An Arcadian Mother-Son Legacy

Anita Baldwin, circa 1920. – Courtesy photo / Mitchell Bishop

By Galen Patterson

Mother’s Day has a way of making flowers appear. Perhaps the very nature of the seasonal change inspires humans to present their life-givers with an offering of renewal and beauty.

This mother’s day, the Los Angeles County Arboretum held a locally-noteworthy event; a history lesson into the life and papers of Anita Baldwin and her son Baldwin M. Baldwin.

Curator of Historic Collections at the Arboretum, Mitchell Bishop, spoke to an audience about the lives of the two Baldwins. During the event, Dana Baldwin, step-daughter of Baldwin M. Baldwin arrived to bring the characters to life and offer a more human insight into her stepfather as she knew him.

Anita Baldwin was the daughter of Elias “Lucky” Baldwin, local land baron and founder of Arcadia. Anita lived up to her family name by helping foster a large art scene in the San Gabriel Valley. Anita wrote and composed poetry and music, but more importantly, she helped several artist’s careers, including a famous, but semi-fraudulent Native American actor and writer, Buffalo Child Long Lance.

Sadly, in what became a scandal of the time, Long Lance was found dead in Anita Baldwin’s home, reportedly from a self-inflicted gun-shot wound.

Anita’s son, Baldwin M. Baldwin left a decidedly different legacy. Baldwin M. Baldwin was a technology enthusiast of sorts, becoming a pilot in the early days of flight, sailing in yacht races and starting a radio business. He was tutored by Frank Capra, before Capra would go on to be a successful film maker. Baldwin spent much of the 1920’s in France among other famous American expatriates, like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Baldwin M. Baldwin in his early piloting gear. – Courtesy photo / Mitchell Bishop

By the time the Second World War broke out, the U.S. Army Air Corps (forerunner to the Air Force) had decided that Baldwin was perfect for intelligence work, given his piloting skills, knowledge of local culture and fluency in French. Little is known about Baldwin’s active service in the military, even by his descendants. However, he is also known for his founding of coveted Baldwin Cup, a trophy won through competitive sailing. The Baldwin Cup is still an annual event.

Baldwin M. Baldwin with future film maker, Frank Capra. – Courtesy photo / Mitchell Bishop

For a man with such a wealthy, worldly and exciting lifestyle, towards the end of his life Baldwin was not the money-minded tycoon his grandfather was. Dana Baldwin tells Arcadia Weekly that Baldwin M. Baldwin talked mostly about art in the waning period of his life. “The house was full of art,” she recalls.

Dana Baldwin (left) and Mitchell Bishop (right) discussing the lives of Anita and Baldwin Baldwin. – Photo by Galen Patterson / Beacon Media News

Anita, on the other hand, ordered all of her papers destroyed upon her death, and few remain. According to Bishop, this is not necessarily surprising. “I think it comes out of not wanting people to get into her personal business,” he said. In this way, mother and son show a common interest, along with their predecessor.

Before “Lucky” Baldwin died in 1909, he gave instructions for no actual ceremony, but instead just music. “There was nothing for Baldwin [M. Baldwin] either,” said Dana Baldwin, “we didn’t even have a funeral.”

May 16, 2018

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Galen Patterson

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