click here to read the full text of this book leave / read comments and critiques of the book

Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California

William B. Friedricks

Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California is the first business biography of the legendary entrepreneur who helped shape the Los Angeles basin. Based largely on archival sources, William Friedricks’s study presents a balanced view of the energetic Huntington, whose prodigious control of street railways, electric power, and real estate enabled him to leave a lasting imprint on southern California.

Greater Los Angeles attained its modern configuration during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Its development was influenced heavily by the creative energy and genius of a few entrepreneurs, and of this group, Henry Huntington played the major role. By rapidly pouring vast amounts of capital into his triad of interrelated businesses—all critical for regional growth—he achieved a virtual monopoly over the development of many parts of the Los Angeles basin. Operating at a time when local planning commissions had little regulatory power, he became the region’s de facto metropolitan planner, building trolley lines where and when he wanted and determining the spatial layout of the area. Then, as a large-scale subdivider, he further dictated the socioeconomic mix of many of the suburbs.

Huntington further encouraged development in southern California through his involvement in local agriculture and industry, the hotel business, and many leading social and civic organizations. As a philanthropist, he donated land for parks and schools and provided money to various youth organizations. To encourage and enrich the intellectual and cultural life of southern California, he lent his support to a number of regional institutions of higher education and founded the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Huntington’s various enterprises also made him one of southern California’s largest employers. An outspoken proponent of the open shop, he worked hard to keep his companies free of unions, thus foiling organized labor’s attempt to gain a foothold in the Los Angeles basin.

William Friedricks’s biography of Henry Huntington is an important contribution to the fields of business and urban history, as well as to the history of California, and provides insight into the development of one of the nation’s most important metropolitan areas.

William B. Friedricks is assistant professor of history at Simpson College and the author of several articles on the development of southern California.

1992  229 pp. This title is no longer available in a traditional print edition. Click here for free access to the book’s full text.
Historical Perspectives on Business Enterprise