Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


IT’S A RATHER IMPOSING title for a 1915 pocket guide: The Real United States & Canada Guide-Book. But its author William Harman Black had already published Real Round the World, Touch-and-go Letters from the Far East, the Real Honolulu, Japan, China and Corea, the Real Trans-Siberian Railway and Russia, the Real Europe, the Real Southern Europe and Asia, and the Real Wall Street. It’s quite amazing that he had also served as Commissioner of Accounts for New York City.     

The Real United States & Canada Guide-Book, by William Harman Black, The Association for New York, 1915.

This is one of those old books deemed culturally important enough to warrant modern reprints. My copy is a 1915 original, fairly bright and sturdy for a guidebook. The book is Number 3 of the Nutshell Travel Series known as “Black’s Blue-Books.” 

William Harman Black was also a Fellow of the American Geographical Society, Member of the Japan Society and the Japanese Welcome Society. Indeed, he spared no ink on his title page.

Here I offer tidbits about two of Black’s “175 other routes,” these trips, in a sense, in my own 1915 backyard: the Great Surf Route and the Kite Shaped Track. Each starts in the city of Los Angeles.

The City of Angels. “Los Angeles,” Black reported in 1915, “is the center of fruit industry, surrounded with lemon, olive and orange groves and vineyards. Mean annual temperature: in January 54 degrees, in August  72 degrees, with little or no frost or snow and few rains.”

Among “Interesting Things,” Black cited the “Chamber of Commerce (see collection of California products, Indian antiquities, and the Coronel collection of things Spanish);” the “University of Southern California, Wesley Avenue and Thirty-fifth Street (1,350 students),” and “Hamburgher’s, Broadway and Fourth.”

I could find no historical reference to this restaurant at Broadway and Fourth; in general, the hamburger dates from several decades prior to Black’s guide. USC’s enrollment these days is around 44,000. And Antonio Franco Coronel, 1817–1894, had arrived in Los Angeles from Mexico in 1834. His father, sisters, and he took part in the growth of the City of Angels.

Great Surf Route. Black described, “An interesting trip is the Great Surf Route, 100 miles, fare $1.00, leaving Los Angeles via Pacific Electric Railway, Fifth and Main Streets, at 10:15 a.m., through the dairy district, Domingues Ranch, and through ranches and orchards to Sunset Beach; along Sunset Beach to Long Beach, and thence by steamer to San Pedro.”

By the way, to put the guide’s prices in perspective, $1 in 1915 was equivalent to about $28 in today’s currency.

The Red Car main depot, c. 1910.

Wikipedia notes, “The Pacific Electric Railway Company, nicknamed the Red Cars, was a privately owned mass transit in Southern California consisting of electrically powered streetcars, interurban cars, and buses and was the largest electric railway system in the world in the 1920s.”

Black mentions Long Beach “reached in a little less than one hour by electric car (fare 50 cents round trip). It has a splendid beach and a great number of swimming pools.” 

No mention is made of Los Angeles’s emerging film industry. The first Hollywood movie was D.W. Griffith’s In Old California, made in 1910. By 1915, East Coast movie companies were relocating to this Los Angeles suburb. Black mentions Hollywood, New Jersey, near Asbury Park, “a prohibition town,” but Hollywood, California, is not cited. 

The Kite Shaped Track. Black described, “The trip known as the Kite Shaped Track, 166 miles, over the Santa Fe Railway, starts at 8:30 a.m., and can be made in one day if desired. If made in one day the fare is $2.06, otherwise, $3.00.”

These and images following from Bob Dutton’s The Kite-Shaped Railroad Track.

Black described, “It takes in Pasadena, Santa Anita, Upland, San Bernardino, Redlands (here a drive can be taken to Smiley Heights and Prospect Park); returning from Redlands the route is via Mentone, Highlands and San Bernardino to Riverside, and thence to Casa Blanca, Corona, Orange, Anaheim, La Mirada and Redondo Junction.”

Bob Dutton, San Bernardino county official.

Bob Dutton, along with being an official for the largest county in the contiguous United States, is evidently a talented historian. His YouTube The Kite Shaped Railroad Track is well worth a visit.

Above, the Kite Shaped Tour; below, a Santa Fe train on the route.

Gee, William Harman Black as former Commissioner of Accounts for New York City, Bob Dutton as incumbent Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk. These two government officials exemplify civic dedication of the highest order. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2022 

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