Long Beach is most commonly known as a beach town where the Queen Mary was retired long ago. Portrayed in film and television as an idyllic sun kissed beach community, the real Long Beach is a bit more legendary than that. Long Beach is a city whose notoriety is only outweighed by its importance to the world economy.
The Birth of the Film Industry
Long Beach holds a trademark place in the history of American film. Long Beach played host to the production of many movies that provided the groundwork for the American cinematic tradition. The now infamous 1917 film Cleopatra, starring Theda Bara was filmed in Long Beach. In Cecil B. DeMille’s 1923 version of The Ten Commandments, Moses parted the Red Sea on the flat seashore of Seal Beach, southeast of Long Beach. Long Beach was also the location of the filming of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake which was possibly the first earthquake to be captured in action on film.
Trade and Commerce
The city is a dominant trade and commercial center for the United States. The Port of Long Beach wields substantial influence critical to the global economy as it is the second busiest container port and one of the world’s largest shipping ports. The city also maintains a large offshore oil industry with underground sources within the city limits.
Long Beach Demographics
- Population 462,257
- Population Breakdown:
- White Persons 46.1%
- African American Persons 13.5%
- Native American Persons 0.7%
- Asian Persons 12.9%
- Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiian Persons 1.1%
- Hispanic or Latino 40.8%
Long Beach History
The area around Long Beach has been inhabited by a myriad of indigenous peoples for at least ten thousand years. When the Spanish explorers arrived these peoples were forced to relocate in the mid-19th century. In 1843 Jonathan Temple bought Rancho Los Cerritos and built what is now known as the “Los Cerritos Ranch House.” This adobe still stands and is a National Historic Landmark. In 1866 Temple sold Rancho Los Cerritos to Flint, Bixby & Co. This is the same Flint, Bixby & Co that had purchased the three ranchos which would later become Irvine.
Jotham Bixby, the “Father of Long Beach” was put in charge of the sprawling ranch and within four years Bixby bought into the property. In 1880, Bixby sold 4,000 acres to William E. Willmore. Willmore envisioned a farm community which ultimately failed. He was forced to sell to the “Long Beach Land and Water Company.” It was at that time that the area was named Long Beach. The City of Long Beach was officially incorporated in 1897.
The town grew and from 1902 until 1969 it was the most famous beachside amusement zone on the West Coast. During that time, many substantial changes occurred within the city limits. Oil was discovered on Signal Hill in 1921, and shortly afterwards the Long Beach Oil Field was the most productive in the world. The even larger Wilmington Oil Field was developed in the 1930’s and sealed Long Beach’s fame as an oil town.
From the early days of the oil and film industries to present day, Long Beach has become host to a wide range of commercial activities. Foreign trade both maritime and cross country brought a diversity of cultures and traditions which made Long Beach the truly unique beach front city it is today.