Wilmington, CA 90744
n 1851, I set sail aboard a ship bound for Panama. Once aboard, I made the acquaintance of Phineas Banning, an agreeable young man several years my senior who, with his employer, was escorting a shipment of goods from Philadelphia to the tiny southern California hamlet of San Pedro.
To pass idle hours at sea, young Phineas related to me the story of his youth; born in 1830 as the ninth of eleven children, Phineas left his home in Wilmington, Delaware at thirteen to take his first job as a clerk in his brother's Philadelphia law firm before joining the enterprise which had put him on the voyage. Eventually, our party debarked in Panama to cross the treacherous isthmus by land.
That portion of our journey proved disastrous; Phineas's employer fell ill and died, leaving the young man penniless and in charge of his cargo alone.
aving come to admire the pluck, if not the good fortune, of young Phineas, I disembarked in San Pedro when he did. We were two penniless lads, but Phineas quickly proved exceedingly industrious. He obtained employment with the small transportation firm of Douglass and Sanford driving a mule team back and forth between the tiny port of San Pedro and the nearby village of Los Angeles. Not content driving mules, Phineas soon transformed himself into the owner of the entire stage coaching business. And, appreciating that San Pedro's harbor was too shallow and muddy to support true shipping, Phineas spent his leisure hours taking soundings of the harbor's depths to determine how it might be improved.
George Alexander took Phineas Banning in as his business partner. Together, the pair bought the freight business from its original owners and renamed the enterprise Alexander & Banning. When the company began running glamorous stagecoaches in addition to freight wagons, I found myself envying the drivers in Phineas's firm.
Now stagecoach men, and not just mere wagoneers, they traveled over wagon routes which have today become the highways leading to and from southern California. Phineas's coaches and freight wagons delivered cargo and passengers to gold miners on the Kern River, to Yuma Arizona, even to Salt Lake City, Utah, where the Mormon settlers were not eager to do business with outsiders until Phineas persuaded them to do business with him.
Eventually, Phineas arranged for five local business men to invest and put up the monies to purchase the land. Although he did not buy the land himself, Phineas became a wealthy enough man to found an entire new town on it. He named his town 'Wilmington' in honor of the town of his birth. The town, I knew, was a better place for a transportation company than San Pedro, since it was six miles closer to Los Angeles. But even then, Phineas was thinking about things of which I had not dreamed. Phineas knew that the future would not arrive in a stagecoach; it would chug into Wilmington on the railroad.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday
12:30, 1:30, and 2:30 pm.
Saturday and Sunday
Tours 12:30, 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 pm.
A $5 donation is requested, $1 for children under 12. The Museum Shop is open during public tour hours and special programs.
The Museum is closed on national holidays.
Group tours of 10 or more and special tour reservations, please call the Museum (310) 548-7777.
Phone: (310) 548-7777
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