Creating advocates for history through the stories of greater Los Angeles.
by Paul R. Spitzzeri
Yesterday’s post detailed the celebration attending the 6 December 1875 reopening of the Temple and Workman bank in Los Angeles after a closure of a little over three months. With an infusion of cash borrowed from San Francisco capitalist, Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin, the institution was said to have taken in far more in deposits than was sent out through withdrawals and hope for a prosperous future for the bank and Los Angeles ran high.
The sentiment continued that evening, as discussed in a 7 December article in the Los Angeles Express newspaper:
A number of his friends had determined that the occasion should not pass without a personal and pronounced testimonial to Mr. Temple. Accordingly, preparations were made for a banquet to that gentleman last night at the Pico House.
Every detail of this graceful social affair was in capable hands, and we have rarely seen a pleasanter spectacle than that presented by the banquet hall when the guests, at half past seven P.M. sat down to dinner.
The Express gave high praise to Antonio Cuyas, the manager of the hotel, who “demonstrated himself to be a thorough success, both as a caterer and bon vivant.”
The Star, another of the town’s dailies and with more of its hyperbole in evidence, covered the event:
We will now pass to a carnival scene. About 40 of Mr. Temple’s friends had quietly prepared a banquet in his honor, which came off at the Pico House last night, and was the finest supper ever given in Los Angeles.
Mayor [Prudent] Beaudry presided, and on his right was Mr. Temple, and on his left sat Mr. E. J. Baldwin, the banker’s friend, the most solid and solvent millionaire on the Pacific Coast.
It was more than a stretch to refer to Baldwin as Temple’s friend, as it is doubtful the two had met before the painful negotiations to secure the loan took place in preceding weeks.
The guest list comprised many of the leading figures in Los Angeles business and society, including General George Stoneman, a future California governor; French consul Jacob A. Morenhaut; Daniel Freeman, a partner of Temple in the Centinela subdivision in modern Inglewood/Westchester; city treasurer James J. Mellus; attorneys Frank Howard, John D. Bicknell, and James G. Eastman; Baldwin’s Los Angeles-area agent, Richard Garvey; United States Hotel proprietors and Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas [present Beverly Hills area] owners Henry Hammel and Andrew Denker; citrus rancher Joseph W. Wolfskill; and the publishers of the Express and Star, Joseph D. Lynch and Benjamin C. Truman [the Herald, the third major paper in town, did not cover the event, explained, perhaps, by the omission of its publisher from the event!], and Eduardo Teodoli, the Italian publisher of La Crónica, the town’s only Spanish-language paper.
Others present included bank cashiers Arthur Bullock and Thomas W. Temple (the latter being the son and grandson of the owners) and managing cashier Henry S. Ledyard; F.P.F. Temple’s third son, William, who’d just returned home after years studying at Harvard Law School and the Inns of Court in London; and William Henry Workman, nephew of bank co-owner William Workman and who was that day elected to the Los Angeles Common [City] Council. William Workman, who was a silent partner in the institution and had just turned 76 years old, was apparently not present, remaining at his home on the current museum grounds.
Lynch of the Express described how “the good things provided were discussed with hearty appetites, and witticisms and sallies, inspired by the generous wine, flew around the board.” All Truman of the Star could add was that the “repast . . . carried with it the usual flow of soul.” Henry Hammel rose first, unexpectedly according to Truman, to propose a toast to Temple’s health and merchant Louis Mesmer followed with the same gesture.
Lynch then recorded that:
Mr. Temple acknowledged the compliment with his customary modesty and said he took pleasure in saying that for his ability to re-open the Bank, in the then peculiar condition of California finances, he was indebted to Mr. E. J. Baldwin, and ended by proposing that gentleman’s health, which was drunk very cordially by the company.
When Baldwin was asked to say a few words a number of times, he “perseveringly declined to make a speech.” Truman, however, rose to the occasion and mildly chided Hammel and Mesmer for launching “the oratorical part of the proceedings prematurely” while employing a scriptural quote of “out of the heart the mouth speaketh” which his own paper observed “was one of the most delightful episodes of the day.”
Truman also declared that “the press of this city were inseparably connected with ups and downs of our banks and other mercantile institutions, and that they must succeed or fall together.” This remarkable statement seems particularly notable in comparison to our modern sensibilities!
Morenhaut gave two speeches, one of which discussed the financial situation of Los Angeles and ended with “a graceful personal compliment to Mr. Temple.” Bicknell and his law partner R.B. Lloyd spoke “and their felicitous efforts mainly related to the negotiations by which Mr. Temple had been extricated from his temporary liabilities.” Teodoli then rose and “made a neat little speech in Spanish” followed by several others. A toast was then made with enthusiasm to Nevada Senator John P. Jones who partnered with Temple in the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad project, which had recently opened a route between the city and Jones’ new ocean-side subdivision of Santa Monica.
Finally, Mayor Beaudry closed the ceremonial portion of the evening with a concluding speech, after which “the Burgundy was now replaced by champagne, and the hour of story, song, and bon mot set in.” The Express went on to report that “the good humor and hilarity were kept up until about a quarter past one o’clock, and then terminated a scene of social enjoyment probably never surpassed in Los Angeles.” The Star ended its coverage by noting that “the party dispersed with three cheers for Messrs. Temple and Baldwin.”
For all the celebration and expression of hope at the banquet for a bright financial future for the bank and city, reality quickly set in. While the Star claimed that “our hard times are about passing away,” depositors were patiently waiting and, once Baldwin’s cash was placed in the vault, most of them quietly closed their accounts down and many likely took the borrowed cash over to Farmers and Merchants. It took only five weeks for all of the borrowed funds to be depleted to the extent that the end was near.
Check back about five weeks from now to learn more about what happened as the Temple and Workman bank lurched into the new year!