Can you list 100 businesses in downtown Santa Rosa? Do you also know who owns the company? If so, you might win a hi-tech gadget or cash! Thus was the incentive to compete the Press Democrat's 1909 "What do you Know About This?" contest.
The contest was sort of a scavenger hunt. The newspaper served up a brief description of 100 businesses, and contestants were required to identify the company along with its street address. The PD warned that it would be a stickler for accuracy: "Answers to be correct must have firm names correctly spelled, and in the usual 'style' of the firm. By this is meant that it will not be sufficient to merely say 'Smith's,' or 'Smith's Grocery' when the firm's correct name and style is 'John D. Smith & Bro.'" Names of the owners were sometimes demanded and sometimes not, ensuring contestants read the description very carefully: "Study the questions carefully, because sometimes the name of the store as well as the name of the firm and its location is asked for. Then again, sometimes the firm name might be the only thing required." Golly, could a newspaper contest possibly be more thrilling fun?
It was actually just a clever promotional gimmick for the paper's advertisers, of course, Herbert W. R. Mallory, a 14 year-old boy won first prize: a "Talk-o-Phone" valued at $25. A $10 gold coin was won by Aletha Hoag in second place, the PD noting her submission "was a model of neatness, being nicely typewritten and prepared with much care." The week-long contest probably boosted foot traffic for the businesses (even though most contestants apparently were teenagers, and unlikely to be soon in the market for services like electrical contractors or undertakers) and the whole deal was probably soon forgotten.
Today, however, the contest's questions present a unique glimpse into the very different world of 1909 Santa Rosa. Who knew that opticians made house calls? Or that a dry cleaner would re-curl and clean your feathers? Or that a certain drayage company always painted its wagons yellow? Or that a garage would send a car to take you anywhere in town for a 35 cent fare? There's much more detail about these businesses than found in their ads, and there's also red meat here for genealogists; many of the names mentioned in the contest's answers rarely appeared in the papers, if it all.
Unfortunately, I can't transcribe the entire text as I usually do. The questions fill two pages set in 8 point type and clocks in at about 13,000 words, which is too much to pound out with my poor, aging fingers. I attempted to OCR the pages (using Google Docs, which has the best OCR I know of), but the image quality is too poor, even after enhancing brightness and contrast - the original Press Democrat microfilm for the entire year of 1909 is the worst quality I've ever encountered, and nearly unreadable.
As a compromise, I've entered below the names of all businesses and owners (when given) so they can be found by Internet search engines. For anyone seriously interested, I've also made available a cleaned-up copy (PDF) of the contest questions and answers in the Comstock House digital library (WARNING: This is a 14M file that will probably take several minutes to download). But to provide a taste of the contest, here are some of the more interesting questions and answers:
|Number 1.--This is Number 1, and it stands for a cigar store of that character, to which is appended in the rear the same kind of a billiard and pool hall. The location is central, and the brands of imported and domestic cigars dispensed cover a wide range of variety. Smoking and chewing tobacco--and don't forget the chewing gum--of all kinds, and supreme quality. There is always something doing around this popular place. If you are down town evenings hunting for your friend the odds are that you will find him here. This place is conducted by a firm, and the names of both members rhyme exactly. Give the name and number. Bailey & Bailey, 439 Fourth.|
|Number 7.--This is not the drug store that advertised a liniment so strong that, applied to the stub end of a dog's tail, it caused the tail to grow out again and then again applied to the severed piece picked up from the dust of the street, from it grew another dog. But the goods they sell are reliable, dependable drugs, in every case just what they purport to be. This store was started soon after the memorable event of three years ago, and at once took rank as one of the leading pharmacies of the city. It is conducted by a firm of young men who have spent many years of their lives in Santa Rosa, and whose acquaintance oreaches out to all parts of Sonoma County. They are prescription pharmaceuticals and chemicals. They put up a Witch Hazel cream that has a large sale and also Cold Tablets that have demonstrated their merits in hundreds of cases. Their line of druggists' sundries is very large and they also carry a large line of cosmetics and medicines of all kinds. They are away "up" in the profession as well as the procession, and now it is up to you to give firm name and street number. Belden & Upp, 443 Fourth.|
|Number 9.--This is one of the live grocery stores down toward the Northwestern depot, and they make a specialty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as fancy and staple groceries and provisions. Their place is the Santa Rosa depot for Oak Grove butter, than which there is none better made. They also handle the Sperry flour, which needs no "boosting." This firm has been doing business here about three years, since before the "shake." They are live men. Give firm name and street number. Fehrman & Peters, 129-131 Fourth|
|Number 18.-- This firm makes a specialty of dealing in foods and liquors that are guaranteed under the Federal Pure Foods and Drugs Act. The Government spends many million dollars to protect you from impure foods, but you must do your part by patronizing a firm that deals exclusively in the pure kind. This firm has a large grocery and liquor store on lower Fourth street, selling goods at both wholesale and retail. They have been doing business here twenty-two years. Before the great shake-up or shake-down, whichever you may call it, they were located at 315 Fourth. Where are they located at this time and what is the name of the firm? N. Bacigalupi & Son, 134 Fourth.|
|Number 30.-- What meat market is it that at one time was doing business on the present site of the Press Democrat building, where they were burned out on December 20, 1906? They are still running and doing a flourishing business. For a time they did business on Second street, then they moved to their present location. They pride themselves on the very best fresh and cured meats, sausage, etc. They put up also a fine brand of kettle-rendered lard. Give name and street number. Feliz's Market, Sisto J. Feliz, 540 Third.|
|Number 39.-- What is the name of a pleasant rooming house on Fourth street which has 34 well-kept well ventilated rooms? The name indicates that there had been a fire in times past. The building is new and modern and every accommodation is offered those who make their home here permanently, as well as those who come just for one or more days. Every room is an outside room, and all have running water. When you are stopping in Santa Rosa you will find this place very central and desirable. Give name of house, name of propriortress and street number. The Phoenix, Mrs. Dora Grissim, 416½ Fourth|
|Number 66.--What is the name of an all-day and all-night restaurant which advertises itself as the "only American restaurant in Santa Rosa"? They serve meals and short orders in splendid style and have a very liberal patronage among all classes of people. This restaurant has been in existance for about twenty years. The present firm in charge have been conducting the same for only a few months, but they understand their business and are making a fine success. The name of the restaurant is the same as that of a New England city. Give name and street number. Boston Restaurant, 409 Fourth.|
|Number 77.-- Now, who is the one man in this city who sells stationery, books and kodaks? There is only one man in the city who keeps the whole combination mentioned. It is up to you to find him. He has been located here five years--just got in in [sic] good time to get it "good and plenty" when the earth rocked and the fires raged. At that time he was on the south side of Fourth, near B. He is carrying a large line of the three articles mentioned, which covers a multitude of items. His prices are very low. He is also agent for the San Francisco morning dailies. Give his name and street number. Temple Smith, 611 Fourth.|
|Number 82.--What is the name of the new garage just around the corner from Fifth street? Also give name of proprietor and street number. Has been running but two months but is going some, just the same. Cars for hire day or night, and bus fare anywhere in the city is only 35 cents. Packages delivered for 10 cents. Keeps gasoline and oil for sale. The owner has lived several years in the city and has a wide circle of acquaintance, from which he draws a big patronage. You can always get an auto here for atrip to the country or surrounding towns at reasonable rates. Auto Garage, G. V. Saunders, 450 Mendocino.|
|Number 88.--The man who writes the signs of the city is almost as important a personage as the man who writes the signs of the times. The old-fashioned sign with a period or a comman between each word and now and then a corectly [sic] spelled word, has gone out of business in every circle where intelligence dwells. The signs in Santa Rosa are a credit to the city as well as to the man, or men, who wrote them. The man who did most of the work is still here and his right arm has not yet lost its cunning. He does all kinds of work and does it right. He makes a specialty of raised and metal letters, and gilding on glass. Also does cloth, banner, and wall signs. You know him. Give his name and the street number of his shop. G. W. Salisbury, 512 Fifth.|
|Number 94.--Repairing shoes by electricity. Like everything else this branch of industry is likewise to be dominated by the "juice." It has been a steady conquest--ever since Ben Franklin sent up his kite, and the end is not yet. This establishment makes repairs "while U wait." Does not even place pa bar against the man who neglects to bathe his feet. Does good word and at very moderate prices. Just a few doors off Mendocino. Been here two years. Who is he? Give name and location. Cut Rate Shoe Repair Factory, Dan Picken, 541 Fifth.|
(RIGHT: A 1906 Press Democrat ad for a "Talk-o-Phone." This was the "Souza" model; the Talk-o-Phone Company named each model after a famous living musician without permission)
The believe-it-or-not twist to the contest is that the grand prize "Talk-o-Phone" was rather lame, and maybe not even worth the 25 bucks. Phonograph players - called "disk talking machines" in 1909 - were coveted entertainment centers of the day, and new models cost 2-3 months salary for the average worker. But Talk-o-Phones hadn't been made for some time; after years of lawsuits by Victor over patent infringement, the manufacturer declared bankruptcy. Besides copying the Victrola's mechanism, the Talk-o-Phone Company of Toledo, Ohio even ripped off their advertising. Where Victor famously had Nipper the dog with an ear cocked in recognition of "His Master's Voice," Talk-o-Phone first had a parrot "learning some new ones." Santa Rosa stores hadn't advertised Talk-o-Phones in the papers for ages, and this "prize" had likely been sitting on some store's back shelf gathering dust.
BUSINESSES AND NAMES IN THE PRESS DEMOCRAT'S 1909 "WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS?" CONTEST
PAGE ONE: Bailey & Bailey; Ketterlin Brothers; St. Rose Drug Store, Wm. McK. Stewart; Kopf & Donovan; Dixon & Elliott; Sonoma County Fruit & Produce Co.; Belden & Upp; Ideal Cyclery, Howard & Muenzer; Fehrman & Peters; Santa Rosa Planing Mill, P. H. Kroncke; California Oyster Market & Grill, Athanasiu & Apostolides; Grand Central Market, Wm. Steinbring; W. W. Felt; Dohn's Express & Storage Co.; Crystal Dry Cleaning and Dyeing Works, Geo. B. Pierce; Hattie, McKinney & Titus; Santa Rosa Marble & Granite Works, Kinslow Bros.; N. Bacigalupi & Son; Acme Cyclery, Henry Jenkins; Depot Market, Joseph Dont Jr.; Santa Rosa Garage, S. D. Burris; Bauman & Milburn; New York Pork Store, Wm. Sukalle; M. C. Yoell; E. T. Briggs; J. W. Andrews; H. K. Kagee; New York Shoe Store, L. Demeo; J. W. Wood; Feliz's Market, Sisto J. Feliz; Lomont & Co.; Dr. J. E. Jobe; Grand Central Market, Cummings Bros.; L. H. Thalman; Campi Restaurant and Lodging House, P. Bianchi; The Castle; The Missouri Shoe Store, B. Tobias; Grant Patterson; The Phoenix, Mrs. Dora Grissim; C. M. Bruner; Moke & Ward; W. E. Case; Domestic French Laundry; David Glickman; Flagler's; Keegan Bros.; Dan Behmer
PAGE TWO: A. C. Smith; Dr. V. Hoffer; Juell's Drug Store; Santa Rosa Furniture Co.; Lewis & Son; A. J. Pommer Co.; J. H. Potter & Son; McHarvey's; Muther & Son; The Ladies' Arcade, Mrs. I. Rusden, Miss Annie Scott; Santa Rosa Transfer & Storage Co., A. D. Sund; Hodgson-Henderson Co.; Coon & Bent; W. C. Davis; R. C. Moodey & Son; Santa Rosa Department Store, A. T. Sutherland; Brooks Clothing Co.; Ayers & Paul; Boston Restaurant; Sherman, Clay & Co., F. L. Vanderlip; R. Isabel Waddington; Wiley B. Allen Co.; McConnell-Prentiss Co.; Sterling Cyclery, Burmeister & Walker; James A. Brown; Cnopius & Co.; New Method Cleaning Co.; Field Bros.; Palace of Sweets, C. T. Sherman; Temple Smith; Pierce & Pillar, Santa Rosa Glove Co.; Neil Sinclair; W. H. Upton; A. Bryant; Auto Garage, G. V. Saunders; Union Trust-Savings Bank; Lawson-Rinner Optical Co.; Dr. H. G. Hewitt; Frank Berka; Hoyt Brothers; G. W. Salisbury; The Monarch Cyclery, Marlatt Bros.; Gamble Bros.; S. T. Daken; The Harper Hair Dressing Parlor; J. C. Mailer Hardware Co.; Cut Rate Shoe Repair Factory, Dan Picken; Fashion Stables, Wm. Hockin & Sons; Houts Auto Co., O. L. Houts; Sonoma Tent & Awning Co.; The Cash Cyclery; Campbell & Coffey; A. M. Hildebrandt
-- Press Democrat, June 2, 1909