"Children don't appreciate traditional toys anymore; all they want are the latest expensive gadgets," parents were probably grousing...in 1910.
Take a close look at the advertisement to the right (click or tap to enlarge). It's presumably Christmas morn' and the wee ones have just ripped into their gifts. But is Junior playing with his toy soldiers, alphabet blocks or bugle? Is li'l sister caring for her new dolly? Nope; they're both ignoring their toys and are instead mesmerized by whatever's playing on their state-of-the-art Edison phonograph (the "Fireside" model shown here was cutting edge technology because it could play two-minute and four-minute cylinders). The kids were possibly even listening to a recording of that new trashy pop music with suggestive lyrics such as, "By the Light of the Silvery Moon."
And look at the ad directly below that one: The electrical store was promoting "Christmas Tree Electric Lighting Outfits For Rent or Sale." This appears to be the first time electric Christmas tree lights were available for Santa Rosa homes. While illuminated trees were famously on display as far as the 1880s, they were only available to a wealthy few. Light bulbs of any kind were handmade, ridiculously expensive and often burned out quickly. A simple string of lights might have cost the equivalent of hundreds of dollars today - impractical to buy, but something our Santa Rosans of a century ago might have considered renting. Newspapers in other towns promoted the safety factor as well, considering that candlelit trees sometimes caught fire (along with the cotton beards of ersatz Santas).
Both the new phonograph and availability of electric tree lights were advances in technology that would have been recognized as sure signs of progress in 1910, but are so incremental as to be barely noticeable today. Reading the old papers from a distance of more than a century, however, one thing jumps out: This was the first Christmas that felt truly modern.
Other advances in the 1910 Santa Rosa papers were discussed in an earlier article. There were suddenly more ads aimed at women, including new businesses offering women-oriented services. Advertising in both papers became more stylish, with appealing artwork and graphic design. There were still fusty Victorian-era illustrations to be found on every page - some running unchanged for years, their engravings now blurry with accumulated ink - but every edition usually had a few hints that Santa Rosa was finally tiptoeing into the 20th Century.
Nowhere is this more apparent than comparing the December, 1910 papers to Christmases past. That ad for the phonograph records showing children in an unposed setting was the sort of thing never seen in earlier years. The images of Santa Claus in other 1910 ads are easily recognizable today, with St. Nick inviting readers to come to the downtown stores and enjoy gift shopping. Contrast that to the odd ad seen at right, which Mr. Potter's plumbing supply store ran for a couple of years prior. The figure in the cartoon looks less like jolly ol' Santa than an aggrieved garden gnome, perhaps demanding something be done about your dog tinkling on him and his fellow lawn ornaments.
Before 1910 Christmas ads always emphasized the stores had "practical" things to place under the tree, and old ways die hard. "Handkerchiefs - The Gift Popular", read an ad from The White House department store, and Moodey's Shoe Store promised slippers would be considered an "adequate present." But the ad below from Mailer Hardware shows that pitch had slacking appeal. While the store still promised to sell you "sensible, useful Christmas Gifts," it emphasized "things for the children" and "presents for all."
This and the other 1910 ads from J.C. Mailer Hardware may be the best example of the way newspaper advertising had changed that year. All used cartoonist Richard F Outcault's popular "Yellow Kid" in whimsical situations to sell plows, building supplies and most often, firearms and ammunition ("You Cant Miss It" his nightshirt read in one gun ad, as The Kid unsafely propped a shotgun on his shoulder while waving a revolver in the other hand). Yes, it's a hardware store and you'd be walking through the door to buy a hammer, a shovel, a box of rat poison; but the Yellow Kid hinted there also could be a bit of fun in giving them your money. That attitude is indeed part of the secret sauce in modern advertising, and what makes the Christmas ads from 1910 still so recognizable today.
If you want a glimpse of old Santa Rosa, don't just cruise McDonald Avenue; stop by Wilson Street, which still looks the same as between the World Wars, when it was the heart of our "Little Italy" community. A recent column by Gaye LeBaron quoted West End chronicler Rita Carniglia Hall, who remembers "...there were shoe shops and barbers and clothing stores and, of course, restaurants and saloons. There was no call to go farther east than St. Rose Church." Italian kids often didn't even venture the few blocks to downtown until they were eight or ten, LeBaron wrote in her history of 20th century Santa Rosa. It was as if they lived in another town.
Although every one of those businesses is now gone, the buildings remain mostly as they were, having escaped the tempest in the 1960s and 1970s when Santa Rosa was bulldozing everything for the sake of "redevelopment." Here's a quick tour of this part of Wilson Street, starting on the corner of Sixth and heading north:
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On the other side of Wilson St. is a long brick building that occupies the entire block. The section near the intersection of Sixth St. is newer, as you can easily tell by looking at the brickwork. The rest of the building dates back to the 1890s and was part of the flour mill. The part of the mill closest to the railroad tracks collapsed during the Great Earthquake, but was up and running again within five months - hopefully with a more hygienic crew (see picture). Around WWI it was bought by Sperry Flour Company, whose name is still seen on the south side of the building.
Proceeding to the middle of the block, (tap or click on the Google street view "forward" arrow to follow along) the nice little building at #512 was built for Oreste Paolini in 1920 and was where he sold men's clothing until he died, sixty years later. Paolini's finally closed in 2007, the last survivor of the old Wilson St. Italian business district. The red brick building next to it was built in the late 1920s for small storefronts.
Crossing Seventh St. and Babbini's Restaurant was on the right in that Art Deco building that dates to 1929. The building next to it, finishing out the block, was originally a planing mill built in 1926 that appears to be almost completely unchanged since. On the west side of this block is a featureless warehouse, its flaking paint and mold-growing corners adding a scabby touch to the neighborhood. But this building, which apparently dates to just before the 1906 earthquake, is as historically important as anything nearby. This was the warehouse for the Lee Brothers, the largest drayage (hauling) company in Santa Rosa. Nearly everything aside from food that came into Santa Rosa from outside Sonoma County would have passed through that warehouse, unloaded from freight trains on one side and leaving for delivery on their distinctive yellow horse-drawn carts on the other. The Lee Brothers were a powerful force in town, and can be found mentioned in this journal nearly as often as Luther Burbank. (Their post-quake offices were at the Lee Brothers building in Railroad Square, which is currently Furniture Depot.)
The final block, between Seventh and Eighth Street, takes us back in time further still - the west side of the block was Frank Berka's lumber yard, which dates to 1882. It makes perfect sense that it would be next door to the Lee Brothers warehouse; they were like sister companies, handling all the materials that were used to build Santa Rosa for generations. And as lumber yards tend not to change with current fashions, the yard itself looks just like it appears turn-of-the-century maps, with long sheds for storing wood products, although all original structures were destroyed in a major 1944 fire. But don't delay taking a look; this block is slated to be demolished for a townhouse/retail development called "West End Village." (The project was approved in 2009 but no building permits have been issued, according to the city.)
The developer is preserving, however, the corner building at 701 Wilson (currently offices for Copperfield's Books), which has been deemed "historic," although it was built in 1947 and is spanking new compared to anything else on the street. This was the retail store for the lumber yard and was designed by Santa Rosa architect Cal Caulkins. Its style is "International Style Modern" which was a descendant of Art Deco, minus any charm whatsoever. You see these plain stucco boxes with rounded corners and glass brick "windows" so often in Los Angeles that I have joked the style should be renamed "Sepulveda."
Our tour ends with mention of three buildings: On the corner of Wilson and Ninth St. is a little building that currently houses "Gotta Grow Garden Supplies." Although it faces Ninth, it has a 769 Wilson St. address because there was once an Italian grocery facing Wilson on the same lot. Across from the lumber yard is a large storage barn with a sliding red door, which was also part of the lumber yard and built around 1910. And next to it, at 726 Wilson, is the neat little bungalow that was built in 1926 for grocer Albert Trombetta. There are other residences from there to the corner that also date from 1906 and the 1920s but nothing is apparently documented.
Santa Rosa's 1989 Cultural Heritage Survey called all of this the "North Railroad District" and found it might stand by itself as a candidate for the state and national Register(s) of Historic Places as a mostly untouched historic commercial-industrial district, similar to Railroad Square. Nothing was done, although it was given a classification status that meant it was supposed to be reevaluated sometime after 2003 (it wasn't). The town's Cultural Heritage Board ignored the issue and folded part of Wilson St. into the West End Neighborhood as a nod to its historic ties to the Italian community.
But apart from being the Italian district and warehouse district, this three block stretch of Wilson Street had yet another important historic identity: The homeless district.
Today Wilson Street is well known as the home to those suffering the hardest of hard luck. At any time of day at any time of year, people can be found loitering about or dragging their heels down those sidewalks. The soup kitchens are the draw; between the Redwood Gospel Mission and St. Vincent de Paul, the hungry and destitute can eat three meals a day and just maybe sleep inside for a night. And so it was, more than a century ago. The little article transcribed below shows that a "Rescue Home" was being established in 1910 at the corner of Wilson and Eighth as a companion to the "Rescue Mission" two blocks away at Sixth and Washington Streets.
That homeless missions were there 100 years ago raises questions: Why were these services located close together in this neighborhood and not somewhere else in Santa Rosa? Does it mean there was a homeless population already established in the neighborhood around Wilson Street prior to 1910? Very probably so, but it's unlikely we'll ever know for sure; rarely did historians - or local newspaper editors - care about reporting anything happening in the world of the homeless. And so it has continued into modern times. Besides the Redwood Gospel Mission (founded in 1963) and St. Vincent de Paul, we know there was also a "House of Refuge" at one of the buildings on the corner of Wilson and Ninth as recently as forty years ago - but we only know that because it was stumbled upon by researcher Diana Painter looking at Assessor data for the developer. And there must have been others, particularly during the desperate years of the Great Depression. Likely homeless charities have continually been a significant presence on Wilson Street, but the details are lost as part of this shamed and shunned page of history.
The 1910 shelter was a "Dorcas" project, and even that heritage is a little murky. In 1874, the Seventh-day Adventist Church adopted the name "Dorcas Society" for its community initiatives, but there was a long history going back to 1811 of charitable women's groups and domestic evangelicals in America that were all named after a woman in the Bible. At times it was also strongly associated with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church and sometimes with ladies' auxiliaries of Masonic Lodges. During the Civil War there were Dorcas Societies that sewed uniforms and underwear for Union soldiers. Presumably the charities in Santa Rosa were Seventh-day Adventists since Mrs. Stumph below identifies herself as an evangelist, but we can't be sure.
So in the end, there are three sides to Wilson Street. On the west are a looming trio of long buildings that once were teeming with busy workers, but now only serve to keep the street shadowed from the afternoon sun. On the east side are the boisterous ghosts of Italian barbers, cobblers, green grocers and children who don't know (or care) about the world outside. And in the stray corners are found the homeless, always invisible, there always.
Misc. sources: Santa Rosa's Architectural Heritage by Geraldine and Dan Peterson (1982); Cultural Heritage Survey of the City of Santa Rosa (1989); 701/717/737/769 Wilson Street, Santa Rosa, California: determination of historic significance by Diana Painter (2008)
"THE DORCAS HOME" FOR SANTA ROSA
In connection with the Rescue Mission on Washington street we are opening a Rescue Home at 117 Eighth street, between Davis and Wilson streets. In doing this we seek to provide, not an institution, but a real home, devoted to the material welfare, the moral uplift and spiritual life of the stricken in body, victims of drink, outcast, hungry and friendless, the "down and outs."
We desire to give a temporary home, food and clothing, when needed; to point these unfortunate ones to the Christ; help them to gain employment and become honest, respectable citizens and members of society. Little children also will be received in an adjoining cottage.
We are in immediate need of a stove, beds, cots, tables, chairs, matting, bedding, towels, blinds, dishes, food supplies, groceries, fruits in jars, etc. Any new furniture or that has been used gratefully accepted. Send us a card or telephone No 669R. Evangelist and Mrs. N. Stumph.
- Press Democrat, November 11, 1910
Will Preach at Mission
This afternoon at half past two o'clock Mr. Gibson of Oakland will deliver a sermon at the Rescue Mission at Sixth and Washington streets.
- Press Democrat, December 11, 1910
Historians have said their job is trying to figure out what an image in a funhouse mirror actually looked like. True enough; time passes and our views of the past become distorted, and it's not very long before even the distortions have their own distortions. And while we're trying to untangle all that, we realize with dismay the original views weren't so cogent in the first place.
Looking back at Santa Rosa a hundred years ago and most things seem familiar at first, except for obvious changes in fashions, technology and their world being completely dominated by white men (well, more obviously so, anyway). But squint just a little harder and everyday differences begin to appear; we no longer have peddlers knocking on our kitchen door, for example, trying to sell us eyeglasses.
It was common to see peddlers going door-to-door in 1910 as shown in the two articles transcribed below, both warning readers not to buy the peddler's fraudulent or shoddy merchandise. The Santa Rosa Republican alerted that "traveling hawkers" were conning housewives into buying overpriced tablecloths and over at the Press Democrat, it was reported that investigators from the State Board of Optometry were in the county looking for peddlers selling "window pane" spectacles.
(RIGHT: Cartoon from the Jan. 9, 1898 Los Angeles Herald calling for immigration reform to limit the number of Syrian "pests" entering the country)
Peddlers were viewed with some suspicion anyway, and the newspapers only mentioned them in connection with crimes. In these stories the papers almost always specified the peddler's ethnicity, which was usually Eastern European or Middle East - maybe Polish, Jewish, Russian, or as shown here, Syrian. And while they did sell useful things, most of their income came from dubious medicines and worthless glasses. From an insightful memoir of a Russian immigrant who arrived in 1904, recalling how family members taught him the trade: "...We bought all sorts of notions, small things such as needles, thread, string, buttons --all kinds of little things needed in every home. We also took along the most important thing, eyeglasses. The whole business is built on eyeglasses. A pair of glasses that costs a few cents can be sold for several dollars..."
But back to the PD report about an investigator looking for peddlers selling eyeglasses; isn't the strangest part of that story really that the California State Board of Optometry had its own police force? And so it did; in 1907, former Los Angeles cop Nick B. Harris was hired as its Chief of Inspectors "to conduct the fight against the undesirables regardless of time or expense." Over the following three years news items can be found about him chasing eyeglass peddlers and others selling bad optics. Just a few weeks before he swooped into Sonoma County, he was in pursuit of a gang reportedly planning to sell around $30,000 in fake telescopes and binoculars at the historic Los Angeles aviation meet in January. Later that year he opened his own detective agency in LA; here's to Nick B. Harris, who truly deserved to be called a private eye.
Next in the annals of odd 1910 crimes: A counterfeit ten dollar bill was passed to Santa Rosa fish monger Bert Stump. But this wasn't the sort of U.S. Treasury note that Bert or anyone else saw every day - it was supposedly printed in 1862. Why did Bert accept "torn and tattered currency" that would have been almost fifty years old? Maybe in part because he was still unfamiliar with the concept of dollar bills. Until the 1907 Bank Panic most transactions were done using gold and silver coins, and criminals exploited the public's unfamiliarity with paper money by first printing counterfeits of the "clearing house certificates" that were temporarily used in wake of the crisis, then later altering the new $1 and $2 bills to read as $10 and $20. "Bert knows fish, and he thinks he knows silver," the Press Democrat said, "and will handle those as heretofore in the course of his business."
A few months later, the Santa Rosa and San Francisco papers reported that con men had bamboozled a local farmer out of his life savings by getting him drunk and enticing him to bet heavily on a game of bocci. On the face of it, a crime that could possibly happen today. But when the bocci cheaters were captured five days later it was revealed that they were using the ill-gotten loot to cheaply buy up much of the counterfeit money from second hand shops that had been stuck with worthless currency - apparently the gang believed they could vastly increase their criminal fortunes by passing the fake coins themselves. Yes, coins - judging by the 1910 newspaper accounts and the 1911 Attorney General report, it appears there were more bad guys with coin dies than printing presses. Quiz: Who today can identify a coin die? Extra credit: Explain how to silver plate a coin on a kitchen table using stuff easily obtained in 1910 (hint - it's much easier than you might think).
Our final disjointed look at past and present concerns the magazine thieves. "Some vicious people are stealing magazines from the rooms of the local coffee club," the Press Democrat noted grimly. I doubt anyone today would use the adjective "vicious" to describe someone who lifted a magazine from a coffeeshop, but read on: "Quit stealing them. Cease to be a thief. The man or woman who smuggles these books and carries them away deserves to be despised." Thus the article is revealed to be another of PD Editor Ernest Finley's Queeg-like obsessions with annoying misbehavior, not unlike his earlier crusade against orange peels on the sidewalks. I wonder how he'd possibly cope with today's incivilities, such as mobile phones ringing in a movie theater or people who lunch their way through a visit to the grocery store - front page headlines, I'll wager.
ARE STEALING THE MAGAZINESThieves Who Are Engaged In Small Business
Some vicious people are stealing magazines from the rooms of the local coffee club. They have been doing this for some time. These magazines are donated to the people who like to read them. There are twenty-two of them and they are stamped at numerous places to the effect that they are not to be taken away from the room. But this admonition is not respected and these magazines are stolen and carried away. Of the twenty-two of these magazines received for the current month, fourteen have been stolen already. This is indeed contemptible business and it should be rebuked. Those magazines should be left in the club rooms where they can be ready by all who patronize the institution. Quit stealing them. Cease to be a thief. The man or woman who smuggles these books and carries them away deserves to be despised.
- Press Democrat, January 4, 1910
VICTIMIZED BY AGENTSWoman "Stung" in Purchase of Table Cloths...The REPUBLICAN has always advocated...spending money at home with the local merchants...In every instance where this advice has not been followed and people have purchased goods from a distance or from traveling vendors, they have been "stung" and have regretted their unwise policy.
Numerous instances of this could be cited, and they have been both of recent and remote occurrence. One of those which has come under our observation most recently is where traveling hawkers canvassed the city and sold to a number of unsuspecting women table cloths and other house-articles of the same line. After having purchased the goods some of the women who believed all that was told them of the superiority of the goods offered them made an investigation in local stores to see what price the same class of goods were sold at b the merchants of Santa Rosa. They were dismayed and chagrined to find that the "bargains" they believed they were securing from the peddlers could have been duplicated in the stores here at less money than they had paid for them.
Since this has become known there have been choruses of housewives shouting "Never again," and the lessons that have been taught them in being "stung" in this instance will probably suffice for a long time to come.
Smooth talking agents, who only expect to sell goods to a customer once, and probably never be seen again in the community, are not careful in stating the truth in regard to the articles they offer for sale. The local merchant, who is in business here permanently, expects to make satisfied customers by selling splendid goods at right prices and in this manner to cause the customer to return again and trade in the store. The traveling hawkers have no incentive beyond the selling of goods in the immediate present, and for that reason many times are reckless in their handling of the truth regarding their wares.
- Santa Rosa Republican, November 17, 1910
FAKE SPECTACLE MEN ARE SOUGHTState Board of Optometry Seeks Peddlers of Worthless Eyeglasses in the County
Peddlers of fake eyeglasses are going to be brought to book through the efforts of the State Board of Examiners in Optometry. Word has been received by President L. B. Lawson to this effect. There have been some of this class of people, who are not registered opticians, who have been doing business...
...Harris is going out into the country to hunt down an army of peddlers who are said to be "doing the small towns," and bunkoing the farmers with worthless glasses at exorbitant rates. It is the claim of the State Board that these fakers not only defraud the public in selling their window pane glasses, but they are a danger to the eyes of those who buy the goods.
Numerous reports have come to Secretary F. C. Chinn of the board of persons who have paid as high as $250 for glasses not worth $1. Some of these peddlers are said to have gone so far as to forge credentials and checks to give them standing in communities which they visit. Many ingenious devices for the deceit of the public have been discovered by Harris and his corps.
- Press Democrat, January 26 1910
NO MORE TORN PAPER MONEY FOR BERT
Bert Stump, fish dealer, has discovered that all is not gold that glitters as U. S. Treasury gold notes. And on account of that discovery, he announces that he has suspended specie payment in redemption of torn and tattered currency, and will refer all such business to the banks or to a government sub-treasury. Bert knows fish, and he thinks he knows silver, and will handle those as heretofore in the course of his business. But although he has only one arm, he thinks he will risk a good swift punch to the next man who tries to pass any ragged paper money on him.
Bert took in a ten-dollar bill a few weeks ago that was in the last stages of dissolution. He received it in payment for fish, and gave proper change in return. He turned in the money at the Santa Rosa National Bank, where it was viewed with a doubtful scrutiny, and accepted on condition that Bert make good if the sub-treasury turned it down. Bert made good to the bank Monday. The treasury people said the note was counterfeit. It bore date of 1862, and looked as though it had been in active circulation ever since the date of issue. Perhaps it had, and perhaps that note was newly-printed by a green-goods gang, and had been worked up to its appearance of age to render its testing more difficult.
You might as well offer Stump a cancelled cigar-box stamp now as to hand him an old greenback. It isn't safe to do either. He's mad.
- Press Democrat, March 16, 1910
BUNCO MAN OUT ALL HIS SAVINGSJohn Bianchi of This City Meets With Disaster From a Financial Standpoint
A game of bocci, in which Giovanni Bianchi, a brother of "Little Pete" Bianchi, of the Campi Restaurant, participated Monday evening with three others, cost Bianchi $1,000, according to the victim's report to the police Tuesday. Bianchi arrived in Oakland several days ago and met the three sharpers in a hotel. They scraped an acquaintance and soon afterward confided to him that they had a sterling business venture, but needed $1,000.
According to the Oakland dispatch, Bianchi was induced to become the capitalist. He returned to Santa Rosa with one of the strangers and drew his entire savings out of a bank. Then he returned to Oakland, rejoining the other two men Monday night.
The strange men took hime to a Peralta street resort, where, after a few bottles of wine, they suggested a game. Bianchi was drawn into the contest and when his money was all gone his friends disappeared. He slept over his misfortune before he decided he had been buncoed.
Tuesday afternoon he confided his mishap to Captain of Detectives Petersen, who has had several similar cases recently. The police are trying to run down a gang of bocci sharks who work in the bay cities and make thousands of dollars every few weeks.
"Little Pete" went to Oakland Monday night to try and straighten out the tangle.
- Press Democrat, September 22, 1910
Lots of people, as it turns out, including Santa Rosa attorney James Wyatt Oates: He didn't like what Lincoln said. Others had more knee-jerk reactions.
Oates, as followers of this journal well know, was the man who built (what would become known as) Comstock House in Santa Rosa. He originally came from Alabama but he personally played no role in the Civil War - he was only eleven when it began. Mr. Oates had views on the war that were out of step with what we might presume a Southerner of his generation would have. He did not mourn the Confederacy's defeat and thought Lincoln was a great man who did the right thing in fighting to preserve the Union; he hated slavery, and deplored the way the South tried to justify it. We know his strong views on the subjects because he was also a writer of sorts, and twenty essays and short stories have survived. His 1905 essay, "Lincoln," is partially transcribed below, but all of them can be read in facsimile at the web page for his collected works.
LINCOLN'S DOLOROUS AUDIENCE
Mr. Oates was also a well-respected lawyer, and there were two things about the Gettysburg Address that troubled his legal mind. The end of the speech particularly got under his skin: "...that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
He objected to Lincoln saying democracy would "perish from the earth" if the Union lost the war. Oates argued that Confederate soldiers - even though they "fought for a cause utterly wrong, utterly illogical and shocking to the sense of a fair man," as he wrote in another essay - were "equally zealous, was as devoted to government of, for and by the people as was any Northern man who fought in that contest."
Further, Oates argued, the United States of America wouldn't have been harmed by having a Confederate States of America next door:
To say that the establishment of the South as a separate government would destroy that character of government finds no justification in any process of reasoning from the then known facts. There were then abundant evidences of that stalwart spirit in the American people, both North and South, that would not permit that character of government to 'perish from the earth,' whether we remained one or became two distinct nations.
Read together with his 1910 essay, "The Southern States," Oates' central tenets appear: Although Oates strongly denounced slavery and was pleased the Union triumphed, he also agreed with Southerners who viewed the Civil War as "The War of Northern Aggression." And while he admired Lincoln, he thought the president and other Northerners were so worked up over the slavery issue that they couldn't see past it and recognize the South states had every right to spin off a government of their own, exactly as it was for the colonists in 1776. Holding such logically and morally complex and contradictory views reveals Mr. Oates as undoubtedly capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time.
Our Mr. Oates didn't take issue with Lincoln's remarks about the "honored dead" who had "consecrated the ground" at Gettysburg, but certainly his older brother would have had strong opinions about that. Confederate Colonel William C. Oates had command of the 15th Alabama Regiment on the second day of fighting at Gettysburg and led them in the Battle of Little Round Top. Among the regiment was another Oates brother, John, who was wounded and left behind as the Rebels retreated in panic. John survived for three weeks in a Union field hospital near the battleground. Even while Lincoln was speaking, John's body was still on the farm where he died, about two miles away. John's name was written on a wooden marker and placed on the grave. By the end of the war, the marker was lost.
As Lincoln spoke, over a thousand bodies had already been buried at the Gettysburg soldier's cemetery. That was less than half the total, and it would be another four months before the last soldier who died at Gettysburg would be buried there. Of course, that meant the last Union soldier, because the cemetery was only for them. When workers encountered a Confederate body, they left it at the same spot, only reburying it deeper down. By contrast, the government was treating the Union dead with tender care, endeavoring to make certain the identification was correct, sorting the caskets so soldiers could be buried next to comrades from their home state. Any mementos were carefully collected and saved for the fallen soldier's nearest kin.
The Civil War had been over for seven years before private funds were raised to deal with the body of John Oates and the other dead Confederates. His body was among those taken to the Hollywood cemetery in Richmond, where about 2,000 Rebels who died at Gettysburg - most of them unidentifiable by that time - were placed in a mass grave. Record keeping was so poor that it took William Oates 45 years to even find out that much.
(That the Union forces chose to not deal with the Confederate dead remains a contemporary problem. Throughout the 20th century, Confederate remains kept turning up at Gettysburg, most recently in 1995. As there were about 1,500 Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg that are still unaccounted for, there are almost certainly many bodies undiscovered, according to the National Park Service.)
But give the Oates' credit: If they disliked the Gettysburg Address, it was because they took issue with what Lincoln said. Others in the South hated it for more visceral reasons. In the days after the speech, Southern newspapers mostly ignored it; some ridiculed it as inconsequential or even silly; others claimed Lincoln didn't even speak at the ceremony. The very few that printed the speech did so only after taking out the first line, with its inflammatory bit about all men being created equal.
After the surrender at Appomattox, Southern resentment over Gettysburg and Lincoln's Address continued even after the Civil War generations began dying out. There's a very good academic study (PDF) written by Jared Elliott Peatman that looks at Southern opinion of the Gettysburg Address as viewed through newspapers in Virginia.
For the century that followed, the South tried to pretend the Gettysburg Address didn't exist. In most of the country it became customary for someone to recite the Gettysburg Address on Memorial Day; in the South, the custom was to have someone read General Robert E. Lee's Farewell Address. No school district or college would consider a textbook that discussed the Gettysburg Address; the United Confederate Veterans formed a committee to make sure "long-legged Yankee lies" were not being taught. A 1909 list of history books approved by the state of Virginia did not include a single title about Lincoln or the Gettysburg Address, but it did include Confederate biographies and the Uncle Remus books.
Lincoln's reputation in the South was rehabilitated after World War I - at the 1922 dedication Lincoln Memorial there were even a few very aged Confederate Army veterans attending in uniform. But the Gettysburg Address mostly continued to be shunned, even during the big fuss over it during the 1963 centennial. The Richmond News Leader of November 19, 1963, according to the Peatman study, presented an article titled, "Gettysburg Address: Unforgettable Words" which "...was, from start to finish, a condemnation of the Address' literary style. Among the many faults the author pointed out were the repetition of verbs, the lack of punch, beginning the speech with a number, the brevity of the speech, the repetition of 'great,' and the use of various clichés."
But why did the Gettysburg Address end up being the South's Civil War Purity of View Litmus Test? Part of the hatred probably is simply because it explicitly said all men were created equal. Part was also because the speech was inexorably tied to Gettysburg, and the memories of what happened there - both the defeat and how poorly their dead were treated afterward - lingered as an open wound well into the 20th century. But there probably are still some like our Mr. Oates, who view the Gettysburg Address as unfairly demonizing them as being haters of American democratic ideals. Peatman's study deserves the last word on the subject:
In 1858, Lincoln declared, "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free... It will become all one thing or all the other." But Lincoln was wrong. The story of Virginians' reaction to the Gettysburg Address shows that when it comes to issues of race, and the remembrance of the struggle for freedom, as of 1963 the United States remained divided, with no prospect of soon becoming "all one thing or all the other."
No one would detract an iota from the justly high estimate of Lincoln held by men. He was one of the greatest of his race, and today when all the passions that surged around him during life have died, foe and friend alike can and do extend full justice to that most unique and pathetic figure.
However, the American people on occasions become emotional and lose the power of discrimination. Truth is vastly more important than the interest of any man or than the memory of all men. It is a fine trait that yields willing and full mead of praise to him to whom it of right belongs; but it is a finer trait to do that and at the same time keep to the truth. The disposition today is to exaggerate and claim for Lincoln a stature not his in truth. Of course, to paraphrase the Gettysburg speech, it little matters what we here and now say; rather will he in the end be judged by what he then did. But we should seek to get at the core of things; to over-estimate any man is not justice to him or to others, and I have that confidence in Lincoln's love of truth to feel that he would prefer to be judged as others are judged, and to be judged justly. The enthusiasts are trying to make a myth--a god--of his memory, all of which will fail as such things have failed all down the ages.
The one thing that I do not like in this hour of unstinted adulation is the unthinking, uncritical way in which Lincoln's celebrated Gettysburg speech is praised. As a a composition it is excellent; as a means to an end it was a stroke of genius; as a truth -- it will not stand. He was speaking of the Union soldiers who fought on that field, in the light of American institutions, and the essence of what he said is in this expression: "That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation shall have a new birth of freedom, that government of the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." This meant that the people of the South were trying to destroy "government of the people, for the people, by the people," which was not true. The South was equally zealous, was as devoted to government of, for and by the people as was any Northern man who fought in that contest. Both sides equally desired that kind of government; nor was that kind of government in issue or in danger. The question is issue was rather whether there should be one government by, of and for the people North and another government by, of and for the people South, or one government for both.
Truth will not permit anyone to say that that kind of government in the North was in any sense menaced. No one so desired such government "to perish from the earth;" nor was anyone endeavoring to do anything which would produce such a result. Certainly the South was making no such effort. Had she been successful, the North would have had for herself "government by, of and for the people" just as she wanted it [and] just as she had it before; and so would the South, for her government, in that respect, was identical with the government established by the Fathers of the Republic. In truth, we might go further; as it was given to Lincoln to understand, he was, of course, telling the full truth, but in all honesty with prejudice laid aside, with a clearer light, we may ask, was he engaged in an enterprise that extended to the South "government of the people, by the people, and for the people" in the sense of the Father's work? Truth will not permit it to be said that he was. He was denying to the South that kind of government. The frozen truth is that Lincoln was trying to save the Union in a way that negated the idea of such government; and he in substance said at another time that he would do anything to preserve the Union. That it was best to save the Union may be admitted and I believe it was; but that was not what he said. He was speaking of a thing that might or might not exist in or out of the Union. To say that the Union was necessary in order that such government might exist will not do. That was not true then nor is it true now. What would have happened by way of change in that character of government North or South had the South succeeded, was then a matter of prophecy; and all the prophets have been dead for centuries. But to say that the establishment of the South as a separate government would destroy that character of government finds no justification in any process of reasoning from the then known facts. There were then abundant evidences of that stalwart spirit in the American people, both North and South, that would not permit that character of government to "perish from the earth," whether we remained one or became two distinct nations, and there was not one fact tending to show that such government would "perish from the earth" if the South succeeded.
A recognition of this is due to the brave and devoted people of the South who fought and died in the firm and honest belief that a right to have a government of their own choice was as much the right of eight million of Americans then in the South as it was of three million of Colonists in 1776.
That it has come about since 1865 that the South has a full measure of that kind of government is due, not to the logical sequence of that war, but to the inherent love of that kind of government all over this Nation, North and South.
Since that war we have not lived up to that idea of government in dealing with others. This will not please our self-love; but it is a fact all the same. Read that phrase from Lincoln's speech and then look at Puerto Rico and the Philippines and see, if one can, where that doctrine comes in. The very spirit of the war waged by the North for the Union was destructive, in its necessary tendencies, of the character of government Lincoln did not wish to "perish from the North." I am not saying whether that idea is at all times the best; neither am I contending that it would have been for the best had the South succeeded. All that is aside from the question; for what is the best kind of government depends upon a multitude of things, and what is best for one people or one condition may not be so good for other people or for the same people under different conditions. This truth lies behind the reason for the government by, of and for the people, that they may change it when they do not like what they have. The power to change is the very essence of such a government; if this American government
There was enough of the great and good in Lincoln for an exceeding large mead of admiration and praise, but it should stop where he was wrong, as in that matter. Nor am I satisfied when I hear admirers of Lincoln claim that he was as great or greater than Washington. The equal of Washington never breathed the breath of life, and from present indications this estimate will stand forever as the truth of all the ages.
James W. Oates.
"That brown shingle house across from the high school? It's probably a Julia Morgan," an architect told me shortly after we moved into the neighborhood in 2006, naming the famous designer of Hearst Castle. In a recently updated survey of work by Brainerd Jones - the architect of Comstock House - it is listed as one of his buildings. Somewhere in the years between, I was told that while it was unlikely to be an actual Frank Lloyd Wright design, it must have come from the drafting table of someone who trained in the master's office.
|930 Mendocino Ave. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons|
She was related to the property owners (more about that in a minute) but this was not nepotism at work. Mary was a capable architect as this building shows, even though it was only the second of her designs to be built. She was also a pioneer several times over, for whom recognition is overdue.
Mary Rockwell Hook (1877-1978) decided to become an architect in 1902, during an era when few professions were open to women and any who wanted a career were suspected of being something between an ardent feminist or political radical. She had qualified support from family; her father approved of the artistic aspects of architectural study and paid her tuitions, yet expected she accept no salary when she found a job. And of all the professions to pursue, architecture was among the least welcoming to women at the time, having evolved from the manly building trade. At the first firm she approached for a job she was told, "We're sorry but we could not take a woman. You can't swear at women and they can't climb all over full sized details." But the next office was glad to accept her. "They never needed to swear and I could manage full size details," she wrote in her memoir. So rare was her kind that even by the time she reached middle age, you could have assembled every single American female architect in a small school auditorium that seated 200.
Although she was denied entry to the fraternal system that advanced the careers of her male colleagues, she had a major advantage: Mary was a Rockwell. The wealthy and esteemed family (introduced here) spent much of their time traveling abroad or visiting each other; she and her four sisters were immersed in high culture. After she graduated Wellesley College in 1900, for example, the family spent eight months in Italy and Switzerland. They were barely back home in Kansas when her uncle, General Adna Chaffee, was appointed military governor of the Philippines. So off they went again, this time visiting Japan and China and the Middle East as well. The next year were trips to Venezuela and Sicily. And so life went for the Rockwells.
Her architectural studies began in 1903, when she was the only female student in that department at the Art Institute of Chicago. Reference works state she studied and/or graduated from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, but that's not quite true. According to her autobiography, she was enrolled in an atelier operated by Jacques-Marcel Auburtin, a rising star in French architecture (and who had recently proposed marriage to one of Mary's sisters). Mary did take an entrance exam - being the first woman since Julia Morgan to get that far - but received a failing grade. In truth, she could not have attended the school for very long, even if she had passed all the exams; although it was no longer off-limits to women, there still was a policy that students couldn't be older than thirty, and Mary was already 29.
But at the same time, being accepted by an atelier was a not insubstantial achievement. They acted as an adjunct to the Ecole proper; some were even located inside the main building. It was a bit like having workshops training medieval journeymen grafted onto a modern college. You studied - often for years - at an atelier préparatoire to prep for passing all three entrance exams, then once you were admitted your student work was prepared under the guidance of an atelier, possibly the same one. A very good overview of the tradition-bound Beaux-Arts system as it worked around the turn of the century can be found in this book.
Here is exactly what Mary wrote of her Beaux-Arts experience, which biographers consistently misstate:
|Through Kitty's acquaintance with Marcel Auburtin, I arranged to study architecture at his atelier in Paris. He had seven Americans enrolled - all graduated of Yale and Princeton. When these boys heard a girl was coming they didn't like the idea. They decided to name me "Liz." It turned out that we all became lifelong friends. These boys worked three years before they passed all the examinations to enter the Beaux Arts.|
We all took the first examination. I learned that I was the second woman who had ever taken an examination at Beaux Arts. The other woman was Miss Morgan of San Francisco who later devoted most of her life to the building of the Hearst Palace of great renown in California.
One must pass the first exam to qualify for the second, then must pass the second for the third, and so on for several weeks. None of us passed the first one, but what a memorable day! They put me in a big library with guards and locked the door. Hundreds of French boys begin to take these exams every six months, beginning at 14 or 50 years of age. All day I could hear them yelling and singing.
When the day was over one of the American boys came to rescue me. He said he would take me by the back way because all day the French boys had been planning to throw buckets of water on me as I entered the big courtyard. He had a taxi waiting and we ran, falling into it with our drafting boards, "T" squares and triangles.
Incidents of gender harassment aside, it left fun memories. She and a couple of her sisters lived in the raucous student quarter of the Left Bank and she wrote happily about bicycle sojourns into the countryside. She was still in Paris when the April, 1906 earthquake hit Santa Rosa. Her mother later told her, "On the morning of the earthquake she [mother] appeared fully dressed with hat, veil, and gloves and wondering if she shouldn't call her sister, Mrs. Finlaw, to cancel their dinner engagement. A call she couldn't have made. All the phone lines were down."
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She later wrote that house "followed the latest trends of California cottages" and the design, with its asymmetrical saltbox roof with extended eaves and dormer windows, was in keeping with the contemporary Arts & Crafts style. In particular, it resembles Gustav Stickley house design No. 28 (example here) which she could have seen in a 1905 issue of his magazine, "The Craftsman." After it was completed, she lived it in for a month "to try it out."
From her autobiography: "Next came a house for my sister Florence Edwards in Santa Rosa, California." The Edwards' moved in autumn of 1908, so the home at 930 Mendocino was designed 1907-1908.
She designed a house for a college friend and her father purchased another Kansas City lot, this intended for her to build an 11-bedroom family manse. That home and eight others she designed in the area between 1908 and 1927 are on the National Register of Historic Places (PDF). Together, they describe what might be called a "Mary Rockwell Hook style" that was in step with the progressive craftsman designs coming from leading architects at the same time.
RIGHT: Mary Rockwell c. 1911 PHOTO: Rockwell Family Archives
Her homes were usually asymmetrical, according to the authors of the Register nomination for the Kansas City houses, with a "T" or "L" shaped ground plan instead of a square or rectangular box. Windows were plentiful and also not symmetric, and the floor plan was often multi-level with irregularly shaped rooms. In some, she included an area that could be used as a stage. The home she designed for herself was described as "a rambling aggregation of intersecting wings and extruding gables, dormers, decks and porches." She incorporated outdoor space into the designs with sleeping porches, upper decks, balconies, patios that were called "outdoor living rooms" and even integrated swimming pools. She gave rooms an Old World touch by often making fireplaces and chimneys out of rough stone and antique tile. "Long before recycling of materials became an economical advantage, Mrs. Hook was rummaging in demolished buildings and salvage yards for useable or picturesque artifacts, which were employed both structurally and decoratively."
The Santa Rosa house matches her typical style, although in appearance it's quite different from the Kansas City houses. It fits into the shingle-style "First Bay Region Tradition" that characterizes residential designs from that period by Julia Morgan and others and she may have also been encouraged by character of the neighborhood, where there were new and prominent Brainerd Jones buildings in this style - Comstock House, the Saturday Afternoon Club, and the lost Paxton House - just down the street. Mary would have been very familiar with those shingled places; she was designing the house for sister Florence, who was a past president of the Club, and the Oates family (first owners of Comstock House) threw a party for another of the Rockwell sisters in late 1907, just about when Mary would have been drawing architectural plans.
Mary loved sleeping porches, and wrote in her memoir, "This and That," of once waking up with snow on her blankets. Her original design for the Rockwell family home had a sleeping porch off of every bedroom, and the Edwards House in Santa Rosa had a screened porch as large as a regular bedroom. Now enclosed with windows, the exterior of the porch can be seen above left, and the door to the porch - shown here opened - has a diamond paned lattice window that lights the second floor hallway.
(As the building has been converted to private offices, only common areas are pictured here. CLICK or TAP on any image to enlarge.)
Similarities to her first home design can be seen above in the dormer windows, strong roof corbels, and square bump out window seat in the living room. The earlier house also had a juliet balcony, although the railing is currently steel and not likely to be original. The balcony on the Edwards House faces south and is now heavily shaded by mature trees, but would have brought considerable natural light into the second floor hallway. Note the decorative balusters that continue the craftsman design of the glass doors, discussed below.
The ground floor plan of the Edwards House is quite novel. From the front door is a large entrance hall with a free standing stairway in the center. Walking directly forward passes under the stairway's landing and directly into the living room. At the foot of the stairway on the other end of the entrance hall are four matching glass doors partitioned into a Arts & Crafts pattern very similar to Stickley designs of that same period. Above left: The double doors that led to the dining room, and to their immediate right, another door into the living room.
Above: The glass door leading into the panty with the alabaster stained glass illuminated from behind.
The pantry is quite large in proportion to the 3-bedroom house and suggests Mary's sister, Florence, had quite a dish collection. In a short essay about the 1906 earthquake (transcribed here) she lamented that "...[We] listened to the crash of our beautiful wedding china and glass as it smashed on the floor. My parents screaming as they both fell down on the floor amid glass and china and cut their knees and hands."
Although the kitchen is bungalow-sized, the lighting is very good with a pair of east windows and one facing north providing supplemental light. A sunny kitchen was not to be taken for granted; in many home designs of that period the kitchen was an afterthought. In Brainerd Jones' original 1904 design of Comstock House, for example, the stove was in the least ventilated part of the room with the single source of natural light being a window connected to a porch, several feet behind the cook - it must have been onerous to prepare the simplest meals. Inclusion of a well-designed kitchen shows the architect understood how domestic work functioned, and may demonstrate a significant advantage for architects who grew up in Victorian America as girls instead of boys. Mary wrote in her autobiography that at her first job, the head draftsman asked her, "tell me, what does a butler do in a butler's pantry?"
Most of the windows in the Edwards House are casements, which were very modern at the time and part of the Mary Rockwell Hook "style." But the latches on these dual windows above the stairway landing would require a ladder to open, making it impractical to cool the second floor at the end of a hot summer's day by inviting in the foggy marine layer.
Current owner Trae Seely deserves highest praise for his good taste and judgement in restoration of the house, but the interiors may have been modified by some of the (at least) five previous owners. The complete lack of ornamentation is surprising; except for the alabaster glass doors and picture rail, the house is spartan. There is no wall crown molding, nor basic details such as returns on door or window trim. Missing are typical craftsman style features such as box beams and natural wood paneling, except for the fireplace mantles. As the closeup above right shows, the crown molding above doors, windows and cabinets is not just simple, but minimalist. But while there are examples such as the newel post that do show signs of replacement, why would someone would tear out substantial original woodwork? It would be very interesting to compare these interiors to those in other houses she designed in that period. If original, it would be notable as a pre-modernist take on the general craftsman style.
Mary Rockwell Hook's career divides neatly into two chapters. The latter part began in 1935 when she purchased 55 acres near Sarasota, Florida for only $10,000 and designed many of the homes there, including an artist's colony (more about that period here, including another portrait).
But the first part began with the house for her friend and sister Florence, and concluded in 1929 with the final construction of another California house for her sister Katherine in Woodside. That chateau-like manor house, called "Le Soleil," is as opulent as the Santa Rosa house is humble, with gold leaf ceilings and a 12-car garage. Sister "Kitty" - the same one who was once engaged to the Beaux-Arts atelier master - married Francis Crosby, who was president of the famous Key System streetcar service that linked San Francisco and the East Bay cities (until General Motors, Firestone Tire, and Phillips Petroleum conspired to put them out of business, that is). Like the Edwards House, Le Soleil is mostly unknown as a Mary Rockwell Hook design, and her name wasn't mentioned in promotional materials when the estate sold in April, 2013 for $8,400,000 (photos here, here and here).
Also in the first part of career she designed most of the campus for the Pine Mountain Settlement School, a boarding school and local cultural center in a remote area of the southern Appalachian Mountains. From her memoirs it is clear this work meant much to her and although the site is now a National Historic Landmark, it never brought her great acclaim. But that certainly was okay with her; while she clearly loved architecture, she did not have the ego driving her to want to be The Great Architect. By the age Mary decided that she wanted to pursue a career in the field, Julia Morgan already had a BS from UC/Berkeley in Civil Engineering and had completed an internship with Bernard Maybeck. There were years that Mary did not practice architecture at all; near the end of WWI she worked for the Post Office translating "Spanish trade mail" and later spent a year working for a charity assisting French peasant-farmers trying to reestablish their lives postwar. She often spent hours a day riding horses and sometimes toured in amateur theatrical productions. It seems that she had a well-balanced and happy life right up to her death at age 101.
As for the Edwards House, Florence and her husband did not live there long. It appears that they moved in during the autumn of 1908, judging by the newspaper clipping mentioned below and because the Rockwell family scrapbooks contain an October 12, 1908 receipt from the Fountaingrove Vineyard Co. for five gallons of "Saut (sweetened)" - presumably sauterne, which was quite popular in the day - that cost 75 cents a gallon, plus another buck for the keg. Presumably there were more gallons of the cloying sweet wine on hand when James was elected mayor of Santa Rosa in 1910 and invited the congratulatory crowd that gathered outside their home to come in and have "something to eat and drink." Hopefully Florence didn't lose too many pieces of her replenished dishware collection that evening.
The Edwards apparently sold the house in 1913 to Milton Wasserman, one of the larger hops dealers in the area. Florence and James Edwards moved back to McDonald Avenue, where he had lived most of his life, this time taking up residence at number 925, directly next to the Mabelton mansion.
The James R. Edwards are now comfortably installed in their handsome new residence on Mendocino avenue. They have certainly good reason to be proud of their new home and the friends who have been privileged with an inspection of the interior furnishing and arrangement cannot say too much in compliment of the taste displayed.
- "Society Gossip", Press Democrat, November 22, 1908
Happy Halloween, 1910! It's that night when young pranksters are afoot and angry men blast away at them with shotguns.
The last time we looked at Halloween trends was for the year 1907, when there were at least seven fatalities nationwide. Only two died in 1910 but that may have been just dumb luck - there were three accounts of men firing shotguns into groups of boys involved in mischief. One young man was hit in the neck (it wasn't reported whether or not he later survived) and another had forty buckshot pellets removed from his body. It's likely there were other incidents like those; non-fatal shootings were local news only, and those three cases were found in the small sample of newspapers currently available through the Internet.
The papers show the country was in a far better mood than that earlier Halloween, which is no surprise considering the 1907 Bank Panic happened just a couple of weeks before the holiday, and many were fearing it was the start of a great depression (Press Democrat headline one week before 1907 Halloween: "FINANCIAL SITUATION IS PANICKY ALL OVER COUNTRY"). But in 1910 jolly Halloween parties were reported everywhere, and many schools and churches threw parties for kids, a transparent ploy to corral the little hooligans.
Pranks were mostly the same as from earlier years. (The whole notion of "trick or treat" as barter against vandalism apparently did not evolve until around 1927.) It was still popular to steal front gates from homes and hoist them high into trees; wagons and buggies were taken apart and reassembled atop a roof. There were regional variations, too. In the Midwest it was apparently common to dump a load of feed corn on someone's porch, creating a cleanup mess (think of it as the old-time version of TP'ing trees). The police in Indianapolis were on the alert for vandals throwing putty at passing automobiles. And in Provo, Utah, which became "dry" at the beginning of 1910, prohibitionist pranksters painted the word "blind" and a cartoon of a pig outside the speakeasies (here's the meaning of "blind pig" for those unfamiliar).
Some pranks also involved a "tick-tack," about which some deeper research was required. Completely forgotten today, this little noisemaker was incredibly popular at the turn of the century and easy for even a small child to make. Take an empty thread spool and notch teeth on the top and bottom to make the ends into something like a gear. Stick the spool on a pencil and wind string around the core. Pull the string and quickly press it against the outside of a window. Anyone inside the house would be startled by the very loud rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat sound that results. There were more complex versions including a couple of patented gizmos - the image shown at right is from a patent that included suction cups to attach to the window and a metal spring. You can find directions for a rubber band cranked tick-tack in the 1914 book, "The American Boy's Workshop," which also includes directions in how to trap a skunk, build a raft ("surely you can find four good stout logs and cleat them with pieces of scantling firmly spiked on") and several ways to put your eye out. But a tick-tack was not intended to be your everyday ratchet noisemaker; it was meant to terrorize people in the comfort of their home. And so one of the 1910 deaths came to be a sickly two year-old boy in Denver, who had a seizure and died after he was startled by the racket of a tick-tack on his bedroom window.
Here are some other pranks reported in the 1910 newspapers:
|Pranksters remove a guardrail surrounding a excavation pit in Chicago and an unidentified man falls to his death. Also in the grim category is the burning of a freight car in the Rock Island railroad yard, the vandal probably unaware that nearby cars were loaded with timber, coal, and other fuels that might have caused a conflagration|
|A Salt Lake City motorcycle cop spots a group of boys dragging away a gate with a rope. As he drives up to them, the boys use the rope to lasso the policeman. The boys spend the night in jail|
|A young man in Indiana decides it would be funny for his friends to tell his father he had been kidnapped and would be killed if a ransom wasn't paid. The group of boys - presumably masked - wake up the surprised dad, who promptly jumps from his second-story bedroom window in his nightgown|
The most interesting pranks, however, are the ones that remind us how different things were a century ago.
In the town of Jackson (Amador County) school was cancelled because someone stole the clapper in the school bell, and as everybody knows, school can't be held unless the school bell rings.
Another school cancelled classes because wiseguys broke into the school, led a cow to the second floor and left it there. This was a two-fer; not only was school called off because of the janitorial mess, but it's also impossible to lead a cow down a set of stairs - how they got it out of the building is anyone's guess.
And then there was the teacher in Duncan's Mill who found her buggy on the top of the barn the morning after Halloween. She demanded her students have it ready for use by the next day and come the following dawn, she awoke to find her buggy still on the barn but now with a goat hitched into position. Anythin' else we kin do for yer, Ma'am?
PRACTICAL JOKES AT DUNCAN MILLSTeachers' Buggy Placed on Top of Barn Hallowe'en and Tuesday Night a Goat Was Hitched in Shafts
Some of the practical jokers at Duncan's Mills had some amusement Hallowe'en and since at the expense of Miss Ethel Piezzie of this city, who is teaching in Ocean district, and living at Duncan's Mills.
During Hallowe'en night the buggy in which Miss Piezzie drives to and from he school daily was taken up on top of the barn, and her horse taken out of its stall and an old plug put in its place. When it came time to go to schools, Miss Piezzie was compelled to hire a buggy.
Dire threats were made by the teacher as to the results to the jokers unless her buggy was ready for use on Wednesday morning. When Wednesday morning came there was the buggy still on the barn, but hitched in the shafts was a goat which had been secured during the night and taken aloft for the purpose. The affair has created much amusement to all but the unfortunate teacher.
- Press Democrat, November 3, 1910
Flip a coin and vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidates; it doesn't matter because they're the same guys.
For the second election in a row, the 1910 Santa Rosa election was fixed - the Democrats and Republicans united to offer a "fusion" ticket with the same slate for mayor and city council. The main difference between that year's setup and 1908 was that the earlier candidates were "chosen" by a sham vote at local party conventions; in 1910, the nominees were selected by a committee of political party leaders.
Having the winners of the upcoming election already settled in a smoky backroom deal was a bit much, even for Santa Rosa's go-along lumpenproletariat. There were apparently grumbles, addressed by Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley in a pair of editorials. There was nothing un-democratic at all about the process because the committee's decisions were "authorized by the central or executive committees of those organizations." And besides, the nominations were only recommendations:
There is no good reason why there should be any opposition whatever to the non-partisan ticket suggested by the representatives of the three local political organizations as the result of their recent conference...Some people seem inclined to object to the manner in which "the ticket was nominated." They say a mass meeting should have had a voice in the proceedings and contend that the action of the conference committees savors of "star-chamber" proceedings. But as a matter of fact, no ticket has yet been nominated. All that the conference committees did, after getting together and ascertaining that there was no real difference between the three organizations as to questions of local policy, was to recommend that James R. Edwards be nominated for Mayor, and Messrs. Johnston, Forgett and Pressley be nominated as candidates for councilmen.
WAS THE 1910 SANTA ROSA ELECTION ILLEGAL?
But politics can make for strange bedfellows and besides the Democrats and Republicans making the committee's decisions that Finley deemed proper and praiseworthy, the third party at the table was the Municipal League - the very political group that Finley had hammered two years earlier as lying troublemakers with a secret agenda. The Municipal League of 1910, however, was not the Municipal League of 1908; the progressive faction that wanted reform - the people who always seemed to make Finley feel most threatened - had mostly split off to form a county chapter of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League that was attempting to elbow its way into the local Republican party. (Much more about that drama later.) Apparently the Municipal League was now mainly the church element that wanted prohibition, which accounts for the "fusion" plank that promised there would be no new saloons and existing liquor laws would be enforced. New hotels and restaurants were exempt, of course, and fat chance on the latter.
Although he lacked a proper foe to demonize in this election, Finley did not retire his cudgel. His target now was the man who had the temerity run against the fusion ticket candidate for mayor: Evariste de Bernardi, an Italian immigrant who had operated a hotel and grocery in Petaluma and now owned the Magnolia Hotel in Santa Rosa. Apparently unwilling to openly attack a Santa Rosa businessman, Finley smeared de Bernardi using an editorial page "humor" column from his alter-ego, "Sleepy Bill." Written in thick dialect supposed to imitate an old-timer, Sleepy Bill longed for a return of the good ol' days when Santa Rosa was "wide open" and hoped that he and his sort could elect de Bernardi on the sly. "Bernardi's a cute one, all right, and if youse blokes don't tie no handicap to him, he'll fool de talent and make de trip dead easy."
The libel against de Bernardi continued with asides that "He's promised seven or eight fellers to make 'em Street Commissioner," that he was plotting to bring back prostitution, that he was arrested for backroom gambling and that he gouged customers by jacking up prices after the 1906 earthquake:
De good peeps ain't fergot as how Bernardi was arrested and fined two or three times fer runnin' a gambling game in his joint after de shake, or how he soaked de price of beer up to a quarter and coffee to a half, and de boys in blue had to call him down. And if I gets it straight, a lot of folks here already knows how he used to run dat hotel in Petalumy. No sir, we don't want to do nothin' that will git any of dem stories started around dis burg just yet.
While the dissolute Sleepy Bill hoped de Bernardi was voted into office "afore anybody drops on to what's doin," he still wouldn't knock the fusion candidate for mayor: "Jimmy Edwards ain't fer no dry town...Jimmy Edwards is all right, but he don't trot in my class" ('live the high life like me,' probably). And, in fact, candidate James R. Edwards invited no rebuke. Like the previous mayor, James H. Gray, he was by all counts an honest man untouched by scandal, and unlikely to exploit his position as Santa Rosa's mayor.
James Edwards was the assistant cashier at Exchange Bank and after the 1906 earthquake was treasurer of the Earthquake Relief Fund. It was James who drove his father-in-law, Bertrand Rockwell, to a Petaluma bank immediately after the earthquake, where Rockwell cashed a check needed to pay emergency workers. Edwards later became president of the Luther Burbank Company and honorably resigned when the company became mired in disgrace (not of his doing). And as the obl. Believe It Or Not! item for this article, be astonished that he has two graves! One is in the Santa Rosa Memorial Park Cemetery and the other in the Rural Cemetery. James died in 1932 (age 59) and was buried next to his mother at Rural, but his widow, Florence, lived another thirty years - presumably she requested he be disinterred and reburied at her side in the Memorial Park. But the earlier headstone remained behind at Rural.
Edwards also shared with his predecessor, Gray - also elected as a "fusion" candidate - a lack of any experience or apparent ambition in politics. Finley and the Chamber of Commerce bunch probably wanted them in office not because they were supposed to act upon the behalf of special interests, but because they could be counted upon to head a laissez-faire administration. Neither mayor stepped up to the plate as a leader, although Gray tried to mediate a dispute early in his tenure and ended up putting the city at risk of a lawsuit as a result. Edwards offered little or no leadership in his two years, even staying on the sidelines during the battle over moving the tannery, which pitted most of the citizenry against the town's largest employer.
On election day, Edwards beat de Bernardi 69 to 31 percent, which seems like a huge win until you consider that de Bernardi won a third of the vote with absolutely no support from any political party. The fusion ticket councilmen also all won, although one of them faced a pair of opponents who together received more votes. The anti-fusion votes may have been only a minority dissenting against the town's status-quo polity but it was dissent just the same, and a sign that a sizable number of voters were no longer marching to the beat of the same old political drums.
THE POLITICAL POT BOILINGLion and Lamb to Lie Down Together This SpringThe political pot has begun to boil in Santa Rosa already, and there seems to be a general disposition among the parties to eliminate any contest in the coming municipal election.
With that end in view conferences have recently been held between committees representing the fusionists at the last election and the Municipal Leaguers. Certain matters have been tacitly agreed upon, but other matters are yet in the embryonic state.
A mayorality [sic] candidate has not yet been found and a nominee to succeed Councilman L. W. Burris has not been chosen. Councilman Burris long since announced tht eh would not under any condition accept the nomination again.
In the conferences held, as stated, it has been agreed that the Fusionists shall name the nominee for councilmanic honors from the fourth ward, and it is understood that means the selection of Councilman C. Fred Forgett to succeed himself.
The selection of the nominee for the sixth ward has been left entirely to the Municipal Lague, and it is understood that Councilman Robert L. Johnston, the incumbent, is to be his own successor.
In the fifth ward, from which Councilman Burris retires, there are two candidates in the open, with a dark horse who may yet take the lead. The men who have been mentioned for councilmen in this ward are Henry A. Hoyt, the contractor, and Leslie A. Jordan, the insurance man. If a choice cannot be made between these men by the committee having the matter in charge, a dark horse is known to be in existence.
Representing the parties in the conferences have been seven men, two Republicans, two Democrats and three Municipal League men.
- Santa Rosa Republican, February 17, 1910
FUSION TICKET NOMINATED AT COMMITTEE CONFERENCEEdwards for Mayor, Johnston, Forgett and Pressley for Council
THE TICKETFor Mayor--James R. Edwards
For Councilman, Third Ward--Robert Lyle Johnston
For Councilman, Fourth Ward--Charles Frederick Forgett
For Councilman, Fifth Ward--Lawrence Adams Pressley
MATTERS AGREED ON FOR THE PLATFORMWe, the representatives of the municipal organizations of the Democratic, Republican and Municipal League parties of the City of Santa Rosa, pledge our candidates for the offices of Mayor and Councilmen to the following platform:
I.Impartiality and non-partisanship, in the appointment of all city officers, in the employment of labor, the purchase of materials, and the letting of contracts.
II.That no bawdy-house district, or public prostitution, shall be permitted to exist within the corporate limits of the city.
III.The regulation of the saloons, and the orderly conduct of of the same; a strict and impartial enforcement of all municipal and state laws with respect to the sale of spiritous, malt, and vinous liquors; the issuance of no new liquor licenses except to bona fide hotels and restaurants, and the reduction of the number of saloons now existing as opportunity will permit, without undue injury to individuals; and in the event of the forfeiture of a license for any cause, no new or other license to be issued in lieu thereof.
- Press Democrat, February 29, 1910
AN ACCEPTABLE TICKET
Much satisfaction is being expressed over the ticket proposed by the conference committee, and there is little question but that it will be heartily endorsed at the polls. Many a time we have fought and struggled through a two-months' campaign, engendering feelings that lasted for years, only to emerge with a set of officers not nearly so well qualified and not half so acceptable generally. James R. Edwards is a man of high character, fine business ability and sterling worth. He can be depended upon to discharge the duties of Mayor faithfully and well. Messrs. Johnston and Forgett have rendered good service on the City Council, and no mistake will be made in electing them for another term. Lawrence Pressley has occupied numerous positions of responsibility and trust, always acquitting himself with credit. As a member of the City Council he will fully substantiate the confidence that has been placed in him.
- Press Democrat editorial, March 1, 1910
JAMES R. EDWARDS IN AN INTERVIEWNon-Partisan Nominee for Mayor Outlines Position in Talk With Press Democrat Representative
"The several matters covered in the platform speak for themselves, and seem fair enough to suit anybody. This nomination came to me entirely unsolicited, and I am bound to no party, individual or set of individuals. If elected, I shall try to serve the interests of all the people. As far as I am able to learn, affairs in the various departments appear to be running along in a satisfactory condition, and as the object of this election seems to be to avoid any undue disturbance. I see no reason at this time why any changes should be necessary among the city's employees. If I should be elected and later discover that any of the employees of the municipality are not doing their duty or giving the city the proper kind of service, they will have to go, and that is all there is about it. A city, it seems to me, is pretty much like a business concern, and there is no reason why it should not be run along business lines."
- Press Democrat, March 3, 1910
There is no good reason why there should be any opposition whatever to the non-partisan ticket suggested by the representatives of the three local political organizations as the result of their recent conference. The four men recommended for office are all good representative citizens, who can be depended upon to treat all interests with fairness and impartiality; all are well qualified for the positions they have been asked to fill; there is absoulutely no issue to be fought out; and the best interests of the city demand that the strife and turmoil attending recent municipal elections here be avoided this year if such a thing be possible.
Some people seem inclined to object to the manner in which "the ticket was nominated." They say a mass meeting should have had a voice in the proceedings and contend that the action of the conference committees savors of "star-chamber" proceedings.
But as a matter of fact, no ticket has yet been nominated. All that the conference committees did, after getting together and ascertaining that there was no real difference between the three organizations as to questions of local policy, was to recommend that James R. Edwards be nominated for Mayor, and Messrs. Johnston, Forgett and Pressley be nominated as candidates for councilmen. The nominations have not yet been made. They are being made now, by petition.
Under the new primary law, conventions and mass meetings are things of the past. And the members of the three committees named to confer regarding the best way to go about handing the election under the new and untried law were all duly accredited representatives of the political organizations for which they acted, and their acts were not only authorized by the central or executive committees of those organizations, but also duly ratified before being made public.
In addition to the facts above set forth, the action of the conference committees has resulted in saving the city the expense of holding a primary election. Less than a couple of hundred electors were registered in time to qualify themselves to vote at the primaries, and the expenses of holding the primary would have been between $1,200 and $1,500.
Taking everything into consideration, it is difficult to understand how any citizen having the welfare of the community at heart can conscientiously oppose the plan that has been suggested for getting rid of the usual election squabble here this year.
- Press Democrat editorial, March 3, 1910
ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR MAYORALTY
E. DeBernardi has announced his candidacy for the office of Mayor. Yesterday he called at this office and handed in the following signed communication with the request that it be published:
Having been requested by a number of prominent business men and citizens of Santa Rosa to become a candidate for Mayor in the next election to be held in our city on the 5th day of April, I come before you after due consideration and ask your support.
I must say that I come before you with free hands, pledged to no machine nor party, making you no promises, nor trying to mislead you. I do not want you to criticize what I am going to do, but what I have done.
My platform will have no planks (especially if rough lumber one may get slivers), no flourishing words, but only three phrases; honesty of purpose, justice to all, and favor to none.
I want your support and the support of those that love liberty; liberty of thoughts and action, and if by the past you may judge the future, then I have nothing to fear, fully believing that you will entrust to me the care of your city. I have lived among you for nearly a decade, and having been in business all this time, you have had a chance to see more or less of me and judge if I am not worthy of your confidence, and if next April, the 5th you will choose to cast your ballot for me. I will give an administration that you shall have just reason to be proud of.
[signed] E. DeBernardi.
Mr. DeBernardi does not come before the public as the nominee of any organization, political or otherwise, but merely as a citizen willing to occupy this high place and take over the direction of public affairs here if the people so desire. In launching his candidacy he proceeds under the general law, which provides that any citizen may become a candidate for office upon presenting a petition duly signed by at least three percent of the voters. Mr. DeBernardi was out yesterday securing signatures to his petition, and met with good success. He hopes to file his petition today. Mr. DeBernardi has been a resident of this city for several years, and lived in Petaluma for some time before coming here. He is a native of Italy, where he was born 46 years ago. He was naturalized in 1885, in Marin county.
- Press Democrat, March 5, 1910
OLD SLEEPY BILL COMES BACKWell-Known Local Character Discusses Political Situation Straight from the Inside
"Say, what are youse guys a-tryin' to do, start something?" said Sleepy Bill yesterday, as he strolled into a down-town resort and began to shake hands all 'round after his long absence. "Can't youse mutts see dat a scrap now is a-goin' to spoil de game and beat de big bloke for Mayor?" he continued. "Our play is fer to lay low, and shoot Bernardi in afore anybody drops on to what's doin.'"
"Why, if de choich gang ever gets wise to our man we won't have no more show dan Jim Ramage has of winnin' out in de big race meet wid his one-lunger. Say, dey'd make us look like Joe Tarzyn after a game of pool at de Elk's Club. De good peeps ain't fergot as how Bernardi was arrested and fined two or three times fer runnin' a gambling game in his joint after de shake, or how he soaked de price of beer up to a quarter and coffee to a half, and de boys in blue had to call him down. And if I gets it straight, a lot of folks here already knows how he used to run dat hotel in Petalumy. No sir, we don't want to do nothin' that will git any of dem stories started around dis burg just yet.
Bernardi's a cute one, all right, and if youse blokes don't tie no handicap to him, he'll fool de talent and make de trip dead easy. He's promised seven or eight fellers to make 'em Street Commissioner, and de way dey is out a-leggin for him is something pitiful. Why, when it comes to promisin' t'ings, he's got Henry Silvershield beat to a pulp. Tarkey Rains, Little Bill Nichols, Charlie White, Political Dick, Jess Musselman, Charley Holmes and three or four others t'ink dey has got de street job nailed to de cross fer fair. Dey say he promised 'em de place right out. He's kinder overdid de promisin' act as fer as de Street Commissioner busines goes, dough. A day or two back, one of de boys heard conflictin' yarns about who was to git de place, and went and asked him what id meant. 'Well,' says Bernardi, 'I did tell Jess he could have it, but you're de real Injun, see? I was only a stringin' Jess, so as to make him feel good.'
"Naw; de Police Chief aint settled on yet. De big one wants to give it to Curley Murphy, but we has promised it to t'ree or four, and I don't know just how it is a-goin' to come out. Yes, when it comes to promisin' dats our strong suit, but if you know who you're a talkin' to you don't take any chances. We promised the good gang dat we wouldn't stand fer no red lights and den we turned 'round and throwed de gaff into de udder gang and told 'em if dey wanted t'ings put back de way dey was before, dey would have to come across wid de goods. And dey come, you bet. Oh, when it comes to doin' slick politics, DeB is right dere wid bells, and don't youse fergit it. Pop Collins learned him de game down in Petalumy.
"Jimmy Edwards ain't fer no dry town; he says everything is a-runnin' along all right now. But what we wants is to t'row 'er wide open, wake up dese chicken-farmers and make 'em circulate dere egg money.
"Me and Dock Reed and Charlie Holmes was a-talkin' yesterday in de J & M and Dock he says dey has got to be a change. 'De choich crowd and Rolfe Thompson and his gang has run dis town long enough, and its a dead one alongside of Reno and Truckee and some of them up-to-date burgs,' says Dock. 'Jimmy Edwards is all right, but he don't trot in my class. It's me fer de swinging doors and de 'lectric lights--lots of 'em. If de gang had a-put me up, I'd a-made de old town go some, you bet.'
"'You're de man what ought to a-had it too, Dock,' says Charlie. 'You had no business a-gettin' cold feet like dat, and lettin' Bernardi beat you to it.'
"'You bet, I'd sure a-showed 'em some real speed,' says Dock.
- Press Democrat editorial page, March 27, 1910
EDWARDS' MAJORITY LARGEST EVER POLLED FOR MAYOREntire 'Non-Partisan Party' Ticket Elected, by Majorities that Vary from 529 to 21
The election passed off quietly, as such things go, although during the day much interest was manifested regarding the probable outcome.
Edwards' supporters were out early with teams and carriages, and Bernardi had an automobile at work, supplementing this later in the day with a carriage or two. Several of the other candidates also had carriages out.
The voting began early, and the total vote cast was 1427. With one or two exceptions, the election officers were those already announced in these columns.
As usual, the Press Democrat office was the principal scene of activity in the evening when the returns began to come in. The crowd began to gather before seven o'clock. As the messengers came in from the polling places with the return of votes, the results were quickly totalled up and announced, thus keeping the crowd posted as to the progress of the count.
All the returns were in shortly after eight o'clock, with the exception of those from the Fifth precinct, where the count was slow. The fact that there were three men running for Councilmen in this ward may have accounted for the delay there to some extent.
Shortly after nine o'clock all the votes were in and as soon as the result was formally announced a procession was formed and headed for the Edwards' residence on Mendocino Avenue to congratulate Mr. Edwards on his election. Arriving there, Mr. Edwards was called out, and from the porch introduced by Ernest L. Finley as "the next Mayor of the City of Santa Rosa."
Mr. Edwards' appearance was greeted with much enthusiasm, and after the cheering had subsided the crowd called upon him for a speech. Mr. Edwards responded with a few well-chosen remarks in which he thanked the citizens for the honor conferred upon him, and pledged himself to do all in his power to promote the welfare and advancement of Santa Rosa. He concluded by inviting all present to come in and have "something to eat and drink."
The invitation was accepted with three rousing cheers and the entire gathering trooped inside where Mrs. Edwards and a number of her lady friends served coffee, sandwiches, etc., everybody shaking hands with the new Mayor as they entered the door. After felicitating the new Mayor personally upon his his election and partaking of his hospitality, the crowd departed and later on in the evening, when the meeting of the City Council had adjourned, Mayor James H. Gray and the city officials also called at the Edwards residence and congratulated Mr. Edwards upon his election. The latter party remained about an hour.
About half-past nine o'clock, Mrs. DeBernardi, wife of Mr. Edwards opponent, telephoned to the new Mayor congratulating him upon his election and wishing him a successful administration.
- Press Democrat, April 6, 1910