Spitters beware: A new state law made spitting on the sidewalk – or anywhere else – a misdemeanor in 1907. Press Democrat editor Ernest L. Finley, quite the stickler to the law when it came to clean sidewalks, made sure readers were fully informed immediately about California penal code §372a.

Any item about expectoration is another welcome opportunity to plug my all-time favorite story, about the 1905 Santa Rosa motorist who was given a speeding ticket, then a few days later forced the selfsame cop to arrest himself for spitting on the sidewalk. At night. And during a downpour.

It might be just as well for some people to remember that it is now a state prison offense, punishable by both fine and imprisonment, to discharge mucus from the nose or mouth or spit upon any sidewalk of any public street or highway, or upon any part of any public building or railroad train, streetcar, stage, ferryboat, steamboat, or other vessel or vehicle used for the transportation of the public.

This is a law that should be rigidly enforced, for expectoration in public places is not only unhealthful but also disgusting in the extreme.

One of the most nauseating thing in the world is to have a man come into a street car or public office and spit slimy rings all around himself on the floor. No man of any culture or refinement would do such a thing, of course, and some of those who do would doubtless be considerably surprised if told they do not possess even the first instincts of a gentleman. Yet the following is as true today as it was when it was first written:

“The man who expectorates on the floor need never expect to rate as a gentleman.”

– Press Democrat editorial, April 2, 1907

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