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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Report by Galen Hunter


Historic Context Statement


[ Page updated - April 2, 2020 ]


This is a brief write up about the early American corporate history through 1858 at the Old Salt Lake site in Redondo Beach, California. For this treatment, the context for the early American corporate history at the salt lake begins with an event in the late Mexican period, in the year 1835. First, some context about this report -- it avoids the practically impossible. All of the previous and even currently published corporate histories of the site, for instance, including the City of Redondo Beach's official history of itself named "Historic Context Statement", are all wrong in so many aspects and have been wrong for so long, it is practically impossible to try to do a proper historiography on the subject. This writer tried -- nearly three years ago publishing a book on the subject with many supporting documents and references. However, the facts presented in the book have clearly bounced off people. The important insight gained from the experience is if you present facts that have implications requiring people to think differently about things, like corporations, then the facts will just bounce off people. It is much more practical to settle on being a professional corporate propagandist of various sorts and just pass on false narratives as has been done for the last 100 plus years.

Yet, the Old Salt Lake site was an important place with significant natural resources. Corporate propaganda has not only resulted in the devastation of the ecology of the site, but even devastation of the memory of the area as an undifferentiated natural environment. There was a pebble beach, sand dunes, a lake and ponds with a large rain catchment area and multiple layers of underground aquifers of salt and fresh water and ravines, hallows and natural hillsides. All self sustaining and providing its resources for thousands of years across multiple culture of people. It's all gone. What happened is -- American corporations happened. The actual history of how the first corporation happened here is sufficiently epic and not even close to being written about correctly in all previous histories. The actual history is the context or meaning. In order to keep this particular web page report very brief, like two more paragraphs, this treatment of the people and events mentioned will be quite summarized and without many references. The report is not trying to convince. Rather, this report is what this writer wants to do and has the most impact.

The Old Salt Lake site was common property of the Pueblo of Los Angeles in the Mexican period and was considered common property of the City of Los Angeles in the years immediately after the American conquest. Maybe the site would still be an essential, self sustainable natural resource today if the City of Los Angeles still owned it. In 1835, the Pueblo owned the site and taxed the Missions for the salt they extracted from it. After the American conquest in 1846 and the resulting treaty, the Pueblo became a municipal corporation, a City. The City successfully obtained an Act from the newly formed State of California allowing it to claim within its jurisdictional boundary all of the area previous claimed by the Pueblo. The city went into an historic amount of debt to pay the fee for the attorney named Joseph Lancaster Brent to aggressively confirm in U.S. court the boundary lines of its land. However, Brent was also Manuel Dominquez's family attorney. Manuel Dominquez owned Rancho San Pedro and Dominguez had a problem. Even though he had a lot of land, Dominguez had no cash to pay Brent for the legal work required to confirm in court the boundary of Rancho San Pedro which on the north at the coast bordered the Salinas, the salt lake common property of the City of Los Angeles, as it was known then. However, Dominguez did have Brent who was playing the City and the rancho owners on each side of their border line for what they were worth. In the case of the salt lake site, what gave was the City of Los Angeles losing the salt lake as it's common property.

All of the property in Redondo Beach, particularly the Old Salt Lake site, goes back to the Patent of the Rancho of San Pedro, signed by President Buchanan in 1858. Joseph Lancaster Brent got that Patent for Dominguez. The disputed northern boundary line of the rancho at the salt lake was resolved by Brent involving a scheme for himself to obtain legal ownership of the salt lake site and that is what happened. The salt lake was occupied by merchant Alexander Bell and Los Angeles County Surveyor Henry Hancock who had organized a salt works there, on land they did not own, and were selling the salt in San Francisco for a good price. So, Brent's scheme in late 1854 was to incorporate the salt works into the Pacific Salt Works Company, the second registered corporation in Los Angeles County, the stockholders of the salt company being Brent, Bell and Johnson. Next, Brent had Dominguez sell the salt lake site, land Dominguez did not own, to the Pacific Salt Works Company for $500. Then Brent had the Los Angeles County Surveyor confirm in a survey that the northern boundary line of Rancho San Pedro was drawn to include the salt lake site. That is the context of what happened. You will know when the implications of these facts and this context just bounces off someone when they say something to the effect "That was then, this is now".