SWANFELDT, Axel William

From Islapedia
March 1897 advertisement in Land of Sunshine

SWANFELDT, Axel William (1847-1925) was a Swedish businessman who emigrated in 1869. He owned the Los Angeles Tent and Awning Company located at 250 S. Main Street, and became known as the Canvas King of Los Angeles. From 1895 to 1902 Swanfeldt operated Santa Catalina’s celebrated “Tent City,” where they rented tents by the day, week or month, to campers visiting the island. At $7.50 a week, it was one of the most economical ways of staying in Avalon. His tents of varying sizes included camp furniture, beds, bedding and cooking utensils. His island operation ceased when the Santa Catalina Island Company assumed operation of tent housing, but his business continued to set the bar for tent manufacturing in the southland.

September 13, 1902 Catherine MacLean Loud noted in her diary: “The Santa Catalina Island Company will take over the entire management of the camping. Therefore, Andrew Swanfeldt will have to leave.“

June 13, 1903 She notes: “Formerly “Swanfeldt’s Tent City”, now “Canvas City”, with R. Williams, Manager.“

In 1873 Axel Swanfeldt married Carolina Anderson (1851-1929), and they had children:

  • Andrew Swanfeldt (1881-1959)
  • John Swanfeldt (1885-1971)
  • William Swanfeldt (1887-1956)
  • Edla J. Swanfeldt (1891- )

The Swanfeldts are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles.



In the News~

July 6, 1895 [LAT]: “Avalon, July 5. — Mrs. Lassell and Miss Alexander of Los Angeles are enjoying camp life in the Swanfeldt canvas village. Mr. Anderson and family of Los Angeles are also camping in the white village.”


July 8, 1895 [LAT]: “Avalon, July 7. — About 500 tents are now up in the Swanfeldt addition to the town of Avalon and these tents are rapidly being occupied. Ex-Sheriff Gibson and family are camping here for the season. Edward T. Cook and family are pleasantly located in a corner tent.”

July 10, 1895 [LAT]: “Avalon, July 9. — The Hermosa brought over a large number of passengers last evening, many of whom went to swell the camping population down in the Swanfeldt village.”


July 16, 1895 [LAT]: “Avalon, July 15. — Swanfeldt has put up a enormous tent in the rear of the office, to be used for the Saturday-night overflow. It will accommodate 150 cots.”


August 2, 1895 [LAT]: “Avalon, August 1. — Prof. C. L. Cory of Berkeley, accompanied by Prof. H. T. Cory of COlumbia, Mo., is enjoying camp life in the Swanfeldt addition.”


August 12, 1896 [LAT]: “Avalon, Aug. 11. — There were 118 arrivals in the Swanfeldt camp last Saturday night, which, added to the already large number in tents, filled up every cot but three.”


August 14, 1896 [LAT]: “Avalon, Aug. 13. — Word came over from Catalina yesterday that there were still good accommodations for everybody who might come, in the furnished and unfurnished cottage tents in Swanfeldt's Camp, and that the prices per day or week had not been advanced. Information about the tents can be obtained at Swanfeldt's store, No. 250 South Main Street, this city.”


August 24, 1896 [LAT]: “Avalon, Aug. 23. — Under the canvas. It is estimated that there have been over 3000 people in the Swanfeldt camp since June 1, and there are now about 800, the greater part of whom will remain on into September. Among those recently arrived here are H. M. Williams, Paul Mayers, W. S. Langdon, W. C. Phillips of Los Angeles, J. A. Way, D. Gibler and W. H. Dobbe of Pomona, L. J. Hiatt of Guthrie, Okla., and G. C. Hiatt of Garden Grove, H. C. Gardner, Mrs. O. Adams, Misses Una and Ula and Master Earl Adams of Waterloo, Iowa.”


September 24, 1896 [LAH]: “Avalon, Sept. 23,— The yacht Nellie, of fifty tons, has returned from a cruise of San Clemente Island with the following party: Mr. Swanfeldt and family, Charles Parker and Mr. A. B. Chappell. Captain Frank Whittley, the owner, was in command. Fishing and hunting was enjoyed.”


August 3, 1901 [LAT/SCat]: “Coronado Tent City and Avalon made popular by Swanfeldt's tents.”


June 13, 1902 [LAT]: “Camp Swanfeldt, Catalina Island, is now open for business.”


August 29, 1904 [LA/SCat]: “Avalon. Andrew Swanfeldt, whose father was the father of Camp Swanfeldt, for many years a most prominent feature of Avalon camp life, is here with his wife spending a short vacation.”


July 4, 1905 [LAH]: “…Two hundred pounds of various kinds of fish were taken this morning by the following party of Los Angeles vacationists: E. E. Danforth, A. W. Swanfeldt, E. P. Bosbyshell and F. L. Miller.”


February 18, 1923 [LAT]: “Half a century of wedded bliss was celebrated Friday by Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Swanfeldt…”


July 19, 1925 [LAT]: “Axel W. Swanfeldt, aged 77 years, formerly of the Swanfeldt Tent and Awning Company, 224 S. Main Street, died yesterday at his home, 1832 Michigan Avenue. Mr. Swanfeldt was born in Sweden and has lived in Los Angeles forty years, of which most of this time he has been engaged in the tent and awning business…”