The first Presidential Election in California was in 1852, pitting Democrat Franklin Pierce against the Whig Candidate, General Winfield Scott. California’s 4 electoral votes went to Pierce.
According to Horace Bell in his book “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” political campaigns and elections in early Los Angeles, California were often wonders to behold.
Los Angeles had more voters than citizens in the 1850’s
“Los Angeles polled a very great vote in the happy times of pioneer elections. With her population of 5,000 it is the duty of this writer to explain the modus operandi of getting four or five votes from each sovereign voter,” wrote Bell.
Voters would be rounded up and taken in wagons to the polling place where, once they voted, they were returned in the wagons, given a shave, a drink and a dollar and taken back to the polling place to vote another time.
“Voting in early times was a lucrative business and voters considered valuable according to the facility offered for disguising one’s self.”
In Horace Bell’s “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” which I have recorded as a Listen 2 Read audiobook, Bell tells Los Angeles and California history the way he experienced it. It was a lot tougher than depicted in most sophisticated histories of the time.
How politicians made money
Local elections were hard won battles in Los Angeles, even though the salary of the mayor was $500.00 per year and the City Councilmen drew no pay at all.
Why would they want the job? Power – lots of power. Politicians hired city employees, supervised land deals and made a lot of money unofficially on the side.
The reputation of local politicians was so poor that when an outlaw was tried in public and sentenced to hang, he addressed the jury saying that his crime was not great enough to warrant his hanging. Now, he said, if he was the Mayor or Councilman in Los Angeles, that would be a crime that warranted hanging.
Happily, according to Bell, who wrote his book in 1881, the political system grew more honest as time went by and more people started paying attention.
“Reminiscences of a Ranger – Early days in Los Angeles and Southern California
is an eye-witness account of those perilous pioneer days. Major Horace Bell, the author, was a young adventurer, who found himself in dangerous mid-18th century Los Angeles – a city with no bank and no police force to stop violent crime.
The Los Angeles Rangers Are Formed
Bell arrived in Los Angeles at the age of 22, a strapping young man at 6 foot 2 inches tall. To his astonishment, he unexpectedly found himself in a wild, crime ridden pueblo, where in one year there were forty-four murders…the highest murder rate in the nation at that time.
Desperate to lower the crime rate, the Los Angeles Rangers were formed by the citizenry. The Rangers were the predecessor of the first Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, and, Horace Bell was appointed a founding member.
Horace Bell Decides To Write His Memoir
Thirty years later, Bell decided that his experiences and this early history of Los Angeles ought to be recorded and so he wrote his memories in a book he titled “Reminiscences of a Ranger,” which he self-published in 1881. It is said to be the first book printed and bound in Los Angeles. Our audiobook of his wild times is available for immediate download here:
Horace Bell’s “Reminiscences of a Ranger” is the irreverent true story of how Los Angeles became Los Angeles.
Listen To Read
PS: Below is a very interesting picture for those interested in Los Angeles history:
We are pleased that our Listen to Read American Adventure Library of historic memoirs has been so widely accepted.
All 18 of our audiobooks are available for download wherever you download audiobooks, including Audible.com, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK Audiobooks, Scribed, Tune-in, Downpour, Audiobooks.com, Bibliotheca, Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through the Overdrive system. CD versions are available at Amazon.com and at Listen2Read.com