This is part two of a seven-part blog series exploring the long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine The Graphic. The Los Angeles Public Library owns what is likely the most complete collection of this magazine anywhere and our participation in California Revealed means that we can share this rare and unique resource with the world. As part of reintroducing this long-forgotten Los Angeles arts & culture magazine to contemporary audiences, the next few entries in this series will focus on the history of the publication and the Angelenos who kept it operating for twenty-six years.
Part II: A Lifestyle Magazine for Los Angeles
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century lifestyle/arts & culture magazines like Life, Town & Country, Harpers, and Good Housekeeping became ubiquitous. These magazines were dictating social trends, shaping American culture, and helping to forge a wholly unique American identity. These titles would prove so popular that many of them are still around and continue to shape the American experience, but these periodicals, almost exclusively, are inexorably intertwined with metropolitan centers on the east coast rather than something that was organic to California. Progressive-era Los Angeles did have a few magazines to call its own, among them Sunset, The Land of Sunshine, and Touring Topics with at least two of those titles still in existence, having matured past their initial raison d'etre: boosterism. Magazines like Sunset were conceived largely to help draw wary easterners and midwesterners to the Golden State by selling an idea of Los Angeles that was largely exaggerated, if not altogether fictitious. In fact, It's difficult to point to a single publication from this era that was designed specifically to explore an organic social and cultural milieu within our fledgling city; one exception, however, was The Graphic. Between 1892 and 1918, The Graphic (also known as The Los Angeles Graphic) and its various incarnations documented a thriving and wholly unique arts & culture scene within early Los Angeles that, much like the magazine itself, has largely been lost to the ages. Few copies of The Graphic were maintained for posterity and the publication was never distributed as far and wide as its owners would have hoped, all of which has contributed to its obscurity. This publication, however, demands visibility, and with the expressed objective of reintegrating this magazine back into Angeleno consciousness, here is the story of the life and death of Los Angeles' long-forgotten "society journal," The Graphic.
The Graphic was a weekly magazine that delved into the arts and culture of Progressive-era Los Angeles. While the earliest incarnations of the magazine focused on Southern California, coverage would ultimately narrow in on the City of Angels. Occasionally, a pressing international, national, or state topic would elbow its way to the front of the magazine and earn a lengthy editorial, but The Graphic was invested in Los Angeles. The magazine looked at "high art" topics such as literature, poetry, opera, dance, sports, and theater within the city and was an attempt to replicate lifestyle periodicals like Town & Country, Vanity Fair, or Harper's Weekly for a local audience. Readers of The Graphic could expect to find book reviews read serialized stories and original poems, and discover who was performing at venues like the Mason Opera House or the Orpheum Theater. Patrons of The Graphic could read reviews of performers and shows, examine sketches of the latest fashions (and learn where to purchase them), and learn of local points of interest to visit or vacation spots that were only a short distance away thanks to the growing automobile culture. More economically minded readers could follow financials like trending stocks and learn of bond measures that impacted the city. Readers were introduced to Los Angeles' social strata, including society women, local men in the armed forces, as well as authors, artists, and musicians who had come to Los Angeles to ply their trades. A revolving door of owners would shape the direction of the magazine, but the basic content and structure were continuous throughout its run. Besides owners, the biggest change to the magazine was its name. The Graphic, as it turns out, didn't start out its life with that particular moniker.
The Capital: "The Leading Society, Literary, Financial, political and Dramatic Journal in all Southern California"
The Graphic has a maddeningly convoluted history that is difficult to follow with absolute certainty, but it begins in 1892 with a man named Harry Patton. Today he is probably known as the namesake of Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, where he served on the board, but Patton made a name for himself in journalism. Harry Patton arrived in Los Angeles in 1884 and filled a number of positions in the fledgling Los Angeles Times, working alongside Harrison Gray Otis. By 1890 he had left the Times and was working in Banning when reports began to trickle in that water was beginning to fill the Salton Sink directly beneath the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. The San Francisco Examiner hired Patton to investigate and report on the source of this mysterious water overflow in the middle of the California desert. Patton's reporting proved popular and gave him enough clout within newspaper circles to ultimately go out on his own. Just one year after this Imperial Valley excursion, Patton was able to start a magazine dedicated to arts, recreation, and culture. He named this new publication The Capital. Patton marketed The Capital as the "leading society, literary, financial, political and dramatic journal in Southern California." It was reported that the publication's name was chosen because Patton believed California's interests were far too broad to be represented by a single government so far to the north. He thought that Southern California's statehood was eminent and, without question, Los Angeles would be the hub of this new state, "its capital city, Los Angeles, is no idle dream. It will come. This paper was established by an earnest advocate of such division, hence its title."
The magazine proved popular with locals and provided a template that would stand through a handful of name changes and a revolving door of owners. Local newspapers, rather than seeing The Capital as a challenge to their supremacy, did much to commend and promote Patton's new magazine. The Times, for example, zeroed in on the 1896 La Fiesta de Los Angeles edition of the magazine, writing that "Harry Patton's Capital is always good but in its Fiesta number it has excelled its usual excellence." Similarly, the Herald felt that the Christmas 1896 issue deserved special mention:
"The Capital Christmas number scores a triumph for Editor Harry Patton. He seems to have proposed to himself the magnum opus of exceeding his holiday edition of last year and has certainly risen to the requirement. From cover to cover of its forty pages, it is "capital" in pictures and typography, as well as its clever collation of original reading matter. The Capital has added to its prestige and will be in general demand. The Herald extends felicitations and the good wishes of the season."
All things considered, newspapers were able to support The Capital because it was portraying Los Angeles as a growing metropolis with a vibrant arts & culture scene, something that all of L.A.'s oligarchs seemed to be on board with but things weren't always so amicable, particularly when politics were involved.
In early 1898, Patton's name was submitted for a political appointment, and the Los Angeles Herald, once singling out Patton for praise just two years earlier, published a rather scathing editorial on January 21, 1898, that stated that Patton's appointment "would be an exceedingly bad one" and would be "an injustice to the public." Patton brought a $50,000 libel suit in response. By May, the Times reported that Patton sold The Capital to Ira B. Wood and, although never stated, it seems reasonable to conclude that litigation with one of the largest newspapers in Los Angeles may have been the deciding factor in selling The Capital. Wood told the Times that he was looking to dedicate himself to the publication "full time" but, by 1901, it was reported that Wood had sold the magazine to W.E. Rothery, who essentially flipped it and sold it to W.A. Kelsey in August 1901. The September 7, 1901 edition lists Kelsey as "President" with Rothery as "Vice-President," and the magazine's name had also been officially changed to "The Capital and Western Graphic" reflecting the magazine's merger with a second publication, The Western Graphic.
[Author’s note, the Los Angeles Public Library does not own copies of The Capital. It's not clear, but it's likely that our holdings were consumed in the 1986 library fire. The New York Public Library's holdings of The Capital have been digitized and are available on HathiTrust but are incomplete.]
The Western Graphic: “An Illustrated Weekly Journal for Southern California”
Published almost concurrently to The Capital was a similarly themed magazine, the Western Graphic. The Western Graphic was the creation of George Rice, a Civil War veteran who arrived in Los Angeles in the 1870s. Rice quickly became one of the city's leading businessmen with his family-owned printing & publishing business, George Rice & Sons. Rice owned a number of magazines in addition to the Western Graphic, most notably The Rural Californian. Like the man who founded it, the Western Graphic was highly regarded and praised throughout the local press and as "easily the first among all Southwestern publications" and "well up to the highest standard throughout the world." In terms of pure aesthetics, Rice's covers for the Western Graphic remain exquisite and, at times, stunning even more than a century later. They support the assertion that George Rice & Sons created quality prints and were unequaled in skill. The Times described the Spring 1899 edition (seen above) as "a magnificent number" and stated that "it would not be safe to dispute the publishers when they say this number is "the most pretentious, the most costly and the most beautiful newspaper ever printed in California."
It's difficult to pinpoint when the Western Graphic ended its initial run because so few copies survive (The library does not own copies but the California State Library has digitized its holdings which include 1899 and 1900 but nothing, it seems, before or after) but it appears to cease publication around 1901 when Rice was named in a libel lawsuit by City Auditor Edward Carson. What can be ascertained from these surviving copies is that Rice was passionate about both the arts and his new hometown, but he also frequently politicized the Western Graphic to make attacks on politicians like Carson and others he didn't care for. Opening editorials regularly utilize caustic language and push the boundaries of slander; it's hardly objective journalism. To elaborate, one editorial dated April 1, 1899, focused on California Governor Harry Gage, whom Rice had endorsed earlier in the year and continued to show his support while tearing others to shreds, "Governor Gage has returned to Los Angeles after three months propinquity to an aggregation of alleged legislators whose active imbecility may be compared to the impotent resistance of an inverted tortoise or other testudinate reptile." In that same issue, Rice questions the masculinity of Ladies' Home Journal editor Edward Bok stating that "We can just imagine this editor of the Ladies Home Journal as a majestic female of the Quaker City alone in the 40s, who glance at you between two corkscrew curls from their virtuous hiding place in the family album. Ah, Edward Bok is a great man, and he is kind and full of advice about how often girls may play golf and much more good advice between his [crochet] stitches. We can't help thinking what a superior wet nurse he would make, or a sort of Sardanapulus on the half shell." Rice's tagline for the Western Graphic was that the magazine was an "illustrated family weekly" however, the tone of the editorials certainly makes one question that assertion. It's highly likely that litigation may have forced Rice to unload the magazine, and in 1901, it was reportedly sold to W.A. Kelsey, the same man who had purchased The Capital.
Kelsey sought to combine The Capital and the Western Graphic as "Mr. Kelsey believes that the Los Angeles field is not large enough to support two such papers." The new incarnation of the periodical, known for a time as "The Capital and Western Graphic" reverted back to the layout of The Capital and operated successfully for a time until, in a rather strange twist, the magazine was apparently sold back to George Rice in early 1903. Rice then opted to revert back to his original title, the Western Graphic and just to make things even more convoluted, he decided to sell the magazine in 1904. Out of the ashes of the Western Graphic, The Capital, and an assortment of smaller publications that had been consumed by both magazines, The Graphic was born.