EXTENT: 2.5 linear ft.
All Nations, in its heyday the largest and most effective social welfare
organization in Los Angeles, was begun in l9l4 in an east-central section
of the city then filling up rapidly with immigrants fleeing war and
famine in Europe. The growth of Los Angeles had led to the incursion
of wholesale businesses into this formerly prosperous middle class community.
The new arrivals packed into the existing housing, with four and five
family groups filling what had once been single family residences. Local
churches, deprived of their original congregations, were dismayed at
the prospect of serving this new, needy population, but the City Missionary
Society of the Methodist Church had been looking for just such a settlement
opportunity. It took over an abandoned church and sent in a young pastor
fired with the church's "social doctrine". The collection
records the practical energy of Reverend Bromley Oxnam, later Bishop
Oxnam, as he gathered donations, organized volunteers, bought land and
buildings, equipped gymnasiums, playgrounds, libraries, and clinics
for a community where 75% of families were on public assistance. Character-building
activities for the children, and an extraordinarily successful Boy's
Club, were of paramount concern. "These are children of the community
who have no parlors, back yards, or even people who care what happens
to them," wrote one of Oxnam's early volunteers.
By l927, when All Nations completed a new complex of buildings, the
Boys" Club had 950 members of 30 nationalities and l5 different
religions. The deteriorating area had the highest delinquency rate in
the city, but within the next three years this would drop by 65%. So
impressed was an "unknown donor" by the improvement that he
offered to fund a child welfare clinic at All Nations through the five
worst years of the Depression. The collection contains the annual records
of this clinic, and also those of a social services research unit run
by the University of Southern California. Also well documented is All
Nations' organization of a cadre of 50 volunteer doctors, surgeons,
and dentists to provide services to adults. Reverend Oxnam was succeeded
by Dr Robert McKibben, whose skills as social worker, fund raiser, and
collaborator with other social welfare agencies, including the Federal
and Los Angeles Relief Administrations and the National Youth Administration,
are reflected throughout the collection in his voluminous correspondence.
In l952 the Methodist Church promoted McKibben to other work, and the
record becomes sparse until the mid l960s, by which time All Nation's
original client population of over 60,000 had been sharply reduced by
slum clearance and the industrial development of east-central Los Angeles.
Principal support now came from the United Way, rather than the Methodist
Church with its vigorous religious motivation, and questions were raised
about the "need and desirability" of traditional settlement
programs in an emptying community. The collection contains the plans
that All Nations made then to move its operations to south-central and
east Los Angeles, together with proposals for a seemingly unrealistic
new building program. But what had once been a building-based service,
as one commentator noted, was about to become a "service on demand"
in various communities throughout the Los Angeles area.