A sepia-toned photograph of a full horse-drawn carriage predating the city's incorporation graces the cover of a new pictorial history that transports readers back more than a century to Arcadia's beginnings.
Written, researched and edited by Arcadia Historical
Society members Carol Libby, Jack McCrea, Scott Hettrick and Jena Ball, "Images of America: Arcadia" traces the city's history from the advent of photography in the late 1800s to modern times.
"There is so little written about Arcadia's history," said Historical Society President Carol Libby. "We decided that the story needed to be told in another form."
The longtime Arcadia resident said about 90 percent of the more than 200 photos hadn't been published before.
"Some of those (old) pictures have all been used so many times," said Libby. "Those pictures are in every publication that comes out. We decided not to use those except in the places where we had to because we had nothing else."
Its catalog of unique photographs is part of the book's appeal for Dana Dunn, curator of the Arcadia Historical Museum, who wasn't involved with the project.
"A picture paints a thousand words," she said. "They found some that hadn't been seen before."
More than half of the chapters focus on Arcadia's colorful early days, from its 1903 founding by Elias J. "Lucky" Baldwin, to its development as a destination with the arrival of the Santa Anita Park race track and the Pony Express Museum in the 1930s.
A full chapter is dedicated to the period during World War I, when the Army Air Corps trained pilots to fly hydrogen reconnaissance balloons at Ross Field, the onetime home of Baldwin's first race track and the later site of Arcadia County Park.
The book also traces the city's growth in the 1920s, when the city became the "poultry capital of Southern California," to its present diversity and concludes by illustrating the changes at various locations with a series of fascinating "then and now" photographs.
Libby said she hopes that giving residents a better understanding of the city's past will give them a stronger sense of ownership of their hometown in the present.
"They can be proud of their city and the gains that it has made," said Libby, 77, who has lived in the city since 1956.
Dunn praised the work the authors put into researching the book.
"I think it will give the community a really good idea of the history of Arcadia," said Dunn. "But it's a fun book as well as a history book, and that's hard to do. I think people who don't care much for history will enjoy it."
Libby said the society was originally approached about doing the book for Arcadia's centennial in 2003, but there were too many projects going on at the time, so the idea was shelved until last year.
The book was published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing, which anticipates some confusion from local retailers about its name.
"We are very excited to have our first `Arcadia, Arcadia' book," said Arcadia Publishing's Publicity Manager Kai Oliver-Kurtin. "Although there are many Arcadias ... across the country, this is the first one that has come to fruition, and we are thrilled about it."
The $20 book went on sale locally at the Arcadia Historical Museum and other bookstores last week, but it is also available at www.arcadiapublishing.com.
The authors will also discuss the book and sign copies from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 3, at the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, 388 W. Huntington Drive in Arcadia.