In the footsteps of Dr Washington Dodge

Dec 12, 1999
In 1905, the City of San Francisco had been in the grips of a corrupt and graft-ridden mayoral administration, for several years. The administration was run by Eugene Schmitz, as mayor, and Abrahum Ruef, his lawyer.

The renown Fremont Older, manager of the San Francisco Bulletin, and a powerful political figure, wanted to get rid of Schmitz.

To do so, the party bosses orchestrated a "fusion" of the Republican and Democratic mayoral tickets, so that Schmitz's Union Party couldn't win by a split vote. The Republicans nominated lawyer John Partridge. Older wanted the Democrats to nominate Partridge, too, so that a single candidate could run against Schmitz. He enlisted Dr. Washington Dodge's assistance in this.

Gavin McNab wanted the nod from the Democratic party. Older asked Dodge to meet with McNab. Further, he asked Dodge to disclose that Older could disclose McNab's bribery of State Senate Committee members (who were investigating a certain banking embezzlement scandal that indirectly involved McNab's employee, Clarence Grange, and McNab-controlled financial businesses. Grange and the senators had been caught, working through a lobbyist, bribing and being bribed.)

With this threat of disclosing McNab's involvement in the bribery, Older instructed Dodge to compel McNab not to run against Partridge for the nomination, as follows:

That evening my wife and I were at the Palace Hotel.

I asked Dr. Washington Dodge to come up to my room. He came. I said: "Doctor, I hate to ask you to do this, but I'm desperate. It's the last shot in my locker. The Democratic caucus meets tonight at 8 o'clock. I want you to go over and see McNab. I want you to tell him that unless Partridge is nominated at 8 o'clock tonight I will go to Grove L. Johnson, attorney for Emmons, and I will tell him to ask me, when I am on the stand as a witness, whether or not Grange intended to bribe the Senate committee.

"My God! That's an awful thing to ask me to do," Dodge replied.

"I know it. But you must do it, doctor. I'm desperate. I must have Partridge nominated. I tell you we've got to beat Schmitz."

"All right," he said. "I'll do it."

He went away, and shortly afterward Mrs. Older and I went down to dinner. We were sitting at our table, in the old Palm Court of the Palace, when I happened to look up. Through the glass that surrounded the court I saw the white face of Dr. Dodge. I rose and went out to him.

He was much agitated. He said: "I gave the Scotchman your message." I waited, and he went on. "His reply was: `Tell that long-legged blank blank blank that if I am alive at 8 o'clock tonight Partridge will be nominated."

At 8 o'clock, with wild enthusiasm, Partridge was endorsed by the Democrats as the reform candidate for mayor.

That was a jubilant night for me. The Bulletin next day was full of rejoicing in the prospective victory of right over all the powers of graft and corruption. And this was sincere on my part, for I honestly believed that Ruef and Schmitz were the bad forces in San Francisco, and that when they were eliminated we could have a clean city.

Unfortunately, even with only a single candidate running against them, Schmitz won!! Dodge himself successfuly ran as the city assessor for the Democratic party, and against the Schmitz machine. Eventually, Schmitz and Ruef were indicted, convicted, and sent to jail.

For more information on the mayoral graft story, as told by Fremont Older, see:
Nov 22, 2000
Jan, Thanks for sharing the story with us - I always wondered what the situation was over Dr. Dodge. I've heard so many versions but never one as concise as this. Thanks again!

Dec 12, 1999
You're very welcome, Geoff. One minor correction - - The aforesaid site must be accessed through the following:

Once you get there, click on the "My Own Story" link - - which is Fremont Older's autobiography.
Dec 12, 1999
Some additional context should be added about how dangerous of politics was at that time in S.F.

Unlike Los Angeles, the City of San Francisco has always been an extremely pro-Labor. In 1901, Mayor James Phelan had put down a warterfront strike using the local police. People later voted in the corrupt Schmitz as mayor (he was assisted by Abraham Ruef), from the Union Labor Party.

Notably, Schmitz advocated excluding Chinese from San Franicso, and placing Asians in separate schools. Indeed, Asian children were placed in separate schools.

It was violent, gangster epoch in San Francisco's history. For example, in 1904, San Francisco Bulletin publisher R.A. Crothers (whose newspaper had been very critical of the mayor's graft), was mugged by someone purportedly associated with Abraham Ruef.

In 1908, a bomb exploded in S.F. Board of Supervisior James Gallagher's home. Gallagher was a key witness in the criminal trial of Ruef.

Even more incredible, the prosecutor of Ruef, a man named Heney, was shot in the courtroom by someone who was disgruntled about some prior prosecution.
Dec 12, 1999
In Chapters 20-26 of "My Own Story," Fremont Older describes how he was later kidnapped off of a San Francisco street, and taken on a train to Los Angeles. They were intercepted in Santa Barbara, and Older escaped.

He learned that the plan was to kill him. A gun was in fact shoved into his ribes when he asked to get out of the kidnap vehicle - but the gunman had lost his nerve.

Interestingly, Older describes his interaction with an English member of Parliament over the event, some years later:

The story of this affair spread around the world, and the London Times printed a two column story about it. Sometime later I met a member of the English Parliament. I asked him if he had ever been in San Francisco before.

He said, "No. It's a very interesting city. I've read some very strange stories about you people, but the incredible one I read in the London Times, a paper that I had always regarded as a truthful journal."

"What was the story?"

"It was an amazing story," he said. "It was a story of the kidnaping in broad daylight of an editor. He was carried away in an automobile at the point of a pistol."

And I said, "Why, that's a true story. I'm the editor."

Some town, huh!

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