Los Angeles, the “Entertainment Capital of the World”, has long been a hub of creativity for the arts. Through its diverse history, few things have been as permanent as the art and entertainment industries. Originally inhabited by Chumash and Tonga tribes, the area, known today as Los Angeles, switched hands many times. During the sixteenth century, Spanish settlers claimed the land and missionaries helped to establish a city, naming it “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles del Rio de Porciunculo,” or, Los Angeles. The original Pueblo can still be seen on the historic Olvera Street, a small market street just across the road from Union Station.
When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the pueblo became part of the Mexican territory until the Mexican-American war in 1848. During that time, many people settled into the area on land divided up by the Mexican government, creating the rancho, or the cattle ranch, system.
Los Angeles: The City
Two years after the Mexican-American war, Los Angeles became incorporated as an American city, and from there, industry truly began to take hold. By 1869, the transcontinental railroad had reached the city, and soon after, oil was discovered, putting Los Angeles in the spotlight and ushering in other industries, such as aviation and film. By the 1930s, the population exploded to two million due to the collapse of the Northern Gold Rush of the 1850s and the booming industries in citrus, film, aviation, shipping, and water. The war abroad brought in immigrants from Europe as well as African American laborers.
In 1932, Los Angeles hosted its first Summer Olympics, proving that it was truly a city with impact. During dismal time of the Great Depression, the aviation industry was able to lift LA out of the bad economy. Defense contracts that became the driving force for the industry continued until the end of the Cold War. The period after WWII was characterized by a deluge of immigrants and new residents which transformed Los Angeles into a megalopolis of diversity and culture, and spread urbanization into the San Fernando Valley. Los Angeles is one of the world’s centers of business, international trade, entertainment, culture, media, fashion, science, technology and education.
The Film Industry
Luring film makers with optimal filming conditions, sunny Southern California was able to move the industry from cities in the Northeast to Los Angeles, where it is now the city’s hallmark industry. Hollywood’s excellent conditions nurtured film in its infancy and caused it to rapidly develop, helping to raise economic conditions in what were often difficult times during the early 20th century.
However, once television was introduced, the success of the film industry began to decline. Hollywood quickly adapted and stole the television spotlight from New York, becoming the worldwide capital of visual entertainment.
Today the city is home to many institutes dealing with film production, namely the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and American Film Institute. The film and television industries helped to make Los Angeles an entertainment icon across the world. Tourists travel from all corners of the globe to see landmarks such as the Walk of Fame, Universal Studios and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The Flight Industry
Prime weather conditions offered more than just filming opportunities, and pilots and engineers soon realized this. During WWII, Los Angeles became an essential manufacturer of airplanes, helping to keep the economy afloat. From this period, historical figures, such as Howard Hughes, have become associated with Los Angeles.
As one of the most dispersed cities in the country, Los Angeles is famous for its main method of transportation: automobiles and freeways. Since the city experienced its largest period of growth in the first decades of the 1900s, whereas most well-known American cities had experienced this much earlier, the automobile was taken into great consideration in the development of transportation methods, where it was not a particularly practical option in other large American cities.
Essentially setting aside the idea of an extensive train system, Los Angeles took a different set of tracks and focused on automobiles. The perfect California weather welcomed the early temperamental automobile without the difficulties faced in every other major US city, and from there, the industry was ignited. By 1923 there were 430,000 automobiles registered in the city.
With approximately 1 car for every 3 people, street traffic became a problem in desperate need of a solution, and by 1940, Los Angeles’s first freeway, connecting the city to Pasadena, had been developed. Since then, an entanglement of concrete began to snake its way through the city, creating Los Angeles’s iconic freeway system.