The Los Angeles Audubon Society: The First Thirty Years, Part 3 of 3

By Glenn Cunningham

This article was originally published in the Western Tanager, Volume 50 Number 5 January/February 1984


Current history, both local and national, including events of world importance as well as as trivia, was often reflected in the actions, announcements and correspondence reported in the Society records.

On October 17, 1918, for example, the first indoor or program meeting of the LA. Audobon (sic) Club to be held at the State Museum in Exposition Park on October 17 had to be omitted, the health authorities of Los Angeles City having placed a ban on all public gatherings - forbidding such meetings to be held "on account of Spanish influenza, a contagious disease which was raging throughout the city and country at the time." The ban, on indoor meetings only, continued through Nov. 1918.

In December of 1918, Mrs. Fargo, Chairman of the War Work Committee reported "one more star on the service flag," and announced that the treasury had on hand $60.00 for the War Fund. And Mrs. Bicknell, after leading the salute to the flag "gave expression of thanks that all cannot help but feel now that the Armistice is signed and influenza on the decline."

One month later it was reported that still another star had been added to the service flag, and it was agreed that the coupon on the Liberty Bond should be cashed and added to the War Fund. Soon thereafter, the Society bought a $50 Victory Bond.

Following the nation-wide sentiment, the Society signed the petition being circulated to all clubs - "Appeal of the Women of France to Women of all Countries."

In November 1919 the Board went on record as favoring the League of Nations, but was opposed to Hiram Johnson's amendment.

A widespread epidemic again interfered with Society activities in April, 1924, when due to an area quarantine against Hoof and Mouth Disease, the field day location was changed from Sanford Bridge to Playa Del Rey.

Hoping to spread interest in the world of nature, the Society, in April, 1924, purchased copies of, "The Wild Flower Book, Western Birds and The Elfin Forest " . . . to be given to the boys of the Merchant Marine."

The report of September, 1929 included a description of  " . . . a silvery bird of huge proportions and strange outline - that imposing bird of the world - flight fame - the Graf Zeppelin."

Of more local interest, in 1931, La Fiesta de Los Angeles, celebrating the 150th birthday of the city, was recognized when the members of the Board met in September with appropriate Spanish costumes and decorations.

And presaging important changes to come, at May, 1934 program meeting, Mr. Cox of the LA. Board of Power and Light showed motion pictures of the construction of Boulder Dam.


Early in the Society's activities interest in trees was manifest, not only interest in protection of all trees, but in tree planting on special occasions or as memorials to selected individuals.

On April 13, 1918, a live oak in the sunken garden at Exposition Park was dedicated to "Bird Life of the Country".

On Arbor Day in March, 1919, a Himalayan cedar "dedicated to the boys who served us in the Army" was planted by the Society in Griffith Park (Western Avenue entrance?).  In June 1920, the Society received a Memorial Certificate of Registration indicating that the tree had been recorded by the American Forestry Association.

Other tree planting over the years included a Deodar cedar placed near the west entrance to Griffith Park in June, 1920, and dedicated to the sons and grandsons of members who were in service in World War I; and, in May, 1921, a live oak in the Park picnic ground as a Memorial Tree for life and charter members Mrs. de Normand.  A properly inscribed bronze tablet was given the park keeper to be placed on the tree.

Other prominent Society members were honored on Arbor Day, 1926, when four flowering trees, — two ceanthus and two Fremontias — planted in the Bird Sanctuary in Vermont Canyon, were named for Mrs. F.T. Bricknell, Mrs. Robert Fargo, Mrs. Harriet Myers, Mrs. George Schneider.  In April, 1927, a live oak was planted in the Sanctuary in honor of Mrs. C.H. Hall, Society Chairman of Birds and Wildlife.

In February, 1932, a magnolia tree was planted in Lincoln Park in memory of George Washington on the bicentennial of his birth.

Further interest in trees is suggested by the report that four trees had been entered in the Tree Hall of Fame on the American Forestry Association in Washington, D.C. in the name of the Los Angeles Audubon Society.  These included the Cathedral Oak in Lincoln Park under which the Portola Expedition held Easter services; the Verdugo Oak, under which papers were signed between Fremont and Pio Pico; the largest rubber tree in California at 20th and Compton Street; and the largest known camphor tree in the yard of the Pomona Women's Club.

In October, 1930, the Society wrote the Los Angeles Council favoring the planting of shade trees on city streets. In October, 1934, the group favored the oak as the National Tree.  At the December, 1938, meeting it was announced that a nursery on Commonwealth Avenue was to furnish labels for the trees of Plummer Park, but the minutes reveal no follow up.

It is not surprising that particular interest was shown in saving the California redwoods, and considerable effort was directed toward that goal.

Mrs. Josephine Clifford McCracken was made honorary member of the Society in April, 1918, since she was the first to start the movement of saving the redwoods, efforts which resulted in the establishment of government Forest Reserves and Parks.  In September, 1921, members voted to join the American Forestry Association and Save the Redwoods League, approving the $2.00 annual dues for the latter.  In February of the following year the Corresponding Secretary was instructed to write the appropriate Congressmen and Senators requesting passage of House Bill 7452 as amended by Mr. Barber protecting the rights of the public against seizure of water in the Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park for commercial purposes.

Following the Federated Clubs of California's request for contributions to the Club's grove of redwoods, Los Angeles Audubon, in February, 1925, pledged $100 for the Memorial Redwood Grove.  On September 12, 1935, it was reported that the Redwood had been selected as the State Tree, another project that the Society had long favored. In February, 1939, the Society supported the purchase of Redwood Mountain Grove of Big Trees and the transfer of King's River Canyon to the National Park Service.


Appropriately, the dominant interest of the Society continued to be birds — their observation, study, and protection, and the arousing of such interest in others. With this in mind, Mrs. G. Schneider, Official Speaker of the Society, was placed on the list of P.T.A. speakers in 1918, giving her a wide audience in which to spread the word. The city library was persuaded to buy bird books and to provide bird talks and exhibits.  And in the same year, Mr. Hall was appointed to see about keeping the bird baths in Exposition Park clean.

In 1921 subscriptions were made to the John Burroughs Memorial Fund and the Junior Audubon Society, and a Western Bird Guide was given to the McKinley Home for Boys.  The experiment of the Boy Scouts in their Bird House Building Contest was sanctioned in 1924.

Activities in 1930 included the approval of the erection of a monument to Audubon in Louisiana. The following year, the Society sent $10.00 to the fund to save the old home of Audubon from destruction.  Plans entailed moving the house to park land on Riverside Drive by the Hudson River, but the project proved unfeasible and the donation was later returned.

In 1933 members volunteered to make a bird list for the Botanic Gardens at Huntington Library, a list which eventually included 124 species. On April 12, 1934, it was announced that Governor Rolf had declared April 13 State Bird Day.


Consistent with the above interest was the Society's role in supporting the creation of bird and wildlife sanctuaries and wildlife preserves, both large and small.  Many of these are well established today.  Others were short-lived or failed to materialize altogether.

Leading off in these activities, at the May, 1919, Field Day, Audubon Glen was dedicated to the Society as a sanctuary, an accomplishment which inspired the members to close the meeting with the singing of America.

Early in 1920 the Society endeavored to have all City Parks declared bird sanctuaries.  After inquiries, the Chairman of the Bird Sanctuary Committee was able to report in April that the Society was at liberty to dedicate any or all City Parks as sanctuaries whenever it chose to do so.

In May a petition was read and approved to save part of Yellowstone National Park for a bird sanctuary. On June 3, 1920, a bronze tablet was placed on a large live oak in east Griffith Park dedicating the area a "Bird Sanctuary," and in November, 1923, Mrs. Schneider was empowered to carry on work in the development of Vermont Canyon in similar fashion.

Two projects commanded the Society's attention in 1924.  It was resolved that the State should re-establish Lower Klamath Lake (which had been recently drained) as breeding grounds for water fowl; and the Mayor of San Diego was urged to set aside Mission Bay as a Sanctuary.

Many similar resolutions, requests and petitions followed.  In June, 1928, the Society passed a resolution that the Mandeville Canyon Botanic Gardens be made a Wild Bird Sanctuary, a move that was later adopted by unanimous vote of the Executive Board of the Gardens.

Among other activities:

October, 1928. Petitioned the Los Angeles District C.F.W.C. for creation of a State Park embracing the marshes of Playa del Rey.

December, 1928. Went on record as favoring establishment of Mt. Fraser as a Wild Bird Sanctuary.

September, 1930. Endorsed purchase of 320 acres of the Sepulveda Estate near San Pedro for a Royal Palm Park.

October, 1930. Announced the dedication of The Pines at Fraser Mountain Park as a Wild Life Sanctuary.

November, 1930. Attended a conference with Los Angeles Mayor Porter regarding the establishment of a Bird Sanctuary at Eagle Rock Park.

January, 1932. Upon hearing that Mandeville Canyon had been accepted by the County as a Botanical Garden, wrote expressing the hope that the Bird Sanctuary established there in 1928 would be maintained.

February, 1932. Wrote Congressmen to support Bill 12381 establishing Everglades National Park.

January, 1933. Petitioned U.C.L.A. Regents to set aside the campus as a bird sanctuary.

In 1934 reported that Hancock Park had been made a Bird Sanctuary.

May, 1935. Favored making Playa del Rey lagoon a bird preserve since real estate developers were threatening to drain it.

March, 1936. Supported the Harbor City Chamber of Commerce endeavor to have Bixby Slough declared a Bird Sanctuary.

December, 1937. The president reported on a meeting she had attended in regard to the conservation and preservation of Nigger Slough for a County Park and Bird Sanctuary.

December, 1937. Reported that Plummer Park had been made a Bird Sanctuary and considered installation of a bird bath and Audubon sign by the County.

January, 1938. Reported that the Chief Engineer of the Flood Control District had recommended to the Board of Supervisors that the sloughs be maintained as aquatic parks.

April, 1938. Reported on a letter sent by Leo Carillo to the California and Los Angeles Audubon Societies stating that his 2000 acre ranch had been made a State Game and Bird Refuge posted by the State and by himself, on which he had established watering places and feeding spaces.

May, 1938. Reported that the Society had played a part in helping to acquire Laguna Dominguez as a Bird Refuge, saving it from becoming a manufacturing district.

October, 1938. Reported on the progress toward making Bixby and Nigger Sloughs into a Bird Refuge, but had to add that developments were not encouraging.

December, 1938. Donated to the fund providing feed for the birds and animals in the recently burned over area of the Santa Monica Mountains.

February, 1939. Agreed that the Society should contribute $5.00 this year and pledge $5.00 a year for the next two, to a three year study of the California Condor by the National Association.

Good news was forthcoming in October, 1939, when it was announced that Buena Vista Lagoon had been made a Bird Sanctuary, and that Woodland Park in Whittier was soon to be so dedicated. The latter materialized the following month. On November 6, 1939, the Whittier News reported that a wildlife refuge had been established in the San Gabriel River area between Whittier and El Monte adjoining Whittier's Woodland Park.  The 26 acres owned by the Cate Ditch Company, plus several miles of river bottom, formed the nucleus of the refuge, to which Mr. Pelissier, of the Pellisier Dairy Company, added the 300 acres of his ranch. The Refuge was to be administered by the Los Angeles Audubon and affiliated societies.

But interest in wildlife conservation was not confined to the establishment of reserves.  All legislation affecting the welfare of living things commanded the attention of the Society, as did cases of neglect or abuse, whether of entire species or single individuals.

Among the earlier instances of the latter, in April, 1919, members heard a complaint that "woodpeckers were being killed in certain parts of the city."  They immediately voted that Miss Pratt, Deputy Game Warden, should investigate and take up the matter of defending the birds.  On May 19 she reported that Mr. Cornell of the Fish and Game Commission stated that no permission had been given by him or the Telephone Company to kill woodpeckers.

There was seldom a dull period in this area as evidenced by the following actions of the Society.

February, 1921.  Drafted a petition asking that no one under the age of 16 be granted a hunting license, and approved action asking that a one dollar tariff be placed on all birds imported into the country.

1924.  Resolved to work for State law making it illegal to pick or destroy wild flowers within 25 feet of highways.

April, 1924.  Protested, and requested measures against the International Crow Shooting Contest to be sponsored for the following three months by DuPont.

November, 1925.  Protested to Fish and Game over the removal of the Cormorant and the White Pelican from the protected list.

September, 1927.  Discussed the "war on birds" in the Lindsay area where two cents was being paid for each bird and one cent for each egg.

March, 1930.  Approved the Bald Eagle Protection Act.

April, 1931. Sent the following telegram to President Hoover: "Heartily approve your protection for wild geese and migratory birds."

October, 1931. The Society was assured that the current vogue of colored chicken feathers on women's hats meant no danger of a return to the use of egret feathers.

Reported a protest against so many cats being dumped in Sierra Madre Canyon.

November, 1931. Reported that a grosbeak, a Mountain Bluebird, and a redbird were for sale in a pet shop.

December, 1931. Upon hearing that permission was being sought to shoot seagulls on Los Angeles reservoirs, wrote Police Chief Steckel asking that he give careful thought and consideration before acting. The answer stated that he had given permission for such shooting for 90 days but that the safety of citizens would be taken care of. (!)

May, 1932. Passed a resolution protesting the poisoning of animals with thaleum (thallium?).

March, 1933. Passed a resolution requesting the State Legislature to extend the boundary of the Fish and Game District No. 19 A to a line between Pt. Dume on the north and Rocky Point on the south.

April, 1933. Reported that "feather trim is much favored in fashion this season," and that two caged cardinals had been on display at the Bel Air Flower Show, and further, that collectors, authorized by Fish and Game, were thinning out desert birds, especially the Vermillion Flycatcher.

April 1936. Discussed advocating the belling of cats.

September, 1936. Sent a telegram to President Roosevelt imploring the closing of the duck season for the year because of the effect of the drought on the crop of young ducks. In December heard the report that the duck hunting season had been cut by 15 days, and furthermore that in spite of protests by hunters the Federal Government was standing behind the law prohibiting "baiting."

Perhaps the ultimate in horror stories was revealed in March, 1938, when it was reported that Mr. Bruder had cooperated with the Society in apprehending a woman who had been feeding live birds to her cat on the advice of her veterinarian.

Ending the decade on a happier note, in May, 1939, a letter from the Isaac Walton League announced that they would drop all proceedings to have White Pelicans exterminated on Lake Elsinore.


Concern about the environment is nothing new. Many of the items that attracted the Society's attention in early years are reminiscent of today's headlines, as the following attest.

May, 1920. Began a campaign to prevent the construction of irrigation reservoirs in Yellowstone National Park.

In February, 1922, members wrote Congress requesting the passage of House Bill 7452 protecting public rights against the seizure of water in the Roosevelt-Sequoia National Park for commercial purposes.

In May, 1927, there was the first mention of the threat of poison spray in the orchards affecting bird life.

October, 1930. Sent a letter disapproving the widening of Sturdevant Trail (Santa Anita Canyon) to an auto road.

January, 1932. Protested to the City Planning Commission over granting permission to drill for oil in the Los Angeles River.

October, 1932. Urged members to vote No on Proposition 11 permitting oil drilling along the coast.

April, 1933. Wrote the City Council disapproving the plan to put a street (Wilshire Boulevard) through Westlake Park. (MacArthur Park.)

Illustrating the unhappy effect of environmental change on wildlife, in April, 1933, it was reported that the clearing of willows and underbrush in Griffith Park, and the diminished water supply, had reduced the park bird list from 137 to 111, a loss of 26.


Finally we note a few miscellaneous items that fit in none of the topics discussed above, but that suggest the interests and thoughts and actions of Society members in past year.

In January, 1922, the Board voted the "the March Field Day in each year hereafter be known as Founder's Day, and that our April meeting this year be recognized as John Burroughs Memorial Day."

December, 1922. Adopted the Mariposa lily as the Society Flower.

December, 1922. Moved that Mrs. Bicknell complete the Los Angeles Society history and plan to have it published. (What happened?)

June, 1924. Attended the house warming at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Stephen McGroarty (soon thereafter destroyed by fire.)

October, 1924. Agreed to open each meeting with the singing of America the Beautiful.

May, 1926. Announced that the living symbols of Society emblems were: Bird • Western Tanager; Flower - Mariposa Lily; Tree - living (sic) oak.

December, 1926. Thanked Mrs. Leonard Hall for her efforts in selecting the Society's seal.

November, 1927. Announced that the following were complimentary members of the Society: the Los Angeles Library, the Hollywood Branch of the Library, Roland Ross, Alfred Cookman, Dr. LH. Miller, Mary Mann Miller, Augusta Posssens and Martha McCann of the Botanic Gardens.

September, 1929. Passed a motion that "we do not subscribe to The Auk, but that we sanction and join the National Park Association."

October, 1932, Reduced the annual dues from $1.50 to $1.00.

April, 1933- Voted to select a butterfly emblem for the Society, and in May adopted the Swallow-tail Butterfly.

May, 1933. Wrote John McGroarty congratulating him on being chosen Poet Laureate of California.

December, 1934. Received a new book, Roger Tory Peterson's guide, enabling quick identification of birds, and agreed to purchase a copy.

March, 1934. Mrs. Veatch was asked to write the history of the Los Angeles Audubon Society, and in May the Post Record (?) requested such a history in story form. (Again what happened?)

May, 1934. Gave the bird nest collection to the University of Southern California and later received a letter of thanks from President Von Kleinsmit who reported it had been placed in the Science Building.

On June 3, 1935, the group met at the home of one of the members to celebrate the 25th birthday of the Society.

A letter to Joan Crawford, dated August 19, 1936, congratulated her on turning her Brentwood Heights home into a bird sanctuary with water and bird houses provided. She responded on August 29 thanking the Society for the letter and congratulating it in its work.

In February, 1938, Mrs. Duff presented the President with a gavel made from wood from a tree on Abraham Lincoln's farm.

With relief we note that on April 14, 1938, "the President reported that Mrs. Fargo had found her binoculars which had been missing."

As early as 1919 the Society had placed a bird fountain in Exposition Park, but in 1926 received a letter from the Department of Parks reporting the "end" of the fountain, a victim of vandalism and disintegration.

But in December, 1938, a new cement bird bath was acquired through the generosity of Mrs. John E. Bishop of the Ambassdor Hotel, a gift in the name of her canary, Micky. With considerable fanfare it was dedicated at Plummer Park on January 27, 1939, and accepted by Mrs. Florence Lewis Scott, Director of Plummer Park, Mr. O.M. Schultz, President of the Los Angeles Audubon Society, Mrs. Harriet William Myers, President of the California Audubon Society, and Captain E.R. Plummer.

Micky had achieved some fame as a result of being the only bird with membership in the Audubon Society, the only one with his own bank account, as well as one that had founded a Canary Club, appeared on radio, and that regularly received fan mail.

On May, 1939, it was voted "that we have a listing in the Los Anglels Telephone Directory," and thus did the Society announce to the world that it had reached maturity at the end of the first thirty years.


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