San Pedro, California is located at the southern most tip of Los Angeles County. The town, annexed by the City of Los Angeles in 1909, has had a long history as a place of maritime trade and commercial activity. San Pedro sits on the southeastern side of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, a unique outcrop of land that provides the town with a naturally protected eastern coastline. In the early nineteenth century, along these steep and rocky beaches, cow hides and beef tallow rendered in California’s missions were exchanged for international goods. Originally the territory of the Chumash then the Tongva tribes (later part of the Gabrielino composite), San Pedro then became part of the first Spanish land grant in California. In 1784, King Carlos III granted 75,000-acres to Juan Jose Dominguez, a retired Spanish soldier and early California explorer. In addition to present day San Pedro and the entire Los Angeles harbor, this parcel know as Rancho San Pedro included the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and the present-day cities to the north: Torrance, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach as well as cities to the east: Lomita, Gardenia, Harbor City, Wilmington, Carson, Compton, and on the western side: part of Long Beach and Paramount. Decreased in size through sales and contests of ownership, much of the properties to the east are still held by Dominguez heirs. Considering San Pedro’s ideally situated coastline, in the late nineteenth century, the U.S. military took an interest in the location. Over the decades flanking the turn of the century, a strip of land tucked in the protected harbor was built up and dredged, finally becoming Fort MacArthur at the onset of the First World War. At that time, along the San Pedro coast and on nearby Terminal Island, fishing and new efforts in canning, boat building, and longshoring set the working-class and commercial tone of the harbor area. In the 1910s Japanese immigrants had already began to fish and settle in the harbor area and within the next decade, immigrants from European fishing villages flowed into San Pedro. Bringing “old world” fishing techniques, Croatians and Italian newcomers, by 1940, had built San Pedro’s Los Angeles harbor into the largest commercial fishing port in the country.
San Pedro History Project San Pedro, CA copyright 2008