Monday, May 6, 2019

Bread, Crackers, and Augustus Ulyard

On New Year's Eve, 1852, a French American and his English wife arrived in Los Angeles.

Augustus Ulyard, born in Philadelphia to French immigrant parents, was a baker by trade. The Ulyards rented a house near the Plaza and set up a bakery, using yeast Mary Field Ulyard had brought with her from Missouri. There were other bakers in town*, chief amongst them Joseph Lelong and his Jenny Lind Bakery**.

The only bread baked in Los Angeles until 1853 was French bread. Which should surprise no one, since all the bakers in town were French.

Of course, by 1853, increasing numbers of Germans and Yankees had moved to Los Angeles. Ulyard - the first baker in Los Angeles to diversify his wares - soon added German and American varieties of bread and cake, which proved very popular.

An advertisement in the Los Angeles Star (November 12, 1853) stated "...I am prepared to furnish individuals or parties with Pastry, Pies, Cakes, Bread, etc. at short notice, and of a better quality than can be obtained at any other establishment in this town...".

Ulyard moved his bakery to the southwest corner of Main and First Streets. He was successful enough to make some real estate purchases - including the southwest corner of Fifth and Spring Streets. The Alexandria Hotel has stood on the site since 1906.

In early Los Angeles, food often arrived in poor condition because it took so long to arrive from suppliers in San Bernardino or San Francisco (and anything coming from San Bernardino could be spoiled by the desert heat). Crackers in particular tended to arrive stale. Late in 1860, Ulyard began to advertise "fresh crackers, baked in Los Angeles, and superior to those half spoiled by the sea voyage."

Ulyard eventually sold the bakery to Louis Mesmer, established a dairy in Cahuenga, and went into the grocery business. He was a member of the Odd Fellows' Golden Rule Lodge, a member of the Common Council, and helped to organize California's first Republican League, supporting John C. Frémont's presidential bid (Frémont ultimately lost the nomination to Abraham Lincoln).

The Ulyards had no biological children, but they did adopt seven homeless children over the years. The youngest, Sarah Nelson, was just starting high school when Augustus retired from baking at age 63.

Augustus Ulyard died in 1900 at age 83. Mary died the following year. The Ulyards are buried at Angelus Rosedale.

*Ulyard's obituary in the Los Angeles Herald claimed he was Los Angeles' first baker. He was not - at minimum, Lelong had already been in business for at least a couple of years.

**Don't ask me why Lelong named a French bakery after a Swedish opera star. I have no idea.

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