BANNING, William

From Islapedia
William Banning (1858-1946)
William Banning driving the stagecoach
photo by Charles C. Pierce, c. 1905
William Banning (1858-1946)

BANNING, William Sanford (1858-1946), oldest son born to Los Angeles pioneer, Phineas Banning and his first wife, Rebecca Sanford. Referred to as “Uncle,” William Banning never married. In 1887, Santa Catalina Island owner George Shatto asked Captain William Banning to schedule one of his coastal steamers to make three weekly trips between Avalon and San Pedro to accommodate his vision of turning the island into a tourist destination. Banning’s Wilmington Transportation Company vessels Ferndale (Shatto); Hermosa, Eureka, Warrior and Falcon carried passengers between San Pedro and Avalon, and in 1892 the Banning brothers purchased the island for $128,740. W. S. Banning served as president of the Wilmington Transportation Company from 1885-1919.

Once Bannings owned Santa Catalina Island, they were able to enforce a monopoly of only Wilmington Transportation Company [WTC] boats landing tourists on the island. There are several incidents of record in which chartered vessels attempting to land parties were stopped by Banning employees. In 1907 the courts stopped their monopolistic practices and declared Avalon an open port. W. S. Banning served as president of the Wilmington Transportation Company from 1885-1919.

William Banning was the family patriarch and Santa Catalina Island Company president from 1894-1919. He ran the family businesses from his office in downtown Los Angeles, occasionally visiting the island to direct business operations. After Bannings sold the island to William Wrigley and his two partners in 1919, William Banning remained on the board of the company for a decade to help with the island’s transition and affairs.

Malcolm Renton said of William Banning: “I remember this gentleman as a kindly, friendly individual who paid attention to a young boy who, at the time, was intrigued with boats, especially Captain Banning’s 100-foot steam yacht, the Compañero. The Captain was very much boat-minded, and held a master’s license for steam vessels. I am sure he was the guiding light in the building and operation of the Banning’s fleet of steamships to Catalina and the tug and barge business in the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors. The three Banning brothers took turns in operating the various company activities; namely the Avalon operations, the Isthmus and the interior, and the marine operations. There was some confusion in this arrangement because of the lack of continuity — one brother would think one way and another would have an entirely different point of view. This may have been the reason why the Company was finally placed on the market for sale. Captain William seemed to be a very stable-minded individual and possessed the best business acumen. When Mr. Wrigley bought the controlling interest in the Company, he wanted Captain Banning to remain on the Board of Directors and to continue his relationship with the Company as a vice-president. In fact, when Mr. Wrigley acquired a new steamship, the S.S. Avalon, he sent Captain William back to New York to supervise renovations in the Morse shipyards and to arrange for sending it out through the Panama Canal to Avalon in 1920. The S.S. Avalon had been purchased from the Goodrich Steamship Line on the Great Lakes, operating as one of the excursion steamers and named the S.S. Virginia. Captain Banning did a superb job in refurbishing the ship… The Wrigley family was very fond of Captain William Banning, and he did contribute much to the development of Catalina.” [Santa Catalina Island Company Water Lines, 3rd & 4th Quarters, 1997]. » Santa Catalina Island Company

Catalina William Muller built:

Falcon (1886-1945)

Ferndale (1880- ), purchased by Santa Catalina owner, George Shatto, who also built a steamer wharf. operated from San Pedro to Avalon in 1888 and competed with Bannings’ Wilmington Transportation Company, until Bannings purchased her. She served only a few years.


Eureka II launched May 20, 1900, built by Mormon Island Shipyard 198 tons. Needed to supplement Hermosa;

Hermosa (#95992) (1889-1902) built for William Banning.

Hermosa II (#96611) (1902-1935) for the Wilmington Transportation Company’s expanding tourist trade;

Warrior (#81057) (1884-1900) owned by the Wilmington Transportation Company as a multipurpose vessel for freight and passengers. She served until 1900 when she was dismantled. Warrior ran between San Pedro and Redondo for passengers only in 1907.

Warrior II (1900-1936) William Muller-built; launched December 1900. Needed to supplement Hermosa.

Santa Catalina Island Company organization, 1919

In the News~

August 1, 1883 [LAT]: “Catalina in flames. A wretched Sunday for thousands of people. The beautiful island city lying in ashes. Immense losses, but well-insured. Factories, churches, courthouse and many residences burned. On Sunday afternoon, on the arrival of the Wilmington train, the painful particulars of a terrible fire at Catalina Island were first learned. According to General Roley, who was first on the scene, it commenced in the Chinese fish oil manufactory of Ah Lie, who was smoking opium, and carelessly knocked over his lamp, the flames being immediately conveyed to a lot of open barrels containing refined oil. Ah Lie was burned to death while lying in a state of insensibility from opium… A ball was in progress at the time, and Manager William Banning hurried all the participants on board the steamer Amelia, which was then at anchor a few feet from town…”

August 8, 1883 [LAT/SCat]: “Last Sunday two hundred excursionists from Los Angeles, Wilmington and intermediate points visited Santa Catalina Island… The party had a hearty welcome from agent Mansfield, Assistant Agent Moulthrop, Captain William Banning and others. The steamer Amelia was at the wharf, and the excursionists were soon comfortably placed on the boat… The Amelia is a safe and commodious boat, noted for her speed and sea-going qualities, and is officered as follows: A. A. Polhamus, master…”

September 25, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “John N. Anunsen, superintendent of Heldmaier, Neu & Co., contractors of Chicago, arrived yesterday, and is at the Metropole. Yesterday afternoon he visited the rock quarries on the island and, in company with Captain William Banning and Hancock Banning, making the trip in the Linda.”

September 26, 1898 [LAT/SCat]: “Yesterday afternoon Captain William Banning left Avalon for Eagle’s Nest with a party of friends, to spend a few days inspecting the sheep and killing wild goats…”

August 22, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Banning Company employees had the time of their lives last night at their ‘Rag-time’ masquerade ball…”

August 23, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “George Gibson and two other young men started out yesterday afternoon in the little sailboat, Mission, for a sail. The two young men knew nothing about sailing and Gibson was to be skipper. They had but thrown off the mooring rope when the skipper discovered something wrong at the head of the mast and shinned up to fix it. Both the young men were seated on one side of the little craft and as a swell gave the boat a roll the weight at the top of the mast proved too great and over they went. Chiriloceo, an employee of the Banning Company who patrols the beach, happened to be near his skiff and fished the boys out…”

November 8, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Ed Stanton, superintendent of affairs on the island for the Banning Company, is paying a visit to the mining regions of Nevada, with which he was familiar during the palmy days of the great Comstock.”

February 16, 1904 [LAT/SP]: “Another vessel has been added to the fleet of the Banning Company… The Cabrillo, in all her appointments, is a beautiful vessel… The new steamer will be used exclusively in the passenger business between San Pedro and ‘that sweet vale called Avalon’ on Catalina Island. Her completed cost will be almost $200,000, and she will be scheduled to carry 1200 persons. As an evidence of the great growth of the business to Avalon, it is stated by officials of the company that eight years ago the little vessel, La Paloma, was used to make two trips a week to Avalon carrying provisions, the mails, and an occasional passenger. Since that time, the Warrior and Hermosa have been built as well as the steamer launched today. The number of passengers carried to the island last year was 62,492… The launching of the Cabrillo was witnessed by a large crowd, including many ladies and officials of the Wilmington Transportation Company. Among those present were Captain J. B. Banning, Hancock Banning, William Banning, Reese Llewellyn of the Llewellyn Iron Works, Joseph Schoder of the Union Metal and Hardware Company, Edward Maher, superintendent, and Andrew Young, master machinist of the Banning Company.”

March 8, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Colonel J. J. Mellus of Los Angeles and Captain A. Chesebrough of San Francisco have been the guests of Captain William Banning at Hotel Metropole for a few days.”

March 17, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Captain William Banning entertained the County Supervisors today by driving them to the Isthmus.”

March 31, 1904 [LAT]: “Ada Brush and Melville E. Brush have begun a suit against the Santa Catalina Island Company and C. E. Bryant, William Banning, et al., together forming the Santa Catalina Island Stage Company, to recover $299.99 as damages. The action has begun in Justice Pierce’s court, and it is alleged in the complaint that on February 23 Mrs. Brush joined a coaching party, and paid $1 for the trip from Avalon and return. During the trip the coach was accidentally thrown over, and it is alleged that the plaintiff was injured…”

August 21, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Friends of Captain William Banning have a surprise in store for him this evening. It is to take place at Middle Ranch. He is to give a barbecue there and it is planned for him to fall into their hands without warning. As a testimonial of their esteem they will present him with an elegant gold watch…”

August 2, 1905 [SBMP]: “In spite of official denial, it is insisted that Catalina Island has been sold by the Banning Company, the purchaser being Henry E. Huntington. Dan Jerue, who owns a large interest at Avalon, tells the Los Angeles Express he is convinced the resort has been sold, and the formal transfer will be completed by November 1. An option is said to have been taken on the property nearly a year ago. It is stated that the new owner has not acquired the holdings of the Wilmington Transportation Company, which controls the freight and passenger traffic at the island.”

May 3, 1908 [LAT]: “Captain William Banning, president of the Banning Company, who has been spending several days here with a party of friends, left last evening.”

September 24, 1909 [LAT/SCat]: “Captain William Banning, owner of the palatial craft, El Compañero, called Sunday at Mosquito Harbor, San Clemente Island, and invited Gifford Pinchot, former Governor Pardee and Dr. C. F. Holder to go to San Diego, but they were just leaving for Catalina. On the Compañero were Mr. and Mrs. George Patton, Miss Patton and Miss Banning.”

September 29, 1914 [TI/Avalon]: “Dr. Charles F. Holder and E. L. McCormick and family, who have been guests of Captain William Banning for the weekend, returned home Sunday. Mr. McCormick is vice-president of the Southern Pacific railroad.”

July 14, 1915 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain William Banning spent the weekend on the island, making a trip to the Isthmus Sunday.”

February 8, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “The yacht Compañero, Captain William Banning, arrived in this port Monday afternoon…”

November 20, 1917 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain William Banning and party came over Thursday.”

January 28, 1946 [LAT]: “Captain Banning of pioneer family dies. Son of Wilmington founder prominent in port development. Death came yesterday to Captain William Banning, 87, noted member of the first generation of native-born pioneers of the family founded here by Phineas Banning in the 1850s. Captain Banning died at his home, 526 McCadden Place, within reach of an ancient stagecoach whip, symbol of his lifelong hobby, the Concord coaches which he drove as a boy on western transport lines owned by his father… Captain Banning was born in a house erected by his father in what is now a public park in Wilmington. Inculcated early in youth with an interest in transportation by his pioneer sire, he became a stagecoach driver and master to steam in the skippering of ships and lighters plying to Santa Catalina Island and towboats between the mainland and ships lying in the open roadstead outside San Pedro in pre-harbor days. With his brothers and father, he played a prominent role in the development and expansion of Los Angeles harbor, often in the face of strong opposition… At various periods of his life he served as president of the Wilmington Transportation Company, the Santa Catalina Island Company, and other local maritime businesses. Shipping was second only to land transport as his major interests. It was Captain Banning who purchased the Harvard and Yale, foundation of the fleet that later became the Los Angeles Steamship Company. When the Wrigley interests took over the island, Captain Banning was commissioned to buy the steamer Avalon, later used on the run from Wilmington to Avalon. The Banning brothers bought Santa Catalina Island in 1892 from the James Lick estate of San Francisco, the title having reverted to the Lick interests from a former owner, George R. Shatto. They sold the scenic island to William Wrigley in 1919 and Captain Banning remained with the company at the request of the buyer… Captain Banning leaves a half-sister, Mary Banning Norris; four nephews… The late General George Patton was a relative of Captain Banning as a member of a collateral branch of the family…”