LB: ‘A Desirable Place to Live’

Claudine Burnett

By 1921 Long Beach had leaped to the forefront as one of the most progressive cities in the United States, accomplishing a marvelous record of growth by trebling its population and property valuations and multiplying its bank deposits by five in the past decade. It had also acquired a world-wide fame as a place of beautiful homes, according to the Los Angeles Herald (1/29/1921), and a desirable place to live.

In February 1921 it took another leap forward by holding a weeklong industrial fair to show its potential importance in commerce and manufacturing. The industrial growth started in 1907 when the city dredged and opened a navigable gateway to the sea to induce Craig Shipbuilding to build a shipyard in Long Beach.

Much development followed this municipal enterprise and in 1921, at the time of the fair, Long Beach had 150 industries, with $16,500,000 ($240 million in 2021 dollars) invested, giving employment to 6000 with an aggregate monthly payroll of $1,250,000 ($18 million in 2021).

The purpose of the exposition was to call attention to the number and wide variety of products manufactured in Long Beach. More than 60 concerns exhibited at the fair with many hosting on site demonstrations of how products were made. In one exhibit a loom from a Long Beach Woolen Mill was in operation. At other places hats were being made and brooms, reed furniture and floor lamps manufactured. One booth contained a toy house completely furnished, the work of a furniture establishment.

Candy making with free samples was a popular venue. There were also numerous examples of the inventive genius of residents of Long Beach. There was a traffic signaling device invented by a woman, and an automatic shoe shining device thought up by a Long Beach teen. Those wanting their shoes shined dropped a nickel into a slot, starting the mechanism, and a buffer soon put a high polish on the footwear.

Elaborate musical programs and special entertainment were performed afternoon and night. A song, “Long Beach Town,” written by the city’s own Miss Belle McCord was performed on several occasions and was well received. There were also numerous beautiful women competing for the title of “Queen of Industry.” It was Miss Dorothy Lancaster who won the title.

Delegates from foreign embassies, the mayors of practically every Southern California city and California governor W. D. Stephens attended the industrial fair. All agreed the fair brought to public attention the fact that Long Beach had ceased to be merely a delightful beach city and had in fact become one of the most important industrial centers in California. It would become an even more important industrial center by June when oil was discovered on Signal Hill.

Claudine Burnett is a retired Long Beach Public Library librarian who compiled the library’s Long Beach History Index. In her research, she found many forgotten, interesting stories about Long Beach and Southern California which she has published in 11 books as well as in monthly blogs. You can access information about her books and read her blogs at www.claudineburnettbooks.com.

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