Summer travel to Los Angeles benefited from a new belief in the revitalizing power of summer sunlight. Pale complexions were on the way out; tans were in, and swimsuits in the 1920s began to show more and more skin. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

Summer travel to Los Angeles benefited from a new belief in the revitalizing power of summer sunlight. Pale complexions were on the way out; tans were in, and swimsuits in the 1920s began to show more and more skin. Photograph courtesy of Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

Summer came late to Southern California. Its invention had begun much earlier in the East. In 1861, the first summer camp opened in Connecticut. By 1875, the urban well-to-do were fleeing to cool Adirondack lodges. Eventually, there were more than 200 of them. In the 1880s, New York’s sweltering masses could ride the elevated trains to Coney Island and sit on the crowded sand.

In those turn-of-the-century summers, a young Sarah Bixby Smith walked along the four miles of broad, level shore below the bluffs at today’s Long Beach. Her beach was deserted, except for family picnics. “There were gulls and many little shore birds,” she remembered, “and never a footprint except the few we made, only to be washed away by the next tide.”

Southern California before World War I was principally a winter destination for well-to-do tourists, a January to April sort of place, where the elderly, the rheumatic, and the tubercular sheltered from Eastern damp and cold in the warmth of Redlands, Pasadena, or Monrovia. Hotels and resorts made money when New England shivered through another blizzard, but monied tourists avoided the heat and glare of Los Angeles in August.