This site is not affiliated with the Signal Hill Historical Society or any other organization. This is a personal history project intended to present Signal Hill history in an organized form.
This is a work in progress and will most likely change considerably over time. If you would like to contribute, you can do so by commenting or by using the contact form.
Since the history of Signal Hill in the 20th Century was dominated by the discovery and development of the oil industry, most of the images, stories, and notoriety of the area reflect this influence.
Currently, there are 4 categories of historic material included in this site: Photos, Maps, Videos, and Oral History.
The Photos are mostly Real Photo Postcards and some original photos that have been collected over the past decade or so. Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Real Photo Postcards were quite popular and visually documented many locales throughout the world. Additionally, the personal messages on cards provide a glimpse into the times.
Unlike the printing press-printed Photo Postcards of the later half of the century, Real Photo Postcards were actual “real photos”, produced photographically on photo paper. Since the process was not necessarily automated, there is a varying quality of the image between cards. Additionally, aging and poor storage conditions add to the deterioration of the images.
Local maps from different periods can give an indication of the types of changes that occurred during the development of the community. In the early parts of the 20th Century, development in Signal Hill was headed towards a view-based residential community. When oil was discovered on the hill, everything changed. For the next half century and more, the hill’s development was dominated by the needs of the oil industry. However, toward the end of the 20th Century, development changed course back to residential and the views from the hill.
Various events ranging from earthquakes and fires to skateboards brought the attention of the movie and news cameras to Signal Hill. Additionally, videos on the history of the oil industry are included in this section.
In addition to written history, oral histories (interviews with individuals) can shed light on the events of the day. Links to recorded oral histories in the CSULB Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive can be found in this section.