If you were invited to supper by your great-grandparents you might dislike their food – and probably wouldn’t recognize some of it.

We believe we know a little something about daily life in a small town such as Santa Rosa because of movies such as “The Music Man,” set in 1912. Overall it seems like a pretty nice place (and probably was, if you were white, middle-class and not too concerned about equality issues) so it’s not too hard to imagine living there. Oh, I could adjust to the uncomfortable clothes, we dream nostalgically, I could deal with a coal furnace, the lack of air conditioning and refrigeration, that both cars and phones needed to be cranked before use. But unless you’re a fan of the bland, mealtimes might be quite a struggle.

We’re fortunate to have two different sources of information about what we were eating in Santa Rosa during the early Twentieth Century. A local church cookbook showed what was actually on our plates and a 1913 week-long “cooking school” promoted by the Press Democrat took it a step further and demonstrated a few ways to prepare a meal other than boiling everything to death.

There are two versions of the cookbook: a 1900 pamphlet published by an insurance company and a lengthier 1908 hardbound booklet self-published by the Presbyterian church in Fulton. The later edition has about 25 percent more material (along with local ads, which are always fun) and is the version referred to here. Recipes were all from women of the Fulton/Mark West area whose names were familiar from the society columns in the Santa Rosa newspapers.

This was not a local cookbook like the midcentury versions found at yard sales today, which are heavy with special holiday recipes and every kind of cookie imaginable. The word “holiday” does not even appear in the old cookbook; neither does “thanksgiving” or “christmas” (although there are directions for stuffing a turkey). There are more doughnut recipes than ones for making cookies. Part of the reason it’s so hit-or-miss was because every home had an encyclopedic household management book, packed with all kinds of recipes for special occasions. If the pastor was coming over and you wanted to impress him with French veal in cream sauce and Italian sorbet for dessert, you found recipes there along with instructions on how to remove the stains from your finest tablecloth. So complete were those reference books that the one owned by Mattie Oates even had directions for embalming, which might come in handy if you forgot to ask the preacher if he had any allergies before serving that Waldorf salad with walnuts.

Another word you won’t find in the Fulton cookbook: “spicy.” The most common form of meat mentioned was boiled chicken, often diced or chopped. The recipes for chili sauce use bell peppers. Garlic is included only in five dishes, most of them labeled “Creole.” And speaking of ethnic dishes, the cookbook avoids mention of our major local minority groups. Seven times “Spanish” is in a name but never “Mexican” despite directions for making tamales; there are four “German” recipes but no “Italian,” despite two different recipes fot making ravioli and several using macaroni. There are also names which seem odd today; there are many recipes for fruitcakes which aren’t called fruitcakes and casseroles which are called meat scallops.

Here’s what you will find in that cookbook besides boiled chicken: Lots and lots of cakes but almost no pies. Butter and eggs are used nearly everywhere, including in dishes you might not expect. Nine recipes call for oysters which the author usually presumes will come from a jar. The cooks seemed obsessed with knowing the age of their poultry. “See that the chickens are not too young,” one recipe suggests. Another calls for a “chicken about a year old” and another, “young, a hen.” Directions read, “steam according to the age of the chicken.”

There are some things in that book I’d like to try. There are two recipes for grape pickles and something called oil pickles, which requires an inverse vinaigrette ratio. What I would not like to eat: Jugged pigeons and pot roast of liver. Fish chops. Pork cake.

While the cookbook represented our humdrum grub at suppertime, the Press Democrat’s “Big Free Cooking School” in 1913 aspired to help us bake, roast and sauce our way out of the doldrums.

The weeklong event was actually a touring lecture/demonstration series followed by a cooking competition. The PD loved using contests as circulation builders, which they always restricted to women only. The previous year it was selling subscriptions to vote for the “most popular baby in Santa Rosa and vicinity,” called the “Shower of Gold Contest” (oh, if only Trump were around then to watch them and pick a winner). And in 1911 the paper had a subscription drive to win a new car – a competition that turned so cut-throat it could have been the plot for a tragicomic Nathanael West novel (see “MR. CONTEST EDITOR IS DISAPPOINTED IN YOU“).

The cooking demos were made by Louise Eubank (more about her below) who was a representative of Globe Milling Company of Los Angeles, which was waging war against the “Flour Trust” of Midwestern grain mills.* She had been putting on similar demos around Northern California for at least two years, appearing earlier in Santa Rosa in 1911 and in 1912 Petaluma. But those demos were strictly baking lessons in order to sell more flour; this would be the only time she prepared entire meals.

The cooking school was on the second floor of the Doyle Building – still there at the corner of Fourth and D streets, and one of the prettiest places downtown. There was seating for 500 and according to the PD, it was standing room only some days. Besides the food there was also musical entertainment, with a piano and Victrola; on some days Miss Eubank’s sister warbled a tune. People also came to gawk at the latest technology. According to the PD: “The electric stoves used by Miss Eubank and furnished by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, aroused much interest Monday, as many saw these new cooking devices in operation for the first time.”

(For those interested in Comstock House history: Mattie and James Wyatt Oates had a small gas cooking stove similar to the style shown at right, which was in keeping with their aims to have the house fitted with the best and most up-to-date tech, such as the gas electroliers which could provide gas or electric light or a combination of both. We know the size and type of their stove because it left scorch marks on the wood floor showing its footprint, as well as an adjacent plugged hole for the gas pipe.)

Each day Press Democrat society columnist “Dorothy Ann” offered a summary of the previous day’s events along with recipes and cooking tips, which ranged from hygiene basics (“trade at meat market kept the cleanest”) to the odd and maybe superstitious (“stand in front of an open window while beating eggs”). The newspaper filled out the rest of the page with many ads from grocers and other food vendors who rarely advertised daily.

Rather than transcribe everything, links are provided here to the online version of each day’s doings and recipes. The only detail that needs explaining is the reference to paper bags; at the time there was quite a fad for baking meats and fish en papillote; for more background, read this booklet published back then on paper-bag cookery. Otherwise, here are the menus and a sampling of the tips:

SATURDAY Menu: steamed pudding with creamy sauce, broiled chicken and cheese croquettes. Tips:  Only two things are boiled vigorously—rice and macaroni [while] all other vegetables are boiled slowly; The great advantage of paper-bag cooking is that it takes but one-half the fuel.
(Recipes were torn out of the online copy, but can be read on Sonoma County Library microfilm.)

MONDAY Menu: Macaroni and beef tongue casserole and a white loaf cake with icing.

TUESDAY Menu: cheese straws, quick raisin bread, egg muffins and a simple pie crust.

WEDNESDAY Menu: Plain bread, California raisin bread, Dixie biscuit, roast lamb, currant mint sauce, green peas, creamed chicken, baked onions and potato doughnuts (potato pancakes). Tips: Sour pickle put in paper bag white cooking will kill taste of mutton; mutton soaked in weakened vinegar will taste like venison.

THURSDAY  Menu: Planked Steak, Baked Bananas, Fruit Salad, Baking Powder Biscuits, Layer Cake. Tips: Scrape fiber from bananas before using; flour that makes perfect cake, perfect bread and perfect pastry is safe for family use, this the Globe “A 1” does; fat on steaks should be a yellowish color—not white; meat should hang 12 or 14 days after killing.

The last day was contest judging. All categories involved baking, as the whole event was really about selling flour – contestants had to “bring a Globe ‘A1’ sack, or the recipe for making plain bread that comes in the top of each sack of Globe ‘A1’ flour.” Grand prize was a Hoosier Cabinet (shown below) which really was something of great value; those things were like food prep workstations with all the specialized drawers, pullout breadboards and sturdy countertops for mounting meat grinders, apple peelers and such. Contest winners are listed below; note there was a doughnut category, even though they apparently were never mentioned in the class.

There was also a special division in the contest for young women from Santa Rosa High, and maybe some spent time with Louise Eubank and were inspired. She was a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Domestic Science Department, which is to say she was a protégée of Marion Talbot, a strong advocate for women having the same higher education opportunities as men. Along with teaching rigorous sanitation, a goal of her courses in household administration was to make kitchen work and other chores more efficient in order to give women more time for personal betterment (the classes were open to men, too).

Louise continued the flour demos at least through the end of 1913, and was next spotted among women doing a lecture series on home economics for the UC Extension Program. When the U.S. joined WWI she went to France to work for a YMCA program operating canteens. She apparently never married and spent most of her life as a teacher in the little farm town of Willows, close to her father and singing sister. She died in 1965 in Los Angeles at age 86 and is buried in Willows.

The “Press Democrat Cooking School” was held again in the following two years, although taught by another woman from the same flour maker. The dishes were much the same as those presented by Louise and sometimes identical; there were no introduction of new ingredients or flavors, but the PD write-ups heavily promoted the use of electric appliances, going so far in 1915 to even name the forty local homeowners who had an electric range.

The Sperry Flour Company – which established a distribution warehouse in Santa Rosa in 1912 and would later buy the local mill – offered its own cooking school one year which the PD gave little mention, but in 1916 the paper went all out for the weeklong “Pure Food and Household Exposition” held at the roller skating pavilion on A street. This was a paid admission traveling exhibit showcasing many vendors and included nightly dances to the music of its own orchestra. Featured also was “Princess Gowongo, the Food Astrologer.” (She was a carnival fortune teller who had appropriated the name of “Princess” Go-Won-Go Mohawk, a Native American woman who was famed in the 1880s and 1890s as an actress performing in Indian-themed melodramas in London, New York, and touring companies around the country.)

The Press Democrat elbowed its way into the exhibition by using it for the judging of its latest contest: The “World’s Better Baby Show.” Why the PD kept giving these infant competitions cryptic names is anyone’s guess, but thankfully this time their title didn’t seem to hint at a obscene joke.


* Organized by Charles Pillsbury and his pals, the Flour Trust manipulated the prices of most of the nation’s wheat crop and flour supply from the 1880s until the 1930s. Globe used West Coast wheat and built/bought its own mills in California and the Southwest, promoting its flour products strangely not by claiming they were the highest quality but by boasting they were made in the same region and then appealing to local pride – the equivalent today of saying Ghirardelli chocolate demonstrates support for Sonoma County. The Globe ‘A1’ flour brand was sold at least through the mid-1960s, never (as far as I can tell) boasting much about quality, except for it being “enriched.” In later years the bags included coupons for other products or discounts at amusement parks, and the occasional print ads sometimes still made the claim of being a strictly local product. It was usually the cheapest stuff on the supermarket shelf.
 Celebrated Culinary Expert Will Demonstrate Latest Methods and Ideas, Preparing a Full Meal Each Afternoon
Display of Modern Kitchen Paraphernalia lo Be Unique and Interesting Feature-See the Model Kitchen and Learn From What Part of the Beef the Various Cuts Come

Saturday afternoon at 2:30, The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School will open in the large double store room in the Doyle Building, opposite the Masonic Temple, on Fourth street. Everybody Is invited, and from the interest already manifested it is apparent that the undertaking will prove the biggest kind ot a success.

Every afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30 scientific demonstrations will be conducted by Miss L. B, Eubank, graduate of the University of Chicago, Domestic Science Department. Miss Eubank is recognized as one of the most expert women in her line in the United States. She is bright and entertaining. and knows how to make her lectures interesting from start to finish.

She prepares her dishes in full view of the audience, illustrating every detail of procedure. As the “proof of the pudding is in the eating,” she also distributes samples of each dish or article prepared among those present.

It is planned to make The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School a complete exposition of everything pertaining to the culinary art. In addition to Miss Eubank’s dally lectures and practical demonstration of the very latest and most scientific ideas in modern cookery, there will be displayed kitchen paraphernalia of all kinds, and a well-known butcher will explain the different cuts of meat, illustrating his remarks by a practical demonstration of cutting, which will be given in full view of the audience.

Model kitchens will be arranged, and displays showing all the newest ideas in gas and electric ranges, electric toasters, percolators, etc., will be shown. In her cooking demonstrations Miss Eubank will use both gas and electricity, and fireless cookers will also be employed. The entire idea is to show the very latest and most approved methods, regardless of anything but the results to be attained.

At the conclusion of the term, which is to last one week, a prize cooking contest will be held, and the cash and other prize* to be offered will cause people to sit up and take notice. The menu for each day will be published in advance, so that those interested will have notice of what is to come. Do not make any engagements for any afternoon next week, if you are interested In culinary matters. The big event is going to be The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School, and everybody will want to be there.

It will be a county affair, and every body in Sonoma County is invited to be present. It will be absolutely free, no charge of any kind being exacted. Don’t forget the date — The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School opens Saturday afternoon at 2:30, and will continue one week.

– Press Democrat, April 3 1913


Celebrated Culinary Expert Will Demonstrate Latest Methods and Ideas, Preparing a Full Meal Each Afternoon
Display of Modern Kitchen Paraphernalia lo Be Unique and Interesting Feature—See the Model Kitchen end Learn From What Part of the Beef the Various Cuts Come

This is the day! The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School opens this afternoon at 2:30 in the Doyle building, opposite the Masonic Temple. A huge sign, the work of Geo. W. Salisbury, stretched across the front of the building, marks the spot. You can’t miss the place, and you mustn’t forget the time, for The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School is going to be something well worth while.

Workmen were busy yesterday getting the place ready, and when Miss Eubank gives her opening demonstration this afternoon it will be in a model kitchen, equipped with electric and gas ranges, fireless cookers, electric percolators, toasters, broilers, etc., supplemented by the latest ideas in kitchen cabinets and other culinary paraphernalia.

Several hundred comfortable seats have been provided, a large stage erected, and music will be furnished before and after the lecture by a player piano and a fine victrola, provided by Manager Campbell Pomeroy of the Sonoma Valley Music Company. The various displays will be grouped around the sides of the hall.

The electric and gas ranges used in the demonstrations, as well as the heat and power required to operate the same, are being provided by the Pacific Gas & Electric Company, of which Maitland G. Hall is the popular local manager.

The Great Western Power Company, through District Manager William N. P. Hall, is also co-operating to make The Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School a success.

The course will last one week, closing next Friday evening, when a grand prize cooking contest will be held. This feature will be under the auspices of the Irene Club. A partial list of the prizes to be offered appears on page one. There are a large number of other prizes, which will be announced later. The grand capital prize consists of a Hoozier [sic] Kitchen Cabinet, valued at $43, supplied by the Santa Rosa Furniture Company. This elegant piece of kitchen furniture will be exhibited on the stage during the entire week. It is something well worth working for, and the woman who gets it will be fortunate indeed. Cash prizes will be offered in addition to many useful and valuable household articles, only a few of which are mentioned in the list appearing this morning.

What housewife is not interested in the latest ideas in cookery? What woman has not some problem of the kitchen that she would not like to have solved for her by an expert such as Mlss Eubank. There is an abundance of literature published on the subject, but even if one knows where to find it the result would be far less satisfactory than seeing a practical demonstration. Miss Eubank is here to answer troublesome questions, and her helpful hints as the lessons proceed from day to day are bound to be productive of great good to the housewives of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county.

The fact that electricity as well as gas is to be in the demonstrations. has aroused much interest. Not many people know it, but a meal can be cooked entirely with electricity, and in as satisfactory a manner as by any other method. Many exports claim that in time no other fuel will be in use. The electric range used by Miss Eubank will prove a source of unfailing interest to all, because it will be something new to most of her hearers, few of whom have witnessed the process of cooking by electricity.

– Press Democrat, April 5 1913


Miss L. B. Eubank Prepares a Meal Before an Interested Throng at the Press Democrat’s Free Cooking School

by Dorothy Ann

Good cooks, poor cooks, young cooks, old cooks, women cooks, men cooks and aspiring cooks of all kinds listened with tense attention while savory dishes were prepared by Miss Louise Barton Eubank, graduate of the Domestic Science Department of the University of Chicago.

The general appearance of the platform from which Miss Eubank spoke was that of a well equipped kitchen. She worked facing an auditorium with a seating capacity of five hundred or more. The auditorium was crowded with eager and enthusiastic women. The sterner sex stood in the background, secretly hoping the goodies would not give out before they had a chance to taste them.

Gas and electric ranges had been installed on the platform, a kitchen table neatly covered with white linen had been conveniently placed, and a beautiful Hoosier cabinet (which, by the way. is one of the prizes), filled with necessary cooking condiments and utensils, was nearby. Pots, pans and kettles of all shapes and sizes were within handy reach, to systematize the work. Miss Eubank was attended by a competent assistant, and both ladies wore white.

  Miss Eubank’s Little Speech

“It is our plan,” said Miss Eubank, “to make these lessons as informal as possible. You will be privileged to ask as many questions as you desire. If any one desires me to make a special dish, ask me and I shall gladly comply with any reasonable request. Our idea is to put on few frills. We shall deal with the three-meals-a-day proposition, and prepare things most suited to every-day living in every-day life. The menu will be changed dally, and we shall make it as varied as possible. I believe there will always be something to interest you.

“The Irene Club, a charity organization, as you know, will have charge of the prize contest we will institute. We shall have these lessons every afternoon at 2:30 o’clock until Friday. That day we wish you to stay at home and cook. Friday, between the hours of 2 and 6, competitive cooked articles will be received here by the ladles. Friday evening at 7:30 competent judges will select the best and award the prize. At 6:30 the cooked articles will be auctioned and the proceeds given to the Irene Club for charitable work.”

Miss Eubank prepared steamed pudding with creamy sauce, broiled chicken and cheese croquettes. The recipes for these are as follows:

– Press Democrat, April 6 1913

…The only restriction for contest is that the contestant use Globe “A1” flour. When delivering into Miss Eubank’s hands the cooked article on Friday, between the hours of 4 and 6 o’clock, bring a Globe “A1” sack, or the recipe for making plain bread that comes in the top of each sack of Globe “A1” flour…

The electric stoves used by Miss Eubank and furnished by the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, aroused much interest Monday, as many saw these new cooking devices in operation for the first time. The Copeland Automatic Cookstove and the General Electric Range were used with great success. “The Reliable Gas Stove” also furnished by the same firm, was used tor the baking of the white loaf cake.

– Press Democrat, April 8 1913


Miss Eubank Makes Her Work a Delight to All as She Demonstrates Many Dainty Dishes

Cooking became a glorified process under the skillful guidance of Miss Louise Barton Eubank Tuesday afternoon at the Press Democrat’s Free Cooking School. No sticky fingers, no mussed gown, no disagreeable odor that strikes terror to the heart because of a sure certainty that things are burned, no boiling over, and no unnecessary walking, because of adept arrangement of a model kitchen. All was easily, exactly and beautifully done. And how it was appreciated by the large audience that gathered to learn — not merely the embellishments of cookery — but the broader and deeper science of household economy!

That Miss Eubank has proved that she has more than ordinary knowledge of the art and science of cooking has been demonstrated again and again. Personally she has a sweet, attractive manner that makes friends with her audience immediately. And to demonstrate the power of mind over matter, I might add that the last two days Miss Eubank has been suffering excruciating pain with an ulcerated tooth. This did not deter her in the least from the demonstration, but did cause her yesterday to slightly change the menu.

Miss Eubank makes her cooking dainty and attractive. Those of us who occasionally dabble around in flour in the hopes of creating something, and come out looking as if we had fallen into the flour barrel, marvel at the ease and dispatch with which she works…

– Press Democrat, April 9 1913


Many Interesting Features Will Be Presented by Miss Louise B. Eubank Prior to Cooking Contest


– Press Democrat, April 10 1913


Cakes Winning Awards in The Press Democrat’s Cooking School Contest Will Be Auctioned off by the Irene Club for Charily

A large, eager crowd of townswomen gathered at the Doyle building Thursday afternoon at the Press Democrat’s Free Cooking School. The fact that it was the last lesson seemed to fill the women present with a determination to get all they could on this occasion. Miss Louise Barton Eubank graciously answered question after question, endeavoring in every way to assist those present to acquire the knowledge they so earnestly sought.

An interesting feature of the afternoon was the demonstration of meat cutting by Emil Miland of King’s Grocery and Market. A large chopping block of regulation design was brought in for his accommodation, and this was piled high with choice meats which he used to illustrate his remarks.

There will be no cooking school today, In order to give all contestants an opportunity to stay at home and cook. All entries are to he brought to the hall between the hours of 2 and 6 p. m. Miss Eubank will be there, and, assisted by her sister, Mrs, John Edwards, will receive the entries. The menu of Thursday was particularly attractive and it will be with sincere regret that the women of Santa Rosa see the Press Democrat Free Cooking School close…

Meat Cutting Demonstrated

Emil Miland of King’s grocery, explained the different cuts of meat from the fore quarters and the hind quarters of a beef and half of a lamb. Porterhouse, sirloin and round steaks were shown, as were rib roasts, short ribs of beef and breast meat for soups. Mr. Miland introduced a new name for steak to Santa Rosa women when he advised them to secure “chuck steaks” if they felt they could not always afford sirloin or porterhouse. The relative meat values were all explained at length.

 Mrs. John Edwards Sings

Mrs. John Eubank Edwards of Willows, a sister of Miss Eubank, rendered two vocal numbers during the afternoon to the delight of all. She will sing again tonight at the concert and should be greeted by a large audience.

 – Press Democrat, April 11 1913

If anyone thinks domesticity has gone with the granting of suffrage to women, let him forget it — and quickly. The splendid display of cakes, pies, bread, doughnuts and other good things shown at the Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School last night, all prepared by the women and girls of Santa Rosa, shows conclusively that the home is still the focus-point of feminine interest, as it always has been and always will be.

For the past week the Press Democrat’s big Free Cooking School has attracted the attention and interest of every homeseeker in town, and of many residing in different parts of Sonoma county. Each afternoon several hundred women have gathered to witness the scientific demonstrations of modern cookery, given by Miss Louise Barton Eubank. Yesterday everybody stayed at home and prepared their entries for the big prize contest, which marked the grand wind-up of the week’s session.

When the crowd gathered last night they found the stage beautifully decorated with flowers, the hall brilliantly lighted, all the various displays of kitchen furniture, electric appliances, etc., in apple-pie order, and — as the center of attraction, of course — long tables laden with delicious-looking cakes of every description, beautiful brown loaves of the finest looking bread you ever laid eyes on, huge piles of rich doughnuts, lucious looking pies of all kinds, besides other things too numerous to mention…


1st. Mrs. C. D. Johnson – Hoosier Kitchen Cabinet, value $43 – grand prize – supplied by the Santa Rosa Furniture Co.
2d. Mrs. E. P. Gorsline – El Eggo – electric egg broiler – value $9. Supplied by Great Western Power Co.
3d. Mrs. J. Pursell Cabinet of Folger’s spices, extracts, teas and coffees.
4th. Mrs. W. A. Wallace  –  Glove order.
5th. Mrs. H. G. Hewitt – Sack Globe “A1” flour.
1st. Mrs. A. B. Lemmon – Fireless Cooker, value $18 – supplied by J. C. Mailer Hardware Co.
2d. Mrs. F. M. Havener – General Electric Toaster, value $4 – supplied by the Great Western Power Co.
3d. Mrs. F. G. Kellogg – Aluminum Ware.
4th. Mrs. J. W. Pemberton – Glove order.
5th. Mrs. C. D. Johnson Sack of Globe “A1” flour.
1st. Mrs. R. Y. Bearing Ruud Water Heater, No. 20, value $15  – supplied by Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
2d. Mrs. John Schroder – $5 cash.
3d. Mrs. F. C. Pearson – Cabinet of Folger’s spices, extracts, teas and coffees.
4th. Mrs. Jennie Reed  – Electric Iron – value $3.50 – furnished by H. W. Jacobs.
5th Mrs. John Ahl – Sack of Globe “Al” Flour.
1st. Mrs. G. H. Wymore – Cut Glass Celery Dishes – value $6.50, furnished by C A, Wright & Company.
2d. Mrs. Gus Walker, Casserole.
3d. Miss Ethel Wooley – Sack of Globe “A1” flour.
Ist. Mrs. H. S. Hick – General Electric Toaster, value $4 – furnished by the Great Western Power Co.
2d. Mrs. R. Y. Bearing ~ six months’ subscription to the Press Democrat, value $2.50.
3d. Mrs. G. H. Wymore – Sack of Globe “A1” flour.
1st. Mrs. J. L. Gagne – Ivory-handled Carving set – Keen Kutter – value $6.50, furnished by Dixon & Elliott.
1st. Miss Edith Balsley – Cut Glass Powder Box – Furnished by St. Rose Drug Store.
2d. Miss Ruth Overton – Parisian Ivory Manicure Set – furnished by G. M. Luttrell.
3d. Miss Vivienne Collister – Sack of Globe “A1” flour.

– Press Democrat, April 12, 1913


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Confession time: I have never revealed our great-grandparents loved tamales.

In the hundreds of articles about historic Santa Rosa appearing here, never have I mentioned tamales were the favorite fast food in the decades around 1900. Our ancestors ate them on the street, at celebrations, club dances, parties, picnics and every other sort of get-together. There was a tamale stand downtown, the Boston Restaurant at the corner of Fourth and B featured Mrs. Gore’s tamale pie in their newspaper ads, and as described in a somewhat creepy item below, there were even guys roaming around the neighborhoods late at night peddling the spicy meat and cornmeal snack wrapped in corn husks.

(RIGHT: 1894 cartoon courtesy the New York Public Library)

I long ago stopped paying attention to mentions of tamales in the newspapers – until recently when I noticed I wasn’t noticing everyone was wolfing down…tamales?? Nothing wrong with the humble tamal, but today it’s so far off the American food radar it is not even ripped-off by places like Taco Bell.

Sadly, I’ve probably overlooked other interesting details of life back then; it’s all too easy to become so immersed in reading the old papers that one loses sight of how damned peculiar some of those doings were from a modern perspective. For example, I almost scanned past a tiny, understated item in 1912 about a riot at Max Rosenberg’s department store caused by monkeys.

It seems the two monkeys (the article doesn’t mention what kind) escaped their cages at the feed store and invaded Rosenberg’s. “They seemed particularly fond on the girl clerks and there was almost a panic,” reported the Santa Rosa Republican. “Fully a hundred people rushed in to see what was going on and it was some time before the pets were captured. No damage was done, but the girls were given an awful scare.”

It wasn’t the monkey business that really caught my eye, however; animal disturbances were common – horses bolting, dog fights, and so on. No, what made me look twice was the inconceivable claim there were as many as a hundred people once spotted on Fourth street.

These days you don’t hear much about monkeys running amok in department stores, or monkeys in feed store cages, for that matter. Nor do you see many newspaper articles about groups seeking to rent live bears.

The Native Sons of the Golden West, a prominent California social club, put out a call for all “parlors” (their name for local chapters) to find “a good supply of bears” for their upcoming 1913 convention. Although the state symbol was officially the grizzly bear, the NSGW wasn’t picky: “Any kind of bears, brown bears, cinnamon bears, and even grizzlies, if the cubs are not too old, strong and carniverous [sic]…”

The NSGW held its bear-less convention in Santa Rosa the previous year and it brought about twenty thousand to town for the weekend festivities. That was small potatoes compared to the 1913 celebration in Oakland which lasted four days, drew crowds up to 200,000 and included a six mile “electrical parade” plus ongoing band concerts and pageantry around Lake Merritt. Although references to bears abound in the newspaper descriptions, it’s unclear how many were real live bears, people in bear costumes or paintings of bears. Presidio Parlor No. 143 had a tiny bear on the top of their float, and a “big black bear sat serenely” on the float of the Aloha Parlor of Oakland. It also seems animals were used in some of the many “pioneer days” tableaux presented at the park.

I almost missed that item because I presumed the headline, “WANTED–BEARS NOT TOO TAME” could not be literally true. But the opposite happened with stories about “white slavery,” which appeared at every opportunity in both Santa Rosa papers. My earlier article, “WHITE SLAVERY IN SONOMA COUNTY?” explained this was a national hysteria between about 1910-1915 based largely on twice-told tales about young women being forced into prostitution and sometimes shipped off to Chinese opium dens. I presumed it was true that the public really had deep fears that innocent girls were actually being snatched off city streets. I was wrong. To a large extent, it was about soft-core porn.

(RIGHT: Illustration from From Dance Hall to White Slavery, 1912. Bessie, the former telephone operator, gave in to temptation after being “persuaded” by a “villainous looking highball.”)

There was quite a boom of lurid white slavery novels and serialized fiction in those years. As author Amy Stewart described in a fun article, “Your Great-Grandma’s Dirty Books,” the only acceptable excuse for an unmarried woman having sex was because “she must have been drugged, defiled, and sold into prostitution. This tended to happen, we were warned, when girls left home and went to the big city, where the dangers of liquor and dance halls were all too well-known.”

Here in Santa Rosa, we had visiting speakers describing white slavery in 1912 and 1913, both lectures illustrated with slides.

First up was J. C. Westenberg, who ran the “Whosoever Will” mission in San Francisco. Westenberg appeared in many cities around the state in those years showing his slides at the invitation of some local church, with collection plates being passed around afterward. Whether Westenberg was a true believer is uncertain, but he was a big self-promoter and frequently in big trouble. He was investigated by the Church Federation of San Francisco for playing fast and loose with donations to the mission and did not show up when the Charities Commission ordered him to appear with his books. He was jailed at least twice: Once in Berkeley for a soliciting donations without a permit, and after he was found guilty of libel against Oakland’s Chief of Police, who he claimed was among the city’s “white slavers” operating bordellos (also included were Oakland’s mayor and top city officials). He was also sued for saying Dr. Julius Rosenstirn of the San Francisco municipal clinic had collected $50,000 from prostitutes. Rosenstirn was a public health hero for pioneering sex education for prostitutes, particularly teaching them symptoms of venereal disease.

The 1913 speaker was Rosa A. Davis, then at the start of her career as a white slave expert. Davis later found herself warmly endorsed by the temperance movement and expanded her expertise to the dangers of Demon Rum. Before all that, however, Rosa was on the vaudeville circuit narrating a silent film about the bank-robbing Dalton gang, sharing the bill with the Shomers, “a pair of iron-jawed artists performing marvelous feats of strength with their teeth.” It’s a living.

So I almost overlooked great stories about bear rentals and runaway monkeys and the true seamy side of the white slavery industry. (And tamales! I’ve already forgotten about tamales again!) But I almost overlooked one of the best items I’ve ever read in the papers.

In the 1913 Santa Rosa Republican (and on a page which I printed for another article) was the story of a young man who went to the County Clerk for a marriage license. Asked his age, the young man said he was twenty. Told that he had to have his parent’s consent at that age, the young man said he did. Told further that he had to have that consent in writing, the young man “fell over on the counter and then slid to the floor in a dead faint.”

The paper continued, “Deputies in the office rushed to his aid and by applying cold water in large quantities brought the young man back to consciousness. He left with his fiancee, saying that he would secure the necessary consent as soon as possible and return.”


Friday morning wild excitement was caused in the Red Front when the two monkeys kept caged in Roof’s feed store on Fifth street, escaped and ran into the store of M. Rosenberg. They seemed particularly fond on the girl clerks and there was almost a panic. Fully a hundred people rushed in to see what was going on and it was some time before the pets were captured. No damage was done, but the girls were given an awful scare. The monkeys are now safe back in their cages.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 8, 1912
Healthy Cubs that Can Growl For Sept. 9th Parade

The Native Sons’ celebration of Admission Day will be held in Oakland this year and the committees on the coming festivities are determined that September 9, 1913, will be an event, the glory of which will dim the pyrotechnics of all past events. The Committee on Unique Features has requested that a good supply of bears be provided by the parlors of the state. Any kind of bears, brown bears, cinnamon bears, and even grizzlies, if the cubs are not too old, strong and carniverous [sic]. Yet the native son of the bruin family must not be too mild. To qualify for the Oakland dissipation he must “register” some fierceness. The celebration committee’s request was brought up by the N. S. G. W. last meeting and as the organization has no bona fide bears, no real wild bears in its membership, it was decided to appoint a special committee on initiation; suspend all previous rules governing the initiatory ceremonies, and let the committee make, and be governed by, its own rules; this committee is expected to have a large class ready for the great fiesta of the Ninth. There was considerable difficulty in selecting the committee as the members of the parlor present modestly hesitated to qualify as bear hunters, Finally President Marvin Vaughan, President-Elect John M. Boyes (in private, life chief of police) and the late financial secretary, John Calhoun Hoke Smith, were with difficulty selected for the honorable mission. These Native Sons of the Golden West did not rush for the work but were persuaded to volunteer because of the cause and the glory of their beloved California, which demanded the sacrifice if some old dam bear should interfere with the abduction of her cubs…if any person has a tame cub bear in stock and is inclined to lease the animal for parade purposes during several days in September, the committee will be pleased to hear from that person. The Ursus Minor will be accorded a prominent place in the great procession and will get to see Oakland in all the colors of the rainbow, and if he is not scared to death, will enjoy the experience.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 11, 1913
Young Man Startles County Clerk’s Office

So overcome when told that he could not secure a marriage license was a young man from the country that he fainted away in County Clerk W. W. Felt’s office Thursday. He and his bride-to-be appeared at the desk in search of the necessary permit.

After answering a number of questions the young man was asked his age and responded that he was twenty. He was asked if he had his parents’ consent and said that he had. When he was told that the consent would have to be written and filed in the Clerk’s office, and that without this he could not secure the license, he fell over on the counter and then slid to the floor in a dead faint.

Deputies in the office rushed to his aid and by applying cold water in large quantities brought the young man back to consciousness. He left with his fiancee, saying that he would secure the necessary consent as soon as possible and return.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 26, 1913
Father Cassin Pleased With Erection of New Street Light in Front of St. Rose’s Church

The erection of an electric street light in front of the Church of St. Rose, on B street, is much appreciated by the rector of the parish, the Rev. Father J. M. Cassin.

There are two potent reasons why the god father takes kindly to the new lighting system on B street. One is that the light will now illuminate the pathway into the sacred edifice on dark nights; another is that it will put an end to the “spooning” of love-sick couples on the church steps after dark. The church steps have been a popular resting place for couples after a stroll and on more than on occasion Father Cassin has found it necessary to suggest to boys and girls that they select some other place for their whisperings of affection.

Consequently the esteemed spiritual director of affairs of St. Rose’s parish was in good humor Thursday when complimented on the additional comfort the new lamp will give worshippers when entering the church at night.

The efficacy of the new lamp calls to mind a good story that was told by Father Cassin at the time when the world was gazing at Halley’s comet.

About 10 o’clock one night Father Cassin happened to be standing in his dooryard. A tamale man came along.

“Want a tamale?” queried the vendor of the priest.

“Too late, too late, my man,” was the rejoinder.

The man passed along. Just in front of the church he stopped and inquired again.

“Want a tamale?”

The reply was not distinguishable where the priest stood, but it game him a cue. Someone was loitering about the entrance to the church.

The priest stole stealthily to the church steps.

“What are you doing here?” inquired the man of God of two objects he could barely distinguish.

“Watching for Halley’s comet,” came a weak feminine rejoinder.

“You had better go home and take a rest in the meantime,” suggested Father Cassin. “You will not see the comet again for seventy-five years.”

The comet had several nights before [it] became invisible.

The lovers said nothing but went their way, and the priest count not forebear an audible smile as he again entered his residence.

– Press Democrat, August 2, 1912
Will be Given at M.E. Church South Wednesday Night

The White Slave Traffic will be the subject of a meeting to be held at the M. E. church, South, on Wednesday evening at eight o’clock. Rev. W. H. Nelson is the pastor and has made arrangements for this lecture.

All the churches of this vicinity are specially invited to participate in this meeting. This fight is aimes especially at the white slave traffic, the red light district and the social evil. All public officials are invited to attend.

J. C. Westenberg of the Barbary Coast Who-so-ever Will Mission of San Francisco will give his famous stereopticon lecture on the white slave traffic.

Mr. Westenberg was once a gambler and saloon keeper. He will tell a most interesting and thrilling story, in word and picture, showing scenes of the Great White Way, New York; the Chicago Stockade; Views of the White Slave Traffic; Ten years in Rescue Work; the Submerged Tenth; Twice-born Men; the Power of the Gospel in the Slums.

Admission will be free, but a silver offering will be taken. Money received at this meeting will be devoted to the work of suppressing the White Slave traffic in California and to the Who-so-ever Will Mission Rescue Work.

President David Starr Jordan of Stanford University has strongly endorsed Westenberg. It is hoped that a large audience will be present on Wednesday evening.

– Santa Rosa Republican, June 18, 1912

Miss Rosa A. Davis will appear again today with her talk on “The White Slave Traffic,” and will also give a short illustrated talk on police graft. A feature of the act today will be a recital entitled, “Five Dollars a Week.”

Miss Davis has won renown on the coast with her interesting and instructive lectures. She is a Southern woman, and has a soft, moderate voice, but it is well regulated, speaking clearly and distinctly with expression. Miss Davis will close her engagement today and those wishing to hear her should not miss the opportunity.

– Santa Rosa Republican, May 13, 1913


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Pharmaceutical companies today urge us to pester doctors for free samples. Wouldn’t it be easier if they just threw drug samples into our yards? That’s what they did in the early 20th Century; I can’t imagine why they stopped. What could possibly go wrong?

What gives this story a believe-it-or-not twist is that drug tossing happened so often that Santa Rosa had an ordinance to prohibit “gratuitous or free distributions of any medicines, nostrums, ware, or remedies for afflicted, sick or diseased persons…where, infants or children can or may possess or use the same.” Okay, I can see how that might be a problem. (One patent medicine that began advertising in the Santa Rosa Republican, and thus was a good candidate for lawn samples, was “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery,” which was mostly alcohol with digitalis, laudanum, and the opium-like extract of wild lettuce to “fortify the body against all germs.”)

The other oddity in the 1909 annals of advertising was the free “cooking school” offered by PG&E. Yes, the gas company wanted consumers to use gas stoves – no surprise there. But at the same time, I don’t recall Standard Oil giving driving lessons to sell more gasoline. Also, the ad campaign seemed ill-planned; PG&E bought full page ads in the Press Democrat with only enough copy to fill a couple of column inches. Needless to say, the PD wrote enthusiastic reviews about the cooking demonstrations.

The secret was that PG&E was acting more like Gillette than Standard Oil; they also sold water heaters and stoves directly to the public: “The demonstration is given primarily to call attention to the use of gas for household purposes and to the stock of ranges, water heaters, etc., carried by the local branch of the Pacific Gas & Electric Co.”

The instructor in Santa Rosa was a disciple of Emma P. Ewing, who had sought to pioneer the teaching of home economics after the Civil War. She was called “the woman who would have taught America to make good bread if America could have been taught,” which hopefully sounded less passive aggressive a century ago.

Here Suzanne Tracy, the author of several cookbooks including “Twelve Lessons in Scientific Cookery,” taught classes. If her recipes are an accurate measure, the food she taught Santa Rosa to cook was awful, usually devoid of herbs and any seasonings other than salt and pepper. Her tomato sauce called for just stewed tomatoes and a little butter, flour, and minced onion. (That sound you hear is every Italian grandmother spinning in her grave.)

Throwing of Medicine Samples Into Dooryards Must Be Checked, Chief Rushmore Says

Complaint has been made to the police that medicine vendors have been throwing free samples of their wares about the yards and on doorsteps in this city recently where children can pick them up and eat it. One man found his baby eating some of the stuff Saturday.

Chief of Police Fred J. Rushmore desires to call the attention of all interested in the matter of the city ordinance governing such actions and declares he will make an example of the first offenders caught violating the law. Any one discovering such distribution going on will confer a favor upon the public as well as the police by immediately notifying the latter that arrests may be made. The ordinance provides: “It shall be unlawful for any person or persons in the gratuitous or free distributions of any medicines, nostrums, ware, or remedies for afflicted, sick or diseased persons to distribute, drop, throw, deposit or leave the same, or cause to be distributed, dropped, thrown, deposited or left in any street, doorway, yard, or place or open lot or otherwise exposed in such manner so that, [illegible microfilm] where, infants or children can or may possess or use the same.”

– Press Democrat, February 7, 1909

Miss Suzanne Tracy, from New York Schools of Domestic Science, Will Lecture.

Santa Rosa ladies will welcome the good news that a summer school of cooking is to be opened here next week. Miss Suzanne Tracy, the well-known lecturer and demonstrator of the culinary art will give a series of lectures.. Miss Tracy has been conducting schools this year is Fresno, San Jose and Sacramento, and each lesson has attracted large and enthusiastic audiences. The lady is so well known in her profession that little need be said to herald her coming. She is a graduate teacher from New York, and will no doubt expound the mysteries of cookery according to the latest scientific principles. The astonishing fact about the school is that the lessons are to be free. Mr. Thos. D. Petch, manager of the Santa Rosa Gas & Electric Company, has arranged to have Miss Tracy come here and give a course in cooking. Miss Tracy will instruct in all branches of cookery, including soups, salads, bread and cake making, pies, cooking of meats and vegetables, and various kinds of desserts. She will at her lessons use a gas range and will explain how to regulate the heat in order to receive the best results from the least expenditure of fuel. While these lessons have been arranged primarily for gas consumers, Mr. Petch says he extends a cordial invitation to all ladies to take advantage of the instruction by attending the classes. Announcement will be made later as to the place where the school will be and the time of the lectures.

– Press Democrat, August 8, 1909


The first of the series of ten lectures to be given here by Miss Suzanne Tracy, which was given Wednesday afternoon at the store-room in the Native Sons’ building, drew such a large number of ladies that Manager Thomas B. Petch of the Pacific Gas &  Electric Company, said that it may be necessary to secure larger quarters for the lectures.

The large room had been filled up with a kitchen in one end which contained gas ranges and all the necessary appliances for baking. Miss Tracy took for her subject, “Cakes and Icing,” and gave a very instructive and interesting lecture on the making of cake and icing. The lecture was illustrated by the lecturer who made a cake, baked it, and after making the icing, iced it in the presence of her audience.

Miss Tracy is a lady of charming personality. She thoroughly understands her work and enters into it with enthusiasm. Every afternoon this week she will lecture, taking various subjects each day, so as to give the housekeepers of Santa Rosa a good opportunity to secure valuable pointers on cooking.

The demonstration is given primarily to call attention to the use of gas for household purposes and to the stock of ranges, water heaters, etc., carried by the local branch of the Pacific Gas & Electric Co., at their Fourth street office in the Union Trust-Savings Bank.

– Press Democrat, August 12, 1909

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