Photographs of Historic Los Angeles

What's New — By Noah Albert on January 14, 2011 at 6:44 am

Recently I have been looking through a bunch of collections featuring pictures of historic Los Angeles. I think the thrill I get from these photos is connected to the rapid growth of the city of Los Angeles during the last century, growth that has resulted in drastic changes to the landscape over mere decades.  Hurrah Los Angeles for transforming yourself on a regular basis, though it really is a shame about all losing all those beautiful streetcars! In an attempt to share my enthusiasm about this old photography, I surveyed the material at the online Library Congress photo collection and created this sequence for your viewing pleasure. Los Angeles from the 1890s to 1942:


General view of Los Angeles; sometime between 1880-1899 ( link)
Coachload of charming photographers at Floral Parade; 1901 ( link)


Ye Alpine Tavern on Mt. Lowe; sometime between 1900 and 1910 ( link)
More pics. Today you can hike up there and see the ruins.


First all-woman jury in California; 1911 ( link)
Trial of the editor of Watts News for indecent language resulted in an acquittal.


Venice, California (with Antier Hotel in background); 1912 ( link)


Grider’s Birdland Library in Los Angeles; 1916 ( link)


Myrtle Lind with a Graflex camera on the beach; 1919 ( link)


Al Malaikah in Los Angeles; early 1920s ( link)


Dorothea Lange’s famous Farm Security Administration shot “Toward Los Angeles;” 1937 ( link)


Evacuees in L.A. await trains to Santa Anita Assembly Center during Japanese Internment; 1942 ( link)



This SkyscraperPage Forum thread is just great.

This UCLA collection features 5,746 photos from The Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Daily News.

Here is the Los Angeles Public library collection. Images are medium sized; the search box helps with exploring them.

For San Fernando Valley pictures, here is the CSUN library collection.

And finally, the USC collection. A little tricky to navigate; clearly they have a ton of images.



Picturing Los Angeles by Jon and Nancy Wilkman — Visual history of Los Angeles.

California Crazy and Beyond: Vernacular Architecture by Jim Heimann — Great roadside architecture photos!

Yesterday’s Los Angeles by Norman Dash — Photos organized by date; engaging captions.

Views of Los Angeles by Gernot Kuehn — Contrasting the past and present in photos of Los Angeles; book is from 1978.

Googie Redux: Ultramodern Roadside Architecture by Alan Hess — Great over-the-top ’50s and ’60s commercial vernacular — Coffee Shop Modern.

[Thumbnail photo of Los Angeles earthquake courtesy of Library of Congress]

Tags: Historic Los Angeles, history, Hollywood, photography


  • barbara albert says:

    I definitely want to see more of these wonderful archival photos ; This is the L.A. that we can no longer see.

  • TheReviewer says:

    Some really great photos. It would of been really interesting to see what L.A was like back then compared today.


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