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

Read More


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.

Read More


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.

Read More