The first American trading ship to call at San Pedro was the Lelia Byrd in 1805. At that time, it was illegal to conduct business with any country but Spain. But because of the distance from the mother country and lack of regulation enforcement, trade with other countries thrived. By 1822, an independent Mexican government lifted the Spanish restrictions on trade, which led to a surge of settlements and commercial ventures in San Pedro. By the time California joined the Union in 1848, business in the San Pedro harbor was flourishing.
Recognized for playing a critical role in San Pedro’s development was Stephen M. White, also called the “Savior of the Bay.” A senator from California, he pushed through legislation that led Congress to declare the San Pedro Bay as the official port for Los Angeles in 1897.