Robert Stewart Sparks
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Robert Stewart Sparks (1871–1932) was a
Los Angeles City Council The Los Angeles City Council is the legislative body of the Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles in California. The council is composed of 15 members elected from single-member districts for four-year terms. The President of the Los Angeles City Counc ...
member in the 1920s. He was the first person to represent the 5th District under a new
city charter A city charter or town charter (generically, municipal charter) is a legal document (''charter'') establishing a municipality such as a city or town. The concept developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Traditionally the granting of a charter ...
effective in 1925. Earlier, he was given the nickname "Cupid" while he managed Los Angeles' marriage licensing bureau for 19 years. Robert, along with his wife, ran an informal
matchmaking Matchmaking is the process of matching two or more people together, usually for the purpose of marriage, in which case the matchmaker is also known as a marriage broker. The word is also used in the context of sporting events such as boxing, in ...
service throughout
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.


Biography

Sparks was born on March 31, 1871, in
Anoka, Minnesota Anoka ( ) is a city in and the county seat of Anoka County, Minnesota, Anoka County, Minnesota, United States. Its population was 17,142 at the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census. Anoka is the "Halloween Capital of the World" because it host ...
, the son of Henry Sparks. He graduated with an engineering degree from the
University of Minnesota The University of Minnesota, formally the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, (UMN Twin Cities, the U of M, or Minnesota) is a public university, public Land-grant university, land-grant research university in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul, Tw ...
in Saint Paul and moved to Los Angeles in 1894 to engage in the real-estate business; he was married to Edith McGinty of that city the same year. They had one son, Richard.Los Angeles Public Library records based on interview with his wife
/ref> Sparks entered the office of the
County Clerk A clerk is a white-collar worker who conducts general office tasks, or a worker who performs similar sales-related tasks in a retail environment. The responsibilities of clerical workers commonly include record keeping, filing, staffing service c ...
as deputy in charge of the marriage-license division in December 1912 and there was given the
nickname A nickname is a substitute for the proper name of a familiar person, place or thing. Commonly used to express affection, a form of endearment, and sometimes amusement, it can also be used to express defamation of character. As a concept, it is ...
"Cupid" during his tenure. He was ousted as deputy in 1920 after L.E. Lampton was elected clerk,. Tension with Clerk Lampton began as Robert refused to publish news of marriage licenses being issued to movie stars. These included the marriage of
Douglas Fairbanks Douglas Elton Fairbanks Sr. (born Douglas Elton Thomas Ullman; May 23, 1883 – December 12, 1939) was an American actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. He was best known for his swashbuckler film, swashbuckling roles in silent films in ...
and
Mary Pickford Gladys Marie Smith (April 8, 1892 – May 29, 1979), known professionally as Mary Pickford, was a Canadian-American stage and screen actress and producer with a career that spanned five decades. A pioneer in the US film industry, she co-founde ...
as well
Charlie Chaplin Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin Jr. (16 April 188925 December 1977) was an English comic actor, filmmaker, and composer who rose to fame in the era of silent film. He became a worldwide icon through his screen persona, the Tramp, and is consider ...
and
Mildred Harris Mildred Harris (April 18, 1901 – July 20, 1944) was an American stage, film, and vaudeville actress during the early part of the 20th century. Harris began her career in the film industry as a child actress when she was 10 years old. She was a ...
. Robert also operated an informal
matchmaking Matchmaking is the process of matching two or more people together, usually for the purpose of marriage, in which case the matchmaker is also known as a marriage broker. The word is also used in the context of sporting events such as boxing, in ...
service from "having received thousands of letters from lonely men and women asking for his assistance in securing mates." He and his wife would "study the letters, and from the descriptions given we match up the requirements as best we can, and then I put the husband-seekers and wife-seekers in touch with each other by letter. Hundreds of marriages have resulted." Robert said he would continue the practice after his election to the City Council in 1921 but "out of office hours." In 1923, on the occasion of his 29th wedding anniversary, he noted that he had issued more than 200,000 marriage licenses and gave this advice to husbands:
Self-preservation and protection is the first law for husbands, and to have a happy married life, such as I have had, remember the anniversaries with gifts for the wives. They expect it. If husbands do this and storm clouds arise, and the matrimonial
lute A lute ( or ) is any plucked string instrument with a neck (music), neck and a deep round back enclosing a hollow cavity, usually with a sound hole or opening in the body. It may be either fretted or unfretted. More specifically, the term "l ...
shows signs of piping some sour notes, the wives recall that their husbands, alone and unaided, did remember the anniversaries, and the difficulties melt away.
Between 1923 and 1925 Sparks returned to the real-estate business and also purchased the ''Los Angeles Chronicle,'' a newspaper for city employees. He became a county employee again in December 1931 as assistant chief real-estate
appraiser An appraiser (from Latin ''appretiare'', "to value"), is a person that develops an opinion of the market value or other value of a product, most notably real estate. The current definition of "appraiser" according to the Uniform Standards of Profe ...
in the County Assessor's Office. A Presbyterian, he was a member of the
Elks The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks) is an American fraternal order A fraternal order is a fraternity organised as an order, with traits alluding to religious, chivalr ...
,
Knights of Pythias The Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization A fraternity (from Latin language, Latin ''wiktionary:frater, frater'': "brother (Christian), brother"; whence, "wiktionary:brotherhood, brotherhood") or fraternal organization is an org ...
,
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, Masons and Union League. He was a Republican. He was living at 2646 South Normandie Avenue when he died on March 25, 1932. He was buried in Rosedale Cemetery.


City Council


Elections

In the May 1921 primary election Sparks placed 15th in a citywide field of more than 30 candidates, with the top 18 being nominated for a final round in June. In that election, he placed first and was thus chosen, along with eight other successful candidates, for a two-year term on the council. Sparks placed seventh in the citywide primary of May 1923, with 26,971 votes, and was nominated for re-election. In the June final he came in 11th, with 34,458 votes, and was defeated; only the top nine vote-getters were elected. Sparks was out of the council for two years, but in 1925 he returned as the first person to represent the 5th District under the new city charter, which replaced the former at-large election system with one based on
single-member constituencies A single-member district is an electoral district represented by a single officeholder. It contrasts with a multi-member district, which is represented by multiple officeholders. Single-member districts are also sometimes called single-winner v ...
. He was elected 4,379 votes to John Topham's 3,075. In 1925, the 5th District was bounded by Washington Street on the north, the city limits on the east, Exposition Boulevard on the south and Vermont Avenue on the west. He ran again in the 1927 election but this time he was linked to the unpopular mayoral administration of George E. Cryer, and he was soundly defeated in the final round by Virgil A. Martin, 7,843-2,889. Before that election he was criticized for having mailed letters on official city stationery to people who were on a tentative list for appointment as election precinct workers, asking them to call on him to "discuss with you some matters in which I am interested."


Council actions

One of the first controversial votes cast by Sparks was in opposition to a proposal by religious groups for a seven-member commission to regulate the showing of motion pictures in Los Angeles. He said he was "flatly opposed" to censorship, and the idea was eventually killed by the City Council amid a storm of protests by both sides. A later resolution defending the
film industry The film industry or motion picture industry comprises the technological and commercial institutions of filmmaking, i.e., film production company, production companies, film studios, cinematography, animation, film production, screenwriting, pre ...
, authored by Sparks, was adopted. The "reflections cast upon this industry and its people are the work of a malignant minority," it read. It was Sparks who introduced a successful resolution into the City Council on January 15, 1923, for the formation of a Board of Freeholders that was assigned to develop a new
city charter A city charter or town charter (generically, municipal charter) is a legal document (''charter'') establishing a municipality such as a city or town. The concept developed in Europe during the Middle Ages. Traditionally the granting of a charter ...
for Los Angeles. The move was supported by the
Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is Southern California's largest not-for-profit business federation, representing the interests of more than 235,000 businesses in L.A. County, more than 1,400 member companies and more than 722,430 employ ...
. He also called on the city to require private hospitals to give emergency care to accident victims to avoid the "long delays in transporting injured persons to the Receiving Hospital at First and Hill streets." In 1925 he voted against a request by the Humane Animal Commission for funding of five additional inspectors: "You know how I stand about animals," said Sparks, a former president of the
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals A Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is a common name for non-profit animal welfare Animal welfare is the well-being of non-human animals. Formal standards of animal welfare vary between contexts, but are debated mostly by ...
. "All those inspectors do is to pursue poor people for the measly $2 dog tax. Every child should have a dog. yet many children cannot have dogs because of this tax." The next year he opposed placing on the election ballot a measure that would allow animal-control officers to, as he said, "go on the premises of a dog owner and take away any dog not tied up or on a leash. In other words, the ordinance would permit one's personal property to be seized.""Ordinance on Dog Seizures Put on Ballot," ''Los Angeles Times,'' October 22, 1926, page A-2
/ref>


References

Access to the ''Los Angeles Times'' links may require the use of a library card. ---- {{DEFAULTSORT:Sparks, Robert Stewart Los Angeles City Council members 1871 births 1932 deaths Burials at Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery Matchmakers People from Anoka, Minnesota University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering alumni California Republicans