Material Dreams: Southern California Thought in the 1920's

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Overview

Kevin Starr is the foremost chronicler of the California dream and indeed one of the finest narrative historians writing today on any subject. The first two installments of his monumental cultural history, "Americans and the California Dream," have been hailed as "mature, well-proportioned and marvelously diverse (and diverting)" (The New York Times Book Review) and "rich in details and alive with interesting, and sometimes incredible people" (Los Angeles Times). Now, in Material Dreams, Starr turns to one of the most vibrant decades in the Golden State's history, the 1920s, when some two million Americans migrated to California, the vast majority settling in or around Los Angeles.
In a lively and eminently readable narrative, Starr reveals how Los Angeles arose almost defiantly on a site lacking many of the advantages required for urban development, creating itself out of sheer will, the Great Gatsby of American cities. He describes how William Ellsworth Smyth, the Peter the Hermit of the Irrigation Crusade, the self-educated, Irish engineer William Mulholland (who built the main aquaducts to Los Angeles), and George Chaffey (who diverted the Colorado River, transforming desert into the lush Imperial Valley) brought life-supporting water to the arid South. He examines the discovery of oil, the boosters and land developers, the evangelists (such as Bob Shuler, the Methodist Savanarola of Los Angeles, and Aimee Semple McPherson), and countless other colorful figures of the period. There are also fascinating sections on the city's architecture the impact of the automobile on city planning, the Hollywood film community, the L.A. literati, and much more.
By the end of the decade, Los Angeles had tripled in population and become the fifth largest city in the nation. In Material Dreams, Starr captures this explosive growth in a narrative tour de force that combines wide-ranging scholarship with captivating prose.

Kevin Starr is the foremost chronicler of the California dream. In Material Dreams, he turns to one of the most vibrant decades in the Golden State's history, the 1920's, when some two million Americans migrated to California, the vast majority settling in or around Los Angeles.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195072600
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/28/1991
  • Series: Americans and the California Dream Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 811,219
  • Product dimensions: 5.63 (w) x 8.81 (h) x 1.41 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Starr is the author of the series Americans and the California Dream, including the previously published Americans and the California Dream, 1850-1915, and Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era. The next installment is The Dream Endures: California through the Great Depression.

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Table of Contents

I Foundations in Water
1 Prophesying Through Water: Hydraulic Visions and Historical Metaphors 3
2 Imperial Ironies: The Dreams and Realities of Social Irrigation 20
3 Aqueduct Cities: Foundations of Urban Empire 45
II The City on the Plain
4 From Oz to Oildorado: The Rise of Los Angeles in the 1920s 65
5 Boosting Babylon: Planning, Development, and Ballyhoo in Jazz-Age Los Angeles 90
6 The People of the City: Oligarchs, Babbitts, and Folks 120
7 USC, Electricity, Music, and Cops: The Emergence of Institutional Los Angeles 151
III Materializing History
8 Designs for Living: Architecture in Southern California, from the Bradbury Building to the Watts Towers 181
9 Anacapa and Arcadia: The Santa Barbara Heritage 231
10 Castles in Spain: The Santa Barbara Alternative 263
IV Life and Letters in the Southland
11 Opinion and the Aristocracy of Art: The Search for Common Ground in Emergent Los Angeles 305
12 The Book Triumphant: Bibliophilia and Bohemia in Greater Los Angeles 334
13 On the Blue Train Through Dijon: Pasadena Begins Its Literary Career 362
Epilogue
Material Dreams 390
Notes 395
Bibliographical Essay 401
Acknowledgments 427
Index 429
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