Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lucky Baldwin

If you enjoy beer, live in the San Gabriel Valley, and have never been to Lucky Baldwin's British pub in Old Town Pasadena, you can thank me now for giving you a pleasant surprise. Not surprisingly, the Pasadena Star recently gave their Sierra Madre location (the Delirium Cafe) a positive review.

What caught my eye in the review, however, was the story of the bar's namesake: Elias "Lucky" Baldwin, 1828-1909. The man's colorful life story leaps off the page as one of those characters that could only have existed in the old west—born in Ohio, he takes an arduous journey westward and makes his fortune a few times over, buys up thousands of acres of land, becomes a living legend, and spends the last part of his life in debt largely due to expensive, well-known tastes in horses and women.

Picture lifted from here:
This is the sort of bio in which even the footnotes are interesting. He was already rich when he "decided to go off to India on a tiger hunt with some British acquaintances. On his return from India in 1867 he stopped in Japan and recruited a team of acrobatic jugglers to return to New York with him. The group opened in New York and was a smash hit. After New York the group went on to play other locations across the country ending their US tour in San Francisco at which time Baldwin sold the act to William S. Gilbert who took it to Europe for another successful tour." Alrighty then.

He owned large portions of the San Gabriel Valley, shaping much of the landscape that we live in today: he built the Santa Anita racetrack (he was a pioneer of American horse racing) and was responsible for the existence of Arcadia and Monrovia (he was Arcadia's first mayor).

And we haven't even explained why they called him "Lucky" yet. If I had the time, reading his biography while having a few pints would be a pleasant way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. Years after his death, Google's all-seeing eye spies 63,300 references to his name.

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