More proof that life in 1906 Santa Rosa was returning to normal, four months after the great earthquake: the police again are busting bicyclists for riding on the sidewalks. Raconteur and soon-to-be historian Tom Gregory even penned a satirical column on the topic, suggesting that sidewalk bicycling should be encouraged because enough $5.00 fines could pay for reconstruction of the civic buildings downtown. The city could even sell coupon books to repeat offenders: “Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.”

Sidewalk safety was also a concern because the town went roller skating crazy that summer, and, as someone complained in a letter to the Press Democrat, “much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it.”

Special Officer Samuels Has a Lively Chase to Run to Earth a Violator of Sidewalk Ordinance

Never since the days when bicycle races in Santa Rosa furnished sport for several hundred enthusiastic cyclists, has there been such a sprint witnessed as that which brought people to their front doors and windows and cause vehicular traffic to be pulled to one side of the highway on upper Fourth street and Sonoma road, near this city, on Wednesday afternoon. The scorchers were Special Officer Samuels and a young man, who was violating the bicycle-riding-on-the-sidewalk ordinance near the park.

“Stop,” yelled Samuels to the law violator. The latter just turned his head and caught sight of Samuels. Then he bore down on his pedals and, as the men at the race track say, “They’re off.” For a time the men anxious to keep a five dollar piece from the city treasury, led the pace with Samuels gaining by inches. For half a mile and more they raced until the pursued turned his bike and headed for the creek. Nothing daunted Samuels, [who] followed and effected the capture. The officer brought his man back to town and after the latter had found a friendly storekeeper to lend him the fiver required to appease the majesty of the law, he rode home slowly and thoughtfully, and kept the middle of the road.

– Press Democrat, August 16, 1906

Editor Press Democrat: Chief of Police Rushmore struck the keynote when he asked for an ordinance that would preserve the city sidewalks to pedestrians and not to roller skaters. As it is the practice of using the sidewalks for a rink it is rapidly becoming a nuisance. At first the bicycle riding on sidewalks was harmless, but soon laws had to be enacted to drive those machines out into the street with the other vehicles. I have a new cement walks laid on two streets in front of my corner residence, and much of the day that thoroughfare is crowded with roller skaters making it impossible for people afoot to use it with safety. Not long ago I saw a big boy fall heavily and one of his metal skates struck the cement of the walk, breaking a deep hole therein the diameter of a fifty-cent piece. With the metallic wheels of the skates rolling ever that place the break will be continually enlarging. By all means have this nuisance abated. Property Owner. Santa Rosa, Aug. 30, 1906.

– Press Democrat, August 31, 1906

Tom Gregory Makes a Suggestion to the City Fathers Anent “Fares” for Bicycle Riders on Sidewalks

Editor Press Democrat: Here is a frenzied finance idea for the City Council. During the month of August the sidewalk bicycle riders of Santa Rosa paid in fines $110. Now, would it not be well to systematize this growing, profitable traffic–work this source of “easy money” income for all it is worth. The evident mania of the local bicycle people to utilize the sidewalks should be encouraged.

Think of it–$110 per month is $1,320 a year. There are probably 500 wheels in this city, and if each owner could be induced to mount the sidewalk even once a month (at $5 per ride), $2,500 would be the monthly receipt therefrom, and $30,000 yearly would swell the municipal coffers to bursting. With this noble harvest what improvements could be made. New public buildings arise from the ruins, a never-ending relief fund created and the $200,000 bonded indebtedness be among the things that were.

But it is not necessary to run at this high-water rate. A lower schedule could be adopted. Instead of a uniform price of $5 a ride, make it $4 or even $3. Issue monthly commutation tickets at the last figure. Twelve tickets or coupons in a book at $3 per would amount to $36, and the 500 wheels would bring in $18,000 annually. At this lower rate the riders would use the sidewalks more frequently and increase the sum total. Under this beautiful system a cop could grab a wheelman, tear off a coupon, and let him ride on. No delay, no bother.

Of course “fare” could be collected again next block if the rider were “sporty” and wealthy.

A separate schedule could be arranged for rubber-tire buggies (without horses–whose hoofs would damage the sidewalks), automobiles, and roller skates. The bicycle folks evidently want to ride the sidewalks and want to pay good money for the valued privilege. The spirit that fathers this twin-want should be encouraged–at least till the city is rebuilt. This reinforced concrete idea is not copyrighted, and its splendid plans and specifications are free for the Council to adopt. Tom Gregory, Santa Rosa, Sept 1, 1906

– Press Democrat, September 2, 1906

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In the late summer of 1909, two young men in Santa Rosa mounted their bicycles and headed towards Washington state, where they were determined to see the sights of the great Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE). Nearly two months later and with a thousand often-rugged miles behind them, Vic McDaniel and Ray Francisco, sick and tearful, stood on a hill outside Seattle and gazed upon the lights of the Exposition, their road trip having tested them in ways never imagined.

It’s a ripping yarn told well in “Two Wheels North” written by Vic’s daughter, who coaxed from dad a narrative of that long-ago trek. It is even worth reading twice, first for the coming-of-age adventure and again for the art of the telling. A small sample of Evelyn McDaniel Gibb’s fine writing: “I locked my eyes on the dark that was the other side of the canyon. Its blackness wavered lesser, denser, the eerie campfire glows like feeble candles in a room too large. Men’s voices also rose and sank and were made of sounds I’ve never heard. A dozen nights ago when I was a boy, all this might have kept me awake.”

Now on the centennial of the trip, and a 72-year-old retired teacher is retracing their route and blogging about it for the Press Democrat (link currently available here, but search their June, 2009 archives for “Bill Harrison” if the file is not found.) Then on July 4, a dozen or more riders will start their “Wheels North” bicycle tour that is expected to reach Seattle in just two weeks. That ride is a search-for-a-cure fundraiser and participants are required to pay $2,000 or $200/day. The Wheels North website also offers high-quality versions of photographs and postcards from Vic and Ray’s adventure.

But what about that fair was so compelling to Ray and Vic? The book is slim on details: “From the day we saw the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition traveling tent show I’d talked hard to convince Ray we could bike the thousand miles up there to see the fair… we’d seen the real Siberian Eskimos and listened to the high-hatted spieler tell about the Igorot people from the Phillippines who would cook and eat their puppies where folks could watch, and the Hawaiian girl, Ieka, who would dance her native hula-hula…” That description of the alluring Ieka may have inspired Vic’s imagination and teenage libido, but what the boys actually saw would inspire outrage today. Here were human beings on display for public amusement, their entertainment value being their culture’s limited contact with the Western world up to that point. Among the people on exhibit were even children, and one of them was about to die.

Ray and Vic were among the curious who crowded into the tent (which would have been near the main mall entrance today) to see the “Real Siberian Eskimos,” as promoted in the large Press Democrat ad shown here. The show was the main attraction found on the Rose Carnival midway that lined Fourth Street, where the Rose Parade would be held that Saturday, May 8. Santa Rosa’s festival was quite the event in 1909, with a parade at noon and then an illuminated parade at night.

The Santa Rosa papers didn’t say much about what happened in the “Big Arctic Show,” but some details emerged from their stop in Oakland the following week. “The people are seen cooking over the flame of walrus oil lamps, making garments of seal skin and sleds of ivory and carved wood,” the San Francisco Call reported. “The children play their native games and the men harness and drive the score of wolf dogs that accompany the tribe…” Even the smallest children were on display, and the public was apparently encouraged to handle them. That a newborn died of bronchitis in Santa Rosa may not be so surprising, and given the group’s limited exposure to Western diseases prior to this trip, you wonder how many other children and adults became seriously ill or died.

The “Eskimos” were actually members of six families of the Siberian Yupik tribe who lived along the Saint Lawrence Bay in the very eastern-most part of Siberia (also known as the part of Russia that Sarah Palin can see from her house). The Yupik were famed sea hunters and shrewd traders; John Muir wrote an interesting 1881 account of attempting to barter with them — and failing. According to an essay on the Yupik at AYPE available from Washington state’s remarkable, an Alaskan firm called the North Star Trading Company had a warehouse on the Bay, and it was a Captain A. M. Baber from that company who convinced Yupik tribal members to join him on a steamer across the Bering Sea for the strange lands of America.

Captain Baber and the Yupiks reached Seattle on September 18, 1908, when he told a reporter from the Post-Intelligencer that they needed to leave nearly a year early to beat the oncoming Siberian winter. “I will find a quiet place on the Sound for the natives and house them this winter,” the considerate Baber told the paper, “although it may be possible that I will take them to the mountains if I find that the climate is too warm for them.” A month later, a followup story finds them temporarily living in abandoned housing for loggers across Puget Sound from Seattle. As for wintering in snowy mountains, apparently the Captain decided that they would actually be more comfortable performing on the vaudeville stage. Before arriving in Santa Rosa several months later, another HistoryLink essay states they performed as far away as Topeka, and even marched in numerous parades. A January, 1909 review of their stage act in Salt Lake City suggests their program was already polished, with sequences of wrestling and feats of strength by the men, a reenactment of a seal hunt, and performances of traditional dances with music. “Special school children’s matinees” were also offered.

After 6+ months rattling around the West and Midwest on trains (which none of them had even seen a year earlier), the opening of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition probably came as somewhat a relief to the Yupiks, even though they were now under constant public observation. They shared the AYPE “Eskimo Village” building with a well-established troupe of Labradorean Inuit and Inuit-descent performers, some who had been touring American fairs for more than a decade. The Yupiks were exhibited in their own area, along with “40 tons of stuff…[presenting] the village just as it was before it was knocked down,” as Captain Baber told a Seattle PI reporter. The Eskimo Village was a must-see show on the Pay Streak midway and the second most popular concession of the fair, behind in box office receipts only to an elaborate cyclorama portraying the Civil War battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack.

(At right: The “Eskimo Village” on the AYPE midway. Photo courtesy Museum of History & Industry, Seattle)

No photographs or exact descriptions survive of the doings inside the Eskimo Village attraction, but it’s safe to assume that the Yupiks periodically put on a show similar to their now-well rehearsed vaudeville act. Between performances, the public could gawk at them making traditional handicrafts. And speaking of the latter, what happened to all those handmade furs and ivories and leathers that the Yupiks produced during their American visit?

The only hint is found in that SF Call item on their Oakland appearance: “…It is estimated that the skins and furs are worth $50,000, but none is for sale, as the pelts, admitted free of duty, must leave the country.” Think about that: With no import fees, valuable raw materials entered the country, were turned into more valuable garments and handiwork, and were then were sent out of the country, apparently without export fees. Where would Captain A. M. Baber, late of the North Star Trading Company, send the finished work, except back to his old company’s warehouse in Siberia? From there, the company could profit by importing the goods back into the U.S. If this was indeed the setup, then how was the Siberian Eskimo show different than a sweatshop?

The Yupiks weren’t the only racial group exploited at the Exposition. Just this month (June, 2009), Filipino-American community groups in Seattle announced that they were demanding a public apology for the related AYPE “Igorot Village.” As noted in a press release, “The zoo-like village reinforced racial stereotypes of Filipinos as a primitive people through displays of spear-throwing, mock battles, semi-nude clothing, so-called headhunters and dog-eating.” And even though the point of the fair was to celebrate the Pacific Northwest and its ties to Asia, another big concession on the midway was “Dixieland,” where visitors saw a plantation exhibit with “every feature of the happy life the darky lived before the troubles came that set him free.”

Nearly four million passed through the fair in Seattle that summer of 1909, and most probably arrived with some of the casual racist views of the day, such as the “White Man’s Burden” presumption of superiority, or simple prejudice against people who didn’t act or look like Euro-Americans. How sad that many likely went home with their biases reinforced by what they saw at AYPE.


The group of Siberian Eskimos that have been brought to America for the Alaska-Yukon Exposition, have come to Santa Rosa to stay until the Rose Carnival is over. They can be seen this evening and daily thereafter, in the tent on Fourth street west of the Occidental hotel. This group of Eskimos has been exhibited in the chief cities of Oregon, and the newspapers of that state speak most highly of the character of the show. Many scenes of the home life of the Eskimos are given, including their daily occupations and their pastimes, and the sight of them is no douby an interesting study in ethnology. The leading educators of Oregon give their hearty endorsement to the show.

– Press Democrat, May 5, 1909


Mayor Gray stated last night that he will christen the Eskimo baby at the “Eski Village” tonight directly after the illuminated parade. He will give “Santa Rosa” a medal. Let everybody be on hand to see His Honor name the baby. That “Eskimo Village,” by the way, is well worth seeing.

– Press Democrat, May 8, 1909


The little Eskimo baby, whom so many hundreds of people saw named by Mayor Gray last Saturday night in the Eskimo Village on the “Midway,” died on Sunday night, and on Monday the little piece of humanity was laid to rest here. Dr. J. W. Jesse was called in and certified that the death was due to bronchitis. The baby was a puny little creature at birth. There were scores at the village on Sunday night, and when they were told that “Santa Rosa” was dead, there were many expressions of regret, particularly from the women and children who were anxious to see the baby.

– Press Democrat, May 11, 1909

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Riding a bike on the sidewalk was a misdemeanor in 1906 Santa Rosa, but it was never clear why they were avoiding those nice, broad streets seen in the old photographs. A few months earlier, the Santa Rosa Republican even had printed a lengthy letter to the editor attempting to justify sidewalk riding. Now, we find out why: After ten days of drenching rain, the unpaved streets are finally in decent enough shape that one could almost ride a bicycle over them. Yikes.


Absence of Mud and Slush Causes Considerable Comment on Part of People

One of the most noticeable results of the heavy rains of the past ten days in this city, was the remarkable manner in which the streets of Santa Rosa dried up Friday morning after the sun came out. Over ten inches of rain has fallen during the storm, and usually after such a season of rough weather, the streets are in very bad condition, but Friday the paved streets were washed clean and soon became dry, while the other thoroughfares of the city were in excellent condition, and one could almost ride a bicycle over them.

It is certainly a great satisfaction to see the main street dry and clean and the absence of the string of wagons which are usually engaged in hauling away the mud and slush of the street. Possibly the weather man has solved the problem of how best to clean the streets, and that the time will come when the pavement will be washed by the use of large sprinkling wagons built expressly for the purpose of drenching the pavement.

– Santa Rosa Republican, January 20, 1906

Disobey the Ordinance Regarding the Use of Sidewalks in This City and Nine Citizens Pay Five Dollars Apiece

Within the last two or three days nine persons have had to give up a little five dollar gold piece in Police Judge Bagley’s court in fines for having violated the ordinance which makes it a misdemeanor to ride bicycles on sidewalks.

Despite the warning note published more than once that a special police officer was on the lookout for violators of the law, no heed was paid. The city’s treasury will continue to be enriched at the rate of five per as long as the bikes are ridden on the sidewalks, and the vigilant officer remains on the alert.

It would also save considerable ruffling of feelings in the matter of impounding dogs if the tags are purchased promptly. The work of impounding untagged dogs, stray horses, etc., is also a part of this special officer’s duties.

– Press Democrat, July 18, 1906

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