Venice History Web Site
Research Sources

June 5, 2004

Researching a historical subject such as the history of Venice and Ocean Park, California along with their amusement pier districts takes an enormous amount of time. Secondary sources such as previously written books, even my own, are often inaccurate and incomplete, and historians that use them without checking the original sources such as newspaper accounts risk perpetuating these errors. Worse you can't always trust newspaper articles since many, especially at the turn of the century, were content to publish a businessman's press release without sending a reporter. Ride owners or builders, especially with roller coasters, often exagerated that their ride was the highest, fastest or longest. My best advice to amusement park researchers is to examine photographs and maps that are drawn to scale (like the Sanborn Maps) and judge for yourself. The patent office often has drawings of how an amusement ride works.

If I have left out various sources - feel free to E-MAIL me. This Web Site is a work in progress. Hopefully it will benefit both serious researchers and people who are just fascinated by amusement park history.


The Venice Library on Venice Boulevard has the largest collection of Venice history books. However, due to lost copies, many are available at the Reference Desk only.



Summer is Forever by Jeffrey Stanton (Hardback & paperback editions) ARS Publications - 1975

This is a color photoessay with text about beach town life along the Southern California coast from San Diego to Santa Barbara. There is a six page section on Venice.

Venice California: An Urban Fantasy by Horst Schmidt-Brunumer (paperback) Grossman Publishers - 1973

A collection of photos of Venice taken by a German student in urban planning at UCLA and published in Germany. Many photos of Venice's unique urban landscape.

Venice of America by Sweet William (paperback) - 1980

Sweet Williams' redition of counter-culture life in 1970's. Includes the Venice canal festivals, Venice's nude beach scene, its entertainers, etc. Text and photos.

Venice Beach by Claudio Edinger (paperback) Abbeville Press - 1985

Photos of Venice's unique architecture and street life.

Venice West: The Beat Generation of Southern California - by John Maynard (Hardback) Rugers University - 1991

This is actually a history book, but since it isn't illustrated it wasn't reviewed in the history book section. It covers the beat poets and artists who lived in Venice because of its cheap rents and easy going beach life. They hung out in several coffee houses along Venice's Ocean Front Walk and on Dudley where they read their poetry and displayed their paintings..

Fantasyland: Venice Beach, California by Marc La Porto - 1998

Created by a French college student as a term paper and later published in France. It interviewed (with photos) 27 people; entertainers, artists, musicians, fortune tellers, and street people who inhabited Venice's Ocean Front Walk on a regular basis. Some of the people were really weird and have unusual thinking.


The best place to look for magazine articles is the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature. However, finding issues of early obscure magazines, likely requires a trip to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. You would be suprised that they have nearly everything stored in three enourmous buildings, each with multi-level basements.


Santa Monica Evening Outlook (1887 - 1998) [Located at Santa Monica Library]

Venice Vanguard / Culver City Star (1911 - 1958) [Located at Los Angeles Library - Downtown]

Los Angeles Times [Located at Los Angeles Library - Downtown & at UCLA]

Los Angeles Examiner [Located at Los Angeles Library - Downtown]

Marina Argonaut (Weekly) [Located at Marina Library]


Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - available from Library of Congress and probably at the Los Angeles Library - main library. These are available for various years on microfilm. Known years are 1909, 1919, 1925, 1950. The original books at the Library of Congress are enormous with indivudal pages at least 30 x 18 inches.


UCLA Special Collections [in Young Research Library]

Los Angeles Library - Downtown [History Deptartment]

Santa Monica Historical Society

Venice Historical Society

Santa Monica Library

L.A. County Natural History Museum [Seaver Center]


Most tourist postcards were printed in color in Germany from about 1904 to 1916, then in in America afterwards. Collectors assure me that there are over 900 different cards of Venice and Ocean Park. While I have been collecting since 1979 and have a medium-size collection, I'm missing hundreds. Few Venice and Ocean Park postcard collectors have been willing to show me their collections, so I'm not sure exactly what I'm missing. I've requested collectors to Xerox views that they think that I haven't seen.

There were very few cards published of Venice or Ocean Park after 1940. Postcard publishers did produce about 20 views of Pacific Ocean Park when it opened in 1958. Mitock Publishers, the largest publisher of postcards in Los Angeles, produced nearly none of the area from 1960 to 1980. It wasn't until the Venice Postcard Company appeared in 1979 that at least 40 Venice scenes became available. It was formed by a photographer, who uncucessfully tried to promote his career. They offered street scenes of Windward and Ocean Front Walk, street performers, roller skating, street murals, Venice's canals, aerial views, and architecturally interesting buildings. When other postcard companies began to compete in 1985, they offered only 2 or 3 Venice scenes on their 50 card racks.


The U.S. Patent Office lists patents from 1797 to present. They can be searched on-line, but only by patent classification before 1970. To find patents by inventor or by title, one must look at the Indexes to the Patent Gazette, year by year at a patent repository. Luckily one is at the Los Angeles Library in downtown L.A. I've found the patents for some of the rides on Venice and Ocean Park amusement piers.

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