Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley hated the rival newspaper so much that he couldn’t shut up about it.

From March 1905 until the earthquake the next year, Finley churned out reams of rebuttals, snarky little put-downs, and mean-spirited parodies about the Santa Rosa Republican, as introduced here in “The Newspaper Feud of 1905.” Some days it was all he wrote about on the commentary page, and sometimes his jibes were so oblique that readers would have needed to search out weeks-old back issues of the Republican to make any sense of his animosity. Finley emerges the worse for it, coming across as a petty, thin-skinned bully.

The entry below is on par with many other attacks, unique in only that it crystallizes several of Finley’s favorite themes: His rival editor is a newcomer from the city who is unfamiliar with “country ways,” and thus has no right to express opinions on any local matters. This also reveals Finley’s parochial prejudices that make him sound like a bit of a geezer, although he was actually only 34.

Yet Finley was always a talented writer, and this op-ed finds him at his most lyrical with the fine turn of phrase, “he is as full of advice as an ordinary pumpkin is full of seeds.” Finley further wins this blog’s award for obscurity with his false praise, “not a pipe man…could fool him.” I can’t find a definition or similarity in any of my vernacular dictionaries, or even in other papers of the era. “Pipe man” may be derived from the French verb piper, which means to dupe or cheat someone.

The new editor of the Republican is worrying considerably for fear that the Mayor and Common Council will not be able to handle the city’s affairs to the best advantage, and is very sure, he says, that if he were only in their place he could improve upon things considerably.

He is as full of advice as an ordinary pumpkin is full of seeds, and it is really remarkable what a vast fund of useful and reliable information he possesses regarding every department of the city government.

It might not be a bad idea to turn the management of the city over to him for awhile, just to learn how public affairs should really be conducted. He is fresh from Alameda county, where they always do things right, and has not yet had time to take on country ways. He is still just as smart as anybody, and there is not a pipe man in the business that could fool him on anything. Also, it is very apparent that the conduct of his own business requires very little of his time, so it would not be any imposition to allow him to take up the task alone as it might be with other people.

Such opportunities as this do not present themselves every day.

– Press Democrat, June 21, 1905

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