Credit our last century ancestors with this: When they fought, they fought with conviction, and in 1909 there were more dust-ups reported than in preceeding years. Not that those tangles were unusually violent; it would be hard to compete with the year 1907, when there was a point blank shootout that wounded only bystanders, or 1908, when a brawl ended with one contestant trapped in a barber’s chair where a variety of bones were broken.

Some of the 1909 tangles could have ended in fatalities, certainly. James Maloney was lucky to survive when his fellow woodcutter attacked him with an axe in the kitchen of their cabin (although that 9-inch gash in his chest must have hurt a bit). And then there were the two Sebastopol lawyers whose fight ended up in court, one claiming that he punched the other because he was just about to be bashed in the head with a hammer. Attorney  L. G. Scott conceded to the judge that yes, he was indeed carrying a tack hammer at the time, but had no intent of wielding it as a weapon against the party of the second part. Ah, lawyers.

Also in court that year was Mrs. Emma Fetters, charged with “flourishing a dangerous weapon in a threatening manner” and disturbing the peace. The plaintiff was her husband’s mother, who lost some of her hair in a battle between the two. The paper didn’t identify the dangerous weapon – unless it was presumed to be Mrs. Fetters’ disturbingly firm grip and tugging skills – but did note she was fined for disturbing the peace because the woman was “accustomed to use a great deal of profane language.” Some of the cussing may have been because Emma and husband George had recently opened their Fetters Hot Springs resort and starting any new business is stressful, even without the helpful presence of moms-in-law.

But probably the strangest fight of 1909 started over a family breakfast on West Third Street in Santa Rosa, when a father chided his 22 year-old son for using too much sugar in his coffee. Son Harry spitefully dumped half the sugar bowl into his cup, then began pitching chunks of bread at his father and brother. Papa John followed suit by swearing out an arrest warrant against his kid for disturbing the peace.  Your obl. believe-it-or-not twist: The feuding family members were the father and brother of Blaine G. Selvage, who has been honored here as one of the very first U.S. aviators, having made his maiden flight a few months earlier.

Disturber Escapes Before Serving of Warrant

Harry Selvage, a warrant for whose arrest had been sworn to Friday, by John Selvage, his father, before Justice Atchinson, on the charge of disturbing the peace, had quietly left town. In some way he got wind of the fact that he was scheduled for arrest and when Constable Boswell came upon the scene with the warrant, Selvage had gone hence. The latter does not bear the best of repute, having been given a “floater” in the justice court some time ago.

The present trouble all began over a few morsels of sugar. Harry Selvage had been reprimanded at the family table for putting several spoonfuls of sugar in his coffee. To show how cheerfully he received the admonition and reproof, he dumped half of the contents of the bowl into his beverage receptacle. He then started throwing pieces of bread at the heads of his various kinsmen. Whereupon the warrant referred to above was issued.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 5, 1909
Young Woman Lost Hair; Old Lady Lost Natural Hair

Mrs. Emma Fetters, of Fetters’ resort near Agua Caliente, appeared before the justice court at Glen Ellen Wednesday and was fined ten dollars in each of two cases for which warrants had been sworn out against her. One of the charges was that of flourishing a dangerous weapon in a threatening manner last Sunday and the other charge was that of disturbing the peace, which arose from a quarrel resulting in the committing of the first offense. The testimony in the two cases showed that Mrs. Fetters, Jr., in a quarrel with her husband’s mother, got into a hair-pulling match in which the elder woman lost some of her natural hair and the younger woman had her artificial coiffure severely handled. From the testimony induced it appeared that the woman fined is accustomed to use a great deal of profane language. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea attended the session of the court for the county.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 19, 1909

John Riley Chops Anatomy of James Maloney

For cutting James Maloney on the breast with an axe, John Riley has been held to answer to the Superior Court on the charge of assault with a deadly weapon, with intent to commit murder. The men were wood choppers employed on the J. K. Bigelow ranch, near Sonoma, and after a quarrel in the cabin had apparently patched up their differences. 

 Maloney subsequently went into the kitchen of the cabin, and there Riley is alleged to have followed and made the assault with the axe. A gaping wound nine inches in length was made on the breast of Maloney. Tbe wonder is that the man was not killed by the blow from the axe.

Riley fled, but was captured later in the night in a box car at El Verano. He was asleep when Constable Joe Ryan found him, but made no denial of his guilt.

Before Justice J. B. Small of Sonoma the preliminary examination of Riley was held Wednesday afternoon. District Attorney Clarence F. Lea and Court Reporter Harry A. Scott were present from this city.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 28, 1909

Attorneys L. G. Scott and Joseph Rafael, exponents of the law of Sebastopol, having been mixed up in a manner decidedly contrary to law. Rafael struck Scott, and the latter alleges it was without cause or excuse. Rafael paid the sum of ten dollars in Justice Harry B. Morris’ court having been arrested on a charge of battery, which was later raised to a higher misdemeanor, Rafael alleged that Scott had attempted to strike him with a hammer, but this is indignantly denied by Scott. The latter admits having had in his possession a small tack hammer, but denies he ever thought of using it on Rafael’s cranium or any other portion of his anatomy.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 22, 1909

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Thanks to Santa Rosa’s two newspapers, we know pretty much everything newsworthy that happened in town a century ago, that being an era when newsworthy was writ with a small “n” –  broken bones were mentioned, as was anyone’s day trip to San Francisco and who invited who over for a hand of cards and a bite of pie.

What’s missing from the picture are details of how they spent their unexceptional moments. Could kids play in the streets after school? What did adults do on an average weekend? Where did someone dispose of non-burnable trash? How much did they rely upon their new home telephones for conversations with friends and family just across town? None of this is important stuff, but these hard-to-answer little questions – and a thousand more – remind that we really don’t know much about what it was once like to live in our town, even in the reasonably recent past.

(RIGHT: Interior of the Frank Brush home at 1322 Fourth St. Today it’s the location of Umpqua Bank on the intersection with the Foster’s Freeze. Photo from “Illustrated Portfolio of Santa Rosa and Vicinity,” 1909)

These thoughts popped up while looking at photos in “Illustrated Portfolio of Santa Rosa and Vicinity,” a 1909 book put together by the Chamber of Commerce and the Press Democrat. The contents are quite the mishmash; some photographs come from older PD promotional supplements on the wonders of Sonoma County, and many portraits of residential houses probably came from that paper’s unproduced 1905 special section on the “Homes of Santa Rosa.” There are postcard views and grade school class pictures and the error of using a circa-1902 photo of the firehouse destroyed in the Great Earthquake. But the work is still quite the treasure because image quality is so high, thanks to H. A. (Herman August) Darms, a skilled Napa photoengraver.

The Portfolio has only a few interior shots of homes, social lodges and businesses, but they’re indistinguishable from many other pictures of rooms during that same period, which seem to share a common problem: Really, really bad lighting. From the ceiling of each room were chandeliers or pendant electric lights. In daytime, natural light softly filtered through blinds or window lace, but after dark illumination would be turned inside out, as each room blazed from a cluster of overhead suns. Rarely visible were floor or table lamps with shades, or wall brackets/sconces for muted light. These would be rooms with deep shadows in every corner.

There were exceptions to the ceiling light norms, of course. Comstock House, designed in 1904, has electric or gas/electric wall brackets in almost every room, and many have no ceiling fixtures at all. In fact, ceiling lights were installed in all bedrooms, per the blueprints, and removed in the early years (possibly because the 1906 quake ruptured or made suspect the gas lines to the second floor). Clearly, indirect lighting from the side suited the first-owner Oates family just fine.

More typical was the home of Frank Brush, as pictured in the Portfolio (Mr. Brush, BTW, went down in Santa Rosa history as the human rope in the 1905 battle of Sebastopol Avenue tug-of-war). These views show rooms with only multiple light ceiling fixtures in each room – fine for playing cards or entertaining visitors, but terrible for personal activities like reading and letter writing. Does this mean that the Brush family was less bookish than the Oates? Of course not; there might have been an unphotographed parlor or family room, for starters.


For three years, two of the largest companies in the world battled for dominance of a market worth untold billions of dollars. No, it’s not today’s competition between Apple and Samsung for the most popular smartphone; the fight was between General Electric and Westinghouse for the most popular light bulb, and the years were 1907-1910, when a billion dollars really meant something.

In the first decade of the 20th Century, four different types of incandescent light bulbs were competing to dominate the industry: The kind with a carbon filament developed by Edison and others (see my earlier discussion on the brightness and color of light), and an improved carbon bulb from General Electric first sold in 1904 – the improvement had slightly better efficiency and the insides of the bulb didn’t become sooty. Within a year an even more efficient bulb using a tantalum filament was invented by a German company and licensed in America to Westinghouse, but had the drawback that it only operated on DC electricity. GE fought back by spending the astonishing sum of $1.5 million in 1906 to corner U.S. rights in tungsten R&D from four European inventors. The key patent that eventually became the light bulb that would illuminate the world for a century was developed by Alexander Just and Franz Hanaman, chemistry lab assistants at the Technical High School in Vienna. The pair were so poor that they were couldn’t afford to file patents in all countries, much less manufacture a commercial product. (MORE)

Between 1907 and 1910, carbon (both original recipe and GE’s improved “GEM” brand), tantalum and tungsten bulbs were all in common use. The sturdy tantalum lights, made by Westinghouse until 1910, were used in factories that operated their own generators (not at all uncommon in that day) and were always found on trains and trolleys. The tungsten bulbs were far brighter and lasted longer, but quickly earned a bad reputation. GE had rushed its technology to market too early in 1907 (not 1910, as claimed on almost all Internet websites). The filament broke easily from vibration and the earliest version only worked when hanging downwards because it relied upon gravity to keep the coils of soft tungsten filament from collapsing. The tungsten bulb factory also had QA problems, and 1 in 6 bulbs burned out within a few hours. Still, when it worked it worked well; up to 100w and lasting 750-1000 hours.

General Electric discovered how to support the tungsten filament so it could operate in upright or sideways positions and made improvements that resulted in sturdier and cheaper manufacture. By 1910 GE had almost a complete monopoly on new bulbs sold in the United States, and the company’s main competitor was…itself. GE still made its “GEM” brand of carbon bulb which it continued to advertise as the “improved” light bulb, and the company likewise boasted its tungsten bulb was “improved.” In the 40-60 watt range used in the home or office, people couldn’t tell the difference in brightness, and the carbon bulbs may actually have lasted longer at this lower wattage because of thicker filaments. The product confusion finally ended when Congress banned the production of carbon filament lights in August, 1918 because of war-related coal shortages (and perhaps, a little GE lobbying).

Lamps also may not be pictured because the Brush family (and most everyone else) probably still had the 19th Century habit of carrying light around with them. Mantle and wick lamps were still advertised in the papers, and  kerosene was easy to buy. Put a nice glass Welsbach mantle lamp, with its bright and steady light, on that table by the rocking chair and it becomes a cozy spot to read the paper while listening to Precious Child bang away on that partially-seen upright piano.

We can be certain that hand-carried lamps were in widespread use because electrical service in these years was unpredictable. As in the previous five years, in 1908 the “juice” would still go off for hours for no apparent reason, driving Santa Rosans to fury. Kerosene lamps might also be preferred because electricity was so costly; for the pleasure of using this (dis) service, a 1905 article revealed customers were charged about the same per Kwh as today. Adjusted for inflation, however, that means electricity was over 25 times more expensive than we’re now paying.

And then there were the costly light bulbs, which were around the equivalent of $40.00 today. Some electric companies provided a service of “renting” each light bulb to customers for approximately $6.00 per month, adjusted for inflation. We don’t know the exact arrangement and costs here in Sonoma County, as this topic was never mentioned in the papers (as far as I know), but if anyone finds great-grandma’s electric bill or terms of service c. 1910, please don’t throw it out!

Combine the expensive light bulbs and high cost of using electricity and it’s easy to conclude that most residents of early 20th Century Santa Rosa used electric lighting sparingly, probably only in certain rooms for short periods of time, or when company came calling. And it’s another hat tip to James Wyatt Oates’ wealth and extravagance that so many light fixtures were installed when his great house was built.

Where new bulbs came from was another one of those missing-picture mysteries; the stores that sold lighting fixtures never advertised they had the best and brightest bulbs, or any bulbs for sale at all. Yet the Press Democrat’s 1904 promo insert mentioned that there were 12,000 incandescent lights in use around town. How on earth did they know the precise count? It’s been quite the head-scratcher.

The answer comes from a government report from this period, which explains light bulbs were available only though the local electric utility company. Bulbs were delivered to your home or business, and some companies even screwed in the replacement bulbs for you. That explains another small puzzle; a previous article had mentioned a “lineman [would] answer lamp kicks at all hours of the night,” which now is apparent that it meant PG&E would send someone out pronto to replace your burned-out bulb.

Between the government report and a 1909 item in the Press Democrat, it’s also now understood how street lighting worked in that era. All I knew heretofore is that they used electric lights and not gas. But how many lights were on each street, and how many overall? With the exceptions of commercial districts like Fourth street, it appears lights were only found at intersections. The PD noted that “100 watt Tungsteins” [sic] were being added to fifteen intersections, and the federal report mentions lamps were usually suspended by wires 25 feet over the center of an intersection. It was a good idea to live in the middle of the block if you didn’t like night lights.

As a final note, the report also observed that repairmen often attempted to fix burned out light bulbs before replacing them. Their technique was turning the bulb on and shaking it vigorously, in hopes that the broken filament would reconnect to the ultra-hot (3410 degrees centigrade) coil and flash weld itself again in place. Kids, please don’t try this at home unless you’re a certified light bulb repairman.

Copies of Harms’ Illustrated Portfolio on Sale at Chamber of Commerce for Only $1 per Copy

By special arrangement with the publisher a number of copies of Darms’ Illustrated Portfolio of Santa Rosa and Vicinity have been placed on sale at the Chamber of Commerce for the low price of $1.00 per copy. In spite of the fact that the regular price of this beautiful book is $3.75, the supply now on hand at the Chamber of Commerce headquarters will be sold without reservation for $1.00 while they last, and it is hoped that as many copies will be purchased and sent out as possible. The book is beautifully printed and elaborately illustrated, and various parts of the county are represented. The book would make an acceptable present for anybody, particularly friends living in the east. The cost of mailing is 26 cents.

–   Press Democrat,  February 8, 1910
New Lights are Being Installed in Different Parts of Town at the Present Time

A number of additional lights are being placed at the corners of a number of dark streets in different parts of the city. H. W. Jacobs is installing the lights for the city and already has eleven in position.

The new lights will be at Sixth and Wilson streets, Seventh and Davis streets, Ninth and Davis streets, Tenth and Washington streets, Orange and Laurel street, Chestnut street, Wheeler street, Beaver street, near Fifth…

The lamps being used are 100 watt Tungsteins, eighty candle power each.

–   Press Democrat,  November 24, 1909

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For Santa Rosa newspaper editors and other fans of the “gentleman hobo,” 1909 had to be the greatest year ever. The traffic of tramps was more than the previous five years combined, judging by the number of articles that appeared in the papers, and local scribblers of prose dusted off their thesauri to see who could write the most magniloquent panegyric to the knights of the dusty road.

The winner – which is to say, absolutely the worst writing – was the description of a hobo scrounging food at a farm near Fort Ross: “One Sabbath morning, when a holy calm brooded somnolently over the seashore, including the ranch of Mr. Zeek, and when the tide was away out upon the distant deep, and the deputy sheriff was angling for fish in a nearby creek, came the tramp, unheralded and uninvited…” The article continues with an inventory of food stolen, including a 50 lb. ham. “Having secured this and a hammock and two or three bars of soap and a painted tin flower vase and a few other things, he betook himself away.” Not to spoil the ending, but farmer Zeek “set off through the falling ocean evening fog upon the trail of the depredator” and finds Mr. Hobo eating his ham while lounging in his hammock. Complications follow.

The runner-up is the “Conservation of Tramps” editorial, which like the other article, appeared in the Santa Rosa Republican. Written likewise with tongue firmly in cheek, it bemoans “unsentimental people, without a grain of romance in their composition, would like to put the tramp out of business…He is an American institution as indigenous and native as a Kansas cyclone or a Dakota blizzard. He is as much a part of us as Iowa’s corn and hogs, or Chicago’s smoky air and dirty streets.” Alas, no one apparently proofread this masterpiece of wit, as there is a line or three of type missing.

Honorable mention goes to another Republican item (seeing a pattern, here?) that described a vagabond beggar. “[When] he approached a house, he would literally crawl up and down the steps as if he were in utter weakness and horrible pain. Upon gaining the street again, however, he lapsed into a perpendicular attitude and his strength appear to return and his anguish assuaged.” The man also brandished a little book with a statement that he was unable to work “signed by a couple of physicians who had forgotten to append thereto their places of residence” and insisted his destitute wife and six helpless and starving children were waiting for him in a Southern California town that couldn’t be found on any map.

Also that year was a visit from “Tennessee Bill,” a well-known drunk “who has been frequently arrested for yelling at the top of his voice from the steps of the old court house.” When in jail, Bill was known to tear off his clothes and set his cell on fire.

But the bulk of 1909 hobo coverage went to Leon Ray Livingston, who called himself “A Number One.” A relentless self-promoter, he introduced himself to the local newspaper upon arriving in every town, and the Press Democrat obligingly printed all of his tall tales, including that he had only spent $7.61 on railroad fare to travel almost a half-million miles and that he supported himself by carving portraits in potatoes.

(RIGHT: Leon Ray Livingston, known as “A-No. 1” as shown in his 1910 autobiography)

He invited himself to dessert with Luther Burbank and thanked him with an Indian profile carved out of (appropriately) a Burbank spud. The PD noted that “he is also a wood carver of ability” which sometimes got him in trouble; a pioneer graffiti artist, Livingston carved
everywhere he went, and a few weeks after his Santa Rosa visit, was given six months in the San Francisco pokey for carving his tag on the valuable mahogany doors of a major saloon.

Livingston also told the Press Democrat that he had written a book about his adventures, and that turned out to be true; the following year he self-published  Life and Adventures of A No. 1, followed by Hobo Camp Fire Tales and several other books, all of which are available for free Internet download. Among his titles was From Coast to Coast with Jack London, published the year after London’s death. His memoir claimed 18-year old Jack London had proposed a “hobo partnership” with Livingston for a cross-country trip, which is possible, but not probable. Livingston had visited the famous author in 1909, and his book reproduced a very short note from the author and two post-mortem letters from his widow, thanking him for sending copies of his earlier books. The note from Jack and the letters from Charmian London printed in his book – one of hers almost completely obscured by overlapping – give no affirmation that the two men traveled together. (The undertone of Charmian’s letters is, “please remind me who you are again?”) Nor did Jack mention a partner in his exceptional collection of short stories from his hobo year, The Road. Whatever the truth about his life, Leon Ray Livingston had a long post-hobo retirement, dying at 72 in 1944.

Santa Rosa was not alone in experiencing 1909 as a hobo year. While our local papers romanticized the rambling life and made light of theft and other hobo crimes, a Jan. 13 San Francisco Call article headlined “Army of Tramps Invading State” quoted a Southern Pacific special agent who claimed “vicious, idle men” were pouring into California and that the railroad was currently tracking the movements of 3,100 hoboes around the state. Solutions to the vagabond problem were widely discussed; a popular 1908 pamphlet, The Elimination of the Tramp, called for anyone without steady employment to be forced into labor camps, potentially for life.

What caused the explosion of the hobo population? Answers are not clear; as discussed here before, the bank panic of 1907 nearly destroyed the U.S. economy; unemployment in New York state reached 36 percent –  200,000 were estimated to be out of work in New York City alone – causing a vast number of men to seek work wherever they could find it.

A landmark 1911 study published by a New York charity, One Thousand Homeless Men, looked at 220 tramps and found that most drifted into the vagabond life. About a third took to the road out of wanderlust and many were well-educated, some with college degrees. Others couldn’t find work in their home communities or were outcasts; some were drunks or otherwise broken men, and a small number were on the run from the law. The study reprinted without dispute a widely-held guesstimate that there had been a fairly persistent population of over 500,000 hoboes nationwide for years.


Some unsentimental people, without a grain of romance in their composition, would like to put the tramp out of business. Their way of accomplishing this reform is through the instrumentality of rockpiles and shotguns. Other very ultra-sentimental people, hopelessly addicted to altruistic notions, would eliminate the aforesaid specimen of tired humanity by kindness. By various unaccountable means, not particularized, they think to make him abominate rest and spirituous things and to get him in love with soap and toil.

Both of these classes of people need suppressing as bad as any tramp. What would we do without the “bum”? In this new country we have no scenes of ruin to show the traveler. But we have Niagara, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the tramp. The latter serves as a national feature and a piece of local color all in one. He is an American institution as indigenous and native as a Kansas cyclone or a Dakota blizzard. He is as much a part of us as Iowa’s corn and hogs, or Chicago’s smoky air and dirty streets. tive benius [sic] of  a country can produce, make him uninteresting or commonplace.

Why do away with him? He wants to stay and he has his uses after all. What would the poor dog do lying lonely in the monotony of the back porch without a chance to exercise his jaws, or give vent to the exuberance of his feelings upon the person of an occasional hobo? How would the hundreds of thousands of housewives exhibit their hospitable and other traits of character unless opportunities were presented them to break bread for the wanderer or to break a broomhandle over his headpiece? Who else would supply the authorities in the country towns with jobs? And who would wrest free transportation from the grinding railroad monopolies?

A more striking spectacle can be hardly imagined than the one presented for weeks last winter all along the Southern Pacific line from Puget Sound to San Francisco. During that time on the road, more troops could be seen riding on top of the passenger trains than there were passengers sitting on the cushioned chairs inside.

If this personage inhabited Santa Rosa, the water question would not bother him. So long as the saloons ran beer, he would not care if the municipal and other water plants were made away with entirely.

– Santa Rosa Republican editorial, March 13, 1909
“A No. 1” in Santa Rosa Yesterday–Visits Burbank–Has a Remarkable Record

Have you ever seen a queer cabalistic sign painted on fences and barns along the railroad lines, or carved artistically into shanties or water tank supporters, etc., etc., “A No. 1” with a date and arrow underneath it?

If you have never seen it, watch and look for it and you will be surprised to notice for how many years some of these marks have been decorating those above mentioned places. It is a queer sign, yet it means that “A No. 1,” the world’s most famous tramp, has passed through Santa Rosa, and has left behind him this mark, showing the date and the direction he was journeying. This man, whose only known name is this sobriquet, “A No. 1,” visited the Press Democrat office yesterday and gave some very interesting experiences of his roving life.

“A No. 1” is interesting because:

He has hoboed 458,193 miles.

He has spent only $7.61 on railroad fare.

He has traveled 10,738 miles since January 1, 1908, without paying a cent in fare.

He has been around the world three times.

He is a linguist; speaks and writes in four languages.

Has prevented twenty wrecks.

Wears a $40 suit of clothes.

Wears a gold watch.

Keeps his name secret.

Carves potatoes for a  living.

Does not smoke, drink, chew, swear or gamble.

How did he adopt this queer name? That is a story, too. When he first started on the road it was with an older man. The latter was attracted by the ingeniousness of the younger companion, by his bright ways, his natural attitude for a life in box cars and riding the rods beside the grinding wheels underneath the heavy freight, where release for a moment of the bar of iron would have meant a horrible death. “Kid, you’re all right,” declared the older one at the end of a particularly hard journey, “you’re A No. 1.” The title has since stuck, and the wanderer has more than lived up to it, for ever a hobo’s life could be said to be a success it is that of this fellow.

He travels in overalls and jumpers,  but after arriving in Santa Rosa yesterday he divested himself of these and appeared neat in a brown suit, is always clean shaven and has a prosperous appearance.

“A No. 1” has been “on the road” since elven years of age, and he is now thirty-five. His real name is not known, and of his family connection he does not speak. He has a profession, which is carving potatoes, and in this he has no equal. Hundreds of times he has carved faces for persons in return for small favors. He is also a wood carver of ability.

From the Press Democrat office “A No. 1” went over to call at the Burbank residence in the hope that he could get a look at the great scientist. He did more. He had a chat with Mr. Burbank and had the time of his life. “I had supper there, too,” he told a Press Democrat representative–that is he had some coffee and cake on the porch of the residence. He carved for Mr. Burbank an Indian’s head out of a huge Burbank potato, and he thanked Mr. Burbank for having produced such large potatoes.

Many railroad officials who have given him cards freely state that he has prevented the loss of many lives in frequent cases. By telling train operators, when beating his way, of broken car wheels or other disasters, or other disarrangements, he has prevented serious wrecks. He has been in four wrecks, but has never been badly hurt.

During his travels “A No. 1” has learned four languages–English, German, French and Spanish. His parents were of French and German descent,

His toilet set is complete, though it takes little room to carry it. It consists of a tooth brush and soap, shaving soap, comb and a few other necessaries. His carving tools are two knives kept very sharp. Blackening and shining rags occupy a part of his pockets.

“A No. 1” has written a book telling of his adventures and experiences, and some copies will be on sale at the local bookstores. He keeps a book system, showing where he has been and the distance traveled from one city to another. He showed this register in the Press Democrat office. The total distance traveled is equal to eighteen trips around the world. With pride the visitor produced a gold medal which signifies that “A No. 1” has won a $1000 prize from the Police Gazette for beating his way from New York to San Francisco in less time than six competitors: His time was 11 days and 6 hours.

“You would not believe me,” he said, “yet it is a fact that I realize that my end will be the same as ninety per cent of all tramps–an accident. This is why I have at least provided for a decent burial. In 1894, of the $1,000 I received as a prize from the Police Gazette I bought for $750 a tombstone and lot at Cambridge, Pa. Seems strange that almost every night that silent monument seems to beckon from yonder green hillside in my dreams entreating me to stop my roving. This I have tried to do many a time, but in vain, and my epitaph, which I hope, will be a silent, everlasting warning to the restless, is simple: ‘A No. 1, the Rambler, Resting at Last.'”

“A No. 1” leaves for Sacramento this morning.

— Press Democrat, March 28, 1909

Famed Tramp Who Visited Santa Rosa Some Time Ago Gets Into Trouble For Carving Name

Some weeks ago the Press Democrat contained an interesting story of the visit paid Santa Rosa by the world-famous tramp, “A No. 1,” whose autograph, “A No. 1,” can be found on fences, posts and sides of buildings all over the continent and in foreign lands. His penchant for inscribing his name got him into trouble in San Francisco on Thursday and led to his arrest. A San Francisco newspaper has this to say of the incident:

“An attempt to carve his tramp sign “A No. 1” upon all the doors in San Francisco has landed Leon R. Livingston, gentleman tramp, in the city prison. Complaint after complaint reached the police of the appearance of the tramp sign upon expensive doors. At a prominent downtown bar three mahogany doors worth $75 each were marred.

“Detectives Taylor and Macphee arrested Livingston while he was apparently waiting an opportunity of carving his sign upon a door at the Western National Bank.

“The man said he was an expert carver. He was living at the Hotel Langham, was well attired when arrested and had a suit of hobo clothing at the hotel.”

— Press Democrat, April 17, 1909

Jack London Entertains Notable Tramp at Home

Jack London, Sonoma County’s celebrated son, is entertaining at his Glen Ellen ranch this week a guest whom he delights to honor. No, it is neither a potentate nor a philosopher, nor any of the mighty and distinguished of the earth, that one would think would benefit the company of one of the two or three great creative literary artists of the country and generation. It is a tramp, just a tramp. Nevertheless through a tramp he be, he is no ordinary everyday sort of one. He is no less than the celebrated A No. One, whose reputation like his travels has eucircled the earth.

When A No. One arrives at any big city in the land, though he arrives not in purple and fine linen nor in a Pullman coach, but in a box car. A hobo in attire he is received by the representatives of the newspapers as if he were a whole congressional delegation, and his picture and story are always given publicity by the press. He appreciates all this complimentary mention made of him and has a complete collection of all such clippings, and treasures them above silver and gold and precious stones. Apropos of which it may be noted that he has kindly consented to accept a copy of the issue of this paper containing the tale of him.

Mr. A No. One has not confined his attention, time and energies to traveling, though he has been around the earth on a half dozen different occasions. He is something of a carver, having the ability to do sculpturing, not in wood, stone or marble, but in potato. He can cut any physiognomy out of that vegetable. Furthermore he is quite a writer himself. He has written a book on the Life and Adventures of A No. One.

He was unable to extend his stay with London longer than a few days, as he is an ardent devotee of the “strenuous life,” and to tarry in ease and luxury has no attraction for him. He makes visits to the great novelist’s Sonoma county home periodically. Readers of London have sought to connect A No. One with the much traveled and versatile hobo who appears in several of the former’s short stories.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 15, 1909
Constable Sullivan Lands Sextette in Jail

Six hoboes were arrested by Constable James Sullivan at Denman’s Friday morning, and have been charged with vagrancy. The men killed a porker belonging to a farmer in that vicinity and roasted the carcass, that they might have a feast. When the rancher discovered the loss of the pig he sent for the officers and had the men arrested.

Constable Sullivan, being the nearest officer to the scene of the trouble, was dispatched to bring the culprits in, and he captured the sextette without difficulty.

At Petaluma the rumor had spread around that the men were bold burglars and that they would put up considerable resistance before they would be captured. The return of Constable Sullivan was awaited with interest when this report gained currency.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 23, 1909


William Cornelius Tennessee Goforth, well known to the residents of Santa Rosa, came to town Sunday. His first act was to hunt up Chief of Police Fred J. Rushmore and ask to be taken to the county jail for a rest. He was accommodated and Jailer Charles Meyers is now his guardian temporarily. Goforth also wanted to be remembered to the newspaper boys. He is the man who has been frequently arrested for yelling at the top of his voice from the steps of the old court house.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 28, 1909

Mendicant is Subject to Temporary Sickness

An Italian, going about from house to house about town, soliciting coin, and representing himself as sick, disabled, the husband of one destitute wife and six helpless and starving children, was brought before Judge Bagley by Chief of Police F. J. Rushmore on Saturday morning on the charge of public begging, and was sent for ten days to sojourn at the county jail. He had a little book with a statement signed by a couple of physicians who had forgotten to append thereto their places of residence. These were in English and Latin and besought the public to assist pecuntarily the bearer, who was worthy and unable to work, assuring them that the Lord would bless them if they would.

Menera, according to those who saw him on his way, seemed to be temporarily subject to his infirmities. For when in his capacity of a mendicant, he approached a house, he would literally crawl up and down the steps as if he were in utter weakness and horrible pain. Upon gaining the street again, however, he lapsed into a perpendicular attitude and his strength appear to return and his anguish assuaged.

Upon being questioned as to the number and location of his wife and children, he appeared at a loss to answer until his little guide book was in his hands. He finally had them placed in a town in Southern California that nobody had ever heard of being on the map before. He didn’t sort of fancy the prospect of ten days in confinement very well, but when some one remarked that the county set a substantial table three times every day, his dark complexioned visage lightened perceptibly. The thirty unsolicited meals coming to him evidently anticipatively struck him in a tender spot somewhere.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 10, 1909


The usual morning formalities in the police court, consisting of an occasional drunk or disturber of the peace, was varied slightly Monday. Seven offenders were sent around the county jail for a few days each more or less, by Judge Bagley. Five of them were hobos–hobos of genuine, unadulterated article. They were rounded up and run in by Officer Boyes and Chief Rushmore Sunday evening. They had started in an endeavor to enliven the sabbath evening dullness in the vicinity of lower Ninth street and succeeded with a tolerable degree of success. They had not, however, proceeded far in this way before their hilarity had attracted the attention of the patrolmen. Hence their capture. Each was given three days in jail.

– Santa Rosa Republican, August 16, 1909

Hobo Appears and Makes Things Disappear

From the Sonoma county seacoast near the old fortress at Fort Ross,  comes a weird and almost unbelievable tale of a tramp and his depredations. Deputy Sheriff C. E. Zeek is the bearer of the tidings and the victim of the unscrupulous and unbecoming doings of the hobo as well. In addition to his duties in preserving intact the majesty of the law in his domain, Zeek is also the proprietor of a ranch. It was at this ranch that the tramp first breaks into the story and incidentally where he breaks into a few other things. Going back to the beginning, it is like this. One Sabbath morning, when a holy calm brooded somnolently over the seashore, including the ranch of Mr. Zeek, and when the tide was away out upon the distant deep, and the deputy sheriff was angling for fish in a nearby creek, came the tramp, unhearalded and uninvited. He first proceeded to satisfy his gastronomic pangs. Though it wasn’t easter, he started with eggs. He invaded every hen’s nest on the place–there were over fifty of them–and ate the contents, leaving with a criminal extravagance, the shells and the whites of the eggs. Then he fell upon the dairy. Here sat a hundred pans of milk, with a crust of cream a half inch thick overspreading their surfaces. He consumed the cream, or what of it he could, and benignantly poured out the milk upon the ground as an offering to the cats. In the back porch of the house was a heavy wooden chest, which was the family meat repository. This was securely locked, but the hobo found the key. This he did not use, for he preferred a more sinful method yet of making an entrance into the house of ham. Hence he deliberately and maliciously cut a hole through one side of the box and through the aperature extracted a 50 pound ham. Having secured this and a hammock and two or three bars of soap and a painted tin flower vase and a few other things, he betook himself away. That evening Mr. Zeek returned. He didn’t say anything–for publication, but with evil in his heart and a double barreled shotgun in his hand, he set off through the falling ocean evening fog upon the trail of the depredator. He found him reclining in his hammock under a tree, nibbling ham. The latter denied ever having been in the vicinity of Mr. Zeek’s ranch, but was induced after a short argument to disassociate himself from his spoils. The hobo, says Zeek, was not particularly hard pressed for cash, having something more than a hundred dollars in coin and greenbacks, besides sporting a diamond ring and waring a lady’s gold watch chain five feet long, bespattered with pearls and a ruby or two. This individual has not been seen since, and it is presumed that he has left for other parts.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 1, 1909

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