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Clogged drain floods 1926 courtroom

Clogged drain floods 1926 courtroom

April 16, 1926: Miss Hannah Richman, Edwin Williams, court reporter, and Superior Judge Carlos Hardy pose for Los Angeles Times photographer after a water leak brought courtroom business to a halt.

A story in the April 17, 1926, Los Angeles Times reported:

Water leaking from a choked drain trap caused a veritable flood at the Hall of Justice yesterday, which disrupted one court session, routing judge, jury, witnesses and spectators, and inundated a number of cells on four floors of the County Jail.

Shortly before 4 p.m., drops of water began to trickle from the $4,000 gold gilded ceiling in Superior Judge Hardy’s courtroom on the eighth floor to the amazement of the judge and others present. When the water began pouring down in streams Judge Hardy called for umbrellas but threw up his hands and ordered court adjourned an hour early.

Buckets, cuspidors and other containers were gathered up and placed about the floor and on the judge’s bench to prevent as much damage as possible. It was predicted by many that the ceiling, made of plaster of Paris, will collapse under the weight of the water. Expensive courtroom equipment was damaged by the leak….

Now, for a change of pace, I’ll take you through part of my research process for this blog. This photo is one of several at the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive at UCLA that are missing information and always a challenge to fact check. On Dec. 8, Los Angeles Times’ Matt Ballinger posted this image on the L.A. Times Past Tumblr blog asking:

OK, Internet sleuths, this one’s a mystery. Inspired by our rainstorm Saturday, I went looking through the photo archive for weather art. I couldn’t pass up this gem, but I couldn’t find much information about it either.

Handwriting on the negative identifies the subjects of the photo as Judge Carlos Hardy, Miss Hannah Richman and Edwin Williams. The UCLA Library archive says the three are holding umbrellas in a courtroom circa 1920.

So just what is going on here? If you know about Hardy (a superior court judge who taught at USC and died in Los Angeles in July 1948, as far as I can tell), his companions or, especially, why they’ve got their brellies open indoors, let us know in the notes or @latimespast.

And stay dry.

I took up the challenge.

Actually about a year ago, I had researched this image – coming up blank. There is no print version of this image in the Los Angeles Times library and searches of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Los Angeles Times (1881-1990) database failed.

There are two things I’ve learned over the last year. First, the 1920s era Los Angeles Times often skipped a famous person’s first name. In this case, Judge Oscar Hardy, a well-known Los Angeles judge, would be simply “Judge Hardy.” Second, ProQuest articles sometimes do not have the photo included, but the full-page PDF will – as with this image.

After about 20 minutes of searches limited to the years 1915 to 1930, the words “Hardy,” “courtroom” and “leak” found the image published on Page 2 of the April 17, 1926, Los Angeles Times.

This bad pun above the published photo made finding this image worthwhile:

What’s This? Another “Break” at new County Jail

For more check out Ballinger’s first post on LATimes Past, and his Dec. 11 followup post with ProQuest pdfs.


  1. January 10, 2014, 8:48 am

    Who was Hannah Richman? Thanks.

    By: RichStine
  2. January 16, 2014, 7:14 am

    …also, is the judge "Carlos" or "Oscar" Hardy?

    Again, thanks.

    By: RichStine

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