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William Mason photographs of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

 Collection
Identifier: 7082

Content Description

The William Mason photographs of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles comprise approximately 500 negatives and 162 photographic prints showing the streets and people of Little Tokyo between 1963 and 1968. Almost every print has a penciled caption by the photographer on the back, often specifying the exact location (including cross streets) of each shot along with the names of people photographed. A small number of the photographs in this collection picture parts of Los Angeles outside of Little Tokyo, such as Echo Park, "Bel Air Museum," and Elysian Park.

Dates

  • 1963 - 1968

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

Advance notice required for access.

Conditions Governing Use

All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Manuscripts Librarian. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained.

Biographical / Historical

William M. Mason (1931-2000) was a long-time curator of Southern California history at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Mason was an expert on the multi-ethnic history of Los Angeles who did much to highlight the role of different ethnic groups in shaping the city's development in the nineteenth century and beyond. He curated several special museum exhibitions to illustrate Los Angeles' multi-ethnic character, among them "The Blacks of Los Angeles," "The Japanese of Los Angeles," and "The Chinese of Los Angeles." He also had a passion for photography and spent many happy hours wandering the streets of L.A. with his camera, talking to people, and documenting the city's ethnic enclaves.

Founded around the beginning of the twentieth century, Little Tokyo is now home to the largest Japanese-American population in the United States. Although it developed in part because of discriminatory laws that limited where Japanese Americans could live and work, the neighborhood became a dynamic economic and cultural hub. By 1941, there were approximately 30,000 Japanese Americans living in Little Tokyo. After most of its residents were incarcerated during World War II, the neighborhood filled with other ethnic groups seeking affordable housing. After the war, old residents returned, and Little Tokyo was revived as a hub of the Japanese American community--though it remained more diverse than it was before the war.

Extent

0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The William Mason photographs of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles comprise approximately 500 negatives and 162 photographic prints showing the streets and people of Little Tokyo between 1963 and 1968. William M. Mason (1931-2000) was a long-time curator of Southern California history at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Mason was an expert on the multi-ethnic history of Los Angeles who did much to highlight the role of different ethnic groups in shaping the city's development in the nineteenth century and beyond. He curated several special museum exhibitions to illustrate Los Angeles' multi-ethnic character, among them "The Blacks of Los Angeles," "The Japanese of Los Angeles," and "The Chinese of Los Angeles." He also had a passion for photography and spent many happy hours wandering the streets of L.A. with his camera, talking to people, and documenting the city's ethnic enclaves. One such enclave, Little Tokyo, is now home to the largest Japanese-American population in the United States. Founded around the beginning of the twentieth century and developed in part because of discriminatory laws that limited where Japanese Americans could live and work, the neighborhood became a dynamic economic and cultural hub. The photographs in this collection include street scenes, shots from at least one Nisei Week Japanese Festival, and striking portraits of women in traditional Japanese dress. A predominant subject of these photographs is Little Tokyo's businesses and commercial activity, including images of storefronts, signage, and construction work. These photographs offer valuable documentation of the mid-1960s appearance of this ethnic enclave which -- like much of Los Angeles -- has changed tremendously over the past half-century.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Johnson Rare Books and Archives, January 2, 2019.

Creator

Title
Finding aid for the William Mason photographs of Little Tokyo, Los Angeles
Status
Completed
Author
Bo Doub, with the help of students from CORE 450 ("Los Angeles: A Polymathic Inquiry"): Neysa Sanghavi, Emma Masterson, Isabela Hoban, Rachel Solomon, Hannah Mulroe, Ollie Bentley, Tejas Ramdas, Mimi Tran Zambetti, Hanna Fasholtz, Kai MaClean, Chan Woo Hwang, and Kali DeCambra
Date
2019 January
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English

Repository Details

Part of the USC Libraries Special Collections Repository

Contact:
Doheny Memorial Library 206
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles California 90089-0189 United States