I am here afforded the delights and advantages of the best society imaginable. Southern California has been peopled with the very best of Eastern wealth, culture, education, and exquisite refinement. There are here the highest exponents of art, science, philosophy and belles-lettres.

Fifthly – Because the educational advantages are unsurpassed. In pedagogy the latest and most approved ideas are allowed to prevail. Our public schools rank with the best; and a multiplicity of private and special schools provide for every educational requirement.

Sixthly - I love music, and there are here an abundance of opportunities for the gratification of my desires in this direction. The fine choirs, the numerous vocal clubs, the several high-grade orchestras, and numbers of accomplished vocal and instrumental soloists, have already made Los Angeles a remarkable musical center.

Seventhly - There is no community in the United States more moral on the average, or more civil than is this in which is my privilege to live. I have seen more drunken and disorderly men on a Saturday afternoon in an Eastern town of fifteen thousand, than may be seen on the streets of the large city of Los Angeles in an entire month. I doubt seriously, if there is within the whole United States a more generally church-going people; nor is there any locality where there is more religious toleration.

Eighthly – Los Angeles, by reason of its geographical and topographical situation, is destined to become the metropolis, not only of Southern California, but of the entire Southwest. In the East for twenty years I lived in what was known as the “ancient metropolis” of Ohio, and I am proud to contribute my mite toward the creation of a greater “metropolis.”

Lastly – Because in all my long experience and observation I have as yet failed to discover any other spot which combines so many of the elements which go to make men happy, healthy, useful, and wise; no place where hospitality is more genuine; where friendships are more abiding; where men are nobler or women lovelier.


The Outlook

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E.P. Johnson. Credit: Huntington Library

I am sure is is no exaggeration to say that the outlook for the Los Angeles was never more promising that it is today. We have got over the depression which followed the boom, and although we have not yet run across anything in the shape of another boom – perhaps it would be better that we should not do so – there is a large amount of business being transacted here of a steady and satisfactory character – more business in fact than a good many people have any idea of. A great many Eastern people are coming to make their homes with us; and I find that nine-tenths of these people, after they get here, act as immigration agents to bring others. This, together with the large amount of advertising which Los Angeles is receiving from such agencies as the Chamber of Commerce and the newspapers, combined with the efforts that were made at the World’s Fair and Midwinter Fair should have the effect of increasing the population of the city by at least 25 per cent within the next twelve months.

One of the most important features of the present movement toward this section is that so many of the people come to settle on the land and become producers, thus adding to the wealth of Southern California. In former days a great many Easterners used to come to Los Angeles without any special object in view and without means, just “waiting for something to turn up,” like Mr. Micawber. Many of these folks seemed to have an idea that twenty dollar gold pieces were laying around loose in Los Angeles. Of course such impracticables were disappointed, as were some other persons who came here with lost lungs expecting that the climate was something like that of the Pacific Islands, and who found that they could not safely go out nights without warm clothing. Such visitors as these wrote back a good many uncomplimentary things about Los Angeles and Southern California to their home papers. But a different class of people are coming here today. Most of them know just what they intend to do, some of them even having settled upon a location before they left their Eastern homes.

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