At the beginning of the summer of 1962 nobody much cared about the story except for a Press Democrat staff writer. By midsummer it was the top news in the Bay Area. As the season came to an end, a mania over the case had gripped all of California, with tips and false leads flooding police telephone lines.







The pressing question everyone wanted answered: Where were the Arnesons? Mildred and Jay had been missing over six months when the first PD article appeared. They had no close friends in Santa Rosa so there was no one to raise an alarm over their unusual disappearances, but her family in Washington state was convinced something terrible had happened.

They presented the Sonoma County Sheriff with their suspicions and even evidence of crimes. Yet the office stubbornly refused to investigate and treated it like a routine missing-persons case, which is to say they did nothing as the months passed. “It’s primarily a matter of waiting for leads,” the sheriff’s investigator said. The PD slammed the department for what it called “official indifference.” In a headline, no less.

And then there was Eva Anna Long, who had also vanished. She was supposedly a friend of the Arnesons – were they all together somewhere? The inspector in charge of the case believed so (while leaving open “possible foul play”) even though the woman had an incredibly sketchy history. She was already wanted by the sheriff for recently pulling a gun on someone and her name was actually an alias.

At its core this is a true crime story which any competent writer could sum up in 2,500 words or so – as several have in years since. (Monte Schulz, son of Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz, wrote a novelized version called “Naughty.”) Sure, it can be framed as a straight-forward “Motive, Means and Opportunity” crime, but only by going back to the original sources can we grasp what made this tale so remarkably compelling; it sucked everyone in because each new detail was wilder and crazier than the last. It was like receiving a piece of a jigsaw puzzle nearly every day which changed the emerging picture from what you expected.

Another overlooked aspect of the story was the fierce competition for the latest nugget between newspapers, radio and TV reporters. There were accusations that some were plagiarizing news from the Press Democrat, and those charges were not completely unfounded.

Sadly, we can’t go back 60+ years via my Wayback Machine (I really should have sprung for the rust-proof undercoating) but we do have most of those newspapers online, so it’s easy to follow the story as it unfolded. And although I’ll have more to say about this later, the Press Democrat deserves highest praise for its coverage. It would have been easy for the newsroom to accept the sheriff’s position there was no reason for concern and wave off the family’s plea for help. Instead, editors took the initiative and assigned Neale Leslie and Bony (Boniface) Saludes to dig into the story – and primarily thanks to them all was revealed.

The essence of our story began when the PD’s first article appeared on July 1, 1962 – two hundred days since Mildred Maude Arneson vanished. Almost all of the background details covered below trace back to those first investigative reports that summer.

mildredportrait(RIGHT: Mildred Arneson c. 1950. Photo enhanced using HotPot AI)

Mildred and Jay’s only year in Santa Rosa was unhappy. Early in 1961 the 58 year-old woman purchased the Rose City Motel at 1385 Santa Rosa Avenue (today it’s a Starbucks drive-thru). Built in the 1920s, it was typical of the little motels that dotted the American West after highways became ubiquitous – it was first called the Rose City Auto Camp and later the Rose City Motor Court. There were twenty 2-3 room cabins and what few classified ads that can be found mention they were heated and had furniture. The Arnesons lived there and Mildred ran it, but business was poor. The place was a dump.

Mildred had some property in Washington state, and shortly before she disappeared told a realtor she was planning to sell it and use the money to retire somewhere in South America or Mexico. She wrote her mother on December 14 she was about to make a six week trip down there with her new friend Eva Long, who was lending her $10,000 for the junket. A day later Mildred signed over a grant deed for the motel to Mrs. Long as collateral. The notary who certified that was the last person to speak with Mildred.

Eva and her husband Ralph had passing acquaintance with the Arnesons and were staying at the Blue Bonnet, a nearly identical motor court next door. They were in Santa Rosa because Eva said she was being harassed by insurance investigators because of her $100,000 suit for supposedly permanent injuries. She was a passenger in a San Francisco taxi when it hit another car and she was left with a bad limp.

Then one mid-December day the couple who owned the Blue Bonnet learned Mildred had supposedly left for a South American trip and Eva had purchased the Rose City Motel “sight unseen.”

The woman who called herself Eva moved in to the motel with Ralph and announced it was now named the El Sombrero. With Jay still living there, it fell to Ralph to feed and bathe him. Jay Thomas Arneson was suffering the final stages of Parkinson’s disease with a paralyzed lower lip that made him difficult to understand. The 70 year-old WWI vet and major in the Army Reserve had been on a disability pension for a quarter century.

It was apparent to Blue Bonnet owners Joan and Nigel Dodge that Eva knew nothing about running a motel as she pestered them constantly with questions. At first the Dodges were pleased to assist her, as people always were. Eva had an air of helplessness which made you instantly trust and want to make her feel better. She was a diminutive woman at a little over five feet tall and 43 years old; besides her limp she had a blown-out pupil that might be mistaken for a glass eye. She still spoke somewhat broken English and would cock her head while reading or listening to someone – presumably because this was her second language, having come from Munich.

It was a couple of weeks after Eva and Ralph took over when the first police car arrived at the El Sombrero. One of Mildred’s sisters tried to phone the motel on New Year’s Day and discovered the number was disconnected. She contacted the sheriff’s office and asked for someone to check on the situation. The deputy encountered Eva and asked her to call the sister. Eva told the woman she had “just received a card from Mildred in Mexico City” and all was well. Then the sister asked to speak with Jay. He said hello and in a voice the PD described as a sob, added “I don’t think I’ll ever see Mildred again.” Eva came back on the line and explained he was upset by his wife’s hasty departure.

Jay disappeared near the end middle of January. Eva first told the Dodges a couple of “sinister looking” men showed up in the middle of the night and put him in a white Cadillac with Mexican license plates. Then just three days later, Eva told them she escorted him to Letterman Hospital in a taxi.

It was shortly after that when the Dodges began to suspect the Arnesons had been murdered. Eva began doing a suspicious amount of “garbage burning” behind the motel, with a pile she kept burning continuously for weeks. It seemed like she was getting rid of everything inside – mattresses, furniture, curtains. The stench was awful. Joan wondered if it was to cover up the cremation of human remains.

Mildred’s family grew increasingly anxious as more weeks passed without hearing from her, with her mother saying she believed “the woman who bought the motel did her in.”

Clues were rapidly accumulating. Her December letter to mom said she would be first driving Jay to a nursing home in San Diego. Such a reservation was indeed made, but Mildred and Jay never showed up. The Arneson’s car remained parked in Santa Rosa.

By now the family had made their concerns known to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office and Inspector John Coffman was assigned to the case. He considered those details, yet not a single red flag was raised for the remarkably incurious investigator. He also visited Eva at the El Sombrero and came away convinced there was nothing to investigate – the Arnesons must be enjoying a vacation somewhere. Too bad he didn’t go next door and ask the Dodges what they thought.

Fed up with Coffman’s shortcomings, two of her sisters drove here in February to meet with the sheriff and file a missing persons report – but first they made a side trip to check on another of Mildred’s cabin motels in Westport, Washington, a summer resort town where lodging shut down for the winter. They found the place had been ransacked; most furniture was gone along with doors and wall paneling in the office. It undoubtedly left them shaken, but all they could do was notify the town marshal before leaving for California.

As Coffman seated himself comfortably and waited for leads to roll in, the missing person report certainly ruffled someone’s feathers. Immediately after the sisters returned home, a telegram to one of them arrived on February 28 sent from Salinas:

Dear Bea: I would like for you to keep your nose out of my affairs. Jay and I are all right. If you keep this up everyone will be upset. Tell mother not to worry. I’m all right. I was within 100 miles of you a couple of weeks ago, after I heard what I heard I stayed away. Would you please accept Jay’s check at this address. I will write in two weeks so don’t be upset. And please stay out of my affairs. Love. Mildred Jay and John.

As promised, a typewritten letter to their mother arrived a couple of weeks later, postmarked from Tijuana:

Dear Mother: Hope your feeling fine. Jay, John and I are alright. John said not to worry. I bought a new car a Cadillac. I been in a little trouble but I always work out my own troubles and affairs all my life. I am fifty-seven now and its about time my family keeps their nose out of my affairs. If anyone ask you where I am you don’t know and if anyone ask you any questions you don’t know. And I am writing to you under a different name thats if you want to hear from me.

Now mother don’t worry about me and take good care of yourself. Tell the children not to worry also. I’ve sold most of my property outright. You know Bea’s always been jealous of me even when I had the Turkey Farm she said I should knit sweaters for them I never did forget that. I’m sending Jay’s pension checks to you to hold on to them until we get settled. I’m also if you meddle I’m having my utility bill sent also. Well, nevermind I’ll write to Westport and them send them. As I sold the cabins. The ground couldn’t be sold.

I have a habit and it’s very costly and don’t ask me to explain that’s half of my trouble Jay wants to write to Jack and tell him we are alright. This all for now. Love to all from

Mildred, Jay and John.

There were red flags galore in those messages. First, no one in the family knew “John,” who they were apparently supposed to recognize. Mildred’s grammar and spelling were far better and she wrote letters in longhand, not typed; her age was 58, not 57; she called her mother as “Mom” and signed herself “Mil.” And the telegram to her sister was addressed to “Beatrice Brown” instead of “Brunn.”

None of these points raised the good inspector’s eyebrows because he was sure the messages came from Mildred – after all, she owned a portable typewriter. Plus there was the turkey farm shoutout which absolutely no one else could have known because no person has ever shared a family anecdote with a friend. “If you take the negative approach,” Coffman later told the PD, “you come to one conclusion. If you take the affirmative approach, you come to a different conclusion.” John Coffman: Zen detective.

Eva (and probably Ralph) moved back to the Blue Bonnet for six weeks as workmen made repairs at the El Sombrero – she told the Dodges she could not “stand filth,” presumably meaning construction debris. During that interlude and before, the Dodges came to know Eva better than anyone besides Ralph. They recognized her lies and fabulations for what they were, keeping Mildred’s sisters abreast of her doings and what was (not) happening in the sheriff’s investigation. Mildred’s family credited them – along with the Press Democrat – for cracking the case.

Uncredited 1962 snapshot of Iva and Ralph Kroeger taken by a friend of the Dodge family. Photo enhanced using  HotPot AI)
Uncredited 1962 snapshot of Iva and Ralph Kroeger taken by a friend of the Dodge family. Photo enhanced using HotPot AI)

Later after Eva became a murder suspect, the Dodges readily gave interviews to the PD and other media. Remarks to the Oakland Tribune described how Eva was rarely alone because she used her wiles to build an entourage “promising fabulous rewards to transients and down-and-outers to do her bidding.” Sometimes she paid them generously – but more often they were just gratified by being able to help the poor, sweet lady who had suffered so much. Two months before the missing Arnesons became big news, an item in the PD illustrated how the world turned in Eva’s universe.

She hired a tradesman named Herbert Willsmore to install an expensive water softener as part of the motel renovations and also borrowed money from him, said to be around $2,500. (What, you don’t hit up plumbers and other contractors for loans?) Asked why he gave her money, Willsmore explained Eva had an “ability to draw you in, to engender trust.” But when it came time to repay the loan and make good on his bill which came to a total $4,900, she claimed to lack the ability to do either.

In late May she finally agreed to pay him if he came by the motel. When he arrived, he found her with a Mrs. Harrington and a Mr. Phelps. He also found her holding a .22 automatic pistol. Mrs. Harrington told the PD she was with Eva all day and she “kept repeating that she was going to get a gun and use it on Herb.”

Eva demanded he sit at her dining room table and write a statement that she owed him nothing. Then per the PD story, “the episode was interrupted and Mr. Willsmore was allowed to leave unharmed when Mrs. Willsmore got tired of waiting outside for her husband and knocked on the door to find out what was keeping him.”

Willsmore immediately reported this bizarre incident to the sheriff’s office. Meanwhile, Eva handed the gun to Mr. Phelps and told him to hide it in the attic – and I am gobsmacked to reveal he did exactly that. Admitted it to the PD reporter, even.

Deputy sheriffs arrived the following day with a search warrant and found the gun in the attic (fully loaded) but no Eva. She had skipped town just ahead of their arrival, taking along all photos of herself and leaving behind a doleful Ralph. An arrest warrant was issued charging assault with a deadly weapon.

Boldly committing a crime in front of two witnesses – plus roping one of them into hiding the weapon – says much about Eva’s incredible power of persuasion. Or how crazy she was, or deeply evil. Or maybe all of these things.

But maybe the most remarkable aspect of that incident was the lack of any mention in the paper about the recent disappearance of the Arnesons from the same motel, or that the now-fugitive Eva Long was the prime suspect. We probably shouldn’t really be surprised – the PD reporter was getting all his information from clue-blind Inspector Coffman.

The situation was about to change quickly, however. A lawyer for Mildred’s family came here and tried to explain to Coffman why the letter and telegram supposedly written by Mildred were so suspicious. He presumably also met the Dodges and heard the remarkable bits of information they had collected.

And then her sisters returned to Santa Rosa at the end of June, meeting with the Press Democrat. Within days, the game was afoot. Where were the Arnesons? Where was the suspicious woman with all the secrets? It was all anybody could talk about as the mystery unfurled. The Big Show was about to begin.



Title image: Iva Kroeger 1954 wedding portrait enhanced by HotPot AI and uncredited photo of El Sombrero motel c. 1962 colorized using




(1962 Press Democrat articles related to this chapter only)










MRS. ARNESON’S LETTER MAY ‘BREAK OPEN’ CASE (July 18, Bony Saludes byline)



SISTERS LAUD P.D. IN OPENING CASE (August 22, Bony Saludes byline)

Read More



Someday we will have large brains but no teeth; such was a prediction that appeared in Santa Rosa’s newspaper in 1885.

As seen through the pages of the Sonoma Democrat, the 1880s were years of frustratingly slow progress. Take the example of the telephone; at the start of the decade people in San Francisco and Sacramento could speak with each other, but five more years passed before Santa Rosa and Petaluma were connected by a single telephone line. Similar with electricity; since 1879 San Francisco had electric street lamps and lights in a few important buildings, but it was almost Christmas 1892 before the Merchant’s Electric Lighting Company managed to get a few lightbulbs glowing in downtown Santa Rosa store windows for the first time.

Yet our ancestors in the 1880s were intensely interested in what things may come, particularly when it came to advances in knowledge. In the Democrat can be found over five hundred mentions of “science” or something being “scientific,” which is quite a lot considering it was a four-page weekly with about half the space taken up by advertising. And a good portion of those references came from the ads – there was a guy who did “scientific horse shoeing” in Santa Rosa. Probably never before or since in America has the very concept of science been such a popular buzzword.

The Democrat was hardly alone in its fascination with anything science related. Some editions of Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner filled a page or more with so many letters from researchers and amateur scientists that it could be mistaken for an academic journal. This attitude continued into the 1890s, although newspaper science items became more sharply focused on the development of internal combustion engines and the horseless carriage.

In that era continuing education was considered a pastime; like Petaluma and Healdsburg, Santa Rosa formed a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle.* When it was declared Cloverdale would be the ideal spot in the North Bay to view the 1889 total solar eclipse, an estimated 800 people booked seats on a special excursion train. “The sidewalks on the main streets were lined with amateur astronomers, the result of whose observations consisted in chief of aching eyes and the satisfaction of having witnessed an event of great scientific importance,” reported the Democrat.

The Democrat, which normally filled empty columns with unfunny and hoary jokes or yarns, increasingly picked up items from Scientific American magazine and a news agency called the San Francisco Scientific Press. A subscriber might read a lengthy explanation about germ theory or how someone calculated the velocity of a bullet.

These old science items are fun to seek out because they sometimes wander into screwy territory we would never imagine today. Some believed railroad construction and/or trains caused rain. A popular magazine in 1884 stated electricity would always be too expensive for home use, so furniture and room walls would need to be treated with some kind of luminescent paint which would be activated “by a slight disturbance of the air.” Similarly, books would be printed using glow-in-the-dark ink so we can read in bed.

As the decade plodded onwards there was an fiery debate as to whether heavier-than-air flying machines could ever be built. Oh, they might be possible, some might concede, but there were “mysterious and unknown forces in nature” that would make them impossible to pilot. Or perhaps they would have to be first lifted a mile in the air by balloons to function. On and on. Then in 1889, Thomas Edison opined that aircraft would become the getaway vehicle of choice for thieves: “When the time comes for it to be put in operation there will be one drawback to it, and that the ease which it will afford criminals in making their escape from whatever point their crime was committed. In my opinion, when we shall have aerial navigation we shall see more crime.”

The Democrat also printed science articles which were probably meant to be funny, such as the “big brain no teeth” item at the top. Some turned out to be hoaxes, such as the 1883 article describing the “electroscope” – a TV-like device that could project extremely high resolution live images picked up by “electricity vibrations of light.” That story from New Zealand was reprinted widely, but few readers had the chance to learn it was debunked by a British paper: “New Zealand is earning notoriety as the country where scientific hoaxes are concocted…Not long ago we had a detailed account of a method of putting sheep into a trance during which they could be transported to any conceivable distance and brought back to ‘life’ as required…”


ALL OUR FUTURES PAST” covers several predictions from the first half of the 20th century directly related to Santa Rosa and Sonoma County. Ultrafast flying cars are a common theme, able to reach San Francisco in a few minutes. Everyone will be living lives of leisure. It’s unclear whether Prohibition would ever end but radio and TV will wirelessly offer subscription-based news and movies streamed from a local theater.

SANTA ROSA IN THE YEAR 3000” was written in 1913 by an eminent Santa Rosa attorney who thought ecological upheavals would turn the city into the major seaport on the West Coast and eventually the nation’s new capitol, to be built on Taylor mountain. Flying cars are solar-powered and can travel nearly the speed of light.

THE YEAR 2000 PREDICTED” described a Santa Rosa visit by “the Wizard of Electricity” in early 1906 where he blew a whistle into a microphone to turn on a light bulb, used an early version of the fax machine to transmit a picture of the President and used a magnesium flare to drive a motor powered by a solar cell.

Science fiction was another related category that appeared in the 1880s, which should be no surprise as that was also the heyday of Jules Verne. The Democrat reprinted a short item of his describing journalism a thousand years in the future: An editor would be able to see and speak with anyone in the world via telephone, news would be reported like podcasts with related video available to watch via your phone. Ads would be projected onto clouds.

Predicting life in the future became a popular topic in the early 20th century (see sidebar) but not so much during the Gilded Age. A major exception was a lengthy 1883 summary of “A Far Look Ahead” which appeared in the Democrat and many other newspapers.

It’s quite an odd book (you can read it online or download), set around the year 9700. In large part it describes the usual sort of socialist paradise where there is no poverty or war and where it’s always summer. America is an Eden of gardens without end. The summary in the papers describe it as a view of the Millennium which may seem like an error, but critics point out that the unstated thread running through the work is that it’s supposed to take place during the end-times Christian Millennium, which would have been understood by readers of their day.

Much of this distant future would have been familiar to Victorian Americans. The telephone – still connected with land wires – would remain the primary means of communication. Fast trains, powered by electricity, were the main way to travel between distances and once at the desired station, a two seat tricycle with a five horsepower electric motor would take you the rest of the way. (I have seen the future and it seems we are all riding small lawn tractors.)

Food is prepared at cooking depots and “dinner trains” deliver three-course meals. That package is loaded into a mechanical dining table that has a pop-up dumb waiter in the center. It is very much a windup world; one of the few references that imply computer-like tech describes little holograms (think of, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope”) made by family ancestors dating back hundreds of years.

Also familiar to the 1880s readership was Victorian misogyny and prudishness. Who’s preparing those dinners at the cooking depots? Young women, of course – the boys studied abroad while young women stayed home to learn domestic skills. Starting from birth, girls were gifted on their birthdays with china and all the clothes they would ever possess in order to prepare for marriage. Out-of-wedlock sex was a serious crime: “The seducer was not indeed compelled to marry his victim but was given the option between such reparation and being rendered incapable of offending again in that way. If one or both of the guilty parties was already married, both were purged from the land unless it could be proved that one had sinned in ignorance.”


*The Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (usually just called the C. L. S. C.) was an offshoot of the Chautauqua Assembly, which held annual evangelical camp meetings to hear noted speakers, worship and enjoy recreation. CLSC was a home-study course that offered a four-year liberal arts program primarily to rural women who had no other opportunities for higher education. Men could also participate although the ratio of women over men was usually 3:1. Participants were expected to spend 40 minutes a day studying and doing assignments with a weekly meeting for members to ask questions and express ideas. In the 1880s well over 100,000 people were enrolled, mainly women in the Midwest. It was an important chapter in the history of women’s rights in America that has been mostly overlooked by modern historians. (MORE)


Title image: Part of a series of cartoons by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists published around 1900 depicting scenes from the year 2000 (MORE INFO)


Another C. L. S. C. — Twenty-two persons assembled at the Fifth street M. E. Church on Monday evening, and perfected the organization of the third division of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle in Santa Rosa. It was organized by electing Rev. T. A. Atkinson President. Mrs. R. W. Godbey Vice-President, and Will Acton Secretary. The meetings of this circle will be held on Monday evening of each week. The course involves a course of reading which takes about an hour each day, besides the one evening in each week, and gives each person joining an opportunity to review ancient and modem history and literature. The object being for mental improvement, the aim of the organization is to reach all. Any desirous of becoming members are requested to confer with any of the officers. The next meeting will be held at the Fifth street M. E. Church.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 8 1884


The Atomic Theory.

And now the venerable atomic theory of matter, which has stood for generations, is being vigorously attacked. High scientific authority declares there is no such thing as ultimate atoms, and never was, but that matter is all one mass, so to speak. What next?

– Sonoma Democrat, April 4 1885


Popular Explanation of the Doctrine of Modern Pathology.
Minute Organism Which Propagate Disease — Success of Professor Lister’s Disinfecting Process — “Bacteria.”

[Philadelphia Press.] There is a large class of diseases of which it has been known for a long time that they all have certain characteristic peculiarities in unison. They all are apt to appear as epidemics or are endemic in certain localities. They are more or loss contagious. They have a period of incubation — i. e., a time during which the poison causing them lies dormant in the system. For instance, a person to-day exposed to the contagion of small-pox – and infected by it will evince the first symptoms of the disease by the fourteenth day. During this interval between the infection and the first outbreak the poison was latent, and this interval is called the period of incubation. Another peculiarity is that those diseases run a definite course. They are self-limited. Thus in an average case of an infectious malady, provided no complications occur, the physician may foretell the exact duration of it. Then one attack of such a disease usually insures at least for a certain time, immunity against a second.

All these peculiarities seemed to point to some unknown agent, which needed a certain period to ripen, when at maturity it developed in the system symptoms always alike in the same disease and differing only according to the organ mainly affected and to the idiosyncrasy of the individual.

That not one and the same agent caused all these diseases was also known…

– Sonoma Democrat, November 22 1884


BY W. H. De PRIM, NO. 9 MAIN ST., Next to J. P. Clark’s livery stable.
Having made a specialty of horse-shoeing over eighteen years. I am prepared to shoe trotting, draft or horses with deformed or injured hoofs by the best and most satisfactory methods known to science.

– Sonoma Democrat, 1885 advertisement


Railways and Rainfall.

American scientists are again discussing the connection alleged to exist between the operations of railways and rainfall. It is regarded as a remarkable fact that before railways were extended to the Pacific, the country lying between the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains was subject to an almost continuous drought. Since then, however, the country has been visited by frequent falls of rain. What produced the change is the question. Some suggest that it is due to the change in the electrical state of the atmosphere, produced by the conduction of the subtle fluid into the region by the iron rails. Others assert that it is caused by the atmospheric disturbances arising from the frequent passing and repassing of trains. It is shown that up to 1854 the United States has been periodically visited by great and general droughts, but since that year there has been no such visitation; or, in other words, that the building of such a vast network of railways as has been constructed during the last quarter of a century has had the effect of promoting the fall of rain. Since the general introduction of railways in Europe, also, there has been no drought such as previously at short intervals caused widespread distress. In the case of England it is remarked that although the climate has been always humid there has been a growing excess of rainfall during the period of railway building, until now she gets far more than is beneficial to the crops. This has been noticeable to an almost alarming degree during the past few years. We give these conclusions for what they may be worth, and merely showing the drift of current discussion on this point.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 23 1883


The Future Man.

A French scientist has written a pamphlet which proves theoretically that the future man will have a large brain, but no natural teeth.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 21 1885



Jules Verne, in the current number of the Forum, has a satirical description of what the American journalist is to be one thousand years hence — that is to say in 2889. He writes:

“The editor rules the world. He receives Ministers of other governments and settles international quarrels; he is the patron of all the arts and sciences; he maintains all the great novelists; ne has not only a telephone to Paris, but a telephone line as well whereby he can at any time from his study in New York see a Parisian with whom he converses. Advertisements are flashed on the clouds: reporters describe events orally to millions of subscribers, and if a subscriber becomes weary or is busy he attaches his phonograph to his telephone and hears the news at his leisure. If a fire is raging in Chicago, subscribers may not only listen to the description of an eye-witness, but by the telephone may see the fire.”

We have read many descriptions of what the future editor is to be, some of them extremely visionary; but whatever else such writers mav have done, they have never depicted the average journalist as a man of great wealth.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 2 1889


Electricity Not the Light of the Future.

[Demorest’s Monthly.]

It will not be electrical illumination, say the scientists. That involves too much cost. Electricity is developed by violence; that is, by waste and the disturbance of atoms of matter, which is necessarily expensive. For sensational uses, for spectacles, for the lighting of city squares, streets and parks, where expense is minor consideration, the electrical light will, of course, be employed; but the great mass of the community will never be able to use this costly illuminator to banish darkness from their humble dwellings.

Nature has been searched to find out how light can be generated under the cheapest conditions, and the glowworm has been hit upon as furnishing a hint for the cheap but effective domestic light of the future. The various insects which emit flashes of light in the dark, do so with an exceedingly small expenditure of mechanical force. It has been suggested that curtains, wall paper and the coverings of furniture could be so prepared that, by a slight disturbance of the air, they would emit a steady but mellow light at a cost of far less than a candle or kerosene lamp. Scientific men are now at work on this problem, and it it should be successfully solved, it would be a very great benefit to the poor of all nations.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 2 1884


A new invention is reported from Turin. It consists in the application of light giving materials to printing ink, by which print becomes luminous in the dark, so that in the future it will be possible to read at night in bed or during a journey, without the assistance of candle or lamp.

– Petaluma Weekly Argus, 18 Mar 1881


The Latest Electrical Discovery.

The Rev. Mr. Gilbert, during an address at Christ Church the other night, remarks the Otago Times, while speaking of the telephone, asked his audience if they would be astonished if he were to tell them that it was now proved to be possible to convey by means of electricity vibrations of light — to not only speak with your distant friend, but actually to see him. The electroscope — the name of the instrument which enabled us to do this was the very latest scientific discovery, and to Dr. Gnidrah, of Victoria, belonged the proud distinction. The trial of the wonderful instrument took place at Melbourne on the 31st of October last in the presence of some forty scientific and public men, and was a great success. Sitting in a dark room, they saw projected on a large disk of white burnished metal the race course at Flemington with its myriad hosts of active beings. Each minute detail stood out with perfect fidelity to the original, and as they looked at the wonderful picture through binocular glasses, it was difficult to imagine that they were not actually on the course itself and moving among those whose actions they could so completely scan.

– Sonoma Democrat, March 24 1883


New Zealand is earning notoriety as the country where scientific hoaxes are concocted; but it is not a little remarkable that they should be accepted and reproduced without comment by tha Press of this country. Not long ago we had a detailed account of a method of putting sheep into a trance during which they could be transported to any conceivable distance and brought back to ‘life’ as required…people are astonished at the remarkable discovery of Dr Gnidrah (Harding backwards). The ‘new discovery’ is nothing more than a means of transmitting by electricity a picture of any scene desired and it is gravely stated that in the presence of some 40 scientific men assembled ta a darkened room at Melbourne, a picture of the racecourse at Flemington was rendered visible with perfect fidelity. The joke is stale one, but is based on a scientific discovery, and the author has merely allowed the reins to his fancy. The result is that the paragraph goest the rounds under the heading ‘important electrical discovery.

– London Echo, May ?? 1883 as summarized in the [New Zealand] Otago Times and very few other newspapers


The Wonderful Progress of a Regenerated Human Race.
The Millennium as Viewed By the Author of “A Far Look Ahead” — Wealth, Dress, Social Life, and Crime.

[Detroit Free Press Book Review.]

The author of “Diothas; or, A Far Look Ahead,” has done what many others have done before him; he attempts to foresee the future. Under the influence of a mesmeric dream, he awakes in New York eighty centuries hence, and in company with a friend he proceeds to see the “sights” and study the new and strange people of that distant day.

He was struck with the nobility and beauty of the race, and supposed they belonged to the aristocracy of the city. “Where are the working classes?” he asked of his companion. “We have no aristocracy,” was the reply; “if by that you mean a class living in idleness by the toil of others; or by working classes those who spend their lives in toil and have no leisure for intellectual development. These you see are both a cultivated class and a working class, supporting themselves by their own exertions. Public opinion stigmatizes idleness as the meanest of vices, parent of other vices and of crime. Every able-bodied person in the community works between three and four hours a day at some productive employment which supplies every necessary and comfort of life with something to spare. Allowing ten hours for sleep and refreshment, there remains another ten for mental improvement.”

Both sexes were educated together until the age of 12 and both taught handicrafts, which all, without exception, even those with wealthy parents, had to learn. At a very early period it was found that the excessive accumulation of wealth in certain families led to serious evils. For one useful person there were dozens of drones, inflated with the idiotic pride of uselessness and noxious for their vices. The power of bequest was limited by law, which settled down to this: No person, however wealthy, was allowed to bequeath to any one person more than $20,000. It was reasoned that with a good education and a capital of the specified amount, if a person could not manage to make a living, his living or dying was of very little consequence to the community. This resulted, not in a cessation of accumulation, but in the more equal diffusion of wealth. Some, after providing for their families and more distant relatives, would leave the remainder to some public object. Others, desirous of perpetuating some great business in their name, would distribute shares among the most faithful of their employees, leaving the control in the hands of their own family. In this way what would once have been restricted to the support of a single family in superfluous luxury became the comfortable maintenance of a number.

As the dreamer’s friend lived thirty miles out of the city, they descended to the lowest arcade into which all buildings were divided, and entered a light and handsome car, made largely of aluminum and glass. A separate seat was provided for each passenger, and everyone wiped his feet on entering, as if he were entering a private house. Electricity was the motive power, each car having under its wheels its own motor in very small space. The car was on a siding and soon began to move slowly till just as a train of cars had passed on the inner track, the car in which he and his friend were seated glided out on that same track, and, accelerating its speed, soon reached the hinder car of the train before it. Beneath the platforms of the cars were powerful electro-magnets which could be made to act either as buffers or couplers. As soon as connection was formed most of the passengers in this car arose and passed into the forward cars, while others passed from those into the hind car. As they approached tho next station this hindmost car detached itself, lingered behind, and ran into the siding to discharge passengers; while at the same time a car that had been filling up at the station began to move, and presently joined the train as theirs had done before. By this system of taking up and discharging passengers the train once started from the terminus did not need to halt or slacken speed till it reached the end of its route.

They left the train at what appeared to be a small village. Yet nowhere was to be seen a trace of that lack of neatness and finish which in our day usually characterizes the country. The smooth concrete of the platform was continued in an unbroken sweep to the houses on the further side of the broad open space surrounding tho station. The buildings visible, though inferior in size to those of the city, were as solidly constructed and of similar materials. On the housetops could be seen masses of dense foliage. The elevated gardens were in general use, even in the city. The flat roofs covered with a malleable glass were able to support several feet of soil, on which were grown flowers and shady shrubs. During the warm season these roof gardens were a favorite resort, being free from the dust and exposed to breezes. The thick roofs were of great advantage summer and winter. The streets were lined with double rows of trees.

Not a wheel track or a dent of iron-shod horses was to be seen on the surface of the roads. The vehicles, called curricles, not unlike a two-seated tricycle, propelled by an electric motor placed under the seat, sped on their way over the smooth, hard road twenty miles an hour, but as noiseless as a shadow. Rows of trees divided the roads into three divisions, the outer ones assigned to heavy traffic, the vehicles for which had motors of five or six horse-power. Six miles an hour was their speed, and they were not allowed to cross the central road without special precautions.

“Human life was not held so cheap as now, when a brakeman or two a day is considered a slight sacrifice to economize a few dollars. If any one, by negligence, caused the loss of a human life his life was placed unreservedly at the disposal of the nearest relatives of the slain. It was in their option either to exact life for life, or to accept a suitable ransom.

Horses, like zebras nowadays, were to be seen in zoological collections. Agricultural occupations were carried on only by caloric engines worked by highly condensed gases, being more economical than electric power. Seated on his machine, the farmer plowed, sowed, reaped and performed all the labor of the farm without more muscular effort than was required for guidance.

In a machine to which his attention was directed, all parts now made of iron and steel, appeared to be of polished silver; it was, in fact, a peculiar variety of steel, covered with a hard alloy of aluminum. Processes had been discovered making it as abundant as iron. Its lightness and its slowness to tarnish made it preferable to iron. Even where iron was employed it was coated with aluminum to preserve it from rust. Much glass was used in the machine, and when he inquired how glass could stand such hard usage, his companion struck the immense pane of glass in front of the warehouse a heavy blow with his fist, Instead of being shattered into a thousand pieces there was a dull, muffled sound, as if he had struck the side of a boiler. It was malleable glass, brought to perfection by a series of experiments so protracted that the first inventor was unknown.

He was taken to a store where they sold “naliri,” as this glass was called. It lay piled colorless or tinted — not tenderly packed in straw, but heaped up like tin or boiler plate. Even a hammer would not break a thin piece of it. Doors, bath tubs, wardrobes, water pipes, all kinds of ware now usually made of wood, metal or terra cotta, were made of glass.

There were no longer any servants, each member of the family doing some portion of the work, but this was reduced by machinery to almost nothing. When the family was seated at the table the head of it pressed a small knob. The centre of the table rose by concealed mechanism, exposing a dumb waiter. In one compartment were napkins, a roll, forks and spoons of solid gold, which metal had become as cheap as silver is now. There were also a soup tureen and set of plates. The dumb waiter disappeared, and, at the end of the soup course, came up again. In another compartment was a covered dish with plates. This dish contained fish. A third rise of the waiter to a greater height produced exquisitely cooked vegetables and a roast. The viands were all so well cooked that they did not require cutting, and knives were not visible.

All cooking was done on the co-operative plan. The country was laid off into districts. In the centre of each was a building for cooking. Bills of fare for each day were carefully prepared some time in advance by a supervisory committee, and the dishes prepared with great care. The skillful preparation of food had become a fine art. The telephone sent in the orders of each household on the preceding evening. There were only two meals each day, the slight lunch at noon requiring no cooking. Punctually at the appointed hour every day dinner trains left the cooking depot to carry each household the meal ordered on the preceding day. Some member of the household received at the gate the dinner case, carrying without loss of heat the inclosed meal. Of each dish only a carefully estimated amount was ordered, partly from a dislike of waste, partly to avoid excess in rich food. The last course at dinner consisted of fruits, grapes being kept in perfection throughout the year.

Dressmaking, that source of human slavery, had become a lost art. Dresses not being made to display the figure, their cut and make-up was entirely a matter of machinery. Dress did not take up more time than is now devoted to it by a man of decent regard for his outward appearance. Not that wives and daughters were indifferent. Their toilet was brief, because so sensibly devised that each was put on as easily and required as little arrangement as a mantle. No one seeing the graceful folds and harmonious coloring of the feminine attire of that period, would regret the gaudy frippery, the costly and elaborate combination of shreds and patches, that now disfigures more frequently than it adorns.

Of jewelry, except a few pins and clasps of the simplest form, there was none. The notion of loading her person with pieces of metal or glittering stones would have been as repugnant to a young woman of that day as tattooing or the wearing of a nose ring. A wreath, a few flowers in her hair completed her costume for dinner or breakfast. The art of crystallizing gems had long been brought to perfection. The diamond, the ruby could be produced of a size and beauty astonishing to the people of to-day. So gems had ceased to be precious. The wearer of the most costly diamond parure ever produced, would, among these people, have been regarded with the same good-natured contempt excited in us by the gaudy finery of the savage owner of some strings of bright colored beads.

The women were beautiful and graceful beyond any of their distant ancestresses of the present. Long ages of intellectual culture had made their beauty superior to mere insipid perfection of feature. Could women of the present but see for once their free and elastic step they would throw aside the shoes which now torture and distort their feet.

Even within a few weeks of her wedding day a young woman was entirely free from the petty cares, the delights and worries associated with the words “milliner” and “shopping.” Her simple trousseau, though comprising nearly all the clothing she would acquire during the rest of her life, had long since been prepared by her own hands. The collection of china, plate, etc., had been a labor of love for her mother ever since her daughter’s birth, and had grown at each anniversary. Not an article but was associated with some happy memory of her girlhood. By a pretty custom, each girl friend contributed a piece of porcelain decorated by herself. The execution was unequal, but none fell below a fair standard. Drawing was practiced by all from infancy with even greater assiduity than writing, since there were many substitutes for writing. Every stroke was as characteristic of the donor as are to us the letters of a familiar handwriting.

The children had many advantages over those of the nineteenth century. By the aid of a rational alphabet they acquired the power of spelling any word as pronounced. Not being obliged to fritter away energies on the study of other tongues they were able to devote the more time and care to the mastery of their own. There was, in fact, only one living language founded upon the English and spoken everywhere. Latin, Greek, German, and French were mere traditions.

The laws governing the family relations were very stringent. Many had become needless — as laws against man-stealing and cannibalism are with us. The influence of woman was directly felt in legislation, especially in doing away with the two evils from which their sex has suffered the most — intemperance and unchastity. There was a total prohibition of the manufacture and possession of intoxicating beverages; while offenses against chastity were punished in a fashion that prevented those guilty from ever offending again.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 20 1883

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