Catalina Island has a long history of firsts, dating back to the 1850's. The Banning Brothers and the Wm. Wrigley, Jr. were pioneering entrepreneurs in transportation and hospitality, among other enterprises. It's not surprising that Catalina was the first to use and create several forms of communication, transportation services and recreation.


  • Pigeons were used to carry messages between Catalina and the mainland from the 1850’s to as late as 1899.
  • The world’s first commercial wireless telegraph station was built on Catalina Island in 1902, and was the news source for Avalon’s newspaper, The Wireless. The Catalina Islander, a weekly newspaper has been continuously published since 1914.
  • The first commercial radio telephone system was installed at Pebbly Beach in Avalon in 1919.
  • The first American-made submarine cables in the U.S. were laid between Avalon and the mainland laid in 1923.
  • The first civilian use of microwave system (a World War II secret development), the Catalina microwave station was installed in May 1946.
  • Catalina operated the last manual telephone switchboard in the Pacific Bell Telephone company, moving to a modern system in 1978.


The Wilmington Transportation Company was founded by members of the Banning family in 1877, and they later purchased Catalina Island. They were the first to offer boat service to Catalina Island.

  • The first side-wheeler boat service to Catalina Island was in 1880.
  • The first cross-channel steamer service began in 1888.
  • The first cross-channel airplane flight was made by Glenn L. Martin in 1912.
  • The first commercial aviation service between Catalina Island and the mainland (by amphibian airplane) was in 1919. The service was first operated by famous silent film actor Charlie Chaplin's brother Syd Chaplin, and then changed hands until the Wrigley family began the Wilmington-Catalina Airline in 1931.
  • The first helicopter service between Catalina and the mainland was in 1977.
  • Avalon is the first city in California empowered by the State Legislature to control the number, size, speed, and noise of vehicles operating within the city limits. Most residents travel by golf cart.


When William Wrigley, Jr. purchased controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Company in 1919, he set out to create a vacation paradise for all to enjoy.

  • The Catalina Island Golf Course was the first golf course in Southern California, built in 1892. It's said to be the oldest continuously operating golf course west of the Mississippi.
  • The first successful glass bottom boat was launched in Catalina in 1896. The glassbottom boat is still operated today by the Catalina Island Co.
  • The first and only cross-channel swim, named the Wrigley Ocean Marathon, was held in 1927.
  • William Wrigley, Jr was the first to build a vessel specifically for California Flying Fish tours. The Blanche W. launched in 1924 and served the island for 91 years.