Felix Signoret

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Felix Signoret
BornJune 9, 1825
Marseille, France
DiedJuly 28, 1878
Resting placeCalvary Cemetery
OccupationHotelier, politician

Felix Signoret (1825–1878) was a member of the Common Council, the governing body of the city of Los Angeles, and also of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in the 19th Century. He was the leader of a vigilante gang that carried out a lynching of a reputed murderer in 1863.

Early life[edit]

Signoret was born in France on June 9, 1825, living in Marseille before he came to the United States.


Signoret built a new hotel at Main and Turner streets, north of Arcadia Street and "opposite the Pico House," with a Mansard pitch in 1874.[1][2][3]

Signoret was elected to the Los Angeles Common Council, the governing body of the city, serving from May 9, 1863, to May 5, 1864.[4] He was also a member of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in 1866.[5]


Signoret was the leader[6] of the lynching take took place in Los Angeles, in 1863—that of "a Frenchman named Lachenais"—who was suspected of killing a neighbor, Jacob Bell.[1][7] Contemporary writer Harris Newmark recounted that:

A meeting at Stearn's Hall[8] was largely attended; a Vigilance Committee was formed; Lachenais's record was reviewed and his death at the hands of an outraged committee was decided upon. Everything being arranged, three hundred or more armed men, under the leadership of Felix Signoret, ... assembled on the morning of December 17th, marched to the jail, overcame Sheriff Burns and his assistants, took Lachenais out, dragged him to the ... corner of Temple and New High streets ... and summarily hanged him.... The following January, County Judge Y. Sepulveda charged the Grand Jury to do its duty toward ferreting out the leaders of the mob, and so wipe out this reproach to the city; but the Grand Jury expressed the conviction that if the law had hitherto been faithfully executed in Los Angeles, such scenes in broad daylight would never have taken place.[1]

An article by Steve Harvey in the San Diego edition of the Los Angeles Times on September 5, 1984, stated that Signoret "led a lynch mob that hanged five people in Los Angeles in 1869–70 in the aftermath of a murder resulting from 'offensive remarks (made) about the newly organized French Benevolent Society.'"[9]

Personal life and death[edit]

Signoret was married to Catherine Pagen, also of France. Their children were P. Josephine, Rose, Anna and Caroline, and possibly Louise and Felix P.[10][11] By trade he was a barber, later an apartment owner.[1][12][13] The Signorets bought a parcel of land at 125 Aliso Street[14] in 1871 and built a "substantial brick house" about thirty feet wide with an area of nearly 1,800 square feet; the roof was "hipped on all four sides in mimicry of the fashionable Mansard shape. . . . By 1888 the Signorets . . . were long gone, and their genteel house was used as a brothel."[15]

Signoret died on July 28, 1878, and was buried in Calvary Cemetery, East Los Angeles.[11]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Harris Newmark, Sixty Years in California , , , ,
  2. ^ Quoted in E.A. Brainstool, "Los Angeles in 1874," Los Angeles Times, April 8, 1924, page A-4
  3. ^ "Preferred Locals," Los Angeles Times, August 3, 1882, page 4
  4. ^ Chronological Record of Los Angeles City Officials,1850-1938, compiled under direction of Municipal Reference Library, City Hall, Los Angeles (March 1938, reprinted 1966). "Prepared ... as a report on Project No. SA 3123-5703-6077-8121-9900 conducted under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration."
  5. ^ "Los Angeles County information sheet" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-27. Retrieved 2012-09-12.
  6. ^ E.A. Brininstool, "Historic Building Is Razed," Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1927, page H-1 This later account by a witness, J.J. Mellus, related that the leader was a Bill Harper. The story is also quoted at [1] "The Lynching of Lashenais," February 1, 2010.
  7. ^ Photograph of the lynching
  8. ^ More information about this venue is at [2] "Historic Downtown Theatres."
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ Retrospect-GDS
  11. ^ a b Find-a-Grave
  12. ^ "Mother of Felix McGinnis Dies Unaware of His Death," Los Angeles Times, April 16, 1945, page 9
  13. ^ "Los Angeles, 'Far Ouest' français?" Geneablog.org, March 20, 2008
  14. ^ [4] Location of Aliso Street on Mapping L.A.
  15. ^ Mary Praetzellis, "Mangling Symbols of Gentility in the Wild West," American Anthropologist,103(3):645-654 (2001), with sources cited there