1898 99


Becker revolving shotgun

Designed by Kelner in Germany c.1898-99 then manufactured by Römerwerk Suhl c.1920′s.
16 gauge 5-shot cylinder, blow-forward single-action semi-automatic, all shells are ejected automatically except for the last one, which is ejected using the tab on the right side of the frame.

Only about a hundred of these were made but damn is it not fancy.


Antoon van Welie (1866-1956, The Netherlands)

Van Welie was a Dutch painter bridging a range of late 19th century and early modern styles. His best-known portraits of women show an influence of Pre-Raphaelism and Academicism, but his style came to absorb elements of Symbolism, Luminism and Post-Impressionism. He has been described as “the last decadent painter”, referring to a movement of art and literature that emphasised man and its creation over nature, ennui over morality, and transgressive or sumptuous qualities opposed to those who professed ‘good taste’.

For Black History Month, let’s remember Bridget (often called Biddy) Mason, a Los Angeles woman whose contributions to the city were many.

According to reports in The Times over the years, Mason was born a slave in Mississippi in 1818. She eventually came to California and in the courts won freedom for herself and her three daughters in 1856.

She helped found the first black church in Los Angeles, First African Methodist Episcopal, and an elementary school for black children. She was a midwife in Los Angeles and became a wealthy landowner in what is now downtown L.A. Her home was at the corner of 4th and Spring streets. There’s a parking structure there now, but if you walk through the courtyard of the garage (adjacent to the Washington Building) toward Broadway, look to your right when you see the odd water sculptures. There’s a memorial to Mason there.

When Mason died Jan. 15, 1891, The Times didn’t run an obituary (that I can find). It did run a brief notice about her will on the 21st:

And The Times covered a subsequent dispute over taxes on Mason’s valuable land. A report on city and county assessments in 1898-99 said “a fair valuation of the premises lies between $150,000 and $200,000.” In 2014 dollars, that would be a high of about $5.7 million, according to an estimate based on Consumer Price Index data. According to county assessor’s records, a building on that block sold in 2013 for $18.5 million. Quite an inheritance in the 1890s.

You can read a bit more about Biddy Mason here: Following L.A.’s history through maps

Matt Ballinger

Photo: Portrait of Biddy Mason. Credit: Los Angeles Times file