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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Anne Stapp

The 1887 Land Rush

For twenty years southern California had poured money, and millions of printed brochures, into a publicity campaign to attract settlers from the eastern United States. Now in 1887 the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific Railroads, locked in a fierce price war, reduced their fares so low that thousands of people, intrigued by the idea of cheap land out west, decided now was the time to make that journey of opportunity. Groups of families and friends formed traveling communities in excursion trains that entered Los Angeles every day of the week. New arrivals stood excitedly in line for days to get first choice of the latest subdivision lots being sold at auction. During the months of June, July, and August the activity was so frenzied that $38 million in real estate changed hands in Los Angeles County. Almost no one escaped the mounting fever: dentists as well as mechanics and teamsters were promoting subdivisions, some renting 10-by-12- foot fruit stands for sales offices. Unscrupulous promoters advertised non-existent “piece of paradise” lots, but even honest promoters succumbed to the pleasures and pitfalls of exaggeration. The southern California speculative boom of 1887, one of the most “colorful and uproarious” seen since Gold Rush days, was confined to that particular year, but did lead to the establishment of such permanent communities as Glendale, Burbank, Monrovia, Arcadia, Claremont, and Cucamonga.

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