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Mystery Tent Camp: 1903

Circa 1903. "Striped tents in two rows." This looks a little like California to me. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

Circa 1903. "Striped tents in two rows." This looks a little like California to me. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Revival meeting?

There are crosses on top of some of the tents.

[Connected by wires! - Dave]

That'll be gum tree to you, mate

My grandma lived in the Sacramento Valley in the 'teens. Her family would move each summer to similar accommodations in the Mendocino hills. The trees were probably a little more redwoody, though.

Big groves of eucalyptus have fallen from favor in California due to the fire hazard. (The Aussies have had huge "bushfires," too.) Still, there are some nice stands here and there.

We used to burn eucalyptus logs (in our LA home in the 1980s) culled from the windbreaks and other lots around the orchards in Ventura County. The wood is pitchy and fast-burning, imagine!

Coronado Island

Wandering around the old Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego I saw old photos of a tent city similar to this on the strand just south of the hotel, for tourists on a budget. Don't recall if it had a row of eucalyptus down the center, but this is a good excuse to stop by there tomorrow for happy hour and check.

Catalina Island

It sure looks lots like my family's old photos of the tourist camps of Avalon, stripes and all. They were very reasonable to rent and had shared restrooms and shower areas. Daily clean linens were provided, providing more jobs for the industrious locals. They were located on the site of the present Island Plaza, where the bus tours now originate. Coronado here in SD had a similar Tent City up until about WW2 for those who didn't chose to stay at pricey Hotel del Coronado.


"In the eucalyptus grove is a tent city where hundreds enjoy camping out with the luxury of perfect neatness and the best of sanitary conditions." From the chapter on Avalon, on Santa Catalina Island, in Charles Frederick Holder, "The Channel Islands of California: a Book for the Angler, Sportsman and Tourist" p 47(1910). The postcards reprinted on page 54 of Marlin Heckman, "Santa Catalina Island in Vintage Postcards (2001), in Google Books, could well be this spot.

Persistent Eucalyptus

I've been dealing with eucalyptus trees for about thirty-five years. They're not my favorite tree. Seedlings sprout from roots of parent trees and grow incredibly fast, rapidly spreading beyond their original planted stands and into adjoining natural landscapes.

Eucalyptus trees also get very large very quickly. The trees in this photo might be only 20-30 years old.

It's the gum

During the Santa Ana winds of October that plague southern California, a spark will turn these trees into perfect torches. They burn very well.

Eucalyptus ubiquity

It's amazing how the eucalyptus has spread to every corner of the globe, at least if you go by Hollywood movies of the teens through the fifties. Frex, this frame from Laurel & Hardy's 1933 Fra Diavolo aka The Devil's Brother, a story ostensibly set in Italy.

This link dates the introduction of eucalyptus in California to 1853.

A botanical clue

Those trees are eucalyptus, planted as windbreaks perhaps, making it very likely the image was taken in California as you suggest. Hard to believe though the image is from 1903 and not more recently.

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