Lucky Baldwin

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Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin
Lucky Baldwin 001.jpg
Lucky Baldwin in 1905
Born (1828-04-03)April 3, 1828
Butler County, Ohio,
United States
Died March 1, 1909(1909-03-01) (aged 80)
Arcadia, California
Residence Santa Anita Ranch, Arcadia, California
Occupation Businessman, Investor, Racehorse owner/breeder
Board member of
Pacific Stock Exchange, Baldwin Hotel, Santa Anita Park, Baldwin Theater, Tallac Hotel & Casino
Spouse(s) Sarah Ann Unruh
Mary Cochrane
Jennie Dexter
Lillie Bennett
Children

with Sarah Ann Unruh:
Clara (b. 1847)
Elizabeth (1854-1855)
Elias Jackson Jr. (1857-1857)

with Jennie Dexter:
Anita (1876-1939)
Parents William Alexander Crooks Baldwin
Elizabeth Nancy Miller
Honors

Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin (April 3, 1828 – March 1, 1909) was "one of the greatest pioneers"[1] of California business, an investor, and real estate speculator during the second half of the 19th century. He earned the nickname "Lucky" Baldwin due to his extraordinary good fortune in a number of business deals. He built the luxury Baldwin Hotel and Theatre in San Francisco and bought vast tracts of land in Southern California, where a number of places are named after him.

Early life[edit]

Baldwin was born in Butler County, Ohio and his family moved to Indiana when he was a child. Throughout his childhood he was known as a wanderer and adventurer. He started out in business with a grocery store in Indiana and a hotel and billiard hall Racine, Wisconsin.[1][2]

Arrival in San Francisco[edit]

After hearing tales of gold in California, Baldwin decided to head for California. A shrewd businessman, he decided his wealth lay in providing food, supplies and accommodations, and not digging for gold. He took his wife and six year old daughter across the country by wagon train. During the trip west, Baldwin scouted ahead and got lost, and was only saved from starvation by friendly Indians who brought him back to the wagon train. Outside of Salt Lake City, his caravan was attacked by less friendly Indians and Baldwin barely escaped with his life. The family arrived in Hangtown (later known as Placerville) barefoot and worn out. Baldwin had his sight set on San Francisco and they arrived there in 1853.[1]

Business ventures[edit]

In San Francisco, Baldwin set himself up in the hotel and livery business and began investing in the city's lively real estate market.[1] He bought and operated the Temperance Hotel on Pacific Avenue near Battery Street, which he sold only 30 days later for a $5,000 profit. He later started a brick-manufacturing plant at Powell and Union Streets, producing building materials that were used in construction of the U.S. Mint, Fort Point and the fort on Alcatraz Island.[3]

Invests in mine stock[edit]

He made money on several ventures and in payment for a debt, he received 2,000 shares of the Ophir Mine, which was then worth a few cents a share. When the great Comstock Lode was discovered in Nevada in 1859, the value of shares of Ophir Mining Company, one of the earliest successful mines, at the north end of the Comstock Lode, jumped to several hundred dollars per share.[2]

In another stroke of good fortune that cemented his reputation as "Lucky" Baldwin, he decided to travel to India to hunt elephants. He left instructions with his broker to sell his silver stocks if the price fell below a specified price. Baldwin met a troup of Japanese entertainers in Tokyo and brought them to New York, where he became a vaudeville producer.[1] Upon returning to San Francisco, he learned that his stocks had indeed fallen below the threshold sales price he specified, but his broker had been unable to sell because Baldwin had taken the key to the safe holding the stock certificates. In an incredible stroke of good fortune, the stock price had rebounded to a spectacular level, creating a multi-million dollar profit for Baldwin.[1]

Landowner[edit]

Baldwin's Hotel and Theatre (built in 1876, burned down in 1898)

With the wealth generated through both his savvy and lucky investments, he was able to survive stock market crashes and bank failures. HIn 1875-76, he built the Baldwin Theater and Hotel ("the finest west of New York") which earned him headlines across the United States.[1]

During the summer of 1879, Baldwin was in South Lake Tahoe and spent time at a small hotel owned by Ephraim "Yank" Clements situated on 2,000 acres (810 ha) and with rights to an entire mile of lakefront shoreline. The resort was unusual because it still retained the majestic old-growth forests that had been harvested throughout much of the basin for beams to support silver mine tunnels in the Comstock Lode. In 1880, Baldwin bought the resort when it went into foreclosure. Baldwin re-christened the property the "Tallac House" after nearby 9,785 feet (2,982 m) Mt. Tallac,[1] one of the tallest mountain in the Lake Tahoe basin.[4] His resort soon attracted travelers from across the United States seeking luxury accommodations.

He divorced his wife Sarah and in 1875, Baldwin moved to Southern California and bought the Rancho Santa Anita in the fertile San Gabriel Valley from Harris Newmark. Baldwin offered $150,000, but Newmark wanted $200,000. Baldwin at first refused to pay the premium price, but his lawyer Reuben Lloyd told him he should buy it before the price rose further. Baldwin met with Newmark again, carrying a tin-box containing several million dollars, and withdrew $12,500 cash from it as a first payment.[1] Baldwin invested in the Temple and Workman Bank, and when it failed, he acquired even more land through default. Baldwin eventually bought over 63,000 acres (25,495 ha) of land.

When people began moving to Southern California in large numbers during the 1880s, Baldwin subdivided some of his land, creating the towns of Arcadia and Monrovia, California. A portion of his La Cienega Rancho became the city of Baldwin Hills. The community of Sierra Madre is now located on land he once owned.

A visitor to Santa Anita in 1886 wrote: "The ranch is a principality not unlike a Southern plantation before the [Civil] [W]ar, save that all the laborers are well-paid and well fed." He was the largest employer and the largest taxpayer in Los Angeles County at the time.[5]

Fair employer[edit]

At a time of open discrimination and racism in American society, he provided many jobs to Chinese, African-American and Native American workers. He told a reporter that "Chinese are the most reliable laborers I can get."[6] He made news when he hired African-Americans from North Carolina and paid for their train tickets to California.[7] Despite hiring large numbers of ethnic employees, many of them Mexican, he paid them very little.[1]

Marriages and affairs[edit]

Baldwin was financially tightfisted in his business dealings, but led a flamboyant lifestyle. He was especially free-spending when it came to women. One contemporary commented, "Baldwin didn't run after women; they ran after him."[1]

Baldwin's matrimonial ventures periodically created sensations. He was married four times, the first three marriages ending in divorce. He was sued by four women for breach of promise of marriage. His stature as a celebrity was such that at age 56, when he married 20-year-old Lilly Bennett in San Francisco, the wedding drew coast-to-coast press coverage.[8] In the same year, he was sued by a jilted 16-year-old girl who was awarded $75,000 in damages.[9]

Personal attacks[edit]

Lillian Ashley (later Turnbull) signed a 'wedding contract' with Lucky Baldwin. Los Angeles Herald[10]

One of the women accusing him of breach of promise shot and wounded him in 1883 with a pistol inside his luxury Baldwin Hotel, built in 1876[11]) on the northeast corner of Powell and Market St. He also narrowly escaped death in a San Francisco courtroom on July 2, 1896. He was sued by Lillian Ashley for seduction. While she was on the witness stand, her sister Emma Ashley,[12] walked up behind Baldwin and fired a pistol at him, grazing his skull.[1]

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Lucky Baldwin bred and raced a number of top Thoroughbred racehorses. He raced under the banner, "Santa Anita Stable". One of his best filly runners, Los Angeles, competed at tracks on the East Coast of the United States where she won the 1887 Tyro and Spinaway Stakes plus the 1888 Monmouth Oaks and Latonia Derby. Among other successes, Baldwin's horses won the American Derby at the now defunct Washington Park Race Track four times: Volante (1885); Silver Cloud (1886); Emperor of Norfolk (1888); and Rey el Santa Anita (1894).[2]

Friendship with Wyatt Earp[edit]

Wyatt Earp, a long-time admirer of fine horseflesh, frequented the race track when he and his wife Josephine were in Los Angeles.[13] Josephine wrote in I Married Wyatt Earp that she and Wyatt were married in 1892 by the captain aboard Baldwin's yacht. Raymond Nez wrote that his grandparents witnessed their marriage aboard a yacht off the California coast.[14] No public record of their marriage has ever been found.[15]

Death[edit]

During the 1890s, his wealth diminished, but Baldwin maintained an interest in horse racing and poker. His wife Lillie and his daughters Anita Baldwin McClaughry and Clara Baldwin Stocker were among many relatives and friends at his side when he died at the Arcadia ranch on March 1, 1909.[16]

Legacy[edit]

Land owned by the Baldwin estate was relatively worthless upon his death, but ten years after his death, oil was discovered on it. This became the Montebello Oil Fields, which became one of the biggest oil fields in the west.[1]

He is most well-known today for his involvement in horse racing. Baldwin founded the original Santa Anita Park racetrack on his estate (later closed and re-opened, again on estate land), breeding and racing some of the finest racehorses of his time.

The Baldwin Cottage, and surrounding area, is now on the site of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

The Baldwin Hills district of Los Angeles was named for him, as was the City of Baldwin Park, the Baldwin Stakes at Santa Anita, Baldwin Lake in the San Bernardino mountains, Baldwin Beach on Lake Tahoe and Baldwin Avenue in the San Gabriel Valley, among a number of places. His nickname also appears as the name of three pubs in Pasadena and Sierra Madre.

In 2013, the city of Arcadia placed a 9-foot bronze statue of Baldwin in a city rose garden across the street from the main southern gate of Santa Anita Park race track. It was commissioned by two of Baldwin's descendants: Margaux Viera and Heather Gibson, both of California.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "E. J. "Lucky" Baldwin". Historical Society of Southern California. September 5, 2010. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Lucky Baldwin Dies at the Age of 81", New York Times, 2 March 1909, p. 9 [accessed via ProQuest Historical Newspapers, New York Times (1857-Current file), Document ID 101868038]
  3. ^ H.H. Bancroft, Chronicles of the Builders of the Commonwealth Vol. 3, pp. 331-377, The History Co., San Francisco (1892).
  4. ^ McLaughlin, Mark (4 October 2012). "#247 Salacious Lucky Baldwin". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Los Angeles County Directory 1886-87, A. A. Bynon & Co., Pasadena (1886).
  6. ^ "'Lucky' Baldwin's Latest Fortune," Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1902.
  7. ^ "Colored Labor. E.J. Baldwin Imports Seventy Negro Laborers" Los Angeles Herald, Jan. 17, 1886.
  8. ^ "A Millionaire's Third Marriage" New York Times June 1, 1884, Page 4
  9. ^ Historical Society of Southern California, 1999, Wilkman, Jon, "E. J. Lucky Baldwin"
  10. ^ "Tears and Kisses Mark Fight for Baldwin Gold," Los Angeles Herald, December 16, 1910
  11. ^ Hittell, John S. (1878). A History City of San Francisco and Incidentally of the State of California. San Francisco: A. L. Bancroft & Company. 
  12. ^ "Attempt To Murder E.J. Baldwin," San Francisco Call July 2, 1896, Page 1
  13. ^ Crawford, Nissa J. (April 1996). "High-Strung Hustler". Prism: the changing American west. Retrieved June 6, 2011. 
  14. ^ Reidhead, S.J. (October 4, 2006). "Book Review: Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal". Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  15. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (June 4, 2000). "Mrs. Wyatt Earp Packed Her Own Punch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  16. ^ "'Lucky' Baldwin Loses To Death In Last Race," San Francisco Call March 2, 1909, Page 1
  17. ^ "Lucky Baldwin statue dedicated in Arcadia" Pasadena Star-News, April 17, 2013, page 3.

Additional reading[edit]