San Francisco History

My Own Story


IN THE teamsters' strike in 1901, Phelan was put in a very embarrassing position. The Teamsters' Union, striking for better conditions, had tied up all the teams in San Francisco. Business was practically stopped.

The merchants, also strongly organized, found non-union men to put on the wagons, and demanded police protection for them. They insisted that the streets were made for traffic, that the teams should be allowed to move upon them, that no power on earth should be permitted to delay them.

Phelan hesitated, but the pressure upon him from his old friends and associates was strong; they urged their opinion, which to a certain extent was Phelan's also, as a member of his class. In the end he reluctantly yielded, putting policemen on the wagons with orders to protect the drivers and see that the teams were kept moving.

The strikers formed in mobs and attacked the wagons and the police. There were riots in the streets, men were killed and crippled, goods were destroyed. There was a miniature reign of terror, and armed conflicts raged daily.

The leading merchants urged the Bulletin to stand for "law and order," and against the strikers. It was our inclination to do so anyway, but the merchants held out high hopes for the future of the people if we would stand "right" in the fight. When the Examiner took the side of the strikers our business office had visions of a harvest of advertising contracts.

The merchants immediately undertook to boycott the Examiner for its stand. They tentatively organized for the purpose, but one or two of the business houses refused to sign the agreement, and so defeated their purpose. However, the largest advertising firm in town did withdraw its advertisement from the Examiner for a short time.

At length the strike ended, with a compromise. The teamsters did not get all they had demanded, but they went back to work after having gained a part of it. Labor was enthusiastic for the Examiner, which had fought the labor fight, and that paper's circulation was larger than ever. Immediately the largest advertising firm in town went back, increasing its advertising space there and cutting down the space formerly given us.

When our advertising manager remonstrated, he was told, "Business is business. We are advertising strictly on a proposition of circulation, and your circulation has gone down."

This was true. We had come out of the strike boycotted by labor union men. And we had gained nothing from the business men who had promised to support us.

The trouble had stirred workingmen more deeply than any previous labor trouble. They were advised by the Rev. Father Yorke, who had their confidence, that the thing for them to do was to go into politics and elect a mayor. They organized politically, held a convention, and selected as their standard bearer Eugene E. Schmitz.

Schmitz was at that time a member of the Musicians' Union and leader of the Columbia Theater orchestra. He was every inch the right looking man for a candidate. Tall, well formed, handsome, always well dressed and self-possessed, he was a commanding figure of a man, the center of all eyes in a crowd.

The campaign was a three-cornered one. Asa R. Wells was the Southern Pacific candidate; Schmitz ran as a labor party man; Joseph S. Tobin was the Democratic nominee. The Democrats had tried to persuade Phelan to run, but he had been mayor three times and refused. The best man that could be selected from his group of reformers was Tobin. He had been a supervisor under Phelan, had always fought with the reform element, and had a fine record. He was considered a strong character and a capable, honest man.

Of course, I was very anxious that the Bulletin should pursue the same course it had followed since Phelan first ran for mayor. I wanted to stand firmly by the group of men who had worked with him through the charter fights and through the various reform movements they had undertaken here.

I felt that my personal honor, or rather, their belief, in my honesty and my efforts to deserve that belief, was involved in my fighting for these men, whom I respected and in whom I believed. But I was afraid that I would not be able to hold the paper for Tobin because of the money question.

I could not go to Phelan and ask him for money, because I had never betrayed to him that the Bulletin took money; nor could I go to Tobin, who was close to Phelan. But I knew that I must get some money in order to hold the paper to the Phelan group.

I went to Prince Poniatowski, brother in law of Will Crocker, who was a close friend of Tobin. I told him my predicament in confidence and insisted that he must get some money that I could give to Crothers to hold the paper for Tobin. Otherwise it would go where there was more money for it; that is, to the railroad company. The excuse would be that Wells was a Republican, that the Bulletin was a Republican paper, that it had been locally Democratic too long and would now return to its own party. Crothers had already intimated this to me.

Poniatowski said: "I will do all I can, but the best I can do personally is $500 a month for three months through the campaign. I will put up the $1500 out of my own pocket."

I did not dare to go to anyone else, and I hoped, but faintly, that this would be enough. I went to Crothers with the information that I had got $1500 to support Tobin, and he said, "It isn't enough."

I was in despair. Only one other ruse remained by which I might hold him. I asked former Mayor E. B. Pond, banker and millionaire; James D. Phelan, mayor and millionaire, and Franklin K. Lane, then a rising power in California, to call on Crothers and see if they could not prevail on him to stand by Tobin. Always greatly impressed by wealth, I felt that their prominence and financial standing might hold him.

They called, and did their best, but made no impression. Then I wrote an editorial which committed the paper mildly to Tobin, but I did not dare publish it without Crothers seeing it. He was keen on the money scent by this time. When I showed it to him, he said: "The article commits the paper to Tobin." He took a pencil and marked out certain phrases, so that the editorial left the paper on the fence, in such a position that it could support any of the three candidates. I published the editorial as corrected. It was the best I could do.

A few days later the railroad paid Crothers $7500. It was paid to him by a man not openly connected with the railroad. I learned of it almost instantly. The report was confirmed by Crothers ordering me to support Wells.

Tobin learned of the payment of the money and severely criticised me. Then I went to Tobin and told him frankly what had happened, and that I had done all in my power to hold the paper for him. He apologized and said that he was very sorry, that he did not blame me.

Thomas Boyle, the business manager of the Bulletin, at that time was a strong advocate of Schmitz. I, of course, was for Tobin. Crothers was for Wells. The Call facetiously printed an item to this effect:

"Boyle is out for Schmitz, Older is out for Tobin, and Crothers is out for the stuff."

The situation, of course, became well known to the men on the inside of the political situation, but equally, of course, it was not known to the mass of our readers. Our very action in standing for clean city politics, as we had done for several years, added weight to our new position in support of Wells. Thus, to my mind, every article we printed supporting him was a betrayal of our readers, who, gathering their knowledge of public events from our columns, naturally formed their opinions upon what we gave them.

At the time of Schmitz' appearance in politics, Abraham Ruef was a power in the Republican party ring. After Schmitz' nomination, however, Ruef was shrewd enough to divine that in all likelihood labor, being indignant over the treatment given it in the teamsters' strike, would rally to Schmitz and elect him in a three cornered fight. Ruef, therefore, broke from the Republican ring and went over to Schmitz, taking with him many strong political influences. He and his group knew the political game, knew the ropes, controlled the bosses in many districts of the city, and Ruef's going over to Schmitz turned the tide in his favor.

Schmitz was elected. I was furious. While at that time I was not greatly in sympathy with labor, I felt that Schmitz did not even represent labor, that he would not be true even to the men who had elected him, and I was doubly indignant. I smarted under the belief that the Bulletin had betrayed San Francisco, had helped destroy all that Phelan had done for the city.

I was perfectly sure that if we had supported Tobin he would have beaten Schmitz, and I still believe this. Ruef's going to Schmitz, and the Bulletin's going to Wells, undoubtedly defeated Tobin, and we were as much responsible for Schmitz' election in his first campaign as any other force in San Francisco.

My experience in this election had enlightened me considerably. I had begun to feel a disinterested enthusiasm for decent government, and a genuine hatred of graft. I thought I saw a great opportunity for Schmitz, and, sending for Thomas Boyle, business manager of the Bulletin, who was a great friend of Schmitz', I gave him this message to take to the newly elected mayor:

"Tell Schmitz that while I fought him in the campaign not to let that linger in his mind, but to remember this, that he has in his hands the greatest opportunity that any politician has had in America for many a long year. If he will be really true to labor, to the people that elected him, and not associate himself with the evil forces in San Francisco, there is nothing that he can not achieve politically in the United States. He can become governor, he can become senator, can have a very brilliant political career. Tell him that, and warn him against associating with Abraham Ruef, for Ruef will lead him astray."

Schmitz' return answer was that he thanked me very much for my advice, but that Ruef was his friend and they were going to stand together.

This was the beginning of the struggle that led into every corner of San Francisco life, into the depths of the underworld, to attempted murder and dynamiting and assassination, that involved some of the biggest men in the American business world, and wrecked them; that ended by filling San Francisco with armed thugs and overturning the Southern Pacific rule of California.


IMMEDIATELY after Schmitz' installation as mayor of San Francisco petty graft began to crop up on every side. Scraps of talk, small bits of evidence, little intimations, came in to me at my office. I heard of bootblack stands, houses of prostitution, gambling joints, that were being forced to pay small graft money. Nothing definite, merely hints here and there, a glimpse of something not quite clearly seen, an atmosphere that began to envelop the city. The big graft did not develop at once, but the times were ripening for it.

From the time of Schmitz' message to me I was bitterly in pursuit of him, doing my utmost to get hold of something he had done or was doing that would uncover the underground truth of his activities. It was something like playing blindman's buff. Constantly I clutched at something that I could feel, but could not quite get hold of.

The graft within the Bulletin office was a different matter. I saw it clearly, and I felt more and more intensely that we must clean our own hands if we were to be at all consistent in our attitude toward other grafters.

The fact that we were taking money from the railroad, the gas company and other public-looting corporations was known in the business office. As a result that department had become permeated with an atmosphere of chicanery and dishonesty. There was petty graft in the circulation department as well as in the business office. Bulletin men, by various shady pretexts, were getting rugs, pianos, bicycles, furniture, jewelry, everything they could get hold of, in trade for advertising. The books were juggled.

That this was a more or less common practice at that time made no difference to me. I was intensely desirous of cleaning up the whole office, in all its departments, so that I could go after Schmitz with clean hands.

Every step I took was combated, within our own organization, by Crothers. He took that attitude not for any reason of inherent dishonesty, but because, like all men, he wanted money, and because he was by temperament opposed to any change in existing conditions.

He came from the middle class in Canada, of a family that was well enough off to educate him at McGill University. He graduated from McGill with high honors, excelling in Greek. He received some kind of medal for his achievements in Greek, and that helped to hold him to what he considered the aristocratic side of life, which in this country is the wealthy.

He had nothing but disdain for men in his employ who were not university men. He overlooked the fact that I was a printer boy in early life, and had been working ever since I was old enough to work, excusing it on the ground that I was unusually clever in making a paper go, and in making money for him. He forgave me for not being a university man, but he had no great respect for my way of thinking.

The methods to which I was opposed were established methods, and he saw no reason for changing them.

At that time the Evening Post was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad, under cover of an ostensible ownership in the name of Hugh Hume. Hume had bought the paper some years earlier on a very narrow margin of money, and, being unable to swing it financially, he had finally turned it over to the railroad company. W. H. Mills, controller of California's newspapers for the railroads, became absolute director and editor of the Post.

One day Mills suggested to the Bulletin's business manager that there was no sense in a fight between the two papers for the city printing. He offered a plan, which our business manager laid before Crothers. The plan was this: The Bulletin should bid for the printing at a higher rate than the Post, the Post bidding 20 cents a square, and thus getting the city printing. The 20 cents should then be divided between the two papers, the Bulletin getting 9 cents and the Post 11 cents, the Bulletin performing no service for the 9 cents other than the collusive bidding.

This was a felony, and I protested with all the vigor that I could summon, using every possible argument against it. I feared that the thing would become known, ruining the paper, and that what little reputation I had acquired as an honest journalist would be destroyed. I argued with Crothers that we would gain very little in money, perhaps a few thousand dollars, and that the risk was too great; but neither Crothers nor the business manager would listen to me. They insisted that it was a perfectly good business venture, and the paper needed the money.

The agreement was entered into. Subsequently Mills died and the Post was sold to Thomas Garrett, who promptly discovered the felonious agreement, which appeared in the books. He refused to carry out the contract with us, would pay us no money, so that the dishonest deal had only brought us a few hundred dollars.

Later Garrett put in a good sized bid for the city printing. The Bulletin bid under him. But Garrett produced to the Board of Supervisors the evidence of our collusive bidding with the railroad and insisted that we did not appear before the board with clean hands. Our bid was thrown out, Garrett's was accepted, and the Post exposed us.

I still hoped and struggled to make the Bulletin an honest paper, according to my definition of honesty at that time. It had long been customary for San Francisco newspapers to issue what was called an "annual edition." It was always, and still is, largely a holdup. The corporations and wealthy individuals were always bled for sums as large as they could be induced to give up, and they received nothing of value in return, save a vaguely defined "friendliness." We had an annual edition under way at this time, and I went personally to the various corporations and urged them not to contribute.

I went to Tirey L. Ford, general counsel for the United Railroads, and asked him if he had promised any sum of money to our special edition. He replied that he had agreed to pay $1000 for certain publicity.

I asked, "Is there anything you really want to advertise?"

"No," he said, "I am only doing it as a favor to the paper."

"Well," I said, "it won't do you any good, Mr. Ford. You'd better save your money, because I shall criticise the United Railroads if I think they deserve it, no matter what you pay. If you do what is right toward the people, you will receive commendation; otherwise you will receive condemnation, and your money will be wasted. I want you to understand that thoroughly."

He smiled and said: "That settles it. I won't pay the thousand dollars." I said: "I'd rather you didn't."

I then called on the manager of the gas company and had the same conversation with him. He had promised our business manager to contribute quite a large sum, and he withdrew the promise. I visited others for the same purpose, so that when I had finished there was little left of our special edition except violent indignation from the men who were working on it.

I was fully awake by this time to the grafting idea and saw the inconsistency of my hammering away at Ruef and Schmitz for doing the same thing that we were doing. I wanted to be clean, and I wanted the paper to be clean. I was dimly conscious that I was as bad as Ruef, as long as I was taking part of my salary from the same source, and I felt it keenly.

About this time I encountered the coming into San Francisco of the Home Telephone Company. They wanted a franchise, and they had millions back of them. One day Mark Gerstle, a prominent local capitalist, called on me in behalf of the Home Telephone Company and said that he had decided to advertise in the Bulletin and that he wanted reading matter.

I told him he could not have an inch of it, not for $200 a line. Our columns were not for sale. If he incorporated we would publish the news of the incorporation, free; we would publish all legitimate news concerning the company, and if they treated the people well we would commend them editorially. But that was all the reading matter he would get from us. If he wanted to advertise with us he could get display advertising.

He said that he had a contract with the business office for reading matter. I told him that if any reading matter was sent up to me I would refuse to publish it.

Our talk resulted in his going downstairs and breaking his contract. He did not advertise at all in the Bulletin. He did use other papers in the way he had hoped to use us, and later, in the graft fight, the fact came out in his testimony before the grand jury that he had done so. The fact also came out, testified to by Gerstle, that the Bulletin had refused to take his money for the use of our columns.

If Gerstle's testimony had been otherwise, at that crisis in the graft fight, it would have done us incalculable harm, utterly destroyed our usefulness in the fight. Of course, I had no anticipation of the importance of my attitude at the time I took it. It was merely in line with the policy I was trying to establish.

Meantime, I was continuing my hammering away at Ruef and Schmitz, and although I had accomplished little I had succeeded in enraging them. Suddenly one day our newsboys struck. Without warning, as our papers were coming from the presses, ready to go out on the streets, the waiting crowd of boys turned into a howling mob, storming our windows with sticks and stones.


GANGSTERS in touch with Ruef and Schmitz had organized a newsboys' union, held a rousing meeting and declared a strike against the Bulletin.

The excuse was a pretty thing, merely a subterfuge. Like the other evening papers, we were selling the boys two papers for a nickel. They demanded three for a nickel. But we did not learn even this until after they had descended on us, a storming mob, breaking our windows, attacking our clerks, besieging the office. Policemen stood idly on the corners and watched this, doing nothing, under orders.

It was impossible to get a Bulletin out on the streets for sale. Gangs cut the harness from the horses on the delivery wagons that we tried to get out. They stormed our drivers. Professional thugs broke the arms of loyal carriers, beat up our solicitors with brass knuckles. Word had come down from above that the Bulletin must be forced to stop publication in San Francisco.

It did not take me long to suspect the origin of all this trouble. It lasted, however, for several days before I was able to get hold of the men who could stop it. On those days, coming out of the office, I was met by a storm of stones, bricks, bits of wood, everything that could be found and thrown. Whenever I appeared on the sidewalks I was surrounded by a clamoring mob, and had to fight my way through it at every step. I enjoyed it immensely, and had the time of my life handling the situation.

Within a few days I was able to put my hand on the leaders of the framed-up strike. They were well known tenderloin characters, inspired (as I knew) by Ruef and Schmitz. I sent for them to come to my office and said to them: "Twenty-four hours and a thousand dollars to break the Bulletin strike."

Their leader said, "I've got to have more time than that."

"No," I said. "Twenty-four hours."

He thought it over. "A thousand dollars?"

"Yes," I said. "Tommorrow at this time, if the strike is over."

He said he would see what next could be done, and left. The next night the boys who had been attacking us went in a mob to Ruef's house and threatened him with violence. The strike was over, and its leaders had thrown in that act for good measure. That afternoon our papers were on the streets as usual, and I paid the thousand dollars.

In the midst of all this I had a vague intimation that Ruef and Schmitz and the chief of police were taking money from the Chinese gamblers. I could not prove it, but I felt that they were. I was so angry at the whole situation that I printed on the first page of the Bulletin pictures of the chief of police, Ruef, Schmitz and Police Commissioner Drinkhouse, surrounded by a big frame of hands pointing to them, with a caption saying, "One or more of these men are taking bribes in Chinatown."

There was something of a sensation when this appeared.

Ruef immediately ordered the Police Commission to subpena me to appear before that body and testify as to my knowledge. I went down, and they demanded that I tell them what information I had as to their taking money. I said, "I haven't any, except my belief. I am positive that some one of those four is taking money. I am not prepared now to say which one, but I am going to find out."

The situation stood at this deadlock when one day Grant Carpenter, an attorney for the Chinese Six Companies, came to my office and told me that Chan Cheung was the paymaster of the police department. Carpenter said that Chan was responsible for several murders, that he knew the highbinders whom Chan had hired to commit these murders, and that, by putting pressure on Chan with this knowledge, we could make the Chinese reveal what he knew of the police graft.

This sounded good. I was delighted. However, before putting the screws on Chan Cheung I determined to work on Sergeant Tom Ellis, who was in charge of the police squad in Chinatown. I believed that with this information as to Chan we might be able to induce Tom Ellis to confess.

I sent for Captain John Seymour, who had been at one time chief of police, but who was now working for the Fair estate, and asked him to tell Tom Ellis that if he would confess to having been bribed, and would tell us where the money came from, that I would put him on the Bulletin payroll for two years at $125 a month. If he confessed he would, of course, lose his job, and this salary from me would protect him against loss.

Seymour undertook to do this, and succeeded in getting a statement from Ellis that he had been paid $200 a week for seven weeks prior to this time, by Chan; that he did not know who paid other policemen or whether or not Ruef or Schmitz were paid. He understood that ordinary patrolmen got $40 a week, but he did not know whether Schmitz or Ruef or Chief Whitman were getting money, although naturally he assumed that they did. He said he was willing to go before the grand jury and make this statement.

Accordingly, one afternoon at 2 o'clock, when the grand jury was in session, Ellis walked into the room, laid $1400 in bills on the table and said, "I received that from Chan in Chinatown. That's seven weeks' pay to overlook Chinese gambling. I don't know about the others. I only know about myself. There's the money." Then he walked out.

That was the end of that. I had done nothing except to put Tom Ellis on my payroll for two years. I had not got Schmitz or Ruef or Whitman or any one of the commissioners. I had simply landed $125 a month on the Bulletin payroll.

Then I determined to get the truth out of Chan. There was a man on the grand jury, Ed Bowes, who was a good fighter and a loyal friend of mine. I sent for Grant Carpenter and arranged with him to program the highbinders, the murderers, to testify against Chan before the grand jury. Then Carpenter and Ed Bowes and I planned a Belasco drama effect.

I decided that we would take Chan down to the grand jury room, in impressive silence, and at the proper moment the district attorney, who was friendly to us, should walk in solemnly and say:

"Chan Cheung! You think that you are going home to China to spend the rest of your days in ease and comfort, with your family and your children, but you are not. You are going to be hanged."

Then he would turn toward the door, and through it would come the highbinders, one by one.

"Is this the man that hired you to kill so-and-so?" the district attorney would ask each highbinder as he faced Chan.

"Yes, that is the man."

Several times this would be done, one after the other, and when it was finished the district attorney should turn to Chan and say:

"We don't want to hurt you. We don't want to harm you at all. All we want to know is the amount of the money that you pay the police department and public officials and to whom you pay it. Then you can go free, go back to China and spend your old age in comfort and plenty."

This was the plan, the stage was set, the district attorney and the highbinders coached and rehearsed. Everything was ready.

Then I found that Chan Cheung was aware that I was trying to get him, and that he would not come out of his room.


THE trap was all set and baited, the trap that we hoped would catch Ruef and Schmitz and Whitman, or at least one of the three, and Chan Cheung, in his room in Chinatown, lay low, refusing to come out.

For several days we had a man watching and waiting for him, with no result. Then one Sunday afternoon I got Ed Bowes up in my room at the Palace Hotel and said to him: "Something must be done. Now, Ed, we've got to have a friend of Chan ring him up on the telephone and tell him to come downstairs to meet him. Can you fix that?"

"Yes, I'll do that," he said.

"I want you to be waiting with a hack, and the minute Chan appears to throw him into the hack and drive off. Tell him you are an officer of the grand jury. Carry him off to the Occidental Hotel, put him in a room, and stay there with him. See that he doesn't have any opium, and don't give him the slightest hint of what is going to happen to him. Tommorrow morning take him to the Mills building and up to the grand jury room, and we'll do the rest."

Ed Bowes did this, succeeding in kidnaping Chan without a slip, and sixteen hours later brought him into the grand jury room. The old Chinese was shaking and nervous, excited, not knowing what would be done to him, and suffering from having no opium for sixteen hours. The district attorney came in solemnly, and our whole program was carried out as completely as a play on the stage.

"Chan Cheung," said the district attorney, "you think that you are going back to China, to live the rest of your days in comfort and prosperity, with your children around you. This will never happen. You will be hanged."

Chan did not say a word.

One by one the highbinders slid in like ghosts, without a sound, and to each one as he came in the district attorney said: "Is this the man that hired you to kill so-and-so?" Each highbinder looked at Chan for a long moment, then bowed his head and said: "This is the man."

When the murderers had come and gone the district attorney made his solemn speech: "Chan Cheung, we don't want to hang you. We don't want you to die in a prison, on a scaffold, with a rope around your neck. Tell us who takes the money from you for protecting the gamblers, and we will let you go. You can go back to China and live in peace and comfort and plenty all your days, and die at last in your own country with your children around you."

Chan listened to this in silence, without moving a muscle. Then he said, looking around the room: "Where your nineteen men? One, two, three, four—grand jury nineteen men. I no sabe." He shut up and would not say another word. He had met only the police committee of the grand jury.

This was reported to me, in another room, and I was savage. "Well, put him back in the room at the hotel. We'll give him nineteen men," I said. "Put him back. And give him no opium."

On Tuesday morning I got a courtroom, a Superior Court room, with the big mahogany desk and the trappings and properties of the courtroom all there, rich and impressive. The grand jury was there, in the jury seats, nineteen men, all looking very solemn. The foreman sat on the judge's bench in state.

Chan Cheung was brought from the Occidental Hotel and marched in silence through the big room to a place before the judge's bench.

"Now," the foreman said, severely, "tell us. Give us this information about paying money to the police, Chief Whitman, and so on."

Chan would not speak.

"All right. You don't tell us, we will indict you for those murders and hang you."

"No sabe," Chan said. It was impossible to get another word from him.

The handcuffs were clapped on him, he was indicted for the murders, and still he would not talk. "No sabe," he said.

Then he was thrown into a patrol wagon and taken away to the county jail. Locked up in the county jail in a small cell, he was given the worst kind of treatment, of course. But never a word.

He had come from China to learn some of the white man's ways, but he had not learned all of them.

And all the while Chief Whitman and Ruef and Schmitz were smiling around the streets of San Francisco. They knew the Oriental. They knew we could boil him in oil and he would not talk. They knew the Oriental, and I didn't. But I learned to know him then.

The thing ended with nothing accomplished, except Tom Ellis on the Bulletin payroll for $125 a month. Chan was released on a writ of habeas corpus and has since died. By that time the matter had dragged on and on until every one was tired of it, and finally Tom Ellis went to the grand jury, demanded the return of his $1400 bribe money, and got it.

Of course, I did not give up. I had to abandon the Chinese gamblers, but I began again on the municipal crib. I thought that if I could only link the administration up with taking money from the women at 620 Jackson street, at last I would have something to wake up the people of San Francisco. They surely would not stand for a mayor who took money from prostitutes.

This house, that I called "the municipal crib," had been built by Schmitz contractors, Schmitz had been interested in the construction of it, and there were all the earmarks about the whole affair that would indicate that the administration had knowledge of the use of the place, and would also have some control over the revenue. There were sixty or seventy women in the place, and I was positive that they were all paying revenue to Schmitz.

But all my efforts at getting positive evidence of it were fruitless. I had the grand jury raid the place two or three times, take the women and question them. I exhausted every expedient I could think of, without result.

One morning when I had practically given it up, a quite attractive young girl came into my office at the Bulletin and said:

"I'm from 620 Jackson street, Mr. Older, `the municipal crib,' and I want to help you. I haven't very much information, but I have a little I'll gladly give you, if you will see that I'm protected. Of course, they will be very angry when they find out that I have come to you, and I don't know what may happen. If you will hide me somewhere until it's over, and then give me money to leave town, that's all I want."

Of course I agreed to this, and she told me what she knew, enough to confirm my suspicions, but hardly enough to take into court. She saw herself that she did not have very definite legal evidence, and said: "I have a very dear friend over there, Clara, who knows more than I do. She is quite intimate with one of the men who collect for the higher-ups, and she could tell you something worth while."

That evening she brought Clara up to my office. Clara, a startling-looking girl, black haired and black eyed, dressed in black velvet, flashed up and down the office, panting with indignation, furious, abusing me for even thinking that she would turn on the people who ran the place. Lily tried to calm her, but she raged, calling us both everything she could think of.

However, at last we quieted her, and prevailed upon her to promise to go before the grand jury the following day. She told me enough to convince me that at least I had convincing evidence against men directly responsible to Schmitz.

Those who were interested in the municipal crib had learned immediately that Lily had come to my office. They hunted the town over until they found the hotel in which I had placed her, registered under an assumed name. When she came out of this hotel next morning to keep her appointment with me at 10 o'clock, there was a coupe waiting at the curb before the door, and in it a landlady who had once been kind to Lily when she was ill. They had taken the trouble to search for this landlady, to find her and send her there.


LILY, hurrying to keep her appointment with me, was stopped by this landlady who had been kind to her. The landlady urged her to get into the coupe and drive away with her. She promised Lily that she should to given ample money, sent anywhere in the world that she wanted to go, and provided for.

"You can go to China, to Japan, wherever you like, and live like a lady," she said.

"No; I've got to keep my appointment with Mr. Older," Lily said.

"But he's the very man we don't want you to see!"

"I've got to go. I told him I would," Lily insisted. She refused to get into the carriage, and hurried to my office.

She and Clara went before the grand jury, and Lily told all that she knew, simply and directly. But Clara had turned on us again and would tell nothing of any value. Lily's testimony alone was not sufficient to warrant issuing an indictment, and so that hope was destroyed as so many had been.

According to my promise, I gave Lily a small amount of money, enough to take her to some town in Nevada, to which she wished to go, and she dropped out of sight. Many years later, when I had long forgotten the incident, I received a frantic telephone message asking me to come at once to an address far out on Mission street.

I went, and found Clara, very much changed, quietly dressed and pale, in a comfortable, plainly furnished flat. She told me that Lily was dead, shot by a drunken man in a house in the interior of the state.

"I'm sending her body back to her people," Clara said. "They don't know that she's been out of town; she's kept them thinking that she's here working. I don't know what to tell them. I wrote a letter to her mother, saying that she had died of typhoid fever. Then I was afraid they would see the bullet holes, so I wrote another, and said she had been shot by accident, on the street. I don't know which one to send."

I told her to send the second one.

I asked Clara for the details of Lily's death. She told me that a wealthy oil man shot her and then killed himself. "He wanted Lily to marry him," Clara said, "and he killed her because she wouldn't." "Why wouldn't she marry him?" I inquired. "Because he drank terribly," Clara replied, "and Lily didn't respect him."

We talked for a few minutes, and she said: "Do you notice how much I've changed? I'm married now to a man I knew when I was a little girl." She seemed very contented and happy.

After the failure of that attempt to produce evidence for the grand jury, my struggle with Schmitz became for a time purely political. The campaign of 1905 was approaching, the legislature was in session in Sacramento, and political events were becoming most interesting.

Gavin McNab had been having a violent quarrel with the Examiner. The Examiner was opposing McNab's domination of politics in San Francisco, and in the course of their investigation of his affairs they had discovered that the manager of one of McNab's building and loan associations was an embezzler and had done many a dishonest thing. The Examiner was making a strong fight against this man, in order to attack McNab, who kept him in his position. In an effort to discredit McNab by bringing out more fully the story of this man's dishonesty, the Examiner was working through the building and loan committee in the Senate.

McNab was attorney not only for this particular building and loan association, but also for the Phoenix, which was under fire. The man in charge of this second company was Clarence Grange. By forcing an investigation of these companies through the building and loan committee of the Senate, then in session, the Examiner hoped to bring out the facts behind McNab's control of the two associations.

Grange had not been personally attacked, but he feared that any hostile investigation of the two companies might result in harm to them, and McNab shared his apprehensions.

While the companies were under investigation by the committee, a newspaperman named Joseph Jordan, who had become a lobbyist in Sacramento, came down to San Francisco one Sunday morning and called on Grange. He told Grange that for $1650 he would guarantee that Senators Emmons, Bunker, French and Wright, members of the committee, would vote to whitewash the companies. He had to pay each of them $350, and he wanted $250 for himself.

Grange agreed to give him the money, but, before doing so, sent for Gavin McNab. McNab had a brilliant idea, but, saying nothing of it to Grange, he agreed to the plan.

That evening he telephoned me, saying that he had something of importance to tell me, and wanted me to come immediately to my room in the Palace Hotel. When I reached the hotel I found him walking up and down in the corridor, and we went into my room, where he told me what had occurred.

"Now," he said, "I've got this thing all figured out. Tomorrow a man will come up to your office with a package. You have $1650 ready in greenbacks, before he comes, and you mark them yourself. When this man comes with the package, you take it from him, step into the next room and take his money out of the package. Put your marked bills inside, give him the package. Then put your money back into the bank and leave the rest to me. I'll see that each of those committee members gets his money, and I'll have them watched so we can prove that they received it."

I said: "But—but Grange thinks he's bribing them, doesn't he?"

And McNab gave a step or two of the "Highland Fling," crying: "Yes! That's the beauty of it. He does think so. Isn't it great?"

The next day, as agreed, I procured the money and marked it, taking photographs of the marked bills. The man arrived, I took the package from him, changed the money, returned the package to him, and he went out. Then I set to work to prepare the story.

I made a four page layout of it, with pictures of the marked money, pictures of the four Senators, flaring headlines, and every detail of the story. I was obliged to trust thirty men in the Bulletin office with the story, and not one of them let out a word of it to the other papers. We worked all one Sunday, printing 20,000 copies of this extra, and I hired a special train on the Southern Pacific Railroad, placed the papers in the car, and held it for orders.

Meantime McNab had the money paid, covering every move in the transaction by witnesses. He employed Frank Nicol, a prominent attorney of Stockton, to prepare a statement disclosing the bribery, and arranged that he should rise to a question of privilege in the Senate and read this document on the floor. The four Senators who had received the money would be at their desks, and this would be their first knowledge that they had been caught.

Everything was arranged when I left for Sacramento. Franklin K. Lane happened to be here, and Arthur McEwen, a well known writer. I told them about it and they went with me, to see the fun.


ON MONDAY, when the Senate opened, McEwen, Lane and myself were sitting in the Senate chamber, well up in front, so that we could watch the expressions of the four Senators when the story of the bribery was read. I had a reporter at my side, and as soon as the Senate convened he opened a telephone line to the Bulletin office in San Francisco, and kept it open.

The Senate opened with the usual solemnity and prayer. As soon as possible Nichol rose to a question of privilege, spread open his document, and began to read. I whispered to the reporter to telephone to San Francisco, and the special train started, bringing the Bulletin extras.

The four Senators went white when they realized the meaning of Nichol's statement. Lane, McEwen and I watched their changing expressions. When Nichol had finished each one of them rose and stammered a feeble and blundering reply, pale and trembling. Then uproar broke loose in the Senate.

Stormy speeches were made. An investigation was demanded, a committee was appointed. By the time the Senate adjourned newsboys were swarming into the lobby with the Bulletins, carrying the story.

Joe Jordan was there. He rushed to the telephone and called up Grange in his office in the Mills Building, where he had been sitting all day unconscious that he had not committed a felony.

"Have you seen the Bulletin?" Jordan demanded, wildly excited.

Grange said: "No. Why?"

"Go out and get one!"

Grange did so, and discovered that he was a hero, a social reformer, a public spirited citizen.

He was subpenaed to appear before the investigating committee of the Senate, and at the hearing he said that he felt that the corruption of the senatorial body of California was an outrage; that it was an offense to every honest citizen; that he had felt it his duty to his state to devise this method of disclosing the corruptibility of the elected representatives of the people.

Of course, I knew the truth. I knew that he had intended to bribe those Senators, that he had been surprised and confounded by the discovery that he had not done so. But it was not my play to disclose that knowledge at that time, nor have I ever done so until now.

All four of the Senators were indicted. Bunkers went to San Quentin for a term of years. Emmons also became a convict. Wright fled to Mexico, and French was acquitted and ran again for the Senate, getting 3000 votes in his district.

My knowledge of the truth of this matter was of great value to me later, resulting, indeed, in the nomination of a candidate for Mayor against Schmitz in the approaching election.

Herrin had become fearful of Ruef's growing power in San Francisco. He saw in Ruef a rival who was becoming dangerously strong, so he agreed with us, the reformers, that the Schmitz machine must be defeated in the coming primaries.

At about this time Fairfax Wheelan, a prominent merchant here, became imbued with the idea that he should take a hand in reforming San Francisco, and the first move that he made was to organize the San Francisco Republican League. The purpose of this organization was to bring about a coalition of the Democrats and Republicans in the mayoralty election, so that there would not occur again a three cornered fight, during which Schmitz could slip into office.

Wheelan appointed on this league a number of well known men. He gave me one man, Ed Bowes; he appointed one for De Young of the Chronicle, one for Herrin, and the rest of the league was made up of well known politicians.

This group agreed to give me the power of bringing together the two groups, the McNab group and the Fairfax Wheelan group. They also agreed that if Herrin would play fair and join them in the fight to beat Ruef in the primaries they would work harmoniously with the railroad organization. I was friendly to all the factions and undertook the task of unifying them in the approaching fight.

The railroad people, Jerry Burke, Arthur Fisk and George Hatton, representing Herrin, told me that I should have the negative power on the candidate for mayor; that is, that they would not insist on any candidate whom I opposed.

The three groups agreed that the Republicans should have the mayor and the Democrats should have the other offices.

The first name that Burke and Hatton presented to me was that of Judge Sloss. I told them that I did not think he could be elected. He was a good man, but he was not a good mixer, not a good campaigner, not the kind of man who could beat Schmitz. While I thought that he would make a good mayor, I did not believe that we could win with him.

I then suggested Colonel Kirkpatrick, manager of the Palace Hotel. I knew that he was a Herrin man, but I also knew that he was financially incorruptible. He was a good mixer, fond of horses, a good story teller, a man about town, who drank a little, had a lot of magnetism, possessed all the qualities that I thought a candidate must have in order to be elected. Burke and Hatton were glad to accept him.

Before presenting the name of Kirkpatrick to McNab, I went down to his office with Thomas Hickey and said: "Mr. McNab, very soon I am going to bring you a name from the Republicans for you to indorse in your Democratic caucus, and I want you to accept it."

"You mean on sight, and unseen?"

I said, "Yes."

"You mean that you will put the name in an envelope, seal the envelope and give it to me, and that whatever name I find I'll accept it?" I said: "Yes, if you want to put it that way."

He said: "All right. I'll do it."

The next day I brought him the name of Kirkpatrick. He flew into a violent rage and said that Kirkpatrick was a Herrin man. I admitted that he was, but pointed out my reasons for urging him as a candidate. "I want you to accept him. I want you to do it," I said.

I left, with no definite assurance from him, and I was suspicious from that moment that McNab had some candidate of his own that he was planning to nominate in conjunction with Fairfax Wheelan of the Republican League. In fact, I had heard rumors to that effect, and the man had been mentioned—Harry Baer, who was at that time the Republican auditor of San Francisco.

However, the good faith of McNab and Wheelan was pledged to the agreement with the railroad people, and I made one more effort.


I FELT that our hope of preventing Schmitz from again becoming mayor lay in combining all the Republican and Democratic forces behind one man, to be the opposition candidate.

It seemed to me that success had been almost in my hand. Wheelan of the Republican League, McNab, controlling the Democratic strength, and Herrin, dictator of the Southern Pacific machine, had all agreed to back the man I chose. When I saw that McNab and Wheelan were conspiring to defeat that agreement, I was in a cold, fighting rage.

I went to the railroad people and suggested, since McNab objected to Kirkpatrick, that we substitute John Lackman. He had been supervisor and sheriff, and, justly or unjustly, he had been given the title of "Honest" John Lackman. I knew that he was a railroad man, but I thought that he was as good as anything we could get for mayor.

When I suggested "Honest" John to Jerry Burke and Hatton they said, "Surely. He is all right. We will stand for him."

I telephoned to San Anselmo, where he was staying, and asked him to come over at once, without a moment's delay. He hastened to Hatton's office in the Crocker building, and I explained the situation to him, saying that we would run him for mayor, with both the Democratic and Republican nominations.

He agreed to run, and Jerry Burke said to him, "All we ask of you, John, speaking for the Republican party, is that when you are elected you give us an even break."

Lackman replied, "Why, certainly. I will do that. It's a fair request."

I hurried from Hatton's office to McNab and told him that I had hit upon John Lackman for the coalition candidate. He considered the suggestion for a moment, and said, "I think maybe something can be done with Lackman. We'll all meet you in your office tomorrow morning at 10 o'clock and talk it over."

The next morning at 10 o'clock Wheelan, McNab and one or two others came to my office. Wheelan began the conversation by laying on my desk a typewritten sheet, containing the names of every office in the mayor's power to fill, with the name of a man for each. He asked me whether or not Lackman would appoint those men if he were elected.

When I had read that paper I leaned across my desk and looked at him.

"That's a felony!" I said. "Isn't it? You're a lawyer, Mr. McNab. Isn't that a felony?" McNab hesitated. Then he said, "Yes, Older is right. It is a felony. A pre-election bargain is a felony."

Wheelan was momentarily staggered by the situation. He said that perhaps we had better wait a while, and discuss the matter later.

They left my office, and went to see Lackman. They told him that I had suggested him as coalition candidate for the nomination. Then, pulling out this list of offices, they asked him if he would appoint the men whose names they had chosen.

He said, "I certainly will not. The railroad people haven't asked anything of me but a square deal, and I'm going to give it them, and to you, and to all the others. I promise that, and that's all I promise. This thing you're talking about is against the law."

They came back to me that afternoon and refused to accept him as their candidate.

The Republican League was to meet next morning, and by this time I had learned definitely that McNab, in league with Wheelan, had decided to nominate Harry Baer, breaking their agreement with the railroad people. I spent the night thinking it over.

Early next morning I sent for John S. Partridge, a young and promising lawyer, fairly well known in politics, and a member of the Republican League. He was an upright, upstanding young fellow, known to have lived a clean life and to be thoroughly reliable. I invited him into my office and said to him, "John, it's you for mayor. Don't say a word about it to any one."

He was stunned. He said, "You don't mean it. You are joking. Why—how could it be done?"

"Never mind how it can be done. You go up to the meeting and sit in there. Don't say a word, just watch it work out."

When he had gone I got in touch with the railroad people again and asked them if they were satisfied with Partridge. They immediately said that Partridge was all right. Then I sat down and wrote an editorial.

In it I revealed every detail of the attempted felony of Wheelan and McNab, denounced them for it, washed my hands of the entire crowd, and cast them to the wolves. With this editorial in proof, I sent for Ed Bowes, my man in the Republican League, and one other member of the league.

"I want Partridge nominated by 2 o'clock today. If he is not endorsed at 2 o'clock, this editorial will be published. Read it."

They read it. They were very much excited, and rushed out of the office with hardly a word. At 1 o'clock Bowes came back, perspiring, and asked me if I would make it 2:30.

"No. Two o'clock, or the editorial goes. That is our press time."

At 2 o'clock Bowes rang me up and told me that Partridge had been selected by the Republican League.

McNab had felt that some embarrassing situation might arise during the day, so he had told his friends that he was going to Sacramento to try a case in the Supreme Court. Then he remained all day buried in his office here, thinking that the Harry Baer scheme was going through as programmed, without a hitch. Early in the day Hugh Burke, a reporter for The Call, called at his office and McNab saw him, knowing that Burke was not in on the fact that he was supposed to be in Sacramento.

Burke asked, "Who's the man for mayor, Mac?"

"Baer," said McNab.

Burke said, "What about Older?"

"Oh, to hell with Older!"

At 3 o'clock, after Partridge had been nominated. Burke dropped into McNab's office again, and, supposing that McNab knew what had happened, remarked, "Well, I see it's Partridge."

McNab, startled, said, "Partridge? Oh, yes—you mean for chairman of the Republican convention."

"No! mayor," said Burke. "He's been endorsed by the Republican League."

McNab, wholly unprepared, leaped from his chair and exploded.

When I came into his office at 5 o'clock the "old guard" was all lined up against the wall in a row. McNab was purple in the face. He said to me:

"So it's that foul bird, Partridge, is it?"

"Yes, it's Partridge," I said.

"Well, let's see you nominate him. Let's see you get him through the conventions."

"But," I said, "he's my man and you agreed to nominate the man that I brought you."

"Just let's see you put that bird in!"

That frightened me. The Republican convention met that evening and I feared McNab might have sufficient influence in the convention to defeat Partridge. I went out and hunted up Partridge and told him that he must nominate himself as soon as the convention opened. He must give McNab not a moment to start anything.

The convention met in old Pioneer Hall. When it assembled I was walking up and down in a dark alley beside the building. Through the window I saw hats going up in the air and heard a roar of cheers, and I knew that Partridge was in.

I walked out on to Market street, and found McNab standing there with Fay and Braunhart. "Partridge is nominated," I said.

"You aren't going to get him through the Democratic convention," McNab said. "If you put him over on us it will be over my dead body."

I said good night, and walked away.

Note—John Lackman, in a letter, objects to my saying that I knew him to be a railroad man, and adds that "there is not a single vote or action of mine on record, or destroyed, upon which any one could put the construction that I was a railroad man." He also denies that McNab was one of the men who wanted to pledge him on patronage.

When I said I knew Lackman was a railroad man I based my statement upon the fact that Arthur Fisk, George Hatton and Jerry Burke, all representing Herrin, told me that Lackman was all right and would be acceptable to Herrin.

I did not say that McNab called on Lackman in the matter of patronage. My recollection is that Rich and Wheelan called on him. McNab did not.


Source: Library of Congress. California As I Saw It, 1849-1900. Vol. 194. [database online] Washington: Library of Congress, 2000. Older, Fremont. My Own Story. San Francisco, CA: The Call Publishing Co., 1919.

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