A poignant reminder that rights are hard won, and history is never a sequence of inevitable events. Suffragists had been trying to gain rights in the U.S. for over a quarter century, yet had scored wins in only four states by 1904. Miss Elaine Davis, who thought the sight of women voting so novel, would have to wait eight more years before she could cast her own vote for a president in California; women in most other states would wait 16 years until the Nineteenth Amendment was finally passed in 1920.

Was in Boise City on Election Day And Heard Members of the Fair Sex Discuss Politics

Miss Elaine Davis of this city, who is on her way east for an extended tour, happened in Boise, Idaho, on election day and was the guest of a friend of the Davis family, who is vice president of the Republican State Central Committee. She saw women go to the polls and vote with as much interest as the men. It was a novel sight for Miss Davis, and she was amused to hear women debating political issues among themselves. Everything passed off quietly and orderly at the polls, and the lady voters were accorded the respect due their sex.


- Press Democrat, November 15, 1904

All that you need to know about the 1904 presidential election: Teddy Roosevelt beat the knickers off someone you've never heard of.

As boring and predictable as the race was nationally, it was political mortal combat in the trenches of the highly-partisan Santa Rosa newspapers. The battle began quietly enough, with each editor sniping at the presidential nominee on the opposing side. Then salvos were fired against the other party's candidate for Congress, first raising questions about the man's capabilities, then attacking his character and even manhood. And finally it became take-no-prisoners warfare against everyone on the opposing side, especially the editor of the other paper. By early November, it wouldn't have been surprising to come across Press Democrat editor Finley and Republican editor Lemmon slugging away on Fourth street.

Nothing needs to be said here about Teddy Roosevelt, except that Mr. Fairbanks, named in some of the posts below, was his veep. Heading the Democratic ticket was the forgettable and dolorous duo of Judge Alton B. Parker and 80 year-old Henry G. Davis. Parker was the 3rd (or 4th) pick for a compromise candidate, nominated only because party superstar William Jennings Bryan didn't want to make a third consecutive run, and because conservative Democrats loathed candidate William Randolph Hearst, who they viewed as a playboy with populist leanings. Octogenarian Davis was given the nod because everyone thought the wealthy industrialist would gratefully pay for the campaign (he didn't). In the end, the Parker/Davis ticket was a 19th century throwback in a year when Americans were focused upon the promise of twentieth century progress. They ended up carrying only the 17 states of the old Confederacy, save Missouri.

The surprise in reading the local election year news was that racial discrimination was so often an underlying theme, starting with the Press Democrat's editorial shock over an African-American child appearing onstage at the Republican Convention, warning it was a portent of dreaded racial equality. But officially, race was a non-issue for Democrats in 1904. The national party platform didn't mention race at all, except to condemn Republican "race agitation" as a threat that could reopen wounds "now happily healed." As such, it wasn't a plank as much as it was a talking point to bash Republicans. (The Republican National Committee would produce a historically valuable "campaign textbook" in 1908 to counter such attacks.)

One reason that Democrats stayed clear of race issues that year was probably Bryan's decision not to run. In each previous election campaign he had courted African-American support, arguing that Republicans had only given them "janitorships" in exchange for their vote. What Democrats offered was only Jim Crow discrimination, of course, and Bryan didn't seem to understand that Blacks disliked being second-class citizens. Of course, that wasn't the only thing Bryan didn't understand.

The election of 1904 continues in four parts.


The South is enthusiastic for Judge Parker and would be so if there were but one issue in the campaign. To them the all-absorbing and overpowering issue is the negro question and they are anxious for the defeat of Roosevelt on account of that issue, if for no other reason. A recent communication to the Washington Post by a negro named Henry B. Baker serves to accentuate the negro issue more than anything that has lately appeared. In that communication, he calls attention to the difference between the Republican and the Democratic National Conventions. He says that at the Republican Convention the colored man was treated as a companion, friend, and brother, that there he was made to feel as though he were not only a political but social equal; that the delegates followed the advice and example of President Roosevelt, who teaches that the colored man deserves to be treated as a social equal. He says that to emphasize this fact, he had the courage to have at his table, Prof. Booker T. Washington, and that, if Roosevelt is elected, it will so encourage the negro men that they will demand that Booker Washington shall be the Republican candidate for Vice-President in 1908. He calls attention to the scene in the Republican Convention, when a beautiful white girl was placed upon the stage and by her side a negro boy, and that they led the cheering, thus making an example of President Roosevelt's idea of the equality of the races. He then points out that the Democratic Convention was a white man's convention, of a white man's party, and that in it, there was not a single negro man. Talk like that will do more to make the race question one of the leading issues of this campaign than anything else that could be suggested. There are many doubtful states in the North that will give to the Democrats sufficient Republican votes upon the negro question alone to send them into the Democratic column.

- Press Democrat, August 10, 1904

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In the 1904 election coverage, editors of the Santa Rosa Republican and Press Democrat booed the other side's presidential candidate -- but the long knives came out over the contest for the House of Representatives. This post and the following one explain some of the backstory, and why the fight became so vicious.

The Democratic party candidate was 32 year-old Theodore Bell, then completing his first term in the House. Before his term in Congress, Bell had been District Attorney in Napa County. The opposition charged that he'd done little in Washington except claim partial credit for legislation authored by other Congressmen.

Assistant U.S. District Attorney Duncan McKinlay was the Republican challenger. Although he maintained a home on Cherry Street in Santa Rosa, the Democrats said he was technically a resident of San Francisco, where he worked and lived most of the time.


Bell's commendable efforts in Congress were limited to good intentions. He accomplished nothing. It was Perkins who secured the building of the collier at Mare Island Navy Yard after Bell had lost the proposition in the House. Bell had no more to do with the apportionment of funds of the Sacramento and Napa Rivers than did the man in the moon. They were apportioned on the recommendation of the engineers, the work being done in the War Department. All that Bell can be credited with in any manner affecting the welfare of this state or district in any way is "good intentions," with which a very hot place is supposed to be paved.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904

It is a noteworthy fact that the only argument Duncan McKinlay's supporters can advance in favor of his election to Congress is the fact that he belongs to the Republican party.

They cannot say that he is a better man for the place than Theodore Bell, for that is not true.

They cannot urge his superior ability, for he does not possess it.

They cannot claim that either personally, professionally, mentally, or morally Duncan McKinlay is better entitled to the support of the people than Theodore Bell, for they know better.

All they can say is that McKinlay belongs to the Republican party.

He certainly does.

- Press Democrat, October 7, 1904

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Pity the candidate of a rural district in 1904 -- it took three (four?) days for candidate Bell to canvas the larger towns in Sonoma County alone, and this district stretches all the way to Oregon (and at the time, it also apparently included more counties in the upper Central Valley). Party leaders and political celebrities were more involved in stumping for local candidates than today; no one thought it odd that vice presidential candidate Fairbanks was speechifying for an hour down in Stockton to reelect a Congressman.

Republican McKinlay had no less than the governor of the state campaigning for him: George Pardee, who, in fifteen too-short months after that election, would be the only major elected official to be roundly praised for his actions following the Great Earthquake of 1906. Most of the upset from the Press Democrat was aimed at the governor for having the effrontery to take sides in an election.

Democrat Bell's champion was Thomas J. Geary, called "Sonoma county's Democratic boss" by Lemmon's newspaper. Geary was no inconsequential backwoods Baby Tweed; he earned a prominent place in this county's hall of shame for pushing through the infamous Geary Act of 1892 when he was a member of the House. This law not only extended the Chinese Exclusion Act for another decade, but also made it more discriminatory. Chinese residents were now denied bail if arrested and prevented from testifying in court. It also forced all Chinese residents to carry a special ID issued by the federal government; caught without papers, unfortunates had to produce "at least one credible white witness" to swear that they were in the United States prior to 1892, else they'd be deported or spend a year at hard labor.

Geary campaigned hard for Bell, even traveling outside the county to the nether corners of the district. He may have viewed the contest as a surrogate battle against Governor Pardee; two years earlier, Geary was a serious contender to be the Democratic nominee for governor, stepping aside for another man, who lost to Pardee.

Endorsements also had greater weight in that era, particularly since Bell and McKinlay had roughly equivalent credentials, and it seems that neither was particularly well known in the district. Twice the Press Democrat offered editorials praising Bell for his connections to the late Morris Estee, an early California politician who had died the year earlier. Bell's support from Geary and then posthumously from Estee, however, suggests much about the sort of person he really was.

Morris M. Estee
is worth a quick digression here. Although he was affiliated with the Republican party, he could be a case study as a typical Jim Crow legislator from the Deep South. He staked out deeply racist positions that affirmed non-whites had lesser rights, but at the same time didn't suffer such outrageous discrimination that it would draw the ire of Washington D.C. Some lowlights from his career:


As the 1863 California legislature was trying to overturn the 1850 law that "no black, mullato person, or Indian should be permitted to give evidence in any court of the state in an action in which a white person was a party," Estee offered a compromise that testimony could be accepted -- but only as long as it was corroborated by a white


Estee wrote about the Chinese in 1876: "They have not any large intelligence; they have not any literature that amounts to anything; they have a little knowledge of the sciences, and some knowledge of the arts; they have no notion of music or poetry, or very few of the exalted ideas which distinguish between barbarian and civilized men, except honesty"


At the 1878-79 California Constitutional Convention, Estee, who insisted that he was as "anxious to get rid of the Chinese as any man in the State of California" argued they had a right to live in houses and should be allowed to catch fish. To "deprive them of the means of procuring the necessaries of life" would be wrong, and "would turn all civilized people against us everywhere," he warned, particularly "public sentiment in the East [Coast of the U.S.]"

An excerpt from one of the Press Democrat's two Estee-Bell editorials is below (the other assured readers that Estee knew Bell "personally and intimately"). As Bell became the Napa County DA in 1895, the party described would have taken place some time before he was 22. Following that item is an astonishingly direct editorial attack on Geary from the Republican.

...It was at the residence of the late Morris M. Estee near Napa that the writer first had the pleasure of meeting Theodore Bell. He was then a young man with his life work all before him. Mr. Bell was one of a number of young people who spent an evening at the hospitable Estee home. After the guests had departed, or it may have been the next morning, the writer asked who Mr. Bell was. "Theodore Bell?" replied the venerable jurist. "He is a young man who lives here in Napa. He is teaching school and studying law. He is a very fine young man. You will hear from him some day. If given the opportunity he should and I believe will become one of the country's big men." ...

- Press Democrat, November 5, 1904

And now there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth because the newspaper having the "longest leased line" [an expensive private telegraph connection] declines to admit to its columns the name of Sonoma county's Democratic boss. Of course the management of the paper is real mean to pursue this policy, but it is not the only mean thing in the world. That paper undertook to give our local Democratic boss prominence a few years ago. It showed him many favors. Through its influence he was pushed forward as the head of the last anti-Chinese movement and the Democratic nomination for the governorship seemed about to be conferred upon him. But he was discovered to be treacherous, even too treacherous to be considered by the Democratic party as a candidate for that or anyother [sic] place, and then he turned against the man and the paper that had tried to build him up after his political fall. Hence the present trouble. Let the good work go on.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 11, 1904

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Rival newspapers are famous for feuds, fights, and even wars -- but it's ugliest when editors attack each other personally in an out-and-out flapdoodle.

For weeks, Press Democrat editor Finley and Republican editor Lemmon had been taking potshots at the other party's candidate for Congress, but the conflict had been mostly polite. It turned nasty and personal after the big Santa Rosa rally for Rep. Theodore Bell on November 3rd, where Bell "cried with vehemence" [PD description] in his speech that it was unfair for governor to campaign for his rival. What appeared next in the papers surely was the talk to the town over the next few days.


About the silliest political remark that has been made in this city in recent times was Congressman Bell's criticism of Governor Pardee for advocating Republican doctrine and the election of Republican candidates for office. He must have presumed on his hearers being liberally endowed with shallow pates, and his local organ gets to the front and advertises that it is the exponent of like cheap demogogy and flapdoodle. A great proposition, isn't it, that the governor of the state or any other citizen cannot go with good taste to any part of this or any other commonwealth and advocate any doctrine in which he believes, or the elector or defeat of any candidate in office. What a wonderful discovery that this poor puke from Napa has unearthed. And he came over to Santa Rosa and tried this discovery on an audience of his peers and we are assured that they applauded. Funny, isn't it?

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 4, 1904


...Allen Bosley Lemmon so far stultifies himself and his newspaper as to refer to Mr. Bell, who is generally regarded by even his political opponents as one of the finest young men the state has ever produced, as "that poor puke!"

What Allen Bosley Lemmon says of Theodore A. Bell can of course do the latter gentleman no harm, for most of those who will be reached by his remarks know both men and can judge of the matter for themselves. But for the edification of others it may be well to here give publicity to certain facts in connection with this campaign that have not heretofore been mentioned. As showing the insincerity of Editor Lemmon's belated support of Duncan McKinlay through the editorial columns of his paper, they become of more than passing interest.

It will be remembered that early in the campaign, when the question of whether Duncan McKinlay was a resident of this or another district was up for discussion, Mr. Lemmon editorially said: "We have Mr. McKinlay's positive assurance that he never registered or voted outside of this city or county." Mr. McKinlay did give Mr. Lemmon this assurance, and upon the strength of it the latter publically and before a gathering of men pledged himself that the facts were as McKinlay had stated. Later he was confronted with positive proof that Mr. McKinlay had deliberately and purposely lied to him in the matter. The friendship between the two has never been overly deep. McKinlay having on many occasions made remarks of a slighting nature about Mr. Lemmon, most of which are said to have reached him in due time, and when confronted with this absolute proff of McKinlay's duplicity, his indignation knew no bounds. Later Mr. McKinlay attempted to "explain," but Mr. Lemmon would have none of it. "You purposely decieved me, and I know what kind of a man you are anyway!" cried the newspaper man indignantly. "Don't talk to me!" he added, as McKinlay again attempted to smooth the matter over, "because no political party on earth is big enough to make me swallow a white-livered [cowardly] -------------- like you!"

And this is Allen B. Lemmon's real opinion of the man to whom, as the result of strong political pressure, he has at last been forced to extend a perfunctory support through the editorial columns of his paper during the closing days of the long campaign now about ended.


- Press Democrat, November 5, 1904


Mr. Bell and his supporters are badly frightened. They are so frightened that they have become thoroughly rattled. If this were not the case Bell would not have made his bad break the other night here in his reference to Governor Pardee participating in the political campaign of the state. If the editor of the Press Democrat had not considered his candidate in the last ditch and about to go down to defeat, it is scarcely conceivable that he would have put into the columns of his paper the scurrilous falsehood uttered Saturday morning -- the sentence that eve he, the unspeakable, can make use of only by employing a dash. If he had had his head and were possessed of any decency whatever he would not have sent that sentence into the families that receive his paper on any terms or for any purpose. We scarcely need say that the sentence in question is a falsehood. Either the editor of the Press Democrat must have drawn on his imagination for the scurrilous remark or have received it from some drunken or irresponsible person. Wherever the falsehood came from, we repeat that the editor of the Press Democrat should have been decent enough to prevent its appearance in his columns.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904


"And they even invade the administrative chambers at Sacramento and drag out Governor Pardee -- my governor and the governor of all the people -- to help defeat me."

The above appears in the Press Democrat and Sacramento Bee as an utterance of Theodore A. Bell when he spoke in Santa Rosa, hence its authenticity cannot be questioned.

Just think of it! A man who has been elected to Congress once and is trying to be elected again standing before an audience in the intelligent and progressive city of Santa Rosa and uttering a statement like the above. Imagine the scene. Bell, with tears in his eyes and sorrow in his heart and in despair declaring, "And they even invade the administrative chambers at Sacramento," Boo, hoo, hoo, "and drag out Governor Pardee." Boo, hoo, hoo, hoo, "my governor," boo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, "and the governor of all the people, and a flood of tears course down the cheeks of the sad son of Napa, as he wailed, and wailed, and wailed his grief, "to help defeat me." Boo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo, hoo. It was indeed a distressing occasion. The Napa calf simply bawled and bawled in his grief. And this is the fellow the Democrats have named as their candidate for Congress! They should put a bell on him -- a calf bell -- or it may not be possible to find him after next Tuesday.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904

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The mano a mano combat eased up after that skirmish, but both editors were still flushed for battle. Opposing political parties were labeled a "machine" or "gang," and Republican editor Lemmon was ready to name names: Besides Geary (described above), others he condemned as part of a Democratic party cabal were Press Democrat editor Finley and Charles O. Dunbar, a state assemblyman running for re-election. Dunbar -- who would later become mayor of Santa Rosa -- was also a one of Finley's partners in the Press Democrat, and was the only other person on the masthead (as "business manager").

Finley seemed to have a wee too much invested emotionally in the election's outcome. His editorials became increasingly shrill, even using long stretches of capitalization for inarticulate emphasis (SEE BELOW). Nearly every edition in the month before the election predicted a cakewalk for Alton Parker and/or Bell; the day before the vote, the PD reported Parker was relaxing on his farmhouse porch reviewing letters from office-seekers. Freudians can also draw their own conclusions as to Finley's repeated references to Bell being the more manly candidate. The attacks on Republicans became hysteric. If Bell was "a brave, energetic, clean and brainy young man," McKinlay was an indolent sloth, "lolling about in the luxuriant quarters of the Union League Club" in his tuxedo. Republican victory was a national threat; the over-the-top editorial cartoon showing a "Rooseveltism" bayonet through the U.S. Constitution gave no quarter.

Then suddenly it was over, and it was a rout; Roosevelt swept the nation, even breaking the coalition of the "Solid South" for the first time since the Civil War by winning Missouri. Teddy also won the Missouri-settled county here, including every precinct in Santa Rosa by comfortable margins.

Theodore Bell lost in a close race, as did Dunbar.

Probably exhausted by it all, editor Finley headed east for a vacation at the World's Fair. A couple of weeks later, the Press Democrat reported he'd shipped his dad some persimmons picked from a tree on the Midwest family homestead, a far distance from the flapdoodles.


Geary, Dunbar, and Finley are the self constituted committee on good morals in this city. We are not informed as to when they reformed. What do the moral people of this community think of that gang in the character they have assumed? They are the principle ones making Bell's fight in this county and the ones who will have most influence with him if he should be elected.

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904


The Republican "machine," as most everybody knows, is making the fight of the state in this district in the hope of being able to overcome Congressman Bell's strength before the people, and defeat him.

The men and the influence back of Duncan McKinlay's campaign are doing their very best to force him upon the people of this district, although they know the people do not want him.

In support of that policy these men, most of whom reside outside the district, have determined to have a big meeting her Monday night when Duncan McKinlay speaks, if it takes "the last dollar in the sack."

It is announced that special trains are to be run form [sic] all directions, that the Governor of this great state is to be requisitioned and brought here from his home in Alameda county to make a speech in McKinlay's behalf, and that a big "marching club" is to be imported from Oakland -- which is also outside of the district -- in a monster, stupendous and Herculean effort to get up a demonstration and to prevent that meeting from being a "frost."





And that's why "There's nothin' to it!["]

- Press Democrat, November 6, 1904


There was little Democracy in the so-called Democratic meeting in this city the other night. As far as possible there was avoidance of reference to the national party or the principles, practices or candidates of the same. Parker's name was mentioned once, but it was greeted with slight applause. As far as possible it was an effort to use the livery of Republicanism in the service of Democracy. Geary presided, presumably in the interest of decency and morality. Poor old Democratic party...

- Santa Rosa Republican, November 5, 1904

Like the boy in the graveyard, the Republican press is whistling hard to keep its courage up, but it is a hard task. The local members of that party know their Congressional fight is lost, and many of them are privately admitting the fact on the streets.

- Press Democrat, November 6, 1904

Duncan McKinlay in his Tuxedo suit and lolling about in the luxuriant quarters of the Union League Club has undoubtedly been cutting considerable a swath around the Palace Hotel and certain other places that might be mentioned, since shaking the dust of this city and country from his feet, but he has been doing nothing calculated to add to his loyalty as a representative of this district if he should be elected to that position. Few will be apt to deny that the interests of the district would be far safer in the hands of a man like Theodore Bell, whose interest and hopes are all centered here in the district to which he has ever proved loyal, than to any man of whom the same things can not be said.

- Press Democrat, November 6, 1904

A vote for Theodore Bell for Congress today will be a vote to help a brave, energetic, clean and brainy young man along -- one who during his ten years of public life has never yet given his friends and supporters any cause to regret having assisted him.

- Press Democrat, November 8, 1904

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The first big 1904 winter storm hit a few days after Christmas, and Santa Rosans were crestfallen to find themselves without electrical power for nearly two straight days. The reliability of the service was just as bad as it had been at the beginning of the year, and maybe worse. Architect Jones and client Oates equipped this house with both gas and electric lights out of necessity, not for luxury's sake.

"Colgate" was the Colgate hydroelectric power station, then five years old and over 130 miles away, in the Sierra Mountains foothills near Dobbins, California. This power plant supplied the "juice" for the upper Sacramento Valley, North Bay and East Bay Counties, and in 1901 held the record for the longest distance power transmission anywhere. The success of Colgate was the foundation of the California Gas and Electric Corporation, which would become PG&E. Too bad they cared more about expanding their empire than providing reliable service to existing customers.


The breakdowns in the electrical power and lighting service last night and Thursday night do not offer a very encouraging outlook for Santa Rosa during the stormy weather certain to come later in the winter.. Efforts have been made by the big corporation supplying Santa Rosa, Petaluma, San Rafael and Napa with electricity between here and Napa so that the fury of the heaviest weather would not interfere with the wires and cut off the current. And it has not yet been demonstrated that the work is not a success.

However the breakdown on Thursday night was due to a landslide at Colgate, where the big power house is located. Such accidents are liable to occur at any time and are of a character that cannot easily be foreseen and provided against. Then again, as happened last winter, accidents to the main line from Colgate south are possible in stress of weather and in no wise reflect upon the careful management of the great enterprise which supplies so many of the communities in the central part of California with light and power.

But in some localities provision has been made locally to guard against throwing an entire city into darkness in case of a mishap to the main power line. Such provision can be accomplished in one of two ways, either by an auxiliary plant capable of generating power, or by a storage battery such as the new electric line has built [sic] for itself at Sebastopol.

Either plant costs money to install, equip and maintain, but they have not been so expensive that it has not been considered wise to have them in other places. It is very probable that an investment of a plant of such a character to supply the needs of Santa Rosa and vicinity might not be considered for a moment on the reasonable ground that the profile from this field could not justify the expense.

It is probably not impossible, though for the company to establish in Santa Rosa an auxillary plant which could take care not only of the residents of this city in an emergency, but also those of Napa, Petaluma, San Rafael and other such towns as may be connected with the branch line upon which they are located. An arrangement of this kind could be handled from Santa Rosa by telephone and would, if established, add immeasurably to the venience [sic] of patrons, to say nothing of enabling manufacturing plants, dependent upon electrical power to operate machinery uninterruptedly.

- Santa Rosa Republican, December 31, 1904

Okay, it's 1904 and you're told that your daughter has committed suicide in San Francisco. Even if there was no easy telephone connectivity at the time, couldn't a message be sent via telegraph, or even messenger via train and ferry, to verify that she was actually, you know, dead, before buying a coffin and publishing the obit? 'Guess not. Mabel surely ended up with an anecdote of legendary proportions, as well as a nifty coffee table. Also note that her name turned into "Bertha" in the headline.

Miss Bertha Wilson Appears in the Flesh to Check Grief Over Her Suicide

Miss Mabel Wilson, a very much alive young lady of Petaluma, whose parents reside in Ukiah, has the distinction of having had a casket made and all funeral preliminaries prepared for her. Just whether she is intending to keep the casket as a souvenir or not she has not informed her friends.

A certain Miss Mabel Wilson committed suicide in San Francisco. As Miss Wilson of Petaluma was at that time visiting in the metropolis, it was feared that she might have been the despondent one who committed the rash deed. From circumstances surrounding the case the Petaluma Miss Wilson's sister was quite sure that it was she and the fact was published in a Petaluma paper. Heart broken Wilson pere purchased a casket in Ukiah and sent a Ukiah officer to San Francisco to procure the remains and bring them to that city.

In the meantime the missing Miss Wilson materialized and whether she was more surprised at being dead or her friends and relatives were more surprised at her being alive is a mooted question.

- Santa Rosa Republican, September 30, 1904

This is a complete puzzler. Why did these people rise up to fight sidewalks? Were the residents expected to donate the front of their property for the pavement, or pay for it? Was this a spite petition against the neighbors behind the earlier petition? The stretch of Benton St. under dispute was between Mendocino Avenue (then Healdsburg Ave.) and North Street. And yes, the street has sidewalks today. Update: Yes, the City Council was ordering property owners to lay cement sidewalks at their own expense.

(An unrelated item in this article concerning a liquor license is not included here.)


Among the petitions and communications presented to the Common Council last evening was a lengthy protests from residents of Benton street against laying of cement sidewalks on that thoroughfare...

The protest against the cement sidewalks was signed by property owners representing 3916 feet out of a total 4430 feet. A previous petition asked the Council to order cement sidewalks constructed on that thoroughfare from Healdsburg avenue to the Southern Pacific depot. It was pointed out in the protest that there were six blocks of land covered by the petition and protest of 300 feet each and one block of 415 feet. On both sides of the street this made a total of 4430 feet. The matter was referred to the Street Committee.


- Santa Rosa Republican, November 16, 1904

A trio of stories that illustrate more of the casual racism against Chinese immigrants in 1904, but with a surprising conclusion, both in the events and the reporting. First, see this earlier post for some background on anti-Chinese bigotry in general and Sonoma County attitudes specifically.

"Melican" was supposedly pidgin for "American." It often appeared in 19th century writing about Chinese immigrants at least as far back as 1858, nearly always in a "humorous" snatch of dialog intended to make the speaker appear unintelligent. As with most of those writings, the examples below reveal more about the prejudice of the author than anything about the smarts of the speaker.

To what degree people actually spoke in such heavy pidgin is unknown -- and if they did, it sometimes may have been a feint. White Americans at the time seemed uneasy when Chinese men didn't fit their racist Coolie stereotype; also on Oct. 27, the Press Democrat noted with suspicion that several "hightoned" Chinese men who arrived in town were "dressed in most approved American style and were minus their ques [sic]. The party attracted some attention on the street and at the depot." That the locals were gawking at nicely-dressed visitors shows how unaccustomed they were to having their prejudices challenged (and also says much about their ill-manners).

"I no understan', you heap savee [savvy]," the Press Democrat quoted Ah Quay as he asked his business parter for help in obtaining his marriage license. Ah Quay was a prosperous hop farmer -- the Santa Rosa Republican even called him "wealthy" -- who had succeeded against all odds. If he actually did say anything like that, he was likely playing the game of diminished expectations. Ah Quay certainly had a grasp of American bureaucracy and could make himself understood in English; a few weeks later, he confronted Santa Rosa's Superintendent and refused to allow the city to haul sewer pipe down the farm's private road because of potential damage (much to the annoyance of officials). In this situation, perhaps he feared County Clerk Pressley might obstruct or even reject his coveted marriage application on some interracial or citizenship pretext, but would be less likely to hassle a prominent white landowner.

The Press Democrat's following description of the wedding was insulting, with pidgin dialog and details to accent foreignness and race of both bride and groom. (The Republican's coverage was almost as offensive, with the headline, "Very Peculiar Combination - A Chinaman and Half Breed Indian are Married 'All Same Melican Man' Wednesday Night.") Weddings of whites were reported solemnly and respectfully, of course; never would the bride's trousseau be described as a "blue something or other."

Ah Quay's marriage came to a morose end a few weeks later, and this time the Press Democrat's news coverage was strikingly different. No pidgin english and no demeaning references to "Chinaman" or "Celestial" -- in fact, this was probably the most respectful coverage of any event in the Sonoma County Chinese community to appear in the newspaper that year. Why the change? It's impossible to be certain because stories were never bylined, but the likely reason was because editor Ernest L. Finley was then on vacation, taking a trip east to visit family and tour the World's Fair.

As this journal continues with the 1905 newspapers, it'll be interesting to see if the "Celestials" return to the pages of the Press Democrat along with Mr. Finley.

Ah Quay Wins the Hand of Rosie Hacket, a Native California Girl

When Ed Hall, the well-known hop grower presented himself before Cupid Lawrence Pressley at the County Clerk's office on Monday morning he announced that his mission was to obtain a marriage license, not for himself, however. He came at the request of Ah Quay, 45, native of China, and Rosie Hackett, 32, native of California and of Spanish descent. Ah Quay having lost his heart to the dark-eyed Spanish girl, confided his secret to Mr. Hall and asked him, "you fixee up alie same license me, I no understan', you heap savee way 'Melican man." The license was procured and the wedding will take place at the Hall hop yard where Ah Quay has a partnership interest in raising hops. Mr. Hall had to put up with some little joshing from friends to whom had been passed the word that, "Ed Hall had got a marriage license."

- Press Democrat, October 25, 1904

Ah Quay Claims Rosie as Bride But First Thought That He Was to Figure as the Whole Show

If anyone fancied for a moment that the Wednesday night wedding of Ah Quay, hop grower and Celestial, and Rosie Hackett, thirty-two, pretty in the eyes of Ah Quay, half Spanish, half Indian, and a native of California, was to be utterly devoid of the Melican way of doing things, reckoned without a desire of the couple to have Melican etiquette mixed up with the ceremony.

It was a "chrysanthemum wedding," if you please. The decorations of the "China house" at the J. E. Hall hopyard near town, which was the scene of the wedding, was en fete with the gaudiest combination of colors in the way of chrysanthemums. There was also a wedding bell. It was fashioned out of chrysanthemums and the ribbons used in the creation matched those in Rosie's hair.

Ah Quay, who is not altogether a novice in the marriage business, according to the manners of the Chinese in their country, having had a wife there twenty-five years ago, engaged Justice A. J. Atchinson to marry him and Rosie, his lady love. It was necessary that the jurist should have a very simple ceremony. Ah Quay was asked if he had ever been married before, and he replied, "Yes, me melly befo. Long time go, China. That's all lite. I tell her. She no care." The "she" was the bride-to-be. Rosie said with what might have been a blush if her complexion had been lighter, so as to reflect changes of tint, that this was her first marriage.

"Very well then," quoth the magistrate. "Ah Quay you take this woman to be your lawful wife?"

"That's all lite. That's all lite."

"You should say yes," prompted the one officiating.

"All lite, yes. I no savee yes."

Rosie said "yes," the ceremony was completed, the kissing of the bride was omitted and the bottle was passed around by way of an appetizer for the wedding feast which followed, and which consisted of cakes, pies, candies and chicken, spread on a gaily arranged table in another room.

It should have been stated that the bride wore pink silk and blue something or other. The groom wore conventional black. Among those present were a number of white people and a select gathering of Chinamen. The wedding was a novelty in more ways than one, and the feasting and merriment continued until a late hour. The honeymoon will be spent at the hop yard.

At the outset of the ceremony Ah Quay though that he was the only one necessary to figure as principle in the ceremony. For a minute or two he stood alone before the magistrate. Ed Hall and McBride Smith were the attendants, or rather they figured as official witnesses, and when Mr. Hall told Ah Quay to bring Rosie to the wedding as well as himself he did so. And after it was all over the groom paid the officiating magistrate a fiver for his trouble and all was happy.

- Press Democrat, October 27, 1904

She is Said to Have Found Some One She Liked Better, and Ah Quay Believes That Marriage May be a Failure

On Saturday and Sunday Ah Quay, the hop grower on the J. E. Hall place who was recently married to a Spanish girl in a ceremony by Justice Atchinson in the "China" house at the Hall yard, was in Santa Rosa and vicinity searching for his bride. It was rumored a few days ago that Katie had tired of her Chinese husband and there was no one more convinced of the fact than Ah Quay on Saturday and Sunday. He confided his troouble to several people and he could find no one who could offer him any suggestion where she could be found. It is said that she departed with another man who was evidently more to her liking. Ah Quay feels all the more bitter about the matter on account of the fact that the nuptials caused him an outlay of considerable capital, and that too much attention was paid to the event for it to become so soon a failure.

Ah Quay drove into town a few days ago, having hired a fine rubber tired rig to take his bride out riding. While he was in a store making some purchases, she disappeared and since then he has not been able to find her. Since the wedding a little item of expenditure he met was a doctor's bill for a number of teeth filled with gold to improve his wife's mastication of delicacies.

- Press Democrat, November 15, 1904

A stream of now-forgotten vaudeville performers passed through Santa Rosa in 1904, with five acts typically booked for a week's run at the Novelty Theatre. No surprise there; every moderate-sized town had an "opera house" or "music hall," and by this year, probably a nickelodeon or two. While some performers (like The Great McEwen, apparently) booked their own engagements directly with theater managers, most singers, dancers, "talking" comedians, jugglers, and whatnot signed up for a tour on a theatrical circuit and trudged from town to town, just hoping the beef stew wouldn't be so watery at the next boarding house on the schedule.

This item reveals that Santa Rosa's vaudeville theater was part of the ultra-small Novelty Circuit. By contrast, Petaluma would be the first stop on the upper Central Valley route of the Great Western Theatrical Circuit, which visited fifteen other towns, including Sacramento and Napa. Although the town of Santa Rosa was larger than Petaluma, Healdsburg, or even San Rafael, its vaudeville hall was cramped, only about 35 x 100 feet with a total stage area about 18' deep. The nearby Athenaeum, which typically hosted drama troupes and minstrel shows, could hold an audience almost three times as large.

Alas, the Novelty Circuit didn't last very long. This theatre along with the San Francisco Fischer's Opera House would be destroyed in the 1906 earthquake (photo on page 80 of "San Francisco in Ruins") and the Novelty Circuit would be absorbed into the Western States Vaudeville Association, which in turn became but a tiny cog in the nationwide Pantages empire. This moment in October 1904, so full of promise, was the launch of their very short heyday.

Fischer's Opera House Bought - McEwen will Pay Return Visit

Manager Joseph Cowen of the Novelty theatre returned from a visit to San Francisco Wednesday night. He brought the news to the lovers of vaudeville that the Novelty Circuit have purchased Fischer's Opera House in San Francisco, which has been noted for its attractions.

The management will conduct it as a first class vaudeville theatre, and place it on the "three L's circuit." They will engage the best acts from the east and Santa Rosa Novelty theatre will get its share of them.

By request of many of the citizens of Santa Rosa, Manager Cowen announces that he has secured The Great McEwen, hypnotist and mind reader for next week, just prior to his trip to Australia, where he will take his own company.

- Press Democrat, October 27, 1904


An incident which created considerable amusement for spectators occurred early Tuesday morning near the Republican office. A woman whose husband failed to cease swearing when she attempted to stop his flow of profanity struck her husband a severe blow across the mouth. This had the desired effect and the woman proceeded to her hotel. The parties arrived here Monday evening, and had trouble shortly after their arrival. The husband had been drinking heavily and this led to a tirade on the streets, which the woman stopped by use of vigorous force. The husband counted a number of witnesses to the blow, evidently figuring on an action for divorce.

- Santa Rosa Republican, October 11, 1904

Called Her Evil Names so She Has Him Arrested For Disturbing the Peace

Because Peter King objected to his wife's guests at tea and told the lady in terms more forceful than elegant a warrant has been issued for his arrest on the charge of using profane and vulgar language in the presence of women. Miss Myrtle Genther swore to the complaint against King in Justice A. J. Atchinson's court on Monday morning.

Mrs. M. McCombs was the victim of King's words assault as well as Miss Genther, it is alleged. In fact, Miss Genther was only secondary. Mrs. McCombs, according to the story of the ladies, had been assisting Mrs. King with some sewing. Her hostess insisted that she remain to tea and did so. This is alleged to have angered Mr. King, who spoke insultingly to the guests and later to Miss Genther.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 18, 1904

Dismembering industrial accidents were not rare. Just a few days before, a man lost his foot in a thresher, and a hand was severed at a sawmill. For a reason unions came into existence.

Jacob Archambeau Meets With Instant Death in a Shocking Manner by Falling Into Belting

A frightful accident occurred at Wehrspon's lumber mills in Ornbaum Valley near Cloverdale on Tuesday morning, which cost Jacob Archambeau, well known in Santa Rosa, his life.

Archambeau was the engineer at the saw mill, and in some way fell into the belting. The top of his head was torn of completely from the ears up. One arm was broken in two places. There were no other injuries. Death was instantaneous. The accident happened so quickly that Archambeau's bleeding and lifeless form fell at their feet almost before the witnesses to the shocking affair were able to realize what had happened.

The deceased was well known as an experienced millman and engineer. Just how the accident happened is not certain, other than he fell into the belting. The accident is deeply regretted by all of the deceased's friends, and there were many.


- Press Democrat, August 25, 1904

The Santa Rosa Republican was the working man's newspaper, and while many local merchants ran advertisements in both the Press Democrat and Republican, readers in the latter were more likely to see ads for men's work boots or heavy flannel underwear than the latest fashions in ladies' hats.

These ads appeared paired together the week before Labor Day in the Republican, but not once in the Press Democrat. Note that these aren't ads for Labor Day sales, but simply tributes to American unions and workers. "Put on your best bib and tucker in honor of the day," reads the Keegan Brothers ad below. "[W]hen you spend your money here, you are patronizing a Union House with Union principles, Union goods, Union help, Union hours, and a place where you should feel at home. There's always a glad hand here for the Laboring Man."

The circus came to Santa Rosa in 1904, but that was only part of the fun that year. World heavyweight boxing champ James Jeffries also put on a show here, and John Philip Sousa's famous brass band played a rousing concert. For a dime you could be thrilled by "The Great Train Robbery," the first narrative movie ever made; audiences supposedly screamed and dived for the floor when a character turned his gun towards the camera and fired. But according to the Press Democrat, the most wonderful entertainment of all began when the Great McEwen came to town.

The Novelty Theatre, which offered vaudeville acts and movies on a bill that changed weekly, was a regular advertiser in the Press Democrat, with its program listed almost every day on the front page. The newspaper typically reciprocated with a few nice words about the show -- see an example here -- so it was no surprise when the paper reviewed that week's schedule on August 16th, with special praise for the top act: "The Great McEwen, who has been aptly named the 'Wizard of the West,' proved a big entertainer. His work is far superior to other such vaunted jugglers...his magic work is new and when it comes to palming he is inimitable. His handling of four billiard balls at once with one hand, and with his left hand a that, is a clever bit of his work only appreciated by being seen."

The next day there was another item: "...[L]ast night [McEwen] gave a fine exhibition of his ability as a mind reader, finding a number of articles previously hidden in the audience and in other ways demonstrating the wonder possibilities of the human mind." The unusual followup review also promised that McEwen would exhibit his hypnotic powers in the theater that night, and the following day "drive blindfolded through the streets in search of hidden articles."

Two days later, yet another item appeared: "McEwen the hypnotist visited the County Clerk's office on Thursday morning, just dropped in to see the boys, and while there demonstrated his powers by opening the big safe. The performance was watched with much interest by the office deputies and reporters who chanced to come in at the time." Santa Rosa was now on notice that someone remarkable was in town; not even the famous Houdini allowed people to watch him as he cracked a safe.

Three mentions of any entertainer in the same week was a sure sign that the editor was mightily impressed. Then on August 26, the item below appeared. Gone was any reference to McEwen being anything like a common entertainer; now he was just the "great mind reader." Over half of the article was one long, breathless sentence, shortened slightly here by removing the names and job titles of his august witnesses in the buggy.

McEwen had a return engagement at the Novelty Theatre ten weeks later. No mention of billiard balls and playing cards in the newspaper this time; McEwen was simply the "great hypnotist and mind reader." With all this praiseworthy media coverage, two questions hang over the story: Did PD editor Finley really believe the man had supernatural powers? And who was this "Great McEwen" guy, anyway?

Visited the Post Office Unlocked a Box and Took a Letter to Person to Whom It was Addressed

McEwen, the great mindreader, [sic] gave another of his wounderful [sic] blindfold drives on Thursday afternoon, and in it accomplished a triumph for his skill. Standing up in a vehicle he handled the ribbons over a spirited team and drove [a committee of four] over the route those gentlemen had previously agreed upon among themselves, got a combination of one of the lock boxes in the post office written upon a slip of paper from a person in H. L. Tripp's Toggery on Fourth street, drove to the post office, went inside, unlocked the box, took a letter placed therein by the committee, got into the carriage again and drove to Rohrer, Einhorn's store at Fourth and B streets and gave the letter to the person to whom it was addressed, W. H. Rohrer, and did all this without removing the blindfold. McEwen was watched by a large crowd of spectators.

While driving along Fourth street the wheels of the vehicle struck the railroad track and dislodged McEwen. Beyond receiving a severe shake-up he was uninjured. He quickly took his place in the vehicle and drove along as if nothing happened.

- Press Democrat, August 26, 1904

(Continues in part II)

(Have you read part I?)

Safe-cracking and mind-reading aside, the Great McEwen was primarily a hypnotist, and at a time when controversy churned over its practice. Critics thought hypnotism was potentially dangerous and should be banned (it was outlawed in Cincinnati) or performed only under a physician's care. After a stage hypnotist's assistant died of diabetes in 1896, a coroner's jury was told by one critical "expert" witness that repeated hypnosis might cause "cerebral softening," and the jury decided that "nervous exhaustion, caused by hypnotic practices" was a contributing factor in his death. Scottish-born P. H. McEwen argued against any medical control of hypnotism. In his self-published 1897 book, "Hypnotism Made Plain," he protested, "Not until doctors have proven themselves more intellectual and virtuous than their fellow men, should they be given the monopoly of one of the greatest God-given benefits to mankind."1

McEwen also insisted that hypnotism resulted in a spiritual transformation that "accomplished much towards the development of the soul" and had curative powers. He apparently claimed to be a lay healer, but it's unclear whether he was promising cancer cures, a quick way to stop smoking, or something in between, or both. McEwen did have a reckless confidence in his skills; he convinced a physician to remove a tumor in a 50-minute surgery with only his hypnosis as an anesthesia.2

McEwen was somewhat of a contradiction. While he was making the case for scientific and spiritualistic respectability, he was also wowing small town crowds with his stage hypnotism, and his "mind reading" was purely magician's skill. Known today to be muscle reading, McEwen watched his subject to reveal unconscious cues, or easier yet, did the trick while touching the subject in some way.

So ultimately McEwen was just a showman -- and not even a particularly original one, at that. Every single thing McEwen did in Santa Rosa was exactly described in an earlier how-to book written by "Professor Leonidas." Here can be found long sections on muscle reading, how to best perform a hypnotism act, and even tips on promoting your appearance via "driving blindfolded on the streets, locating hidden articles and unfolding the hidden forces of Mind."3 Nor was the Great McEwen the only entertainer with a copy of Leonidas' book in his back pocket; the "Great Newmann" was another hypnotist-mind-reader whipping through western streets blindfolded.4

Only a single trick appeared remarkable, and that was his cracking the safe. To explain that, the account published in the Aug. 18 Santa Rosa Republican reveals what really happened: "[McEwen] worked the combination of the mammoth safe by simply taking hold of the hand of Deputy G. W. Libby while he thought over the combination." In other words, he had used elementary muscle reading.

The Republican's account of the "street test" also lacked the golly-gee found in the Press Democrat. This paper offered a pair of terse paragraphs, concentrating mostly on the accident: "...though he afterwards denied injuries, there was every evidence to believe that he did injure his arm and head. That he escaped getting his neck broken is remarkable." The item was only a few lines longer than the story in the adjacent column, which described a local man breaking his thumb.

It's fair to say the Press Democrat coverage demonstrated a little (okay -- a lot) of gullibility as to McEwen's powers. Readers were badly misinformed. But editor Finley loved to tell a good story, and McEwen was a one-man factory turning out interesting tidbits daily. Again, McEwen was apparently following advice from Professor Leonidas' how-to book, particularly the section where he urged fellow mentalists to work the "country route" because pickin's were easier than in the cities. One key to success, the author suggested, was to cozy up to the editor of the local paper: "I know a Professor who is one of the most successful operators who, a few years ago, was playing mere villages and school houses up in Wisconsin. An editor of a country weekly got hold of him, sold out his plant, advertised in the right way and the whole company have been able to enjoy what comfort they desired. They made money, lots of money..." 5

1Wonder Shows: Performing Science, Magic, and Religion in America; Fred Nadis, Rutgers University Press, 2005, pg 106- 108
2The Eclectic Medical Journal (Wm. Phillips & Co. 1907) pg 328
3Stage Hypnotism: A Text Book of Occult Entertainments; "Professor Leonidas," Bureau of Stage Hypnotism, 1901 pg 97
4Wonder Shows, pg. 145
5op.cit, pg. 25-26

It's hard to decide if this story reads like an scene from Reefer Madness or as a prologue to Oliver Twist. While the 1904 papers are never reluctant to name names in suicides and other deeply personal miseries, why are all players in this story allowed the solace of anonymity? Where's the melodramatic backstory that led to this denouement? An epic novel could be penned from just the hints below.


In a down town refreshment house on Christmas day a man became too hilarious and despite his lameness started to do a "high kicking" stunt for the entertainment of his fellows or otherwise. He slipped and fell in a manner to wrench his knee severely. He had to be sent to the hospital. The man's wife is ill and has a young infant. She is in destitute circumstances and assistance will have to be given her. Dr. Jesse has called the attention of City Marshal Severson to the case.

- Press Democrat, December 27, 1904

A thinly-disguised plug for the power company. The Press Democrat didn't even run gas water heater ads, which were a mainstay over at the Republican newspaper.

Electric Irons at the Laundry -- All Kinds of Motive Power in Various Establishments at Present

Electricity as a substitute for domestic fuel is an accomplished fact but its use has not yet reached Santa Rosa. Manager Decker of the Santa Rosa Electric Lighting Company, however, not to be behind the time [sic] has ordered a full line of electric cooking and heating apparatus and will soon have it on display at the company office here.

Already the White Star Laundry has installed electric irons for ironing that is done by hand. These irons are clean, of uniform heat and always ready, no time being lost in going after them or in preparing them for use. The cost is very light. An iron will not use 400 Watts per hour and as electricity for such use comes under the head of power the cost is only two cents.

The extensive use to which electricty is being put as motive power in Santa Rosa is little realized by the majority of citizens. The Santa Rosa Flour Mills have discarded steam for electricty and now use a 50 horse power motor. The Santa Rosa Shoe Manufacturing Company which opened its factory yesterday drives all of its machinery by a twenty horse power motor.

[Other businesses listed with 15, 7.5, and 5HP electrical motors]

Many of the stores have one-half power motors to run coffee grinders, but the latest and most improved is the one at Cooper's grocery story which is a motor and grinder combined, there being no belt connections.

- Press Democrat, December 16, 1904

Among the lucky few working for Burbank a few years later would be young Hilliard Comstock.


Would be Exceedingly Pleasant to Him if He Could Employ the Army Who Apply to Him For Help

From the vast number of applications for positions which come to Luther Burbank the wrong ideas has gone abroad that he employs a great number of men. The correspondence that reaches him is probably greater than that which reaches any of the largest employment bureau in the country. So arduous did the task of answering all the letters and cards become that Mr. Burbank since found it necessary to have the following slip printed and there has been a generous distribution of the same:

"Dear Sir: In reply to yours of . . . . . . . . . . . : The constant stream of applications from all directions for a position have necessitated this printed slip, as I do not wish to be considered thoughtless in regard to these worthy applications; not one in ten thousand of which can be complied with, as I employ my neighbors only, most of them have been with me for many years, and cannot give steady employment of these even, and have no possible place for any one else. It would be exceedingly pleasant to me if I could employ the army who apply. My kindest and most heartfelt wishes are that each may find the employment desired. Sincerely yours ----- "

- Press Democrat, December 22, 1904

Automobile models are rarely specified in the newspapers of the day, so while the Burbank ancedote is charming, it's not the reason for inclusion of this item. The Olds runabout (not "roundabout"), was the best selling car at the time. It cost $650, and its 7 horsepower engine had a top speed of 18MPH.

Auto Arrives For the Horticulturist Wednesday -- Secret of His Desire for Machine

Luther Burbank is to possess an automobile. The famous horticulturist is to cast aside his arduous work with flowers and fruits just long enough to become initiated into the mysteries of the horseless carriage; just long enough to become an expert chauffeur; and this to save time for his favorite pursuit in the end.

George C. Schelling went to Petaluma Wednesday morning to obtain the automobile which Mr. Burbank is to own. The machine was shipped to that place by steamer Tuesday and Mr. Schelling will guide it to Santa Rosa. He will also instruct Mr. Burbank in its proper guidance. The auto is an Oldsmobile of the roundabout [sic] variety.

There is really a little secret in connection with Mr. Burbank's desire for an auto. To be sure it will save considerable time in trips back and forth from the local grounds to his experimental grounds at Sebastopol, but Mr. Burbank confesses that this advantage is not the only one which influenced his decision to become a chauffeur. The electric railroad was a potent factor in influencing that decision. While Mr. Burbank's association with natural life in its milder forms has been perhaps closer than that of any other man living or dead, he has somewhat neglected the sterner forms, including the equines. The prospect, therefore, of racing along the Sebastopol road, not knowing whether his horse or the electric cars would beat, has no allurments [sic] for him, hence the automobile, guaranteed not to frighten at trains, no matter what may be its fondness for fences.

- Santa Rosa Republican, July 27, 1904

Burglary was the most frequently mentioned crime in the 1904 newspapers, and a surprising number of the news items say the offender was nabbed at the scene or barely got away in a daring escape. When the crooks aren't crawling in through windows they're leaping out through them to avoid capture, running across rooftops or dashing down the street. It sounds exhausting, and likely was. Why wasn't burglary an Olympic sport?

Below is the most interesting robbery reported that year -- or rather, attempted robbery. The thief comes away empty-handed in every case except for the holdup, and that may well have been a different man; a guy who fled every risk of discovery doesn't sound like someone with the nerve for armed robbery. (A week earlier, the police had alerted Santa Rosans to take precautions because of "bad characters who are at present in this vicinity...many there are who are flocking here under the guise of hop picking, but would rather pick pockets," warned the Republican, Aug. 30.) Also: notice below that the victim's name switches from "T.J" to "J.T." in the second story, and note the policeman's rush to the scene on his "wheel" (bicycle).

The final item is from the Republican and adds color. "Trilby" was slang for a bare foot, after the shoeless character of the same name in a wildly successful 1895 play. And yes, "burglarious" is a real word.

Intruder Breaks for the Door and Mr. Davis Gets a Pistol and Follows, Firing Two Shots as the Burglar Leaps Over the Fence -- Police in Pursuit

T. J. Davis, the local well-borer and contractor, who lives in McDonald's addition at the corner of Fourteenth and Monroe Streets, had an exciting experience about half past three o'clock this morning.

He was awakened by something moving about under his pillow, and although he at first thought it might be a mouse he instinctively grabbed into the darkness. He caught the outstretched arm of a burglar who was attempting to remove Mr. Davis' purse from beneath his head.

The intruder jerked away, and Mr. Davis in the darkness leaped from his bed. The burglar dashed out of the room, and after securing his revolver from a drawer in the bureau, Mr. Davis hurriedly followed. The burglar had run to the back door, and his pursuer not knowing this made for the front. As he reached the porch he saw the unwelcome visitor leaping over the side fence and blazed away. He fired two shots, but it is not thought that either took effect, as the burglar disappeared at fast speed down Monroe street, headed for College avenue.

The police station was immediately communicated with and Officer McIntosh jumped on his wheel and struck out for the scene of the affair. Up to the time of going to press he was scouring the neighborhood.

- Press Democrat, September 10, 1904

Dropped His Pistol as He Was Climb [sic] Over the Davis Fence - Even Had the Nerve to Try to Rob Officer Hankel

J. T. Davis has a fine new hammerless Smith & Wesson 38-calibre revolver as a memento of the early morning burglar to his bedside Saturday, particulars of which have already been published in these columns. The weapon was dropped as the visitor went over the fence dodging bullets from Mr. Davis' revolver, and was found by the latter when he inspected the scene Saturday.

The burglar wore rubber soled shoes and could be traced several blocks after daylight by the marks he left. Investigation showed that he gained an entrance to the Davis residence by removing a window screen which he laid against the fence in the yard. He then crawled through the window and took pains to provide a means for hasty escape in case of necessity.

The back door had been unlatched and left adjar and the screen door on the porch unfastened. A small piece of candle was lighted and left on the floor so as to mark the location of the exit.


Earlier in the evening the home of Police Officer Herman Hankel was visited by a prowler. Some one attempted to remove the screen from the window of Mrs. Hankel's bedrom but she heard the noise and rising to investigate, she saw a man's head outlined against the sky, but he dropped down and crawled along on his hands and knees on the porch, jumped a low fence and disappeared. Mrs. Hankle called her husband and in his haste to catch the offender he rushed out into the street in his night robe but to no avail, as the burglar had too good a start.

[Another man reported hearing a prowler, and there was an attempted break-in at the train station. The suspect is also believed to have held up a man on King St. two days earlier.]

The prowler is evidently a stranger here, for no sane man familiar with the city would be likely to attempt to enter Officer Hankle's residence. That officer has a reputation for prowess that long ago made him a terror to most evil doers.

- Press Democrat, September 11, 1904


Some commotion was caused on upper Fourth street Friday night by the appearance of a large man in his "nightie" and holding a revolver in his hand. Those who saw the apparition in white were filled with wonderment and believed the man to be a somnambulist. Later they learned that it was Officer Herman Leon Hankel, who was in pursuit of a burglar who had attempted to force an entrance into his residence. The officer had not waited to clothe his sylph-like form in usual habilaments [sic], his zeal to capture the intruder on his sleeping hours being such that he forgot momentarily his lack of wearing apparel. His bare Trilby's suffered most from contact with pebbles as he paraded around the premises in search of the man with burglarious intent. The man was evidently a stranger in town, or he would not have attempted to rob the residence of a policeman.

- Santa Rosa Republican, September 10, 1904

How much alcohol did we drink in 1904? What were our tastes? This brief item is rich in data for social historians. Lager beer was bottled, and at the time steam beer was available only on barrel tap (I think). But a refreshing draught could still be enjoyed in the privacy of one's home, even by women not allowed to enter bars; it wasn't uncommon to take a pail down to the saloon or send out a servant or child for a fill-up. As for the Grace Brothers Brewery, the indefatigable Gaye LeBaron penned an excellent profile of it in 2002, available online in the Press Democrat archives.

Thirsty Ones Who Like Warm Weather Drink May Have to Get Along With Lager For Awhile

There was a woful [sic] waste at Grace Brothers' Brewery yesterday, when 150 barrels of steam beer was lost by reason of a sudden failure of the water supply. The mash for the regular brew had reached that point in the process of fermentation where the water must be added, and as water was not to be had, fermentation went too far, and the brew was lost.

The ice plant was shut down for lack of water, too, and so beer drinkers are not the only people who may suffer deprivation by reason of the mishap. There was a big demand for ice yesterday that could not be supplied, but the difficulty will doubtless be remedied today. But even if there should be a dearth of "steam" for a few days the public will doubtless be able to worry along, as there is a big supply of lager on hand, and lager is a pretty good substitute.

- Press Democrat, September 10, 1904

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