Harrison Gray Otis (Harrison Gray Otis)

Harrison Gray Otis

Newspaper publisher and real estate magnate. He published the “Los Angeles Times” from 1886 until after World War I, was also a commanding conservative force in turn-of-the-century Southern California, and an unequaled promoter of regional growth. Born near Marietta, Ohio, he was a descendant of the colonial political activist James Otis; he had little formal education, worked as a printer’s apprentice during his teens and then studied briefly at a commercial college in Columbus, Ohio. Moved to Kentucky and became a member of the (then) new Republican Party. In 1860, at age 23, he served as a delegate to its national convention, which nominated Abraham Lincoln as presidential candidate. Served in the Civil War in the eastern theatre and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After holding a variety of jobs in Ohio and Washington, D.C., he arrived in Santa Barbara, California, in 1876 where he edited the “Santa Barbara Press” for several years. Then moved to Los Angeles and purchased a minority interest (1882) and then full control (1886) of the “Los Angeles Times,” which he edited with an iron fist for the next three decades, and became one of the most powerful figures in southern California. In 1885, the “Times” printed its first “Midwinter” edition commending the climate and other virtues of Southern California at a time when cheap cross-country railway fares brought in thousands of visitors and homesteaders. He foresaw a magnificent future for Los Angeles with its population of 12,000 when he joined the “Times.” Otis and the “Times” were early supporters of a 1907 $23 million bond issue to build a 225-mile aqueduct to carry Owens River water to Los Angeles that discharged its first water in 1913. A syndicate that included Otis had already acquired some 47,000 acres of grain fields in the San Fernando Valley in anticipation of both the arrival of water and Valley annexation to Los Angeles (also promoted by the “Times”); they divided the acreage into town lots creating a sales boom that formed the foundation of the Chandler family fortune. He made his newspaper a voice of Republican interests and strongly opposed labor unions. In 1910, the offices of his paper were bombed, killing 21 employees. He also championed the declaration of war on Spain in 1898 and volunteered to, and then served briefly in, the Spanish-American War in the Philippines as a brigadier general.  His descendants continued to control the newspaper and the Times Mirror Company until June 2000 when the company was sold to the Tribune Company. He willed his Wilshire Boulevard home to Los Angeles for advancement of the arts and it housed the Otis Art Institute until 1997. (bio by: Fred Beisser)  Family links:  Parents:  Stephen Otis (1784 – 1868)  Spouse:  Eliza Ann Wetherby Otis (1833 – 1904)  Children:  Emma Marian Otis Chandler (1866 – 1952)* *Calculated relationship


  • February, 10, 1837
  • USA


  • July, 07, 1917
  • USA


  • Hollywood Forever Cemetery
  • California
  • USA

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