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Poster from 1852 Presidential campaign

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.

Los Angeles’ Aliso Street 1850’s. With a population of barely 5,000, there were not a lot of people crowding the streets.

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.

Major Horace Bell – author of “Reminiscences of a Ranger.”

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.


The Bella Union Hotel, center of Los Angeles politics, drinking and gambling.

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.


Calle de los Negros, the bad side of town, where the bars and brothels were located. It was also the site of the terrible Chinese Massacre of 1871 that Bell describes.

“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.

Andre Stojka


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PS:  Below is a very interesting picture for those interested in Los Angeles history:

Model of Los Angeles in 1850 looking Northeast. The white structure that stands out in the middle left is the old Plaza Church, facing the plaza dating from 1815, both of which still stand. Two wide streets run from the bottom of the picture to the Plaza, they are Main Street on the left and Alameda Street to the right. Continuing right are vineyards of Mission grapes all the way to the bottom of the hill where the Los Angeles river flows.
Water And Power Associates

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, I-Tunes, Apple Books, Google Play, NOOK Audiobooks, Scribed, Tune-in, Downpour,, Bibliotheca, Playstar, Folliett, and your local public library through the Overdrive system. CD versions are available at and at



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