Summer Road Trip: Los Angeles

Los Angeles, the City of Angels, La-La-Land, Tinseltown, no matter what you call it, the city of Los Angeles has long been a center of commerce, culture, and entertainment in the United States. It is a must see on any road trip through California.


Still from FC-FC-2434 “Nature has been extravagant in bestowing gifts upon Los Angeles…”

NARA’s Motion Picture Branch has numerous films in its holdings related to Los Angeles and the surrounding area. The Ford Collection has one of the oldest Los Angeles films, FC-FC-2434, dating from 1917. The film is part of the Ford Educational Weekly series which was produced by the Ford Company from 1916 through 1921. The weekly series consists of short features about travel, industry, history, geography, and agriculture. Below are stills taken from FC-FC-2434, the entire film can be viewed in our catalog here: Los Angeles

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Stills from FC-FC-2434 

Numerous locations highlighted in the Ford film can still be seen in Los Angeles today, over 100 years later. La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles, also known as The Church of Our Lady Queen of the Angels, is identified by Ford as Plaza Church. The site where Plaza Church now sits has been used by the church since the early 1800’s when the area was still under Spanish rule. It has been designated as one of the first three Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments as well as a California Historical Landmark.

Another interesting attraction highlighted by Ford is Angels Flight. The inclined railway, built in 1901, was removed from its original location in 1969 where it connected Hill and Olive Street. In the 1990’s, the entire railway system was moved to its current location connecting Hill Street and California Plaza.

Several other famous Los Angeles attractions are highlighted in records from RG 306: Records of the U.S. Information AgencyLos Angeles: City of Destiny is a mid-century film offering color footage of UCLA, USC, Spieker Field, Olvera Street, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and Venice Beach. Clips from the film can be viewed below.

Clip from 306.2844 Olvera Street scenes

Clip from 306.2844 UCLA and USC 

Clip from 306.2844 Hollywood

Clip from 306.2844 Venice Beach

The city’s Homer Laughlin Building and its Grand Central Market is the subject of another film in our holdings, Grand Central Market. The film, produced in 1963, documents a day in the life of the market: its vendors, customers, and goods.



Of course, a trip to Los Angeles would not be complete without a stop at “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Disneyland. In 1970, the United States Air Force took a day trip to Disneyland, the footage can be found on reel 2 of 342-USAF-46406. Military personnel enjoy their day while riding the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad, Jungle Cruise, Submarine Voyage, Matterhorn Bobsleds, and It’s a Small World.

There is much more to see of California, coming up this week are stops in Yosemite and San Francisco. Follow along here: Summer Road Trip 2019