Throwback Thursday | California Bound

PHOTO: Library of Congress | The Sad Parting between Two Old Friends (1900)

In 1900, stories about the west were published and first-hand accounts were reported back to residents on the east coast, causing many to leave the safety of their homes for California. In the satirical cartoon above titled “The Sad Parting between Two Old Friends,” Thaddeus H. Benton stands alongside his motley mule down on his luck wearing tattered clothing and torn open shoes. He bids his friend goodbye as he departs for California – likely never to see him again.

The west was a curious blend of oddities such as giant cactus and oaks, flowers that bloom and orange trees that produce fruit in the winter. The sun sets over an endless ocean with deserts that seem to stretch on forever. A place where every living thing and object encountered appears larger than life.

When the transcontinental railroad was completed, the west opened up for a variety of people who all came for different reasons. Some came to recover from health problems while others traveled west to escape the harsh winters of the east.

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Note: In 1900, Massachusetts (pop. 2,805,346) had nearly twice the population of California (pop. 1,485,053) with only 5% of its landmass. Today, California’s population nears 40 million. Greater Los Angeles itself 18.7 million (2015) compared to the entire state of Massachusetts 6.8 million (2016).


Throwback Thursday is written and produced by Rick Thomas

Author Rick Thomas is the former museum curator and vice-chair of education for the South Pasadena Preservation Foundation. He served on the South Pasadena Natural Resources Commission, helping to maintain a strict policy protecting the city’s great old-growth trees. Using touchstone photographs from his own collection—one of the San Gabriel Valley’s largest accumulations of historical images and artifacts—as well as national, state, and local historical archives, Thomas provides a window to his city’s past and an understanding of why its preservation is so important.