History of Los Angeles

In 1765 King Carlos III of Spain sent José de Gálvez to New Spain with orders to organize the settlement of Alta California. Inspector General Gálvez recruited Gaspar de Portolà and Junipero Serra in what became known as the "Sacred Expedition". It was decided that three ships, the San Carlos, the San Antonio, and the San José, should sail to San Diego Bay. It was also agreed to send two parties to make an overland journey from the Baja to Alta California.

The first ship, the San Carlos, sailed from La Paz on 10th January, 1769. The other two ships left on 15th February. The first overland party, led by Fernando Rivera y Moncada, left from the Misión San Fernando Rey de España de Velicatá on 24th March. With him was Father Juan Crespi, who had been given the task of recording details of the trip. The expedition led by Portolà, which included Father Serra, set off on 15th May.

Moncada reached San Diego in May. He built a camp and waited for the others to arrive. The San Antonio, reached its destination in fifty-four days. The San Carlos took twice that time and the San José was lost with all aboard. The second overland party arrived on 1st July. Out of a total of two hundred and nineteen men who left Baja California, just over a hundred survived the journey. Some of these were to die while the San Antonio sailed back to La Paz for supplies and reinforcements.

Gaspar de Portolà and his expedition, consisting of Father Juan Crespi, and sixty-three soldiers and a hundred mules loaded down with provisions, headed north on 14th July, 1769. They reached the site of present day Los Angeles on 2nd August. Two years later, Father Junipero Serra sent two priests to establish a community on the banks of the Santa Ana River. The local Shoshonean tribe were very hostile and the project was abandoned.

In 1777 Antonio María de Bucareli transferred Fernando Rivera Moncada to Loreto in California as lieutenant governor. He was replaced by Felipe de Neve as governor of Monterey. At Neve’s request, Teodoro de Croix, Captain General of the Interior Provinces ordered Rivera, to recruit soldiers and settlers for the founding of Los Angeles. In 1781 they established El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles de Porciuncula (the town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula).

Los Angeles eventually became the capital of the Spanish colonial province of Alta California but in 1846 was captured by United States forces during the Mexican War. The arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1876 and the discovery of oil in the 1890s stimulated economic growth in the area. The development of the motion-picture industry in the early 20th century also helped the city to expand rapidly.

During the Second World War Los Angeles became involved in producing war supplies and munitions. This created a great deal of migration to the area. In the 1970s and 1980s Los Angeles experienced dramatic growth through immigration. This included a very large Hispanic population. Other immigrants came from China, South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines. By 1990 Los Angeles had a population of 3,485,398, making it the second largest city in the United States.

Primary Sources

(1) Rosalind Franklin, letter to Jane Rich (August 1954)

The centre of Hollywood is vulgar and characterless, and only a little less sordid than the centre of Los Angeles. Here I was shown the worst part, which is really incredibly awful. Bad patches can be found in any big city, but none of the same extent as this, even if of the same depravity.