HISTORY OF LONG BEACH
Indigenous people have lived in coastal Southern California for over 10,000 years, and several successive cultures have inhabited the present-day area of Long Beach. By the 16th-century arrival of Spanish explorers, the dominant group was the Tongva people. They had at least three major settlements within the present-day city. Tevaaxa'anga was an inland settlement near the Los Angeles River, while Ahwaanga and Povuu'nga were coastal villages. Along with other Tongva villages, they were forced to relocate in the mid-19th century due to missionization, political change, and a drastic drop in population from exposure to European diseases.
In 1784 the Spanish Empire's King Carlos III granted Rancho Los Nietos to Spanish soldier Manuel Nieto. The Rancho Los Cerritos and Rancho Los Alamitos were divided from this territory. The boundary between the two ranchos ran through the center of Signal Hill on a southwest to northeast diagonal. A portion of western Long Beach was originally part of the Rancho San Pedro. Its boundaries were in dispute for years, due to flooding changing the Los Angeles River boundary, between the ranchos of Juan Jose Dominguez and Manuel Nieto
In 1843 Jonathan Temple bought Rancho Los Cerritos, having arrived in California in 1827 from New England. He built what is now known as the "Los Cerritos Ranch House", a still-standing adobe which is a National Historic Landmark. Temple created a thriving cattle ranch and prospered, becoming the wealthiest man in Los Angeles County. Both Temple and his ranch house played important local roles in the Mexican–American War. On an island in the San Pedro Bay, Mormon pioneers made an abortive attempt to establish a colony (as part of Brigham Young's plan to establish a continuous chain of settlements from the Pacific to Salt Lake).
Long Beach pier, 1905
In 1866 Temple sold Rancho Los Cerritos for $20,000 to the Northern California sheep-raising firm of Flint, Bixby & Co, which consisted of brothers Thomas and Benjamin Flint and their cousin Lewellyn Bixby. Two years previous Flint, Bixby & Co had also purchased along with Northern California associate James Irvine, three ranchos which would later become the city that bears Irvine's name. To manage Rancho Los Cerritos, the company selected Lewellyn's brother Jotham Bixby, the "Father of Long Beach". Three years later Bixby bought into the property and would later form the Bixby Land Company. In the 1870s as many as 30,000 sheep were kept at the ranch and sheared twice yearly to provide wool for trade. In 1880, Bixby sold 4,000 acres (16 km2) of the Rancho Los Cerritos to William E. Willmore, who subdivided it in hopes of creating a farm community, Willmore City. He failed and was bought out by a Los Angeles syndicate that called itself the "Long Beach Land and Water Company." They changed the name of the community to Long Beach, at that time. The City of Long Beach was officially incorporated in 1897.
Long Beach boardwalk, 1907
Another Bixby cousin, John W. Bixby, was influential in the city. After first working for his cousins at Los Cerritos, J.W. Bixby leased land at Rancho Los Alamitos. He put together a group: banker I.W. Hellman, Lewellyn and Jotham Bixby, and him, to purchase the rancho. In addition to bringing innovative farming methods to the Alamitos (which under Abel Stearns in the late 1850s and early 1860s was once the largest cattle ranch in the US), J.W. Bixby began the development of the oceanfront property near the city's picturesque bluffs. Under the name Alamitos Land Company, J.W. Bixby named the streets and laid out the parks of his new city. This area would include Belmont Heights, Belmont Shore and Naples; it soon became a thriving community of its own. J.W. Bixby died in 1888 of apparent appendicitis. The Rancho Los Alamitos property was split up, with Hellman getting the southern third, Jotham and Lewellyn, the northern third, and J.W. Bixby's widow and heirs keeping the central third. The Alamitos townsite was kept as a separate entity, but at first, it was primarily run by Lewellyn and Jotham Bixby, although I.W, Hellman (who had the largest single share) had a significant veto power, an influence made even stronger as the J.W. Bixby heirs began to side with Hellman more and more.
When Jotham Bixby died in 1916, the remaining 3,500 acres (14 km2) of Rancho Los Cerritos was subdivided into the neighborhoods of Bixby Knolls, California Heights, North Long Beach and part of the city of Signal Hill.
Oil field in Long Beach, 1920
The town grew as a seaside resort with light agricultural uses. The Pike was the most famous beachside amusement zone on the West Coast from 1902 until 1969, it offered bathers food, games and rides, such at the Sky Wheel dual Ferris wheel and Cyclone Racer roller coaster. Gradually the oil industry, Navy shipyard and facilities and port became the mainstays of the city. In the 1950s it was referred to as "Iowa by the sea," due to a large influx of people from that and other Midwestern states. Huge picnics for migrants from each state were a popular annual event in Long Beach until the 1960s.
Oil was discovered in 1921 on Signal Hill, which split off as a separately incorporated city shortly afterward. The discovery of the Long Beach Oil Field, brought in by the gusher at the Alamitos No. 1 well, made Long Beach a major oil producer; in the 1920s the field was the most productive in the world. In 1932, the even larger Wilmington Oil Field, fourth-largest in the United States, and which is mostly in Long Beach, was developed, contributing to the city's fame in the 1930s as an oil town.
The M6.4 1933 Long Beach earthquake caused significant damage to the city and surrounding areas, killing a total of 120 people. Most of the damage occurred in unreinforced masonry buildings, especially schools. Pacific Bible Seminary (now known as Hope International University) was forced to move classes out of First Christian Church of Long Beach and into a small local home due to damage.
The new Ford assembly plant in Long Beach, 1930
The Ford Motor Company built a factory called Long Beach Assembly at the then address in 1929 as
"700 Henry Ford Avenue, Long Beach" where the factory began building the Ford Model A.
Production of Ford vehicles continued after the war until 1960 when the plant was closed due to a fire,
and January 1991 when the factory was demolished partially due to air quality remediation efforts.
Ford had earlier opened a Factory in Los Angeles at the location of 12th Street and Olive,
with a later factory built at East Seventh Street and Santa Fe Avenue after 1914.
The city was the site of "The Los Angeles Air Raid of 1942" during World War II
when observers for the Army Air Corps reported shells being fired from the sea.
Anti-aircraft batteries fired into the night sky, although no planes were ever sighted.
Before the war, Long Beach had a sizable Japanese-American population, who worked in the fish canneries on Terminal Island and owned small truck (produce) farms in the area. Due to exaggerated fears on the coast and racial prejudice, state officials persuaded the national government to remove Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans for internment in 1942 to inland facilities. Most did not return to the city after their release from the camps. Due to this and other factors, Japanese Americans now make up less than 1% of the population of Long Beach, but the Japanese Community Center and a Japanese Buddhist Church survive. The Japanese-American Cultural Center is located over the Gerald Desmond Bridge and the Vincent Thomas Bridge in San Pedro.
Douglas Aircraft Company's largest facility was its Long Beach plant, totaling 1,422,350 sq. ft. The first plane rolled out the door on December 23, 1941. The plant produced C-47 Skytrain transports, B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, and A-20 Havoc attack bombers simultaneously. Douglas merged with the McDonnell Aircraft Company in 1967 where the Douglas DC-8 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 were built. In 1997 McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing, which still makes C-17 Globemaster transport planes in Long Beach, although this program is slated to end and the plant was closed in 2017