THE BOOM MENTALITY & CALIFORNIA AS A LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
Panel at the Hollywood Bowl Vista Point in Mulholland Dr.
The boom mentality was present in California since 1948/1949 with the Gold rush. This mentality is very well illustrated by J.S. Holliday in his lecture at the Bancroft library “Like America Only More So: The Origins and Power of California’s Image”. Holliday explains in his lecture that in the mid 1800’s California started to be perceived as a land of great possibilities mainly because of the presence of free Gold and other factors. This fact brought a huge increase in population in a short period of time.
The idea of California as a land of opportunity was also promoted in the 1870’s. After the railroad was finished and agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley begun to develop, farmers/growers such as the California Fruit Growers’ Exchange2 and land owners such as the Shouthern Pacific Railroad3 started to advertise California’s produce and California as a place to live and visit. These advertisement campaigns, which spoke about the bounty of California’s climate and also about the many economic opportunities California had to offer, were a key factor for “the boom of the eighties”. That decade produced a real estate boom, and also a great economic and population growth mainly in Southern California (1).
Later on, in the early twentieth century an even more remarkable growth happened that kept this boom mentality going. For instance the population in the Los Angeles metropolitan area in 1920 “was five times as large as in 1900” (1).
Mulholland’s work as Chief Engineer of the Bureau of Water Works and Supply was a driving force and also a consequence of this boom mentality. He was a driving force because through his work Los Angeles secured a great and reliable water supply that allowed the city to grow as fast as it did. At the same time, his work was also a consequence of that mentality because without a great vision of how Los Angeles could grow, the city itself and Mulholland would have never proposed to build the Owens Valley-Los Angeles Aqueduct as it was an expensive and difficult enterprise and one of the largest municipal water projects built up until then (2). The connection between Mulholland and the boom mentality is clearly shown in Catherine Mulholland’s words; when she wrote that the story of her grandfather is not just a biography “but also an account of how a small pueblo in a semiarid basin was able to secure the water and power that allowed it to grow into a major city” (3).
Mulholland’s life is also an example of how California, for some people, was a land of opportunities. To exemplify this I will use the same words shown in the dedication rock by the Mulholland Memorial Fountain: “A penniless Irish immigrant boy who rose by the force of his industry, intelligence, integrity and intrepidity to be a sturdy American citizen, a self-educated engineering genius, father of this city’s water system and builder of the Los Angeles Aqueduct”.
(1) California an Interpretive History, by James J. Rawls and Walton Bean, p. 206-207
(2) “Carrying Water Through the Dessert” by Burt A. Heinly (The National Geographic Magazine Vol XXI Year 1910), p. 568
(3) “William Mulholland and the rise of Los Angeles” by Catherine Mulholland, Praface p. xviii
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