mumbasket

THE ART OF THE UNDERTAKER

Had LinkedIn existed a century ago, his profile would have been the thinnest. POSITION: Assistant undertaker, Santa Rosa CA. EXPERIENCE: 33 years. It would seem like the profile of an inconsequential (and probably boring) fellow, yet he was close friends with some of the best artists in America. Curators from top museums were regularly visiting his modest homes, first on Chinn street in Santa Rosa and then on Vine street in Sebastopol. His name was John Pearson Stanley and he was one of the most interesting people living here around the turn of the century.

Today he’s mentioned only by local cemetery buffs because a teardrop-shaped corner of the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery bears his name. Back then he was known as the kindly middle-aged – and then elderly – man who arranged the funeral and burial of hundreds and hundreds of local people between 1883 and 1918. He was also popular because he had a knack for growing chrysanthemums and in the 1890s our ancestors were chrysanthemum crazy, with a chrysanthemum festival every year or so. It’s a wonder Santa Rosa wasn’t renamed Santa Crisantemo.

But the reason he had a measure of nationwide fame was because he was such a connoisseur of fine art. His homes were galleries of paintings by William Keith, Lorenzo Latimer, Grace Hudson and others, some whom he encouraged and befriended before their careers took off. Mostly, however, he was renowned as having a remarkable collection of Indian baskets.

Over the years he had hundreds of baskets and appears to have bought them directly from local Pomo weavers. From the 1898 PD:


On Thursday when a Press Democrat reporter passed the undertaking parlors of M. S. Davis on Fourth street, Mr. Stanley was sitting amidst a group of the dark gentlemen examining some of their handiwork in the shape of baskets. One of the little baskets which the Indians had, upon which probably work had been put on and off for three months or so, could have been bought for about ten dollars.

Art collectors and museums were just starting to recognize the incredible artistry of these baskets and word spread about Stanley’s collection. He sold everything he had to the de Young Museum, rebuilt his holdings, and then the Hearst Museum again bought everything he had. He started anew and buyers kept queuing up at his door – two visited on the same day once, and a purchasing agent for “several of the large eastern museums” came to him on a buying trip.

How could an assistant undertaker afford to build collections such as these? The PD reported Mrs. Hearst’s curator “made him a good offer for it” so his occasional forays as a basket art dealer were likely quite profitable. His obituary suggests some of the paintings were gifts, and some may have been bartered; it’s known he gave Grace Hudson and her husband valuable antiques, including a bronze Roman candlestick, a Russian samovar from Fort Ross, a fine Turkish rug and a 49er gold miner’s pan.1 Plus aside from his undertaking salary, Stanley also had an income stream from his side business – selling graves.

Current map of Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery with Stanley section highlighted (see PDF of full color map)

(RIGHT: The full Stanley Addition of 1884)

From the same family that originally owned the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery land, Stanley bought 5.3 adjacent acres at $250 per. This was the property between the cemetery and Poppy Creek; he also acquired the use of water lines across the entire place.2 He added roads to his addition to the cemetery, made other improvements and began selling lots, starting with a low, low sale price of $10 a grave (see advertisement below). That may not seem like much today, but in 1884 most workers were lucky to earn that much in a week.

Even back then, everything involved with caring for the dead was obscenely expensive. In 1883 the Daily Democrat ran a summary of a New York World muckraking article titled, “Undertakers’ Enormous Profits,” which revealed there was a markup of 100 percent or more on coffins and related funeral goods. Stanley knew this before he came to Santa Rosa because he had just spent a decade in Salinas running a combo furniture and undertaking business, a frequent mix in the Old West – Pedersen’s in Santa Rosa sold “undertaking supplies” up to 1906, although they didn’t do embalming and such.

When he arrived in Santa Rosa in 1883, Stanley opened a store here but it didn’t last long; by that September he was advertising a going-out-of-business furniture sale. The ad stated he had decided “to change his business,” and presumably that meant shifting to just the undertaking trade.

From a county history we learn he was an assistant to Milo S. Davis, Santa Rosa’s established mortician: “…Mr. J. P. Stanley, who has active charge of much of his business, possesses rare qualifications, both by nature and training, for performing the last sad rites for the dead and comforting the bereaved hearts of the living.”3

(RIGHT: Ad from the June 20, 1885 Sonoma Democrat)

We also know about his early years in Santa Rosa because he made and collected beautiful things. Before he veered into the furniture and undertaking game he had worked as a jeweler in the Gold Country for a while and became quite a rock hound; the very first mentions of him in the local papers were about his remarkable collection of minerals, some of which he had highly polished. He sent about a ton of them to an exhibit in San Francisco, and the main Santa Rosa drugstore had a display case with over two thousand specimens.

He also created an exhibit of dried flowers that was compared to an oil painting, and which became part of the Sonoma County exhibit sent to the 1887 Great Mechanics’ Fair in Boston (sort of a mini world’s fair). Aside from that we didn’t read much about him in the papers in the years after he opened his cemetery; presumably he quietly went about his unusual double life.

But from 1896 on, he was mentioned in the papers almost every year. Personal items appeared: His son, James, became the sole owner of the art store a few doors down on Fourth street from the funeral parlor where he worked; it was the go-to place for picture frames, lamp shade, and whatnot. And in a Believe-it-or-Not! coincidence, that year his wife here and his mother in Massachusetts died at nearly the same time.

(Years later, James would follow his dad and become a casket maker, which really isn’t surprising – dealing with the dead is one of those trades that often gets passed down through families. When Milo Davis eventually retired he transferred the funeral parlor to Herbert Moke, who was Mrs. Davis’ nephew and grew up in the Davis household. Stanley stayed on and worked for Moke, and still continued after Moke quit and sold the business to Frank Welti.)

Mostly, though, the years around the turn of the century were busy with his chrysanthemums and that parade of visits from artists and art collectors and curators – even the governor came by to see his collection. He opened his home for an art exhibit to benefit his church in 1898; the nattering nabobs over at the Press Democrat seemed gobsmacked to discover there was a major art collection in town and it wasn’t owned by the McDonald’s, Overtons, or other of the town’s wheeler-dealers – but by a lowly assistant to an undertaker.

Stanley built and sold two substantial collections of Indian baskets as already noted, but he apparently never parted with any of his beloved paintings – which made the 1906 earthquake all the more tragic for him. From his eulogy, transcribed below:


When the earthquake destroyed the business portion of our little city, he walked out of his rooms over a shattered pile of bricks and timbers, leaving behind him $20,000 worth of canvases to be consumed by the fury of the flames that swept the district. He loved his pictures, and the loss was a sad blow to him. But he soon accumulated – not so large or valuable – but a rare collection indeed.

Today that $20,000 would be worth over a half million, but the fame of some of those artists would put the modern value of what was destroyed at many times that figure.

He moved to Sebastopol and continued working even as he passed seventy, commuting to Santa Rosa every day via the electric train. In 1907 he sold all interests in his cemetery to his boss, Moke. He died at age 83 in 1918.

There’s a final Believe-it-or-Not! epilogue often mentioned by Rural Cemetery tour guides: John Stanley is not in fact buried in the Stanley cemetery – he’s in Colma’s Mt. Olivet Cemetery. His wife Emily is supposedly next to him, but she had been buried in her husband’s cemetery when she died in 1896, and a couple of years later he erected some sort of elaborate monument for her. Why John would later have her disinterred and them both buried in San Francisco is another mystery of that old graveyard.

1 Days of Grace: California Artist Grace Hudson in Hawaii; Karen Holmes and Sherrie Smith-Ferri, 2014; pg 105

2 Santa Rosa Rural cemetery 1853-1997: a listing of burials in Fulkerson, Moke, Rural and Stanley cemeteries, now known collectively as Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery; Sonoma County Genealogical Society, 1997; appendix pg vi

3 https://books.google.com/books?id=NKI9QAAACAAJ&pg=463

RIP John Preston Stanley, June 16, 1834 – January 11, 1918

J. P. Stanley has boxed up 2,000 specimens of minerals, his own collection, and will ship them to the Mining Bureau 212, Sutter street San Francisco, for exhibition during the conclave. The five cases weigh about a ton, and forms one of the finest private collections in the State.

– Sonoma Democrat, July 28 1883

J. P. Stanley of this city is an enthusiastic geologist and mineralogist, and on Saturday morning showed us a number of beautiful specimens of agate and cornelians that he has gathered in this county. A number of them have been polished to some extent,and are really beautiful and beautifully veined. This is one feature of old Sonoma that has hitherto been neglected.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 4 1883

Cheap Furniture.

J. P. Stanley has concluded to change his business, and is selling off his entire stock of furniture at cost. Parties desirous of good bargains will do well to call on him during the next ten days.

– Daily Democrat, September 20 1883

Jacob Harris to J. P. Stanley, 5-33.100 acres near Santa Rosa; $1,332.50.

– Sonoma Democrat, August 2 1884

A Rare Cabinet.

J. P. Stanley has had an elegant case put in J. W. Warboys’ drug store, in which are tastely arranged over a thousand specimens of minerals, from all parts of the world. Mr. Stanley is an enthusiastic mineralogist, and has over two thousand specimens, collected daring the past sixteen years, from all parts of the earth. A portion of this collection has been on exhibition at the rooms of the State Mineralogist, and Mr. Stanley has a letter from him referring to them in the highest terms. Among the samples on exhibition are numerous rare and beautiful stones from this county, among which are actinolite, chalcedony, jasper, agates and silenite. Some of these are highly polished and present a beautiful appearance. Many are not aware of the fact, that, as beautiful samples of these classes of stones can be found here as in any other part of the world.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 4 1884

C. De Lange to J. P. Stanley, lot 6, block 1, J. Davis’ addition to Santa Rosa; $1,700 [editor’s note: This property sold by Conradus DeLange is a typical residential lot on College avenue.]

– Sonoma Democrat, November 15 1884

J. P. Stanley has purchased five and one half acres adjoining the Rural Cemetery on the east, which he proposes to improve and subdivide into burial lots. The ground selected is very suitable for the purpose, and he proposes to afford all an opportunity to obtain plots at low prices. The intervening fence will be removed shortly, roads graded, etc.

– Sonoma Democrat, December 27 1884

John P. Stanley to Patrick Gleason, a portion of Stanley’s addition to Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery ; $l.

– Sonoma Democrat, February 21 1885

We would call the attention of our readers to the advertisment of J. P. Stanley in relation to his addition to Rural Cemetery. All the fences have been removed, and lanes and drives laid out so as to make this a part of the original cemetery. For a few days lots can be obtained at reduced rates, and persons will do well to call and make their selections early.

– Sonoma Democrat, June 20 1885

A Work of Art.

J. P. Stanley has displayed not a little ingenuity and exquisite taste in the arrangement of a boquet of pressed flowers, composed of varieties commonly in bloom in Santa Rosa gardens during the winter months. The boquet is of pyramidal form, on a dark ground work, and surrounded bv a handsome and costly gilt frame. So perfect and vividly lifelike are the flowers, that at first glance they would be taken for a painting in oil, but upon closer examination the true and delicate tint, so often exaggerated by the brush but seldom imitated, discovers the deception which has been practiced on art. The tastely piece of workmanship is to be sent to Boston with the Sonoma County exhibit, and will be invaluable as an illustration of the mild and balmy climate of the land of the setting sun.

– Sonoma Democrat, September 24 1887

J. P. Stanley is making a number of improvements in the grounds of his addition to the Rural Cemetery.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 22 1887

J. P. Stanley is making a number of improvements in his addition to the Rural Cemetery.

– Daily Democrat, December 12 1889

Death of Mrs. M. A. Stanley.

J. P. Stanley has received a message announcing the death of his mother, Mrs. Mary A. Stanley, at North Attleborough, Mass.

DEATH OF MRS. STANLEY.
An Estimable Lady Passes Away Monday Night.

After a short illness Mrs. Emily C. wife of Mr. J. P. Stanley died at the family residence on Fifth and Chinn streets, Monday evening at 9 o’clock. Deceased was 60 years of age and was born in Rhode Island. She was the daughter of J. P. and the late Lydia W. Goodwin and sister of Mrs. M. R. Britton and Mrs. E. L. May of San Francisco. She leaves one son, James F. Stanley. She was an estimable lady who had many friends. The funeral of Mrs. J. P. Stanley took place Thursday afternoon. Services were held at the home and at the grave by Rev. R. L. Rathbone and Rev. E. H. Hayden. The pall-bearers were Judge R. F. Crawford, A. B. Ware, W. E. McConnell, E. F. Woodward, E. Brooks and R. M. Swain. A number of friends of the deceased were present from Penngrove, San Francisco and other places.

– Sonoma Democrat, October 24 1896

J. F. STANLEY.
Dealer In Fine Artist’s Materials, Picture Frames, Wall Paper, Window Shades, Cornice Poles, Moulding, Etc,-434 Fourth St., Opp. Occidental Hotel.

Prominent among the beat stores of of the city is the one belonging to the above gentleman; it has been established for ten years, and was purchased by him three years and a half ago.

One of the largest stocks in this part of the state is carried by this house, and it is seldom that a patron asks for anything that is not forthcoming. The most of the stock ia shipped to this store direct from the east, thereby getting the lowest prices hy saving the middleman’s profit, and getting the newest and freshest goods. For this reason patrons are able to get at this store the finest goods at the prices that are charged at much larger cities.

Those wishing anything in the various lines carried could do no better than to call at this store.

– Sonoma Democrat, November 21 1896

A Beautiful Bloom

Thursday morning J. P. Stanley placed on exhibition in the window at the M. S. Davis undertaking parlors a beautiful variety of the chrysanthemum, an imported species from Japan. The bloom was greatly admired by a large number of people. The variety is known by the name, “Tbe Emerald,” or the green chrysanthemum of Japan.

– Daily Democrat, December 4 1897

Erected a Sarcophagus

On Wednesday Fisher and Kinslow of this city erected an elegant sarcophagus of Scotch granite in Stanley’s cemetery over the grave of the late Mrs. J. P. Stanley. A fitting tribute to the memory of that good woman.

– Press Democrat, February 26 1898

Collection of Indian Baskets

J. P. Stanley of this city has one of the best collections of Indian baskets in the state. For years he has been collecting the baskets and has them in many artistic designs. Al one time Mr. Stanley had over two hundred Indian baskets, which were very much admired. On Thursday when a Press Democrat reporter passed the undertaking parlors of M. S. Davis on Fourth street, Mr. Stanley was silting amidst a group of the dark gentlemen examining some of their handiwork in the shape of baskets. One of the little baskets which the Indians had, upon which probably work had been put on and off for three months or so, could have been bought for about ten dollars.

– Press Democrat, March 26 1898

At the Stanley Residence

At the residence of Mrs. J. P. Stanley about the last of this month, tbe ladies of ths Congregational church will hold an art exhibition, that is Mr. Stanley has consented to let them show off the many wonderful curios in the art line to he found at his home. Mr. Stanley has probably one of ths finest collections of Indian baskets on the Pacific coast, worth hundreds of dollars. Of tnese beautiful baskets he has over one hundred specimens. Then he has a number of paintings by the “Turner of America,” Keith; and also by Latimer and other artists. The art exhibition at Mr. Stanley’s should and will be a fine event.

– Press Democrat, May 7 1898

Art Exhibit at Mr. Stanley’s

On Friday afternoon and evening of this week the ladies of the Congregational church have an art exhibition at the residence of Mr. J. P. Stanley. This exhibit should prove a great attraction and should be well patronized, for everything choice in the art line will be on view. Mr. Stanley’s splendid collection of Indian baskets, the famous paintings which adorn the walls of his home, and other curios of endless variety and worth, will all be fonnd worthy of inspection, and the opportunity given should be embraced.

– Press Democrat, May 25 1898

THE ART EXHIBIT
Beautiful Display at the Home of J. P. Stanley
The Exhibition Will Remain Open this Afternoon and Evening—A Grand Success

Art in perfection was shown at the exhibition held under the auspices of the ladies of the Congregational church, at the pretty home of Mr. J. P. Stanley on Friday afternoon and evening. Rather, it should be said, Mr. Stanley kindly allowed the ladies the freedom of his “museum,” for such every room in the house could well be named, to exhibit to the public the many rare specimens in art collected by him, and in that way, by charging a small admittance fee, benefit their church.

Owing to the unpropitious weather the attendance on Friday was small. Realising that many who otherwise would have attended were prevented from doing so by the rain, the ladies have decided to keep the exhibit open Saturday afternoon and evening, when all who can should attend.

The exhibit is very nicely arranged in three rooms, not forgetting the elegant display in the hall.

Adorning the walls of the rooms are masterpieces of such renowned artists as Latimer, Keith, Deacon, Holdridge, Edmondson and Prof. Davenport, and some excellent work by Miss Edith Olson of this city.

Then there is to be seen one of the finest displays of Indian basket work in ths west, composed of scores of baskets of endless variety, made by Indians of many tribes; a display of minerological specimens from every quarter of the globe, a rare collection of antique china, and other delights of the antiquarian. Too much praise cannot be bestowed on the whole exhibit.

– Press Democrat, May 28 1898

A Unique Present

On Wednesday J.P. Stanley received a unique specimen to add to his famous museum of Indian relics. His friend, Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, sent him a “cowtee,“ or Indian dress made of bark. Mr. Stanley prizes this addition to his treasures very highly.

– Press Democrat, October 22 1898

Inspected Mr. Stanley’s Collection

Curator Wycomb, director of the Park museum, at San Francisco, spent Wednesday in Santa Rosa, the guest of J. P. Stanley. Mr. Wycomb came up to inspect Mr. Stanley’s fine collection of curios, and on Wednesday afternoon went up to Ukiah to see Dr. Hudson’s famous collection of Indian baskets.

– Press Democrat, January 28 1899

 Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, the well known expert on Indian baskets and relics, was the guest of J. P. Stanley.

– Press Democrat, September 13 1899

Amadee Joullin Visits Santa Rosa

Amedee Joullin [sic: Amédée Joullin], the famous painter of Indian life was in town on Thursday to Inspect J. P. Stanley’s splendid collection of Indian baskets and other curios. He was very much pleased. In conversation with a reporter Mr. Joullin said that Mr. Stanley’s collection of Indian baskets was certainly the most marvelous he had ever seen. He said he doubted very much if there was a more complete collection anywhere. In some of the baskets he said he found exquisite color blending. The other curios in the collection are very good. Such a collection, the visitor said, was worthy of a prominent place in one of the national museums. While in this city Mr. Joullin was the guest of C. H. E. Hardin at the Hardin residence on Fifth street. He returned to San Francisco on the afternoon train to be present at the reception given Bernard, the distinguished French architect, whose plans were accepted for the new buildings at the State University.

– Press Democrat, December 16 1899

Mr. Stanley’s Indian Baskets

J. P. Stanley was in Petaluma Wednesday in connection with Miss Connolly’s funeral. While there the Argus says that be sold his second collection of Indian baskets and relics to a representative of Mrs. Hearst. Some time ago Mr. Stanley sold his fine collection of baskets and curios for the art museum in Golden Gate park. He at once commenced work on a second collection and had gathered together a large quantity of baskets when Mrs. Hearst’s agent came along in quest of baskets. The agent was greatly taken by Mr Stanley’s collection and made him a good offer for it. In about a week the deal was closed and now Mr. Stanley is free to again commence a collection.

– Press Democrat, July 25 1901

Indian Baskets Bought by Mrs. Hearst

PETALUMA, July 27.– J. P. Stanley, a well-known collector of Indian baskets and curios, has sold his splendid collection of baskets and curios, has sold his splendid collection of baskets to Mrs. Phebe Hearst. Mrs. Hearst will donate the collection to the State University Museum. Dr. Philips Mills Jones secured the collection for Mrs. Hearst.

– San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 1901

Mrs. Smith of San Francisco, a well known collector of Indian baskets was in town on Saturday.

Professor Wilcomb, curator of the Park Museum, San Francisco, was in town on Saturday, the guest of J. P. Stanley.

– Press Democrat, September 29 1901

Dr. J. W. Hudson of Ukiah. an authority on Indian relics and baskets, was the guest of J. P. Stanley on Wednesday.

– Press Democrat, May 22 1902

MAY BE INDIAN IDOL
Curious Specimen of the Ancients Unearthed while Man Was Plowing

While engaged in plowing on his place on the Guerneville road, three miles from this city, a few days ago, H. T. Noel unearthed what is considered to have been an idol of the nomadic tribes of Indians who formerly roamed about this country at will. It is a well preserved head and face presumably of an Indian god, carved in stone, with well defined features. Mr. J. P. Stanley, who is an authority on Indian habits as well as their skilful work along the lines of art, and others are of the opinion that the article discovered, which is now on exhibition at the Press Democrat office, is a valuable specimen.

– Press Democrat, January 28 1904

H. H. MOKE ASSUMES CONTROL OF BUSINESS

It is rumored on the best of authority that Herbert Henry Moke of the undertaking establishment of M. S. Davis will shortly assume control of the business by the retirement of its old and esteemed head, Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis has been in business here for thirty years and no man is better known or more generally respected than he is. He feels, however, that he would like to take a rest from business cares. Mr. Moke has been with Mr. Davis since boyhood and thoroughly understands the business in all its details. Mr. John P. Stanley, who has been connected with the establishment for many years will remain with Mr. Moke after he has taken over the business. It is rumored that the deal will be consummated in a day or two.

– Press Democrat, January 4 1905

The presence of Governor and Mrs. Pardee has added interest to several of the parties of last week, notably the dinner at the Woodward residence, and Mr. Spencer’s euchre party on Tuesday evening. Mrs. Pardee is especially interested in Indian baskets, and during her visit here, she visited Mr. John P. Stanley’s rooms with Mrs. Henry Hahmann, and enjoyed Mr. Stanley’s, collection of Indian curios and fine paintings.

– Press Democrat, December 17 1905

J P Stanley to H H Moke, July 27 07 —all int, rights and privileges in Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.

– Press Democrat, July 31 1907

NOTED INDIAN PANITER A VISITOR IN THIS CITY

Dr. Hudson of Ukiah, accompanied by his wife, Grace Hudson, a noted Indian painter, were visitors in Santa Rosa yesterday, and were guests of John P. Stanley, an old-time friend of theirs. They witnessed the coronation of Queen Nancy, and will participate In the festivities today.

– Press Democrat, May 16 1908

BUYING INDIAN BASKETS
J. P. Stanley Disposes of a Number of Fine Specimens of Indian Work

Miss Grace Nicholson and A. Hartman of Pasadena, were in this city on Monday and while here bought from J. P. Stanley a number of Indian baskets and curios. The Pasadenans are traveling through this section. and in Mendocino and Lake counties buying baskets, etc. Miss Nicholsen buys for the collection in several of the large eastern museums. On Sunday she and Mr. Hartman, her brother-in-law, were in Healdsburg.

– Press Democrat, August 14 1908

J. P. STANLEY QUITE ILL AT HIS HOME

…Mr. Stanley, up to the present time, has led a very active life, despite his age, and it is hoped that this factor in a measure will help his recovery. Up to the fore part of the present year he has made regular trips to and from his business in Santa Rosa, hardly missing a day, and his genial face has been sadly missed by those who make the daily ride…

– Sebastopol Times, May 25, 1917

GRAND OLD MAN HEARS SUMMONS TO FINAL REST
James P. Stanley Crosses Great Divide Thursday Evening After Day of Unconsciousness at His Hill Home in Sebastopol.

AS GOOD and kindly a soul as ever breathed passed from earth into the presence of its Maker when John P. Stanley died on Thursday night.

 Nearly eighty-four years of age when the end came, his had been an active life almost up to the last. Of course, as legions of his friends will remember, the past few years he had manifested bodily weakness, but still his mind was bright and clear and he look pleasure in the things of life.

 Hundreds of friends today will pause as they read the death notice of the grand old man and will remember many of his kindnesses. For years his business had brought him In touch with hundreds of sorrow stricken hearts and on such occasions he was ever to the fore with the word that brought solace.

During the latter months of his life Mr. Stanley had suffered several severe illnesses and had more than once been in the shadowland, returning to diminished health and strength with the same, kindly smile and the same spirit of thankfulness that friends were so kind and attentive.

Wednesday night Mr. Stanley relapsed into unconsciousness and remained in this state until the end came on Thursday night in his attractive little bungalow on the hillside in Sebastopol, just across from his old and true friend. Arthur B. Swain, the latter and his good wife always most attentive to see that he had the little things that made life happier for him.

The deceased was a great lover of art. He was a warm friend of Artist William Keith, Mrs. Grace Hudson and Artist L P. Latimer and on numerous occasions they presented him with some of their choice paintings. Other artists had a firm friend in Mr. Stanley. As late as Christmas he received as a gift two of Keith’s pictures and a Hudson painting. He was an art connoisseur and many valuable works of art adorned his rooms. He was a great lover of pictures and antiques, old furniture and the like. He was also a profound lover of Nature and particularly her flower gifts. For years the Stanley garden here raised rare and magnificent chrysanthemums and other blossoms and they were his delight.

He was a friend to all alike. He loved children and young people and was never so pleased as when he was in their company. He used to tell the writer years ago that he liked to be in the company of young people. To this association he attributed his wonderful vigor when three score and ten had passed.

Years ago the deceased’s wife passed away here and her death was a great sorrow for the pioneer. He is survived by a son, James P. [sic] Stanley, and a grandson. Other relatives survive and are in the east.

In the death of Mr. Stanley Santa Rosa and Sebastopol and the community generally has lost an honored and upright citizen and all hope that there was an abundant entrance for his soul into the realms that are brighter than day as a toward for his uprightness of life and his smoothing of the pathway of sadness for so many while here below.

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

John Preston Stanley was a native of Massachusetts and was born June 16 1834. His early years were spent on a farm but he later became a jeweler and came to California in 1858, settling In Amador county, at a place called “Olita,” an Indian word meaning “home.”

He remained there in business until 1867 when he went to Sutter creek and was in business there until 1873 when he went to Salinas and embarked in the furniture and undertaking business.

Mr. Stanley came to Santa Rosa in 1883 and engaged in the hardware business with two well-known residents of that day, under the firm name of Stanley, Neblett & Julliard, being located at Second and Main streets, the center of business activities of the city. His old partner, C. V. Julliard, passed away only a few weeks ago. [sic: The man involved was W. B. Stanley, not John, and that business failed in 1880]

He was for many years with the late M. S. Davis in the undertaking business and remained with the Welti Bros., when the latter purchased the business after the fire of 1906 up to within a few months ago when he was compelled to give up active life.

He became well known through his interest in art, his fine collection of paintings by California masters and his collection of Indian basketry and Indian relics.

The fire of 1906 had destroyed his then fine collection. among which were several fine Keiths, a loss that can never be replaced. Mr. Stanley at once began another collection and through his wide acquaintance was able to get a notable gallery together at his home in Sebastopol.

He was married in 1871 to Emily Goodwin of San Francisco, who died in 1896. One son survives, James F. Stanley. Deceased was a member of the Odd Fellows fraternity for more than 53 years and was a past grand of Salinas (California) lodge.

– Press Democrat, January 11 1918

J. P. STANLEY IS AT FINAL REST
Remains Taken to Mt. Olivet Cemetery Monday Following Funeral Services in Odd Fellow Hall Sunday.

The remains of the late John P. Stanley were taken to San Francisco and laid to their final rest in Mt. Olivet cemetery, as requested by the deceased before his death.

The funeral in Odd Fellows’ hall Sunday afternoon was very largely attended by members of the Congregational church and Santa Rosa Lodge of Odd Fellows, the two organizations under whose auspices the services were held and the many friends of the deceased…

– Press Democrat January 15 1918

TRIBUTE TO LATE JOHN P. STANLEY

Attorney Rolfe L. Thompson, an old and valued friend of decedent, delivered the eulogy which is remarkable for the temperateness with which the many and varied virtues of Mr. Stanley were exploited. He said in part:

[..]

His little bungalow on the hill overlooking Sebastopol, surrounded with a luxury of plants and flowers; embellished within by an unusual selection of antique furniture; an assortment of Indian baskets and curios, and rare paintings from the brushes of Keith, Latimer, Welch, Hudson and a number of other famous artists, was a veritable dream of comfort and pleasure, where his many friends were always welcome, and where they frequently enjoyed the hospitality of this grand and kindly man…

…Those who were fortunate enough to have visited his apartments in this city before the earthquake will recall with astonishment the rare and valuable canvasses from the brushes of noted artist which he then possessed; and the collection of Indian baskets probably never elsewhere equaled, and which was sold to Mrs. Heart for thousands of dollars.

These strange and silent children of nature – the basket-makers – were one and all his friends. They trusted and loved him. These great and famous artists were his personal friends, and highly prized his friendship. When the earthquake destroyed the business portion of our little city, he walked out of his rooms over a shattered pile of bricks and timbers, leaving behind him $20,000 worth of canvases to be consumed by the fury of the flames that swept the district. He loved his pictures, and the loss was a sad blow to him. But he soon accumulated – not so large or valuable – but a rare collection indeed. These, and memory, are all that is now left to us…

…Officiating as he has for many years in the burial of thousands of the dead, none could surpass him in the grace, the precision and the nice little details with which he ingratiated himself into the hearts of the bereaved families. With deft hands he arranged the tributes of flowers; with silent tread, well modulated voice and genuine sympathy he moved about and performed his task. It seemed marvelous that one who had experienced the trials attendant upon that now picturesque journey across the plains by means of the historic old prairie schooner and ox team; the rough life of the mining camps in the days of ’49, and the harrowing ordeal of caring for the dead, that it is possible to preserve so happy a disposition; such a love for art and literature and flowers and antiques, and such a genuine sympathy and pleasure in the company of his fellow men, as he possessed…

– Sebastopol Times, January 18, 1918

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Ed Heald

SOMEONE YOU KNOW DIED TODAY, AND LIKEWISE TOMORROW

Forget the 1906 earthquake: The “Spanish Flu” which swept through Sonoma county in 1918 was the worst disaster to hit Sonoma county – or at least, since the smallpox epidemic  wiped out nearly everyone in the Pomo communities in 1837.

Our ancestors here were caught off-guard even though there was a month’s notice that it was remarkably deadly and would inevitably reach Santa Rosa. From mid-September onwards the Press Democrat and Argus-Courier printed bad news every day. There were seventy deaths a day in New England. It was spreading rapidly through the Army camps in the East and Midwest; the number of soldiers and sailors infected doubled every few days – 23 thousand total, 42 thousand, then 14 thousand new cases in a single day. The military reported 112 dead, then 377, then 653. By the beginning of October the killing disease was now in almost all states.

They had no defense against this influenza, which usually resulted in a severe case of pneumonia. Although this was before the discovery of antibiotics, they could treat pneumonia with an antiserum (or “syrum,” as the Press Democrat spelled it), but only if treated early. The patient also had to be in a hospital with a well-equipped lab, as a saliva sample had to be injected into a mouse to ID the type of bacteria. An effective vaccine was developed at this time, but only in limited quantities and after the peak of the pandemic.

The Spanish Flu reached Sonoma county around October 12. A highway crew working near modern-day Rohnert Park was rushed to hospitals in San Francisco. “There are already considerably more than one hundred cases receiving attention,” reported the PD, but it’s unknown if they were counting the 75 sick children at the Lytton Orphanage. Strike that; by the time the newspaper went to press there were 102 children ill. One of them was teenager Helen Grouel, who became the first person here to die because of it.

On October 18 Walter Reiman, a sailor on furlough to help his dad harvest grapes at their Windsor vineyard, died after being back only five days. As the incubation period for influenza is 2 to 7 days, he must have brought it home with him. Later that same evening his fiancée, Edith Olin, died as well.

While the PD and the A-C were trying to quell panic by reassuring readers this was a “mild” form of the flu, there was no denying that the crisis was now upon us. That same day all schools, churches, lodges and “places of amusements” were closed until further notice. By then there were 59 known influenza cases in Santa Rosa, with two more reported during the Santa Rosa Board of Health meeting. The Board further required on November 4 the wearing of gauze masks by everyone when in public – although the newspaper wryly noted that as the Supervisors voted to pass the ordinance, not one of them was wearing a mask.

The County Health Board already required masks to be worn by anyone infected or nursing someone sick, and before the ordinance the PD did its civic duty with many little items mentioning clerks and shopkeepers wearing masks, noting that everyone on the train up from San Francisco was wearing them, and so on. Still, there was resistance; twenty people were fined $5 for not wearing them after Nov. 4 and the paper noted in San Rafael “a number of people were arrested and were compelled to decorate the mahogany with five-dollar pieces in the recorder’s court.” Some people wearing glasses were caught wearing the mask beneath their nose because their lenses fogged up (the PD printed tips on how to avoid this); others thought it was just unfashionable. District Attorney Hoyle said, “a mask may not add to your beauty, but a homely, living, useful citizen is better far than an unnecessarily sacrificed life, regardless of looks.”

Given the ferocity of that flu it seems incomprehensible the Health Board waited almost three weeks to require masks in public, but the general knowledge level of preventative hygiene at the time seems shockingly poor. Never once was the importance of frequent hand-washing mentioned, although it had been recognized as a critical method to stopping the spread of disease for over a half century. Instead, the Board offered a mishmash of advice, including:

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  Avoid public gatherings of any kind and stay off the street

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  Do not cough, spit or sneeze promiscuously

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  Don’t attend funerals. Say it with flowers

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  Don’t visit your sick friends unless you can be of some material advantage to them

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  Don’t wait until in the night to call a physician. They are all being overworked and need all the regular rest they can get

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  Avoid coal oil heaters, with their noxious fumes

Likewise the advice on what to eat while sick is mostly the reverse of what we believe today. Dr. Adelaide Brown (“eminent woman physician of San Francisco, and member of State Board of Health”) told the Press Democrat that the diet should be mostly milk, sugar and starch, no meat broth, no vegetables (unless pureed) and no fruit with fiber. “No other foods than those mentioned should be used. Do not experiment with the patient’s digestion during the critical period.” Notice there is no mention of the importance of keeping the patient well hydrated.

Lacking modern medicines, people turned to folk remedies and the Victorian-era pharmacopoeia. It appears they mostly nursed themselves as if it were just a really bad chest cold, but some treatments had antibacterial effects which might have saved lives – and others might have made their conditions worse, or even killed them.

Someone wrote to the PD to remark the late, esteemed Dr, William Finlaw said “there was no better remedy for those ailments” than camphor in a steam vaporizer. It was a sensible idea, but the correspondent added that “a smoker may crumble a piece of camphor gum the size of a pea, and mix it with the tobacco in a pipe, or cigarette,” which is really not a good idea if you’ve got pneumonia.

Newspaper ads promoted camphor-based Vick’s VapoRub to be used in a vaporizer, melted in a spoon and inhaled, or rubbed into the chest and back between the shoulder blades “until the skin is red…attracting the blood to the surface, and thus aids in relieving the congestion within.” Never mind that in years earlier, physicians used that same basic argument to promote leeches.

Some drug stores sold atomizers which were to be filled with abietene, a kind of turpentine made specifically from California’s native Gray Pine, and sprayed on the back of your throat and inhaled every ten minutes to prevent the flu (supposedly).

Dr. Bonar, the city health officer, specifically warned against quack cures and preventatives like that: “Don’t be taking drugs. If ill, consult a physician. Gargles and nasal douches are of doubtful value, if not a real danger…Avoid all advertised cures.” But that advice appeared only once in a Press Democrat article and not at all in the Petaluma newspapers – while local merchants bought large ads in every edition to peddle nostrums exactly like those.

In Petaluma, Schluckebier Hardware advertised Phenolene (caustic, poisonous carbolic acid) as a disinfectant to mop floors, pour down drains, spray under beds and then “put three drops in a tumbler of warm water, then gargle the throat and stuff it up the nose.” Towne’s Drug Store suggested “formaldehyde liberally yet judiciously used is most valuable,” but did not say how it should be used. Today formaldehyde’s recognized as causing bronchitis and pneumonia when inhaled with even small exposures, not to mention being a carcinogen.

Press Democrat, October 26, 1918

 

Press Democrat readers were assured the disease had “run its course in most Army camps” – hopefully showing not everyone would croak – but there was considerable fear in the days following the closures. The PD quoted a “well-known physician” saying “there is a lot of hysteria about now as well as influenza.” While this doctor and others interviewed were not named, they agreed this was a mild form of the flu. This was all propaganda; there were still 300+ deaths daily in the camps and not everyone here was taking the situation seriously. A few days later Earle E. Jamison died; he was the ticket agent of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in Santa Rosa and had constant contact with the public, yet once Earle caught the flu he had to remain on duty a “day or two” until replacement was found.

At the end of October – before the Board of Health made gauze masks mandatory – the District Attorney’s office announced the situation was so dire they were considering a quarantine of the entire county. It seems many of those urban dwellers who had summer cabins around the Russian River and elsewhere were fleeing up here to escape the epidemic raging in the cities:


…I have been informed that persons from the bay cities, fearful of the disease there, are rushing to the country resorts and are occupying cottages, built many of them in cool, damp places, and saturated with a two weeks’ rain, which must necessarily endanger them to cold, and frequently to resulting pneumonia, whether they in fact have Spanish influenza or not. This should he stopped at once.

The news did not get better as October faded into November. There were 310 reported sick in Santa Rosa with deaths almost every day. The married daughters of Serafino Piezzi died four days apart and a double funeral was planned as soon as the rest of the family recovered themselves. Rocco Poncetta of the Hotel Italia de Unita (5 West Sixth st.) died at age 31; the PD commented he was “a man of strong and robust constitution,” reinforcing the popular notion that the young and strong were most likely to die.

Then on November 5 came the most shocking news of all: There were 400 influenza cases at the Sonoma State Home – almost one-third of the institution’s patients. A few days later it shot up to 500.

Now the Sonoma Developmental Center (at least, as of this writing), the Press Democrat still called it by its old name: The Sonoma State Home for the Care of the Feeble-Minded at Eldridge. The 1,400 patients there ranged from people needing custodial care because of severe cognitive issues to those suffering epilepsy; criminals deemed “feeble-minded” by someone in authority were sent there for indeterminate sentences as were some accused of anti-social behavior – see “SONOMA COUNTY AND EUGENICS“ for more background on the place in those days.

“Medical Superintendent Fred O. Butler M. D., and his staff of assistant physicians and the nurses and attendants are doing everything in their power for the stricken inmates,” the PD reported, but they clearly were not following best medical practices for dealing with an epidemic. The next day 25 were reported dead. Four days later, another 24. Five days after that, the death toll was over 70. By the end of the month there were 85 dead.

It is maddening to read the day-to-day coverage of this crisis at Eldridge. Complete management of the situation was ceded to Dr. Butler; additional medical help was neither requested nor demanded. There was no talk of evacuation. There was no charitable outreach from the community. By contrast, a month earlier Santa Rosa and other towns had mobilized to help the Lytton Springs orphanage, with nurses rushing there to help, department stores donating blankets and bedding and businesses collecting donations to buy medicines. 

Petaluma Morning Courier, October 27, 1918

 

Aside from their appalling indifference to the Sonoma State Home situation, citizens of Santa Rosa rallied together to fight the epidemic as if it was just another part of their patriotic duty in those last months of WWI. The Red Cross Shop became like a command HQ, distributing food, medicine and many hundreds of masks sown by volunteers; nurses were dispatched; babies and small children with sick parents were placed in temporary homes. The elite Saturday Afternoon Club clubhouse on 10th st became a critical care hospital, handling 53 patients (“some of them the worst cases near Santa Rosa” – PD).

Finally, after three weeks of emergency measures, the tide began to turn shortly before Thanksgiving. The public library reopened and the mask order was lifted. All schools reopened.

But the good news was short lived. Influenza came roaring back after Christmas, with 243 new cases in San Francisco with 35 deaths. While there had been ongoing cases of flu in rural areas, in Santa Rosa masks were ordered on again because it had “returned to the towns.”

This second wave proved just as severe and heart-breaking. In one week a toddler, mother and grandmother all died; Adeline Gray on January 9, 1919, her mother Julia Marsh two days later, and then 3 year-old Alice Gray on Jan. 16. They are buried together at the Calvary Cemetery.

Some schools reopened in the middle of January, with students and teachers wearing masks. On the 26th the mask ordinance was dropped again, although “it is highly advisable that masks be worn whenever one person approaches within ten feet of another.” Theaters, pool rooms and lodges remained closed.

The epidemic was never declared over and lingered in Santa Rosa until the end of April. Obituaries as late as November of that year mentioned the person had contracted the Spanish flu and never recovered.

The official report of the Board of Health stated there were 67 deaths from influenza in Santa Rosa and 1,145 cases, although “many more cases were unreported or unrecognized.” There were 87 flu deaths at the Sonoma State Home.

It’s now understood that 9 out of 10 Spanish influenza victims died from pneumonia – that the flu stripped the inner lining from the bronchial tubes and lungs, which left the patient susceptible to infections. “In essence, the virus landed the first blow while bacteria delivered the knockout punch,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, when the definitive study was published in 2008.

Even factoring in pneumonia, a final tally proves elusive; remember Edith Olin, the young woman who died within hours of her fiance? She had tuberculosis and her cause of death was listed as such, even though there’s little doubt that her death was hastened by his return to the area carrying the flu.

About 85 people are known to have died in Santa Rosa during the 1906 earthquake with another handful killed elsewhere in the county, but those numbers are also squishy; some remains were probably totally consumed by the fire and some people who were mortally wounded probably died elsewhere. Throw in a fudge factor and guesstimate the earthquake killed 120 in Sonoma county. But even without counting the pneumonia cases, the total influenza deaths in Santa Rosa combined with the Sonoma State Home remains higher. Even with the joy of the war ending, those were very dark days.

Ed Heald wearing influenza mask. Photo: Sonoma County Library

INFLUENZA CONTINUES TO SPREAD
Malady Has Now Reached Practically All Parts of Country, and Is Epidemic in Western and Pacific Coast States — Movie Releases Stopped.

Washington, Oct. 9 – Spanish influenza now has spread to practically every part of the country. Reports today to the Federal Health Service shows the disease is epidemic in many western and Pacific Coast states as well as in almost all regions east of the Mississippi river. Its spread also continues in army camps. The number of new cases reported being greater than on the day before.

 The disease is reported from many parts of California, while in Texas the malady has been reported from 77 counties, with a number of cases varying from one to 4,000 in each county…

…The National Association of Motion Picture Industries decided at a meeting here tonight to discontinue all motion picture releases after October 16, because of the epidemic of Spanish Influenza. The embargro will remain in force until further notice, it was announced by Wm. A. Brady, president of the association.

– Press Democrat, October 10 1918

DOCTORS OF THREE STATES ARE MOBILIZED

Mobilization of all the doctors of California, Nevada and Arizona to combat the epidemic of Spanish influenza were ordered today by the U. S. Public Health Service, It was announced here by Dr. W. G. Billings, sanitary officer of the service for California and Nevada. The public was warned by Dr. Billings to avoid picture shows, churches and all other places of assemblage until the epidemic was passed.

– Press Democrat, October 10 1918

SPREADS IN CALIFORNIA

The total number of Spanish influenza cases in California has reached the four thousand mark, according to the State Board of Health.

– Argus-Courier, October 12 1918

INFLUENZA HAS APPEARED HERE

More Than a Dozen Cases Reported in Santa Rosa and the Immediate Vicinity Monday Night—State Highway Camp Near Wilfred Station Suffers: Spray Your Throat and Nostrils and Keep Away From Crowds.

Spanish Influenza secured a hold in Sonoma county over Sunday and according to reports made to the county health officer there are already considerably more than one hundred cases receiving attention.

The Golden Gate Industrial Farm and Orphanage at Lyttons reported 75 children in bed with the malady Monday morning. By night the number of cases there had increased to 102, as stated in another column.

Half a dozen or more men working in the State highway camp on the Cotati boulevard near Wilfred were also reported down with the disease. Some of these have been removed to Santa Rosa hospitals, while others were rushed to San Francisco for treatment. By prompt isolation of every case and early detection of the malady in schools throughout the county it is hoped to keep it within bounds; but every family should take unusual care to prevent exposure. Children should he kept off the streets as much as possible. Avoid crowds wherever you can.

Physicians state that best thing to do after possible exposure is to spray the throat and nostrils with a solution of 10 per cent argyrol, or some other good disinfectant.

According to reports by local physicians Monday evening more than a dozen cases of the malady exist in Santa Rosa and the immediate vicinity.

– Press Democrat, October 15 1918

132 CASES OF INFLUENZA AT LYTTONS; HELEN GROUL DIES
Public Responds With Needed Assistance When Informed
Orphanage Now Transformed Into a Hospital – Urgent Need Exists for More Nurses, Bed Clothing, and Money With Which to Buy Medicines — Local Branch of Red Cross Interests Itself in the Matter

Death invaded the Lytton Springs Orphanage yesterday, when Helen Groul, whose critical illness was reported in these columns Tuesday morning, closed her eyes in the long last sleep. She is the first victim to be claimed in this county by the dreaded Spanish influenza, which is now raging everywhere and has the Lytton Orphanage tightly within its grasp.

“Thirty-one new cases developed here today,” said Captain S. Charles Isaacs, now in charge of the orphanage at Lytton, when interviewed by a Press Democrat representative last night over the long-distance phone. “One hundred and thirty-two of our children are now down with the scourge. We have two hundred and twenty-three children here at the present time.” Yesterday there were two hundred and twenty-four; today there are only two hundred and twenty-three!

What will it be tomorrow?

Public Responds to Call

The sad news from Lyttons published in these columns Tuesday morning met with an instant response in the hearts of the thousands of Santa Rosans, and offers of assistance soon began to come in. The first report of money being collected came from the employees of the Santa Rosa Poultry Association and Egg Exchange, where a hurried collection was taken and the sum of $11 sent to this office. The Press Democrat added $5 to the above amount, and last night Manager J. J. Fitzgerald of the Poultry Association walked into the office with another bunch of coin and left it here to be forwarded to the orphanage today. The list of donors is as follows…

– Press Democrat, October 16 1918

PLEDGED PAIR NEAR IN DEATH
Well Known Young Auditor for Proctor Bros. Succumbs to White Plague Last Night, Following Death of Her Fiance a Few Hours Earlier.

Miss Edith Olin, for the past six years auditor for the Proctor Bros., died at the home of Mrs. Jane M. Emperor. 421 College avenue, last night about 9:30, after a few weeks’ illness. Death was due to consumption.

Miss Olin came here seven years ago from Orfino, Idaho, where she had been residing with an aunt since the death of her parents. The aunt is her only living relative…

…Walter Reiman, who enlisted in the U. S. Navy some time ago. died Friday at the home of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Reiman, near Windsor, after a brief illness with influenza. The young man secured a furlough and came home last Sunday to assist his father gather the grape crop, and was taken ill a few days later.

Mr. Reiman was the fiance of Miss Edith Olin, who died later in the evening, and news of his death, coming a few hours before that of his fiance, is an occurrence as remarkable as it is sad.

– Press Democrat, October 19 1918

DON’T GET SCARED IS THE ADVICE OF LOCAL PHYSICIAN
Statement Last Night That the Cases of Influenza Here So Far Are of a Mild Form—People Advised to Be Careful, But Not to Become Hysterical.

‘Tell the people not to get hysterical,” said a well-known physician last night to a Press Democrat representative. “It’s good advice to give people, believe me, for there is a lot of hysteria about now as well as influenza.”

Another physician stated that out of all the cases he has under his care, all of them are light, with the exception of a single pneumonia case.

Other physicians were seen and they agreed that the influenza here is of a mild form to date. They agreed that people should take care of themselves, but there is no occasion for alarm if care is taken.

– Press Democrat, October 23 1918

INFLUENZA WORSE OUTSIDE OF CITY
More New Cases Reported From the Rural Section Than Within City Limits — Epidemic at Standstill Within City at the Present, According to Reports

While the number of cases of Spanish influenza reported to the city health office shows no increase for the previous 24 hours, the number of cases reported to local physicians increased and from all accounts the country surrounding town is suffering worse now than the city.

Only 12 new cases were reported to the city health office up to 5 o’clock last night, although it is known other cases have developed in town which will he reported this morning. The total to date at the same hour was 396 for the city with only two deaths known to be directly caused from pneumonia caused by influenza.

The most of the deaths resulting from the disease are from out-of-town and it is believed this is due to the fact that those residing in town are being more prompt in calling in a physician and take no chances, while the country people try to wear it off, a very serious matter in the case of influenza, and almost sure to result seriously, if not fatally.

– Press Democrat, October 30 1918

MAY QUARANTINE COUNTY AGAINST THE INFLUENZA
District Attorney Issues Appeal to Residents to Take Necessary Precautions to Protect Themselves and Others From Dreaded Epidemic.

The District Attorney’s office has been aroused by the large number of fatal cases of Spanish influenza and pneumonia throughout the rural section of Sonoma county and will take steps to protect the residents unless they take the necessary precautions for themselves voluntarily. In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Hoyle suggested the possibility of a general quarantine of the county against outside districts pending an improvement of conditions in other parts of the state. He said:

For more than three weeks last past so-called Spanish influenza has been prevalent in Sonoma county. During that time many of our valuable citizens have suffered from the malady, and several have passed to the Great Beyond, as a direct result of the dread disease, from resulting pneumonia or otherwise. It is the nature of the disease to leave one in a weakened condition, thereby making the patient susceptible to any disease for which the weakened condition makes an opening. A cold creates just such an opening and pneumonia results. Other diseases follow instead of pneumonia as the condition of the patient may make one susceptible…

…I have been informed that persons from the bay cities, fearful of the disease there, are rushing to the country resorts and are occupying cottages, built many of them in cool, damp places, and saturated with a two weeks’ rain, which must necessarily endanger them to cold, and frequently to resulting pneumonia, whether they in fact have Spanish influenza or not. This should he stopped at once.

Unless the public takes the necessary and proper steps immediately for stamping out the disease, I shall call upon the state health officers for a strict general quarantine of the county.

If you are afflicted, stay inside until you have fully recovered, exercising every precaution to prevent the spread of the disease. If you have thus far escaped, use every precaution to avoid it. A mask may not add to your beauty, but a homely, living, useful citizen is better far than an unnecessarily sacrificed life, regardless of looks.

Yours for the public welfare, G. W. Hoyle, District Attorney.

– Press Democrat, October 31 1918

25 INFLUENZA DEATHS AT SONOMA STATE HOME

Inquiry over the long distance telephone to the Sonoma State Home at Eldridge last night as to the influenza cases in the institution elicited the information that since the epidemic broke out there had been twenty-four deaths among inmates and Mrs. Markee, one of the attendants, died yesterday. A number of the cases had developed into pneumonia.

 Among those who are suffering from influenza are the woman physician, Dr. Thorne, and Supervisor Johnson. Both their cases are slight. Secretary R. Q. Wickham stated last night.

 “There are over four hundred cases of influenza here and we have had twenty-four deaths to date among the inmates, and, this afternoon one of the attendants, Mrs. Markee, died. Otherwise the other sick ones seem to be getting better,” stated Mr. Wickham over the phone.

 Medical Superintendent Fred O. Butler, M. D., and his first assistant, Dr Whittington, have been working night and day with the patients, and prior to her sickness Dr. Thorne was constantly in attendance day and night. The physicians and the nurses and attendants have been doing loyal and efficient work for main hours day and night since influenza became epidemic. Everything possible is being done for the sick and to safeguard the inmates and protect those as yet not stricken with the illness. There are nearly fourteen hundred inmates in the Sonoma State Home.

– Press Democrat, November 6 1918

EMPHATIC DONTS FOR INFLUENZA
City Health Officer Makes Suggestions to General Public for Prevention of Infection and to Aid in Restricting Epidemic.

“There ia no doubt but that we are in the midst of a very interesting epidemic which will have extended and far reaching results. The climatic conditions here are ideal for its spread,” declared R. M. Bonar, the new city health officer, yesterday, after having heard from most of the physicians of the city and getting reports of 25 new cases of influenza for the day. This brings the total cases to date to over 355.

With the view of giving as much assistance as possible in preventing the further spread of the malady. Dr. Bonar makes suggestions and urges upon the general public adaption of the following rules:

Don’t attend funerals. Say it with flowers.

Don’t travel. If you must, use your own conveyance. The closed railway coach is the best place In the world to become infected as many sick are traveling, spreading the disease.

 Don’t visit your sick friends unless you can be of some material advantage to them, and then wear a gauze mask.

  Don’t be taking drugs. If ill, consult a physician. Gargles and nasal douches are of doubtful value, if not a real danger. The wash is on the throat or nose only a few moments being quickly carried away by the natural secretions. If used too strong or frequently they may impair the delicate membranes, making the person more susceptible to infection. Avoid all advertised cures.

Do not allow children to associate with those having the malady in the house. Under no clrcumstances allow a well person to sleop with one ill with influenza.

Keep in the open air. Avoid unusual fatigue and over eating and wear a mask of six layers. Bacteria cannot penetrate gauze. Don’t use antiseptic of any kind on mask, and wash dally, boiling it.

Don’t wait until in the night to call a physician. They are all being overworked and need all the regular rest they can get.

– Press Democrat, November 6 1918

MALADY TAKES ON NEW LEASE

Despite the precautions being taken, there has been an increase of Spanish Influenza cases this week in Santa Rosa, with eight new cases reported Monday and ten yesterday. The new eases in many instances are in families where it had prevailed previously.

 One mother was reported down with her four children yesterday, but they are all doing as well as could be expected and are being given the best of care.

 The city health officer urges all to comply with the mask ordinance and take all necessary precaution against spreading the malady and hold it in check. There can be no release from masks while there is so many new cases being reported.

– Press Democrat, November 13 1918

INFLUENZA NOW IS DECREASING
Santa Rosa Has Had 462 Cases Since October 18, When First Case Was Reported, While Total Deaths in Entire Suburban District Totals 37 for Period.

With six new cases of Spanish influenza reported Saturday, the total in Santa Rosa since the first outbreak, October 18, has reached 462. In the same period there has been 37 deaths in the district which includes Russian River township and the country to the east as far as Glen Ellen, but not the Sonoma Home at Eldrldge.

 While all indications point to a gradual falling-off in the epidemic in Santa Rosa, there has been a flare-up owing, it is believed, to carelessness resulting from the patriotic demonstration Monday. It is hoped the improvement will continue during the coming week, and if so some of the more stringent regulations can be released.

 The San Francisco theaters were all opened Saturday and each played to standing room. The churches will be open today, but the mask is still retained and insisted upon for all attending gatherings. The San Jose State Normal will resume November 25, when the San Francisco schools will reopen, by which time masks will be discarded.

– Press Democrat, November 13 1918

STRONG TAKEN – THE WEAK LEFT
Epidemic Is Still in Force at the Sonoma State Home, Where Over Fifty Deaths Have Occurred to Date — Most Fatalities Among High Grade Inmates.

They are battling with the epidemic of influenza at the Sonoma State Home for the Feeble-Minded. So far over fifty deaths have occurred to date and there are scores of inmates still down with the disease. The physicians and nurses and other attendants have had a hard task to perform for several weeks in ministering to so many of the sick.

A singular feature of conditions at the State Home is that the deaths have occurred among the strongest and highest grade inmates, both as regard boys and girls and the low grades have suffered little. Among those who have died were many boys and girls who were able to help about the institution and in the grounds.

– Press Democrat, November 14 1918

THE QUARANTINE IS ENFORCED

The quarantine for influenza has been put in force in this city by the Health Board and the yellow signs with the word “influenza” prominently displayed, are already noticed on a number of homes here.

– Argus-Courier, November 25 1918

85 DEATHS TOLL AT STATE HOME
Epidemic Is Subsiding and New Cases Are Among Girls — Eighty of the Dead Were Males – Secretary Wickham Visitor Here.

Secretary R. Q. Wickham was in town from the Sonoma State Home on Monday.

From Secretary Wickham it was learned that the epidemic had carried off by death eighty-five inmates.

He says there have been over five hundred cases of influenza at the institution and of the eighty-five deaths about five were girls, all the others being boys, youths and men.

At the present time, Mr. Wickham states, there are a number of cases, the illness having crossed to the quarters occupied by the girls, but no serious conditions are expected now.

Mr. Wickham paid a high compliment to the untiring labors of Medical Superintendent Fred O. Butler, Physician Whittington and Dr. Thoren, the woman physician, and the nurses and attendants who worked night and day in nursing and administering to the sick. “I tell you they ail stood up nobly “under the strain,” said Mr. Wickham.

– Press Democrat, November 26 1918

BAN PLACED ON DANCIN6 HERE UNTIL FURTHER ORDER

In an effort to check any further outbreaks of influenza the City Health Officer Thursday evening issued an order forbidding all public and private dances until further notice in Santa Rosa.

The Health Officer said it is generally recognized that dancing is one of the most successful ways of spreading influenza owing to the dancers being in such close contact that they cannot help inhaling each other’s breath and passing the germs.

Already eight cases, it is said, have been traced to two young men who visited a dance here recently from an outside town while ill and spread the malady.

– Press Democrat, December 20 1918

Clubhouse Opened as Emergency Hospital

The good women of the Red Cross made another noble response on Saturday to the demands of care for sick women and children and by night Saturday the Saturday Afternoon Club’s clubhouse on Tenth street was opened as an emergency hospital. Mention has been made of the shortage of nurses and it was with the idea of caring for many of those who are sick that the clubhouse was opened as a hospital. The clubhouse during the day was fitted up with cots and all other arrangements were made for the reception of the patients. It is a nice, cosy place, and it is mighty fortunate for some of the sick women and children of the town and neighborhood that such a place and such excellent care was available. Several patients were taken to the emergency hospital Saturday night.

– Press Democrat, December 29 1918

STRANGER ARRIVES IN TOWN WITH INFLUENZA

The county health officer was called to a local hotel yesterday to see a man who was ill. An examination showed that he was suffering from influenza, having arrived Thursday night, circulated about the hotel during the even[ing] and had been out during the morning for breakfast and about the street before giving up and going to bed.

The man was removed to a hospital and last night he had developed pneumonia and his fever was 104 degrees and his condition was considered critical. How many were exposed to the influenza through contact with this man is unknown, but it is such cases which has caused the necessity for holding the masks as a protective measure.

– Press Democrat, January 25 1919

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TALES OF THE RED CROSS SHOP

Watch a film or read about the U.S. during WWI and expect to find due praise for the war efforts by American Red Cross. They mobilized the entire country in support of the troops; more than eight million civilians donated a dollar to join and that was just the beginning – volunteers spent countless hours sewing bandages and knitting items to comfort soldiers and war refugees. In April 1918 alone, the Santa Rosa chapter created 3,000 pieces including 275 pairs of socks, 860 abdominal bandages, 91 helmets (?) and 410 “helpless case shirts” for amputees.

People also turned out in support of the Red Cross itself. In Petaluma on May 20, 1918 there was a Red Cross parade where 3,500 marched behind the California Governor many of the women in nurse costumes. There was a giant flag, several floats including one dedicated just to sock knitters, and every schoolchild in town walked the half-hour route with their teachers. Leading the procession were sixteen young girls with oversized knitting needles and yarn bags pulling a replica of a sheep on a wagon – which could have symbolized either peace or the importance of knitting wool.

Red Cross parade in Petaluma on May 20, 1918. (Photo: Sonoma county library)

 

But during the war the Red Cross also became a critically-needed social welfare agency here at home, particularly during the Spanish Flu crisis (more about that here). As far as I can tell this history has been completely forgotten, documented only in the newspapers of the time. Although this isn’t the story of the national Red Cross Shop endeavor, here’s what happened in the heyday of the Santa Rosa and Petaluma shops, in all their patriotic, poignant – and sometimes puzzling – glory.

The concept only reached California after the United States entered the war in April, 1917 but had taken root earlier in Chicago and a few other places East. At face value it was merely a charity resale store but it went deeper than that – it was where neighbors helped another cope with rationing and wartime shortages by selling homemade and repurposed items of all sorts. They took in and sold anything and everything that came through the door and published want lists, all together giving us a unique glimpse of life here in the autumn of 1918.

The Petaluma store was the first to open that July, on one of the corners of Washington and Keller streets. While Petaluma was only opened on Saturdays, the Santa Rosa store at 428 Fourth st. (the middle of the block between A and B streets, now lost under the mall) was open six or seven days a week.

The mainstays of both shops were the same as any resale store today: Used clothing and shoes, but there was also high demand for adult underwear, probably because of the wartime wool shortage. In Santa Rosa they wanted “children’s underwear or things that can be made into it” and it was mentioned some were making children’s clothes from flannel scraps or men’s shirts.

It’s a surprise to learn they were selling lots of food: “If you have any extra vegetables in your war garden bring the surplus to the shop tomorrow…housewives, when you do your Saturday baking remember the Red Cross Shop.” They also sold perishables like milk, cottage cheese, eggs, butter and even meat; Petaluma offered “fine large dressed ducks” for $1.50.

That presumably put them in some competition with local grocers, but the Red Cross Shops went even further by selling livestock. On Egg Day, September 1, Petaluma announced “our latest donation is a fine live thirty-pound pig.” A couple of weeks later the shop had “two splendid hogs,” and “Henry J. Myers, the popular secretary has been appointed temporary guardian of the ‘hog pen’ and is grooming the animals to the best of his ability.”

Not to be bested, Santa Rosa offered live chickens and a while-you-wait butcher. After you picked out your hen, “Joe Ginotti rushed it to James Evans, manager of McCullough Produce Company, who killed and dressed it, while you wandered about choosing a certain pie or batch of doughnuts.”

The Santa Rosa shop even sold cats. A Persian angora kitten was advertised and another cat – donated, dumped or stray – was adopted (abducted?) by a five year-old girl, as told in a cute anecdote:


Then there is the cat. You know the one that caused all the excitement the other day. Well, that cat is wise, or very lucky. At any rate, it has a good home, now. Mrs. J. K. Edwards incautiously brought her small daughter to the Shop. Julia Catherine saw the villain, and, with true womanly spirit, demanded to have him for her own, to cherish for all time. Mrs Edwards objected, and saw a streak which was Julia and the cat, about a half block down the street. So the villain came out ahead after all. injustice triumphs. But Julia Catherine is happy. So is the villain —and what more is necessary? Thus endeth the Epic of the Cat.

RIGHT: Julia Catherine Edwards, 1917 Juvenile Rose Queen and later cat owner (Sonoma County Library)

Little Julia’s incautious mother was Florence, part of the remarkable Rockwell family. Several members can be found criss-crossing notable events in Santa Rosa’s history over the decades and even played a small role here. Most Red Cross Shops had a tea room; when the one opened in the Santa Rosa shop that October it was decorated with engravings by Carlo Gino Venanzi, the Italian artist brother-in-law of Florence, which were certainly worth far more than anything else in the shop.

Another funny story was told in the Press Democrat: “Mrs. Ronk, initiated into the selling department yesterday, was rather shocked when a man walked in and said: ‘Madam. I have been drinking; I have had a fight with an Indian; he tore my clothes off me; I want a pair of pants.’ With the assistance of Dr. Stevens he was properly clothed for the street.”

The stores also acted as an agent for people looking for specific items. Among the stuff wanted in Petaluma was a piano stool, small white beans, a brown untrimmed hat. In Santa Rosa the list included odd ends of ribbons, veil cases, red Pyracantha berries (at Christmas), clothespin aprons, bantam hens and Karo Corn Syrup buckets – which were like paint cans and are still found for sale on eBay and Etsy (hopefully empty of 100 year old syrup). One woman came in and wanted a headless doll.

Petaluma also came up with innovative ideas of things to sell. The shop asked for cabbage donations so the Domestic Science class at the high school could make “Liberty Cabbage” (sauerkraut) to sell at the shop. They also asked residents to “dig up your bulbs now; this is the time and bring them to the Red Cross Shop…you can buy ’em back if you really have to have them.”

There are no known photos of the Santa Rosa or Petaluma Red Cross Shops, but this was an interior of a shop where the Red Cross chapter was about the same size as Santa Rosa’s. (Library of Congress)

 

Santa Rosa’s finest hour came during the peak of the Spanish Flu epidemic of October-November. (The Petaluma shop was ordered closed for that month.) The whole town mobilized heroically, as described in the following article. The Red Cross Shop partnered with the restaurant in the nearby Occidental Hotel as the shop took soup and custard orders for the bedridden. Volunteers sewed and gave away an untold number of flu masks. And most importantly, they placed babies and small children who had sick parents in temporary homes.

The Petaluma shop reopened just before Thanksgiving and both shops began gearing up for an unusual Christmas. Petaluma’s high school manual training class made doll furniture. The motto in Santa Rosa was “Make Your Christmas Presents Out of Salvage” and enlisted teens and adults alike in painting and decorating boxes and unwanted furniture. More skilled hands made dollhouses and birdhouses and sewed or knitted lovely things.

Even though they didn’t launch until the war was almost over, the shops played a central role in involving civilians with the war effort by collecting materials wanted by the government such as foil from gum wrappers or cigarette packs, newsprint, rubber scraps and peach pits and walnut shells to make gas masks. Shops in both towns accepted thousands of pounds of clothing and shoes for the international Belgian Relief program.

The Santa Rosa Shop closed on Feb. 1 1919, having lost its free rent and not finding anyone volunteering to manage it. Petaluma stayed open but moved to 155 Kentucky street.

During those late months of 1918 the Argus and PD had some little item about the shops almost daily, obviously written by volunteers there, although sometimes they struggled to find things to write about. In Petaluma we learned “a musical cow bell attracted the public generally” and Peter Murphy came to donate a pile of fruit jars and all of his window shades. In Santa Rosa, Blanche Hoffer entertained with her accordion one afternoon as another woman tootled on a “soprano horn” which apparently just had been donated. It sounds like they had great fun, and many of the items are still fun to read today. A doggerel verse, “Down Fourth Street Row” is transcribed below and is a sweet tribute to the women and men who ran the places.

While few good things came out of the first World War, the Red Cross Shops certainly fall on the positive side. How great was it to have such spots in small towns where every day we could join the effort to help disabled soldiers and victims of war – while also getting a good deal on a few washrags, potatoes for tonight’s dinner… and maybe a kitten.

Image from “What to do for Uncle Sam; a first book of citizenship” (1918)

 

DOWN FOURTH STREET ROW

“I’ll tell thee everything I know,
Although it is not much –
I wandered down that Fourth Street row
Past stores, saloons and such.
I went until I saw a place
They called the Red Cross Shop;
Inside I saw a beaming face
And thought I’d better stop.

“What is this Red Cross Shop?” I said,
“And why these glowing smiles?”
The workers for the cross of red
Come many weary miles;
They gladly work, day after day.
And fix a tea room grand
For small Blanche with her gentle way,
To feed the hungry band.

But I was thinking of a plan
To make the floor look clean.
And hide it under so much bran
That it could not be seen.
So having no reply to give
To what I had been told.
I looked quite sternly positive
And said, “Why is this gold?”

Em’s accents mild took up the tale.
She said, “I go my ways
And when I find a gold band frail,
I bring it for the blaze.
I put it into this they call
The Red Cross Melting Pot –
They sell it – silver, gold and all —
And then it goes for shot.”

But I was thinking of a way
To open the Tea Room wide,
And so go on from day to day,
With lots of food inside.
“What is this Red Cross Shop?” I cried,
“And wherefore all these toys?”
Just gaze upon this fruit stand wide —
Oh! Those are for the boys!

I sometimes fix the grab-bag stock,
Or put the shoes in rows;
I sometimes sell an old, old clock,
And sort the Belgian’s clothes.
And that’s the way (she tried to wink)
In which our Shop gets rich;
And very gladly, I should think
Your old things here you’d pitch.

I heard her then, for I had just
Completed my design
To keep from out that Shop the dust
By flooding it with brine.
I thanked her much for telling me
The way the Shop gets rich.
But chiefly for her wish that she
My old things here would hitch.

And now, if e’er by chance I wish
Some pictures — old or new –
Or madly seek a small blue dish,
Or tea of special brew,
Or if I drop upon mv toe
A very heavy weight,
I start! For it reminds me so
Of that Red Cross Shop that I know —
Whose Bess is mild, whose Blanche is slow,
Whose Emma’s face is all aglow,
Whose Anna croaked once like a crow,
Whose Verda off to ride did go,
Whose Helen ran the car so slow,
Whose Ira wandered to and fro
And muttered mumblingly and low
As if his mouth were full of dough;
Who sent the Belgians lots of clo’
One Sunday, not so long ago –
The Shop in Fourth street Row.

– Press Democrat, September 29 1918


RED CROSS CHRISTMAS SHOP HAS MANY USEFUL ARTICLES
Patriotic Women of City Are Busily Engaged in Preparing Articles for Sale at Red Cross Shop, Which Gets the Entire Proceeds, as There Is No Expense to the Shop.

There is only one thing that makes Christmas shopping difficult; the problem of knowing what to give and where to find it. The Red Cross Shop is solving that problem for you this year. Miss Blanch Hoffer is head of a corp of artistic workers who are getting the goods out for the opening, December 7. There you are going to he able to find dozens of worthwhile suggestions.

Mrs J. Warren Jenkens has gathered together a group of willing workers who are designing and making those things that every lovely woman likes to have many of such as boudoir caps, camisoles, aprons and bags.

Every afternoon five or six friends of Mrs. James Gray gather at her home on Spring street and devote their time to covering boxes of every size and shape with beautiful wallpaper. Beautiful boxes – such as these are, have a place in almost any room.

Miss Hoffer’s studio looks Just like Santa Claus’ workrooms. Each day more Christmas presents are finished and hidden away in boxes. Doll houses for little girls: bird houses for the spring gardens. Cookies concealed in such lovely painted boxes as Miss Hoffer has created will have a flavor all their own. Flowers arranged in the delicately decorated black glass bowls will be more attractive.

But what will be the most extraordinary part of this interesting dispiy is that all are made of salvage — to see what beautiful gift — can be purchased and yet comply with the spirit of the government’s request that everyone give useful, practical things. All articles made are immediately useful or wearable — excepting the children’s toys, which one the only non-useful things anyone ought to give and everything at the Shop is to he moderate in price.

There has been a request for two books — “Peck’s Bad Boy” and Beeton’s Geography, Biology and History. If you have these in your library and can spare them — there is someone to whom they will be of use.

– Press Democrat, November 27 1918

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