Monroe Doctrine Centennial at Exposition Park

I had never heard or seen anything about this event. It was an exposition that was thrown together rather quickly and would have been interesting to attend. The event was held at Exposition Park and the Memorial Coliseum was used in conjunction with the festivities. It was called the Monroe Doctrine Centennial at Exposition Park.

The first mention I was able to find regarding this event was in a Times article from 1922 about a motion picture exhibition that went under the name American Historical Revue and Motion Picture Industrial Exposition. It appears as if the motion picture exhibition part evolved into a component of the larger Monroe Doctrine Centennial though there were still numerous articles during the time the event was underway that continued to refer to it as the American Historical Revue and Motion Picture Industrial Exposition. The event was scheduled to run from July 2nd through July 28th. The end date was later changed to July 31st and then finally to August 4th.

[Note: The Monroe Doctrine was a statement James Monroe made to congress in which he stated that the United States would no longer tolerate European meddling in the Western hemisphere. He did this in 1823.]


The architect for all of the buildings was Charles H. Kyson. Kyson had worked in the movie industry as, in his words, “a picture architect or art director”[1] and received the commission to design the buildings at the end of January 1923 with the Centennial slated to open two days before the 4th of July. This means it was built in approximately five months which almost seems impossible.

Kyson wrote an article about this exposition for Southwest Builder & Contractor. Above is one of the photos that accompanied his article. It gives an impression of what the fairgrounds were like. Southwest Builder & Contractor was printed on paper whose quality was a step beneath newsprint.

Kyson said he knew his expo buildings would be compared to both the San Diego and San Francisco Expositions, held in the previous decade, so he ruled out ornate buildings, the Spanish baroque in particular, and “Consequently in searching about for an architectural precedent as a basis for this grouping of buildings it occurred to me that the Pueblo type of architecture, as used by the Indians of the Southwest, might serve as a basis with certain artistic amplification.”[2]

Los Angeles Public Library photo

In Southwest Builder & Contractor Kyson stated that he had learned in the motion picture industry “to continually strive for the picturesque. There I found the grouping of light and shade was of prime importance in attaining artistic results. In designing motion picture scenery it was continually necessary to group all sets with the quaint and picturesque always in mind. I utilized the same principles in designing the architecture of the exposition and it will be noted that interesting light and shade planes are obtained by an irregular massing of the buildings which also give the quaintness of the twisting streets of Spain and Central America.”[3]

Kyson went on to say that many of the buildings were done in clay models to judge the massing and see how light would play upon the forms. He urged architects who only viewed their buildings in an elevated drawing to experiment with models.

Los Angeles Public Library photo

Kyson continued by saying, “I am frank to say that I do not believe that I could have designed the exposition in the way that it has been done, had it not been for my experience in motion pictures which I consider invaluable to me. While in motion pictures only fragments of buildings or interiors are designed, in the angle from which the camera sees them, they are absolutely realistic. In two or three years a picture architect designs more buildings than the average architect would in five average lifetimes. He sees a vision puts it on paper and within less than two weeks sees it up. In time he achieves a surety of technique, an artistic conviction of the correctness of a design which give him confidence in the artistic quality of his work.”[4]

On opening day, the day’s events included: the opening ceremonies, a formal welcome for Latin American diplomats & dignitaries, the selection of the Centennial Queen, a ball, tableauxs and fireworks.

The Latin American diplomats were toasted at the Montmarte garden cafe situated on the grounds. One of the featured speakers at the event was Rufus B. Von Kleinsmid who was president of USC. Also in attendance were notable Los Angeles citizens and numerous cinema stars. After all the toasts and speeches were finished the assembled guests walked over to the coliseum where a huge stage had been set up on the east side of the field. It was there that the audience witnessed “five tableaux interspersed with three enormous and artistic ballets directed by Theodore Kosloff.”[5]

Los Angeles Public Library photo

One tableaux depicted the discovery of America with silent film star Hobart Bosworth portraying Columbus. [Note: another report stated Bosworth played Washington. Maybe, he played both?] The second depicted Indian life while the third centered around the saving of the Mission San Diego “from an attack of hostile Indians.” The fourth depicted George Washington assuming command of the continental armies and the fifth depicted Lincoln emancipating the slaves.

At midnight, Miss Geraldine Kemp, who had been selected Queen of the Centennial, pressed a button and started a firework’s show which signaled the opening of the Centennial for the general public. Evidently, this first day was only for invited guests and the elites of the community.

The tableauxs were from the mind of Emil de Recat who had an international reputation for producing this sort of thing — the spectacle. Kosloff was known in the dance field as being an advocate for interpretive dance. E.F. Carrathers, of the World Amusement Services Association, was the man selecting the acts for the fair. He was the man who tracked down de Recat and Kosloff. He also recruited opera singers for the fair and looked to the operatic field — feeling their voices would carry the furthest in the enormous Coliseum.

Carrathers also entered into a contract with Tom Kierman, his wife and their group of trick riders to perform at the Coliseum under the banner name of Frontier Days. These trick riders were suppose to invoke William F. Cody and his Wild West Days. Fox film star Buck Jones joined them on July 25th for a special one night only performance.

Yet, there was trouble on the horizon for the Centennial. On July 7, five days after it had opened those in charge were trying to figure out a way to bring more people through the gates. The directors of the fair thought they should get the word out that the fair was a good place for dancing, a nice meal and entertainment but the public wasn’t seeing the fair that way. The public most likely saw it as too highfalutin. Some of the sponsors blamed themselves for the overall “refinement” of the Monroe Doctrine Centennial.

Sculptor David Edstrom, who worked on the Centennial, said, “People grow tired of being serious and an exposition must embody features which will amuse the workday folk of the world and make them forget the drudgery of life for a while.”[6]

So, thrills and excitement were taken up a notch and a parade filled with Hollywood glitz took place on July 16th.

An American Legion band lead the parade along this route: The parade started at 12th and Broadway and proceeded north to 7th Street. At 7th Street the parade turned East and proceeded to Main Street where it turned South. It continued South all the way down to Jefferson at which point it turned West and continued to Figueroa. At Figueroa it turned South and ended its route at Exposition Park.

The parade included a moving Emile de Recat tableaux which was situated on a number of floats. Tom Mix and his horse Tony led a series of western motion picture players. A fleet of bathing beauties waved at spectators from a series of cars. Mary Pickford’s Rosita coaches had a spot in the parade’s line up. A replica of the covered wagon from The Covered Wagon was the contribution from Famous Players Lasky. Principal Pictures supplied an enormous typewriter with its film stars on each of its keys and Warner Bros., Universal, Ince and Louis B. Mayer also had floats in the parade.

The turnaround occurred on July 19th when 90,000 people attended the Centennial. This surpassed the previous record of 70,000. One of the big draws must have been the stars who appeared on behalf of the Goldwyn Studios and acted as hosts or hostesses at the Goldwyn bungalow. Some of the stars were: Blanche Sweet, Lew Cody, Claire Windsor, George Walsh, Helen Chadwick, Edmund Lowe, Bessie Love, Patsy Ruth Miller, Marie Prevost, Lionel Barrymore, Tyrone Power (Sr.), Eleanor Boardman, Lucien Littlefield, Ford Sterling and Elmo Lincoln. Director King Vidor and writers June Mathis and Eleanor Glynn also attended the Goldwyn event.

I would have gone just to see Elmo Lincoln and Eleanor Glynn!

On July 23 the Los Angeles Times reported it was Policeman and Fireman’s Day. Not only were re-enactments of the fifty most exciting rescues that fireman had performed in the history of Los Angeles scheduled but a fifty foot tower had been erected on the Centennial grounds for firemen to show off their prowess under the direction of their Captain Ernest Rhoades.

Another image from Southwest Builder & Contractor. I do like it.

Prior to the fair’s opening, in June, a half dollar coin was issued to commemorate the fair and the first coin was presented to President Warren G. Harding. Harding stated he would like to visit the fair which had to create excitement among the Centennial’s organizers and community leaders.

Below is a list of scheduled theme days put out before the fair began but what actually occurred at the fair on any given day may have been different.

July 3: South America Day and Press Day.

July 4: Independence Day and Monroe Doctrine Day.

July 5: Jackie Coogan Day. Coogan would be at the exposition to great his fans.

July 6: Woman’s Day and Santa Barbara Day.

July 7: World Traders’ Day.

July 8: Father’s Day and Paramount Day.

July 9: Educational Day.

July 10: Orange County Day.

July 11: Empire State Day.

July 12: Grotto Day.

July 13: Inglewood Day.

July 14: Veterans Day.

July 15: Venice Day.

July 16: Rotary Club Day.

July 17: Chicago Day and Illinois Day.

July 18: Riverside Day.

July 19: Petroleum Day.

July 20: Long Beach Day.

July 21: Mexican Day.

July 22: Santa Monica Day.

July 23: Actor’s Fund Day.

July 24: Pioneers’ Day.

July 25: Iowa State Day.

July 26: it is unclear what day it was. The cities of Burbank and San Fernando along with the Optimists’ Club, the Womens’ Club and the Retail Clothier’s Association were in charge of that day’s festivities.

July 27: Boy Scout Day.

Los Angeles Public Library photo

One of the goals of the Centennial’s administration, all along, was to have President Warren G. Harding make an appearance at the Centennial. A newspaper article dated July 27, 1923 stated the American Historical Revue and Motion Picture Industrial Exposition were planning a “pioneer days parade” for President Harding and his wife. The first couple were scheduled to visit Los Angeles on August 2nd for the parade.

Harding who had been on a West coast trip that had taken him to Alaska, Oregon and California became ill during its final stretch and was in San Francisco staying at the Palace Hotel and suffering from Ptomaine poisoning (food poisoning). On July 30, 1923 it was announced that Harding was cancelling his entire California program on the advice of his doctors. The next day, July 31, 1923 Los Angeles cancelled its preparations for the president’s visit including the parade. On August 2, 1923, at 7:30 p.m., Harding died and Calvin Coolidge became president.


Charles H. Kysor was born May 17, 1883. He was the son of Ezra Kysor the first acknowledged architect in the city of Los Angeles. Ezra Kysor was the architect of the Pico House and the Merced Theater which still stand and Ezra Kysor was an early partner of Ocatvius Morgan who had a big impact in Los Angeles.

Charles Kysor attended public schools and then Throop Polytechnic Institute in Pasadena. He went on to study at Columbia’s School of Architecture in New York City and followed that up with two years in Paris and Rome.

The 1904 Los Angeles city directory lists Charles H. Kysor as a draftsman for Morgan & Walls and living at 323 S. Bonnie Brae. Who’s Who in the Pacific Southwest states he began his architectural practice in 1911.

He married Blythe (née Slaughter) in 1907 and they had a daughter named Harleigh in 1909.

In 1913 he had an office, number 511, in the Wright & Callender Building. [So many architects had offices there I’ve often wondered why? What drew them to the building? I would like to find out.]

Charles H. Kysor’s voter registration card from 1916 stated he lived at 309 S. Hoover Street, was a republican and an architect. His draft registration card dated September 12, 1918 lists his last name as Kysor, his home address as 416 S. Hoover and his employer as Famous Players Lasky Corporation. He was physically described as tall with a medium built and with grey eyes and dark brown hair. His nearest relative was listed as Blythe T. Kysor.

According to the LAPL card index file Kysor changed his name to Kyson during World War I. At the time the United States was experiencing a wave of anti-German sentiment so it was probably a smart business move.

In 1920 the Kyson family were renting a home at 7266 Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Kyson had an office in Hollywood at 6040 Hollywood Blvd. He was appointed department head for the Sets & Scenery department at Thomas Ince Studios in March of 1920. It was announced on December 22, 1920 that he had been elected president of the Art Director’s Association for 1921. In 1927 he was the president of the Architects League of Hollywood.


In 1930 Charles and Blythe owned a home at 2433 Horseshoe Canyon Road which was valued at $5,000 and he was still working as an architect. Ten years later their situation had changed drastically. They were renting a home at 114 1/2 West 84th Street in Los Angeles. He was working as an instructor and in 1939 had an income of $800 according to the 1940 census.

Blythe Kyson died on March 1, 1947. Twenty days later on March 21, 1947 Charles H. Kyson married Barbara S. Dockar. Kyson, evidently, liked being married.

Kyson designed many buildings and I’ve found two buildings of note. The first was the Bryson Apartments on Wilshire Boulevard. He did the Bryson Apartments under his old name: Charles Kysor. The other building of note he designed was listed in his obituary. It is the Wee Kirk O’Heather Chapel at Forest Lawn in Glendale. Kyson died on July 16, 1954.

From American Architect.

This is from the LAPL card file index. I removed his social security number with Photoshop.

He’s buried at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills.


[1] Kyson, C. H. (1923, June 29). Pueblo type of architecture furnished motif for Monroe Centennial Exposition. Southwest Builder and Contractor, 61(26), 34-36.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Crowds throng gates as centennial opens. (1923, July 3). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

[6] Plan “pep” for centennial. (1923, July 7). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.



Charles H. Kyson, native Angeleno architect dies. (1954, July 17). Los Angeles Times, p. 7.

Church being planned. (1928, January 8). Los Angeles Times, p. E3.

Crowds throng gates as centennial opens. (1923, July 3). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

Film production cost to be talk subject at meet. (1921, March 21). Los Angeles Herald, p. B3.

Filmland will parade tonight. (1923, July 16). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

Gets appointment. (1920, March 15). Los Angeles Herald, p. B9.

Harding to have first revue coin. (1923, June 6). Los Angeles Times, p. II10.

Kyson, C.H. (1923, June 29). Pueblo type of architecture furnished motif for Monroe Centennial Exposition. Southwest Builder and Contractor, 61(26), 34-36.

Kyson, C.H. (1931, April). Advertising and advertising. American Architect, 139(2594), 48-49, 110, 112, 114.

Mounted star will do stunts at exposition. (1923, July 25). Los Angeles Times, p. II2.

Obtain best for pageant. (1923, June 10). Los Angeles Times, p. II7.

Pioneer days to be recalled in Harding parade. (1923, July 27). Los Angeles Times, p. I14.

Plan “pep” for centennial. (1923, July 7). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

Plans for Harding’s reception abandoned. (1923, July 31). Los Angeles Times, p. I1.

President Harding cancels entire California program. (1923, July 30). Los Angeles Times, p. I1.

Program of events at Centennial. (1923, July 2). Los Angeles Times, p. IV5.

Radios: art director elect. (1920, December 22). Los Angeles Times, p. III4.

Record exposition crowd. (1923, July 20). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

Revue coins in heavy demand. (1923, July 23). Los Angeles Times, p. II1.

Who’s who in the Pacific Southwest. (1913). Los Angeles: Times Mirror Publishing.

*The four photos of the Centennial are used with the permission of the Los Angeles Public Library.

*The coin images are from Wikipedia Commons. Bob131313 is the photographer.

*1920, 1930 and 1940 census records, his draft registration card, voter registration card, Blythe Kyson death information and the marriage record for Kyson and Dockar were all found through


Note: I have a book coming out on March 11, 2019 from The History Press titled: The Architects Who Built Southern California. It’s 10 chapters with each chapter devoted to a different architect (or architectural firm) including: Harrison Albright, John Austin, Claud Beelman, Elmer Grey, Hudson & Munsell, A. C. Martin, Meyer & Holler, Julia Morgan, Morgan Walls & Clements and Alfred F. Rosenheim.