Dr Washington Dodge

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Mark L. Gerstle was another neighbor, who ran Gerstle Co., and his brother William ran Northern Commercial Co., both at 310 Sansome Street. They lived at 2350 and 2340 Washington Street in San Francisco, which was only one block away from Dr. Dodge's mansion.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Another fact which butresses the political angle to the shareholders' ravaging of Dr. Dodge, is that their lawyer, Hiram Johnson, Jr., was probably a member of the Republican party. His father, the former governor and current U.S. Senator, was Republican, who served in the Senate from 1917 until his death on August 6, 1945. Known as a progressive, before running under the Republican Party's mantle, he had run with Teddy Roosevelt's ticket in 1912.

I think I'm going to leave this for a while . . . as I come across more information, I'll keep you all posted. I think it's a fascinating story, and unsolved!
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Jan, If you ever do decide to write a book about Dr. Dodge (and I encourage you to do so) I'll be happy to help you with the editing and critique all I can. Good work on your research, laddie.

Kyrila
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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THE DODGE RANCH!!! IT'S THERE!!!

I had a deposition to attend in Chico, California, so on the way, I visited Princeton. This is purportedly where Dr. Washington Dodge's prune ranch was located. It's still there. In fact, the road is called "Dodge Road," and the ranch is "Dodge Ranch."

I stopped by the town's library, and the librarian confirmed that Dodge Road was named after Washington Dodge, and named for the ranch there. They still grown plums, that are dried into prunes. Here's a picture of the "Dodge Road" sign.

There's nothing particularly spectacular about the area. It's flat, agricultural, the Sacramento River is nearby. Princeton is a little town. It was hot there, too.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Thanks, Jason. Why don't you join the site? We have a small, but excellent, group of people. It's funny, when I left for Chico, I hadn't considered visiting the Dodge Ranch at all. In fact, I didn't think of it until just before the highway turn off, I looked on the map and saw Colusa, and Princeton. Then, just by luck, I located the library in town, and it was open. The Librarian's husband actually worked on the Dodge Ranch --so she knew all about it. Then, she contacted a local history buff, who confirmed that "Dodge" referred to Dr. Washington Dodge. I told her that Dr. Dodge sailed on the Titanic, and she seemed quite impressed to hear that. I'm writing to the Colusa County Historical Society to find out some more.

One thing I'm wondering is why a wealthy person like Dodge went out to Princeton, and bought a ranch. There are other, nicer areas. I think it was because he was from that general area, and grew up in nearby Tuolumne County. It could be that for health reasons, and age, the sunny, warm weather agreed with him. Certainly, Princeton's weather is quite a contrast from San Francisco, which is often foggy, and cold.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Dec 3, 2000
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Hi Jan,

You're welcome and thanks I'll have a look at the site. That's interesting that the librarian used to work on the ranch. I hope you get the information you are looking for.

You could be right about why Dodge purchased a ranch there..it sure is fascinating!

Best regards,

Jason
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Jason D. Tiller

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Jan,

Do you have a copy of Dodge's account on the sinking? I purchased a copy at the THS' convention in Halifax in April and though I haven't read it yet, it looks quite interesting.

Just curious to know what your thoughts are.

Best regards,

Jason
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Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Jason,

I don't personally have a copy, but it's available on the internet. If you go to the "Introduction" page on San Francisco Titanica, there's a link to the "Union Democrat," a newspaper that published the speech. I've done some research regarding that speech, and it is noteworthy that Dr. Dodge broke down at several points. This, I think, is strong evidence that he harbored some serious depressive, or PTSD symptoms following the disaster --as many survivors did.

As far as the speech itself goes, you can glean from it that Dr. Dodge is a very thorough, and intelligent man, and that the group he was speaking to were much the same. That being said, you can also tell that much of his information was obtained from other sources, maybe from other people whom he talked to on Carpathia, and may have been inaccurate.

I don't know if you've had the opportunity to look at the "Survivors Suicides" thread --but Dr. Dodge is discussed at length there. He was a public figure, well known and respected. The stigma of his surviving the Titanic disaster must have been terrible.
 

Jason D. Tiller

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Hi Jan,

Thanks for the info about the speech. You're right that is strong evidence about Dodge having those serious symptoms, as many survivors experienced as you mentioned.

It seems to me also that Dr. Dodge was a very smart man and quite possibly much of the information may have given by people on the Carpathia. Their is a good chance it was incorrect.

I haven't had a chance to read the "Survivors Suicides thread" yet, but I will. I agree, the ordeal that he went through surviving the sinking of the Titanic must definitely have been terrible.

Best regards,

Jason
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Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Edgar Meyer, lost on the Titanic, was a close relative of several of the shareholders who ousted Dr. Dodge from Federal Telegraph's presidency several years later. Edgar was the son of Eugene Meyer, who headed up Lazard Freres, the New York brokerage that joined with the other shareholders to oust Dr. Dodge. Additionally, Edgar Meyer was the brother of Mrs. Abe Stern, who was sister-in-law to Sigmund Stern, vice president and later president of Levi Strauss & Co., and a major shareholder who also opposed Dr. Dodge. Abe Stern was the secretary of Levis Strauss. Sigmund Stern was identified above as one of the members of the group that ousted Dr. Dodge, too.

Edgar Meyer and Washington Dodge must have known each other, in some manner. Among the untransmitted messages to Carpathia, is one from a "C. Altschul," in New York, to Washington Dodge --which inquires about the status of Edgar Meyer, as follows:

'Washington Dodge Carpathia
Congratulations on escape am
exceedingly anxious know whether
Edgar Meyer and wife and Isidor
Straus and wife are saved kindly
send Marconigram
C. Altschul'


Notably, on this site, it says that Meyer's wife, who survived, explained:

"I tried and tried to get Edgar to come into the lifeboat with me, and pleaded to be allowed to stay behind and wait until he could leave, he not caring to leave before all the women had been saved. Mr. Meyer finally persuaded me to leave, reminding me of our one-year-old child at home. I entered the lifeboat and watched until the Titanic sank, but only for a short time did I see my husband standing beside the rail and assisting other women into boats in which he might have been saved."

I think it's reasonable to deduce that these shareholders, Meyer and Stern, must not have held Dr. Dodge in very high esteem if their close relative absolutely refused to get in a board, as Meyer's wife contends, and Dr. Dodge did get in a boat, and managed to survive.

Eugene Meyers was formerly the manager of London Paris and American National Bank, in San Francisco --which I think was a predecessor to the Anglo London Paris National Bank --where Dr. Dodge went to work as a Vice President after the disaster.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Here's a few interesting tidbits on Dr. Washington Dodge:

1. His sale of Federal Telegraph Company's assets, while he was the company's president, resulted in an estimated loss of $22,000,000. This reduced Federal Telegraph's book value from approximately $25,000,000 to $3,500,000. Dr. Dodge obtained only $1,600,000 for the sale (which was to the U.S. Government). An auditor (as reported in the San Francisco Examiner in February 1920) described the sale as one that took the "life" out of the company. Aside from the incredible magnitude of the loss, it's interesting that the auditor would describe it in such as manner, given that Dr. Dodge had taken his own life some eight months before.

2. On the day he was mortally wounded, at the Carlton Apartments in San Francisco, Dr. Dodge was discovered by George Hurd, the African American porter -- who was waiting for the elevator on the first floor. Dodge came up the elevator. Hurd discovered him, and assisted him to his apartment. Some newspapers completely overlooked this fact. One says that he was discovered by his wife.
 

Jan C. Nielsen

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Dec 12, 1999
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Research help, please!

Dr. Dodge, as president of Federal Telegraph Company, arranged a certain sale of wireless technology to the U.S. Government, for $1,600,000. This sale was ultimately his undoing.

However, my question is whether his political mentor, James Phelan, then serving as one of California's U.S. senators, was involved. I know that Phelan sponsored certain increases in funding for the U.S. Navy in legislation -- but I haven't found anything where Phelan sponsored the acquisition of technology from Federal Telegraph Company or its subsidiary, Poulsen Wireless.

In 1920, Phelan fought a close battle for re-election, which he lost. But in 1919, the financial scandal with Dr. Dodge's sale to the U.S. Government hit the newspapers. Was Phelan at risk to become involved in it? Would Phelan have been motivated to knock off Dr. Dodge before the scandal spread, and impacted his re-election bid?

Notably, the shareholders who went after Dodge from Federal Telegraph's presidency were Republicans, including a Du Pont family member who later became a U.S. Senator, and who had served as Republican National Chairman. Titanic victim Edgar Meyer's family, including his father, and his brother, Eugene Meyer (father to the late Katherine Graham) were Republicans. They were among the shareholders, as were Meyer's sisters' husbands.

Additionally, Republican Senator Hiram Johnson's son was the lawyer representing them. Would these people be going after Dodge, to get to Phelan?

Perhaps someone has some idea of how legislation that Phelan sponsored can be researched. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
 
B

Bill DeSena

Guest
Hi Jan,

I just read your "Icebergs on the Bay" article. I must say I enjoyed it. However, after careful consideration of the evidence I think Dodge was probably murdered.

I am as you may know a former member of the SFPD and somewhat familiar with tales and urban legends about how police business was handled in bygone days. It doesn't surprise me that all you located as official records about the death was limited to such a few papers. potentially embarassing reports and evidence have had in past a partcular way of vanishing from view.

Considering the facts of Dodge's life, being a physcian he would have had both the means and knowledge to have committed suicide in both a cleaner and more effective manner that he reportedly did. Drugs could have been taken to overdose and kill him in a quiet and less conspicouis way. His death could have then been reported as "natural causes" rather than the scandal to his wife and family of suicide. Further, being a physcian even if he did decide to shot himself his knowledge of anatomy I would imagine would have given him a better than chance odds of blowing his brains out properly and not causing a wound that lingered for a week before death.

The location is odd too, why the basement? One might surmise the choice was to remove any effects of his shooting from his families residence, but if murder is considered the location seems more likely.

Dodge could have been forced into the basement or lured there by his killers. I say killers in the plural sense because of experience with this type of crime being usually perpetrated by a team. Basements of buildings are favored locations and I'm sure if a database search of FBI records on murder locations of choice they would reveal this as a fact. The reasons are the reduced likelyhood that a shot will be heard by passersby, isolation, and ease of exit without meeting any potential witness. Physical trace evidence that might point to a suspect recovered from a basement is less liekly to convict snce the suspect can more easily establish a purpose for visiting a semi-public locale of an apartment house basement than they could had the murder taken place in the victim's own dwelling.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a Doctor Henry Lee, Yoshi Horikoshi or some such crimalist working the Crime Lab back then or a better investigationwould be expected. As it was still very much the time when power and money could "buy" certain public services we will probably never really know what took place or what evidence was destroyed.

I think Doctor Dodge's death should be removed as a suicide and placed in another category perhaps "unsolved mystery."

Bill