In the early 20th century, the highly-partisan Press Democrat loathed Republican President Theodore Roosevelt with the same intensity of today’s Obama haters over at Fox News. Had it occurred to editor Ernest Finley and other “Old South” conservatives to dispute Teddy’s citizenship, you can bet they’d have demanded his original birth certificate to prove that he wasn’t a covert Shintoist born in Japan.

The PD editorial page routinely criticized everything Roosevelt, and Finley’s anti-Teddy bile even seeped down to gossip columnist Dorothy Anne, who sarcastically attacked the 1906 campaign to simplify spelling. Funded by Andrew Carnegie, a Board proposed that 300 common words would benefit from somewhat more phonetic spelling and the dropping of archaic silent letters. Some of these changes are in use today (“color” instead of “colour”) but others are now forgotten (“mist” instead of “missed”). Pity that Carnegie didn’t instead propose better grammar; try to read aloud Dorothy Anne’s criticism of “the ‘President’s English'” which includes a sentence with a lung-busting 84 words.

But, hey, even if President Teddy was a villainous progressive, those stuffed “teddy” bears were durned cute, what? Another Dorothy Anne column from a few months later fawns over the adorable toy given to Juilliard McDonald, grandson of mover and shaker Col. Mark L. McDonald. (Master Juilliard and his parents, by the way, were then living at the old Oates house on Tenth street.)

Yesterday afternoon Master Juilliard McDonald was the entertaining host at an informal afternoon gathering given for a few of his little neighbors. Games were greatly enjoyed by these little visitors, as was the treat of getting to play with a “Teddy” bear. This latter toy, by the way, was sent to Master Julliard from New York, and is a marvel. Imagine a genuine full grown bear, clad in football regalia, to play with all the time! Refreshments appropriate to the occasion were served. Master Juilliard will entertain a few more of his friends earlier in the coming week.

– Press Democrat, December 30, 1906

This week I was the recipient of the following note:

Dear Dorothy Ann: Is it true that Society is going to return to the old fashioned games and Spelling Bees for entertainment this winter? Signed, A Subscriber.

At first I was highly amused at the little epistle for several reasons. I am not, dear Subscriber, criterior [sic] for what Society will do, what they actually do is my dominion.

After deliberation over the suggestion, though I feel that my unknown friend must mean, in particular, the Spelling Bees–and who could make a better suggestion? Has not our President endorsed phonetic spelling? Does that not mean that we all have to learn to spell again? And, if we have to learn to spell how could there be a pleasanter way than by oldfashioned [sic] Spelling Bees, handled on a new fashioned plan?

And why manage them on a new plan? If we turn our thoughts back to the time when our grandmothers were belles, would we not find the Spelling Bees a well managed, jovial, happy gathering, where the best speller received a great deal more applause and appreciation than the winner of a card party prize gets today? We would have to search hard to find in our City of Roses, the old fashioned school house, the sleighs hurrying with jingling bells, the snow four feet deep, the awkward boys, the rural audiences that gather to attend the Spelling Bees, that books describe so graphically. But would we have to seek to find our champion spellers? I think not, just a little application and our society folk would soon have phonetic spelling among their list of accomplishments, and so kind Subscriber, I might answer your question thus: It is possible, though hardly probable, that society will take up Spelling Bees to learn phonetic spelling, but I can assure you that no one will be quicker to adopt the “President’s English” in preference to “the King’s English” and use it in their daily writing than our good society folks.

– Press Democrat, September 2, 1906

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Hurrah for Teddy Roosevelt! In the 1904 elections, he came close to bringing the nation together for the first time since the Civil War — even in the “Solid South” outpost that was Santa Rosa, Teddy won every precinct by comfortable margins, despite the Press Democrat’s race baiting and hysteric attacks on Republican candidates (including an over-the-top editorial cartoon showing a “Rooseveltism” bayonet through the U.S. Constitution). But it was time to end the snarky attacks once it was clear that the community — and presumably the paper’s readership — overwhelmingly backed a new direction for the country. Right?

Well, no. The PD complained that the “useless and uncalled for” inauguration ceremony had killed dear old Senator Bate, a former Confederate general. Worse yet, an African-American had been appointed to a position of authority!


Just what reason President Roosevelt has for appointing a negro to the position of collector of the Port of New York is not plain, unless it is his desire to humiliate as much as possible the white people compelled to do business with that branch of the revenue department. It cannot even be urged in extenuation that such “recognition” is justified by the fact that a large number of the persons brought into contact with the official in charge there are colored, as might possibly be said of some of the southern ports. Not one man in a thousand having business with the collector of the New York port is a negro. The office is the most important of its kind in the United States, and should most certainly go to a white man rather than a negro. The President’s determination to name a colored man to the place is an unnecessary and uncalled-for affront, not only to the people of New York but of the entire nation.

— Press Democrat, March 14, 1905


The pomp and pageantry attending presidential inaugurations in this country has become so conspicuous as to occasion wide-spread criticism all of which appears to be justified. Why should a citizen of the United States, just because he has been temporarily elevated to the position of chief executive of the nation, seek to outdo the princes and potentates of Europe in their display of the material attributes of mere temporal power? A well-known Washington correspondent in discussing the matter says:

[“]All the fuss and feathers, fanfarronade [sic], fiddlesticks and the cheap and tawdry blare of trumpets attendant upon the inauguration of a President of these United States are passed and gone, the crowds have melted away, and there is not a man in the city not the direct beneficiary of all this noise and beating of tomtoms who is sorry that it is over.

[“]Some day maybe the people of the nation will have the good sense to elect a man President who will eschew all this tommyrot and who will refuse to have anything to do with it. He will be unpopular with the saloon and the hotel men, but he will have the thanks of all the quiet and orderly people of the city and the country.

[“]If they are to continue this idiocy, then why in the name of common sense do they not change the date of holding this inauguration to the 30th day of April? You can be assured of the nastiest weather on record on the 4th of March each year in this city of any time during the year. And each year, or at least each inauguration, sees its harvest of death from colds contracted from exposure under inclement skies while the President is delivering his inaugural address.

[“]This time the victim was dear old Senator Bate of Tennessee. He took cold and lived only four days after sitting fifteen minutes in the cold March wind that was blowing while on the reviewing stand. There is no telling how many more that we will never hear of, and thus it is at each recurring inauguration. This parade of nonsense and noise is becoming greater each time. Either the American people are getting closer to the ideas of the effete monarchies of the old world, and long to have a king to install on his throne, or else are going crazy. It is the opinion of all right-thinking people here that the thing ought to be stopped.[“]

The pompous display of wealth and power on state occasions is a survival of the days of barbarism, when the heads of government considered it necessary — and rightfully so — to impress the people with the exalted station and claims of superiority…do these conditions exist in this enlightened land? If so, well and good; if not, such tomfoolry [sic], as was carried on in Washington a couple of weeks ago should be abandoned forever as useless and uncalled for.

— Press Democrat, March 22, 1905

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