the smiling men of pasadena 3: cigars and preserves

The December 31, 1920 edition of the Pasadena Post spotlighted (mostly) grinning photos of the paper's staff and local businessmen. Given my penchant for going down research rabbit holes related to anything quirky I stumble upon, this series will look at some of the stories behind the smiling faces. 

Pasadena Post, December 31, 1920.

Unless you're going to a farmers' market, using "marketing" for grocery shopping seems charmingly antiquated.

Tracing the Braden's Preserves story through old newspapers is a confusing mess, as it appears there were different firms with similar names. During the early 1920s, the FTC filed a complaint against A. Claude Braden and his Braden's California Products preserve company for imitating a competitor's name. This competitor was likely the A.C. Braden Quality Foods Company, which was also based in Pasadena. Though the complaint was dismissed in 1923, an A.C. Braden catalogue of the period notes that their products were "not to confused with Braden's California Products, Inc." 

Whoever ran this particular company around 1925 produced pretty catalogue covers. University of California/Hathi Trust.

Adding to the confusion: checking the 1920 Pasadena White Pages, there is only the Braden Preserving Company. By 1922 it is joined by Braden's California Products. What happened?

Further adding to the confusion: a 1963 obituary for A. Claude Braden (described as a "prominent Pasadena area pioneer") notes that he started Braden California Products Company in 1914. Ads from the 1910s suggest the starting date for Braden Preserving as either 1916 or 1918.

At this point, I toss my hands in the air trying to figure out the chronology and keeping the names straight. Let's just give Mr. Braden his moment to smile. And we're not going to ask why the usual order of his name and initial were mixed up in the ad.

Braden's obituary also notes that he was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, moved to Pasadena in 1898, had served as a collegiate athletic director, heading physical education in city schools, and, in 1908, "made a world circling lecture tour."

Pasadena Post, November 22, 1919.

This is an excerpt from an advertorial, "Pasadena is Different in Every Way," which combined business profiles, civic boosterism, and the virtues of building a home in the city. I'm sure the piece left smiles on the faces of local developers.

Among Braden Preserving's highlights for 1919 were the installation of equipment which allowed the production line to sterilize 2,000 jars of preserves per hour, and a large sale of prune jam to Japan. Both of these developments received significant space in the Post. 

long beach telegram 1921-02-11 bradens week in long beach ad 1000px

Long Beach Telegram, February 11, 1921. Click on image for larger version.

In May 1920, the Post promoted "Braden's Week," where the company blitzed Pasadena with its products. "We have been so busy supplying our foreign and outside business that we have neglected the home trade," Braden told the Post. "Now we intend to reach out and secure the good will and the business of the home folks. We believe that once the people of Pasadena know that we are putting out the highest quality of jams and preserves on the market that we will have their friendship and their business." Product was placed in grocery stores, boarding houses, hotels, and restaurants. At two local movie theatres, the first 19 women to enter were given free jars of orange marmalade, while the 20th received a can of plum jam. A $50 prize was up for grabs for anyone who wrote in 150 words or less why they liked Braden's Preserves. A similar campaign ran in Long Beach in February 1921.

Onto the second grinning guy in this post...

Pasadena Post, December 31, 1920

...who's not beaming as much as the other businessmen profiled so far. Something about his shades gives me highway patrolman vibes. 

Pasadena Post, June 9, 1920.

But no, for most of the 1920s Eckenrode was a purveyor of fine tobacco products and accessories.

Pasadena Post, December 16, 1929.

In December 1929, Eckenrode expanded his busines, spending $75,000 to add on a 53-seat soda fountain, a magazine stand, a billiard room with 10 tables, and separate lounges for men to smoke and women to relax. Renamed the Tower Palace (though still incorporating the Smoke House), Eckenrode's new venture was connected to the Tower Theatre next door. 

Pasadena Post, December 13, 1929.

In March 1930 Eckenrode's home was robbed. The Post reported that thieves got away with "three suits, a tuxedo, an overcoat, 20 handkerchiefs, 30 neckties, and four suits of underwear,” along with “every sheet in the house and even a number of fancy bed covers and pillow slips.” They also grabbed a brand new, never fired Colt .25 automatic revolver.

Over the next year, Eckenrode sold the Smoke House (it was unspecified if he also dumped the Tower Palace), changed residences, and went into the insurance business. He survived a hit-and-run accident in August 1931, though he suffered a fractured skull and several broken bones. The 19-year-old who hit him was caught after a police chase.

Railroad crossing Colorado Boulevard, circa 1937. Photo by Herman Schultheis. Los Angeles Public Library.

Today, the site of the Smoke House/Tower Palace is a parking lot. The railway line shown here now runs underground as part of the Metro Rail system (a segment that is undergoing an identity crisis). 


Photo I took of Big Bang Theory Way, looking south from Colorado Boulevard, February 27, 2020. The Smoke House/Tower Palace would have been to the left.

The above-ground right of way is now known as Big Bang Theory Way, named after the sitcom set in Pasadena.

Next: Smiles May Be Habit-Forming

Sources: the November 22, 1963 edition of the Pasadena Independent; the Septenber 19, 1919, November 8, 1919, May 14, 1920,  May 15, 1920, May 18, 1920, December 13, 1929, December 16, 1929, March 11, 1930, and August 4, 1931 editions of the Pasadena Post; and the April 27, 1923 edition of the Stockton Evening Record


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