The Telephone Shapes Los Angeles: Communications and Urban Form, 1880-1950


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


Institute of Fine Arts


My dissertation establishes the telephone as a critical, but heretofore unrecognized, component in the development of Los Angeles into a major metropolis, starting in 1880, when its lines began to bind the dispersed region, to the immediate post-WWII years, when telephone use was fully integrated into the Angeleno lifestyle. I investigate physical and visual evidence that attests to the telephone’s influence on the city’s varied levels or spheres of space, from the region at large, to the neighborhood, to the home. In so doing, I argue that while urban thinkers believe new forms of communications help to explain the shape and function of the L.A.-like cities of the future, the telephone has a lot to tell us about the particular socio-spatial formation of Los Angeles in the past.