In the 1800s, Richard Henry Dana pegged San Pedro's primitive mudflats and harbor as the "hell" of Southern California.
Who would have ever guessed that the Port of Los Angeles would someday become a key goods-movement link driving trade and the entire U.S. economy.
Veteran maritime journalist Michael D. White has compiled more than 200 vintage photographs, many never published before, in the Arcadia Publishing book "The Port of Los Angeles."
The book chronicles the port's 100-year-plus history.
"I've written about business and transportation issues for 30 years and saw what a critical role that the port played in the economic development of this region," said White, who lives near the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. "It's really been underplayed and not well understood."
The book - made up of black-and-white photographs and text - begins with the hide trade that flourished during Dana's time and follows the port's development after Phineas Banning arrived in San Pedro in 1851.
Photographs depict war years, the rise of container use and other developments that over more than a century transformed the port into the economic hub it is today.
"The biggest evolution over the past 50 years or so has been containerization," White said, referring to the practice of being able to move and ship more and more cargo by packing it in long containers.
"Back in the early 1960s, it was just a concept and it caught on slowly," he said. "It was really through the vision of a number of individuals at selected ports, including Los Angeles, that led the way in transitioning the way cargo had been moved for generations."
White is a Southern California native and former managing editor of World Trade Magazine. He has written for numerous other trade publications and has also authored a book, "International Marketing Blunders."
He now puts out the CalTrade Report, an online publication.
Despite challenges - controlling pollution and dealing with limited land space - White said the port will continue to play a vital role in the nation's economy.
"Like many ports, Los Angeles is land poor so they have to be smarter about the way they do things," said White, whose next project is a book on the Port of Long Beach.
"The port was admittedly slow in coming to understand the nature of its dealings with the community," he said. "They were looking more toward global and regional issues and they forgot about the community right on their own doorstep. But that's changed and (port Executive Director) Geraldine Knatz is a real visionary."
FIND OUT MORE
What: "The Port of Los Angeles," a new book by Michael D. White, published by Arcadia Publishing as part of its Images of America series.
Where: The book is available through the publisher (888-313-2665 or www.arcadiapublishing.com) and through Amazon.com.
Several retailers also carry the book commemorating the port's 100-year anniversary, including Barnes & Noble, Waldenbooks, Acres of Books (Long Beach), the Grand Emporium, Peninsula Pharmacy and Williams' Book Store in San Pedro.