A Wave From Historic South Central Los Angeles

L.A. as Subject

This post is part of a series that shares highlights from the L.A. as Subject Community Histories Digitization Project, made possible by generous support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

In Depression-era Los Angeles, Central Avenue was an important center of black life and hosted a multitude of jazz clubs. This hand fan is from the Apex nightclub and is believed to have been made in the late 1920s or early ‘30s. Located right next door to the storied Dunbar Hotel and run by bandleader Curtis Mosby, the Apex was a black-owned club that drew largely white audiences.

Musician Marshal Royal remembers in Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles that the Apex was “…where the people from Hollywood and Beverly Hills came to go slumming.”[1] As advertised on the souvenir fan, the club boasted two shows nightly and hosted artists who achieved great fame, including singer Ivie Anderson, who later performed with Duke Ellington. The Apex closed during the Great Depression and reopened as Club Alabam around 1935.[2]

The fan comes from the Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum Collection, which holds a wealth of materials tracing the history of mass entertainment in Los Angeles between 1830 and 1930. Items in the collection spotlight popular culture in a number of Los Angeles’ Latinx and Asian-American communities along with communities in East Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley.

The Workman and Temple Family Homestead Museum, located in the City of Industry, selected 500 objects from their vast collections for public access via the USC Digital Library. The project is made possible by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

[1] Marshal Royal, Central Avenue Sounds: Jazz in Los Angeles, ed. Clora Bryant, Buddy Collette, William Green, Steven Isoardi, Jack Kelson, Horace Tapscott, Gerald Wilson, and Marl Young (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1998), 32-33.

[2] Andrew “Andy” Blakeny in Peter Vacher, Swingin' on Central Avenue: African American Jazz in Los Angeles (Rowan & Littlefield: Lanham, Maryland, 2015), 23.