It is rare to come across an item in Sherman Library’s collections that relates to current events as clearly as the letter I discovered yesterday. When Sherman Library temporarily closed, on March 17, one of the tasks I set for myself while working from home was to organize a collection of letters from Lucy Sherman, the sister of Moses H. Sherman, for whom Sherman Library & Gardens is named. These letters date from the 1870s and 1880s when Lucy lived in Prescott, Arizona and provide insights into life in that community.
Sherman Library & Gardens’ origins can be traced to one day in April 1914. On that day, Moses Hazeltine Sherman approached Arnold Haskell, a young man working as a clerk at the reception desk of the Mission Inn in Riverside, with a job offer. Years later Haskell recalled, “The General [Sherman] came in and he said, ‘Arnold, do you want to work for me?’ I said, ‘Yes, I do.’ He said, ‘Well, the train leaves for Los Angeles at four o’clock this afternoon.’ Years later, Arnold Haskell would honor the man who hired him by naming Sherman Library & Gardens after him.
What does the Hollywood sign have to do with Sherman Library & Gardens? Quite a lot, as it turns out. The Hollywood sign started out as the Hollywoodland sign, an advertising gimmick designed to attract buyers to a new luxury housing subdivision: Hollywoodland. Dubbed “the supreme achievement in community building,” the subdivision land was owned by Moses H. Sherman, namesake of Sherman Library & Gardens. In 1922, Sherman put together the Hollywoodland syndicate (as business partnerships were often called then) which included his business partner and brother-in-law Eli P. Clark, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler, and developers Tracy Shoults and Sydney H. Woodruff. The Hollywoodland sign cost the syndicate $23,501.32.
Perhaps the most unique artifact in Sherman Library’s collection is an antler-handled sterling silver loving cup, with the inscription, “To General M.H. Sherman in Grateful Remembrance of all his kindness on April 18th 1906.”
That date – April 18, 1906 – many will recognize as the day of the great San Francisco earthquake. At 5:12 AM the city was devastated by a massive earthquake, which then ignited fires that burned for three days, largely destroying the city.