Would Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley have believed that his newspaper would still be fighting against Fourth of July fireworks more than a century later?

While the returns are not yet all in, the figures so far received indicate that the casualties resulting from this year’s celebration of the Glorious Fourth will equal and perhaps exceed those of last year, when 476 persons were killed and 3,973 seriously injured through the foolish custom of making fireworks the principal feature of the country’s annual birthday party. In addition to the casualty list, which each year exceeds that of most battles, several million dollars’ worth of property is always destroyed by fire, and an enormous sum spent uselessly on a form of amusement that is utterly without rhyme or reason. The things are matter of common knowledge, and slowly but surely the country is coming to a realization of the fact that some better manner of celebrating Independence Day should be evolved. Will it be possible to bring about such a change? If so, who will come forward with a suggestion that will meet all the requirements of the case?

– Press Democrat editorial, July 6, 1905

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Telephones were almost commonplace in 1905 Santa Rosa, with an average of about one phone for every ten residents. But that rapid expansion came at the cost of personal service; no longer could you ring the operator and ask for a connection to John Smith — now you had to use your “Hello Book” (what a great name for something as mundane as a telephone directory!) to first lookup his “number.”

It may seem a small thing today, but it was a bit of a milestone in the history of the way we use technology, being probably the first time that an individual was associated with such an abstract thing as a series of numbers.


Good Business is Now Assured — Growth of the Business in This District is Big

The new telephone directories have arrived and are being issued. This is indeed a comfort.

Santa Rosa now has 800 subscribers to the Sunset Telephone & Telegraph Company and the very latest “central” equipments, and patrons are now assured good service. This, however, is on condition that the parties cooperate to make the service what it should be. With the 800 phones in use it is impossible for “central” to do good work or give any kind of service unless the “numbers” are called for instead of individuals. When only a few phones are used and one or two operators are employed to mention the name may be sufficient, but in such large offices to get a subscriber it is necessary for the party calling up to give the number wanted.

The “Sunset” now has 2,086 phones in Sonoma county, and about 3,000 in this district, which comprises Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake counties. There are 223,539 phones on the Pacific Coast, any of which may be connected with a Santa Rosa subscriber on short notice. Conversations were had last night from here to San Diego, Fresno, Portland and Vancouver, B. C., and in each instance the conversation was carried on almost as well as if the persons were living in Santa Rosa.

There are 2,086 phones in use in Sonoma county divided as follows: Santa Rosa, 800; Petaluma, 700; Healdsburg, 310; Sonoma, 64; Sebastopol, 64; Windsor, 42; Forestville, 26, scattering, 80.

Sebastopol has just had thirty-six phones added and Green Valley has contracts for 200. Next Tuesday subscribers here and at Sebastopol will have a special 15-cent rate as is the case to several of the county towns.

– Press Democrat, July 30, 1905

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Both 1905 Santa Rosa papers regularly reported on children, who seemed to shatter bones or suffer terrible wounds with astonishing frequency — that is, when they weren’t narrowly escaping death, disappearing from home, or being jailed. The selection of items below is typical; note that most of the stories are from just two days.


Rodney Lawson, aged 12, and Gus Bonilla, aged 14, of San Francisco, ran away from their homes on Sunday morning, the latter having swiped five dollars and ten cents from his mother for expense money, and started for Petaluma.

While their parents were searching in San Jose and vicinity, a neighboring child received a letter from the youngsters and informed them.

A. L. Lawson, father of one of the boys, went to Petaluma on Tuesday and told the constable his troubles, and a little later the boys were found fishing near Washington street bridge. The officer locked the boys in the city prison and Mr. Lawson took them to San Francisco on the afternoon train.

– Press Democrat, May 4, 1905
Boy Falls Into Vat

John Resso, a two-year-old Italian child, fell into a vat at M. Reutershan’s tannery Wednesday, and would have been drowned but for the timely appearance of John Lindsay, who jumped into the vat and rescued the boy.

– Press Democrat, May 5, 1905

While playing with an air gun on Thursday evening a lad named Dannhausen was accidentally shot in the right eye. The eye-ball was penetrated by the bullet and the sight is destroyed. He was brought to M. H. Dignan’s drug store where the eye was dressed and a compress applied by a physician. As yet it is not known whether the eye-ball can be saved or not. The boy is about fourteen years old and resides at 418 College avenue with his mother, Mrs. Metta Dannhausen.

– Press Democrat, May 5, 1905

A dozen or fifteen Napa youths bethought themselves of a little joke at the California Northwestern depot yesterday afternoon but unfortunately for them they reckoned without railroad ethics.

The lads were among the picknickers from Napa to Mirabel park and were returning home on the first section of the excursion train. The train passed through the depot here very slowly and the boys hopped off to await the coming of the second section of the train. But unfortunately for them the second section went through town at a fast rate of speed, much too fast for them or anyone else to board the cars and so they were left behind in Santa Rosa for the night. They doubtless caused their relatives some anxiety. If the reader chanced to notice a bunch of boys walking about town last night in twos and threes, some of them wearing khaki and others outing suits, there were the lads who jumped from the excursion trains yesterday afternoon intending to hop onto the second section and got left.

– Press Democrat, May 13, 1905

Child Swallows Chloroform

Hugh Haskell, the three-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf Haskell, has fully recovered from the effects of having swallowed an ounce of chloroform which he discovered during one of his childish investigating tours. His mother was busy and he managed to climb up and secure a bottle containing chloroform from the top of the sideboard. Mrs. Haskell did what she could for the child until a physician arrived and took charge of the case.

– Press Democrat, May 13, 1905

Blew Police Whistles

On Monday five young men who on Saturday night amused themselves by blowing police whistles in Petaluma appeared for trial before Judge Green. All plead guilty and were fined three plunks apiece. They went their way and promised to sin no more for they had paid dear for their whistles says the Argus.

– Press Democrat, June 22, 1905

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