You can bet jaws were dropping all over 1912 Santa Rosa when rumors spread Luther Burbank was moving out of town. He wasn't going far – only about a mile from downtown, to a new subdivision called "West Roseland" – but Santa Rosa without its Burbank was unthinkable. Being the home of the "plant wizard" defined Santa Rosa's image, with a perpetual stream of visitors coming from far away to see him and his gardens. And that's exactly why he would have wanted to move away from the well-beaten path; Burbank was besieged by pesky pilgrims whenever he worked in his fields.

Financially secure for one of the few times in his life, Burbank could afford building a new place. A couple of months earlier he had signed a deal with investors to create the Luther Burbank Company, which would henceforth sell his seeds and plants. He was paid $30,000 up front, worth about $4 million today. Work was also underway at the newly-formed Luther Burbank Press to finally create an encyclopedic series of books on Burbank's works. All in all, 1912 was very likely his happiest year.

Everything was going so well that he even risked a few days off. In August Burbank was part of the "flying legion," a ten day junket to promote the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Traveling on a special Southern Pacific train, about a hundred men took the trip up the coast to Vancouver and back, with stops at all major cities on the way. The only other local man in the delegation was Robert John, an officer of the Luther Burbank Press and Luther Burbank Society, who appears to have been the linchpin in both projects.

Burbank kept a very low profile. He was toasted at a banquet in Canada but told the audience he wasn't much of a speaker unless the topic was something like "spuds," which he could discuss at length. A reporter in Oregon quoted his views on the importance of the trip, where in characteristic Burbank fashion he managed to complain and boast in the same breath: "This is almost the first day's vacation I have taken in ten years, and I came at a time when I have on the place, working toward the publication of my books, 43 stenographers and typewriters, besides my usual executive work is hard to get away from."

After the trip, nothing more about a planned new home was reported and the Burbank archives have no entry regarding a possible move to West Roseland. It's more likely he bought the land on speculation; central Sonoma County was then enjoying its first building boom of the Twentieth Century. Ads for new subdivisions appeared regularly in the papers, and developers competed with each other by offering choice locations or no-money-down contracts. Here, it seems the developer was promoting West Roseland as an upscale neighborhood, where buyers would rub elbows with Burbank, George Dutton, Max Rosenberg, and other well-heeled local luminaries. And to cement the link to Santa Rosa's favorite son, the main road was named "Burbank avenue."

It appears none of the movers-and-shakers built grand homes in the subdivision. Today, Burbank avenue – which runs north-south, between Stony Point and Dutton Ave. – is almost entirely post-WWII construction, with a couple of older cottages. As you move farther away from Sebastopol Road it turns into a pleasant country lane with pastures and large empty lots that are surprising to discover so close to downtown. Much of it looks like it probably did in Luther's era, when it was unincorporated county land. Of course, as it's part of greater Roseland it is still unincorporated county land, only now surrounded on all sides by Santa Rosa proper. Of all the subdivisions then being developed outside of Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and Sebastopol, West Roseland was the only one that didn't make it into city limits.

Report Says He is Going to Build New Home

Luther Burbank, the well known resident and great horticulturist of this city, has purchased 16 2/3 acres of the Richardson tract on Sebastopol avenue, one mile west of this city. When asked as to his plans of use of the property, Mr. Burbank stated that he had made no plans to announce at present. The report was current on the streets, however, that he intended to build a fine, modern residence there.

The property adjoins the property recently purchased by Max Rosenberg, Dr. J. H. McLeod and John Rinner, and which they are now having surveyed to be placed on the market. The survey includes an avenue a mile long, which runs southerly from the Sebastopol road and which the purchasers will name Burbank avenue. The tract being subdivided will be called West Roseland.

Mr. Burbank made his purchase through the agency of Barnett & Reading.

George Dutton has purchased a piece of property adjoining Burbank's new property and is planning a fine residence on his new possession.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 3, 1912

Luther Burbank wants you to work for him. Can't type? Then he'll teach you how, free. And if you don't want a desk job (or can't spel gud) they're hiring at the post office, which is ramping up to be one of the largest mail depots on the West Coast.

(RIGHT: The Luther Burbank Press in the old Odd Fellows' building, corner of Third street and Exchange avenue. The south side of the Empire Building can be seen at the far right)

Santa Rosa was transformed in 1912 as hundreds of young people, mostly women, began working in the big building on Third street next to the courthouse. Where elsewhere downtown local women worked in laundries, as sales clerks and telephone operators, all types of business office work was still almost exclusively a man's domain, so it was quite unusual for a company to specifically advertise salaried, clerical jobs were available to "girls." For the company to also run a free typing school was remarkable. For all this to happen in little Santa Rosa, with a township population of about 14,000, was nothing short of revolutionary. The Press Democrat gushed it "opens up a large and entirely new field for the young men and women of Santa Rosa, enabling them to make metropolitan wages for metropolitan work right here at home."

The employer was the Luther Burbank Press, a non-profit enterprise setup by the newly-formed Luther Burbank Society, with the mission of publishing a set of books about Burbank's plant breeding. It had no connection with the Luther Burbank Company, which was also created a few months earlier to sell Burbank seeds and plants commercially.

The Burbank books wouldn't be finished for a couple of years, but the women were needed to prepare a mass mailing of epic proportions, sending out 170,000 letters nationwide. Subsequent mailings would be larger still. "No other concern on the Pacific Coast, and few in America, have mailed so much first class matter as the Luther Burbank Press is mailing," the PD remarked, "[more than] Sears, Roebuck & Co., Montgomery Ward & Co., and other well known mail order houses."

After the operation was underway, the Press Democrat sent a reporter to describe the doings:

In the main hall, designated as the mailing room and general office, some seventy young ladies, most of them products of the school recently conducted by the Burbank Press for instruction in typewriting and later employment of girls in their office here, were busily engaged. A score or more of typewriting machines were merrily clicking away. At other desks young ladies were comparing lists and sorting the name cards, thousands upon thousands of them, each card being alphabetically arranged in cabinets, each desk and cabinet representing one of the States.

Today it might seem odd the PD reporter also noted, "Still another room in this large establishment is the rest room for the young ladies" but keep in mind the fashions and customs of 1912; women still wore faint-inducing bustles, and having a couch available for a short lie-down was no frivolous luxury. And as the Burbank Press employment ads for "girls" seemed to favor teenagers living at home, it probably assured upright parents their delicate little Gladys wouldn't be competing with strange men for the water closet.

With an avalanche of mail going out and Burbank Press buying $7,000 worth of stamps at one time – an astonishing amount of postage, considering it cost only 4¢ to send a letter – Santa Rosa's post office was upgraded to "first class" status. What exactly that meant in 1912 is unclear except for them ordering another "electric stamp canceller," but today it would mean an boost in pay grades as well as an expanded staff – the mailroom, shown below in a photograph from an October 6, 1912 Press Democrat article – looks downright crowded. Having first-class post office status lent no weight to the size or importance of the town, despite the Press Democrat declaring this "a matter of much significance;" we were still small potatoes compared to places such as Westerville, Ohio (pop. 2,000) which sent over forty tons of mail a month, thanks to it being headquarters of the Anti-Saloon League of America.

The contents of the Burbank book series will be discussed in other articles, starting with a look at the exceptional color photography.


The Luther Burbank Society articles of incorporation were filed with County Clerk William W. Felt, Jr., on Saturday. The corporation is not formed for profit and there is no capital stock of the concern.

The objects are set forth in the articles "to assist in perpetuating the record of forty years' experience of Luther Burbank and the furthering of the widespread distribution of Burbank's writings."

Luther Burbank's old homestead is the principal place of business. It has John P. Overton, James R. Edwards and Robert John for directors.

- Santa Rosa Republican, May 18, 1912


After several ineffectual attempts to commercialize the lifework of Luther Burbank, the world-famous horticulturalist, and corner the profits for a privileged class, a Luther Burbank Society has been organized, charted by the State of California, and with a definite purpose of seeing that the work of the great scientist be given to posterity without favor or entail.

The society has no capital stock, no power to incur debts or to earn profits. Its purpose is solely to assist Luther Burbank in the widespread dissemination of his teachings, so that the greatest number may profit in the greatest degree. It has an extensive membership with names of nation-wide fame on the roll. Burbank is the honorary president, and the name of Mrs. Phoebe Hearst immediately follows the list, so far as it is prepared, concluding with Nicholas M. Butler of Columbia University. The membership is limited to 500, and by means of the moderate membership fee the society will make possible the mechanical production of books of a quality which will do honor to the author and the matter which they contain. The aim is to place the wizard's knowledge in convenient book form at nominal cost before every farmer, gardener or horticulturist in the world. The home of the organization is located at Burbank's grounds at Santa Rosa, and its activities will have his personal guidance and cooperation. A partial list of the membership follows.


- Press Democrat, December 3, 1912


Few people realize the immensity of the work being done by the Luther Burbank Press of this city at the present time. Robert John and John Whitson, managers of the editorial and business departments respectively, are making preparations now for printing the first volume of "Burbank and His Work." So large has grown the business of this company that it was necessary for them to secure the old Odd Fellows' building on Third street and turn it into a school and business department.

In conservation on Friday Mr. Johns stated that one of the most liberal offers ever given to young ladies to secure permanent work and a schooling in typewriting is being allowed by the Burbank Press to secure aid in promoting the work they have in hand. A school with expert teachers has been established in the Odd Fellows building, where the young ladies are given a course in typewriting and when competent are given permanent positions.

The object of this school is to enable the publishers to combine the managing departments in Santa Rosa. If sufficient aid can be secured a large building will be erected here and the school and business department conducted there.

The immensity of the book that is to be published is shown when it is known that it will take between two and three hundred tons of paper to print the works. There are to be 12 volumes with about 400 pages in each volume, and about 20,000 copies of each volume. The first books are expected to reach the local department within the next ninety days.

The wonderful discovery made recently by members of this company in photographing the true colors of plants, has enabled them to print one of the most wonderful volumes ever seen. By the new process of photographing a great deal of expense is saved and a much better color developed than by the former method of painting.

Employment can be secured by 300 girls and young men from the Burbank Press. At the present time they are preparing copy for the publishers and when the books begin to arrive the mailing and correspondence will furnish considerable work.

The school in Odd Fellows' building started Friday morning with a number of pupils present.

In reply to a speech made recently before the Ad Men's Convention in San Francisco by Mr. Johns, one of the men stated that there were not enough presses in San Francisco to print the books being published by the Burbank Press in the short space of time necessary. Consequently the management has had to send their printing to the east, and there divide it among the largest companies.

- Santa Rosa Republican, August 2, 1912


THE PRESS DEMOCRAT has published the story of the mailing from the Santa Rosa postoffice last week by the Burbank Press of 170,000 letters, each bearing four cents postage, and comment has already been made on the amount of labor entailed, both in the mailing department of the concern sending out the vast number of letters and on the clerks of the postoffice.

There are some other important incidents in connection with the enormous amount of mail matter being sent out from a city the size of Santa Rosa within a week. For instance, there was the purchase of $7,000 worth of postage stamps at one time, a notable increase in business, jumping the Santa Rosa postoffice from a second class to a first class postoffice. This in itself is a matter of much significance.

Then it must be taken into consideration that each of the 170,000 letters bore the Santa Rosa postmark and that the letter inside has a Santa Rosa date line and also signalized the city as being the home of Luther Burbank, the distinguished scientist whose fruit and flower wonders have attracted the attention of the civilized world. A big stroke of publicity for Santa Rosa when it is again considered that the letters will be read in 6,200 cities and towns of importance in different parts of the United States. Just think of that! A boost for Santa Rosa in 6,2000 places at the same time!

There is still greater promotion to come. In November the Burbank Press will mail 450,000 more letters to all parts of the United States, and thousands upon thousands more letters will follow in the early months of the next year. The biggest mailing house on the Pacific Coast, located in Oregon, only sends out 300,000 letters per year and held the record until the Burbank Press started something that will easily wrest the honors away and land here in the City of Roses.

Naturally the inquiry has been made, "Why are all these thousands of letters being sent out?" As is well known, the Burbank Press, a concern in which a number of the great men of the country are interested, will shortly issue the first set consisting of twelve volumes of the only complete work ever published of Luther Burbank and his achievements. In fact, nothing like it has ever been dreamed of. The publication will attract the admiration of the whole world. The advance sheets indicate this. And so these letters are being sent out to the leading men and women of this land apprising them of the wondrous nature of this great work on Burbank and his creations. In passing it might be mentioned that the volumes are profusely illustrated with colored pictures of the Burbank productions, photographed in garden and orchard by the wonderful process discovered by the wonderful process discovered by Robert John, which reproduces on the negative the exact color tints of the flower or fruit photographed. Some time since The Press Democrat mentioned the wonderful addition to photographic art made by Mr. John.

At the invitation of Messrs. John and Whitson, a Press Democrat representative visited the company's offices in the old Odd Fellows' building at Third street and Exchange avenue on Friday afternoon just to gain an insight into the immensity of the business the Burbank Press is engaged in while exploiting the great Burbank book.

In the main hall, designated as the mailing room and general office, some seventy young ladies, most of them products of the school recently conducted by the Burbank Press for instruction in typewriting and later employment of girls in their office here, were busily engaged. A score or more of typewriting machines were merrily clicking away. At other desks young ladies were comparing lists and sorting the name cards, thousands upon thousands of them, each card being alphabetically arranged in cabinets, each desk and cabinet representing one of the States.

It was truly a busy scene in the big building the Burbank Press leased some time ago as its general office here. From the main room just mentioned the newspaperman was shown into another room containing folios of names and addresses--over a million and a half of names. As replies are received to communications they are noted on these lists together with any corrections that may be necessary. The system adopted is one of the most complete and at the same time most modern, another indication of the immensity of the publicity work the Burbank Press will do.

Off the main office room--the former lodge room of the Odd Fellows--is the other large room which was used as a school room when the girls were being given their instruction in typing. At present desks, seats and typewriting machines occupy the school room, but it is the intention of the management to start up the school again when more copyists are needed. Still another room in this large establishment is the rest room for the young ladies.

Everything is kept in apple-pie order in the offices and mailing room. More equipment has been ordered and will be installed in the main room. One of the pictures that are herewith produced, was taken in the mailing room at the time when the 170,000 letters were being prepared for the trip to the postoffice. The other shows the mail clerks at work handling the immense quantity of letters in the Santa Rosa postoffice.

But in addition to the thousands of letters in the special lot, hundreds of others touching various phases of the work are being forwarded. Then, a sheet of editorial and new suggestions has been prepared and this is being sent out to the newspapers of the land so that still wider publicity will be given Santa Rosa, the Burbank Press and, of course, the books. The gentlemen in charge of the Burbank Press certainly know how to provide publicity that should crown their efforts with success. They are sparing no pains or expense in the system they have adopted to bring to the attention of the world something of which they and the publishers they represent can be justly proud. They have also developed the right spirit of patriotism to city and home talent in that they are employing in the offices mailing and other departments as far as possible. They are also buying their postage stamps at the Santa Rosa postoffice and mean to continue to do so. Already the office has had to send a requisition on ahead for another electric stamp canceller.

In addition to the big offices of the Burbank Press occupying the old Odd Fellows' hall, Messrs. John and Whitson have their private offices in the old Luther Burbank residence across from the new home the scientist built on Santa Rosa avenue. An inspection was permitted Friday afternoon of the camera and lens that takes the colors true to life already referred to. A delightful half hour was spent in looking through some of the piles of negatives already secured. A large cabinet with its many drawers is practically filled with the negatives. Some three thousand pictures have been taken. The work is perfect. The prints of the negatives are a revelation. The first volume of the Burbank books, which will be ready to issue from the eastern publishing house about the first week in November, contains 113 of these colored pictures. The popularity of the book is assured and it will be a faithful record of the life work of the greatest man of his time in the realm of horticulture, and in consequence a most valuable addition to the libraries of the world.

- Press Democrat, October 6, 1912

It's said "there are no second acts in American lives" but Luther Burbank had several of them. In 1912 alone, he had two.

(RIGHT: "Burbank Poppies" illustration from The Burbank Seed Book, 1913)

Burbank was a man driven by a single simple goal: He wanted to spend all his time crossbreeding plants in hopes of discovering something that was prettier, tastier, hardier – or might be as significant as his discovery of the russet potato. To do that he needed financial security as well as freedom to concentrate on his work, although for most of his career he had neither. He hated running a wholesale seed business, which was no guarantee of a steady income even though the public revered him as the "plant wizard." He came to loathe his adoring fans who continually pestered and distracted him in Santa Rosa, wanting to shake hands and boast about their lovely zinnias back home. Oh, if he could just unload the business side on someone else, and/or have some nice people award him a wad of money.

His rescue appeared at hand in 1905 when he was granted a $10,000 annuity from the Carnegie Institution. That deal was cancelled five years later amid bitter mutual recriminations; the Institution had been long dismayed he was working on the side with others on a project to write an encyclopedic series of books describing his "secrets." The last straw was apparently his short-lived agreement to set up a distribution business with the scabrous Law brothers, who made their fortune peddling dangerous quack medicines. (All of this history is discussed at depth in the four-part "Burbank Follies" series.)

While Burbank received the occasional financial boost – the Carnegie grant, a substantial payment for an exclusive-rights deal from some distributor – he had no open doors leading to a sunny and secure future; rather, he was a 60-something man stuck on a treadmill. Then came the heyday of 1912.

The Luther Burbank Society was created to finally complete and publish the book series, a significant event that will be covered in the following article. But more importantly, that year the Luther Burbank Company was formed to completely take over his sales business. Burbank was elated. "For fifteen years at least I have been endeavoring to make some such arrangements," he told the Press Democrat. "Henceforth I shall only engage myself in the creation of more novelties in fruits, flowers and plants."

Burbank was paid $30,000 (the equivalent to about $4 million today) to be followed by an annual payment of $15,000. When the new company set up offices and incorporated later that year, the PD described what a happy development this was for Burbank:

"I have no time to make money," he said. "I've more important work to do." Happily the long-desired independence is now achieved. All the desks and typewriters were taken from Burbank's home yesterday, together with his correspondence files and his account books. No longer will he need the services of secretary and bookkeeper. He can give all his working hours to the labor of his life, and undoubtedly the result will be a new pace of achievement, a greater number of wonders to astonish the world. Henceforth Luther Burbank will have nothing to sell to anybody. The chartered corporation will take possession of his new plant creations as fast as they are produced, and will market them with a facility that Burbank, always busy with other things, could not hope to attain.

The principals in the new company were W. Garner Smith, a San Francisco stock broker, and Rollo Hough, a banker and attorney from Oakland. Luther Burbank was not on the board of directors – it was mostly Oakland capitalists and city boosters, including an officer from the Oakland Bank of Savings where Hough had previously worked. The only members representing Burbank's interest were his personal San Francisco lawyer and James Edwards, Santa Rosa's mayor 1910-1912 (and, BTW, Hilliard Comstock's tennis partner). Hough was named General Manager of the company and Smith was secretary/treasurer. Burbank reserved the right to select the president and picked Edwards.

It may seem a bit odd for the board to lean so far away from Burbank's Santa Rosa and towards Oakland, but the company was really based in the East Bay. An Oakland warehouse was the shipping point, mainly sending out orders for Burbank's varieties of spineless cactus, which were being grown near Livermore. The company also purchased 7.5 acres in the "Broadmoor" tract on the southern edge of Oakland (it's due west of the intersection of MacArthur Blvd. and Hwy 580). Besides replacing Burbank's seed propagation operations in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol, its Bay Area location was hoped to lure Burbank fans away from trekking to Santa Rosa. "A point which will be visited not only by thousands of Californians, but by 90 per cent of the tourists who come to this State," Hough told the Hayward Review, boasting that 5,000 varieties of plants would soon be grown on the farm. Local realtors were quick to hop on the bandwagon, running ads that building lots were still available close to "Luther Burbank's Exhibition Garden."

Peeking a few years forward from 1912, we find the company brought Burbank even greater fame. The next year large ads such as the one seen to right appeared in newspapers nationwide; there was even a color Sunday supplement section produced. They took over the huge Army & Navy store on Market street in San Francisco and renamed it the Burbank Building to showcase his plants. Luther became somewhat an ambassador as well as a company figurehead, traveling to promote the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

It's no spoiler to reveal that the company collapsed late in 1915 after it was discovered warehouse workers were shaving spines off regular cactus to sell them as spineless, a fraud that was revealed soon after they were planted. President Edwards and General Manager Hough – both former bankers with no prior experience managing a company of any sort – resigned. Burbank was disgraced in the eyes of many, as each product came stamped with his personal guarantee of quality and authenticity. The company was liquidated soon after Luther Burbank sued the Luther Burbank Company for "recovery of his contract money and his name." The misadventure ended up being the worst "Act I" period of his entire life.

Luther Burbank Will Now Devote His Entire Time to Scientific Work Having Disposed of His Business
Big Capitalists Are Interested and Sale Involves Past, Present and Future Creations, and is a Unique Transaction in Many Particulars

A deal of great importance, unique in its character and world-wide in its interest, was consummated in Santa Rosa on Thursday, when Luther Burbank disposed of the commercial end of his great business and will hereafter only devote his attention to the creation of novelties in fruits, flowers and plants, without having to bother about the selling and marketing of the productions.

Negotiations that have been pending for some time were ended on Thursday and papers were signed where the commercial side of the Burbank activities in giving to the work so many things in the realm of horticulture passed to Rollo Hough, banker and attorney of Oakland and W. Garner Smith of San Francisco, recently of Kentucky. These men are backed by some of California's wealthiest men.

The sale not only includes Burbank's past creations, but the present and future ones, for as fast as he produces the novelties will become the property of the men interested in Thursday's transaction. In two or three years the Burbank experimental farm near Sebastopol will also pass into their ownership, it being held in the meantime by Burbank. The home place in Santa Rosa is not included in the deal. The transaction is one of the biggest of its kind ever consummated.

When seen by a Press Democrat representative at his home Thursday, Mr. Burbank confirmed the news of the sale of his business and he expressed himself as being glad to have it transferred to other hands.

"For fifteen years at least I have been endeavoring to make some such arrangements as was consummated today. I have sold all my creations, past, present and future, and henceforth I shall only engage myself in the creation of more novelties in fruits, flowers and plants. It is a big relief as it has been altogether too much of a burden to handle both sides of the business. The papers were signed today.

"I have enough novelties on hand now to keep Messrs. Hough and Smith busy for twenty years," said Mr. Burbank. He added with a smile, "And plenty more up my sleeve."

Mr. Burbank did not state the amount of money involved in the sale he had made, but of course, it necessarily involves a very large sum. It is understood that from time to time payments will be paid. But the sale of the novelties is absolute at this time. Mr. Burbank reiterated that he was very glad to be rid of business cares.

- Press Democrat, April 5, 1912

Plant Breeder Sells His Creations to a Corporation
Concern is Adequately Financed, and Will Establish Great Nursery and Seed Farm
Enterprise With Headquarters Here

The formal transfer of the commercial side of Luther Burbank's business to the new corporation which is henceforth to handle the Burbank seed and plant creations exclusively, was made on Thursday, Rollo J. Hough and W. Garner Smith representing the purchasers. Mr. Hough, who is actively connected with the new corporation, said to a Press Democrat representative yesterday: "The final steps have been made in taking over the commercial end of Luther Burbank's business. In fulfillment of the conditions of the sale effected last April, Mr.Burbank turned over his business Thursday, and from now on will devote his whole energies to his creative work.

"It is our purpose to push the seed and nursery end aggressively, for we are confident that it is possible to build up a business that will rank with the largest of its kind in the United States. Mr. Burbank has already demonstrated this possibility by establishing a very thriving and profitable business.

" It is likely that Santa Rosa will be made the distributing center, and that seed farms and nurseries will be established in this vicinity, but with the exception of the establishment of the Broadmoor Seed Farm near Oakland, no definite action has been taken in this regard. The business of the company thus far has been conducted from our San Francisco offices.

"The corporation has ample resources to accomplish its purposes, up to $300,000, and is composed of a number of prominent bankers and business men of San Francisco, Oakland and Santa Rosa, a certain portion of stock in the corporation having been allotted to those friends of Mr. Burbank in Santa Rosa, who desired to be identified with the new company."

Mr. Burbank has frequently deplored the necessity that compelled him to neglect his scientific work for the less congenial task of marketing his creations in order to keep his income up to his needs. "I have no time to make money," he said. "I've more important work to do." Happily the long-desired independence is now achieved. All the desks and typewriters were taken from Burbank's home yesterday, together with his correspondence files and his account books. No longer will he need the services of secretary and bookkeeper. He can give all his working hours to the labor of his life, and undoubtedly the result will be a new pace of achievement, a greater number of wonders to astonish the world. Henceforth Luther Burbank will have nothing to sell to anybody. The chartered corporation will take possession of his new plant creations as fast as they are produced, and will market them with a facility that Burbank, always busy with other things, could not hope to attain. The new men in charge will be specialists in business, just as Burbank is a specialist in his line. They will do their part of the work better than ne ever could, and he will do his part still better for having their part taken off his hands.

- Press Democrat, November 2, 1912


A meeting of the Board of directors of The Luther Burbank Company, sole distributors of the Burbank horticultural productions, was held on Monday and much important business was transacted. Mention of the transfer of the commercial end of Mr. Burbank's great business to The Luther Burbank Company was made some time since. The stock was sold under the name of the Universal Seed Distribution Company, and the latter company is now merged into The Luther Burbank Company.

The directors organized on Monday by electing James R. Edwards, the well known former Mayor of Santa Rosa, and assistant cashier of the Savings Bank of Santa Rosa, president; Rollo J. Hough, vice president and general manager; W. Garner Smith, secretary and treasurer; and Leo V. Belden, assistant secretary and assistant treasurer.

The board of directors are all prominent men of affairs in Northern California, men who hold a front rank in the state's commercial life. The directors are:


The head offices of The Luther Burbank Company will be in San Francisco, with offices also in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa will be the distributing point and mail order department. The company has leased the entire upper portion of the Hahmann building, adjoining the Santa Rosa bank building on Exchange avenue, and for the past month employees of the company have been busily engaged, answering hundreds of inquiries concerning seeds and plants. The company will undoubtedly handle an immense business.

The deal by which The Luther Burbank Company became the sole owners and distributors of Luther Burbank's horticultural productions was one of the most gigantic and at the same time the most unique the world has known. The company came into possession of Mr. Burbank's creations, past, present and future.

The company has, as intimated, already taken up the active work for which it was organized, and has already filled many orders from different parts of the country and world. It has only just commenced the volume of distribution of Burbank seeds and products that will be carried out when its connections are fully established.

The meeting of the directors was held in San Francisco and the full directorate was present. Mr. Edwards returned to this city after the meeting.

- Press Democrat, December 3, 1912

Aside from earthquakes and airplanes and other headline moments in local history, a goodly chunk of this journal is devoted to the odd little stories that peppered the back pages of the Santa Rosa newspapers more than a hundred years ago. Most irresistible are the ones ending with a twist or some mystery.

For example, it wasn't particularly interesting that Mrs. Patterson ("a prominent resident of Rincon Valley") accidentally took a dose of mild poison instead of a laxative, but it made you wonder why anyone would have them in presumably identical, unmarked bottles in a medicine cabinet. It was nice to read there was a benefit to raise funds for one-legged Harold Casey to buy a prosthetic limb; what we really hoped to learn, however, was how he performed his job as the town's messenger boy using just a crutch. And enquiring minds want to know why a couple in Cotati tied someone up with wire after he began acting crazy, yet didn't take him to the police until the next day (they originally restrained him with rope, but he "gnawed the rope in two as a rat would have done," according to the paper).

These peculiar items are fun to read (and write!) but also serve to illustrate how profoundly times have changed in just a century. The batch of crime-related stories from 1912 transcribed below each provides a different glimpse of that different world, starting with a crime wavelet in Santa Rosa where robbers were stealing stuff from cars while the drivers where attending Sunday evening church services. The thefts – which had been "going on for some time" according to the Press Democrat – involved overcoats, lap blankets, and probably umbrellas and other items one might have in a car during winter.

First, it's interesting to learn Sunday night church was such a popular thing that parishioner's cars became a dependable target for crooks (it was about another ten years before door locks became a standard item on cars). If it was happening so often, one wonders why the churches didn't appoint a deacon or someone to hang around the vestibule and keep an eye on the doings outside. But the broader question is why people would be stealing used coats and blankets, which were not exactly high value items; perhaps the thefts were another artifact of Santa Rosa's perpetually invisible homeless population which was then, as now, centered around the Wilson street soup kitchens operated by religious groups.

Also in 1912 the sheriff and deputies were dispatched to Kenwood where they looked for a man who had "offended women and children in that city by vulgar actions," which presumably meant indecent exposure. That was certainly unusual (the last case mentioned in the papers was in 1906) but more remarkable here is police were shooting as they chased him.

Guns were also involved in the Dinucci fracas. According to the Santa Rosa Republican – which misspelled the name as "Denucci" – the trouble began when some brothers in the Healdsburg branch of the family were trying to move an old log on their property. "In the melee that followed, one of the brothers was cut in the eye, but he is unable to account for the exact manner in which he was injured, whether he was cut with an axe, struck with a club or fell down and collided with some object." Irregardless of whether the eye injury was caused by chopping, clubbing or stumbling, one of the brothers next picked up the shotgun which the Dinucci boys apparently carried around whenever they were out and about lifting logs. He fired the gun at one of the others, missed, and ran for the hills. The sheriff came up from Santa Rosa and looked around for the shooter but he was not found, so everyone left and presumed he would show up at home, eventually. What a different outcome from trigger-happy Deputy Barney blasting away at the Kenwood flasher.

There were serious crimes in 1912 not discussed here, the most sensational being 15 year-old Adam Clark poisoning his parents. (The Windsor boy, who reportedly was abused and mentally handicapped, said he planned the murders because his mother was always nagging and "giving him the dickens.") That story made the Bay Area newspapers, as did the supposed "sale" of Mrs. Seek.

Mrs. Lottie Seek and her husband were driving home to Santa Clara when they were stopped by two men. She recognized one of them immediately – it was her ex-husband, Francis Pettis.*

Heated words followed. Lottie said they were divorced two years earlier. Pettis, a horse trader who lived in Petaluma, insisted they were still married. Claiming his companion was a cop, Pettis demanded she be arrested for bigamy. After rejecting her pleadings and a further threat to have her husband, Louis, arrested for adultery as well, Pettis agreed to drop the matter if they would give him ten dollars (about an average week's pay at the time).

All was well for the next three weeks. Then one evening, Louis could not find his wife. Lottie turned up the next morning and said "Pettis had compelled her to go to his apartments," the San Francisco Call reported. Soon after, Pettis is at their doorstep; this time he wants another fifty bucks. Louis Seek went to the police. "He had not purchased her on the installment plan," The Call wryly remarked. An arrest warrant for Pettis was ordered on cause of extortion.

Once before a judge, however, matters looked murkier. She was not divorced from Pettis after all; while living in Santa Rosa she had paid a Petaluma lawyer $20 for divorce papers, but did not understand – or was not told – a divorce required court hearings. Now facing possible arrest for bigamy, Lottie said she would go back to Pettis.

On hearing that, Louis Seek demanded she be arrested for bigamy.

While Lottie sat in jail, Louis took inventory. "He treated her like a brute," he told the Call. "I treated her all right. Look at that suit on her. I paid $40 for that. Look at those shoes and that hat. All of them expensive."

After she spent a weekend behind bars, however, Louis had second thoughts and refused to press charges. They went home together – only to find a subpoena from Sonoma County waiting. It seemed Pettis (still sought for extortion, remember) wanted her as a witness in a suit against a guy named Moretti, whom he claimed was responsible for breaking up his otherwise swell marriage. Alas, the newspapers never reported how the three (four?) cases were resolved, which usually meant charges were dropped.

And finally, someone wrote to the county asking for details about an assault that happened about forty years earlier. In the early 1870s a man was acquitted for stabbing someone in a bar fight; the writer helpfully adds this was the same brawl where the city marshall was shot. Yikes! I take back my scoffing about Santa Rosa ever having the character of a real "wild west" town. It certainly makes the odd little crimes of 1912 look positively modern.

*  My best guess is Francis E. Pettis, born 1868 in Michigan, was her husband. The man was called both H. E. Pettis and F. E. Pettis by Bay Area newspapers, and although Francis was never identified elsewhere as a horse trader, he spent most of his life around San Jose, the scene of this story. Francis left a meager personal record; as an adult he appears in the census only twice – as a clerk in a poolroom in 1910 and an inmate of the Santa Clara County Almshouse in 1930, both of which seem like situations which could involve our guy.

Articles Removed From Automobiles and Other Vehicles Standing Outside Churches

Considerable petty thieving has been going on for some time from automobiles and other vehicles standing outside Santa Rosa churches on Sunday nights. Overcoats, rugs and other articles have been removed. So far the guilty parties have gone undetected but efforts are being made to apprehend them.

One clergyman has asked his parishioners, when they drive up to his church, to carry their coats and rugs into a room in the church for safety. Such thefts are mean and contemptible, to say the least.

- Press Democrat, December 29, 1912

Charged With Selling Wife for Ten Dollars

F. E. Pettis of Petaluma has been arrested at San Jose on the charge of extortion, a warrant having been issued for his incarceration after Judge T. R. Dougherty has listened to one of the most remarkable stories ever told in the local police court.

In effect the charge is that Pettis sold his wife, Lottie Pettis, to Louis Seek of Santa Clara for $10. The price was satisfactory to all concerned, but there was a row when Pettis, having put the money into circulation, demanded more and threatened a disturbance when his demand was refused.

Three weeks ago Seek and the woman were driving on the Monterey road. They met Pettis and a scene ensued, during which the $10 changed hands. Mrs. Pettis told Judge Dougherty that she had believed herself divorced from Pettis, having given $20 to a Petaluma attorney, whose name the police are witholding, for divorce papers. The attorney told her that the payment of his fee was all that was necessary to get a divorce, and she believed him. She came here and went though a proper marriage ceremony with Seek.

That was eight months ago. Three weeks ago, when they met on the public road, Pettis threatened Mrs. Pettis with arrest for bigamy and said he would charge Seek with a statutory offense. Seek considered it a good bargain when they told him they would sell their charges for $10, and paid over the money. He objected, however, when Pettis wanted further installments, and threatened to shoot Pettis. The latter then became so annoying that they came to the police.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 4, 1912

Italian Brothers Have Trouble Over Lifting Log

The brothers Denucci, who reside some miles west of Healdsburg in the Dry Creek section, got into an altercation on Sunday and Sheriff Jack Smith and some of his deputies were called to the scene from this city.

Trouble began over the simple matter of lifting an ancient log, which was on their place. In the melee that followed, one of the brothers was cut in the eye, but he is unable to account for the exact manner in which he was injured, whether he was cut with an axe, struck with a club or fell down and collided with some object.

Finally one of the brothers secured an old shotgun and discharged it at his kinsman, then he skipped out for the hills and has not been seen since.

Deputy Sheriff Ben Barnes went out to the scene of the trouble from Healdsburg immediately after being notified of the shooting, but he could find no trace of the man who wielded the shotgun. Later he notified Sheriff Jack Smith, and the latter took Deputy Sheriff Donald McIntosh and C. A. Reynolds in his auto and hastened to the scene. Barnes joined the party at Healdsburg and went with them to the place where the shooting occurred.

The officers remained in the vicinity until after dark, searching for the man who did the shooting, but were unable to locate him. It is believed he will return to his home Monday and be picked up by the officers.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 11, 1912

 County Official Receives a Peculiar Request

 A prominent county official received a letter on Monday, asking for information which has not been located in the records of the county. It is possible that some of the pioneers of this section may know of the occurrence mentioned, and be able to supply the information desired. The letter follows:

 "I would like to find out the time W. L. Rude was put in jail for stabbing Eph. Baldwin, and the date of his acquittal. This occurred some time in the early 70's. E. Latipee was sheriff and Willis Mead was the city marshal at the time. This occurred in a fight in Adkins' saloon. Jim March shot the city marshall, Willis Mead. Please let me know, if you can find out the dates, and oblige.

 "P. S.--George Tupper, who used to run the Occidental Hotel, can tell you about it. So can Clem Kessing or Trib Fulkerson of your city."

- Santa Rosa Republican, May 28, 1912


 Sunday the members of the Sheriff's office were busy, running down a man named Bauducka of Kenwood, who earlier in the day had offended women and children in that city by vulgar actions. He gave the officers a good chase before captured [sic]. Three shots were fired at him before he was arrested.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 9, 1912

How So-Called Honor Among Thieves is Shown

The old saying is that it is no crime to steal from a thief, but how far this will hold in law is a problem, says the Ukiah Press. Sheriff Byrnes of Mendocino county has uncovered a case that would stagger the old soothsayer. It is in connection with the recent robbery of Shimonisky's clothing store at Willits, for which Jack Kelly was arrested in Santa Rosa last week.

It develops that the robbery was committed by two men, Smith and Wilson, who cached the plunder. Smith, who was a friend of Kelly's, went to him and told of the robbery and then suggested that they changed the plan and beat Wilson out of his portion. This was done and the plunder moved. Kelly then got to thinking over the matter and decided that it would be no more than right to rob Smith, so he accordingly swiped the goods from his friend and got away with it.

 Wilson certainly deserves no sympathy for being robbed, as he was a thief. Smith should have been robbed for being a thief and also for putting up the job to rob his partner. As a retribution for Kelly's part in the crime he was the first arrested and caught with the goods. Smith was arrested in Fairfield Monday and Wilson is located and will probably be captured soon.

 The men were all clever thieves, but they figured without a knowledge of Sheriff Byrnes being the cleverest crook catcher in the county.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 21, 1912

"Black Friday" sales after Thanksgiving are not just about the bargains; we've come to expect videos of crowds waiting for hours outside the store, then rushing through the doors in a frenzy. This provides an opportunity for the rest of us to cluck our tongues and moralize. "Oh, look at those uncivilized people pushing and shoving," we sigh, "people didn't use to act like that!" Don't bet on it – great-grandma was willing to trample you to get her hands on a discount teapot.

(RIGHT: F. W. Woolworth ad in the Press Democrat, 1912. CLICK or TAP to enlarge)

One of the big events in 1912 Santa Rosa was the opening of the Woolworth 5-10-15¢ store. There were already several homegrown department stores downtown, as well as places where you could buy small hardware items, candy, and whatnot. That Woolworth's wasn't locally owned was part of its appeal; it was novel in being the first nationwide chain to set up shop in town. And also nice: Really, really cheap stuff.

The store offered a preview (with live orchestra!) the day before opening, along with a big advertisement announcing the hourly specials. The next morning, a crowd started gathering 90 minutes before the store opened. "When the doors were finally unlocked and the jam was so great that one woman narrowly escaped having her arm broken when she fell before the on rush," reported the Press Democrat.

"The store filled until those inside could not move about," the PD added, "while the pressure from without continued." Surely we can all imagine a store with women packed shoulder to shoulder – but remember this was also 1912, when women's hats were enormous. There must have been many millinery collisions, and from above it must have looked like a single undulating blanket of ribbons and bows and fake blooming flowers.

Pity, too, the employees trying to serve such a mob. "The women clerks could not wait on the crowd fast enough to satisfy all," the paper reported, suggesting some customers had ruffled feathers (see again: weird hats) and were snarling at the poor saleswomen. In that era before paper bags, clerks were expected to wrap up the items, but they were too harried to even offer that service. "Many took their articles to nearby stores and secured papers with which to wrap them up. Others carried their purchases home without any wrapping." What a sight the town must have been that day, with a stream of women, hats askew, trickling away from downtown with their alarm clocks, cake plates and Turkish towels tucked under their arms.

Santa Rosa old timers are probably now waxing nostalgic about the jaw-breakers and comic books they bought at Woolworth's, just slightly east from Mendocino avenue on Fourth street in the Rosenberg building. But in 1912 the store was elsewhere, directly west of Exchange Bank. And that place is still there – or at least, most of it.

Compare the two photos below. The one taken in 1918 shows five corbels at the top and four fenestrations. The modern building has four corbels and three windows. At some point the building was made slimmer by about fifteen feet. But which side – and why?

The first clue is that the old Woolworth address, 541 Fourth street, no longer exists. The westmost storefront is number 535, which was the late, lamented Caffe Portofino. Offices upstairs are 537 and the beauty shop next to the bank is number 539, which suggests the east side was shaved. Next, the fire maps show the building was built around 1910 and made with reinforced concrete and steel beams. The eastern wall is now brick, which is more evidence that it's not original. (As an aside, the masonry work looks pretty funky and the inside wall is heavily reinforced with wood trusses.)

So why was the right side of the building chopped off? The answer would certainly be found in a thorough title search, which Gentle Reader is welcome to pursue – far be it for me to deny G. R. a few hours of microfilm fun down at the recorder's office. Most likely Exchange Bank discovered those few feet of the building were over the property line. Why the owner at the time chose to slice off a section of the building – no mean trick without causing serious damage to the rest of the structure – instead of demolishing the whole thing or paying Exchange for a lot line adjustment is anyone's guess.

The Woolworth articles transcribed below shows this was once the "Livernash building," which would mean it was owned by Jessie Livernash, the sister of J. P. and T. T. Overton, two of the wealthiest men in Santa Rosa and landlords for a large chunk of downtown. Jessie died in 1913, and the obituaries reveal she also owned the property directly to the north of the bank; the "Livernash block" mentioned in her obit was apparently that whole end of the block, with a carveout on the corner for Exchange Bank. All of these details would be a yawner if not for the fact she was the ex-wife of Edward J. Livernash, who just may have been the most outrageous character ever associated with Santa Rosa (and that really says something). His tale will appear here in a few weeks.

Bonus item: Below is also a small notice about work starting on the Doyle Building on the corner of Fourth and D streets. This lovely Beaux Arts office and retail building was at the location of the old Athenaeum theater, destroyed in the 1906 quake. It is amazing that this lot remained vacant for over five years, given all the construction downtown at the time.

Historic photos courtesy the Larry Lapeere Collection

Woolworth Place of Business Ready for Inspection

The store established in this city by the F. W. Woolworth Company, in the Livernash building on Fourth street, near Mendocino, will be open for inspection by the public on Friday afternoon from 2:30 until 5:30 o'clock. On Saturday morning the establishment will be opened for business at 9 o'clock and thereafter at 8 o'clock each morning. A glance at the show windows gives the people an idea of what to expect to find on the inside of the mammoth store, but the interior presents even greater surprises.

The establishment of the store in this city demonstrates the remarkable growth of the F. W. Woolworth Company from a small store with a capital of $300, into one of the largest corporations known, having a capitalization of $65,000,000. The company operates 650 stores in the United States and CAnada and each is known officially through a numeral. Santa Rosa is Store No. 614.

It will be the aim of the company to carry in its local store the merchandise which the people of Santa Rosa want...

...With such painstaking efforts to please it is hoped the people of Santa Rosa will appreciate the efforts to serve them well. The mammoth store occupies the lower and upper floors of the Livernash building, giving one of the largest floor spaces devoted to a single business in the City of Santa Rosa. From the appearance of the store it looks as if everything under the sun is carried and nothing in the stock will be over 15 cents in price.

W. E. Ward is the local manager of the business, and he is an experienced man in that capacity, and one who always strives to please. He has until recently been assistant manager of the store at San Diego, and is delighted to have been permitted to make his home in Santa Rosa.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, August 21, 1912


The opening of the new 5, 10 and 15 cent store under the management of the F. W. Woolworth Co., Saturday morning proved quite exciting. The crowd was immense.

Women commenced congregating as early as 7:30 and 9 o'clock when the store opened the sidewalk was blocked and the crowd extended far out into the street. When the doors were finally unlocked and the jam was so great that one woman narrowly escaped having her arm broken when she fell before the on rush.

The store filled until those inside could not move about, while the pressure from without continued. Many wanted special articles which they could not reach. The women clerks could not wait on the crowd fast enough to satisfy all.

Many took their articles to nearby stores and secured papers with which to wrap them up. Others carried their purchases home without any wrapping. All day long the crowds filled the store and at night the counters and shelves showed the result of the day's business. The firm has a large reserve stock, and by Monday the store will be replenished, ready for all who want to take advantage of the bargains to be found on the counters. And there are some real bargains in the way of prices to be had in the various lines offered.

- Press Democrat, August 25, 1912


M. Doyle, who owns the property formerly occupied by the Athenaeum on the corner of Fourth and D streets, is preparing to erect a two story building. It will be a concrete reinforced structure, and the upper floor will be occupied by a hall and offices, while the lower floor will be devoted to stores.

Company E has talked some of making an armory there, but as yet the matter has not been decided.

The contract has been let out for the iron and work will begin immediately on the building. This will be a welcome addition to the city and will complete the corner that has been vacant ever since the fire.

The building will be first class in every respect and Mr. Doyle will give the work his personal attention. Only the best of materials will be used in the construction.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1911

When setting the dial on your time machine, there were few better years to be in Santa Rosa than 1911. Yeah, it wasn't that long ago I said the same thing about 1910, but I was young and ignorant back then, eight months ago.

This was the year Santa Rosa finally was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric signs and several vaudeville and movie theaters. We were even in the movies; the popular Essanay Film Company came to Santa Rosa and shot a few scenes in town, including a chase down Fourth street. There were car ads in nearly every edition of the Press Democrat and autos or motorcycles were everywhere, thanks in great part to the new option of buying on credit.

The big event of 1911 was Fred J. Wiseman's flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. Decades later we found out it was kinda historic, but at the time everyone was cranked up for three days waiting to hear the factory whistles, bells, and "succession of bomb explosions" which would cue them to dash quickly outside in hopes of a glimpse of Wiseman soaring over downtown. He actually crashed outside city limits, of course, but it was still exciting that he almost made it. And then there was the enjoyment of reading the juvenile (but hilarious!) squabbling between the editors of the two papers over which of them liked Fred best.

This was also the year when (male) voters would decide whether women had a right to vote, and two of the most prominent fighters on both sides were in the North Bay. Passage was by no means assured; passions ran high for months as both sides tried to persuade the public it was the right thing to do – or that it would lead to the end of civilization. Before it came down to the nail-biting vote, Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the "anti's."

On the seamier side, Santa Rosa was mesmerized by two big events. The year began with the jury verdict in the Burke trial, where an esteemed local physician and health spa owner was charged with trying to kill his mistress and infant son with dynamite. And in late autumn, there was a terrible scandal that involved poison pen letters and a prominent women's social club acting as vigilantes. Although both local papers tried to downplay the scandal, before it was over there were two suicides that could not be ignored.

As this is the last main entry for 1911, here are some little updates to previous stories and other bits of "string too small to save," followed by a selection of ads that captured the spirit of the times.

* Shortly after the women's right to vote was placed on the ballot, California passed a law that limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. Loopholes exempting women who did the hardest manual labor was one reason it was controversial; it also gave employers an incentive to fire women who worked in stores and offices (read more details here). Once it was enacted Santa Rosa businesses were heard to gripe loudly – apparently many women had been expected to work 55 hours a week or more. Store managers complained it would force them to stagger shifts or have male employees pick up the extra work. Read between the lines of the article below, however, and you'll find they were worried men couldn't be trusted with the cash register or keep from screwing up the inventory.

* The Santa Rosa papers were unabashedly parochial when it came to doings around town, reporting on who grew a big turnip and who had invited friends over for cards, but very rarely did they scrape up news about someone getting new furniture. The only exceptions I recall are for pieces made by master craftsman Frank S. Smith, who created them in his home workshop on Ripley street. He was last mentioned in 1909 when he built a 14-foot dining room table for the owners of Hood Mansion (photo here), and in 1911 he finished a complete living room and reception hall set for pharmacist Hahman and his family. The interesting angle is that the furniture was intended to harmonize with the house – which was built the year before and designed by Brainerd Jones. The home at 718 McDonald Avenue is the fourth Shingle Style design that Jones created in Santa Rosa and is the most conventional. Where the 1902 Paxton House, 1905 Comstock House and 1908 Saturday Afternoon Club were in the Eastern Shingle Style that tried to be both rustic and elegant, the Hahman House is more like an example of the Prairie School – an American Foursquare with Craftsman features. Still, it must have seemed shockingly modern amidst McDonald Avenue's row of dull Victorian mansions.

* Now out of jail and 50 years old, the life of Joe Forgett continued to be a slow-motion train wreck. Back in 1907 he made headlines by leading a breakout at the Sonoma County jail where ten prisoners overpowered the guard. Among the inmates was his wife, behind bars for "vagrancy" - the usual charge for prostitution – and later at trial, Joe said he had to escape because jailor "old Fred" was putting the moves on his wife. His family pled for mercy because he had been an opium addict for fifteen years. Joe's wife left him in 1911 and he petitioned for divorce which was a bit unusual, seeing that the couple was childless and poor (Joe lived until 1940 and was buried in the county's Potter's Field as an indigent). He was also in the papers earlier that year for failing to return a horse and buggy he borrowed in order to talk to someone about a job. "After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called," reported the Santa Rosa Republican.

* The "wild man of Mendocino county" was found dead at the entrance to his cave near Hopland, and predictably the news was reported in Santa Rosa and other papers around the Bay Area. As mentioned here earlier, newspapers loved "wild men" stories and reprinted them even if the poor lunatic was wandering in the woods hundreds of miles away. Often it was followed with an ancillary item about someone hoping the guy might be a long-lost relative; after "Aemldo" Secso - also called Amedo Sesco and earlier, Amelio Regoni - was caught in 1909, a mother contacted Cloverdale police to ask if the man could be her son. And sure enough, while searching for updates to that story in a newspaper database, I found another "wild man of Mendocino county" account from 1949, and this time a woman thought the hermit could be her hubby, who suffered PTSD from his time in a German prisoner of war camp.

* San Francisco doctor Eugene West, who performed a 1909 abortion on a young Santa Rosa woman who later died, was again arrested after 22 year-old Laura Taylor also developed life-threatening complications. As with the earlier case, no charges were apparently filed against him. It was the second abortion that year for the former Santa Rosa resident, who was now cutting cloth in San Francisco. As per usual, the newspapers never mentioned the word "abortion" and called it the "malpractice" or "criminal operation."

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their convention in Santa Rosa, which tripled the town's population for the weekend as residents were asked to register any available rooms in their home to accommodate visitors. This odd front page of the Republican might have been a giveaway to conventioneers. 

Constitutionality of Law to be Tested In Los Angeles

The law making it compulsory not to employ women over eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week, has upset the routine of work in stores and factories in this city to a considerable extent, just as it has all over California. The law went into effect Monday morning. Most of the merchants find little trouble in regulating the work for most of the days of the week, but Saturday is the day that bothers the merchants. How to arrange for keeping open stores on Saturday night, there's the rub. Most of the merchants believe that eight hours a day is long enough for women to work, but find themselves at a loss just how to arrange that Saturday night proposition. This may result in an effort to have the stores close Saturday evening the same as on other evenings. With this idea in view the question will be presented to the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring about some agreement among the merchants in the matter.

The merchant is confronted by another feature that is troublesome. That is, shortening the hours of the cashier. In most cases there is one cashier, who has the complete handling of the cash and in that way she is entirely responsible for her cash balance, but she cannot now be employed over eight hours a day. The proprietor of the place of business that is open from 8 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock will take care of the cash for those hours that the cashier is not present until he has figured out some other way it can be carried out just as safe as at present.

This being open on Saturday night would be all right if any person without experience could go into a store and be a competent clerk. An experienced clerk must get acquainted with his stock to be capable. The employment of inexperienced persons invariably result in stock becoming badly disarranged and in unintentional blunders. For that reason the stores do not like to put on additional help. The question has been raised, "Does the law affect the employment of girls doing housework?"

A. T. Sutherland, of the Santa Rosa Department Store, says he has not arranged for the Saturday evening difficulty. He is complying with the eight hour law by having the women help come to the store at 9 o'clock, the men clerks attending to the customers who come to work earlier than that.

The Pioneer laundry has discontinued paying by the day, and instead pays by the hour. The flat work price has been raised a trifle and the girls come to work at different hours and quit according to the time they begin work.

The Domestic French Laundry states that their help will begin at 8 o'clock and quit at 5 o'clock.

The Santa Rosa French Laundry states that the law does not affect it, as it has always observed the eight hour day.

The Red Front, Max Rosenberg proprietor, has not completed his arrangements for Saturday nights. He is an advocate of the plan favoring the closing of the dry goods department at 6 o'clock Saturday nights. The week is fixed for in this store by having the girls go to work at 8 o'clock one week and quitting at 5 o'clock, and the other half beginning at 9 o'clock and quitting at 6 o'clock. Each week the girls are to change these hours, the girls going to work at 9 o'clock this week being those to go to work next week at 8 o'clock and vice versa.

Carithers & Forsyth have their women help come to work at 9 o'clock. For Saturday night they plan to have their men clerks handle all the trade at present.

F. C. Loomis has made provision for compliance with the law by employing extra help.

The law is to be tested in Los Angeles and it is the belief of many that the law will be declared unconstitutional.

- Santa Rosa Republican, May 23, 1911

Designed and Made by Decorator F. S. Smith

Frank S. Smith has just completed and delivered to Paul T. Hahman one of the handsomest sets of furniture which graces the homes of the City of Roses. Mr. Smith is a decorator, and does special works in furniture and draperies. The set which he has manufactured for Mr. And Mrs. Hahman is artistic and handsome in every way. The entire work was done in Mr. Smith's small workshop on his premises at 1209 Ripley street.

The furniture made by the Santa Rosan was for the reception hall and living room of the handsome Hahman residence. A reception chair, cozy arm chair, table and tabouret were designed and made for the reception hall. The furniture for the living room included a mammoth Davenport, two large rockers, one large easy chair, a window chair, pedestal tabouret and large table with drawer.

Mr. Smith claims for this set of furniture that there has been nothing made where the identical lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines as in the pieces he has turned out for Mr. Hahman. It was designed and made exclusively for the Hahman home, and to harmonize with the other furnishings and draperies of the residence. Mr. Smith manufactures furniture of different designs for each particular home. He has made an elegant dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood.

All of the furniture for Mr. Hahman is upholstered in a silk damask of conventional figure, in two tones of brown. The elegant Davenport is 78 inches long and 30 inches deep. All of the furniture is equipped with sunken leather casters, which prevents scratching the polished floors of the home. It is all made of heavy quarter sawed oak and finished with a handsome piano polish, which makes it have an appearance of elegance seldom found in furniture.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1911


Joe Forgett, the cement contractor of this city, had an absent minded spell on Monday, and forgot to return a horse which he borrowed from Stewart & McDoughall, local plumbers.

The horse and vehicle were loaned Forgett to drive to the home of a prospective customer, and the firm did not know where the man had driven the animal. After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called.

When the animal was not returned at closing time for the plumbing firm, Charles Stewart made a tour of many sections of the city looking for the animal. Many people were notified of the missing property and these were also on the lookout for the horse and wagon.

About 8:30 o'clock Monday evening Jack Sarraihl discovered the missing property out on Charles street. In the mean time Stewart had ridden many miles on a bicycle seeking his property.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, February 21, 1911

Failed to Return; Husband Seeks Divorce

Joseph N. Forget, who has resided here for many years, has petitioned the Superior Court for a decree of divorce. The papers were filed on Monday and in due time the petitioner expects that the decree will be awarded him. The defendant is Jessie Isadore Forget and she is charged with desertion. That Mrs. Forget went away and forgot to return is the burden of the complaint of the husband. Attorney Ross CAmpbell represents Forget.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1911

Death last week ended the career of Aemldo Secso, who was for a number of years known as the "wild man of Mendocino county." The man lived for years on the pilferings he made from logging camps, and although every endeavor was made to capture him, he avoided arrest for several years. Finally he was captured and after being imprisoned he returned to his old haunts, but forgot some of his wildness. He died in Mendocino county.

- Press Democrat, September 24, 1911

The Police of San Francisco Acted Friday

Dr. Eugene West of San Francisco  has been charged with having committed an unlawful operation on Miss Laura Taylor, a Sonoma county girl, by the police of that city.

Miss Taylor has been removed from the Central Emergency hospital to the Lane hospital, where on Friday she was hovering between life and death. It is not believed she can survive, her condition being such as to almost preclude the possibility of her being saved.

William Patterson, an electrician, is being held as an accomplice to the alleged crime. He admits that he knew the girl had an operation performed by Dr. West last March, and says that recently she telephoned him asking for financial assistance for another operation. Patterson denies that he has seen the girl for three months past.

 - Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911

Like robins in spring, the return of the Barlow boys to the Sebastopol work camps announced the arrival of summer.

(RIGHT: Handwritten caption on photo: "A squad goes to a near by farm to pick berries." Photo early 1910s and courtesy Western Sonoma County Historical Society)

In the early Twentieth Century, California juvenile courts sentenced boys who committed minor crimes or deemed incorrigible to spend the rest of their youth at institutions not unlike a modern prison halfway house. One of these places, the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society of San Francisco, struck a deal with the Barlow family of Sebastopol; during summers the boys would camp on the ranch and pick berries and fruit for low pay. Soon other farmers wanted in on the sweet deal for ultra-cheap labor and it wasn't long before the Aid Society and similar institutions were sending up hundred of boys – some as young as seven – to work in West County fields and canneries every year. (For more background, see "SEBASTOPOL'S CHILD LABOR CAMPS.")

The year 1911 wasn't much different than previous years; at least four boys tried to escape and a pair of them made it as far as Sacramento – no easy task, considering their clothes were locked up at night and they probably had little or no money. The Santa Rosa newspapers predictably described the Aid Society children as being on "vacation" during their time here and boasted they were earning "splendid wages," without mentioning they were being paid a fraction of the rate formerly earned by the adult farmworkers they were displacing.

Some new details did emerge however; we learn the Barlow boys were sometimes working over eleven hours a day in the fields, which certainly puts a crimp in the ol' "vacation" portrayal. Thanks to a Press Democrat summary of the Aid Society's annual report, we find more than a dozen of the boys escaped or tried to escape from their facility in San Francisco during the year, so it wasn't just that they disliked their hands and arms being incessantly scratched by thorns all summer. The Aid Society placed employment above education and about two in three of the kids had a job, which suggests the Barlow boys were the leftovers, either too young to work or unemployable for some reason. Although they said "night classes are conducted for the benefit of these working boys and every boy is given an opportunity to improve his education," I'm certain a 12 year-old who spends all day sweeping factory floors is raring to be drilled on his multiplication tables after supper.

We don't know much about the boys individually except for the occasional anecdote, such as the two Santa Rosa kids who were sentenced there for truancy and stealing chickens in 1907. But we do know some interesting stuff about them as a group because a medical journal published a 1916 study of the "juvenile delinquents" at the Aid Society. We learn they were mostly a little taller and heavier and stronger than average for their age, with over half suffering dental problems – which is really no surprise as the kids were expected to pay for their own dentistry out of their earnings (clothing, too). .

Measuring their physical traits is all well and good, but what the researchers really wanted to know was this: How smart were they? Linking criminality to low intelligence was one of the burning scientific questions of the day, and most of the boys were sentenced to the Aid Society for minor crimes – stealing, burglary, truancy and incorrigibility (children who committed serious crimes went to the Preston School of Industry at Ione, which was like a prison). To make sense of what they found, we have to first wade into the murky waters of the "IQ" test.

How do you estimate intelligence? At the turn of the century, you primarily measured the size and shape of someone's head; a pretty skull meant there were probably pretty brains inside, and a noggin that was small or shaped the "wrong" way meant the person wasn't too bright and probably wanted to steal your watch. There were other considerations (tattoos! long arms! "precocious" wrinkles!) but all came down to the nonsense that you could tell how smart, dumb, or inclined to criminality someone was by looking at their body.

French psychologist Alfred Binet was among a few pioneers in his field experimenting with a radical new approach: Evaluating how well someone answered questions and solved problems. In 1904 the French government hired him to develop a test to identify children with learning disabilities so they could be helped with special education. Over the next several years he refined his method with a colleague and the "Binet-Simon Scale" became the standard method of evaluating children, although he never claimed his technique measured intelligence.

Binet's test was adapted for American use in 1916 by Stanford University professor Lewis Terman, whose main interest was the opposite – using the test to spot "gifted" children. If those kids were given a good education, he believed they would grow up to be captains of industry, statesmen, brilliant scientists and other topnotch achievers. Professor Terman, it seems, was a true believer in the dark nonsense of eugenics with its notion some people are superior to others.

To prove his point, he followed over a thousand high-IQ youths – almost all white and middle class – around for the rest of their lives (Terman called the subjects his "Termites," yuk, yuk). Ultimately he proved himself wrong; while a great many of them went to college, overall they were no more successful than other American boys and girls in their generation. Only a handful made any sort of notable achievement, but ironically two young men who Terman deemed not smart enough to qualify later won a Nobel Prize in Physics (William Shockley and Luis Alvarez).

Terman's eugenic views are most obvious when he classified kids at the lower end of the scale. Binet called these children "retarded," meaning simply they weren't keeping up with their peers, and besides a lack of intelligence the cause could be family problems, bad teachers, or other reasons that could be fixed. When explaining how his test should be used, he worried that psychologists were too eager to tar these children for life by slapping labels on their backs with vague meanings such as "idiot," "imbecile" and "moron." Professor Terman and other eugenicists instead claimed those derogatory terms had scientific precision. Those below an IQ of about 25 he classified as idiots; a ranking of 25-50 was an imbecile; anyone between 50 and 70 was a low, middle, or high moron. Terman believed schooling these "defectives" was a waste of time and taxpayer money, except for vocational training. Possibly.


Lewis Terman's first revision of the Binet test can be found in his 1916 book, "The Measurement of Intelligence." Getting a good IQ score required more than quick wits, however; you also had to share Terman's prejudices and cultural background. Some examples:

* Shown a drawing of a Native American rowing a white man and woman in a canoe, children were asked to explain the picture. An acceptable answer was, "In frontier days a man and his wife have been captured by the Indians." An example of an unsatisfactory reply was, "Indians have rescued a couple from a shipwreck."

* Asked how a "knife blade, a penny and a piece of wire" were alike, acceptable answers included, "All are metal" or "All come from mines." It was wrong to say "they are small" or all were the same metal. Aside from the problem of assuming knowledge of different types of metal qualifies as a measure of intelligence, this is a poorly designed question. All three objects could be copper; it was regularly used in wire and copper letter openers were made. Also, brass and steel, both commonly used in blades and wire, are alloys and not mined metals.

* "My neighbor has been having queer visitors. First a doctor came to his house, then a lawyer, then a minister (preacher or priest). What do you think happened there?" The only acceptable answer was some variation of "a death." Of those who failed to answer correctly, over half apparently did not know that attorneys wrote wills or ministers conducted home funerals. Wrong answers also included "a baby born" and "a divorce," which Terman remarked was a very common reply from children living in Reno, then a destination for people nationwide seeking to end a marriage.

In his book Terman provided several case studies of low-IQ children, and a common thread was the futility of keeping them in school.  A boy of eight was kicked out of kindergarten because his 50 IQ "required so much of the teacher's time and [he] appeared uneducable." A boy who just "stands around" and was "indifferent to praise or blame" was enrolled in a sixth-grade class at age 17, but was doing "absolutely nothing" in the classroom. They were also troublemakers, according to Terman: A "high-grade moron" boy "caused much trouble at school by puncturing bicycle tires." A 14 year-old girl with an IQ of 65 was a "menace to the morals of the school because of her sex interests and lack of self-restraint." Another young woman he called "the type from which prostitutes often come."

The problem with eugenics (well, one of the problems) is that it's built on the worst sort of slippery slope logic. Not only were defectives unteachable, declared Terman, but also prone to crime – a false assumption which still carried over from the days when we were looking at the shape of heads. In his 1916 book on the IQ test he wrote, "not all criminals are feeble-minded, but all feeble-minded are at least potential criminals. That every feeble-minded woman is a potential prostitute would hardly be disputed by any one."

So did the IQ study of the Aid Society kids prove Terman right? The researchers found "dull normals" – meaning just slightly below average intelligence – were most likely to be there because they were skipping school (interestingly, they were also ten times more likely than any of the others to have bad hearing).

In the other three crime categories – stealing, burglary and incorrigibility – the boys with normal intelligence exceeded or were tied with those classified as being not as smart. More than half of the "normals" were there for stealing or burglary. The researchers also did a limited survey of the Aid Society boys' backgrounds and it shows the main environmental factors they shared were extreme poverty and bad friends. It completely disproved Terman's eugenics theories; these bad eggs were mostly average boys who happened to be poor and hung out with the wrong crowd.

Whether Terman read that study is unknown but it is extremely likely, given that it was based on the Binet tests he was then adapting for American use. It certainly didn't make him waver in his views; as years went on his enthusiasm for eugenics hardened. He began saying some people – including entire nationalities and races – were uniformly inferior. He later wrote, "a median IQ of 80 for Italian, Portuguese, and Mexican school children in the cities of California would be a liberal estimate."

We also can't be sure if Terman ever came up from Stanford to visit Sonoma County, but if he did it was surely to meet Dr. Fred O. Butler of the Sonoma State Home (now called the Sonoma Developmental Center). Prof. Terman was an enthusiastic believer that "defectives" should be sterilized so they can't parent children, and Dr. Butler had turned the hospital into a sterilization mill, leading the nation in performing thousands of such operations. And when eugenicists later classified homosexual boys and promiscuous girls as sexually delinquent defectives, they were forcibly sterilized by Dr. Butler as well (see "SONOMA COUNTY AND EUGENICS" for more).

Today the reputation of Lewis Terman has been largely whitewashed. A recent textbook on multicultural education points out that high school and college texts are likely to describe his genius tracking study and his revision of Binet's scale but rarely is his eugenics history noted. A Google search for his name in scholarly books and journals shows the word "eugenics" appears in only 1 out of 10 works.

Yet the damage he caused was incalculable. By turning Binet's method – which wasn't intended to measure intelligence at all – into a written test with right and wrong answers, Terman made it easy to condemn people who tested poorly as inferiors, which usually leads to lives of lesser opportunities and hopes. He was a bad scientist with regrettable ethics; Terman was on the Advisory Committee of the American Eugenics Society and didn't resign until after Hitler came to power, so maybe he should be called clueless as well.

The one bright spot in this dismal tale is that in 1916, the Barlow boys proved him completely, utterly wrong about everything. Too bad he wasn't smart enough to pay attention.

Accomplishments of the Boys and Girls Aid Society--Boys Are Picking Berries

The annual meeting of the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society was held on Tuesday for the purpose of hearing reports of the officers of the Society and electing a Board of Trustees for the ensuing year. In the absence of the president, Senator George C. Perkins, who is in Washington, D. C., the chair was taken by the vice-president, Charles A. Murdock.

The report of the superintendent, George C. Turner, gave the details of the splendid work of the Society for the needy boys of San Francisco and vicinity.

Two hundred and forty-one boys were received into the hands of the Society during the year ending June 30th, and received the benefits of special training and schooling including manual training under the Lloyd system.

The Society is working in conjunction with the juvenile courts and probation officers of this and other counties in the State and has received one hundred and forty boys from the courts.

As the boys improve in their conduct and when they have made satisfactory progress in their school work, they are secured positions through the employment agency maintained by the Society, through which one hundred and fifty-one boys were placed in good positions during the year.

The best qualities of manhood are developed by the care given the boys who are placed on their honor. This is shown by the fact that during last year 5,172 leaves of absence were granted on Sundays with but 13 failures to return--less than ½ of 1%.

For homeless boys the Society maintains the Charles R. Bishop Annex, where boys may board while they are learning trades and until they become self-supporting. These boys have individual rooms not very large, but neat and tasteful and have sitting rooms, library, and the family dining room where excellent meals are served at moderate rates. Night classes are conducted for the benefit of these working boys and every boy is given an opportunity to improve his education.

The younger boys are sent to approved country homes through the Children's Agency, the Children's Home Society and the Native Sons and Native Daughters Committee on Homeless Children, who last year placed out fifty-two boys for the Society. Children so placed are permanently removed from the streets of the city and often grow up in their environment.

In addition to the work in San Francisco, the Society maintains a summer camp on the Barlow ranch near Sebastopol, where last year one hundred and sixty-three boys were engaged in picking loganberries and Mammoths and Lawton blackberries, picking one hundred and ninety-four tons of berries and earning in all $3,948, of which the boys received $2,328.39, which was used for clothing and dentistry, and some of it put in the bank.

The summer outing is a great benefit to the boys and a great help to the berry growers, who have learned to depend on the boys for assistance in harvesting their berries.

The officers and trustees for the following year are: [...]

- Press Democrat, July 21, 1911

Having Great Financial Success in Their Labors

Special Officer W. D. Scott, of the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society, came up on the evening train Tuesday with several boys, who were being escorted to the berry fields at the Barlow ranch near Sebastopol.

Two of the boys in charge of Mr. Scott had recently made their escape from the berry fields, having taken French leave at night. They passed through this city and made their way to Sacramento before they wee captured. They were Clarence Johnson and H. Chapman. They enjoyed liberty for four days.

Officer Scott declares the boys in the berry fields are not only having one of the finest vacations they have ever enjoyed, but they are meeting with greater financial success than ever before. One of the boys in camp earned $2.64 in one day during the past week and most of the boys are averaging splendid wages. The berries are ripening rapidly and the lads are laboring until 6 o'clock each evening in the endeavor to relieve the vines of their burden of fruit before it becomes too ripe for shipment.

On a recent evening the books at the camp were examined and it was found that the boys had collectively earned $1800 up to that date in harvesting the berry crop. The harvest will last for some time to come, and it can be readily be seen what a financial benefit the outing of the boys turns out to be. Aside from this it gives the lads one of the best vacations in the country that could be planned for them.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 26, 1911


Two runaway boys from the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society camp at Mrs. Barlow's ranch in the Gold Ridge district were taken back to camp by officers of the association Saturday night, after having been caught here by Officer Nick Yeager.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 31, 1911

Berry Harvesting Profitable to Large Number

Something of the magnitude of the berry industry in the Gold Ridge section can be ascertained when it is realized that the forces of the Boys' and Girls' Aid Society this season earned more than $4600 gathering the crop. The boys were paid four cents per tray for the harvesting of the berries, both Logans and blacks.

The boys went into camp on the Barlow place about June 1st, and finished picking the berries on September 13. Their record this year shows that they have earned one hundred dollars more than on any previous year, the record of $4500 having been made in 1910. This would indicate that the berry crop was slightly larger this year than the previous season.

Two-thirds of this money will be distributed to the boys who earned it, and it will be given them in proportion to the amount earned by each individual boys. With the moneys [sic] given to the boys they have the right to choose what they will do with it, so long as the contemplated expenditure is legitimate. Many of the lads buy clothing, some place the money in bank to draw interest, while still others help their families financially. Most of the boys buy magazines with a portion of their coin.

During the year the boys were engaged in picking for about twenty people while they were in the Gold Ridge section. Their camp at the Barlow ranch was dismantled Friday morning, preparatory for their start for home and Old Glory, which has floated from the flagstaff there daily was hauled down with appropriate ceremonies.

Ninety-five boys were in the merry party which returned to San Francisco on the afternoon train Friday, having had one of the most enjoyable outings on record.

- Santa Rosa Republican, September 15, 1911

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