L.A.'s nickname used to be Los Diablos because it was so violent

Back in the 1850s, Los Angeles wasn't exactly the safest place to rest your head. It was just a tiny town of about 3,000-4,000 people, but it was filled with more than its share of criminals, killers, and low-lifes. Thanks to its reputation, Los Angeles was often called Los Diablos (The Devils) and by some accounts was averaging a murder per day in 1854.

From the 1972 edition of California: A Guide to the Golden State:

In 1846, at the outbreak of the Mexican War, the sleepy pueblo was a nondescript village of less than 3,000, but with the seizure of California by the United States it suddenly became a rip-roaring frontier town. Times were good after 1849 when the rush of gold-hunters into the country to the north created an insatiable market for southern California cattle. Los Angeles' reputation for violence was almost un-matched even in those rough-and-ready days; its lawlessness was such that many referred to it as Los Diablos (the devils). Violence increased in 1854 to a murder a day, some accounts said. A contemporary account states that "criminals, murderers, bandits and thieves were hung in accordance with the law or without the law, whichever was most convenient or expedient for the good of the town." The town's civic conscience fell so low that the editor of the Star despairingly complained that "her bowels are absolute strangers to sympathy, when called upon to practically demonstrate it."


Image: 1884 map of Los Angeles via the L.A. Public Library