San Francisco History

Chambliss' Diary

Chapter XXVIII.

ON the 19th of September, 1893, I took passage on the steamship China, at Honolulu, and went out to Japan, where I remained until Christmas.

Apropos of this visit to Japan, I must not forget to mention the "American" Legation at Tokio.

The representative of the United States at the court of the Mikado is a politician named Edwin Dun, whose proper sphere in life is evidently among the class generally found "hanging around" the beer saloons of New York and San Francisco aldermen and supervisors.

Just how this man got the appointment of United States minister seems to be a profound mystery to everyone except Mr. Cleveland and Mr. Thurman, who is said to be Dun's uncle or cousin or some near relation.

From time to time Mr. James Creelman and other war correspondents have thrown out strong hints that President Cleveland should send some reputable American citizen out there to fill Dun's place.

Numerous complaints about Dun's methods of "running the legation" have been sent to Washington City by Americans visiting Japan, but owing to some mysterious reason, no notice seems to have been taken of the facts which have been reported.

That the Japanese Government has not requested Dun's recall is probably due to the fact that Japan was involved in trouble with Russia when Dun was sent out there, and the Mikado did not care to strain Japan's friendly relations with the United States by asking for a decent minister.

Then the war with China came on, and Minister Dun was permitted to remain as a necessary evil, to preserve peace with Cleveland.

The better elements of Japanese society look upon Dun as a person of low degree.

Judge Krizuka of the Supreme Court told me that he did not consider Dun a fit person to invite into his house. Hon. H. Takeda and M. Kobiashi, two Japanese gentlemen, corroborated the judge's remarks, and declared that Dun was the last person who should have been sent to Japan as minister.

Hon. H. Takeda, M.P. A Japanese Gentleman.

It is a well-known fact that he is "married" to a Japanese woman.* Owing to this, he is not held in any higher esteem by decent society out there than any man who is known to have married his mistress is held over here.

[*Note: Those so-called marriages between white men and Japanese women are unholy affairs, amounting to little more than verbal contracts made for the convenience of the men during their stay in Japan. The men live with the women and pay them so much a month. Their offspring, if they have any, are poor mongrels and good for nothing.]

Besides this, Dun is a heavy drinker, which naturally renders him unfit to occupy a gentleman's position. At times he is uncivil to ladies and arrogant to gentlemen. He is what I consider a coarse, vulgar man.

Dun's Secretary of Legation, Joseph R. Herod, is about as pitiable a specimen of the typical Anglomaniac ass as I have ever had the misfortune to meet.

It seems very strange that President Cleveland cannot find two gentlemen to send out to Japan to represent the United States.

The idea that any vulgar upstart is good enough to send out there is absurd.

Gambler E. V. Thorne and his disreputable associates have an open sesame to Dun's Legation, and they probably assist in "running it."

Thorne's little Box of Curios is the only alleged American paper published out there, and such "Americans" as Dun and Herod use the filthy little sheet to defend themselves in. It also comes in handy for purposes of maligning anyone who dares to criticize their insolent manner toward American citizens who sometimes find it necessary, while traveling abroad, to call at the Legation for passports.

This sweet-scented representative of tenderloindom, Thorne, may be found around the Grand Hotel in Yokohama almost any night, swindling unsuspecting tourists and others out of any and every thing that he can get, from the price of one of his lottery tickets on up. Thorne and Conan attempted to beat the author of this book out of some money, and failing, tried blackmail, which also failed. S. G. Murphy, a San Francisco banker of savory reputation,--especially among widows who deposit their incomes at the First National,--pretended to believe the flimsy and utterly false stories of the Yokohama "fruit-pickers," and corroborated their tales just to get his name into the papers, and finally denied having done so when I sent Mr. Von Lenthe to him to explain the law of libel.


The following note from the young attorney, who is well known, is self explanatory:


SAN FRANCISCO, June 9, 1894.



DEAR SIR: I have called upon Mr. Murphy, and he denies in toto the statement he is said to have made to Mr. F. E. Hunt of the Chronicle. He was very nervous, however, and I am inclined to think he was telling untruths. Trusting that his denial will satisfy you, I remain,

Faithfully yours,


Attorney and Counselor at Law.

I wish to warn the public against this Yokohama nest of gamblers. They are E. V. Thorne, "Fatty" Williams, E. L. Conan, and "Mermaid," or Hog Davis, who keeps a gambling house up on "The Bluff." They form a combination out there that rivals the Lawrence House carpet-baggers of Jackson, Miss., and the 905 Sutter Street "fruit-pickers" of San Francisco. A word of this kind is sufficient. Therefore, the reader will bear in mind to steer clear of these loathsome wretches.

Incidentally, any American citizen who recognizes Dun and Herod outside of the Legation does so at the risk of his own reputation.

In January, 1894, I returned from Japan, and in March, April, and May I made a trip through the North, East, and South, from which latter delightful trip I returned less than a month ago.

At the present time (June 22, 1894) the sky of my future prospects, which looked so dark and gloomy two years and a half ago, is brightening up. The sun has broken through at last, and I am getting the benefit of his light; the black clouds are disappearing and the horizon is almost clear.

I can say truthfully that the future looks brighter than it ever looked before. In other words, things in general have taken a turn in my favor. I have more friends now than I ever had before, and I appreciate them as no man ever did appreciate his friends. Reading over the pages of my diary, I find many things in my own hand-writing which amuse me. Having inherited an unselfish disposition from my parents, I never could enjoy anything by myself. Therefore, since the road is clear, I will let my friends have the benefit of my experiences, that they may profit by my losses.

For many years I have been taking notes of the peculiarities of various classes of society. These notes I have kept in the form of a diary with dates, and names of persons and places carefully recorded.

For some time past my friends in different parts of the world have been advising me to publish the Diary in book form. There is so much of it that it would be impossible to get it all into one book, so I have decided for the present to publish the part that relates to the Parvenucracy.

New York, May 22, 1895:

If any of my friends imagine that it is an easy thing to write, revise, edit, correct, and illustrate a book in San Francisco, they would do well to disabuse their minds of that impression before starting out in the literary line.

If anyone imagines that it is easy to get the truth published about the alleged society,--the Parvenucracy which has brought so much disgrace upon fair California,--he makes a big mistake.

If any ambitious author imagines that he can trust to the honor and honesty of San Francisco engravers and printers whom he has paid liberally in advance for their services, I wish to inform him that he is making a fatal error, unless he has some perseverance and capital.

For the enlightenment of all who may wish to know why I made the above statements I will give a brief sketch of my own experience during the past four months, in endeavoring to get this book with its illustrations before the public.

After the announcement in the News Letter, and the subsequent publication of a few dozen columns of extracts in the Examiner, nearly every newspaper on the entire Pacific Coast, as well as in San Francisco, mentioned the fact that the book was soon to be published. The Wasp published some spicy cartoons on the subject, and the Eastern and Southern papers took it up and informed the world that the history of parvenu society, including that of San Francisco, was about to be published in book form, and that the book would be profusely illustrated.

Letters and bids from publishers, printers, artists, and engravers began to come in from all sides. Many Eastern publishers sent in their bids. Considering the fact that California is my favorite State, and that it is for the improvement of Pacific Coast society that I am publishing the facts, experiences, and honest opinions herein set forth, I decided to have everything in connection with the illustrating and publishing done right in California.

To Miss Laura E. Foster of Alameda, the talented young artist whose name I have placed on the title page, I gave the contract for the painting of the pictures and the drawing of the sketches.

I wish to say that Miss Foster performed her work with entire satisfaction to me in every particular.

To George O. Watkins, manager of the Union Photo-Engraving Co., of San Francisco, who called on me in person and solicited the work of engraving, I gave the contract for the making of the cuts, photo-engravings, and half-tones to print the pictures with.

Mr. Watkins and the Union Photo-Engraving Company proved themselves to be dishonest, dishonorable, and totally unworthy of confidence, credit, or trust.

They took my pictures to their work-shop, photographed them, made the cuts all ready for printing, accepted my coin in payment for same, and then refused to give me the cuts.

As if this were not enough to shame the lowest thief in San Quentin, this set of ineffable knaves refused point-blank to even deliver to me my original pictures, drawings, and paintings, that I might take the same to an honest engraving company and have other cuts made from them. Incidentally they kept my money, and would not return that until Judge Slack of the Superior Court advised them in open court to compromise the case with my attorneys. Here is the receipt in their own handwriting, showing that they had the money as well as the pictures.

SAN FRANCISCO, CAL., Sept. 24, 1894.

Received from W. H. Chambliss fifty dollars ($50) on account.



During the discussion between the knaves and myself over their refusal to give up my property, one of the knaves lost his temper and told me that the firm of H. S. Crocker & Co. had threatened to withdraw its trade from the said knaves if they delivered the pictures. It appears that some of the pictures looked too much like certain vulgar snobs, ex-bootblacks, and other impostors who pose on their "gall"; and those, headed by the Crocker crowd, tried to suppress the pictures. Failing to scare the author, they went with their little lackeys and frightened the dishonest engraving company into holding the cuts for a consideration.

"Failing to scare the author, they go with their lackeys and frighten the dishonest engraving company into holding the cuts for a consideration."

Of course I brought suit against the engraving company for the return of my property, and damages enough to pay for the annoyance, additional expense, and loss of time that their dishonorable work caused me. Foreseeing that it would be a long time before I could get my property from the Union Photo-Engraving Co., I got Miss Foster to duplicate all the original drawings, and then had part of the cuts made by the San Francisco Engraving Co., and the rest by the Illustrated American Publishing Co., New York. These companies acted honorably with me, and took no notice of the upstarts who were trying to suppress the work.

To Walter N. Brunt, a supposed reliable San Francisco printer, I had given the contract for the printing and binding.

Mr. Brunt turned out to be as unreliable and cowardly as the Union Photo-Engraving Co.

Having paid Mr. Brunt the full amount in advance for the printing of the first addition, I did not anticipate any breach of contract with him, until the book was almost ready to go to press. When I had succeeded in getting the cuts made by the reliable engravers mentioned above, Mr. Brunt refused to complete his contract for the printing, unless I would expunge all reference to the Crocker, Huntington, S.P. Railroad faction of the Parvenucracy.

Of course I refused to modify the text of the book, because I felt that it was my duty to the honest citizens of California and elsewhere to give them the truth about that particular crowd.

Seeing that Mr. Brunt had been bought off by the Parvenucracy, I went to several other printers, and to my surprise found that the entire printing industry of San Francisco was practically controlled by the very frauds that I am exposing.

No one doubted a word that I have in the book, but all the printing firms were afraid of losing the patronage of the Parvenucracy if they printed the truth about the rottenness of its so-called society.

Determined not to be outdone by the enemies of decent society, I took the train for New York in quest of an honest printing house.

This book being devoted to the subject of society as it really is, and being intended to open the eyes of all good citizens to the necessity of using great care lest they be imposed upon and injured by certain animals and fiends in human form, that I have mentioned, I, of course, could not think of asking any of my friends to share the responsibility of the plain English that I use. I have been threatened with personal violence by the "fruit-pickers" for breaking up their gambling house, but that does not disturb me a little bit.

The S.P. Railroad Company and its constituency, which form the nucleus of the Parvenucracy, have threatened me with all kinds of punishment for declaring that they are vulgar upstarts. But that is an old game of theirs which doesn't work with the author of this book.

It is the author's intention to write another book, later on, in which no harsh language will be used. Snobs, upstarts, vulgar pretenders, and all classes of Parvenucracy will be treated with the silent contempt that they deserve in a publication descriptive entirely of good form. The author extends a general invitation to his friends, as well as to all others who are in favor of improving society at large, to send him a few lines now and then on what really is good form. It is good form for any reputable citizen to call upon an author, even if he does not know him, if he wishes to impart any valuable information. That the author appreciates all verbal or written information, is shown by the confidential manner in which a few thousand letters and all previous calls of this kind have been treated.

Society in any new city or community can always stand a little improvement. We will take San Francisco, for instance. It has been asserted that there is no society there at all, and no less a personage than Mrs. Charles Webb Howard made the assertion. She never made a greater mistake in her life. Perhaps Mrs. Howard wanted to convey the idea that there is no good society in San Francisco, and probably she was correct so far as her personal knowledge and the doings of her own personal acquaintances were concerned. But they are not everybody.

Mr. Greenway declared that there were only 400 persons in San Francisco who were fit to go into good society, and not one of the other 299,600 persons in the city ever took the trouble to ask him who the chosen 400 were, for everyone knew that he meant the Huntington, Crocker, Fair, Mackay, Sharon, o'Brien, Flood, de Young clique of S.P. Railroad Royalty, which holds that a man who has not at least one mistress is not eligible to society.

Although Mr. Greenway was 400 heads nearer to the truth than Mrs. Howard, the 400 that he had reference to were the identical persons at whom Mrs. Howard pointed her dart.

Had Mrs. Howard said what she meant, she would have been applauded, instead of laughed at, by all the other 299,600.

The leading society questions of the day are: Who is fit for society? and Who is not?

In a general way these questions may be answered with the true statement that all persons are fit for some kinds of society. There is a vast river between the highest and the lowest circles. This river is large enough to float every living human being who comes within the radius of any circle of society, except the extreme very lowest, viz.: those who have been born outside of the bonds of wedlock.

Like a dead fish swept through the crevasse on the other side of the great river opposite to the high, rocky hills on which stands the child of honor, the illegitimate heir should be banished from the society of all mankind,--except the promoters of his existence,--who should be swept through the yawning gap, to remain and keep company with the result of their unnatural work, until the vultures shall have claimed their own, and relieved this beautiful world of the disgrace and the blot that has been perpetrated upon civilization.

Members of other circles are not safe while the tainted promoters of the lowest order are permitted to run at large and unrebuked.

Anyone is liable to contract a disease that is contagious. Almost anyone is liable to be swept through the break in the levee in company with the offender; but no one should ever be permitted to paddle over in the direction of the safe side after he has once been thrown out of the main stream with the refuse and débris for such a crime against society and decency.

The male portion of mankind is to blame for all of those stains and illegitimate blots on the face of society.

Any man who attributes it to "woman's weakness" is a coward and a falsifier, and unworthy of notice.

Man, being the stronger of the two sexes, and knowing it, is the chief cause of all the shame to which the weaker sex has ever had to submit. Take any so-called massage artist, or any other bad woman, and trace back her history, and it will be found that her downfall was caused by some unfaithful lover, drunken, brutal husband, tyranical father, or some unnatural old hag who was herself the result of man's perfidy.

Now, we will look into a few facts and figures and think up a plan for the improvement of the circles, between the highest and the lowest. The former is all right and the latter is beyond redemption; but the other circles are made of good material.

A few remarks might do more good than the average person would ordinarily suppose.

Let us take common sense as a foundation.

Say that San Francisco has a total population of 300,000 persons.

If we could gather together all the murderers, robbers, burglars, thieves, pickpockets, sheenies, professional gamblers, fruit-pickers, bunko-steerers, bums, tramps, toughs, hoodlums, common drunks, quacks, shysters, saloon-keepers, massage artists, fake society reporters, Chinese, Indians, niggers, mulattoes, octoroons, anarchists, street-corner orators, political bosses, dishonest officer-holders, ballot-box stuffers, and all other objectionable pests in the city, they would amount to about 100,000 two-legged animals resembling in outward appearances human beings.

Substract this 100,000 from the total population, export the vile mass of corruption to Hawaii, and we will have a beautiful city with a legitimate population of 200,000 respectable citizens eligible to admission into the homes of each other on a basis of comparative equality and sociability.

Careful intelligent observations show conclusively that the same rule would be applicable to almost all cities where liquor is sold by the drink, if you base your estimate on a pro rata of population.

Mr. J. Waldere Kirk of New York, a friend of the author, asks the following questions:

"What are your remaining 200,000 peaceable citizens going to do with the late 400 members of the self-styled only polite society?"

Nothing at all, friend Kirk. It was found that when the water ran to its proper level the little "400" were absorbed in the 100,000 who got exported. The last one found his proper sphere under the head of classified pests.

"What became of the navy and army?"

Oh, the navy is all right. As I told you before, the navy people are gentlemen as a rule. The shipping committee created a few vacancies: Captain Gridley, "Bucko" Elliott, "Missionary" Wadham, "Hoofenskoofen," "Humpty Dumpty," Quack-Nut Ruhm, Heatherington, Dellyhanty, "Shorty" Evins, o'Brien, Fool Rogers, Henry Hudson, and a few other "spare articles," the loss of which is a great help to the social standing of the service.

With reference to the army, I am afraid that the division stationed at the Presidio will have to be recruited again before it will be visible to the naked eye.

The officers would mix up with the Parvenucracy of Pacific Heights and Pacific Union Poker Club and the bum Bohemians, where they became thoroughly demoralized. But the navy boys had better sense.

The King of Swell Dressers.
"A real gentleman never forgets that proper behavior and courtesy always add to the appearance of faultless attire."--Kirk.

The unmistakable genuineness of the storm-beaten veterans of the maritime division of our fighting forces, when placed side by side with the pitiful conceit of the brass-bound figureheads who appealed to the public to decide which arm a colonel should carry his overcoat on when he went calling, presented such a contrast that the deporting committee took charge of everything at the Presidio except the ordnance stores.

A certain Presidio officer in uniform at a respectable social gathering reminds one of a professional peacock procured to pose as a plaything for pretty little girls. And I don't mean "General" Graham, Lieutenant Davis, or Lieutenant Winston, either.

If the story that this officer receives a good deal of attention from females is true, it can be readily accounted for by the fact that "new" women are not as particular about how they bestow their affections as ladies are.

No one has a higher regard for female virtue than the mariners, and the reverse is true of some "soldiers," who appear to have a penchant for the wives of sailors, especially bleached blondes who live in hotels.

The mariner's respect for woman is based on the fact that she is all that he has to look forward to upon his return to port.

The soldier, whose life in times of peace and prosperity is spent in strutting around to the music of a brass band, to be admired by little girls and guyed by small boys, for which he vents his spleen on all who are so unfortunate as to be subject to his orders, is the very worst enemy to the peace and happiness of the absent sailor.

Ladies, don't be deceived by the uniformed "heroes" whose smell of powder has been derived from the puffs that painted females use to embellish their wrinkled complexions with.

The Wounded Knee affair was an eye-opener for women who confided in those pretty birds.

"How about S. G. Murphy, President of First Irishonal Bank?" asks Mr. Clark Traphagan.*

[*Note: I met Mr. Traphagen first at Monterey, Cal., in January, 1892. In May, 1895, I had the pleasure of renewing his acquaintance, and visiting him at his home in Fordham, New York.]

Oh! he got shipped off with the first lot. You see he undertook to show that it was good form to invite a citizen to draw his money out of the "Sheeny Bank" and put it into the First Irishonal. He afterward failed to keep an agreement to notify the citizen of the arrival of a draft for one hundred dollars that was in dispute. During his spiteful efforts to discredit the citizen by misrepresenting him to newspaper reporters, the banker appropriated to his own use about eight thousand dollars of Mrs. Colton's money that was on deposit at the bank. He never was in the "Four Hundred," but of course the dumping committee took charge of that fellow.

"How about W. B. Cooke?"

Well, he didn't belong to the "Four Hundred," either, but he went with the classified fake society reporters and hangers-on, who hang around the saloons all the time. You see he held that it was good form to go to a dinner party in an intoxicated condition, and take his six foot five inch shadow, G. S. Mearns, along with him, when Mearns, who was also drunk, was not invited. The dumping gang scooped those two in along with Nosegrave, Hume, Bartlett, and a whole lot of other scavengers of that ilk.

"Thank Heaven for that!" says Mr. Traphagen.

"Now tell us something about the 200,000 remaining citizens."

Certainly, with pleasure: they are all right, and as soon as they realize that they are entirely free from the daily annoyances of the 100,000 public nuisances they will be very happy.

Now we will get down to a common sense basis and speak of San Francisco's real social system as an example that older cities might do well to follow, up to date. Supposing the 100,000 public nuisances to have been duly exported, there certainly must be among the 200,000 law-abiding citizens at least 25,000 young people who are fond of dancing. In order that all of those young ladies and gentlemen may go to parties, and dance and have a good time once in a while, there should be 100 regularly organized clubs of 250 members each. Each member of each club should know and feel that he or she is just as good as any person in any of the other 99 clubs, and not one bit better. This feeling of patriotism should be thoroughly understood by all, but at the same time, it should not be flaunted too promiscuously. There should be no jealousy or rivalry, but on the contrary, all the clubs should harmonize.

It would be the easiest thing in the world for those 25,000 young persons to organize themselves into 100 clubs. There are several nice dancing clubs in San Francisco already. For examples, permit me to mention the Entre Nous (pronounced ahn-tray-noo) Cotillion; The Assembly Club; The Cotillion Club; The Club 400, and a new organization conducted under the cheerful name of "The Progressive Club." Then there is a new club just called the "Dancing Club," which I hear is a nice, quiet organization. It meets at the Palace Hotel.

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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