The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles

THE MIRAGE FACTORY                        GARY KIRST

Little more than a century ago, the southern coast of California was sleepy desert farmland. Then from it, nearly overnight, emerged one of the world's largest and most iconic cities. The birth and evolution of Los Angeles--its seemingly impossible, meteoric rise--can be attributed largely to three ingenious but deeply flawed people. D.W. Griffith, the early film pioneer who first conceived of feature-length movies, gave Hollywood its industry. Aimee Semple McPherson, a young evangelist, and radio preacher, infused the city with its spiritual identity as a hub for reinvention. And William Mulholland, an Irish immigrant turned ditch-digger turned autodidactic engineer, would design the massive aqueduct that made survival in the harsh climate feasible.

But while Mulholland, Griffith, and Semple McPherson were all masters of their craft, each would self-destruct in spectacular fashion. D.W. Griffith, led by his ballooning ego, would go on to produce a string of commercial failures; Semple McPherson would be crucified in the tabloids for fabricating an account of her own kidnapping, and a dam designed by Mulholland would fail just hours after he gave it a safety inspection.

Spanning from 1904 to 1930, The Mirage Factory is the enthralling tale of an improbable city and the people who willed it into existence by pushing the limits of human engineering and peddling fantasies.


A wonderful book about the history of Los Angeles. With the advent of movies and bringing the film industries from the east coast to Los Angeles. How D.W. Griffith was one of the pioneers of the film industry in Hollywood was interesting, for I just knew the name from the park I used to go to when I was younger. He goes into the different ways of bringing water to this dry part of the land. How the people of Owens Valley did not like the way the water was taken from them. How Mulholland who without an engineering degree built the aqueduct and was able to supply water to the ever-growing area. He was also responsible for the Saint Francis Dam collapse which 431 people died and are still the second greatest loss of life in California behind the 1906 earthquake. What was not in the book was that the collapse happened in 1928 and that in the 70’s 1992 and 1994 bodies were still discovered from this disaster. I also found the part about Aimee Semple to be very interesting. Not only her life and her preaching but who the different people were attacking her. Overall I found this to be a very good book with a lot of information, especially how there were oil wells in different parts of the city and how they were done away with as the city grew. Just one of many observations. Very much worth the read. I received this book from I gave this book 5 stars. Follow us at

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