“The Press Democrat prides itself upon the fact that it never intentionally misrepresents things,” boasted PD editor Ernest Finley, as his newspaper continued to misrepresent nearly everything about the reformers who wanted to clean up Santa Rosa.

Part one of this series introduced the bitter divisions shown in the 1908 city elections. On one side were the “Good Ol’ Boys” who wanted to maintain the status quo; so determined were they to hold their grasp on the town that the Democratic and Republican parties jointly offered a “fusion” slate of the same candidates. Opposing them was an alliance of prohibitionists, anti-corruption progressives, and voters angered over the City Council’s legalization of prostitution. The reform group called itself the “Municipal League,” and was headed by a former District Attorney, who raised eyebrows during the campaign by naming the four powerful men whom he claimed were the “bosses” of Santa Rosa. He might as well have expanded the list to include a fifth name: Ernest Latimer Finley, editor, publisher, and co-owner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Finley reached deep into the grab-bag of yellow journalism tricks to attack the reformers, which he did relentlessly and with a disregard for fairness that must have been shocking at the time. These were the tactics expected from a big city paper on a campaign to tear down a corrupt political machine or expose racketeers, not what a newspaper editor in a small farm town (pop. about 9,500) would normally write about a sizable portion of the community, and possibly the majority of voters, at that. Finley’s bile was so thick that some in the Municipal League called for supporters to cancel their subscription to the PD – which only allowed Finley to additionally play the victim card, claiming the newspaper was threatened with a “cowardly and un-American” boycott.

Some examples of the Press Democrat mud fling were given in part one, with Finley bowling over straw men and feigning outrage over literal interpretations of things said by reformers (as in: The PD was “owned” by the Good Ol’ Boys). These kinds of misrepresentations continued for weeks.

Because the Municipal League was endorsed by the “Santa Rosa Ministerial Union,” Finley wrote “the so-called Municipal League has been nothing more and nothing less than a church movement, organized and launched by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union. As such, every possible effort has been made to hide the fact.” The PD also painted the Ministerial Union as a shadowy cabal that didn’t even have the support of most area clergy, and when the group objected to the paper’s “nasty disposition towards the members of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union,” Finley offered the audacious defense that “the Press Democrat is not unfriendly in the least to either the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union or any of its members” (and this was on the same April 2 page where he claimed the PD never intentionally misrepresented anything).

But charging that the Municipal League was really the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union in disguise was just Finley’s groundwork for his more vicious attack: Since the Ministerial Union was pro-prohibition, the Municipal League candidates must also have a secret agenda to force prohibition upon Santa Rosa – and that the reformers were hypocrites for repeatedly denying they wanted to turn the town dry. Two days before the election, Finley openly accused them of lying:

While every man, woman and child in Santa Rosa knows differently and realizes fully that the election of the so-called Municipal League is intended as the entering wedge towards prohibition, the League nominees and the League paper have contended–and still so contend, for that matter–that no anti-saloon legislation is contemplated and any assertion to the effect that this is a movement calculated to effect the saloon business in any way is a “campaign lie.”

The people who oppose such things have every right to try to close up the saloons if they wish. But why should they not come out and make their fight in the open? The course they have followed in this respect has done their cause far more harm than good, for the public very naturally argues that any man or set of men who would attempt to secure control of public affairs through misrepresentation by purposely misleading the voters are hardly the men to be entrusted with responsibility and power.

The art of yellow journalism, however, is found not in what you write – it’s what you don’t. The PD had demonstrated its mastery of this technique a few months earlier, when a popular downtown restaurant gave numerous people serious cases of food poisoning, yet the Press Democrat did not once mention the restaurant’s name (the joint, BTW, advertised exclusively in their paper). Now what Ernest Finley didn’t want readers to know was that the true fathers of the Municipal League were two of the most respected men in town: ex-mayor J. S. Sweet, head of the Santa Rosa Business College, and Luther Burbank.

Almost three years earlier, Sweet and Burbank were president and VP of the newly-formed “Good Government League,” which was likewise an effort to create a political organization to clean up Santa Rosa. And just as with his attacks on the Municipal League, Finley accused the 1905 group of being secretive elitists who didn’t care if they damaged the town’s image by pointing out that reform was needed.

Now in 1908, the PD did its best to not mention the men at all, particularly the lionized Luther Burbank. When Burbank spoke at the election eve rally, the Press Democrat reported only that “Mr. Burbank read a carefully prepared statement of some length,” and that Prof. Sweet complimented the city’s current administration before telling a cryptic anecdote. In contrast, the Santa Rosa Republican published Burbank’s remarks, and reported that Sweet detailed the history of the town’s reform Leagues, including their formation by “some two or three hundred men all prominently connected with the business interests of the city.” The truth apparently was the opposite of Finley’s portrayal of the reformers as naive, church-led prohibitionists.

As the campaigns came to a close, Finley took one last mean jab at the reformers:

[I]t is no exaggeration to say that more hard feelings has been stirred up, and more little narrow, petty, mean work done than in any previous campaign in all the city’s history. Charges so silly as to be absurd on the face have been advanced in all apparent seriousness, unjust and uncalled-for attacks upon some of the best-known people of the community have been framed up solely because it was imagined that votes could be obtained thereby.

With that gem of Orwellian newspeak, all benefit of doubt vanishes that Finley was simply misinformed. After weeks of flinging accusations against the Municipal League, it was contemptible for him to speak of “hard feelings” and “unjust and uncalled-for attacks.” This was the cry of a thug who jumped someone from behind, kicked him in the head, and later complained that the victim scuffed the shine of his jackboot.

“The Press Democrat prides itself upon the fact that it never intentionally misrepresents things, and, when it comes to publishing the news, the fact that it appears in this paper may usually be taken as a guarantee of its authenticity.”


For some time past the morning paper of Santa Rosa has entertained and repeatedly expressed a nasty disposition towards the members of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, and it embraces every possible opportunity to make insinuating flings at the various clergyman of this city.–Ministerial Union.

The above statement is not true.

The Press Democrat is not unfriendly in the least to either the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union or any of its members.

We have never yet, at any time or under any circumstances, criticized the acts of any of the Santa Rosa ministers as long as they confined their attention to matter spiritual.

In his legitimate field, the minister of the gospel is entitled to and usually receives the encouragement and support of all right-thinking people.

They have certainly always received it at the hands of the Press Democrat, and they always will.

But we know of no reason why a minister of the gospel should expect to be exempt from criticism when he goes into politics, anymore than anyone else.

In everything we have had to say upon the subject of “the preacher in politics,” we have endeavored to be courteous, reasonable and fair.

When we have said we were opposed to the preacher in politics, we have always given our reason for it.

We believe these reasons have been good reasons.

When the preacher goes into politics he usually does his cause more harm than good. The majority of people are opposed to the coalition of church and state and rightfully so; and, almost invariably, the interference of the minister and political affairs results in alienating valuable support that might otherwise be made to operate for the good of the cause. We see this every day. It has been evidenced here time and again. It is being evidenced in Santa Rosa right now.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 2, 1908

Our first article in reference to the present campaign, which appeared on Wednesday morning, March 18, began with these words:

Judging from the initial numbers of the paper to be issued from now on to election by the so-called Municipal League–which, as everyone by this time no doubt fully realizes is little more than the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union acting by proxy and parading in disguise–the campaign to be conducted by that organization promises to bear a close resemblance to the one that was put up in this city two years ago.

In other words, the people are to be asked to believe a lot of things that are not true, and are to be told what to do by men who have had little if any experience in the handling of public affairs, and who when it comes to a discussion of such matters give evidence at every turn they do not know what they are talking about.

The battle is now practically over. If there was ever a correct forecast of impending conditions, it appeared in the above. From start to finish the League’s campaign has been based on false issues, and, with few if any exceptions, the things said have been untrue. All kinds of charges have been made, only to be shown as false and then dropped, or dropped before being answered at all. Bad feelings have been stirred up unnecessarily, and personal vilification has been indulged in to an extent seldom if ever before known here.

Although the campaign as waged by the manipulators of the so-called Municipal League has been nothing more and nothing less than a church movement, organized and launched by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union. As such, every possible effort has been made to hide the fact. One of the officers of that body even went so far as to deny, in a signed statement, that there was “even the shadow of a foundation” upon which to base such a charge. Yet more than six months ago the official organ of the Ministerial Union announced that it would have a ticket in the field, the fund from which the expenses are being paid was raised at a mass meeting called by the Ministerial Union, and Mr. Thompson formally opened his campaign from the platform of a revival meeting arranged and conducted under the direct auspices of the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union, as such.

While every man, woman and child in Santa Rosa knows differently and realizes fully that the election of the so-called Municipal League is intended as the entering wedge towards prohibition, the League nominees and the League paper have contended–and still so contend, for that matter–that no anti-saloon legislation is contemplated and any assertion to the effect that this is a movement calculated to effect the saloon business in any way is a “campaign lie.”

The people who oppose such things have every right to try to close up the saloons if they wish. But why should they not come out and make their fight in the open? The course they have followed in this respect has done their cause far more harm than good, for the public very naturally argues that any man or set of men who would attempt to secure control of public affairs through misrepresentation by purposely misleading the voters are hardly the men to be entrusted with responsibility and power.

One of the charges made by the so-called Municipal League is that the ticket named by the Democratic and Republican parties was named by a “clique,” while, by inference at least, the League ticket is free from even a suspicion of such a thing. The fact is that the Democratic and Republican tickets were nominated at open mass meetings, to which all were invited by notice published in the newspapers and otherwise, while the League ticket was “nominated” by half a dozen men who met in secret, and allowed no intimation of their plan to be given publicly until the names of the nominees were published in an afternoon paper, together with the endorsement that they had been “nominated.” Probably two or three hundred men participated in the nomination of the candidates whose names appear on the Democratic and Republican tickets. Not more than five or six men in the outside participated in the “nomination” of the League ticket.

One of the League’s favorite topics for discussion has been the social evil, and this has been handled pretty much as everything else. Until the Press Democrat pointed out the facts, many people had an idea that nothing of the kind has ever existed here before, and that the action of the present administration in putting the tenderloin district under strict control was really and attempt to let down the bars and encourage that sort of traffic. The exact opposite is the case, and at the meeting in Germania Hall a few nights since one of the leading candidates publicly admitted it from the platform. The tenderloin district has existed in its present locality for 30 years and has never been regulated before, save by the power of some policeman’s club. Except that due authority is now provided for exercising supervision and control, conditions have not been changed in the least. The boarding houses resolution licenses the sale of liquor, and that is all.

[..included in previous section..]

Mr. Thompson and his official organ have had a good deal to say on the subject of boycotts, and tried to make it appear that an attempt was being made to influence voters through the withdrawal of patronage. The only boycott we know anything about is the one that has been declared by the Santa Rosa Ministerial Union against the Press Democrat. Perhaps it is hardly fair to refer to this as a boycott, although a determined effort is being made by some members of that organization to induce people to discontinue their subscriptions to this paper and withdraw their patronage. In spite of this we are sending out more papers than ever before so the effort does not appear to have been particularly successful. But it is being made, nevertheless, and the fact will not be denied.

While voicing his great love for the laboring man, Mr. Thompson declares himself as against those proposed public improvements which are calculated to assist most in creating work for the artisan and furnishing him with profitable employment. And while he stands as the acknowledged and admitted representative of the men who, with a few exceptions, can always be counted upon to oppose progress, he asks the laboring man to vote for him instead of for Mr. Gray upon the ground that it will be to his best interests to do so. But the man who works for his living knows without being told where his interests lie in the present fight. If Mr. Gray and the progress ticket is elected, new people will be brought in, public and private improvements will be promoted in every possible way and the threatened period of business depression and hard times very likely averted.

From the first, the League has claimed that one of the principal reasons it was organized was because of a “general desire” upon the part of somebody or other to “do away with the unpleasant features” that usually attach to municipal campaigns. Yet it is no exaggeration to say that more hard feelings has been stirred up, and more little narrow, petty, mean work done than in any previous campaign in all the city’s history. Charges so silly as to be absurd on the face have been advanced in all apparent seriousness, unjust and uncalled-for attacks upon some of the best-known people of the community have been framed up solely because it was imagined that votes could be obtained thereby, and Santa Rosa will not be apt to recover from the effects for a long time to come.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 5, 1908
Municipal League Campaign Closes With Demonstration at Rink With Dr. D. P. Anderson Presiding

The Municipal League closed its campaign Monday night with a largely attended meeting at the rink. In addition to many women and children, a large number of out-of-town people who heard Mr. Thompson open his campaign at the Bulgin meetings were present to hear his closing address.

Dr. D. P. Anderson called the gathering to order made quite an address, in which he took occasion to quote freely from the Press Democrat and pay a high compliment to Luther Burbank who he then introduced as president of the meeting. Mr. Burbank read a carefully prepared statement of some length, after which he returned to his seat and was seen or heard of no more except as referred to by various speakers.

Dr. Anderson retained active control of the gathering and introduced the speakers in turn with some remarks bearing on their candidacy. Former Mayor J. S. Sweet was the main speaker of the evening, outside of Mr. Thompson, and after a flattering endorsement of the work of the present administration he explained his interest in the present campaign with the story of a young man who came from Cloverdale to his school but failed to break away from former bad habits when he came to Santa Rosa and had to be sent home.

…the nominees for councilmen, which were each presented in turn, and spoke a few words after which R. L. Thompson, the League candidate for mayor, was introduced to close the speechmaking. He made his usual explanations and statements as to the other meetings of the campaign, but was unable to hold his audience, and was forced to close before he had completed what he desired to say. Many present expressed the sentiment that the meeting had proved a failure as a vote-getter and in fact had helped the Fusion cause.

– Press Democrat, April 7, 1908
Immense Crowd Attended Campaign Closing

The rally held by the Municipal League at the skating rink on Monday evening to close the city campaign was one of the large political meetings ever held in the city. The rink was crowded to the doors and enthusiasm was at a high pitch. The crowd began to gather early and by the time for the calling of the meeting to order there was hardly standing room. The speakers and candidates, and the vice presidents had gathered in an adjoining room, and marched down the aisle to the stand, amid the wildest scenes of applause, especially as Rolfe L. Thompson, candidate for mayor, and Mr. Luther Burbank, appeared.

The meeting was opened by the singing of America… Mr. Burbank was greeted with hearty applause and his remarks were well received. The address of Mr. Burbank is printed elsewhere in this paper.

Before closing Mr. Burbank stated he did not feel able to take the active control the meeting, and asked Dr. Anderson to continue as chairman. Dr. Anderson then introduced ex-mayor J. S. Sweet, who is president of the Santa Rosa Business College, and one of the most influential citizens of the City of Roses. Mr. Sweet evidenced considerable earnestness in his remarks, and gave a brief history of the movement which he said has resulted in the present Municipal league. He told of the forming of the Good Government League in his own building 2 1/2 years ago, and that there were some two or three hundred men all prominently connected with the business interests of the city, who were in that movement. He also paid a glowing tribute to retiring Mayor Overton, and his efforts during the past two years, for the rebuilding of the city…

…The last speaker of the evening was the candidate for mayor, Rolfe L. Thompson, and it was several minutes before the applause subsided sufficient to be heard. Mr. Thompson made a very earnest, clear-cut speech and was often interrupted by the audience with their cheers. He took up the various issues of the campaign and reviewed them, telling the people what he proposed to do in case he is the choice for the first place in the city government. At one time during the address the feeling was at a very high pitch, as the speaker read from a publication a sacrilegious expression.

During the evening the Municipal Glee Club rendered a number of witty songs bearing upon the campaign and the candidates. The closing piece by the club was written by Will C. Grant, and was one of the best campaign songs heard in a long time.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1908

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Gotta hand it to Santa Rosa’s Good Ol’ Boys; when they wanted to steal an election, it was thoroughly stolen.

The year was 1908, and the insiders who had long controlled the town politically were facing a city election they were probably going to lose. Challenging them was an ad-hoc third party that called itself the “Municipal League” which was an alliance of reformers: Prohibitionists, voters deeply upset that Santa Rosa recently had legalized prostitution, and progressives seeking to root out the political “bosses.” The latter posed a very personal threat to the ranks of the Old Guard; this was the same time that San Francisco was prosecuting its political boss Abe Ruef – and here in Santa Rosa, the leader of the Municipal League was a popular former District Attorney who wasn’t afraid to name the men he claimed were the town’s bosses.

The opening gambit to defeat the reformers was to unite everyone who backed the status quo, and the local Democratic and Republican parties offered a “fusion” ticket with identical candidates. The next move equally lacked subtlety; The City Council suddenly discovered there might be too many voters at one polling place if every possible man turned out (women didn’t have the vote in 1908, remember). So ten days before the election, one – or both – polling places were moved in wards that were Municipal League strongholds.

Days before the vote, the Municipal League made the serious charge that they had a list of 170 persons who were registered illegally. “In most of these cases the persons so registered are Italians and it is believed their ignorance of the law has caused them to be made victims,” the Santa Rosa Republican reported. One of the phony voters was even supposedly living with the secretary of the Municipal League.

Yet in an artfully-worded editorial, Ernest Finley claimed the Press Democrat couldn’t find any evidence of fraud at all. “It is probable there is no real basis for any of the charges of illegal registration,” wrote the main apologist for Santa Rosa’s Old Guard. “Very often people forget and give the wrong street number.” But in a passing remark the day after the election, the PD seemed to confirm that some illegally-registered voters were indeed caught: “There was some challenging of voters, but little or nothing resulted.”

Methinks if it were truly “nothing,” Finley would have clearly stated, “nothing” – and crowed about it.

Wards Segregated, and New Officers Named

The City Council divided precincts three and five at a special meeting called for that purpose Friday evening, and passed to print the ordinance calling the election….

…Judge R. F. Crawford brought the matter to the attention of the council, and stated that there were over 700 registered voters in wards three and five, which had been combined. He called attention to the fact that it would be impossible to vote all these men in six hundred minutes allowed by law, during which the polls would be open on election day.

Mayor Overton declared that the wards had been combined as a measure of economy, to save the expense of a board of election officers. He said the council had no idea they were so many voters in the ward, and remarked that with the great number of voters there, the counting of the ballots would be seriously delayed over the other precincts.

Colonel L. W. Julliard said he would join in any request to allay any feeling that might arise out of the combining of the precincts. He said he would advise in all fairness that the extra board be appointed, in order that no man should be shut out from the exercising his right to vote. The vote on changing the combined wards was unanimous.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 28, 1908
Municipal League Has Long List of Non-Residents

The Municipal League has had representatives going over the city for the past couple weeks, and has a list of 170 persons they claim have been registered illegally. In most of these cases the persons so registered are Italians and it is believed their ignorance of the law has caused them to be made victims.

A reward of $50 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of any person found guilty of illegal voting at the election, and the registration deputy who made the illegal registration will also be prosecuted as a party to the crime. It is the intention to make examples of all who violate this law, and watchers will be at the polls during the day to see that the laws are upheld.

One peculiar fact is that one person is registered as residing at the home of Frank L. Hoyt, secretary of the Municipal League on Humboldt Street. Mr. Hoyt is amused that such liberties should be taken with him.

Four men are alleged to be registered at the residence of J. Hesseschwerdt at 1014 Ripley Street, and that gentleman declares they have never resided there. The League has information that the men are teamsters and live on the Sonoma road.

A vegetable gardener who resides on Sonoma Avenue adjoining the pumping station outside of the city limits, informed Albert O. Erwin on Friday that he and two of his men intended to vote at the city election, and he said they had been registered as living inside the city limits. He promised to bring Mr. Erwin a card Saturday morning showing the street and number from which he is been registered.

The League tends to prosecute every man who votes illegally and wherever there is a doubt as to the man’s right to vote he will be forced to swear in the vote.

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 4, 1908

With a great show a feeling Mr. Thompson charged that an attempt had been made to disfranchise a lot of voters by throwing two wards into one and making so many men vote at one place that they would not all have time to prepare and cast their ballots. The thing has been done here time and again, and the only idea of the council was to avoid unnecessary expense, but Mr. Thompson charged that it was a “dirty political trick.” The precinct boundaries were established long before registration was completed, and before anyone really knew how many voters did live in the ward. When the attention to the authorities was called to the fact that some 600 men would have to vote at one of the one polling place another was immediately established, although the ticket is so short that all could have doubtless have voted at one place with ease. However, rather than have any possible question about it the above change was made. Nobody with any sense at all believed for a moment that the council desired to prevent a full and free expression of the wishes of the people, and Mr. Thompson himself knew it was not true, yet the charge was made in all apparent seriousness, both by the League paper and by Mr. Thompson in a public speech.

The charge of illegal registration is one that has been advanced during the past few days. Last night’s Republican contained an article on the subject, and a long dispatch also appeared in the Bulletin. One of the specific charges contained in the Republican and Bulletin stories is that someone is illegally registered from 926 Humboldt street, the residence of Frank L Hoyt, secretary of the Municipal League. A close and careful search of the register made last night failed to reveal any such condition of affairs. Only one man is registered as living at 926 Humboldt street, and that man is Frank L Hoyt himself. When asked on the street last night about the charge, Mr. Hoyt admitted that he was not certain about the matter, but that he had heard such a report going around. He said there was one case he was positive about, however, and that was where a man was registered from 1552 13th street, the home of his stenographer. The register fails to bear out this charge. Only one man is registered from the 1552 13th St. and that man is James Townsend. He resides at the address named and is a qualified and legal voter. Another specific charge relates to 1014 Ripley Street. It is claimed that nobody by the name of Canessa ever lived there, but a consultation of the assessment roll shows that the property stands in the name of G. B. Canessa, and, while the place is now rented to J. Haselschwardt, Canessa and his three sons formerly lived at the address given. It is probable there is no real basis for any of the charges of illegal registration. Very often people forget and give the wrong street number, and as a usual thing people are very slow to commit a felony when they have nothing whatever to gain from it.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 5, 1908

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Luther Burbank was Santa Rosa’s #1 booster – except for the year he joined reformers who called the town scandalous and controlled by a handful of political bosses.

“We fail to see how Mr. Burbank’s advice on political matters becomes of any particular importance,” sniffed Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley. “He has always represented himself as being too much engrossed with scientific matters to pay any attention to anything else, and has never before taken any part in public affairs.”

As with most everything else that appeared in the PD about the city elections of 1908, it was untrue. Three years earlier, Burbank was one of the founders of the “Good Government League,” which likewise wanted to clean up the town. The difference in 1908 was that the political field was wide open: No incumbents were running for office. Also, the reformers had a leader who was willing to confront Santa Rosa’s entrenched Old Guard and name names.

The reform party was now called the Municipal League, as introduced in part I of this series on the Santa Rosa city election of 1908. Apparently so frightened that the reformers might sweep into office, the main political parties decided to offer voters a Democratic-Republican “fusion” ticket – a move that only underscored the reformer’s point that a tight group of “bosses” really controlled the town.

Everyone in Santa Rosa knew about “bossism” because newspapers kept readers updated on the latest pre-trial developments in the Abe Ruef case. A year earlier, “Boss Ruef” had plead guilty to bribing the San Francisco Supervisors over utility and cable car deals, followed by indictments against him and his puppet mayor. Ruef tried to block the trial right up to the selection of the jury, arguing that the prosecutor had tricked him into incriminating himself. It was a surprisingly high profile legal fight, with probably everyone in town having strong opinions on the fairness of a trial for the confessed villain. (Sidenote: Santa Rosans didn’t view a fusion ticket as unusual because just such a ballot appeared in the 1905 San Francisco election, when the Dems and Repubs of that city joined forces in a failed attempt to block Ruef’s corrupt Union Labor party from winning.)

In Santa Rosa, the political jabbing was over candidates for mayor. Heading the fusion ticket was Chamber of Commerce president James Gray, who vowed to maintain the status quo. The reform mayoral candidate was Rolfe Thompson, a former D.A. with bonus points among reformers for being the lawyer who had recently won a lawsuit against prostitutes and their landlord. Most remarkable, Thompson called out the people who he said really ran Santa Rosa: State Senator Walter Price (R), Santa Rosa Fire Chief Frank Muther, brewer Joseph Grace, and Thomas Geary, who was currently city attorney.

Even immersed in early 20th century Santa Rosa history as I am, it’s difficult to grasp how these four were the triumvirate (+1) of evil. Muther’s day job was as the owner of a small downtown cigar store with a little rolling factory in the back room – hardly the profile of a kingmaker. Grace also seemed apolitical; during the 1905 Battle of Sebastopol Avenue, he meekly hunkered down lest he offend any beer drinkers. Of Price I know nothing (update here) but of the odious Geary, I’ll believe anything horrible. Besides being the author of the Chinese Exclusion Act when he was a Democratic congressman in 1892, he was the “top gun” attorney in the area and could be found representing the wealthiest private interests before he became city attorney, as when he tried to get Santa Rosa to abandon its municipal water system (he also argued the rich deserved more water because they paid more taxes).

But how far did Thompson really push the “bossism” analogy? He implied that Gray was merely a figurehead in his political newsletter, “The Municipal League,” which apparently presented a crossword puzzle where the solution for one line read


with only a tiny space to wedge in Gray’s name. Was he also hinting that he knew about Abe Ruef-style bribery of elected officials and secret backroom deals? Alas, we don’t know; no copies of the reformer’s newsletters from 1908 survive, and the Santa Rosa daily papers were hardly likely to mention allegations of serious crimes against their endorsed candidates.

Tells People What He Believes of Situation

Luther Burbank, the well known resident of the city, has issued the following statement to the voters. It came from Mr. Burbank on Wednesday morning and is published herewith”

“I believe that the time has come when our city affairs should be divorced from politics, and when citizenship should be placed above partisanship. Having read the platform and the statement of principles of the Municipal League, I wish to express my appreciation of the movement and my hearty endorsement of its candidates.

“I further urge my fellow citizens to give these men their unanimous support. Luther Burbank”

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 1, 1908

It is announced that Luther Burbank favors the election of the so-called Municipal League ticket, and in a signed statement he gravely directs all qualified voters to follow his lead.

We fail to see how Mr. Burbank’s advice on political matters becomes of any particular importance.

He has always represented himself as being too much engrossed with scientific matters to pay any attention to anything else, and has never before taken any part in public affairs.

It is very probable that the motive actuating Mr. Burbank in taking the stand he does is the same that both Mr. McMeans and Dr. Anderson admit actuates them–they all three live in that part of town.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 2, 1908

Thompson and McMeans Address Fourth Ward

A meeting, small in number at first, but large in enthusiasm, was held by the Municipal League at Germania Hall Wednesday evening, and was addressed by Rolfe L. Thompson and Alexander C. McMeans, candidates for mayor and councilman respectfully. Before the meeting closed the hall was well filled, including a number of ladies.

Professor McMeans was introduced by Chairman William R. Smith, the well-known pioneer and made a splendid speech. He declared that the laws of the city should be enforced or they were of no earthly good. The speaker declared he was not the nominee of the Ministerial Union, but that he represented the Municipal League, and that he accepted the nomination in the hope that if elected he might do something for the betterment of conditions in this city. The speaker read the application which saloon men have to sign before being allowed a liquor license, and then stated that women were permitted to conduct houses of prostitution without getting permission at a less cost than the saloon men were taxed. He declared the issue of prohibition was not before the people, neither was there any issue of saloon closing on Sunday or raising of liquor licenses. He declared if elected he would consider the wishes of the people and all things and if the requisite number asked that the question of licensing saloons be placed on the ballot, he would be in favor of permitting people to vote on the question.

Rolfe L. Thompson made a ringing speech, in which he spoke plainly regarding his candidacy, and paid a high complement to Professor McMeans. He declared that the people of the fourth ward had an honor in being permitted to vote for such a man, and that no fault could found with his character. He said no better man could be found in the city for the position of councilman, and predicted a great majority for him at the polls.

Mr. Thompson said at the outset he wanted the people to know exactly where we stood on all questions that he would be pleased to answer any questions regarding his stand. He declared if elected mayor he would administer city affairs fairly and impartially, and give a square deal to all the people. In appointments and in the employment of labor he said he would be fair to all parties.

The speaker said he was representing up a movement of citizens of Santa Rosa for the best interests of the city, and was not representing any class, clique or boss. The people interested in this movement, he said, were of all classes, mechanics, builders, lawyers, professional men, merchants. He asserted that the movement emanated from a growing sentiment in Santa Rosa to get away from bossism, and to destroy partisanship here. The speaker said the fusion ticket was dominated by one lawyer, one cigar maker, one politician and one brewer, and that the ticket emanated from these bosses.

Mr. Thompson denied emphatically and in plain language that he was representing a “dry” town, or in any manner a prohibition issue, and said these things were not an issue in the campaign. “I have no intention if elected,” he stated, “to initiate any new legislation against the saloon.” At this juncture the speaker was interrupted with the information that some saloon men were with him and intended to support his candidacy. He remarked that he was glad, indeed, to know that some saloon men had realized their own interests in the matter, and that they had not been deceived by a little clique of politicians. Speaking further on the subject, Mr. Thompson said he intended to enforce the present laws on the statue books, and that he would simply carry out the wishes of the people. The speaker reiterated his belief that the money lying in the bank in the building fund and not drawing interest should be utilized at once to build a suitable fire department, and said he was against the purchase of other property when the city owned good lots and bonding the town for $75,000 when it could be avoided.


– Santa Rosa Republican, April 2, 1908

[Selection of remarks by James Gray at a rally:]
Ladies and gentlemen: I have been charged with being in league with and under the control of some terrible people, described as political bosses, Price, Muther, Grace and Geary. As to Price and Muther, Mr. Thompson can tell you a great deal more about them than I can, as until up to the date that he attempted to throw his party into the control of the Municipal League and the Ministerial Union, he was either under their employ or taking advice from them in all matters pertaining to politics.

As to Grace Brothers, as near as I can find out, they are conducting a legitimate business of manufacturing here. They are also conducting a creamery which is certainly a great benefit to Santa Rosa and the surrounding country; also an ice and cold storage plant which is used extensively in the storage and packing of fruit. They employ a large number of men supporting a great many families and are one of the institutions that help make Santa Rosa a live town.

I never had any business with them, but they have the reputation of being honorable business men who are received with their families in the best of society, in the homes of members of the Municipal League, and are recognized and taken by the hand by not only Mr. Thompson, but by members of the Ministerial Union. They have built up a large business which they are no doubt trying to protect. If they are taking any interest in the fight, it is for the purpose of protecting their business interests, and has nothing whatever to do with me. I do not see how they are to be blamed for this. If they expect any favors from me they will not get them any more than any other citizen interested in the growth and welfare of the town…

…As soon as it was noised about that I would be a candidate the Municipal League began preparations to make an aggressive campaign, and I must say they laid their plans carefully and have left no stone unturned to get a vote. After a great deal of thought and discussion they finally decided that their wisest political move would be to attack the present administration, make the present city administration as unpopular as possible and connect the present candidate with them. At Mr. Geary, on account of his prominence, they have directed most of the fire. I accepted the nomination because I thought that I could carry out plans that would benefit Santa Rosa…

…They started the movement with good intentions. They thought the Prohibition movement, which is likely to die out before it reaches Sonoma County, whose backbone is the production of hops and grapes, was a good thing. It was a prohibition movement pure and simple, and they should have stuck to their principles, but their leader and candidate for mayor is so carried away with the desire to be elected that he has forgotten his principles and is bowing down and soliciting votes of the interest that he had organized to fight.

We are all pledged to repeal the boarding house ordinance, and of course it will be done as soon as possible after those who are elected have taken office. But what will you do with the parties in dispute? Leave them in the lodging houses on Fourth street, where they were driven from the former from the Behmer house, where they have become a familiar sight to every shopper and mingle with the innocent stranger bringing his family here to locate? Drive them back to their old quarters to plague respectable residents of that part of town? At the most move them to some isolated spot? Or shall we take the advice of Saul’s Letter and cast a mantle of charity over the unfortunate creatures and try to reform them?


– Press Democrat, April 5, 1908

The League manipulators have had a great deal to say about “bosses,” apparently imagining the public would overlook the fact that the men who are most active in support of that organization themselves aspire to be bosses, by all the rules governing such propositions.

They have also indulged in uncalled for personalities and tried to appeal to individual likes and dislikes, regardless of facts. A case in point has been the amusing attempt to make a city attorney Thomas J. Geary an issue in the campaign. In an effort to secure the support of that gentleman’s political enemies, the charge has been made that in the event of Mr. Gray’s election he would be re-appointed to his present position, although Mr. Geary has repeatedly and publicly declared that under no consideration with the accept the appointment for another term, and most of the men who are making the charge know that owing to the pressure of other businesses he has wanted to resign for some time, and did prepare to give up the office last summer when Mayor Overton handed in his resignation, and was only prevented from doing so through the earnest solicitation of that gentleman and others wen public sentiment against allowing Mayor Overton’s resignation to be accepted was so strongly manifested. Having no particular interest in the campaign one way or the other, and having already stated his position, Mr. Geary suggested that we make some mention of the fact in the paper, but we declined to thus dignify the charge. Although Mr. Thompson has known the facts all along, he has continued to charge that “a vote for Mr. Gray is a voted to keep Mr. Geary in the city attorney’s office,” and as far as we know is still so charging.

One of the worst features of the present campaign has been the reckless hurling of charges broadcast effecting the reputation and character of the community. People all over the state have been led to believe that Santa Rosa is a grossly immoral place where crime and vice run rampant, and where only evil influences prevail. Great damage has been done Santa Rosa in this way, and it is likely we will feel the effects for many years to come. It would have been bad enough had any of the charge been true, but when we consider the fact that Santa Rosa is one of the cleanest and best-governed in towns in California, if not in the entire west, the full significance of this phase of the situation becomes even more apparent.

– Press Democrat editorial, April 5, 1908
Delivered at Pavilion Rink Monday Evening

“Every party is supposed to have a platform. Every voter should also have one of his own. Perhaps you would like a photograph of mine.

“I believe in justice to all. I am not a partisan not a politician, have no axe to grind, have no personal interests to boost, am not an expert at political mud throwing, generally mind my own business and rejoice in giving others the same privilege. As it happens I belong to no church, no saloon, no Ministerial Union, no brewery.

“Personal schemes, passion and prejudice should not be allowed to overshadow the public welfare, and any man or any party who, at any time or under any circumstances by threats, fraud, boycott, or any other form of coercion or deceit tries to influence the vote of another is not a true American. He is not a patriot. He is a relic of the dark ages and has not yet arrived. He is a back number and should be made to realize the fact by every intelligent. citizen’s vote.

“I prefer to think that every voter wishes to cast his vote for the best interests of Santa Rosa and to have every honest industry protected.

“The hobo, the hoodlum, the confidence man, the crook, the swindler, the gambler, the bully and the bum are not needed by Santa Rosa. All these tend to weaken the confidence of man in man which is the foundation of all prosperity. Talk is cheap, character counts. Every city should have, above all, good men to attended to its business affairs, men you can trust to hold your purse.

“I am not here to tell you how to vote. Some of the gentlemen whose names are on the fusion ticket are admirable neighbors and personal friends. I have no objection to them except that they are, in my opinion, on the wrong side and have the wrong kind of boosters behind them.

“My interest in the city, its people, its progress, is very natural as I was here at its birth, voted for its first mayor and city council and have continued to do so up to the present time.

“I endorse the Municipal League as a party–it has a right to live and if I shall be honored by giving it my vote tomorrow, whether the party wins or not, by voting as I think for the best interests of Santa Rosa. I, at least, have won. Count me for one.”

– Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1908

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