Anaheim Post Office
(June 19, 1861- )
The call for a post office in Anaheim began almost as soon as the development of the community got underway. “Since the establishment of the Los Angeles Vineyard Company at Santa Anna [sic],” the Los Angeles Star noted in 1857, “we have heard a good deal of complaining for the want of mail facilities in that vicinity. A large number of people, workmen and others, will shortly be located there, and it is necessary that a post office should be established for their accommodation, as well as for the requirements of the neighborhood general. It is twenty-five miles from this city, and the residents there are obliged to send that distance for their mail….” (Star, 10-31-1857) Still, it took four years until the first post office was authorized in what is now Orange County. Free city delivery began in 1911 with three carriers. Based on receipts, in 1923 it was advanced to a 1st Class office, though during the Depression it dropped back to briefly to 2nd Class, regaining its former status in 1936.
John Fischer, 1861-1868
“Uncle John” Fischer (1818-1891) played an active role in the development of early Anaheim, including supporting the start of the town’s first newspaper and first bank, serving as president of the Anaheim Lighter Company, which ran the port at Anaheim Landing, and running the Planter’s Hotel. By 1882 he had moved to Los Angeles where he later served as City Assessor.
Carl Van Gülpen, 1868-1869
According to his obituary in the San Francisco Examiner (8-29-1897), Professor Carl Van Gulpen, “a pioneer who was well known in the early days of California,” had served in the Prussian Army before coming to California in 1850 as a miner. He had a store in Sonora and was a member of the Vigilance Committee in San Francisco in the ‘50s. “He was a close and confidential friend of General John A. Sutter,” and in 1866 married the widow of Sutter’s youngest son. He was a talented pianist and singer, and one of the founders of Anaheim. “Professor Van Gulpen was a highly educated man, versed in all modern literature, and was as well acquainted with the English, French, Spanish and Italian languages as with his native German.”
Alphonso W. Steinhart, 1869-1870
A.W. Steinhart ran a store in Anaheim in partnership with his brother. Later he served as cashier of the private bank run by P. Davis & Bro. in the 1870s and ‘80s.
William M. Higgins, 1870-1884
Dr. Higgins was born in New Jersey and came to California during the Gold Rush of 1849. He came to Anaheim in 1869 and opened a drug store. He served on the school board and was a charter member of the local Masonic Lodge. His wife, Alice, was also a physician.
Richard Melrose, 1884-1885
Richard Melrose (1850-1924) had a long and prominent career. A former Anaheim saloonkeeper, during his brief term as postmaster he was the owner of the Anaheim Gazette. He later became an attorney, served as Anaheim City Attorney, and served a term in the State Assembly. On the side, he also invested in real estate, including the Placentia townsite. Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles is named after him.
James S. Gardiner, 1885-1889
A Confederate Civil War veteran, Dr. Gardiner earned his medical degree after the war. He came to Anaheim in 1869 and practiced medicine until his appointment as postmaster. The papers in 1889 report he was “removed” from office, but do not say why.
Laura G. (Bates) Betts, 1889-1893
The Los Angeles Times (1-21-1893) reports that Laura Bates had secretly married George Betts of Anaheim in June 1891. “The secret of their marriage was certainly well kept. They have gone to housekeeping on their orange ranch near Placentia.”
Maria J. Gardiner, 1893-1897
Gardiner was the wife of Dr. J.S. Gardiner and the mother-in-law of one of Orange County’s most prominent Democrats at the time, attorney Victor Montgomery. Some local Republicans suggested that it was his political pull which got her the job as postmaster. As late as 1913 she was still seeking re-appointment as Anaheim’s postmaster.
Sheldon Littlefield, 1897-1906
At least four candidates sought to replace Maria Gardiner when her term was up, “and the friends of each are working very hard and the contest is becoming interesting to those who are not in a position to take an active part in the fight. Sheldon Littlefield, an old-time resident and one of the best citizens, is clearly the choice of the Republicans, but it is never certain who will secure a government position until the battle is won.” (L.A. Herald, 6-26-1897) But as it turned out, “Sheldon Littlefield was on Saturday appointed by President McKinley to the postmastership of this city, vice Mrs. Gardiner, whose term will shortly expire. Mr. Littlefield’s party services have been such as to make him preeminently qualified to occupy a front place at the political pie counter, and we congratulate him upon his success.” (Santa Ana Blade, 11-5-1897) Littlefield had previously served as a county supervisor for both Los Angeles and Orange counties (before and after county division). He died in 1909, “a well-known and highly respected resident” (Santa Ana Register, 7-29-1909)
John W. Duckworth, 1906-1914
John Duckworth (d 1921) had previously served as Postmaster in nearby Loara, but resigned when he set out to win the Anaheim appointment. “It is said there will be a battle royal before the appointment is made,” the Los Angeles Times reported (8-19-1905). A petition supporting J.W. Duckworth, “a Republican and well-known resident here,” was already being circulated, and “It is reported that he will also have the support of some of the leading Republicans of the county.” Later (2-3-1906) the Times reported that “Some of the local business men made a hard fight against Duckworth but he had the support of the County Central Committee, the local committeemen, many patrons of the office and of Congressmen Smith.” When Duckworth finally received official confirmation of his appointment the Times added, “This ends a hotly-contested battle for office, Mr. Duckworth having had the support of the County Central Committee, the two Anaheim committeemen, and also of Congressman Smith and Senator Flint, the last two named recommending him for appointment to the President February 5. Mr. Littlefield occupied the position eight years and has given good service, his friends claiming that a large majority of the patrons were in favor of his reappointment. The place pays $1,600 a year.” (2-16-1906)
John Duckworth had hoped to retain his office when his second term was up, but by then, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was in the White House. Duckworth claimed he had supported both Wilson and Democratic Congressman William Kettner, but it was no use. Duckworth’s term is up,” the Los Angeles Times reported (3-1-1914) “and the Democrats think it is time to pick the plum. The resolutions recite the fact that J. Frederick Ahlborn, an Anaheim merchant, was unanimously recommended for the position about fourteen months ago. Since Congressman Kettner seems to have been landing almost all the offices he has gone after, the local Democrats think he could quickly decide the Anaheim case if he would put his attention upon it…. The office is one of the four biggest post office plums in the county.” Duckworth later served as chairman of the Orange County Republican Central Committee, and in 1919 was appointed to the first Orange County Harbor Commission (along with fellow former Postmasters Linn Shaw and J.A. Armitage).
John Frederick Ahlborn, 1914-1923
J. Fred Ahlborn was a local businessman and civic leader, a captain in the local militia and the president of the chamber of commerce. According to the Anaheim Herald, “Mr. Ahlborn makes a fine postmaster and by his pleasing manner will add to his large number of friends in this city.” (Santa Ana Register, 5-2-1914)
James Harry Whitaker, 1923-1936
J. Harry Whitaker was the nephew of J.A. Whitaker, the founder of Buena Park, and previously served as postmaster there from 1888-1896. In 1907 he bought out the Duckworth store at Loara. He began to campaign for the postmastership long before the job became available. “The situation … is one of long development. Two or three years ago, when it was expected that a change in postmasters would be made by the new Republican administration, Whitaker received the written endorsement of practically all of the county central committeemen and all of the state committeemen. Had the appointment been made at that time, Whitaker would not have been opposed. After the Republican administration’s policy of allowing all Democratic postmasters to finish their four-year terms was announced, eight or nine other candidates for the Anaheim office appeared and took the examination last fall.” His chief competitor was Victor LaMont, but Whitaker presented a “formidable petition signed by dozens of residents, including … the mayor and three other city trustees” and eventually won the race. (Santa Ana Register, 5-1-1923) Although a Republican appointee, he was allowed to finish out his term well into the Roosevelt administration.
Louis H. Hoskins, 1936-1956
Anaheim citrus rancher Louis Hoskins (d 1966) was already seeking the postmaster job by the end of 1935, along with several other men. He was a Democrat (naturally) and a friend of prominent local Democrat H.H. “Ham” Cotton, but he was opposed by the EPIC wing of the Democratic Central Committee, who blocked his endorsement – but he got the job anyway. Hoskins was a longtime member of the Lions Club, a member of the Anaheim Union High School District board of trustees, and served as president of the Anaheim Chamber of Commerce in 1939.
Marshall McFie, 1956-1979
Marshall McFie had been working for the Anaheim Post Office before he was appointed postmaster. In all, he worked for the Post Office Department for 39 years.
(You can find more about Orange County’s post offices and postmasters here)