By 1911 the new, modern century had fully arrived in Santa Rosa, but apparently not everyone had received the memo.

Continuing the theme of the past few articles, in 1911 Santa Rosa was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric trolley and several movie theaters. Here’s another example: The new modernity was also reflected in the kinds of ads that began to appear, and that was presumably because shoppers reflected Santa Rosa’s expanding middle-class.

Compare the men’s fashion ads at right; the lower one appeared in 1909 and the top ad was from 1911, both from the Press Democrat. The 1909 ad emphasizes price (twice!) and the man in the drawing seems as average looking as possible – not to mention appearing uncomfortable, maybe even itchy in his ill-fitting wool suit. In the 1911 hat ad the price isn’t mentioned at all, featuring instead a man with chiseled good looks smoking a cigarette (the first appearance of smoking in any PD ad). The emphasis on value was a hallmark of ads aimed at farmers or working-class guys who only bought Sunday suits; the stylish hat ads were aimed at men who wanted to look suave around town.

The local newspapers were also becoming overall more urbane; better graphics, more cartoons and improved reproduction of photographs made both the Santa Rosa Republican and Press Democrat look more on par with a daily paper from Berkeley than one from a country town such as Ukiah, where stores were still pushing discount duds. But that modern look to the papers makes it all the more jarring when you stumble today over a story that’s a throwback to Santa Rosa’s wilder and woolier (and sometimes weirder) times. Several examples from 1911 are transcribed below.

Sometimes it’s not that the events are remarkably peculiar – people always do damned peculiar things every day – it’s just that these were odd bits to get written up in the newspaper. Take the story about Mrs. Patterson, a “prominent resident of Rincon Valley.” One midsummer morning she reached for her jar of epsom salts – a popular choice as a laxative in the day – but instead grabbed her bottle of sugar of lead (lead acetate), then used to color hair but also a mild poison.

Who on earth would keep a bottle of poison next to their similar-looking health remedies? Surprisingly, it must not have been that unusual back then because a year before the town’s veterinarian swallowed a “digestive tablet” after dinner, then realized in horror it was actually a mercury bichloride pill, “enough to kill several persons.” Reaching into our great-grandparents’ medicine cabinet was like playing russian roulette. (For those curious about “sugar of lead:” Yes, it was historically used like sugar and the Romans consumed great quantities of it in sweetened wine – read this thorough discussion.)

Also hard to comprehend today: Why carpenter Clayton Shockley and attorney Peter Schlotterback got into it on Fourth street over the ownership of a handsaw. It seemed Schlotterback accused the workman of stealing it from him a couple of years earlier, and before you knew it, the carpenter was beating the attorney in the head with his hammer and the Schlotterback was trying to saw off a portion of Shockley’s noggin. Both ended up bloody from the fracas. Okay, maybe it was a really, really nice handsaw, but honestly: Two middle-aged men in 1911 trying to kill each other over a handsaw? It was as nuts as the story a few years earlier where two men were fighting in court over ownership of “a valuable varmint dog” – which had actually died.

Then there’s the odd 1911 story of Otto Ulrich, a sausage maker who proved remarkably flammable. It seems he was going about his sausage making when he happened to catch fire, due mainly to his apron and clothing being so soaked in grease that he was something of a human candlewick. He ran to a large tub of water but was unable to get in, due to “the mammoth boots which he wore in the sausage making room” (go ahead and Google for “sausage boots” – you know you want to). His co-workers saved his life by turning a hose on him but his head was burned, along with all of his hair.

It’s also interesting to note the disgusting details of that story only appeared in the Republican, which was Santa Rosa’s afternoon newspaper; it was probably wise for the morning Press Democrat to go easy – many PD subscribers were probably having breakfast as they read their paper, and would not be happy to contemplate how much of that smoky flavor in their eggs and sausage might be essence of Otto.

This wasn’t as gruesome as some industrial accidents reported in years before, but given this incident occurred five years after publication of Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” and the wide public outcry over horrific working conditions in the meatpacking industry, it’s appalling that nothing apparently had changed since the Nineteenth Century over at the Noonan Meat Company, Santa Rosa’s slaughterhouse. Let’s hope a clipping of that article turned up on a desk at the state health department.

Another item right out of the previous century: A guy on Fifth street began shooting at a Chinese man he suspected of wrongdoing, then formed a mob to hunt him down in Santa Rosa’s two-block Chinatown.

Frank Munday claimed the man was prowling around his house and thought the man intended to kidnap his three year-old daughter. Munday’s fears were pulled straight from the pages of lurid dime novels and sensationalist yellow journalism stories; 1911 was near the peak of the national white slavery mania, and a common plot described Chinese men snatching young women off the streets to smuggle them to Asian brothels. Munday took a sniper’s position overlooking the front of his house and later told a reporter he began shooting when he saw the prowler trying to open a window. As this was all happening early Sunday evening as church services were getting out he attracted much attention with his rifle fire. At no point were the police notified, according to the Press Democrat story.

Finally, the PD made its own contribution to the list of 1911 oddities with a new warning to naughty children. Not seen in the paper since 1908, these items once appeared often – a sample can be found here, and is best read imagining the voice of Simpsons’ character Mr. Burns – always warning that a dire fate awaited little rapscallions who trampled flowers or dropped slippery orange and banana peels on the sidewalk. (Yet curiously, when a former Santa Rosan actually did die in 1909 from slipping on a banana peel in San Francisco, the PD reported it with a couple of terse paragraphs and no sermonizing. Go figure.)

In that new item, PD editor Ernest Finley railed against misbehaving whipper-snappers with slingshots, and the big cudgel this time was being arrested by a game warden for shooting at federally-protected songbirds. “So if the fathers and mothers of exuberant young hopefuls wish to avoid trouble of having to go down and bail the young hopefuls out some of these fine mornings, they would better see to it that their young hopefuls carry no sling shots, and that they let the birds alone.” The boys were also shooting at people, and the paper cautioned “there is danger of grave injury if boys are allowed to possess these things and use them.” Hey, kid, here’s a buck if you can knock the cigarette out of the mouth of the guy with the snappy hat.

(Follow these links to articles on similar 1910 peculiarities and odd crimes.)


Complaints are frequent that Santa Rosa boys are amusing themselves and tormenting other people with that devil’s device known as the slingshot, an artillery-like contraption made of a forked stick and two rubber bands. Several persons have been struck by missels [sic] from these weapons, and the results have been painful. And always there is danger of grave injury if boys are allowed to possess these things and use them. Their possession is forbidden by city ordinance, and it is threatened that the ordinance will be invoked against some of the youthful offenders if the offense continue.

Also it is said that the boys with slingshots are making targets of the birds in the old college park. That constitutes another offense against the law, for many of these birds are songbirds of the species that the law protects. So if the fathers and mothers of exuberant young hopefuls wish to avoid trouble of having to go down and bail the young hopefuls out some of these fine mornings, they would better see to it that their young hopefuls carry no sling shots, and that they let the birds alone.

– Press Democrat, March 11, 1911

Mrs. Patterson, a prominent resident of Rincon Valley, made a mistake Friday morning in taking a dose of medicine, and swallowed a quantity of sugar of lead instead of Epsom salts. The woman noticed her mistake at once and a hurried call was made for Dr. Jackson Temple by phone. Dr. Temple made a rapid trip to the Patterson residence in his automobile and soon had the woman out of danger. Mrs. Patterson is still quite ill from the effects of her mistake, but will recover.

– Santa Rosa Republican, July 29, 1911

Clothes Catch Fire When in Smoke House

Otto Ulrich, sausage maker at the Noonan Meat Company, was severely burned about the left arm and had the hair singed from his head on Thursday morning.

The man went into the smoke house to attend to some of his duties there, and his apron and other clothing caught fire. He ran from the smoke house to a large tub of water and began splashing water on himself to quench the flames.

Not succeeding as well as he had expected, he shouted for help and fellow employees turned the hose on him and extinguished the flames. Just how the blaze was communicated to the clothing of the man is not known.

Ulrich was unable to get into the tub of water because of the mammoth boots which he wore in the sausage making room. After the fire was extinguished the man was taken to Dr. J. W. Jesse’s office to have his burns dressed and the pain relieved. His overalls were burned from his body and his head was burned, the hair being consumed rapidly. The grease which had collected on the clothing worn by the man made them inflammable.

– Santa Rosa Republican, September 14, 1911
P. L. Schlotterback and C. P. Shockley Mix Things With a Hammer and Saw as Weapons

A hammer and a saw, with a man behind each, clashed in a bloody combat in the new Hahman building on Fourth street on Thursday afternoon, and for the time being there was considerable excitement. Both men came out of the combat with real wounds, bleeding wounds, too, which had to be patched up by physicians. The men in the mixup with the impromptu implements, usually devoted to placid forms of labor, were attorney Peter L. Schlotterback and C. P. Shockley, the latter a well known carpenter employed on the building.

 Schlotterback strolled into the building Thursday afternoon and seeing a number of carpenter’s saws picked up one, so the story goes, and inquired the name of the man who was using the particular saw he had in his hand, saying that it belonged to him. Shockley stepped up on hearing claim being laid to his saw, and demanded to know whether the attorney meant that he had stolen the saw, adding that it was his saw and that he could give the name of the man from whom he purchased it. He also stated that he could buy saws and was not bound to take tools that did not belong to him, and had not done so.

 Some angry words were exchanged between the two and a suggestion from Schlotterback that probably Shockley had not come honestly by the saw was resented by the carpenter, who smote his accuser over the head with a blow from a hammer handle. Quick as a flash Schlotterback struck the carpenter over the head with the saw, following it up, so other workmen present say, with other blows. Shockley turned to run and the lawyer pursued him and when Shockley stumbled and fell another blow with the saw was aimed at him. Then the combat ended.

 Blood was streaming from the wounds on Shockley’s head and from the wound on Schlotterback’s head by this time. Officer Ramsay came and Schlotterback walked away with him toward the police station. No complaint was filed, however.

 Shockley was taken to the office of Dr. G. W. Mallory and the blood was washed from his wounds. One cut on the top of his head required four stitches to close. Another cut on the back of his head required a like number of stitches. Another deep cut was made on the carpenter’s arm.

 In the meantime Schlotterback had sought the assistance of Dr. J. W. Jesse to have his wounds treated. Dr. Jesse found he had sustained a big contused wound on top of the head, evidently caused by the hammer handle with which Shockley admits he first struck Schlotterback. He also received a nasty gash in the hollow of the hand.

 Both men had the fronts of their shirts covered with blood, evidence that something had been doing.

 Shockley was employed by Schlotterback in making some repairs upon a house about two years ago, and then a saw was missed. While Schlotterback had his suspicions aroused, he says it was not until Thursday afternoon that he discovered the saw which he says is his. On the other hand, Carpenter Shockley says the saw is his, and not Schlotterback’s, and that he bought it from a man whose name he can furnish. And there you are. There is no mistaking the fact that for a few seconds there was a lively fracas over the disputed ownership.

It was not known Thursday night whether there would be any legal proceedings growing out of the dispute. After the wounds had been dressed Schlotterback inquired at the building for the saw and was told it was being detained at the police station. When Shockley was being led away to Dr. Mallory’s office his parting injunction to his fellows was, “Don’t let Schlotterback get that saw. It’s mine, and not his.”

– Press Democrat, November 3, 1911

Frank Munday Believes Chinaman Was Bent on Kidnapping His Little Daughter

Frank Munday , who resides on Fifth street, near E, took several shots with a rifle at a Chinaman who had been prowling about his residence for several hours Sunday night. He opened fire when he detected the Celestial on the porch endeavoring to open a window.

Neither of the bullets took effect in the Mongolian’s anatomy and he fled like a scared wolf to the inmost researches [sic] of Chinatown, and despite a [illegible microfilm: there was a search aided by Munday].

At the time of the rifle fusilade [sic] great excitement prevailed as many people were on their way to the different churches. The Chinaman had followed Mrs. Munday and her little three-year-old daughter when they were returning from a walk on Sunday afternoon. From then on until dusk he hovered about the Fifth street residence and was noticed by a number of the neighbors of the Mundays. The object of his attention seemed to be the little girl, and in the absence of any other reason for his presence and an attempt to enter the house, Munday believes the Chinaman was bent on kidnapping the child.

When he returned home shortly after seven o’clock on Sunday night Munday found his wife considerably alarmed over the Chinaman’s actions, and taking his rifle he stationed himself at a point of vantage and when he discovered the uninvited visitor making for the window he opened fire.

– Press Democrat, April 25, 1911

Read More


Let’s go hunting for the “peculiar” items in the 1910 Santa Rosa newspapers – the offbeat or odd or just damned strange. This time the theme is mostly advertising; Gentle Reader might also want to check out “Did’ja Hear About…” which covers other odd news stories for the year and “The Peculiar is What is Missed Most,” which is the roundup of similar articles from 1909.

Before getting to the funny stuff, some housekeeping is necessary, as this is the final entry for the year 1910. By this time the Comstocks were well settled in to Santa Rosa, as described in a separate item. Also covered previously was the death of Maria S. Solomon, the mother of Mattie Oates, whose demise three weeks into January must have cast a shadow over their fine house on Mendocino avenue. Hints also appeared in the society columns that Mattie’s health was beginning to fail. In April she and Wyatt spent a month in Southern California, where they made auto trips with close friends Mrs. Dorothy Farmer and her daughter Hazel. On their return the Press Democrat gossip columnist remarked “she is well and strong again.”

The new year had started cheerfully for the Oates; on New Years’ Eve, he served as master of ceremonies at a large card party at the Saturday Afternoon Club. There he handed out prizes for events such as the “gentlemen’s noise contest,” where undertaker W. B. Ward’s drum won out over a state assemblyman’s cow bell and the former mayor’s bread pan. Other than that, it was another quiet year for the semi-retired lawyer (he was 60, she was 52). They also spent a week at the ranch of friends near Duncan’s Mills and as was their custom, hosted an extended visit by an ingenue of marriageable age, this time the niece of famed judge Amos P. Catlin. Their other houseguests were the Farnhams, a San Francisco couple often mentioned in the city papers. Mrs. Farnham was a prominent clubwoman and Dr. Daniel C. Farnham was an osteopath and a leader in the “National League for Medical Freedom” – a special interest group set up to fight the creation of a national public health bureau on the claims that it would hamper “individual rights.” As this was completely out of step with the Progressive Era they were widely condemned as tools of the patent medicine makers, who funded their prolific amount of advertising. Whether or not the Oates’ agreed with these aims is unknown, but the connection with the Farnhams could have been long-standing; at a 1911 rally, Dr. Farnham was introduced by Barclay Henley, Oates’ first law partner in Santa Rosa.

Our first 1910 peculiarity is the clever ad above for Joseph Tarzyn, a Russian-born tailor whose shop was at 406 Fourth street. (And no, his name had nothing to do with the popular Tarzan character, whose first story would not appear until 1912.) To the right is another advertisement for Professor Whittier, exhibition roller skater; we met the good professor earlier in another bizarre photo where he seemed to be staring down a row of mismatched kitchen chairs. His “coast to death” involved jumping through fire and here he exhibits “clubfoot skating,” which was surely every bit as offensive as it sounds.

Out at Bodega Bay there was another type of jumping and awkward movement reported as Mrs. John Turner, fed up with being cussed out by her neighbor, pulled out a gun and began making him dance in the manner familiar to anyone who has watched a Yosemite Sam cartoon. “He at first demurred,” the Press Democrat dryly noted, “but when the gun was brought into play he changed his mind, and as one shot followed another, he danced faster and faster, until finally a bullet hit him in the hip which ended the dance.” The cusser was not seriously injured; the cussee discussed the matter with a judge a few days later and was released on parole.

Alas, the papers did not report what happened in the case (as far as I can tell) but it’s likely she only paid the customary fine of $5 for each shot fired; gun violence was not viewed with special concern – recall the 1907 shootout where a member of the Carrillo family did not spend a day in jail after shooting a man in the chest, yet his wife was behind bars for 30 days for public drunkenness in the same incident. And anyway, profane and vulgar language in the presence of a virtuous woman or child was considered as serious as physical assault, so the court may well have viewed Mrs. Turner’s “dance music” as a kind of self defense.

Handguns were also routinely carried and handled without modern concerns about safety – accidents of men shooting themselves through a pants pocket or coat were so frequent I stopped keeping track. That many people were routinely packing heat may or may not seem unusual today (depending upon your politics) but the ad below certainly falls into the peculiar pile. The “Yellow Kid,” an impoverished but cheerful waif, was the best known and best loved cartoon character of the day; using his image to sell firearms is a bit like Colt or Remington licensing the image of cowboy Woody from Toy Story to endorse real shootin’ irons.

The downtown hardware store presented the Yellow Kid in another firearms ad that similarly used a dash of funky speling for whimsy (“You Cant Miss It” his nightshirt read as he carried a shotgun while waving a revolver in the other hand). Unfortunately, someone with the Epworth League of Santa Rosa’s Southern Methodist church didn’t understand a little of that schtick goes a very long way, and their entire notice about an upcoming dance was written in a mock childlike Swedish-Irish (?) patois that was nearly inkomprehensibl:

SEPT. 23, 1910

That us folks of the Epwurth Leeg of the Methodist church, South, air goin to hav in the Leeg rume. If you kant finde it kum tu the church on Fifth an Orchurd streets.

These air ruls wil be enforced tu thee leter:

1. A kompetant cor of menergers an aids will be in attendunce.
2. The hull sassiety wil interduce strangers an luk after bashful fellers.
3. Fun wil begin tu kommance at 8 o’clock.
4. Tu git into the rum yu wil hav to pay tin sents; tu git enything tu eat yo wil hav tu pay 5 sents.

Kum at Kandle lightin’ an stay until bedtime. No obstreprus er bad boys permitted.

Signed. The Kommity.

But the most peculiar ads of all that year were the campaign ads for a man running for County Surveyor, the sort of political job that usually draws hardly any attention at all. The fellow apparently covered the town with so many little posters it became a newsworthy item for the Press Democrat: “A unique little ‘paster’ is being used by J. C. Parsons, the Democratic nominee for County Surveyor, to further his campaign. It shows Mr. Parsons in action, and was gotten up by him personally. The little pasters are everywhere, and one is produced here for the benefit of our readers.” But it was his big ad in the PD, shown below, that has to win some sort of award for strangeness. (“Worst. Ad. Ever,” as the Simpsons’ character Comic Book Guy might say.) The unphotogenic Mr. Parsons lost by a landslide to the incumbent surveyor George H. Winkler, who promptly died. It was bad enough to lose after spending quite a pile of coin on the ads but as it was apparently known that Winkler had been quite ill for some time, it must have truly stung that the voters still preferred a nearly-dead candidate.

The last peculiarity of 1910 concerns Doc Summerfield, the town’s veterinarian. One evening after supper he pulled a bottle off the shelf and popped down a “digestive tablet.” To his horror he realized that he had picked the wrong jar and had swallowed a mercury bichloride pill instead, “enough to kill several persons,” according to the Santa Rosa Republican.

Let us pause for a moment and contemplate what sort of idiot would keep identical bottles next to each other when one contained a terrible poison and the other had an old-fashioned version of Tums. Let’s also wonder why he had mercury bichloride anyway, which was mainly used in tiny doses to treat syphilis, and ponder further if that meant he was still operating his side business – in 1908 he was mentioned as one of several upstanding Santa Rosans who was a landlord for a brothel on First street.

Summerfield ran to Hahman’s drug store downtown and was given an emetic plus some sort of antidote “hypodermic.” There is no clear definition of what that might have been; medical literature published the following year stated colloidal silver seemed to work best, although the drawback was that large doses might turn the patient’s skin a shade of metallic blue-grey known as Argyria. Three doctors rushed to the pharmacy to attend Dr. Summerfield but there was little they could do except observe (perhaps they all whipped out their pocket revolvers and were taking bets as to whose gun metal would soon match his complexion). By the following day the Doc was doing fine and presumably reorganizing the shelves in his office.


Mistook it for Digestive Tablets; Close Call

A mistake that might have been fatal was made by Dr. J. J. Summerfield Friday evening just after he had eaten his supper. Only his presence of mind and promptness saved him from death. He took a tablet containing bichloride of mercury, thinking that it was some of his digestive tablets which he had been taking after each meal.

It was about 8 o’clock when Dr. Summerfield went into the room which adjoins his stables and hospital on First street and in the dark he took down a bottle which he supposed contained his digestive tablets, and took one of them. As he returned the bottle to the shelf he noticed that he had gotten hold of the wrong bottle and that he had taken a mercury tablet, which contained about seven and a half grains of the poison, enough to kill several persons. He immediately ran to the Hahman drug store on Exchange avenue and there told them what he had done and asked for an emetic. Physicians were also called and it was not long before Doctors Cline, Bogle, and Bonar were at the doctor’s side.

Before Dr. Summerfield arrived at the Hahman drug store, a messenger more fleet of foot had preceded him and announced what had happened. Paul T. Hahman had an emetic ready and also gave him a hypodermic. This counteracted the effects of the poison, and later the physicians reached the patient. J. Walter Claypool and Dr. J. H. Rankin remained with Dr. Summerfield  until long after midnight and he was resting easy at the time.

On Saturday Dr. Summerfield was doing nicely, and all danger from the poison he had taken had entirely passed away. It was only the fact that the doctor knew what a deadly poison the stuff was and the promptness with which he went to the drug store for antidotes that he owes his life. Dr. Summerfield  is also a very big, strong man and has a good constitution, which also helped him throw off the effects of the poison.

– Santa Rosa Republican, March 26, 1910

I heard of a “patent medicine” party the other night. The idea was carried out not in the administering of medicines to the guests but in the adornment of the rooms with all sorts of advertisements. Prizes were awarded those who proved the most proficient in the guessing contest that located the advertisements with the medicine to which they belonged. It afforded much merriment.

– “Society Gossip”, Press Democrat, June 19, 1910


Mrs. John Turner of Bodega Bay created considerable excitement on the bay shore Saturday when she compelled Captain Hart, a pioneer of that section, to dance on the beach by firing shots at his feet and between his legs to emphasize her commands.

The trouble is one of long standing. The Turners, husband and wife, reside on the country road, near Bodega Bay, while Captain Hart is a neighbor. They have had considerable trouble of various kinds at various times, so that when the Captain pulled a plank out of the water Saturday and left it on the beach and returned later discover that it had been thrown back into the water by his enemy, he could stand it no longer.

According to the story which reached here Monday, the Captain, in addressing Mrs. Turner, used language far more expressive than polite and better fitted for use on sailing vessels than in polite society on land. When he had exhausted his vocabulary and stopped for breath, Mrs. Turner took a turn at telling the Captain what she thought of him, and then ordered him to dance. He at first demurred, but when the gun was brought into play he changed his mind, and as one shot followed another, he danced faster and faster, until finally a bullet hit him in the hip which ended the dance.

Mrs. Turner was taken before Justice Cunninghame Monday, and after some discussion, she was allowed to go on parole until Wednesday, December 14, when the case will again be called in court. Meanwhile it is expected that Captain Hart will fully recover from his wound.

– Press Democrat, November 29, 1910

Read More


Here’s a trio of odd little stories that probably had tongues clucking for a few days in 1910 Santa Rosa:


A farm family on Occidental Road woke up a few days before Christmas to find some of the windows open, hair scattered everywhere and their little girl nearly bald. Eight year-old Aldora Maria Souza insisted a stranger had crept inside late at night and cut off all her locks, leaving her very frightened. (The Press Democrat story mistakenly identifies her as being two years older and named “Madaline,” although the census and other records show neither could be accurate. These misunderstandings might be explained by the family speaking only Portuguese, with the presumed exception of Aldora who was attending country school.)

Authorities took the story seriously and the Deputy Sheriff in Sebastopol organized a posse to search for the deranged man. No one was found, but they heard there was a rumor she told a schoolmate that she was planning to cut off her hair, and supposedly she had once before told a similar story about an attack by a mad barber.

The PD reporter, writing rather skillfully in the tone of a parent trying to coax a child into admitting a fib, made it clear everyone believed little Aldora whacked off her own curls and made the crazy story up. Gentle Reader certainly believes the same, I’m sure. But in the next column on that page of the Press Democrat was a story about a Santa Rosa dragnet for Ray Glatfelder, a young criminal who escaped police custody the same night as Aldora’s haircut. An interesting detail about Mr. Glatfelder’s escape: He was wearing handcuffs at the time.

Ray Glatfelder

(RIGHT: Not long after his escape, the Press Democrat published Ray Glatfelder’s picture in an unusual “wanted criminal” item. As far as can be determined, Glatfelder was never captured.)

Ray Glatfelder was certainly more enterprising than the usual dumb clucks who made up Santa Rosa’s criminal class. Two years earlier, when he was 19 or 20, he had escaped from the county jail by digging through the wall of his cell and lowering himself from the second floor by means of knotted bedsheets. Captured a few weeks later, he was sent to the Preston School of Industry, the toughest reform school in the state – literally a San Quentin for children. When he escaped in handcuffs from Santa Rosa police in 1910, he had been recently discharged from Preston and was being arrested for burglary.

So it’s surely a coincidence that Glatfelder escaped the same night Aldora’s hair was chopped off a few hours later. It was another coincidence that there would be two simultaneous manhunts in Sonoma County the next day. (Had that ever happened before?) And it’s against all odds that a guy who happened to be a burglar and needed to steal a hacksaw or file would be clever enough to use a little child as a diversion to cover up his theft. The chances were even remote that readers would find any possible connections between the two stories that appeared side by side on the same page of the Press Democrat.



Man passes a fellow walking down the street and thinks, hey, I’ve got a suit just like that in my closet. Not anymore.



It was 3 o’clock in the morning when George Forepaugh woke up the Assistant District Attorney with startling news: Herman Hankel had killed himself.

The 43 year-old Hankel was a well-known figure in Santa Rosa, serving as a policeman on the town’s five man force starting around 1890 (he continued to serve at least up to 1926) and his adventures have been mentioned often in this journal. He was identified in the articles below as a “former police officer” because for reasons unknown – bad health? – he was not on the force in the years around 1910-1911, and was listed as unemployed in the 1910 census.

Forepaugh told the Assistant D. A. he was roused from sleep by his landlady. Her sister, Mrs. Julia Hankel, had phoned to say that Herman was upset about some property matter and told her he was going to commit suicide. He took his gun and went outside. She told her sister she heard a shot. Julia begged her sister for help, and she in turn woke up her tenant who in turn woke up the D. A. The men went to the Hankel home and looked about, finding no corpse in the yard. They were all gathered in the house and Forepaugh was about to telephone the police when in walked Herman, not dead at all and with a revolver in his hand. Forepaugh bolted out the door as fast as he could.

The next day, the Hankels were in fast rewind: No, there was no suicide threat and no shot fired, Julia said, effectively calling her sister a liar. No, Herman said, he had no gun (although the Asst. D. A. told the Press Democrat that Hankel was indeed armed). A followup item in the PD stated “The trouble is said to have grown out of family differences,” leaving readers to scratch their collective heads, pondering if the sister-in-law might have whipped up a story because of some sort of vendetta against Herman or Julia, or maybe tensions were generally explosive in the Hankel household because of his lack of work or other issues (Julia was a respected dressmaker, so the family had some income in that period).

And what of poor Mr. Forepaugh, who apparently was dragged from his bed and thrown into act III of the turgid Hankel melodrama? Why did he quickly flee when Herman appeared? Did he have some connection with Julia or Herman that involved him in their “family differences?” The next day, Herman spotted Forepaugh on the street and tried to beat him up. Herman was restrained by a crowd and arrested for assault, taken to jail by one of his former fellow officers.

“The story was being discussed about the streets last night,” the Press Democrat observed. I’ll bet it was.

As a bonus oddity, to the right is one of the ads that appeared in the 1910 Santa Rosa papers for Professor Whittier, exhibition roller skater; presumably he’s about to jump over those mismatched kitchen chairs instead of staring them into submission. But what’s with the “coast to death?” His big trick sounds risky yet oddly nonchalant. Perhaps he was imitating another performer who had a stunt called the “roll to doom” or “glide to the grave” or something.

Girl’s Story as to Attack By Man Armed With Scissors Believed to Be Fanciful

Did ten year-old Madaline Souza, daughter of a farmer residing some miles from Sebastopol on the old Occidental road take a pair of scissors and cut off her golden tresses or did some mischievous man ruthlessly despoil her flowing head of hair? Is the story she tells fanciful or real?

Madaline says a man, a stranger, who cut off a portion of her locks some time since, returned to her home on Tuesday night and completed the job, leaving her all shorn. Officers and others are inclined to believe that little Madaline, who attends the district school in her neighborhood, fancies all this.

When it comes to the fact that her hair has been cut there is realism beyond peradventure of a doubt in that ocular demonstration is sufficient to prove that part of the case.

At any rate when the girl’s family arose they found some of the windows, shuttered and barred on the previous night, were open Wednesday morning. They found Madaline’a hair strewn about here and there, and were met with the girl’s declaration that during the night a man, the same one who on a previous occasion had cut off a part of her hair, had returned and had broken into the house, finished the hair-cutting, and had departed, leaving her very frightened.

When the news spread through the community Wednesday morning, a posse was formed to find the alleged bad man hair-cutter, and Deputy Sheriff Fred R. Matthews of Sebastopol headed and directed the search among the Occidental hills and dales for the culprit. The search lasted all day and by nightfall the searchers had found nothing and were of the opinion, some of them at least, that Madaline had allowed her imagination, to run rampant, especially when a rumor reached their ears that another school girl had been told by the Souza girl that she intended cutting off her hair.

Things had quieted down a boit in the neighborhood Wednesday night and the earlier rumors of the daytime to the effect that an insane man had cut the girl’s hair were allowed to pass. Inquiry at Sebastopol on Wednesday night elicited the information that the girl was apparently the only one who had seen the strange man with the naughty scissors.

– Press Democrat, December 22, 1910
Hunt all Day and Night By Officers Fails to Locate Self-Confessed Burglar

Up to an early hour this morning Ray Glatfelder, self-confessed burglar, who on Tuesday night made his escape with handcuffs clasped about his wrists, had not been captured, despite the silly rumors that were afloat as to his death and arrest.

The officers were on the alert all day Wednesday and at night but he could not be found anywhere. He is believed to be hiding somewhere in town.

– Press Democrat, December 22, 1910
Man Prides Himself on His Taste as Dresser When He Sees How Well Another Man Looks–Burglar

Supposing you had a natty suit of clothes hanging in your closet at home, and one day while you were out for a drive you met a stylishly dressed man wearing a suit of the same pattern and cut as your own, and after congratulating yourself on your idea of taste in the selection of clothes you were to return home several hours later to find that during your absence a burglar had ransacked the house and among other things had carried off your new suit, and knowing that you had passed that burglar and suit on the road, wouldn’t it jar you?

In brief this is just what happened to E. H. Johanssen, who resides in the Sonoma Valley, near Sonoma. He recognized a suit of clothes that he could have sworn was his on the anatomy of another man and when he returned home he found that a burglar had visited the house during his absence and had carried off many articles of value including the suit of clothes he had just bought.

The burglar had a good start and though the officers were notified soon after the discovery of the burglary he had made his get-away. If Johanssen meets that suit out walking there will be something doing, though.

– Press Democrat, June 26, 1910
Assistant District Attorney Hoyle Called from Bed at Early Morn by Startled Resident

Assistant District Attorney George W. Hoyle was called from his slumbers about 3 o’clock Monday morning and informed that his neighbor, former Police Officer Herman Hankel had shot himself at his home nearby.

An immediate investigation was made by Mr. Hoyle and George Forepaugh, who had given the alarm, but as nothing could be found of the supposed suicide’s body. Forepaugh started to summon the police. He was just in the act when the supposed dead man appeared upon the scene with a gun, and Forepaugh mad his escape with dispatch, declaring afterwards that the doorway was not nearly wide enough for him.

There are various stories regarding the affair, but from them all it would appear that Hankel had been having some trouble over property rights, and finally informed his wife that he would end it all by killing himself. Telling her farewell he took his gun and going outside the house fired the weapon into the air. As Hankel failed to return, Mrs. Hankel feared he had carried out his threat.

Mrs. Hankel called up her sister, Mrs. Georgia Redwine, and informed her of the facts as she understood them. Mrs. Redwine called Forepaugh, who rooms in her lodging house, and asked him to find the body of the suicide. Forepaugh apparently did not relish the job, and so involved the aid of Assistant District Attorney Hoyle. Not being able to find the remains they were looking for, Forepaugh went to the telephone to summon the police and was just calling the number when the supposed dead man made his appearance. This cut short the investigation.

The story was being discussed about the streets last night, but when called upon Mrs. Hankel denied that there was any truth in the report of attempted suicide, and denied that she had heard any shot fired during the night or morning.

Forepaugh, however, tells the story as related above, and Assistant District Attorney Hoyle admits being called by Forepaugh with the statement that Hankel had killed himself, admits that he assisted Forepaugh in the search for Hankel’s dead body and admits he was present when Hankel came back into the house carrying a revolver in his hand.

– Press Democrat, June 22, 1910

Former Police Officer Herman Hankel assaulted George Forepaugh on the public street last night, and was arrested by Officer Yeager and taken to the police station, where he gave bail for his appearance this morning. Hankel is a large man and would make two or three of Forepaugh, but bystanders prevented any serious results. The trouble is said to have grown out of family differences.

Hankel Denies the Report

Former Police Officer Herman Hankel called at the Press Democrat office Thursday night and denied the report that he recently threatened to commit suicide. He maintains that he did not have a gun, and no gun was fired.

– Press Democrat, June 24, 1910

Read More