San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter XVIII.

I PREDICT that the public will be treated, some day, to an article in some reputable newspaper which will read about as follows:

Owing to the overwhelming demands of members of certain very uncertain classes of society for daily and Sunday personal mention in the "society columns" of public papers, as well as in weekly and monthly "journals" and cheap advertising sheets and pamphlets, it is now considered not only advisable, but also profitable, for the owners, editors, publishers, and business managers of several well-known papers of savory reputations to meet frequently in secret council and discuss certain plans pertaining to the management of this novel line of fake advertising.

This brilliant scheme originated in the fertile, if somewhat selfish, brain of the enterprising owner of a tall and very conspicuous red brick clock tower on the corner of Geary, Kearney, and Market Streets, San Francisco.

Special invitations, signed by the promoter of the scheme (who is also the owner of a rapidly expiring daily paper called the Chronicle ), were sent to the proprietors of each of the following papers: New York Police Gazette, New York Mourning Journal, New York Standard, New Orleans Sunday Sun, San Francisco Evening Post-Wave, Illustrated World, and Warmed-overland Monthly, all having more or less circulation among that unmistakable class of society to which their owners, editors, advertisers, and adherents are, by breeding, birth, education, private and public associations, and other personal qualifications, so justly entitled to admission and life membership.

The real object of the meeting was kept a profound secret until the enterprising promoter called the talented delegates to order, in the private music hall attached to his California Street residence.

Without wasting any valuable time in explaining the circumstances connected with the acquisition of that California Street residence from a late railroad magnate, who was given to a strange infatuation for a certain grass widow who subsequently became his daughter-in-law, the host and self-appointed chairman of the meeting arose and opened the ball about as follows:

"Gentlemen and brother newspapermen: My managing editor, Mr. John P. Young, will now make a speech and a motion." [Applause.]

Mr. John P. Young arose, bowed gracefully, and addressed the meeting as follows:

"Mr. Chairman and gentlemen: Owing to the unreliable character of all the journalists attached to the papers which were not invited to send delegates to this meeting, it was decided to give out that it was to be merely a regular meeting of ourselves. [Applause.]

"You all know that what's everbody's business is nobody's business; therefore, we will keep our business to ourselves, and monopolize the profits."

At the mention of the word "profits," all the delegates bucked up their years, and the chairman chuckled softly to himself at the propects of what the future seemed to have in store for him.

"Gentlemen," continued the speaker, "we are not in the newspaper business for our health. You have noticed, perhaps, the growing desire of a certain class of society to create the impression that it is the leading class. Members of this class seldom read anything in the papers except the society news. They will not take a paper that does not print notices of their movements and whereabouts at least once a week. Some of those, like the Crockers, the Fairs, the Floods, the Goulds, the Murphys, the Sharons, and the Catherwoods imagine that the society notices have a tendency to offset the nasty stories about divorces, second establishments, outside heirs, etc."

"The Midwinter Fair photographic pass was especially designed to meet the requirements of the unreliable character of city newspaper men."-- Director General M. H. de Young.

Here the speaker produced some samples of San Francisco "society" news, and read:

"Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Fair ( nee Maud Nelson) are spending a delightful 'honeymoon' at the Hotel del Cannot-keep-them-out."

"Mr. and Mrs. George Crocker ( nee Mrs. Rutherford) have gone to New York in a private car."

"Mrs. W. F. Quack-Nut, and her charming daughter, Miss Louisa Maria Quack-Nut are at the See-me-make-a-fool-of-myself-on-the-beach Hotel.

"Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Delm-ass and 'family' are at the same resort, and are occupying themselves in a similar fashion, with Miss Nellie Murphy as their 'guest'; also Mr. Addie(son) Mizner, the Misses Goad, Mr. Herbert Mee, Mr. Birdie Irving and others."

The speaker put plenty of accent on the word "others."

Continuing, he said: "Now, gentlemen, with reference to the others, whose names are not mentioned, I have an idea that they forgot to 'tip' the society reporter.

"It has occurred to our honored chairman that those others ought to be looked after, and if we can form some system for getting at the others in a quiet way, it will be a paying business."

Here the speaker stopped, to give the delegates a chance to grasp the idea.

"Gentlemen," said he, resuming, "I think I have made myself understood, therefore, to come to the point, I hereby make a motion that we organize ourselves into a company to be known to the public as the Associated Society News Bureau, but among ourselves it will henceforth and forever more be known as the Parvenu Advertising Agency.'" (Tremendous applause.)

"I second the motion!" yelled all the delegates at once.

The chairman thereupon instructed Mr. J. o'Hara Nosegrave, the secretary pro tem., to enter upon the minutes the first motion on record that was ever carried by unanimous seconds.

Then Mr. Geo. H. Bartlett, editor of the World, arose and said:

"I move that we elect our officers without further delay; and, to save time, I have prepared a ticket which I respectfully submit. This ticket shall be elected to serve for a period of ten years:

"For president and director-general, Michael H. de Young, proprietor San Francisco Chronicle.

"For first vice president and general Eastern manager, Richard K. Fox, proprietor New York Police Gazette.

"For second vice president and general manager of Southern mulatto colored society, Peter Kiernan, proprietor New Orleans Sunday Sun.

"For secretary, J. o'Hara Nosegrave, part proprietor the San Francisco Wave.

"For general managing editor of all notices, John P. Young, present managing editor San Francisco Chronicle.

No longer a constant menace to every private home in California.
"A San Franciscan is not generally recognized as a gentleman until he has been maligned by Mike DeYoung in the Chronicle or the Post."-- Arthur McEwen's Letter.

"For general-utility-man, Mr. E. M. Greenway, society reporter, San Francisco Chronicle."

"I second Mr. Bartlett's motion," said Mr. Spume of the Post, "and, in consideration of the fact that the company is to be for revenue only, and that we will require the services of a medical board and a law firm, I beg to submit the following names to be added to the ticket, subject to the approval of the president and Mr. Bartlett:


"For surgeon-general, Dr. W. F. Quack-Nut.

"For medical adviser of debilitated men, Dr. B. F. Quack-Mon-eagle.

"For private surgeon to married Parve-New Women who are opposed to children, Dr. C. C. O'donnell.


"For attorney general, Clara Shortridge Foltz.

"For assistant, Laura De Force Gordon.

"For appropriator of other people's property, D. M. Delmas."

"I accept and second Mr. Spume's amendment," said Mr. Bartlett, "and call for the question."

No objections being raised the chairman said: "It has been moved and seconded that we elect our officers on the ticket submitted by Messrs. Bartlett and Spume; all in favor, please signify, by saying 'I.'"

All hands said "I," thus making it unnecessary to bother about the "Noes."

Mr. Joseph B. Eliot, business manager of the Chronicle, then submitted the following rates for classified reading notice society column advertisements in his paper:

For personal mention sufficient to establish one's identity as an ass-pirant for notoriety, one dollar a line.

Notices of arrivals, departures, movements, and whereabouts of "absent friends," ninety cents per line.

Notices of intended visits to friends residing outside the city limits, eighty-five cents per line.

For announcements of all private gatherings, such as "At homes," "Dinners," "Teas," "Theater parties," "Fruit-picker poker séances," and other insignificant affairs about which the public never cares to read, fifteen cents per line.

For "full particulars" of the gatherings, including description of the hostesses' toilet articles and names of "those present," $1.50 per line.

For début notices of daughters of saloon-keepers, gamblers, keepers of disorderly resorts, and others of that class, the charges will be regulated by the débutante's parents' ability to pay.

Mr. J. o'Hara Nosegrave, the Uriah Heep of San Francisco, then submitted the following rates for reading-notices in the Wave, in the part headed "Splashes."

For publishing pictures of nincompoops, and complimentary notices of same, such as: "William S. Barnes announces his intention of applying to Burnes, Buckley, Rainey, Huntington & Company for the Southern Pacific octopus party's nomination for governor," one hundred dollars for each insertion, with picture of said nincompoop and would-be candidate on the front page.

For defending gamblers, bunko-men, "fruit-pickers," and all others of that class, at least fifty per cent. of the "income tax" of the games will be charged.

"For maligning reputable citizens who object to being victimized by the 'fruit-pickers,' I generally get as much as the 'fruit-pickers' may be willing to pay, out of the money that they accumulate from their unsuspecting friends in this way," said Mr. Nosegrave.

Mr. Hugh Spume, "editor" of the S.P.R.R. phonograph, called the Post, then submitted his rates, which are as follows:

For scandalous and incredible as well as indecent, lies about honorable men who may be chosen by the people to fill offices that the S.P. Railroad desires to control, I have instructions from my boss, Mr. Collis P. Huntington of New York and Kentucky, to take "all that the traffic will bear."

"For society notices I will use the Chronicle's schedule of charges," said Mr. Spume.

Mr. R. K. Fox, of the Police Gazette, then got up and announced that owing to hard times in police circles in his city since Dr. Parkhurst started in, he and his friend the owner of the Morning Journal, had decided to "toss up" for who should attend the meeting; therefore he (Mr. Fox) begged to acknowledge that he had won the "toss," and was there to arrange terms for the two papers on the following lines:

For defending in the Morning Journal any and all persons who may be maligned by the Police Gazette, one dollar per line.

For praising in the Police Gazette all fake prize fighters who, like Nigger Jackson, may from time to time be ridiculed in the Journal as well as in respectable papers, two dollars per line. If accompanied by nude pictures, ten dollars a square inch is the regular price.

For telegraphing to the San Francisco Post and Chronicle the arrival of members of San Francisco Parvenucracy, twenty-five cents per word.

Mr. W. W. Foote, vice president of the Warmed-overland-Monthly, said that owing to the fact that Dick McDonald was in jail, and that the other bankers were not lending money on wildcat schemes, his paper would print editorial comments about persons, and things in general, very cheap.

Before submitting rates, however, it would be necessary to call a special meeting of the other directors: Judge J. H. Boalt, Irving M. Scott, H. J. Crocker, J. M. McDonald, and Roundhead Wildeman.

Mr. Peter Kiernan, editor of the New Orleans Sunday Sun, submitted some rates on which he said he had built up his paper. Those were:

For declaring that the mulatto wenches of his city were daughters of wealthy Southern planters who intended to leave them large cotton plantations in Mississippi, he (Kiernan) got free board at African boarding houses, where the mothers of said mulatto wenches took in washing and transient boarders.

For introducing young negro bucks to those colored (yellow) wenches, he got fifty per cent. of all that they won at craps, to say nothing of the valuable consignments of watermelons, eggs, and chickens and other edible poultry that those colored "swells" sent him from the booty brought in from foraging parties in the settlements of the "poh white trash."

There being no objections to any rates that any of the talented delegates submitted, the chairman ordered the secretary to "O.K." everything.

Taking it all together, it was a very quiet meeting, and, to judge from the business-like manner in which everything passed off, the Parvenu Advertising Agency bids fair to become a well-known institution.

There being no further business before the house after Mr. Uriah Heep Nosegrave got through "O.K.-ing" society column advertising rates, it was moved by Mr. Fox, and seconded by Mr. Young, that the meeting adjourn subject to the call of the president.

Mr. de Young, president and doctor-general, then invited all the delegates to repair to the dining room, where he entertained them on some choice sandwiches and Mid-winter Fair beer (special brew), the feast concluding with champagne and a "stag" cotillion led by General Utility-Man E. M. Greenway.

As the guests filed out of the front door Mr. de Young handed each one a brand new package of Director-General Cigarettes, with a splendid pictures of himself on the wrapper of each package.

The editorial comments and opinions that will appear in the legitimate newspapers after the announcement of the incorporation of the new concern, will probably be something like this:

We note the announcement of the successful début of a new advertising agency, which, judging from the names of its promoters and director, must have for its prime object the revival of Feudalism. Therefore, we would suggest to the director-general the advisability of enrolling the following distinguished personages as honorary members:

Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, future King of England, Africa, and Ireland, leader of Oscar Wilde society, and the world's best known "living picture" of lust, immorality, and "consecrated" depravity.

Wilhelm II., Emperor of Germany, leader of sauerkraut and limburger cheese aristocracy, and the most prominent modern example of coronated imbecility.

Sanford B. Dole, "president" of the infant oligarchy of Hawaii, giant advocator of missionary hypocrisy, and arch-traitor to a feeble-minded female benefactress, whose authority he usurped by employing a dishonorable minister of the United States to assist him with the crew of the man-of-war Boston.

And last, but not least, Mr. Levi P. Tortoise Morton, and all the members of New York's Nigger-loving legislature that toady to the African voter.

Those honorary members would lend a "flavor" to the concern that could not be supplied even by the director-general.

From the ludicrous directory and five-cent liquor fake advertising publication, called Our Society Blue Book, printed by The H. S. Crocker Co., I copy the following advertisement:

"Friday Night Club, formerly called the Bachelors' Cotillion, was organized nine seasons ago. It is composed of the junior members of the upper circles of society and is very exclusive, only members and their 'immediate' families being invited to its meetings, which take place on the first Friday night in each month during the season. Its bal poudre, given once a year, is the great society event of the season.
(Signed)   "E. M. GREENWAY, Manager."

Mr. Greenway shows great forethought in stating distinctly in his advertisement that only "immediate" families of the members are entitled to admission. That word "immediate" was, in all probability, inserted as a gentle hint to members who have more than one family or establishment. Probably it means that members are expected to bring only the families that they happen to be living with at the time.

For further information I respectfully refer the reader to the divorce court proceedings, the bigamy cases, and the numerous litigations between supposed legitimate and illegitimate heirs, over the property of deceased members of Parvenucracy in San Francisco, Virginia City, New York, Paris, and North Dakota. The latter State offers special inducements to the daughters of ex-washer-women who would like to be divorced from French princes and other cheap-titled vultures, who "marry" them for the accidentally acquired dollars of their mothers' "husbands." Compare the names in the divorce court proceedings with those in the "society" reports, and they will afford food for genealogical reflection.

The above-mentioned "organization" (?) is alleged to be "the highest society," composed exclusively of the "uppercircles," "elegant gentlemen," "beautiful ladies," "lovely maidens," "marriageable virgins," "alluring heiresses;" compared in print with innocent girls who go to holy communion. "Young princesses of society," welcomed with open arms by all the young cigarette fiends, Solomon Isaaceses, Uncle Harrises, fruit-pickers, and fake society reporters in the community.

"So young and happy; yet, oh! so alluringly rich and tremulous."

A well-known haberdasher volunteers the following advice to Mr. Greenway, society reporter and "leader."

"Bah, Ned! Let go, and chase yourself around the block; tell stories about cotton gloves, or anything you like, but don't try to run any more of your exclusive society, advertising bluffs like that on us.

"That scheme is played clean out, Ned, so take a piece of good advice and quit it. Everybody knows all about it, and the next thing you know they will find out all about your carryings-on with Amelia Glover, that ballet dancer who belonged to the 'City Directory' troupe, which played at the California Theater about two years ago; and the Gayety girls, with whom your friends, Tobin and Casserly, got ahead of you. Then, again, some unkind person might tell all about your proposing to sweet-breath Jennie, and of her refusing you, and afterward taking pity on you, and persuading her brother 'Jim' to give you a salaried position as clerk in his mining office in the Nevada Block; and then you will be in a certain liquid that is referred to on the bills of fare of the 'vulgar herd' as soup.

"Of course that should not affect your followers' opinions of you, for we all know that most of them are a great deal worse than you are. But, Ned, my boy, you know what those vulgar parvenus are, as well as I do, so go right ahead, old fellow, and cinch them every time you get a chance.

"You are fairly good at inventing ideas of your own, Ned, and I do not think that you would hesitate about deceiving your Cotillion Club if you considered it necessary; so if they get on to all of your little tricks of the trade, just hire young Newhall, or young Wright, or young Wilberforce, or that not-yet-acknowledged son of your employer, de Young, or some other young nincompoop to let his good (?) name be used in place of yours as leader of one or two of your money-making dances; give out that you have abandoned the leadership, on account of the failure of certain new members to pay their subscriptions; say that you are sick and tired of bringing our débutantes, and that you positively refuse to do it any more, unless each application for admission to the swim is accompanied by ready cash; tell your parvenus that you are going to retire from your position as society reporter of the Chronicle, and that they will have to depend upon someone else to publish those glowing accounts of fake dinner parties to the Oelrichs, etc., etc.

"All of this, my boy, will create sympathy for you,--if they don't tumble to your little game of deception,--and the whole female, and the majority of the male, portion of Parvenucracy will rise up in a body and restore you to your former high position in society. They will return you to the office of self-elected leader with a majority equal in proportion to that which the Examiner scored for Governer Budd.

"The standing of San Francisco society leaders is on too high a plain to notice the remarks of others, or even to deem them worthy of thought."--Edward M. Greenway's opinion of himself and his Friday Night Cotillion Club.--S.F. Examiner, March 16th, 1895.

"Amid the general rejoicing of the Parvenucracy, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth among your enemies whom you say you have already triumphed over, Ned, you will, if you handle it properly, be able to scoop in enough commissions from the musicians whom you hire to blow your own horn, and from the proceeds of the toasts that will be drunk to your health (from the liquids that you sell your friends for such festivities), to enable you to buy one of Mr. Ottinger's cut-rate tourist's tickets good for one through passage to Baltimore."

The position that Mr. Greenway occupies is, perhaps, the most unique one in the world. As leader of his class he has never had a rival; something never before known in the history of the human race. His versatile ideas of etiquette place him so far out of the reach of all who have any common-sense views of anything pertaining to good form, that whenever the San Francisco papers feel inclined to ridicule a reputable citizen, and call him all the ludicrous names in the dictionary, they have only to refer to him as "Mr. Greenway's rival."

Poor James Brett Stokes was generally believed to have occupied a place among men of sound sense, until his name got mixed in among those of Addison Mizner, Willis Polk, Alex Bazil Willieberforce, Max. Quack-Nut, Hubert Mee, Lee Lash, Harry Simpkins, "Birdie" Irving, "Wally" Cooke, "Georgie" Mearns, "Dick" Tobin, "Lord" Talbot Clifton, "Dan" McCarthy, "Sconchin" Maloney, General Dimond, Amidee Joullin, and others of that ilk. But where does he stand now?

That Mr. Andy Lawrence, the handsome city editor of the Examiner, can ruin a quiet citizen's reputation in three days, and without any malicious intent, is shown by the fact that the mere assertion that Mr. Stokes was seen skating with the above named members of Mr. Greenway's flock, subjected him to the suspicion of his employers.

Apropos of Mr. Greenway's originality, I should not be at all surprised at anything he might undertake in the future. I believe that he is about to hand down from the clock tower of the Parvenu Advertising Agency a new set of commandments, to take the place of the old reliable ten that Moses broke.

Some fine morning the new rules for the government of the morals of the Parvenucracy will appear in all the papers controlled by Mr. Huntington, and I imagine they will be something like this:


I. I am Greenway, thy leader. Thou shalt not have any other leader.

II. Thou shalt not take any notice of anything that is uttered against thy leader's good name.

III. Remember that thou keep away from the park on the Sabbath Day, unless thou hast a very loud and vulgar turnout to drive, and a lackey to blow a bugle.

IV. Honor thy father and thy mother as long as they honoreth thy check.

V. Thou shalt not kill anything except thy unborn posterity which the Parve-New Woman prefereth not to bring forth.

THE PRODIGAL SON UP TO DATE.   "A notable event in Hebrew society circles last week was the return of Mr. Greenway, the San Francisco society 'leader,' on a visit to his people."-- Baltimore Society News, 1899.

VI. Thou shalt not commit any depredations upon thy neighbors' marriage rights, unless thou art sure of not getting caught.

VII. Thou shalt not steal any more at one time than thou canst get away with.

VIII. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, unless thou get well paid for it in advance; but, if thou art jealous of him, thou mayst have him sued for the board bill of his lady friend's chow dog.

IX. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; but thou mayst marry thy common-law stepmother, if thou hast money enough to advertise her as a belle in Snob Hill Society.

X. Thou shalt not drink soup out of a plate with thy face, nor go riding in evening dress at high noon, nor serve soap with finger bowls at thy dinners, any more, unless thou serveth Greenway's Cotillion Soft Soap.

Source: Chambliss, William H. Chambliss' Diary; Or, Society As It Really Is. 1895: New York.  Library of Congress, "California as I Saw It:" First-Person Narratives of California's Early Years, 1849-1900.


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