In 1843 at the age of 13, Phineas Banning left his parents’ home in Wilmington, Delaware, with 50 cents in his pocket and walked 30 miles to begin work in an older brother’s Philadelphia law office.
By 21, Banning, bitten by the “Go West” bug, sailed to Panama, crossed the Isthmus jungles by mule and dugout canoe, and sailed 3,000 miles north to the small Sepulveda landing at shallow San Pedro Bay. Soon after his arrival in Los Angeles, Banning entered the rough world of staging and freighting, driving six-horse stages pell-mell the 20+ miles from port to city and beyond. Banning’s staging routes made him his first fortune.
With no large river or deepwater harbor, regional development was severely limited. Banning and his peers, through intense rivalry, intrigue, political maneuvering and perseverance obtained the approval and funding to create the Port of Los Angeles in a most improbable location.
Phineas Banning was a visionary with tremendous energy and love for the multi-ethnic Southern California area. He played a pivotal role in the development of one of this country’s great cities. Banning was instrumental in building the Port of Los Angeles, constructing the first breakwater and dredging the harbor. He ran an extensive network of stage and freight routes that connected the nascent port east to San Bernardino and south to Fort Yuma.
“Phineas Banning: Life and Times” video lecture by Michael Sanborn