the first draft of history?

the times building at sunset i’ve been poking around in the historical archives (pre-1985) of the los angeles times. here’s an interesting factoid: “los angeles was the first city in the united states to entirely abandon gas for street lighting and replace it by electricity, which was done january 1, 1888.”

and here’s a great blurb from the august 10, 1886 “briefs” column: “officer fonck brought in a man, last night, from los angeles street, who was dead drunk, and so filthy that it caused the officer to lose his four-bit dinner.”

one of the reasons i’ve been digging around is that in this obituary for james pulliam, i noticed that the writer claimed there was some renovation of the central library that was completed in 1987. i thought this was obviously wrong, because the two fires in the central library were in 1986, and the renovation of the library was not completed until 1993. looking at the articles where pulliam is quoted in 1979, they are about a renovation project that was never done. charles luckman, another los angeles architect, had proposed a renovation that would have added two new wings to the library, and had elevators in the central rotunda. the city council killed that plan in september 1979, and plans for the renovation that did happen did not start to gel until a few years later.

the person with the times who first responded to my correction appears to be on vacation for a few days, so maybe they’ll correct the obituary after my latest volley. (or not, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a very big deal.)

this piece in the new york times looks at how people appear on the news are getting out their side of the story, and one thing it astutely points out is that an advantage that organizations like the discovery institute or people like me have is that our content doesn’t disappear inside a pay-for-access archive after a few weeks. for the foreseeable future, you’ll be able to come back to this entry to see what i’ve said. this article is something i linked to in the los angeles times almost five years ago (here). the link doesn’t even offer to sell me the article, it just wants me to contact their archive department who may or may not be able to figure out what the article actually was. as a counter-example, here’s a new york times article where i’m offered an archive copy of the article. and here’s an even older one that is still freely available.

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