What’s In a Picture: The Entire Los Angeles Police Department 1904

This particular photograph of the entire Los Angeles Police Department, taken circa 1904, has continually been mistakenly marked as being snapped in 1890. To photo historians, this 14-year error is important to correct. The image was taken at the entry to the newly constructed Los Angeles County Courthouse at Broadway and Temple Street. The building was completed 1891.

The entire Los Angeles Police Department in 1904

The entire Los Angeles Police Department in 1904

If one was to accept the date of 1890, then I would argue, where is Chief John Glass (1889-1899), who was never absent from any LAPD group photograph during his tenure. No one in the photograph has the stars of the chief of police displayed on their uniform. They all wear the series two badge that was worn from 1890 to 1909.

Those present for this official portrait of the LAPD lends itself to identifying the year of the image. Standing at attention, with his trademark long, drooping mustache, is Walter Auble (front row on left), who was chief of police from 1905 to 1906—a year after this photo was taken. The chief of police in 1904 was William Hammell. Why he would not be present for this significant image is not known, but he is nowhere to be found.
The two ladies present give substance to the date of 1904. The diminutive Lucy Gray and her daughter Aletha Gilbert (1902-1929) are given the prominent position of being framed by Auble and the Detective Bureau. Matron Gray died in March of 1904, eliminating the date of 1905 when Auble was chief.

Chief Walter Auble would serve one year as chief and would later be gunned down by a burglary suspect. Lucy Gray died of pneumonia shortly after this photo was taken. Aletha Gilbert became LA’s first “City Mother” and served the LAPD until her retirement in 1929. The iconic Los Angeles County Courthouse was torn down in 1932.

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