Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s

Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s

Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s

Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s


Los Angeles came of age in the 1920s. The great boom of that decade gave shape to the L.A. of today: its vast suburban sprawl and reliance on the automobile, its prominence as a financial and industrial center, and the rise of Hollywood as the film capital of the world. This collection of original essays explores the making of the Los Angeles metropolis during this remarkable decade. The authors examine the city's racial, political, cultural, and industrial dynamics, making this volume an essential guide to understanding the rise of Los Angeles as one of the most important cities in the world.

These essays showcase the work of a new generation of scholars who are turning their attention to the history of the City of Angels to create a richer, more detailed picture of our urban past. The essays provide a fascinating look at life in the new suburbs, in the oil fields, in the movie studios, at church, and at the polling place as they reconceptualize the origins of contemporary urban problems and promise in Los Angeles and beyond. Adding to its interest, the volume is illustrated with period photography, much of which has not been published before.


This book has its origin in conversations that we have been having for more than a dozen years. Following in the tradition of an earlier collaborative effort, California Progressivism Revisited (University of California Press, 1994), we have assembled here a collection of original essays exploring a topic of scholarly interest and dynamism. Investigations of the history of early twentieth-century Los Angeles have, in recent years, reinvigorated such fields as California history, urban history, and western American studies. In this volume, inquiries into the critical decade of the 1920s are carried further and explored in greater depth than most monographic treatments allow.

The essays are the work of a group of talented historians, including established scholars as well as those just embarking on careers. We expect that the volume will be an important addition to the scholarly literature addressing the rise of one of the world’s most important cities.

As with our earlier jointly edited book, we have accumulated numerous debts along the way. First of all, we would like to thank all our authors for their patience in working with us as we brought the volume to publication. We thank the editor of Technology and Culture for allowing us to reprint Matthew Roth’s essay, which was recently awarded the Usher prize as the best article in that journal over the last three years; and we thank the editor of Antipode for permission to reprint a revision of the essay by Mike Davis. In addition, the editor of Southern California Quarterly allowed us to reprint portions of an essay by Tom Sitton. We enjoyed remarkable cooperation and help from curators and archivists in acquiring photographs for this volume. We’d especially like to thank the incomparable Dace Taube at the USC Regional History Center; Jennifer A. Watts and Erin W. Chase of the Huntington Library; Kate McGinn of Fuller Theological Seminary; Carolyn Kozo Cole of the Los Angeles Public Library; Victoria Seas at Caltech; and John . . .

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