Despite the extravagant boasts of this Press Democrat article, Dr. J. J. McKenna and his "man-saver" sanitariums for drunks were apparently non-existent; no mention appears in any digital newspaper archives. All that can be found about him is a passing mention in a 1913 Texas medical magazine, which reveals that after McKenna's three day "cure," inebriates were "given enough medicine to last thirty days." What sobriety "medicine" Doctor J.J. sold is lost in the mists of time. But, hey, at least he peddled enough of the stuff to support the newspapering industry.

(At right: a 1906 Coca-Cola newspaper ad)

Believes in Printer's Ink, and Last Year Expended Over $110,000 in Newspaper Publicity Alone

Dr. J. J. McKenna, otherwise known as "the water wagon man," and the discoverer of the famous "three day" liquor cure which bears his name, is at the St. Rose for a short stay.

Sixteen years ago Dr. McKenna established his first sanitarium in Houston, Texas. Success crowned his efforts there, and not long afterwards he founded the McKenna sanitarium in New York city, then one in Kansas City, another in Chicago, following the latter venture by the establishment of several other institutions in the smaller cities of the middle west.

All were successful to a marked degree, and many patients were attracted from the West. "Why don't you open a few man-savers in California, Oregon, and Washington?" the Doctor was repeatedly asked, and this is what he finally did. San Francisco and Seattle are now both Meccas for the unfortunate stimulant craver, and it's probable that still other sanitariums will be established in the West in the near future.

Dr. McKenna is a believer in printer's ink, and last year spent considerably over $110,000 in newspaper publicity, he says, on one occasion expending $21,000 in one day, when adsd of huge size appeared simultaneously in all the big cities. He has competent men in charge of his various institutions, and keeps in close touch with each; and in his work he finds his estimable wife of especial help, for she relieves him of much of the detail work.

- Press Democrat, September 19, 1905

The first archival materials posted to the Comstock House electronic library are the January 1904 and November 1905 Press Democrat special sections promoting Sonoma County, which were primarily sent outside the region in hopes of luring new residents and businesses. Heavy with (mostly true) data, these inserts are a great starting point for anyone interested in the era just before the Great Quake.

Predictably there were items on industry and farming ("Manufactures Fast Increasing," "Round About Us Orchards Sweep") and boasts about the quality of local schools, medical care, transportation, and even hunting ("Where the Wild Goose Honks High"). Churches were given prominent mention, but more space overall went to wineries and saloons. There were photographs of dimly-lit hardware and drug store interiors, race horses standing awkwardly still, and many oval portraits of businessmen, most of whom, I'm sure, were coincidentally Press Democrat advertisers.

The greatest value in these sections may be in what they tell us about the smaller, outlying towns that were rarely mentioned otherwise in the newspapers. Land in Cotati was selling for $45-100 an acre, and the new county road connecting the village to Santa Rosa and Petaluma has been built (there's even a picture). Green Valley - which would be renamed Graton in 1906 - boasted of "Piney Woods," a 40-acre grove popular for picnics that the owner fancied to be a zoological park with pet deer, a raccoon, a pair of monkeys, and a brown bear.

Aside from a few creative headlines ("Where Hums The Busy Honey Bee"), though, there's little entertainment here that hasn't been already mined: See earlier posts on French Louie, the frog king and the summer Saturday nights downtown, where we all met to listen to the band as the out-of-towners leered at our hatless girls.

As the flip books for these entries are full-size newspaper pages, some of the text may be hard or impossible to read, even when magnified. To view a higher resolution copy of any page as a PDF file, select the page number from the popup in the lower right of the frame and click on "RAW PDF." For more information, see the description of how to use flip books in the previous post.

NOTE: This blog post is now obsolete. Update here.

A library section is now available on the website. To be clear: this is an electronic library only, and has nothing to do with the paper books resting on the shelves of Comstock House (although a catalog of that library is available over at LibraryThing).

The main objective of this e-library is to digitize non-copyrighted materials not found elsewhere on the Internet - and in some cases, are probably the only copies of those documents that still exist in any form, anywhere. These unique entries have a red star * at the end.

Most of the entries in this catalog, however, are facsimiles of books from Google, Internet Archive, or other on-line libraries that are referenced from our blog posts or essays, or likely to be referenced in the future. On our private network at Comstock House, these book-page images have been converted into "flip books" (more about flip books below).

Since this is also the catalog for our personal electronic library, still other books and magazines in the collection are for our private reference or pleasure reading; the first edition of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" for example, with its Victorian typography and abundant thumbnail illustrations, or the remarkable 1919 Hotel St. Francis cook book, a field guide to state-of-the-art fine dining in the early 20th century that could be a graduate course in Escoffier school cookery.

But flip book files can consume lots of bandwidth and disk space, and there's no reason to duplicate here any of the e-books that are freely available elsewhere on the Internet. For every entry in the public portion of our electronic library, a link is always provided for downloading a PDF copy of the material from our same source. If you'd like to turn that material into a flip book, send e-mail and I'll be glad to send instructions and supporting files.


"Flip books" are electronic copies of printed materials, presented in a way that simulates reading an actual paper book or magazine. Two pages are presented side-by-side, and the reader flips pages by clicking on the left or right page. These flip books will display on any type of computer but will not work with Internet Explorer. Please view flip books with Firefox, Google Chrome, Opera, or any other browser that complies with industry standards.

Below is a guide to using the Comstock House library flip book reader:


1 INDEX Return to Comstock House electronic library index


2 mySearch Find other e-books or search for used books


3 RELATED ARTICLE Essay or blog post referencing this material


4 Source Book Link Where to read this book on-line or download it free


5 Zoom controls Magnify or demagnify the current page


6 Single Page/Flip Book Switch between single and double page mode


7 Auto page turn When clicking to turn the page is just too much work


8 RAW PDF Download the current page as a PDF at higher resolution (not available for all books)

This flip book reader is a modified version of the open source GnuBook Bookreader.

Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley got along with almost everybody in Santa Rosa, with a couple of notable exceptions: One was James Wyatt Oates, whom he went out of his way to describe in his reminiscences as a disagreeable bully. His other nemesis was whoever sat in the editor's chair at the rival newspaper.

Finley's previous foe at the Santa Rosa Republican was Allen B. Lemmon, whose tenure as editor and publisher ended shortly after the 1904 elections, following weeks of the two editors lobbing insults at the other political party, its candidates, and even personally at the other editor. Taking control of the Republican were a pair of out-of-towners who had worked at papers in Sacramento and Oakland. They quickly made an impressive debut with a little muckraking series on the poor conditions of Santa Rosa schools (complete with photographs!) and added a chatty "society" column. Perhaps impressed with the newcomer's initiative and a little cowed by their journalistic acumen, the Press Democrat no longer mentioned the other paper at all. That truce lasted all of four months.

In mid-March 1905, Finley aggressively went on the attack with a parody claiming to be an advertisement from the Republican. "This excellent household journal," began the fake ad that appeared in the Press Democrat, "having just passed under control of people from the big town, who never saw a pumpkin in their lives, will henceforth be devoted to the pleasant, though arduous task, of teaching metropolitan ways to hayseeds, and introducing city culture to the backwoods." With no disclaimer whatsoever, the PD parody, which ran about 800 words, tried to ridicule the competing paper for its "Sussiety news," making a few minor errors, and running a contest. It comes across as something that was probably side-splitting funny when read loudly to comrades at a saloon, but now just seems snarky.

The Republican responded the next day by reprinting the Press Democrat's entire parody with an added light-hearted preface. Their article (transcribed below) had one of the best-est headlines ever: "IS THE PEE-DEE SMOKING 'HOP'"?

The Republican staff apparently thought Finley was playfully engaged in bonhomie jousting. They were wrong. The Press Democrat ran yet another parody ad March 21, but this one had fewer yucks and more sneering. Finley pressed his accusation that the Republican editor was both elitist and ignorant: "While the people here have been poling hogs and mulching turkeys and grafting onions, we have been acquiring information upon all things of importance to the people of rural communities. Since our arrival here, and our assumption of the editorial helm of the Republican, we have been disseminating this wisdom without stint."

This second parody from the Press Democrat also ventured deeper into the confusing hall of mirrors by mostly pretending to be the Republican criticizing the Press Democrat: "...bearing in mind our self-appointed task of moulding local journalism and local conditions generally into a more metropolitan form, we continued to scan the morning paper daily, and held up a mirror to its short-comings in a way that, although it may have been painful, was nevertheless for the best interests of the public. It is an actual fact that since taking charge of the Republican we have paid more attention to the way the Press Democrat is conducted than to the course of our own journal. We expect no pay for this. The approval of our own conscience is sufficient reward until such time as the people of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county awaken to our merits and accord to us the credit justly due."

Both parodies reveal much about Finley's deep wellspring of resentment against outsiders, but it was the second offering that showed how thin-skinned he was. Contrary to the parody's theme, the new management at the Republican hadn't been criticizing the PD; in the month prior, no editorial mention of the Press Democrat can be found at all. The Republican had invited the attack, however, for having the temerity to point out an error made by Finley.

Without wandering too deeply into the weeds here, a Press Democrat reporter had asked Luther Burbank whether a sour grape could be bred (really, a grape with high levels of tartaric acid). The nurseryman said yes, it was possible. On March 17, an article in the PD with the headline, "Grapes to Yield Nothing But Acid," quoted Burbank as saying that a grape could be created "that will yield tartaric acid altogether." The reporter had either misquoted Burbank or the remark had been mangled in rewrite by editor Finley. That same evening, the Republican ran a short article with a clarification from Burbank: sure, over time a grape could be developed that had more acid, he said, but it could never be a little blob of just acid, as implied by the Press Democrat. The Republican headline read, "Mr. Burbank is Chagrined" that such misinformation had been attributed to him.

Caught in an error - and one misrepresenting a scientific statement by the venerated Luther Burbank, no less - the Press Democrat reacted quickly. But not to correct the mistake; instead, Finley changed the subject into whether Burbank was "chagrined" or not.

That same night, a PD reporter (certainly Finley himself) was knocking on Burbank's door. The newspaper was told, "There is certainly no reason why I should have been chagrined by anything that has ever appeared in the Press Democrat in connection with my work ...I also sincerely hope that you will not allow the matter to swerve in the least the warm friendship that has always existed between us." The love fest continued with Burbank saying that he and his Secretary had also complimented the Press Democrat's record of accuracy. The headline: "Mr. Burbank was not 'Chagrined.'"

The Republican followed up the next day with yet another visit to Burbank for clarification and comment on the not-chagrined kerfuffle. This is now the fourth time that a journalist has pestered him about the theoretical possibility of sour grapes - is there any wonder why the poor man tried to keep away visitors?

The first PD parody appeared in the next issue, and the feud was on. From then until the earthquake a year later, rarely a day went by without one or both papers taking an editorial page potshot at the other. Finley excelled at coming up with little mottos that were probably cute and apt at the time, but today seem bizarre, or maybe like coded spy messages: "The Evening Fakir is at it again," "Our friend down the street bleeds easily these days," and my favorite, "Although the Republican spars for wind, it has to 'acknowledge the corn.'"

While Under Some Influence, the Scribe "Hands It" to The Republican.
The "Sussiety" Writer is Really Pained -- Nay, More, Thinks the Pee-Dee is "Vewy Rude, Dontcherknow!"

"The principal trouble
With some people is that
They go through life
Imagining that all the other
People are fools."
- The Great Pee-Dee.

Whether the Press-Democrat scribe has been indulging in tartaric acid, gall or wormwood is not easy to determine. That something has upset his stomach seems, however, quite certain -- witness the following from the Sunday morning issue of that paper. The Republican re-prints it for the edification of its readers:


This excellent household journal, having just passed under control of people from the big town, who never saw a pumpkin in their lives, will henceforth be devoted to the pleasant, though arduous task, of teaching metropolitan ways to hayseeds, and introducing city culture to the backwoods.

First Aid to the Foolish.

In the brief space of two months, this enterprising journal has introduced the codlin moth for the benefit of the fruit growers of Sonoma county, has discovered the quacking drake and the loss of blood without hemorrhage. To this record we point with pardonable pride.

Another startling discovery for which the Republican claims credit, and the honor of first heralded it to the world, is that there is a busy railway station known as "Melino" in Green Valley where thirty-two trains pass every half-hour. But for the Republican's enterprise, this place might never have been found.

With its unparalleled facilities for gathering and disseminating information the Republican now follows the practice of publishing today's news yesterday -- sometimes even earlier. In fact, we have on several occasions told of events so far in advance that they haven't happened yet.

In addition to these advantages the Republican is equipped with a private and exclusive system of grammar and rhetoric, which no other paper in the county is entitled to use, or would know how to use if the right were granted. Besides all this, we have an especially devised and copyrighted code of journalistic ethics, not known or even attempted elsewhere in the world. All these benefits are enjoyed by the Republican's subscribers without extra charge.

Useful and Reliable Information.

It is not every rural community that can command the service of trained and cultured metropolitan journalists spreading the light of knowledge. How many of the farmers of Santa Rosa or Sonoma county would ever have found out that the codlin moth is beneficial, had not the Republican made this important discovery and given its subscribers the startling news the very day after it was unearthed?

The Republican has made many other discoveries, equally startling and of equal importance to the farmers of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county. How many of the ignorant tillers of the soil here know the proper way to harvest rutabega squashes? Few, indeed. Here it has always been the custom to shake the tree and pick up the squashes from the ground. By this process most of the ruta-bagas were bruised; gangrene set in; and the result was that jelly made from these squashes would not keep well, and was positively unhealthful. Rutabagas should never be shaken from the tree. They should be carefully picked with sugar tongs, wiped with pink tissue paper, and the pickled for two weeks in a solution of lime, sulphur and gasoline. Handled in this way, they form a dish fit for the gods, build up the wasted tissues, improve the breath, harden the gums and, in short, tone the system generally.

Portland Tours Contest.

If there is anybody in this community whom you would like to get rid of, send his name to the Republican on a blank ballot furnished for that purpose. The man who gets the most votes will be sent out of the state. None of the Republican staff is eligible under the terms of the contest. This condition is made necessary by the fact that before it was imposed nobody voted for anyone else except Republican writers.

The Real Thing in Sussiety News.

Through the courtesy of the Superintendent of the Glen Ellen Home, the Republican has secured the service of The Prattler, that most distinguished writer upon social topics, hotel arrivals, etc. Those outside the pale of white ties and hard-boiled shirts who may have imagined that Sussiety news cannot be interesting, should read the thrilling stories from this brilliant writer's trenchant pen, and learn what literature really is. The Prattler is intensely enthusiastic regarding his work -- so much so that he says that after one function has been pulled off he can scarcely wait for another. He just wishes such things could last forever!

Now is the Time to Subscribe.

You should not delay, but send in your name at once for this incomparable and incomprehensible newspaper. The very next issue may contain information that will keep you awake o' nights and be worth a fortune to you. Old residents of the county, men who have taken all the county papers for years, say they have never seen anything like the Republican under its present management. Don't delay. There may be something in the very next number that will astonish you as well as everybody else, and make your hair curl.

- Santa Rosa Republican, March 20, 1905

In 1905, every front page of the Press Democrat had an engraved illustration at the top center. It was usually a portrait of a famous person, but also sometimes the picture of a remarkable building, boat, or national monument. The offering below was the certainly the oddest.

Caption: "The alarming increase in the United States of nervous diseases has had the effect of causing medical men to devote their best thought to the discovery of a method of curing them. An invention looking to this end is that of Dr. Arsonval [sic] of France. The illustration shows how the patient is placed while a high alternating current is sent at intervals through his body."

The device shown is the "great solenoid" invented in 1893 by Paris researcher Jacques-Arsene d'Arsonval, a surrounding cage with an electrical coil at low voltage, but high frequency. By the time of this picture, "d'Arsonval current" was claimed to cure - among other ills - hypertension, epilepsy, arthritis, "slow nutrition," eczema, and TB (but only if the afflicted inhales ozone during treatment.)

(Click image to enlarge)

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