Santa Rosa is an optimistic town, and has been since the first trains chugged into Railroad Square in the 1870s. But it’s not truly a virtue; that optimism is rooted in our bigshots having relentless ambitions to make us into an economic powerhouse which would make them rich. Someday, in their fever dreams, Santa Rosa will be a great metropolis anchoring the northern end of the Bay Area. True, such growth or clout might not happen tomorrow, but it’s surely just over the horizon – or so the town’s nabobs have told us, our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents.

That may be why the Press Democrat had a fondness for stories predicting Santa Rosa’s bonny future. Other newspapers also printed those sorts of articles, usually on special anniversaries such as a town’s centennial. But the PD needed no excuse to gaze into a crystal ball and their forecasts would pop up at any time.

I’ve collected a dozen from the first half of the 20th century (likely there are many more to find) and I love these things; usually they’re a mix of whiz-bang gadgets that are nearly magical, loopy ideas culled from science fiction and wild predictions which sometimes actually did come true. Common threads include flying cars, that television will make us smarter and better people and nobody will really have to work hard. Women’s fashions are always going to be very, very strange.

vogueman(RIGHT: “Man of the Future” by Gilbert Rohde had an antenna hat for “snatching radio and Omega waves from the ether” and wore a telephone on his chest. The “solo-suit” is considered the first example of wearable tech. Rohde was best known as a modernist furniture designer. Vogue, Feb. 1939)

The wildest prediction appeared here earlier in its own article, “SANTA ROSA IN THE YEAR 3000.” Author John Tyler Campbell, an attorney who penned the city’s first charter and later became a politician and diplomat, predicted in 1913 that a “great upheaval” in the Pacific Ocean would close the Golden Gate Strait. Fortunately, “around the year 1925 Sonoma county built a canal connecting the Russian river to the Petaluma river, through the Laguna, Mark West and Santa Rosa creeks. It was big enough to handle the largest ocean steamships…” Santa Rosa thus became the major seaport on the coast, and in the year 2905 the nation’s capitol was moved from Washington D.C. and “built on Taylor mountain after it was graded down to an elevated plateau.” Give it a read – it’s pretty wacky stuff.

Here’s a sample of some of the other futuristic visions that appeared in the Press Democrat:

1928 → 1953   Lee W. Nelson was a Press Democrat city reporter in the late 1920s-early 1930s before becoming an editor at the Healdsburg Tribune. His October 28, 1928 semi-humor essay is on par with what many others believed about radio evolving into an internet-like media appliance.

“A telephontophone service” is now available to PD subscribers. “Users of this service will now receive their papers the instant they are off the press, as the telephotophone transmits the copies directly to home radio sets equipped with the special attachment…where they are recorded on photostatic plates. After the paper has been read the plates are cleaned by a special chemical preparation and replaced in the receiver to be used again.”

This week the California Theater will be broadcasting “Primitive Passion” on its private wave length. Anyone with a season key can watch it at home, but “One-week keys, which will bring the theater programs for seven days into the home by attaching the key to the radio, are on sale at the box office.”

He wrote the fictional Mrs. Carrie Waite Leightly was divorcing her husband for lying about “going on a fishing trip to Michigan for the day. But Mrs. Leightly, while sitting in her parlor, casually looking over the world with her radio television, discovered him at the Folies Bergère in Paris with a bold blonde.”

The city and county have enacted new air and motor reform laws, “making it a misdemeanor for private or taxi planes to use Fourth street or Mendocino avenue for landing or taking off between 6AM and 6PM on weekdays.” It is also illegal to operate commercial landing fields on buildings less than 25 stories in height, so apparently we have skyscrapers in 1953.

“Construction of a helicopter-rocket catapult at the Santa Rosa airport was completed today…” This means we have direct flights “to the nearest planets” (Mars and Saturn are mentioned) and no longer need making the “long trip to San Francisco” which takes twelve minutes.

Reporter Nelson seems to have believed Prohibition would never end and finished his satire with a very Roaring Twenties view of the future: “SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 13, 1953 – Mortimer C. de Kay, noted sociologist visiting here today, declared the younger generation is ‘going to the dogs.’ ‘Fast roadster planes, one-armed piloting, petting parties on the planets, jazz music and liquor are doing the evil,’ he asserted.”

1935 → 1985/2010   Press Democrat editor Ernest Finley penned many editorials in the 1930s promising TV was right around the corner, but in this July 17, 1935 op/ed he predicted what life would be like 50-75 years from then. Some of it misses the target (doors will open and close “automatically by invisible rays”) but mostly it’s the usual stuff with everyone flying everywhere and living lives of leisure:

Air-conditioning in summer and automatic heating in winter will be provided everywhere. Our power will probably be drawn from the sun. The automobile of that day, swift, light and sure, will be propelled at small cost with little or no inconvenience. Television will be part of the radio or telephone, in every home.

Another part of the column, however, leaves us wondering what the hell was going on in the Finley household: “The people of that day will look back upon what we are doing now and laugh at our crudeness and simplicity…They will joke about the way grandpa and grandma had to get along with only one bathroom downstairs, and two, perhaps, on the upper floor.”

Finley ends on a weird utopian/apocalyptic note – which is quite a bit of acrobatics: “California will be a veritable empire of itself, unique, offering climatic and cultural advantages to be found no other place on the continent. Or there may be no California. Who can tell?” (July 17, 1935)

1956 → 2056   The houses of tomorrow are all gonna be like double-wides – albeit nice ones.

“Cal” Caulkins was Santa Rosa’s top architect c. 1935-1960 and when he came back from WWII he had a vision to redesign almost all of Santa Rosa’s downtown core from the ground up. His plan was the city’s last hope to remake itself into a model civic center; what happened to that design was told here in “THE SANTA ROSA THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN.”

Caulkins thought in the mid-21st century “houses will be built of a wide variety of standard aluminum, insulated sections, colored as desired.” These pre-fabricated parts are completely finished at the factories and the interlocking sections can be easily assembled at the building site without the need of skilled labor.

Because of the many sections and colors the design possibilities will be almost unlimited. Natural climate will have practically no affect on comfort in the future home. The house will be completely sealed. All air will be automatically conditioned, that is washed, adjusted humidity, medically treated, filtered, heated or cooled to any desired temperature and without delay.

Land is still expensive, tho, so these houses are “very compact.” But no need to feel claustrophobic – the whole house is able to rotate, so the view can shift as desired. (Pity the poor mail carriers and delivery people hunting for the front door, sometimes having to thrash through shrubbery – or does the landscaping rotate too?)

Only bedrooms and bathrooms have fixed partitions; the rest of the interior is separated by movable screens. “Much of the furniture including beds and chairs and tables will be out of sight, and will appear at the wave of the hand in a particular area.” There are no lamps or other light fixtures; the whole ceiling glows, its brightness set with dimmers.

In Caulkins’ future there are no utility bills except for water. All power is supplied by a small nuclear plant that came with the house. There’s no sewer because wastewater is “flushed into a container filled with chemicals.” Next time you visit a Porta Potty, think of it as offering a whiff of the future.

Cal Caulkins "House of Tomorrow." Press Democrat, Oct. 21, 1956
Cal Caulkins “House of Tomorrow.” Press Democrat, Oct. 21, 1956

1956 → 2056   Like the Caulkins prediction, this opinion on future fashion comes from the Oct. 21, 1956 centennial edition of the Press Democrat. (The PD was founded in 1897. Why they claimed – and continue to claim – their roots go back to the disreputable, bigoted Sonoma Democrat is beyond me.)

Elizabeth Case, a top-shelf Hollywood fashion designer who resettled here a couple of years earlier, thought the women of 2056 would be “taller and more slender than today” thanks to exercise and improved processed foods. “People will know how to live longer so that the mature body of a sixty-year-old woman will be active, firm and far more beautiful than at the formative age of 16.”

casefashionIt is an “era of comfort and good taste” without corsets (“waistlines will be diminutive naturally”) and the “freedom costume of tomorrow” might be knee breeches with a lingerie blouse – although sans that tacky “TV cleavage display” – or the woman of tomorrow might “go completely feminine in short, full skirts.”

The “ruffled petticoats so popular today should be even more so 100 years hence” and historical styles could also be revived; “hoop skirts may make a simulated comeback, but not of whalebone and crinoline. They will be purely inflationary push button style.” Ladies, guard that remote control from falling into a prankster’s hand.

“The combination of chemistry and agricultural waste will establish a wondrous foundation for a whole new series of ‘Phenomenal Phabrics,'” particularly in swimwear. “Woven of exquisite leaf pattern, the swimsuit is actually made partly of waste wood pulp and sheds water like a duck. It is also sensitive to ultraviolet rays so the wearer receives an even suntan.”

Miss Redwood Empire also has a Phenomenal Phabric flying suit:

The new model is a marvel of light, seamless construction from an indestructible, protective fabric with a system of fins and gliders under push button control at finger tips. The peak of the helmet provides an ideal spot for directional antenna. Clear vision is supplied for the eyes, and the face covering gives the effect of a seductive veil. The boots lock together at the ankles so that the wearer is actually poised on her own private landing gear…
…She need not wait for helicopter taxi at the airport because she is wearing her own short haul transportation. Naturally, she will have to learn to fly just like learning to dance ballet, to ski, to swim and to dive. What a new sport to sail through the air on her own little nuclear power! What a thrill to be tuned in on her destination beam a few hundred feet above ground, over the tree and roof tops. Imagine flying through rain or snow!
So goodbye to topcoat, umbrella and galoshes for the flying suit makes a perfect traveling costume. From luncheon in Paris to shopping in New York, it can be quickly checked in restaurant or department store dressing rooms…under it she wears a new type of garment combining trousers, hosiery and shoes which allows absolute freedom of motion in this nuclear way of living.

But why would she limit her luncheons and shopping to boring old Earth? “When a passenger on a giant ‘Nuclearnautica’ linking the planets, she can relax in her own pressurized atmosphere and arrive in a new world completely refreshed.”

1968 → 2068   In less than fifty years from now, Santa Rosa will disappear.

So sayeth Ken Blackman, who was city manager for three decades starting in 1970. Before that he was city planning director and between the two positions, he deserves a big share of the thanks (or voodoo doll pins) for how downtown Santa Rosa looks today. This makes him a particularly interesting person to predict our future.

Blackman thought the entire West Coast, from San Diego to Canada, would be a single, unbroken megalopolis – although there will be some “small pockets of resistance that will remain remote,” he told the PD. Gentle Reader may wish to take a moment to ponder that a man in his position viewed critics of unfettered development as the “resistance.”

“I think Santa Rosa’s population by 2068 will be in the area of 300,000 to 500,000 depending on the density of development allowed. The predominate method of living will be apartments with most in excess of five stories.” (The 2021 population of Santa Rosa is about 175 thousand.) Packing the place formerly known as Santa Rosa with so many people will lead to big-city problems, Blackman told the paper, which he expected will create demands for some type of sound regional government. He did not address how those pesky pockets of resistance might fit into his utopia.

“Agricultural areas will be clearly defined and off-limits to subdivision development. Separations between cities may well be by agricultural means such as farming and timber.” National forests and reserves are still preserved, and most open space is “government controlled as other areas are utilized for urban purposes.”

Autos are banned because of dwindling petroleum and air pollution, with most streets turned over to foot traffic. “There will have to be some form of above ground travel at low cost and high speed” but it won’t be today’s forms of rapid transit, which are considered as much an antique as the steam engine. There are no major airports because of nearby “sub-airports” large enough to handle vertical takeoff aircraft. Most of our leisure time is spent visiting other places, and “travel time to San Francisco from Santa Rosa will be four or five minutes.”

All utilities are underground because buildings keep getting higher and higher. Following that comment the 1968 article noted, “a step toward this is the State Public Utilities Commission ruling that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. must start converting to underground this year.” Was that memo lost in the mail?

Our water comes from desalination plants and our sewage is probably handled by incineration. As for garbage, “all resources in 100 years will have realized importance and we won’t be throwing them away as we are today. We can’t find places today to get rid of garbage. In 100 years, we’ll be reusing it.” (March 17, 1968)

The Press Democrat didn’t just tap local soothsayers – they ran seemingly every future prediction item that came across the wire. Other papers reprinted some of those stories too, of course, but the PD had an insatiable appetite for them, particularly under the editorship of the town’s über-booster Finley.

Those broader predictions likewise had a mixed record of accuracy. In 1923 E. Fatterini, an “able Italian engineer,” said “the problem of power for flying machines would be solved by wireless transmission of power.” A Dr. Panunzio at UCLA looked at the census data in 1940 and predicted we would be drinking less milk and more whisky, beauty parlors would multiply and people would flee the cities for the country life. Someone could fill a book with all those predictions. Probably several books.

Many were just silly because the “expert” didn’t know what (s)he was talking about, but not all were fools or cranks. One very peculiar example was British “Professor” A. M. Low, whose views of things to come were the subject of a July 21, 1925 wire service article in the PD:

Taking a peep at the average man on an average day in the near future. Low sees him rising at 9:30 o’clock at the call of a radio alarm clock. He will then have to exercise care not to put on his wife’s clothing by mistake, the scientist remarks. During his quickly dispatched breakfast taken while dressing the pleasant-toned loud speaker will keep him informed on the days happenings, while a television machine will give him a glimpse thereof. Food will either come from a communal kitchen by the tube or delivered hot daily from the big store.

Low was undeniably a genius who did pioneering work in many scientific fields and can be called the inventor of the drone airplane. Trouble was, he couldn’t keep his focus on anything long enough to finish it. As his Wikipedia entry states, “if it wasn’t for this inability to see things to a conclusion, Low could well have been remembered as one of the great men of science.”

The article about Low that appeared in the PD was to promote his new work, “The Future.” In the next thousand years, he declared in the book, education of children will begin before birth, men will become bald and our legs will gradually be atrophied from non-use. “Telepathy will be more employed” and war will be conducted by “flying submarines.” Those details weren’t in the Press Democrat version of the article, however; only rosy futures – and preferably those describing great sprawling cities – were welcome here, thanks.

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Another big change in 1910 Santa Rosa: Newspaper advertisers suddenly discovered women buy things and even spend money on themselves.

Newspaper display ads had changed little since the end of the 19th century. In small town daily papers like the Press Democrat and Santa Rosa Republican, an ad with a photograph or drawing usually promoted the same national brands of patent medicines, goop like Danderine shampoo, whiskey, pianos, automobiles and the like, year after year. Local businesses sometimes offered generic cartoon clip art, although it was occasionally used in ways that were tangent or simply inappropriate, such as the Santa Rosa grocer who thought he could sell more meat by showing a cartoon of a pedestrian being run down with a car. What clothing ads that appeared were aimed at dressing men (overcoats! shoes!) with an occasional promotion of the latest engineering in wasp-waisted corsets to inflict organ damage on mature women.

But my, oh my, did things start to change in 1910. Mixed among the usual drab lot there sometimes appeared an illustration with beautiful artwork and elegant composition, such as the first one shown below. It probably took away everyone’s breath at the time; encountering it today still has that effect because it looks so damned modern compared to everything else around it. The laundry soap ad below it was equally compelling. Although not at all artistic, it was guaranteed to be the first thing a reader noticed on that page. Whomever designed its layout was no less brilliant than the creator of the fashion ad.

What all these ads have in common is that they were all aimed at women who made purchasing decisions for themselves without permission from a husband or parent. Buying a new hat in the latest style is an easy example, but nothing here so demonstrates women managing money independently than the luxury of discreetly having your painful corns plastered and bunions scraped by an “expert chiropodist” while at the hairdresser.

Why the change in 1910? For starters, the economy had greatly stabilized after the 1907 bank panic, which nearly plunged America into a great depression. Santa Rosa had mostly finished rebuilding from the 1906 earthquake and there seemed to be more disposable income available, as demonstrated by there being four downtown movie theaters. Or maybe the Press Democrat – where all the ads below appeared – started listening to Oscar E. Binner, one of the leading figures in commercial illustration and advertising in the world. In 1910 he was living in Santa Rosa at least part time, trying to build a business empire around Luther Burbank.

It’s also possible American society was becoming slightly less paternalistic, as hinted in the Santa Rosa Republican reprinting a little magazine essay on the travails of being a housewife. “The wonder to me is that in this ceaseless grind of petty, monotonous cares, the majority of the women do not go insane. Most men would.” It’s not exactly a manifesto for gender equality, but nonetheless surprising to find in the one of the local papers.

But if Santa Rosa women were enjoying greater purchasing power, it wasn’t because there were recently great strides made in the American suffrage movement; a two-year effort to collect one million signatures on a petition for a suffrage Constitutional amendment failed to get even half that number. Most of the front page coverage of the movement concerned the huge demonstrations taking place in London which cumulated in Black Friday that November, when hundreds of women were assaulted or arrested by police while protesting outside Parliament.

The majority of 1910 newspaper coverage of the U.S. suffrage movement concerned the hissing flapdoodle: Suffragists warmly welcomed President Taft for speaking at their annual convention – the first president to do so – but the mood soured during his speech when he warned that it could be dangerous to allow women to vote because it would be “exercised by that part of the class which is less desirable.” He also suggested women first “must be intelligent enough to know their own interests” ‘lest they be on the par of “Hottentots” (an ugly slur meaning a primitive, even savage, group). When someone hissed, Taft doubled-down on the condescending attitude: “Now my dear ladies, you must show yourselves capable of suffrage by exercising that degree of restraint which is necessary in the conduct of government affairs by not hissing.” Amazingly, Taft often stuck his foot into his enormous mouth like this; a wag later wrote, “His capacity for saying the wrong thing, or for being understood to say the wrong thing, amounts almost to genius.”


You took upon yourself a wife, and it is your duty to support her as best you may; also, in due season there came struggling along certain very small and absurd travelers from Noman’s Land, and it is your duty to support them. Consequently you must dig; you must be at the office when you would greatly prefer to go fishing; you must earn the bread, not only for yourself, but for from two to a dozen others, by the sweat of your brow and by keeping your nose faithfully on the ever whirring grindstone. Tough, isn’t it? Oh, you bet, one has to pay the price for being a man! And then to add to the sting, the average woman has nothing to do except keep house.

Yes, it really is a fact that many women have nothing to do–except, of course, to keep house, and as the United States census bureau so happily states the case, that is not an occupation. For a light and enjoyable form of entertainment commend me to keeping house, although the women do make such an immortal row over it. Consider for a moment what a snap it is. All the housewife has to do every day without intermission is: Get the breakfast, wash and wipe the dishes, make the beds, straighten the rooms, get lunch, wash and wipe the dishes, mend the kid’s clothing, spank the baby, make a new gown for Susie, get the dinner, wash and wipe the dishes, look neat and cheerful so she will attract her husband, improve her intel–

Oh, see here! I haven’t the heart to continue the list.  The wonder to me is that in this ceaseless grind of petty, monotonous cares, the majority of the women do not go insane. Most men would; ours may be the stronger sex, but we would.

And we do not wish our wives to seek some occupation that, strangely enough, suits them better, and hire a housekeeper, because we are so tenderly considerate of them you know! John, Henry or Adolph, don’t you make yourself tired when you think about yourself and you self considering regard for you wife! Just between ourselves, I do.–California Weekly.

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 16, 1910

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Santa Rosa was beautiful and smelled nice, a visitor from Kansas wrote; too bad the people were so awfully boring.

That pretty much sums up a travel piece written by someone named E. W. Ellis that appeared in a 1909 Kansas paper. A reader clipped the article and sent it to a local relative, who passed it on to the Santa Rosa Republican for reprint. Essays like this are rare finds and absolute treasures. What did you see while wandering around town? What scents were in the air, what sounds did you hear?

Most of all, Mr. Ellis waxed lyric about the front yard gardens: “…Every yard and garden fence is covered with a mass of creeping vines that are pink, white, yellow and red with blossoms from the size of a clover bloom to a cabbage. Many of the houses, too, are hidden behind artistically trained bowers…lofty palms, calla lilies, ferns, Shasta daisies, sweet peas, magnolias, etc., the town is filled with them.” From those yards came “the sensuous perfume of the thousands of fragrant tropical roses, honeysuckle, carnations and other blooming plants which the fresh green smell of the pine and fir prevent from becoming sickening…”

Ellis was also impressed by the number of bicycles seen around town: “Men, women and children ride wheels at all times and seasons, and they are experts, too.” Likewise remarkable to him was that Santa Rosa appeared to have no racial strife. “here are less than a dozen negroes in the town and they are members of the local churches and worship in common with the white people, being admirable citizens.” That’s a particularly important observation because the newspapers of the time rarely even mentioned African-Americans in town. (Ellis wasn’t so respectful to the Chinese community, however, writing that the flowers in their neighborhood were “to offset the odor of the garlick and other vile dishes.”)

Some of what he wrote showed that he saw Santa Rosa as an exotic place: He was surprised to find no birds around, until he was told that the surrounding fruit orchards were in season. He found it unusual that “All the restaurant dishes are without seasoning, and the signs on the wall read: ‘Patrons please pay on delivery.'” He found it odd that women did not carry parasols, supposedly because it was thought that the westerly breezes prevented freckles.

But overall, it seems that Mr. Ellis found the place a real snoozer. “Nothing apparently had ever happened in this town prior to the earthquake,” he wrote, and the people here are “living their lives away with little thought of the cares of today and none of the morrow…[as] the winds sing a drowsy requiem day after day, there is every excuse for a Rip Van Winkle existence.”

Ellis wrapped up his tour with the usual homage to Luther Burbank and the wonderful disclaimer, “all of the above statements may not be absolutely correct, but in the main they are.”

BONUS SOCIAL HISTORY NOTE: Another unmentioned fact of life in 1909 Santa Rosa was apparently the large number of stray dogs. In a letter to the Republican, a subscriber complains, “In Santa Rosa there are hundreds of tagless, worthless and often half-starved dogs, and the nuisance is growing. They prowl nightly through back yards for food…”

Tells of the Peculiarties [sic] and Objects of Interest

[The following article was clipped from a Kansas paper by a relative of a Santa Rosa resident, and sent to her with the request to know if all the claims by the article were true. It gives a good idea of what eastern visitors think of our beautiful city, and with the exception of a few statements, viz., that Santa Rosans are sleepy and do not appreciate their blessings, we heartily agree with all the writer has said.–Ed.]

Much has appeared in the Kansas papers of the  merits and demerits of California, and our people as a whole are fairly well acquainted with the climatic conditions and health-giving qualities of the state from San Francisco to the Mexico border, including of course, Los Angeles and the Santa Catalina Islands. But so far as the writer has observed the territory north of Oakland, Sacramento, and all along the western slopes of the grand old Sierra Nevadas has been touched upon but lightly and is a sealed book to the major portion of the easterners.

Of the counties visited “above the bay” none pleased the writer so well as Santa Rosa, a dreamy, hazy, habitation of 10,000 people who are living their lives away with little thought of the cares of today and none of the morrow.

But with such beautiful surroundings of the low foothills thick with vineyards and blossoming orchards and beyond and higher up purplish hills covered with oak, through which the winds sing a drowsy requiem day after day, there is every excuse for a Rip Van Winkle existence.

No rain has fallen in this portion of the country since early March, but the foliage, the vegetables and fruits seem as prosperous as if April and May showers had been frequent. This is due to the heavy fogs that come from the ocean once or twice a week, at night. The days are bright and warm while a fire in the evenings and mornings is really needed with comforters and blankets for the bed.

April is the season of the year for “Easterners,” as they call Kansans here, to come to this country. Then the land is at its best and one can also witness the “Rose Carnival,” which is a feature of Santa Rosa yearly and is well worth seeing.


As the name would indicate it is a city of roses, every yard and garden fence is covered with a mass of creeping vines that are pink, white, yellow and red with blossoms from the size of a clover bloom to a cabbage. Many of the houses, too, are hidden behind artistically trained bowers, so closely interwoven that a bird can scarcely find a nesting place. This makes such homes a dream of beauty, then again it saves paint, and oh, the sensuous perfume of the thousands of fragrant tropical roses, honeysuckle, carnations and other blooming plants which the fresh green smell of the pine and fir prevent from becoming sickening. To one direct from the prairies and just winding up a transcontinental trip, over which sage brush and alkali abounded, the country seemed a very paradise. The yards and lawns are the most beautiful imaginable. But why shouldn’t they be. With a productive soil, an abundance of water, a climate that is model and every person trying to outdo their neighbor there is little to prevent them from being perfect. In one yard I noticed a Cedar of Lebanon, imported from the Holy Land years ago and perhaps the only one in the state. As for broad spreading, lofty palms, calla lilies, ferns, Shasta daisies, sweet peas, magnolias, etc., the town is filled with them.

One peculiar tree is the monkey tree. A sharp, thickly woven bark of thorns covers it, and it is said that it is the only tree a monkey will not climb. The citizens here do not seem to know, or appreciate, what a pretty town they have and that everything is out of the ordinary. To an “Easterner,” who is admiring the sights they only laugh and exclaim, “Oh, that’s nothing,” toss him an armful of roses and pass on.

To me one of the prettiest flowers is the yellow poppy. It is California’s native flower, even as the sunflower is of Kansas. It is known as the cup of gold and is the state’s emblem.


A half dozen little peculiarities are quickly noticeable to the visitor. First there are less than a dozen negroes in the town and they are members of the local churches and worship in common with the white people, being admirable citizens. Secondly, there are no birds. This seems strange with such a tropical vegetation, but it is explained that they have flown farther up the valley to the fruit lands where cherries are ripe. Thirdly, the ladies passing along the street carry no parasol. The soft sea breeze from the ocean, 20 miles away, they claim prevents freckles, and again, its too much trouble. Fourthly, motorneers on the electric lines are allowed to sit down at their work during the day. The service seems satisfactory. Fifthly, nonwithstanding this old Spanish town where hot tamales and chili would be expected to prevail, all the restaurant dishes are without seasoning, and the signs on the wall read: “Patrons please pay on delivery.” Sixth, nothing apparently had ever happened in this town prior to the earthquake of three years ago, although the town is a half hundred years old. The calamity was a severe one, whole blocks tumbling over and many being killed so “this and that” is always pointed out to the stranger as happening since the upheaval.

This is a great bicycle town. Men, women and children ride wheels at all times and seasons, and they are experts, too.

Santa Rosa has its Chinatown as well as San Francisco. A block of the city is devoted to the Celestials, and with a few roses and carnations within their walks to offset the odor of the garlick and other vile dishes, other portions of the city are preferable.

The older Chinese are, as usual, dull appearing, stupid and unobserving, shuffling along about thir business in their native garb. The youngsters are a bright little lot, however, flitting along the sidewalk like the English sparrows. Being “native sons” they adopt the American clothes and costumes. They attend the city schools and prove themselves apt pupils.


Santa Rosa has two water plants. One is a municipal affair, solely for the sprinkling of lawns and parking. Each family is allowed 10,000 gallons of water monthly, after that a charge is made. For drinking purposes and household use a private corporation with a reservoir far up in the foothills furnishes clear, sparkling water at a dollar a month.

The Kansas writer is wrong in this. Three-fourths of the residents use municipal water for all purposes and it is pure and wholesome.–Ed.

The town is substantially built and prosperous. That is, the new buildings that are going up since the earthquake are and most of them are new buildings. Two of the most noticeable ones are the post office and court house, the latter costing $500,000 and a splendid affair with pillars like the Kansas state house and marble floors and ceilings. The four banks are as sold as the “Rock of Gibralta.” [sic]

The schools too, are on firm basis, the high school drawing many pupils from the surrounding towns and valleys.


But the pride of not only Santa Rosa but all California is Luther Burbank, the great scientist, who from childhood chose the plants for pets rather than animals. He came to this valley in 1875 and began his work of improving the old plants and creating new ones. Hundreds of new trees, flowers, fruits and grasses have sprung into being owing to his indomitable efforts. His greatest work is in providing a thornless cactus. This can be planted on the Arizona and New Mexico deserts, reclaiming the waste places and at the same time allowing man and beast to wander through without injury, the Burbank potato and green rose are other vegetable and plant creations. Jealous meddlers declare his paints for the roses and hired help to extract the thorns from the cactus have cost him a fortune. But as Carnegie donates him $10,000 a year, what’s the odds? He is also the creator of a seedless blackberry and is working on an odorless onion. His experimental grounds near the city is the yearly mecca of scientists from all over the country and indeed is a great curiosity shop.

An eastern friend who had visited this country told me I would be eaten up by fleas. But the statement seems to have been of a maligning nature, as I went to church twice Sunday and had no occasion to “scratch” during either sermon.

One thing they do have in plenty here, however, is chickens. Ranches surrounding the city nearly all have great flocks of them, while it is down at Petaluma the place is known as “Chickentown.” And almost in entirety the flocks are white leghorns, Plymouth Rocks and Buff Coachins being almost unknown.

Two town curios I almost overlooked. One is a rose bush with 10,000 blooms from a vine with a 65 foot stump. Of course no one has counted the blossoms, but experts say that is a low estimate. It is owned by a modest resident and the bush is almost as large as the house.

The other is the Baptist church which has the distinction of being the only church in the world built entirely from one tree. The tree came from the Sonoma county forests, and when sawed, yielded 78,000 feet of lumber. In addition there were three hundred shingles left over.

The altitude of Santa Rosa is about 150 feet about the sea level and the surrounding hills protect it from the frosts, but still few oranges are raised. However, at Cloverdale 30 miles north, splendid oranges are grown and great crops of them.

Having no guide book, all of the above statements may not be absolutely correct, but in the main they are. E. W. ELLIS

– Santa Rosa Republican, November 17, 1909

Several days ago in San Francisco a worthless cur dog rushed into a schoolhouse and severely bit three little pupils before the frantic animal was checked, taken to the city pound and killed. Cannot we accept that instance as a lesson? In Santa Rosa there are hundreds of tagless, worthless and often half-starved dogs, and the nuisance is growing. They prowl nightly through back yards for food and round in school yards may be seen daily these hungry animals, eagerly seeking the scraps of lunch thrown away by the pupils. There is a city ordinance requiring that a license be paid on dogs, but only the owners of the few valuable dogs here pay the license, or pay any attention to it. That seems like an inducement to own a worthless dog. A raid should be made on every tagless cur until the streets are clear. Of course, a dog pound cannot be made self-supporting, for only a few people sufficiently value their unlicensed dogs to pay for their redemption, consequently the pound man would be left with a pen of curs on his hands. Would it not be well for the city council to take notice?  SUBSCRIBER.

– Santa Rosa Republican, February 9, 1909

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