Saturday, July 01, 2006

Number-Crunching the Horseless Carriage

July 1, 1907
Los Angeles

If you ever wondered if the Locomobile or Pope-Hartford got great gas mileage, the answer is no, as shown in the results of the 185-mile Lakeside Endurance Race. In cost and fuel efficiency, the 1907 automobiles were about the equivalent of a 2006 Ford Explorer (MSRP $31,650) or a Range Rover Sport (MSRP $56,085-$69,025).

The car with best gas mileage in the economy competition was the Pope-Hartford, 8½ gallons (21.76 mpg), in the class of touring cars costing $1,501-$3,000 ($30,805.88-$61,570.71 USD 2005).

Next was a Tourist auto, 8¾ gallons (21.14 mpg), competing in the class of touring cars with a price of $1,500 or less.

Another Tourist won in the class for runabouts priced at $1,501-$3,000, 11 1/8 gallons (16.62 mpg).

The winner in the class of touring cars costing more than $3,000 was an American, 11 gallons (16.81 mpg).

The winner in the event for high-powered runabouts was a Simplex roadster, which covered 6 miles in 7:56 minutes, or a little over 47 mph.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Whats that on your shirt, Phelan?

June 29, 1907
Los Angeles

Through the jail cell’s bars, the officer asked, “Where did you get that blood on your shirt?”

E.H. Phelan, a barber at the Hotel Alexandria, said: “No, I did not beat my wife.” He whispered: “She was drunk and fell down.”

And the blood?

“Why—why-er, you see, she fell down in the backyard and I had to cart her into the house.

“Say, where’s my bail? This ain’t no place for a gentleman.”

The beating of Mary Phelan shocked even the veteran police officers and court officials; it was the worst many of them had ever seen.

“While Mrs. Phelan was visiting with a neighbor about 4:30 o’clock yesterday afternoon, Phelan appeared at the home of J.H. Bradley, 1560 E. 51st St.,” The Times said. “He walked into the room where she was seated and leaped toward her. Grasping his wife’s hair, Phelan began to drag her from the room.

“Screaming for mercy, Mrs. Phelan pleaded to her husband to desist, but he paid no heed to her cries. Twice, he turned upon her, raising a club which he carried as though to strike her. Mrs. Bradley was too much terrified to interfere but when Phelan had dragged his wife down the steps, she ran to a telephone to call for assistance.

“Once out of the house, Phelan began to drag his wife along. Suddenly he struck her a brutal blow in the face and she sank down. Two men saw Phelan knock his wife down when he had dragged her halfway up the steps and as she arose, extending her arms to him in humble supplication, he kicked her in the face. Then he kicked his wife up the steps, across the porch and into the little house.

“Neighbors ran to their homes seeking arms and formed a rescuing party. In the meantime Patrolmen Hickock and Hickock had been detailed from the University Station on motorcycles and arrived soon after the little mob of enraged neighbors had formed.

“Looking through a window leading into a front room of the Phelan house, one of the officers saw Phelan on top of his wife with both hands grappling her throat. He seemed to be prompted by a fiendish delight and was working his hands as he choked the breath out of his half-conscious wife. At this sight, the patrolmen dashed for the front door.

“Phelan heard them coming and ran to open the door. As they showed their stars, the officers forced their way past him. One of them arrested Phelan, who coolly informed the police that his wife was drunk and had fallen and injured herself.

“In a pool of blood, Mrs. Phelan lay on a couch. Streams of blood were trickling from more than a dozen lacerations. When she faintly opened her eyes and saw her husband a prisoner, she vainly sought to rise, but fell back with a low gurgle—blood was choking her. When her mouth had been washed out, she gasped:

“ ‘Oh, thank God, thank God! You have saved my life. In another minute he would have killed me!’ Then she fainted.”

And then the work truly began. Officers had to restrain the neighbors from lynching Phelan as investigators examined the trail of blood from the Bradleys’ home. Someone looked for the broomstick that had finally broken in half as Phelan used it to beat his wife, whose bloody clothes were mostly ripped from her body by the beating.

The Times said: “Her lips were cut and bruised. Both eyes were bruised and blackened so that she could scarcely see. Her nose had been broken and her head was smeared with blood. On the woman’s back were nearly a score of bruises and lacerations. Her breast was bruised and cut and from a wound in her abdomen blood was flowing freely. On her arms and limbs, great welts as large as a man’s wrist stood out plainly.”

And at the hospital, barely able to speak because of the beating, her body nearly shattered, Mrs. Phelan pleaded with officers: Don’t prosecute my husband, he’s my only means of support.

Phelan drew a minimal sentence because his wife refused to testify against him and had it not been for the neighbors’ accounts, he wouldn’t have been prosecuted at all.

“It is a pity that we have no felony charge to prefer against this man,” the prosecutor said. “He has been in the Police Court before on the same charge and the woman at that time tried to shield him. If we could secure the woman’s promise to testify against the husband we might file a felony complaint, charging assault with intent to commit murder.”

Phelan sentenced to six months on the chain gang, but instead became a trusty at the University Station, where he served as a gardener. After public disgust over his light treatment, he was given one of the worst jobs at the jail: cleaning the hobos’ bedding. And Mayor Harper personally ordered that Phelan be put on the chain gang.

Upon his release, The Times said: “Phelan has lost considerable weight since going on the gang. He does not look as prosperous as he did three months ago. Incidentally, he will be accorded no farewell reception by his fellow prisoners, who hate him because of his bullying ways.”

It’s impossible to tell what happened to the Phelans once he was released. In one of those quirks of history, we find a Mary and Edward H. Phelan in Whittier. But they are apparently unrelated to the battling Phelans who moved to Los Angeles from Boston two years earlier.

Note that Google Earth shows the Phelan home still standing and that it's near the site of the S.L.A. shootout on the other side of Compton Avenue.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Shout out to

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Hurry back!

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Angelenos and Their Cars

June 28, 1907
Los Angeles

Give cars to a bunch of wealthy Los Angeles residents and what do they do? Race them, of course. Not on a track this time, but in an endurance test from Los Angeles to Lakeside. And yes, it’s a bit warmish for an endurance race, especially once the drivers get further inland—100 degrees.

So far, all 62 cars that began the race arrived intact at Lake Elsinore. Note that the drivers didn’t have the advantage of and went via Upland and Riverside.

For a while, it looked as if the machines were going to be stranded in Lake Elsinore because there was no gasoline, but a freight train arrived in time with two carloads of gas. One driver, George Kowonto, suffered heat prostration, The Times noted.

So far, most of the cars have fared well. Forty received perfect scores, while several had points deducted for problems with the coil or the carburetor. “There were a few complaints of road hogging, but not many,” The Times said.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Kinder Simpler Time

A Kinder, Simpler Time

June 27, 1907
Los Angeles

Louise arrived in Los Angeles three months ago from Norway with her four young children. She met a man who worked in San Pedro (we only know his initials, F.G.) and before long, they were married and living in his small home at 825 Tennessee St.

One morning, she got up to make coffee, turned on the stove, took a glass of dark liquid from a shelf and poured it into the coffee pot.

But the liquid was gasoline.

“In a flash, the woman was on fire,” The Times said. “Shrieking with pain, Mrs. Rohan dashed into the bedroom, where her husband was just arising. He seized her and rolled her in blankets until the flames had been extinguished, but too late.”

Doctors said there was nothing they could do for her. She had been burned over 50% of her body and also inhaled the flames, apparently scorching her lungs.

“I do not fear to die,” she whispered to her husband, “but take care of the children and furnish them a good home.”

The Times explained that before installing a gas stove, Mr. Rohan had used a gasoline burner and kept fuel on a shelf in the kitchen.  

This is one of the frustrating moments in historical research. There’s no further record of F.G. Rohan or the children. In fact, the California death records don’t even report Louise Rohan’s death, raising the question of whether The Times misspelled her name. It’s also impossible to locate 825 Tennessee St. in the maps at 1907 HQ. There is a Tennessee just north of Pico on the Westside, but much too far to the west. We can only wonder what became of her four children.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Shout out

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The Brute

June 26, 1907
Los Angeles

Fred D. Samuels is a monster and nothing less, according to his aunt, Sister Kostka, assistant mother superior of the Ursuline Convent in Frontenac, Wis. As her mother, Maria S. Bowman, lay dying at her home, 1266 E. Adams, Samuels refused to let Sister Kostka (nee Minnie Bowman) see her.

In fact, Kostka charged, Samuels refused to let a Catholic priest visit Mrs. Bowman and refused to grant her a Catholic funeral. Instead, Bowman received two services, one at St. Patrick’s on Central Avenue and another at the Lutheran church on East 46th St.

Kostka complained to the district attorney’s office that Samuels starved Bowman and abused her, leaving bruises on Bowman’s arms from where she was restrained. He did all of this, Kostka said, because he wanted the inheritance, which included $12,000 ($246,282.84 USD 2005) and some property.

“My mother died of starvation,” Kostka said. “She would be alive today but for my nephew. He has a horrible temper and he abused my mother shamefully. He repeatedly held her hands behind her back and forced her into a chair by taking hold of her wrists. I saw the marks of his fingers on my mother’s dead body.”

In an account supported by Mrs. Bowman’s nurse and doctor, Samuels said that Bowman was senile and that the marks on her wrists were from holding her hands so she could receive an injection. She had been unable to eat for the last week of her life, he said.

And he added: “I would not allow the Catholics to bury her because was not a Catholic.” As for not allowing Kostka to see Bowman, Samuels said: “My grandmother hated her and did not want her near her.”

The Times noted that Bowman was the widow of former East St. Louis Mayor John B. Bowman, who was assassinated in 1885.

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