When setting the dial on your time machine, there were few better years to be in Santa Rosa than 1911. Yeah, it wasn’t that long ago I said the same thing about 1910, but I was young and ignorant back then, eight months ago.
This was the year Santa Rosa finally was catching up to Bay Area cities; downtown was looking more cosmopolitan with its paved streets, electric signs and several vaudeville and movie theaters. We were even in the movies; the popular Essanay Film Company came to Santa Rosa and shot a few scenes in town, including a chase down Fourth street. There were car ads in nearly every edition of the Press Democrat and autos or motorcycles were everywhere, thanks in great part to the new option of buying on credit.
The big event of 1911 was Fred J. Wiseman’s flight from Petaluma to Santa Rosa. Decades later we found out it was kinda historic, but at the time everyone was cranked up for three days waiting to hear the factory whistles, bells, and “succession of bomb explosions” which would cue them to dash quickly outside in hopes of a glimpse of Wiseman soaring over downtown. He actually crashed outside city limits, of course, but it was still exciting that he almost made it. And then there was the enjoyment of reading the juvenile (but hilarious!) squabbling between the editors of the two papers over which of them liked Fred best.
This was also the year when (male) voters would decide whether women had a right to vote, and two of the most prominent fighters on both sides were in the North Bay. Passage was by no means assured; passions ran high for months as both sides tried to persuade the public it was the right thing to do – or that it would lead to the end of civilization. Before it came down to the nail-biting vote, Sonoma County and the entire Bay Area had been blanketed with banners, posters, leaflets and postcards from the suffragists and the “anti’s.”
On the seamier side, Santa Rosa was mesmerized by two big events. The year began with the jury verdict in the Burke trial, where an esteemed local physician and health spa owner was charged with trying to kill his mistress and infant son with dynamite. And in late autumn, there was a terrible scandal that involved poison pen letters and a prominent women’s social club acting as vigilantes. Although both local papers tried to downplay the scandal, before it was over there were two suicides that could not be ignored.
As this is the last main entry for 1911, here are some little updates to previous stories and other bits of “string too small to save,” followed by a selection of ads that captured the spirit of the times.
|Shortly after the women’s right to vote was placed on the ballot, California passed a law that limited women to no more than eight hours of work a day or 48 hours a week. Loopholes exempting women who did the hardest manual labor was one reason it was controversial; it also gave employers an incentive to fire women who worked in stores and offices (read more details here). Once it was enacted Santa Rosa businesses were heard to gripe loudly – apparently many women had been expected to work 55 hours a week or more. Store managers complained it would force them to stagger shifts or have male employees pick up the extra work. Read between the lines of the article below, however, and you’ll find they were worried men couldn’t be trusted with the cash register or keep from screwing up the inventory.|
|The Santa Rosa papers were unabashedly parochial when it came to doings around town, reporting on who grew a big turnip and who had invited friends over for cards, but very rarely did they scrape up news about someone getting new furniture. The only exceptions I recall are for pieces made by master craftsman Frank S. Smith, who created them in his home workshop on Ripley street. He was last mentioned in 1909 when he built a 14-foot dining room table for the owners of Hood Mansion (photo here), and in 1911 he finished a complete living room and reception hall set for pharmacist Hahman and his family. The interesting angle is that the furniture was intended to harmonize with the house – which was built the year before and designed by Brainerd Jones. The home at 718 McDonald Avenue is the fourth Shingle Style design that Jones created in Santa Rosa and is the most conventional. Where the 1902 Paxton House, 1905 Comstock House and 1908 Saturday Afternoon Club were in the Eastern Shingle Style that tried to be both rustic and elegant, the Hahman House is more like an example of the Prairie School – an American Foursquare with Craftsman features. Still, it must have seemed shockingly modern amidst McDonald Avenue’s row of dull Victorian mansions.|
|Now out of jail and 50 years old, the life of Joe Forgett continued to be a slow-motion train wreck. Back in 1907 he made headlines by leading a breakout at the Sonoma County jail where ten prisoners overpowered the guard. Among the inmates was his wife, behind bars for “vagrancy” – the usual charge for prostitution – and later at trial, Joe said he had to escape because jailor “old Fred” was putting the moves on his wife. His family pled for mercy because he had been an opium addict for fifteen years. Joe’s wife left him in 1911 and he petitioned for divorce which was a bit unusual, seeing that the couple was childless and poor (Joe lived until 1940 and was buried in the county’s Potter’s Field as an indigent). He was also in the papers earlier that year for failing to return a horse and buggy he borrowed in order to talk to someone about a job. “After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called,” reported the Santa Rosa Republican.|
|The “wild man of Mendocino county” was found dead at the entrance to his cave near Hopland, and predictably the news was reported in Santa Rosa and other papers around the Bay Area. As mentioned here earlier, newspapers loved “wild men” stories and reprinted them even if the poor lunatic was wandering in the woods hundreds of miles away. Often it was followed with an ancillary item about someone hoping the guy might be a long-lost relative; after “Aemldo” Secso – also called Amedo Sesco and earlier, Amelio Regoni – was caught in 1909, a mother contacted Cloverdale police to ask if the man could be her son. And sure enough, while searching for updates to that story in a newspaper database, I found another “wild man of Mendocino county” account from 1949, and this time a woman thought the hermit could be her hubby, who suffered PTSD from his time in a German prisoner of war camp.|
|San Francisco doctor Eugene West, who performed a 1909 abortion on a young Santa Rosa woman who later died, was again arrested after 22 year-old Laura Taylor also developed life-threatening complications. As with the earlier case, no charges were apparently filed against him. It was the second abortion that year for the former Santa Rosa resident, who was now cutting cloth in San Francisco. As per usual, the newspapers never mentioned the word “abortion” and called it the “malpractice” or “criminal operation.”|
The Native Sons of the Golden West held their convention in Santa Rosa, which tripled the town’s population for the weekend as residents were asked to register any available rooms in their home to accommodate visitors. This odd front page of the Republican might have been a giveaway to conventioneers.
HOW MERCHANTS OBSERVE WOMEN’S EIGHT HOUR LAWConstitutionality of Law to be Tested In Los Angeles
The law making it compulsory not to employ women over eight hours a day, or 48 hours a week, has upset the routine of work in stores and factories in this city to a considerable extent, just as it has all over California. The law went into effect Monday morning. Most of the merchants find little trouble in regulating the work for most of the days of the week, but Saturday is the day that bothers the merchants. How to arrange for keeping open stores on Saturday night, there’s the rub. Most of the merchants believe that eight hours a day is long enough for women to work, but find themselves at a loss just how to arrange that Saturday night proposition. This may result in an effort to have the stores close Saturday evening the same as on other evenings. With this idea in view the question will be presented to the Chamber of Commerce in an effort to bring about some agreement among the merchants in the matter.
The merchant is confronted by another feature that is troublesome. That is, shortening the hours of the cashier. In most cases there is one cashier, who has the complete handling of the cash and in that way she is entirely responsible for her cash balance, but she cannot now be employed over eight hours a day. The proprietor of the place of business that is open from 8 o’clock in the morning until 6 o’clock will take care of the cash for those hours that the cashier is not present until he has figured out some other way it can be carried out just as safe as at present.
This being open on Saturday night would be all right if any person without experience could go into a store and be a competent clerk. An experienced clerk must get acquainted with his stock to be capable. The employment of inexperienced persons invariably result in stock becoming badly disarranged and in unintentional blunders. For that reason the stores do not like to put on additional help. The question has been raised, “Does the law affect the employment of girls doing housework?”
A. T. Sutherland, of the Santa Rosa Department Store, says he has not arranged for the Saturday evening difficulty. He is complying with the eight hour law by having the women help come to the store at 9 o’clock, the men clerks attending to the customers who come to work earlier than that.
The Pioneer laundry has discontinued paying by the day, and instead pays by the hour. The flat work price has been raised a trifle and the girls come to work at different hours and quit according to the time they begin work.
The Domestic French Laundry states that their help will begin at 8 o’clock and quit at 5 o’clock.
The Santa Rosa French Laundry states that the law does not affect it, as it has always observed the eight hour day.
The Red Front, Max Rosenberg proprietor, has not completed his arrangements for Saturday nights. He is an advocate of the plan favoring the closing of the dry goods department at 6 o’clock Saturday nights. The week is fixed for in this store by having the girls go to work at 8 o’clock one week and quitting at 5 o’clock, and the other half beginning at 9 o’clock and quitting at 6 o’clock. Each week the girls are to change these hours, the girls going to work at 9 o’clock this week being those to go to work next week at 8 o’clock and vice versa.
Carithers & Forsyth have their women help come to work at 9 o’clock. For Saturday night they plan to have their men clerks handle all the trade at present.
F. C. Loomis has made provision for compliance with the law by employing extra help.
The law is to be tested in Los Angeles and it is the belief of many that the law will be declared unconstitutional.– Santa Rosa Republican, May 23, 1911FURNITURE FOR HAHMAN HOMEDesigned and Made by Decorator F. S. Smith
Frank S. Smith has just completed and delivered to Paul T. Hahman one of the handsomest sets of furniture which graces the homes of the City of Roses. Mr. Smith is a decorator, and does special works in furniture and draperies. The set which he has manufactured for Mr. And Mrs. Hahman is artistic and handsome in every way. The entire work was done in Mr. Smith’s small workshop on his premises at 1209 Ripley street.
The furniture made by the Santa Rosan was for the reception hall and living room of the handsome Hahman residence. A reception chair, cozy arm chair, table and tabouret were designed and made for the reception hall. The furniture for the living room included a mammoth Davenport, two large rockers, one large easy chair, a window chair, pedestal tabouret and large table with drawer.
Mr. Smith claims for this set of furniture that there has been nothing made where the identical lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines are carried out and still secure the uniform lines as in the pieces he has turned out for Mr. Hahman. It was designed and made exclusively for the Hahman home, and to harmonize with the other furnishings and draperies of the residence. Mr. Smith manufactures furniture of different designs for each particular home. He has made an elegant dining room set for Senator and Mrs. Thomas Kearns of Kenwood.
All of the furniture for Mr. Hahman is upholstered in a silk damask of conventional figure, in two tones of brown. The elegant Davenport is 78 inches long and 30 inches deep. All of the furniture is equipped with sunken leather casters, which prevents scratching the polished floors of the home. It is all made of heavy quarter sawed oak and finished with a handsome piano polish, which makes it have an appearance of elegance seldom found in furniture.– Santa Rosa Republican, April 7, 1911FORGETT FORGOT TO RETURN BORROWED HORSE
Joe Forgett, the cement contractor of this city, had an absent minded spell on Monday, and forgot to return a horse which he borrowed from Stewart & McDoughall, local plumbers.
The horse and vehicle were loaned Forgett to drive to the home of a prospective customer, and the firm did not know where the man had driven the animal. After transacting his business, Forgett forgot that he had driven to the place, and walked away, leaving the horse standing in front of the residence where he had called.
When the animal was not returned at closing time for the plumbing firm, Charles Stewart made a tour of many sections of the city looking for the animal. Many people were notified of the missing property and these were also on the lookout for the horse and wagon.
About 8:30 o’clock Monday evening Jack Sarraihl discovered the missing property out on Charles street. In the mean time Stewart had ridden many miles on a bicycle seeking his property.– Santa Rosa Republican, February 21, 1911MRS. FORGETT HAS FORGOTTENFailed to Return; Husband Seeks Divorce
Joseph N. Forget, who has resided here for many years, has petitioned the Superior Court for a decree of divorce. The papers were filed on Monday and in due time the petitioner expects that the decree will be awarded him. The defendant is Jessie Isadore Forget and she is charged with desertion. That Mrs. Forget went away and forgot to return is the burden of the complaint of the husband. Attorney Ross CAmpbell represents Forget.– Santa Rosa Republican, November 6, 1911DEATH TAMES ‘WILD MAN’ OF MENDOCINO
Death last week ended the career of Aemldo Secso, who was for a number of years known as the “wild man of Mendocino county.” The man lived for years on the pilferings he made from logging camps, and although every endeavor was made to capture him, he avoided arrest for several years. Finally he was captured and after being imprisoned he returned to his old haunts, but forgot some of his wildness. He died in Mendocino county.– Press Democrat, September 24, 1911DR. WEST IS FACING CHARGEThe Police of San Francisco Acted Friday
Dr. Eugene West of San Francisco has been charged with having committed an unlawful operation on Miss Laura Taylor, a Sonoma county girl, by the police of that city.
Miss Taylor has been removed from the Central Emergency hospital to the Lane hospital, where on Friday she was hovering between life and death. It is not believed she can survive, her condition being such as to almost preclude the possibility of her being saved.
William Patterson, an electrician, is being held as an accomplice to the alleged crime. He admits that he knew the girl had an operation performed by Dr. West last March, and says that recently she telephoned him asking for financial assistance for another operation. Patterson denies that he has seen the girl for three months past.– Santa Rosa Republican, October 13, 1911