Tuesday, November 30, 2021

When I saw the article in LA Observed, some of the language and statements came across as a little melodramatic, but I will need to read the book before I can make any comments beyond that. However, I was surprised to see that a very well-known photograph of the Vignes vineyards in that essay was labeled as having been taken in 1855 - even though the earliest existing outdoor photograph taken in LA is commonly accepted as being taken around 1862 or 1863.

And now this article has that same photograph - but now the date of the photo has been changed to 1865 (and I did send a tweet to the author ask-ng her if she was certain of the date of the photo). However, 1865 is still the wrong date since the very well-known LA photographer, Frank G. Schumacher - was born in 1861 - which would have made him 4 years old when he took this photo. In addition, anyone with a fundamental working knowledge of Los Angeles in that era would instantly know - just by looking at the photo - that photo could not have been taken in the 1850's or the 1860's or even the 1870's.

The actual date of the photograph is 1886 - which is 21 years later than the current given date - and three copies of that photo with that date are in the Vignes Family Collection in the Seaver Center at the Natural History Museum which I assume the author consulted. Now this does not mean the rest of the book has any errors of this type, but it does demonstrate how difficult it is to write about one small part of the history of Los Angeles without a detailed working knowledge of the city.

 There is so much misinformation in print on every aspect of our city's history that relying on just one or two sources to tell even a small part of LA's history - even the date of a single photograph - can often inadvertently lead to dramatically wrong conclusions.