Friday, October 27, 2017

Who Tells Your Story? Alexander Hamilton’s 230-year-old Federalist Papers: A Story for Our Time

The Federalist: A Collection of Essays, written in Favour of the New Constitution


“Who Tells Your Story?” is a central theme in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway blockbuster Hamilton: An American Musical, currently touring in California. It also thematically links CHS’s current exhibitions Alexander Hamilton: Treasures from the New-York Historical Society and Meanwhile Out West: Colonizing California, 1769–1821two colonial stories, eastern and western, that provide perspectives beyond unbiased and objective historical records.

Two hundred thirty years ago today, on October 27, 1787, a story with considerable impact on our new nation began, not in the halls of entertainment but in the theatre of political writing and discourse. It was a passionate story of support for the newly conceived United States Constitution—a document proposing a unique though unexpected way to govern our newborn union.

The story opens with the publication of the first of eighty-five articles in The Federalist (later The Federalist Papers), which promoted the ratification of the Constitution. Authored by Founding Fathers Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the pseudonym Publius (Latin for “public”), The Federalist was written over ten months, between October 1787 and May 1788, to influence the ratification debate primarily in New York.

Title page, Publius, The Federalist, vol. 1, 1788

Rare Books and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

Alexander Hamilton (c. 1755–1804) wrote a majority of the articles, including the General Introduction, in which he urged his fellow New Yorkers and countrymen to adopt the Constitution: “I am convinced that this is the safest course for your liberty, your dignity, and your happiness.” Ratification, he wrote, “speaks its own importance; comprehending in its consequences nothing less than the existence of the UNION, the safety and welfare of the parts of which it is composed, the fate of an empire in many respects the most interesting in the world.” He further explained: “For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union.”

John Trumbull (American artist), Alexander Hamilton, after 1804
New-York Historical Society, Gift of Thomas Jefferson Bryan, 1867.305

The Constitution's sole signatory from New York, Hamilton had returned to the state from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia facing strong opposition from Governor George Clinton, his widespread anti-Constitution followers, and his threatening political machine. Undeterred, Hamilton engaged Madison and Jay in the herculean effort ahead of him.

Signatures of the United States Constitution, detail of page 4

Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration
Despite The Federalist’s high-brow approach, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay achieved their goal three weeks after their last paper was published, when on July 26, 1788, in the Poughkeepsie Court House, the State of New York ratified the Constitution and became the eleventh state of the Union.

Even before New York’s ratification, Hamilton was honored during the city’s July 23, 1788, Federal Procession, a celebration following the Constitution’s ratification by New Hampshire. His image, as reported in a history of the city, “was carried aloft on banners in every part of the procession, the Constitution in his right hand and the Confederation in his left. He had to all appearances turned the scale for the Union, and fame was indeed crowning him with well-earned and enduring laurels.” The procession’s centerpiece, the Federal ship Hamilton, fired 13-gun salutes, one for each state, from its position on a platform drawn by ten horses. The ship anchored at the Bowling Green, “amidst the acclamations of thousands,” remaining on view until June 30, 1789.

Unknown artist, The Federal Ship Hamilton, c. 1877

As biographer Ron Chernow has written, “Americans often wonder how this moment could have spawned such extraordinary men as Hamilton and Madison. Part of the answer is that the Revolution produced an insatiable need for thinkers who could generate ideas and wordsmiths who could lucidly expound them.” Indeed, Hamilton served as General George Washington’s aide during the Revolutionary War, the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington, and New York State assemblyman; he was founder of the Bank of New York, a designer of the two-party system, and a proponent of ending the legality of the international slave trade.

The impact of The Federalist was immediate. Not only did it influence ratification, the publication’s title became the name of the pro-Constitution movement and, later, Hamilton’s political party (1789–1824). To this day, The Federalist Papers is considered a masterpiece of political thought, renowned, Chernow points out, “as the foremost exposition of the Constitution.”

Two Bay Area students look at the Federalist papers in the current California Historical Society exhibition,  Alexander Hamilton: Treasures from the New-York Historical Society 
In today’s volatile political climate, when we weigh what seems like multiple interpretations of our nation’s rules of law, we might think of the story of The Federalist as one of indefatigable patriotism. But politics aside, we are, Chernow reminds us, “indisputably the heirs to Hamilton’s America, and to repudiate his legacy is, in many ways, to repudiate the modern world.”

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager
Ron Chernow, Alexander Hamilton (New York: Penguin Books, 2004)
Martha J. Lamb, History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise and Progress, vol. II (New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., 1877; reprint 1921 by Valentine’s Manual, Inc.);
Nation at the Crossroads: The Great New York Debate over the Constitution, 1787–88;
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton and John Jay and James Madison;

HAMILTON: A Life in Documents:

Monday, October 23, 2017

California Food Market Revival: Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market Turns 100

Opening Day at the Grand Central Public Market, October 27, 1917
Courtesy of Grand Central Market Collection via

“Years ago the only reason people went to downtown Los Angeles was to dump a body.
But that’s all changed. This is LA’s Brooklyn now. The place is bustling with new reasons to go there. One of those reasons is about a hundred years old.” Phil Rosenthal
The Grand Central Market Cookbook: Cuisine and Culture from Downtown Los Angeles (2017)

In Los Angeles, the simplest pleasures—a sunset, a symphony, food and drink—are destinations. And this week, one destination stand outs, as it has been for the last 100 years. Downtown Los Angeles’s Grand Central Market, the city’s largest and oldest public market, celebrates its centennial. Once a convenient market for the residents of upscale Bunker Hill, today the Grand Central Market is, in food critic Jonathan Gold’s estimation, “an essential food center.”

Like San Francisco’s Ferry Building, the market’s transformation is part of a culinary trend sweeping the nation. Today’s food halls feature a variety of vendors whose products—local, exotic, and artisanal—cater to the hunger for variety that diverse populations have come to know and appreciate.
We celebrate Grand Central Market’s 100th anniversary this Friday, October 27, with a photo essay of the marketplace and its neighborhood over the years.

Homer Laughlin Building, c. early 1900s
The Grand Central Public Market opened in the Homer Laughlin Building, designed by architect John Parkinson and built in 1897 by potter and businessman Homer Laughlin. Its ground floor location was also home to a dry goods company owned by merchant and clergyman B. F. Coulter and to the San Francisco-based Ville de Paris dry goods company. In 1905, an adjoining building was constructed that extended the original building to Hill Street. One of downtown’s oldest commercial structures in continuous use and the city’s first fireproofed and steel-reinforced structure first steel-reinforced and fireproofed concrete sculpture, the Beaux Arts-style building also leased office space to famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who constructed a number of concrete residences in the Los Angeles area.

Broadway North from 4th Street, Los Angeles, Cal., c. 1900s
The Haskell Post Card Emporium 

By the time the Grand Central Public Market opened, Broadway was downtown Los Angeles’s main commercial and entertainment district. Above Broadway, on Bunker Hill, lived some of the city’s most prosperous residents, who descended the Angel’s Flight railway to shop at the market, only a few steps away. The residents of the segregated Bunker Hill and the market’s all-white vendors bear little resemblance to vendors and their patronage today.


Grand Opening of Angel's Flight, December 31, 1901
Courtesy Water and Power Associates

 Angel’s Flight (called Los Angeles Incline Railway when built) began at the west corner of Hill and Third Streets and ascended two blocks to Olive Street on Bunker Hill. One of its highly touted features was the observation tower, whose view was described in a brochure by J. W. Eddy, the railway’s financier, as “grand beyond compare, overlooking city, sea and mountains.” The railway was relocated half a block south in 1996. Following numerous closures, Angel’s Flight was restored and another grand opening was held on August 31, 2017—exactly 116 years after its 1901 opening.


 Grand Central Market, c. 1924–25
Courtesy The Bancroft Library
By 1920, Los Angeles had surpassed San Francisco in population (both over the half-million mark). Two years later, a promotional brochure bragged that Grand Central Market was “Feeding a Million People.” The market featured over 90 stalls, with vendors selling fruit, baked goods, meats, and other products. Prepared foods and restaurants also were available. Perhaps an unknown piece of its history is a visit by the State Department of Public Health during an outbreak of bubonic plague in 1924–1925. It is not clear whether any diseased rats were discovered from the writing accompanying the photograph above (housed at The Bancroft Library), which most likely was taken by the health inspectors.

Interior of Grand Central Market, c. 1930s
Courtesy Grand Central Market Collection
Melton’s Fine Meats at Grand Central Market, c. 1940
Courtesy Grand Central Market Collection via 

Shoppers found their way by bright neon signs displaying wares and stall numbers, c. 1950s
Courtesy CitySleuth
 As described in The Grand Central Market Cookbook:Grand Central Public Market was true to its name—grand. It covered some 80,000 sq. ft., with 2 levels of retail space and a subterranean network of hallways lined with storage rooms, walk-in freezers, and refrigerators large enough to park a Model A Ford. Dumbwaiters from the basement to the street-level sales floor allowed vendors to stock their stalls without ever having to venture into the crowded aisles. It was a modern marvel.” Despite its grandeur, the post-World War II years and beyond were not kind to the areas surrounding the market, including Bunker Hill, where slum apartments arose as early as 1948.

Grand Central Market Shoppers, 1966
Los Angeles Public Library
As to the rest of the nation, the 1960s brought change to Los Angeles. The Watts Riots and a new immigration law brought “white flight” and a wave of new immigrants from Asia and Latin America, who introduced foods and specialty ingredients and lower prices to the market. A year before the decade began, the city adopted the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project. The project brought an end to the Bunker Hill neighborhood as Victorian homes and hotels were demolished to make way for skyscrapers. Within a decade of the project’s adoption, the hilltop community was gone.
Grand Central Market 75th Anniversary, December 5, 1987
Los Angeles Public Library; photo: Mike Sergieff
In the 1980s, real estate developer and lawyer Ira Yellin called Broadway a “bustling Hispanic secret.” With a new vision for the market—connecting Broadway, a major Latino shopping venue, and the upscale Bunker Hill district—he upgraded the space and began the market’s renovation, the Grand Central Square Project, which was completed in 1995. During the 2008 financial crisis, the market’s fate reflected the economic downturn in many parts of the city. By 2012, however, a resurgence of downtown residential and commercial activity revitalized the market, which only two years later was included in Bon Appetite magazine’s “Hot 10” list of eateries nationwide. Today, as Curbed Los Angeles observes, Grand Central Market “is a vibrant and thriving community of multicultural stands and food stops. . . . Flashy new food halls are marching into Los Angeles, but none can compete with the enduring Grand Central Market.”

Happy 100th Birthday, Grand Central Market!

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager


Rusty Beaman, “What’s Hiding in the Basement of This Historic Building Downtown?”;

Jenna Chandler and Farley Elliott, “LA’s Grand Central Market: A complete guide,” Curbed Los Angeles;

Farley Elliott, "The History and Politics of Street Food in Los Angeles;

Emanuella Grinberg, “Step into the new era of food halls,” CNN;

Danny Jensen, “Grand Central Market: A Look Back at 100 Years,” KCET/The Migrant Kitchen, October 23, 2017;

Nathan Masters, “Rediscovering Downtown L.A.’s Lost Neighborhood of Bunker Hill,” KCET/Lost LA, July 11, 2012;

Adele Yellin and Kevin West, The Grand Central Market Cookbook: Cuisine and Culture from Downtown Los Angeles (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2017)





Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The 12th Annual Los Angeles Archives Bazaar

Los Angeles Archives Bazaar, 2015
Courtesy LA as Subject; photo: Rich Schmitt

History comes alive once again on Saturday, October 21, 2017, as dozens of Southern California’s rare and archival materials come together at the 12th annual daylong Los Angeles Archives Bazaar. Each year, serious researchers, history buffs, and Californiana enthusiasts come to experience a number of Southern California exhibits, documentary film screenings, educational sessions, and other public programming. A distinguishing feature of the bazaar is that unique, private collections and less-visible archives are represented alongside materials from large institutions, helping to tell a more complete story of Los Angeles history.

Look for the California Historical Society booth at this year’s bazaar. Learn about our Los Angeles–area collections housed at the Autry Museum and USC; ongoing projects and collections in both San Francisco and Los Angeles; and statewide opportunities, including our annual California Historical Society Book Award and traveling exhibitions. 

Every year, CHS archivists and staff are on hand at our booth, answering questions, sharing information, and selling books. This year, we offer our newest co-publications: The City of Vines: A History of Wine in Los Angeles (CHS/Heyday), winner of the 2016 California Historical Society Book Award, and ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/Chicano Murals under Siege (CHS/LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in association with Angel City Press), the companion publication of our current exhibition now on view at LA Plaza. 

Thomas Pinney, The City of Vines: A History of Wine in Los Angeles (CHS and Heyday, 2017)

Erin M. Curtis, Jessica Hough, and Guisela Latorre, ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/Chicano Murals under Siege (CHS and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in association with Angel City Press, 2017)

At 11:00 a.m., join CHS’s Director of Exhibitions Jessica Hough, who will speak about CHS's ¡Murales Rebeldes! project, part of the Getty’s region-wide initiative, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA. She will join other panelists at LA/LA LAAS Lightning Round, which highlights the archives from LA as Subject member collections that are included in PST: LA/LA exhibitions and programs, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Center for the Study of Political Graphics, ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, and UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

Saturday, October 21, 20179:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Doheny Memorial LibraryUSC University Park Campus
3550 Trousdale Pkwy, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Admission is free and open to the public

Monday, October 16, 2017

National Hispanic Heritage Month: A Mural’s Unveiling 85 years ago

Colored digital rendering of David Alfaro Siqueiros’s America Tropical
Courtesy Luis C. Garza; mural © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOMAAP, Mexico City

Although National Hispanic Heritage Month has just concluded, here in Los Angeles the celebration of Latina/o heritage is in full swing.

In September, the Getty launched its widely anticipated region-wide initiative, Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, with more than 70 participating institutions and organizations. Among them are a number of exhibitions featuring the works of Latina/o and Latin American muralists.

Artists and curators featured in Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA stand as a group at the Getty Center, September 2017

In addition to our own ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/o Murals under Siege at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and its spotlight installation L.A. History: A Mexican Perspective at Union Station, Latina/o murals are featured in the Skirball Cultural Center’s Surface Tension by Ken Gonzales-Day: Murals, Signs, and Mark-Making in L.A.; CSU Northridge Art Galleries’ The Great Wall of Los Angeles: Judith F. Baca’s Experimentations in Collaboration and Concrete; Chapman University’s My Barrio: Emigdio Vasquez and Chicana/o Identity in Orange County; Laguna Art Museum’s California Mexicana: Missions to Murals, 1820–1930; and Pomona College Museum of Art’s Prometheus 2017: Four Artists from Mexico Revisit Orozco.

It has been said that many Chicana/o muralists in Southern California drew their inspiration from the city’s first public mural, América Tropical (1932) by David Alfaro Siqueiros. As LA Plaza and California Historical Society executive directors John Echeveste and Anthea M. Hartig Ph.D. noted, “Siqueiros’s work, along with those of his Mexican muralist contemporaries fueled the artistic fires of the many Chicana/o muralists who emerged in Southern California beginning in the 1960s. Like Siqueiros, they used their art form to express their frustrations, dreams, hopes, and grievances against a society they viewed as largely oppressive.”

Composite of details of murals featured in ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/o Murals under Siege, designed by Amy Inouye, FutureStudio, 2017
LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes/California Historical Society

The mural, located on Olvera Street, which graphically depicts the crucifixion of a Mexican Indian on a cross crowned with an American eagle, was considered dangerously anti-American and was whitewashed within a few years of completion.

The far-reaching Getty Conservation Institute, of course, has played a significant role in the mural’s continued inspiration. On October 9, 1932, the patrons who commissioned América Tropical were scandalized when the mural was unveiled. Expecting a benign, romanticized tropical scene for the newly developed Mexican marketplace, Olvera Street, their dismay by Siqueiros’s surprise political message, resulting in the mural’s almost immediate whitewashing, a process that continued over a few years. 

As Siqueiros later explained in a 1971 documentary by Chicano filmmaker Jesús Treviño, “for me ‘America Tropical’ was a land of natives, of Indians, Creoles, of African-American men, all of them invariably persecuted and harassed by their respective governments.”

The Getty Conservation Institute’s Monitoring Notebook and a visual of América Tropical on the roof of the recently renovated Italian Hall at El Pueblo de Los Angeles National Monument, March 21, 2017
Photo: Shelly Kale; mural: © 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SOMAAP, Mexico City

In 2012, eighty years to the day after the mural’s first unveiling, a second unveiling made news. This time, however, there was cause for celebration. On October 9, 2012, after a nearly $10 million restoration funded by the City of Los Angeles and the Getty Conservation Institute, the mural as it had emerged—ghostlike—from behind four decades of whitewash in the 1970s was carefully conserved and protected, enhanced by an interpretive center that explained its conservation and artistic legacy.

This writer wonders: Might this conserved version of the mural serve the same role in inspiring today and tomorrow’s Chicana/o muralists? Might the PST: LA/LA initiative inspire greater dialogue between Latino communities across North America?

Shelly Kale
Publications and Strategic Projects Manager

Erin Curtis, Jessica Hough, Guisela Latorre, ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/Chicano Murals under Siege (Los Angeles: Angel City Press, 2017)


Learn more about ¡Murales Rebeldes! L.A. Chicana/o Murals under Siege at

Learn more about Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA at