In the mainstream of a highly organized southern California promotional operation--orchestrated by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and other boosters with vested interests to attract visitors, new residents, and new capital--the Bannings carried out an increasingly ambitious publicity campaign.
The Bannings' promotional machine was especially indebted to Charles F.
In order to manage and properly finance their venture, the Bannings incorporated the Santa Catalina Island Company in October 1894 as a subsidiary of their holdings.
By 1898, the Bannings had put a third WTC steamer, the Hermosa, which had operated years earlier, back into the regular schedule of service.
Besides their principal business of transporting and entertaining visitors, the Bannings also were able to exploit other island resources for different uses.
The Bannings' ownership and management of Santa Catalina Island also provided an opportunity for social engagement and family recreation each summer and during the off season.
During these years, the Bannings were at the center of the Santa Catalina social scene, a world populated mostly by the middle class and society's more affluent members who could afford to stay there for a prolonged period of time.
As owners of most of the island, the Bannings invited family and friends to stay in cottages owned by their company.
To protect the image of their investment as a family-oriented resort, the Bannings were vigilant concerning adult pleasures for part of the island population.
Built in 1902 and financed by several wealthy New Yorkers, the Pilgrim was an opulent recreational center with an array of gaming tables "operated as a miniature Monte Carlo." It was "exquisitely furnished with Turkish rugs, heavily stuffed leather furniture, and works of art." The Pilgrim Club occasionally was a thorn in the side of the Bannings and brought unwanted publicity during the county district attorney's periodic investigations of gambling; it was finally closed down in 1909.
By prohibiting certain people from their facilities based on their ethnicity or class, the Bannings hoped to keep their island true to the image they projected to their affluent white clientele.
Despite the Bannings' policy of free amenities for WTC passengers, it took no time at all for competitors to lure customers to the island with the promise of free amenities for a smaller fare.