How did I miss that? Here are followups to earlier posts with new details found in 1908 Santa Rosa newspapers:
|TERRORISM ON MARK WEST CREEK When a couple of barns caught fire in the summer of 1908, arson was widely suspected; Helen Finley Comstock, whose grandfather’s barn was lost, said her family believed it was the work of the IWW (also known as the “Wobblies”). But my analysis showed that they were the least likely suspects. Odds were higher that the fires were lit by disturbed boys who had escaped from nearby work camps, or disgruntled hop pickers who were chased out of the Ukiah Valley after they tried to organize a strike for better wages. An overlooked item in the Press Democrat showed that authorities were specifically worried about the strikers destroying property: “The pickers are in an ugly mood and are presenting their claims for increased wages with a defiance that has caused the local authorities to prepare for an outbreak. Damage to property is feared.”|
|PAINTERS OF SUNSHINE AND PATHOS What was displayed in the window of Bruner’s art store in 1908? An item in the Santa Rosa Republican stated they were oil and watercolor still life paintings from the upcoming encyclopedia of Luther Burbank’s work, along with copies of the books. Only one problem: There weren’t any books, as that series was never produced. Another item reveals that the display traveled to San Francisco a few weeks later, and provides the additional details that these were mockups of book covers being shown with a wide price range of bindings, from cheap and plain to very, very luxe.|
|IN LOVE WITH DOROTHY ANNE Earlier I confessed that reading the gossip columns by “Dorothy Anne” were my guilty pleasures. While her comments on the society scene in post-earthquake Santa Rosa were sometimes cruel and snooty, she offered unique views of what it was like to live during those years (not to mention that some of her remarks were downright funny, intentionally or no). Of particular historic interest was her description of Luther Burbank’s garden and her detailed tour of Burbank’s now-demolished home. But who was she? Her identity was always kept secret. Thanks to a passing mention in a “Society Gossip” column after her byline had disappeared, we now know that she was Mary M. McConnell, and would have been 33-35 years old when writing for the Press Democrat. She dropped the column around the time of her engagement to Orrin Houts, whom she married in 1908; as Mrs. O. L. Houts, she drove an automobile in the Rose Carnival that year, taking first prize in the “Natural Flowers” category. (The Houts Auto Company soon became the town’s first major auto dealership.) I’m crossing my fingers that a diary kept by Mary McConnell Houts turns up someday; it should be a rollicking good read.|
|HATE CRIME NOT SO FUNNY THE 2ND TIME Tom Mason, who smashed a Chinese man in the head with a brick, was sentenced to just three months in county jail. Mason’s half-brother, who also had a role in the attack, apparently was not charged, but the judge suspected he lied under oath and reprimanded him. We also learn that the victim suffered a broken jaw.|
|SALOON TOWN A 1907 ordinance prevented restaurants from selling alcohol without an accompanying meal, and the next year Luigi Franchetti was arrested for breaking the law, witnessed by no fewer than three police officers – can you say, “entrapment?” Like an earlier incident where a lower Fourth street place was closed for offering a few crackers as a “meal,” the law seems to have been unequally applied and targeted Italian-run eateries.|
|“THE STING” ACTUALLY HAPPENED HERE Although Santa Rosa had long profited from an underground economy of prostitution and gambling, it was decided in 1908 that the city drew the line at “pool rooms.” These operations were off-track betting halls that mainly took bets on horse races, as gamblers listened to results being read by a telegraph operator with a direct line to the track. But sometimes con men intercepted the transmission and retransmitted it after the race was finished, allowing them to bet on a sure thing – this was the plot of Robert Redford’s great movie, “The Sting.” A simple version of that scam was tried here, but the criminal was quickly caught. That attempted swindle – combined with the newly-elected City Council’s desire to show they were tough on crime – led Santa Rosa to write an ordinance forbidding this type of betting. It remained legal in many other parts of the state; on the same day that Santa Rosa outlawed them, a man in Redwood City was convicted of tapping the telegraph wires used by all San Francisco pool rooms.|
STRIKING HOP PICKERS AT UKIAH
Trouble is Feared and Ringleaders Who Try to Incite General Walkout Are Placed Under Arrest for Fear of an Outbreak
A general strike of hop pickers now threatens to complete the series of ill-fortunes that have beset the hop growers of the Ukiah valley this season. Today six ring leaders who tried to incite the pickers to a general walk-out are under arrest and unless the situation changes within the next 24 hours it is likely that more arrests will be made and the entire force of workers will leave the fields.
Three hundred pickers employed by Horst Bros. have already refused to work unless they are paid a dollar per hundred pounds, which means an increase of 20 cents over the present scale. The pickers are in an ugly mood and are presenting their claims for increased wages with a defiance that has caused the local authorities to prepare for an outbreak. Damage to property is feared.
The crop is only one-third harvested and in case a strike is declared will be almost a total lost. Many growers are already harvesting under a great loss this season on account of the low price hops are bringing in the market. They also have suffered from a scarcity of labor and for this season are at the mercy of the pickers.
Hopland, Sept. 4.– The hop drying kiln of the American Hop and Barley Company here today is a total loss as the result of a fire discovered in the furnace room late yesterday. The damage has not been ascertained, but it is known to be extensive, as this firm has the largest plant in the state. The fire is thought to have started from a defective flue, although it is not considered improbable that the disaffected hop pickers who are on strike for higher wages may have been responsible.– Press Democrat, September 5, 1908
WILL MAKE EXHIBIT FOR SAN FRANCISCANS
The people of San Francisco are to be given an opportunity of viewing the splendid work being done by the Cree-Binner Company, in their edition of Luther Burbank’s “New Creations.” President E. Binner, of the company named, has gone to San Francisco and will there arrange for an exhibition of the drawings, paintings, plates and engravings which are being used in the publication. Samples of the work on the book and of the splendid covers will also be shown the people of the metropolis. The residents of San Francisco have requested that an opportunity be given them to see something of this work. A number of different prices of binding have been arranged for the work, ranging from $39.50 to $2000 for the set of works, which will be very elaborate.– Santa Rosa Republican, November 4, 1908
…Mrs. O. L. Houts, one of the welcome guests present, was called upon as “Dorothy Anne” for a toast, and her response was most appropriate. Mrs. Houts very happily alluded to the pleasure of the afternoon and to the reasons why she had relinquished her nom de plume “Dorothy Anne” (having herself become a bride a short time ago). While reviewing the many pleasantries of the afternoon, Mrs. Houts said she could not help realizing the possibilities presented for a good “story”…– “Society Gossip,” Press Democrat, September 6, 1908
TOM MASON FOUND GUILTY
Gets Three Months Sentence to County Jail
Tom Mason was convicted by the jury in Judge Emmet Seawell’s court this afternoon on the charge of assault in striking a Sebastopol Chinese on the head with a brick and breaking his jaw.
Mason was sentenced to serve three months in the county jail by Judge Seawell. The court also took occasion to reprimand John Poggie, a half brother of the defendant. He warned that individual to be careful in future of statements he made on the witness stand and declared he had not believed Poggie, and he felt sure the jury had also disbelieved his story.
Poggie was badly crestfallen by the lecture given him by the court.– Santa Rosa Republican, April 3, 1908
SAY HE SOLD “BOOZE” WITHOUT A MEAL
Luigi Franchetti, who is charged with serving liquor without a meal at his restaurant at Wilson and Seventh street, was tried before City Recorder Bagley Thursday afternoon. The case attracted a large number of Italians to the court room. The defendant was not represented by an attorney. Attorney A. M. Johnson appeared for City Attorney A. B. Ware.
Police Officers Ramsey, Yeager and Lindley, who witnessed the sale of liquor, testified to the facts and the arrest which followed immediately afterwards. Several witnesses were called on behalf of the defendant and questioned by Attorney Johnson. The only one who knew anything about the case testified to having been served beer in the place, but claimed to have had something to eat with it. He was uncertain in his answers and showed considerable doubt as to how he should answer some of the direct questions put to him by the Court.– Press Democrat, October 2, 1908
THE POOL ROOMS ABOLISHED HERE
Stringent Ordinance Passed By the City Council at its Meeting Last Night
Pool rooms and pool selling on races or any contest in Santa Rosa were wiped out by the City Council at its meeting last night by the passage of a stringent ordinance. The ordinance is in effect today and persons violating it is guilty of a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine not to exceed $300, or by imprisonment in the county jail not to exceed 150 days, or by both fine and imprisonment.
The ordinance not only makes it a misdemeanor for any person to conduct a pool room or sell poll tickets in Santa Rosa, but a person, his agent, or representative may not lease a room for the purpose of a pool room, neither can a telegraph or telephone company handle messages dealing with races or contest knowing that they are for use in a poolroom, etc.
[..]– Press Democrat, December 16, 1908