Thomas Strohm

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Thomas Strohm (1846–1929) was fire chief of the city of Los Angeles, California, for three separate terms between 1887 and 1905 as well as a Los Angeles City Council member during 1892–94. He was denied a city pension although he had been injured on the job. Strohm also began a company that later became the Shasta Water Company.


Strohm Portrait of Thomas Strohm, Los Angeles, California, fire chief.png


Strohm was born on November 5, 1846, near Ulm, Wurtemberg, Germany, to Matthew Strohm and Anna Barbara Jauch, both of that city. The family emigrated to America in 1852, crossing from Le Havre, France, to New Orleans and thence by river boat to Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father, a master mason and contractor went into business. Young Thomas attended public schools in Cincinnati, then learned to be a machinist and a gym instructor. He moved to Kansas City, Missouri, in 1868, then to California, near San Francisco (or in Sacramento), in 1872 or 1874, and he briefly worked in the San Francisco Mint. In 1876 he moved to Wilmington, California, at that time a separate city, and to Los Angeles two years later. [1] [2]

Ulm Place in Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Ulm is a city in the federal German state of Baden-Württemberg, situated on the River Danube. The city, whose population is estimated at almost 120,000 (2015), forms an urban district of its own and is the administrative seat of the Alb-Donau district. Founded around 850, Ulm is rich in history and traditions as a former free imperial city. Today, it is an economic centre due to its varied industries, and it is the seat of the University of Ulm. Internationally, Ulm is primarily known for having the church with the tallest steeple in the world, the Gothic minster, and as the birthplace of Albert Einstein.

A general contractor, main contractor or prime contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and the communication of information to all involved parties throughout the course of a building project.

Machinist person who machines using hand tools and machine tools to create or modify a part that is made of metal, plastics, or wood

A machinist is a person who machines using hand tools and machine tools to create or modify a part that is made of metal, plastics, or wood.

He was married to Emily Schubnell of Oregon; their children were Louis Robert (or Low), Walter Thomas, Benjamin Clarence and Anna Barbara (Mrs. George O'Donnell). A son, Tommie, died at the age of 9 months in July 1890. Emily died on December 24, 1917. [1] [3] [4]

Strohm was "a leader in affairs concerning the Germania Turn-Verein[,] around which centered much of the civic, social and recreational, and municipal activity of pioneer Los Angeles." [1] He was an instructor in a boys' class of gymnastics for the organization in 1878, and he was noted as "one of the most graceful and thorough acrobats we have ever seen." [5] By 1906 he had become known for his "florid face and gold-rimmed goggles" shining "through the smoke and flame." [6]

American pioneer

American pioneers are any of the people in American history who migrated west to join in settling and developing new areas. The term especially refers to those who were going to settle any territory which had previously not been settled or developed by European, African or American society, although the territory was inhabited by or utilized by Native Americans.

Gymnastics sport

Gymnastics is a sport that includes exercises requiring balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, and endurance. The movements involved in gymnastics contribute to the development of the arms, legs, shoulders, back, chest, and abdominal muscle groups. Alertness, precision, daring, self-confidence, and self-discipline are mental traits that can also be developed through gymnastics. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills.

Acrobatics Performance of extraordinary human feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination

Acrobatics is the performance of extraordinary human feats of balance, agility, and motor coordination. It can be found in many of the performing arts, sporting events, and martial arts. Acrobatics is most often associated with activities that make extensive use of gymnastic elements, such as acro dance, circus, and gymnastics, but many other athletic activities — such as ballet and diving — may also employ acrobatics. Although acrobatics is most commonly associated with human body performance, it may also apply to other types of performance, such as aerobatics.

At the time of his death on March 22, 1929, he was the oldest Knight Templar in Los Angeles, and he had also been past master of Masonic Lodge No. 42. He had been an Elk and a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen. [1]

Ancient Order of United Workmen

The Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW) was a fraternal organization in the United States and Canada, providing mutual social and financial support after the American Civil War. It was the first of the "fraternal benefit societies", organizations that would offer insurance as well as sickness, accident, death and burial policies.

Strohm died at age 82 in the home of his daughter, 1341 Mariposa Street, in today's East Hollywood neighborhood, His body lay in state in a Venice Boulevard funeral home, and a burial service was at Inglewood Park Cemetery. [4] [7]

East Hollywood, Los Angeles Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

East Hollywood is a densely populated neighborhood of 78,000+ residents in the central region of Los Angeles, California. It is notable for being the site of Los Angeles City College, Barnsdall Park and a hospital district. There are seven public and five private schools, as well as a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library and three hospitals. Almost two-thirds of the people living there were born outside the United States and 90% were renters. In 2000 the neighborhood had high percentages of never-married people and of single parents.

Venice Boulevard is a major east–west thoroughfare in Los Angeles, running from the ocean in the Venice district, past the I-10 intersection, into downtown Los Angeles. It was originally known as West 16th Street under the Los Angeles numbered street system.

Inglewood Park Cemetery cemetery in Inglewood, California

Inglewood Park Cemetery, 720 East Florence Avenue in Inglewood, California, was founded in 1905. A number of notable people, including entertainment and sports personalities, have been interred or entombed there.


City Council

Strohm was elected to the Los Angeles City Council from the 7th Ward in December 1892 and served until December 1894. [8]

Private business

Strohm worked as a machinist (above), but after moving to Los Angeles he ran a grocery business at First Street near Alameda Avenue for about seven years; then he went into the business of manufacturing ice and soda water, at 323 Towne Avenue. The company later became the Head Excelsior Water Bottling Company and then the Shasta Water Company. [1] [9] Strohm turned the business over to his son, C.B. Strohm, in October 1904. [10]

Public employment

Strohm volunteered as a fireman on March 20, 1876, [4] and in 1904 he recalled that

At that time there were two engine companies, a volunteer service, and only the driver and engineer paid. The city rented its buildings, and that was all the fire department there was. Now we have twelve engine companies in service and one in reserve, five hose companies and two chemical companies, making nineteen houses in all. and there are 128 men on the pay roll. We have eighty-five horses instead of the four we had in 1876, for at that time the hose reels were hauled by hand. [11]

He was injured on the job on December 9, 1901, when he was climbing an 18-foot ladder during a fire at 310 Omar Avenue, just behind his own home. [12] [13] He suffered a fractured foot, and his symptoms included nausea and sleeplessness, as well as a deafness in his left ear, the side opposite the injury to his head, [14] He resumed work after about six weeks, and "in a few days met with another accident, in which the muscles in his right arm were torn from their fastenings." [15]

During his illness the big Hayden & Lewis fire occurred and the chief's presence was deemed necessary. He was taken out of bed and driven to the scene of the blaze and, though unable to stand, directed the movements of his department from the wagon in which he had been carried to the fire. [15]

Strohm was Los Angeles city fire chief, or chief engineer, on three occasions—in 1887–88, 1889–91 and 1900–05. [1]

Strohm lost his fire chief job for the last time in February 1905 after newly elected Mayor Owen McAleer had said in advance that "there were "certain irregularities that Chief Strohm knows all about, and which he and I have discussed, as well as personal habits to which I take exception." [16] Strohm was then "quietly fired," as the Los Angeles Times put it, by the Board of Fire Commissioners and Walter Lips, an engineer with the department, installed in his place. [17]

In June 1905, the Board of Fire Commissioners denied Strohm's application for a pension after he had been examined by five doctors, "three of whom declared he was physically incapacitated and the other two agreeing he was in ill health." [18] The Los Angeles Herald stated:

Thus the city of Los Angeles, through its officials, has refused to reward one of the oldest, and if the records of the underwriters prove anything, ablest fire fighters in the country. The law provides for the pensioning of firemen at half pay when they have served a certain length of time or are disabled in the service. [18]

In 1906 Strohm was serving as a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles Superior Court, [6] and the next year he was a city meat inspector. [19] He was also a deputy United States marshal. [4]

Strohm was employed as a storekeeper on the Los Angeles Aqueduct project in 1909, which was being built to bring water to Los Angeles from the Owens River Valley. In June of that year he was injured when he attempted to stop a rail car filled with cement which had broken away on a downgrade. He "climbed upon the car to set the brakes, but was thrown off and his left leg was broken above the knee." [20]

References and notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Clare Wallace, Los Angeles Public Library reference file, 1937, with references as cited there
  2. In a 1929 article, the Los Angeles Times stated: "Born in Germany, he came to California in 1874, when he was 3 years of age. The family lived in Sacramento for two years, and then came to Santa Monica."
  3. "Deaths," Los Angeles Times, July 10, 1890, page 6
  4. 1 2 3 4 "Thomas Strohm Paid Final Honor by Many Friends," Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1929, page A-1
  5. "The Plains," Los Angeles Herald, January 16, 1878
  6. 1 2 "Strohm Slated for Fire Chief," Los Angeles Herald, December 10, 1906
  7. Location of the O'Donnell residence, Mapping L.A.
  8. Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials 1850–1938, Municipal Reference Library, March 1938, reprinted 1946
  9. Advertisement, "Feed Mills," Los Angeles Herald, November 30, 1882, page 1
  10. "Excelsior Soda Works," Los Angeles Herald, September 3, 1905
  11. "Fire Fighter for More than Quarter Century," Los Angeles Herald, March 20, 1904
  12. "Chief Engineer Strohm's Fall," Los Angeles Herald, December 10, 1901
  13. "Chief Strohm Hurt Fighting Fire," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1901, page 4
  14. "Chief Strohm's Injuries Serious," Los Angeles Times, December 11, 1901, page 9
  15. 1 2 "Veteran Chief's Pension Held Up," Los Angeles Herald, May 14, 1905
  16. "Word From M'Aleer," Los Angeles Times, February 25, 1905, page II-1
  17. "Fire Chief Quietly Fired," Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1905, page II-6
  18. 1 2 "Veteran Chief Denied Pension," Los Angeles Herald, June 4, 1905
  19. "Board Appoints Meat Inspector," Los Angeles Herald, May 16, 1907
  20. "Former Fire Chief Is Injured on Aqueduct," Los Angeles Herald, June 16, 1909

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