Wednesday, November 9, 2011

H. Gaylord Wilshire: Speculator, Socialist, Con-Man

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

In the decades following the United States' conquest of California, there followed a huge influx of people and companies hoping to buy and sell the newly-acquired lands and make a nice profit.

Two such speculators were George and Edward Amerige, who purchased the land that would become Fullerton. Because they didn't have the cash to buy the land, they partnered with speculator H. Gaylord Wilshire and the Pacific Land Improvement Company, the land development arm of the powerful Santa Fe Railroad Company.

The Amerige brothers and Wilshire formed the Fullerton Land and Trust Company and began selling off lots, and did quite a lucrative business.

Interestingly, H. Gaylord Wilshire was quite a colorful character. He ran unsuccessfully for congress on the Socialist ticket. He made a pile of money buying and selling lots of land in Southern California. Wilshire Ave. in Los Angeles is named after him.

In his later years, Wilshire became a successful con man, promoting and selling something called "The Wilshire Ring" which he claimed could heal all manner of diseases. He was called "one of the really suberb con-men of his time."

I happen to live on Wilshire Avenue in downtown Fullerton, which is also named after H. Gaylord Wilshire. It's funny to think my street was named after a wealthy socialist con-man.

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