Local News

The More Things Change…Orange County a Century Ago

Excerpts from the The Orange County Review (1921)

Among the many treasures hidden in the archives of the Fullerton Public Library Local History Room are digital copies of a monthly magazine called The Orange County Review, which was published in Fullerton for a few years in the early 1920s. I’ve spent the past few weeks reading over the issues from the year 1921.

I learned many fascinating things from these dusty pages about what was happening in the world, in America, in Orange County, and in Fullerton a century ago. Sometimes I was shocked. Sometimes I laughed. But mostly I marveled at how much things have (and have not) changed in the past 100 years. I present, for your edification and reflection, excerpts from this publication, with news of the world, the nation, and our community. Enjoy.

News of the Nation and World

The League of Nations

“The world is on the brink of revolution, famine, and pestilence. The only two great ideas that have come out of this war [World War I] as world panaceas are the League of Nations and Bolshevism…”

“It is not likely that there will be a binding ‘covenant’ for this new international child [The League of Nations]. President Harding and his Republican colleagues have a dislike for the word. In their working out of the details they will exercise great care to keep the organization from any suspicion of ‘super government.’”


“America has finally reached a point where the quality of the population is to be considered more important than quantity. The melting pot has boiled over and threatens to flood our fire of Americanization burning under it…This country will no longer consent to be used either as an asylum or an almshouse…Even refugees from religious persecution will not be admitted above the three percent line…That is why it is necessary to erect immigration barriers to keep the poor of other countries out.”

Homeless Veterans

“How proud we are of the stalwart veterans. Nothing in the nation was too good for the men who had saved the civilization of the world. The tumult and the shouting dies. Today there are several hundred of these heroes in Los Angeles, disabled through their fight to save the world, who are wondering where they are going to sleep and where they will get their next meal.”

Conservation/Climate Change

“According to statistics, we are said to have used more than half the original supply of timber in the United States.

If it were for this reason alone we should see to it that proper steps be taken to reforest areas that are logged off, that logging operations are conducted so as to prevent the young growth from being destroyed, that forest fire protection be so organized as to make it possible to save a larger percentage from the annual destruction by fire…

In order to understand thoroughly how forests influence the water supply and also the climate of a country, we shall consider its power of attracting precipitation and also its absorbent and retentive qualities, also the factors that make for climactic change…”

“Dr. A.D. Little of Boston said he presumed chemistry would play an important part in harnessing solar rays to supplant dwindling supplies of coal, petroleum, and other sources of energy.”


“Despite its power and value, children will soon play with its by-products as toys in the form, for instance, of teddy bears with radium eyes.”


“Organized labor has rendered inestimable service to the workers of the world. Until it came into the field, they were wage slaves indeed, absolutely dependent upon the greed and the caprice of the employer. They had no redress for their grievances, no recourse in their troubles and risks to life and limb entailed by the hazards of their occupation and the introduction of new machinery…It has made a start on minimum wage legislation.”

“In the face of the greatest strike in the industrial history of the county, the stock market is holding up remarkably well.”

“Efforts by the Railroad Labor Board to avert the threatened railroad strike through conferences with heads of the five unions, which have ordered a walkout effective October 30, failed when the meeting adjourned tonight. The board announced that “while the discussions were beneficial, no definite results were obtained.’”

Child Labor

“The figures, though startling, are not exaggerated, since, according to official statistics, there were 1,700,000 child workers in 1900, and the number has increased rather than diminished in consequence of the opening of new industries in which they can be employed without Federal supervision. Therefore, according to reliable authorities, 2,000,000 is a conservative estimate of the number of youthful victims that are being fed to the Moloch of modern industry in the United States at the beginning of the third decade of the twentieth century…

The Federal government has imposed a tax of 10% on the products of factories and mines employing child labor.”

A New Supreme Court Justice

An Obituary for Edward Douglass White: Late Chief Justice of the United States [former Confederate soldier, KKK member, who voted for Plessy v. Ferguson]:

“Great men preceded him in the high position he filled, but none was greater than Edward Douglass White…President Harding on June 30 nominated William Howard Taft [former President of the United States] to be Chief Justice of the United States to succeed Edward Douglas White.”

Education and the Vote

“Twenty-five percent of our young men in the selective draft unable to read or write the English language is a terrible indictment of an age of boasted progress and universal public schools. When you consider that most of these illiterates possess the right of suffrage, it becomes apparent that there is a vast amount of educational work set to be performed before the whole of the American people will be capable of self-government.”

Prohibition: The 18th Amendment

“The crimes committed since the amendment went into force are becoming more fiendish, more revolting daily…Naturally all other crimes follow accordingly. The beast in man is rapidly overcoming the human and growing to proportions horrible to contemplate…As matters now stand, our wealthy old topers are paying a little more for their liquors, while the poor man is making a fool of himself by squandering good money for poison.”


“We are going to have a better moral tone…when jazz is relegated to the jungle from whence it came, when the ‘animal’ dances are recognized for what they really are and the dance again becomes the poetry of motion instead of a hop, skip, and jump…”

“Interest centers about the attitude of the Japanese commissioners. But Japan is in no condition to engage in a struggle for superior armament with the great white races of the west.”

News From Orange County

King Citrus

“This week everyone travels to Anaheim to see the Valencia Orange enthroned as king of fruits.

“Elsewhere in this number we present in picture a few of the features, and a panoramic view of the Fruit Exchange Exhibit and Industrial sections of the first California Valencia Orange Show.

“It is true that weather conditions were not favorable, preventing a large attendance during earlier days as had been hoped for, and causing a financial deficit when the show closed, but this was the only discordant note in the whole gigantic affair.

“Destined to take its place in one of the State’s great annual events, the California Valencia Orange Show at Anaheim, Calif on May 17, 1921, was officially opened by long distance telephone by President Warren G. Harding. The President delivered a congratulatory address over long distance telephone from Washington D.C. to 60 prominent Californians, who listened in on the line through the courtesy of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. The President’s remarks followed the introduction of Mr. Charles Chapman, Honorary President of the Orange Show, to President Harding.

‘Today the State devotes 234,603 acres of its most fertile soil to the production of oranges and lemons…This is believed to be a greater acreage of bearing citrus trees than is to be found anywhere else in the world.

During the year ending August 31, 1920, members of the California Fruit Growers Exchange shipped 12,144,964 boxes of oranges and 3.5 million boxes of lemons.”

The OC Fair

“This year, as usual, Orange County is staging its Fair at Huntington Beach on Sept 28-Oct 1. That it will tell a story of progress in every line of activity is a foregone conclusion. Visitors will be amazed at the wonderful growth of Huntington Beach. There has been opened up in that thriving city during the past year a great oil field, the size of which will surprise many Orange County people.

“In addition to the cash and ribbon awards of the Fair Committee, a long list of special prizes are offered by individuals and firms, as follows:

-Best plate of figs: $5

-Largest pumpkin: $5

-Most perfect baby boy: $25 in gold

-Most perfect baby girl: $25 in gold

-Oldest man: $5

-Oldest lady: $5

-Any mother on the ground with triplets: $5″


“The city of Huntington Beach struggled with many setbacks. But its citizens still kept up the hope that someday it would be as the planners had dreamed. Now their dream has been realized. For, under the fertile acres and city lots, there lay hidden from man’s eyes the black gold called OIL.

‘Seventeen months ago, Huntington Beach was a sleepy little town of 2,400 souls. Today there are about 8500 permanent residents, and there is a floating population of about 4000. A jump from 2400 to 12,900 in little more than a year is something of a jump, even for an oil town.

“When one considers that in this little town of Huntington Beach and contiguous to it there are 37 producing wells…Each of these 27 wells produces an average of 385 barrels of oil daily, or 14,145 barrels for all, that means an income of $20,000 a day, which is equal to $7,300,000 a year.

“During the month of September, 261,989 barrels of crude oil were produced in California daily.”

Laguna Beach Art Colony

“Laguna Beach is the home of a nationally-celebrated art colony of some 40 or more members who for some years have labored quietly and unobtrusively in the hills and by the sea.

“A Pageant Play is planned for the week of the full moon in August…an Indian drama…by a Mr. Frazee: ‘From a father deeply absorbed in Indian lore, I inherited a keen interest in all things pertaining to our red brothers…We provided native costumes for seventy actors…’

“Dr. George Wharton James, dressed in the robes of an Indian Shaman, told us thrilling legends.”

Health Care

“Nothing perhaps reflects the character of a nation, state, county, or city more strongly than the manner in which it provides for its sick and indigent citizens.

“About midway between Anaheim and Orange, only a few miles from Santa Ana, there is situated on the main highway an institution known as the Orange County Hospital.

Fullerton News

Fields of Oil and Oranges

“Oil development in the territory adjacent to the north and northeast city limits—in all that stretch embrace in the Fullerton Union High School District, made possible as the result of taxes for educational purposes, the building up of a high school system within the confines of Fullerton, second to none in the state.

“Oil development in the Richfield district has brought many families to Fullerton. They have bought their homes here because there is no city in all Southern California that has a more beautiful setting among orange and walnut groves.

“Basing my belief on the growth the City has made in population in the past few years, it is reasonable to believe that before the end of five more years, the city of Fullerton will have attained a population of 10,000 people.

“Geographically, Fullerton is the largest city in Orange County, having an area of over 18 square miles, covering more territory than the cities of Anaheim, Orange, and Santa Ana combined. Its wide boulevards and substantial pavements are the pride of the whole county.

“Here the famous Valencia orange is king, and the harvesting of this crop alone requires the services of a small army of men.

“To the north of Fullerton lie the Coyote Hills, covered with hundreds of oil wells operating day and night, employing thousands of men who, earning good salaries, find in Fullerton a desirable and convenient place to shop and seek the comforts and recreation always available there. The interests of the Standard Oil Company, the Union Oil Company, and many other equally active companies are here represented.”

Public Transit

“The Pacific Electric Railway connects Fullerton with all Southern California points from the mountains to the sea.”

School District

“The Fullerton Joint Union High School increased by growth in population and territory added to the district has developed from a school of 200 pupils ten years ago to one of 850 pupils at the present time.

“The district is one of the, if not the, wealthiest rural district in the United States. The assessed valuation is somewhat in excess of $60,500,000. issue.”

Our Public Library

“Someone has said that the ‘Public Library is the poor man’s university…’ Perhaps no public institution reflects the character and ideals of a community better than its civic library.

“The building itself is a beautiful structure, sitting in a nicely landscaped site. It is a gift of the Carnegie Institution to the city of Fullerton.

“The Library was founded over 14 years ago, largely through the efforts of Miss Anna McDermont, lately deceased, who served continuously until her death as a member of the Board.

“The Library contains 9,000 books, 2,500 pamphlets, 1,500 mounted pictures, and 105 periodicals.

“The Library is extending its literature on Oil and its allied industries.”

Oil Drilling in Hillcrest Park?

“By all means let us lease Hillcrest. Let us lease the park on West Commonwealth if there is a chance for oil there…A string of oil derricks up and down Spadra Road [now Harbor Blvd] would be a good investment if oil were found in paying quantities.

“One thing seems certain: Were Fullerton to become an oil field, even to a limited extent, it would mean very great losses in certain ways. The oil industry and a community of permanent homes in which the owners take a pride in keeping beautiful and pleasing do not go together. Of course, those things that have to do with culture and contentment and permanency may be outweighed by commercial gains. They are at least on the scales.”

Our Road Problem

“Much needed repairs and resurfacing of pavements suffered in consequence…The City is considering issuing bonds…or raising taxes…A ‘taxpayer’s association’ argues they are just being inefficient with the funds they have.

“The wonderful showing of Commonwealth Avenue and Spadra Road in Fullerton, which have served years of extremely heavy traffic, is explained as due to favorable subbase and to the further fact that their width has made possible a distribution of traffic over more space than would be possible on a narrower pavement.”

The Newspaper Editor

“There are many others who make things lively for the editor, who is generally more aware than anyone else of the shortcomings of himself and his paper.”