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Notes from the Archive

Seaver Center for Western History Research
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Winter 2019/2020
Welcome to Notes from the Archive, a publication of the Seaver Center for Western History Research, a section of the History Department. 
If you are informed by what you read here, please share it with a friend or colleague.

The Seaver Center holdings include photographs, letters and other two-dimensional items of William S. Hart, the most famous western cowboy star of the silent screen era. Hart was friends with western artists such as James Montgomery Flagg, Joe De Yong, and Joe Scheuerle who sent Hart handmade Christmas cards with their original artwork to celebrate the holidays. These are sometimes displayed at his home in Newhall – the William S. Hart Museum -- during the Christmas season.  

Other holiday items in the Seaver Center are the three described below clockwise: 

1)  The leather shoe outline is a 1927 advertisement from the Behrendt Christmas Card Collection.
2)  Greeting card from Mr. and Mrs. Paul Francisco Lupo, undated.  Lupo was a Los Angeles-based Italian-American interior decorator (1889-1936) who designed the homes of the prominent, including actors, architects, and city mayors. He was employed by Barker Bros. Furniture, a long standing retail establishment in downtown Los Angeles.
3)  An undated holiday telegram sent to Mr. and Mrs. Sam Behrendt from Ruth.  It is from the Behrendt Christmas Card Collection.

Victoria Bernal is a chronicler, public historian, researcher, radio reporter and writer who specializes in Los Angeles history. Her stories about local history have appeared on popular sites such as KCRW, KPCC, KCET, CurbedLA, and LAist.  She has been visiting the museum since she was a youngster and remembers her school field trips.

In 2016, Victoria came to the Seaver Center to research an article for KCET about La Pastorela, a long-held Christmas tradition in Southern California and the Southwest. La Pastorela (also known as Los Pastores) tells the nativity tale of the shepherds as they followed the star of Bethlehem. Still performed today, La Pastorela was among the first theatrical productions staged in Southern California as Spanish missionaries used the musical drama to teach the neophytes Christianity.
The Seaver Center holds an original manuscript for an 1839 production of La Pastorela that was originally owned by Los Angeles pioneer Antonio Coronel. Compared to New Mexico and Texas, there have been only a handful of efforts to study this rich tradition in Southern California. Fortunately, John Koegel, Professor of Musicology at CSU Fullerton, has been researching this and will incorporate this historic holiday production in his forthcoming book Musical Theater in Mexican Los Angeles, 1850-1950.

From the Antonio F. Coronel Papers (A.110.58-288)

A current production of La Pastorela will be performed by Teatro del Barrio on historic Olvera Street following the annual Las Posadas procession each evening from December 16 through 23.                 

Book cover courtesy of Angel City Press

Edmond J. Clinton III, MD, the eldest of 13 grandchildren to Clifton's Cafeteria founder Clifford E. Clinton, spent many years with his grandfather, such as bussing tables at the old Hoover Street location in the Westlake District.  He realized as he embarked on recording his grandfather's life story that he was also writing about the history of the city.  For the next five years his research took him to many archives around town to effectively uncover the details of Clifford's efforts to improve the lives of Angelenos and to help reform the city in the 1930s and 1940s.

Clifford, his wife Nelda and his brother Joe arrived in Los Angeles in June, 1931 to open up their first restaurant in the city.  Though their endeavor began in the midst of the Great Depression, Clifford believed that "Clifton's Cafeteria would be a successful business because it would give service to others..."

The author deposited a copy of the book for the Seaver Center collections in 2015.  In an accompanying letter to Collections Manager, John Cahoon, he wrote "I believe this book adds significantly to an especially important and vibrant period in Los Angeles history and tells the story of a man who lived his life based on Christian principles of a call to action to help those in need.  I am particularly grateful to you in helping me to tell this story and would like to preserve this work in the archives of Los Angeles lore."

Betty Uyeda, Collections Manager

Seaver Center for Western History Research
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The collections are a part of the History Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
The Seaver Center opened in 1986 through a generous grant from the Seaver Institute.



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