Saturday, November 11, 2006

Not Worthy

Nov. 11, 1907
Los Angeles

On a trip to Topeka, Kans., to visit relatives, Lena River Packard of Los Angeles met Edgar (or Edwin) Campbell Arnold, a wealthy wholesale druggist who quickly became her constant companion and ardent suitor. Love soon blossomed and in a few months, Edgar arrived in Los Angeles to claim his bride.

A lavish wedding was arranged, bridal showers were given for Lena and the minister was brought to town from Ventura, where the Packards once lived. Edgar gave her a diamond-studded bracelet as a token of their upcoming marriage.

And then the night before the ceremony, “he said goodnight to his fiancee with unusual fervor and left for his hotel at a late hour,” The Times said. Nothing was heard from him the next day and finally the Packards “began to entertain misgivings.”

The betrothed woman shut herself in her room and refused to see anyone, and there were rumors that Edgar left a heart-breaking farewell note. Her father, F.M. Packard, said: “There will be some queer developments before long.”

Reporters located Edgar back home in Kansas and asked if he would comment on rumors that he left a farewell note saying that he was unworthy of Lena. His doctor refused to let him speak.

Attorneys eventually disclosed that six days before his disappearance was reported in The Times, Edgar wrote: “Lena, for God’s sake think kindly of me for what I am doing. It is best for both of us. I don’t ask you to forgive, you can’t. Only when the pain has worn out, thank me for not going on and making your life miserable. I have tried until I am completely worn out, sick mentally and bodily. God forgive me; I am going out of your life. I am not worthy of any good woman’s love. I could never make you happy. Put me out of your existence.”

Lena replied in a letter to Edgar’s mother:

“I just got up from my bed, where I have been since Tuesday evening, and resolved to write you the whole truth. You know how things were in Topeka—you know how Edgar came out to see me. In May, when we became engaged he gave me a beautiful diamond ring and also some diamond earrings. The day after we became engaged, he asked my parents for my hand, and they gave their consent. I loved Edgar with all my heart and I never loved anyone before in my life. Edgar said he loved me and proved it in every way.

“I have stayed home all summer long and worked with love and patience over my wedding clothes. My dear mother and I have worked so hard. Father has spent hundreds of dollars just to have me fixed to be Edgar’s wife. My clothes are beautiful and God only knows what I’ll do with them now.

“He came on the 3rd, Sunday, getting in at 11:30 o’clock and came right to our home. I was overjoyed to see him and he seemed just as glad to see me. We stayed home all that afternoon and talked. He wanted to see my clothes, so I showed him a few dresses and waists, just as much as I thought proper. He seemed to like every one and seemed to feel bad because I had worked so hard on them. He asked me if I put all that work on the wedding gown just because I loved him and I told him ‘Yes.’ In the afternoon, Monday, he gave me a beautiful bracelet set with five diamonds.”

“My life is blighted,” she wrote, “by the man I thought would make me a kind and loving husband.”

The Packards filed a suit for $25,000 ($494,782.31 USD 2005) in 1908, only to discover that Edgar’s claims of being wealthy were lies. In truth, every penny of the family fortune was controlled by his mother, “a woman with an iron will and a sharp tongue who bitterly opposed the marriage.” Edgar feared that he would be disinherited if he went through with the wedding. The Packards received a $3,000 settlement.

Whether she kept the diamonds is a mystery that will never be answered. Of course, the real question is whether Lena ever married. Unfortunately, Proquest is no help here. Edgar was right about one thing: he wasn’t worthy.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Dislocation, Dislocation, Dislocation

Nov. 10, 1907
South Pasadena

What sort of monument do we leave for real estate developers? For John B. Althouse, who built hundreds of homes in the Wilshire district, as well as the West Adams district and the San Gabriel Valley, the answer might be nondescript offices and vacant lots.

Here’s the house he built for himself at Oxley and Fremont in South Pasadena, a few blocks from my home. In fact, I pass the corner every day.

Here’s another one he built on Manhattan Place.

Don’t rush out to look for them, though. They’re gone, although the wall around Althouse’s home survived.

Born in Baltimore, Althouse died in July 1939 at the age of 72 at his home, 230 S. Gramercy Place. He arrived in Los Angeles in 1886 and spent 37 years in the real estate business after operating a fruit store at 1st and Main Streets for many years. He constructed hundreds of homes in the Wilshire district and was one of the first members of the Los Angeles Realty Board.

What’s this? One has survived in the West Adams district, 1415 S. Gramercy Place. Also read here. And here. Zillow link.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Update: Further research reveals the home of Daniel T. Althouse, a partner in Althouse Brothers, at 2125 S. 4th Ave., where he died of blood poisoning in 1914.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

We Are Revolutionists!

Nov. 9, 1907
Los Angeles

Local sympathizers, anarchists and socialists are organizing a mass meeting to protest the imprisonment of Ricardo Flores Magon, Librado Rivera, Antonio Villareal and L. Gutierrez De Lara, who are being held on charges of trying to overthrow the Mexican government.

After years of avoiding capture, Magon, Rivera and Villareal were arrested Aug. 23 at 111 E. Pico St. after a brawl with Thomas Furlong of the Furlong Secret Service Bureau of St. Louis, along with Los Angeles Police Detectives Felipe Talamantes, [Thomas F.?] Rico and two deputies. De Lara was arrested by U.S. marshals at 420 W. 4th St. on Sept. 27.

The Times said of the August incident: “The street was filling with people. Men and women crowded before the house just in time to see a light survey and a coupe dash up before the door. Then the door opened and out into the light staggered the officers and their prisoners. They fought on the steps and in the street.”

“ ‘We are revolutionists! We are patriots! We are being kidnapped! Help! Help!’ they shrieked.”

In a 1921 letter to his attorney, Magon wrote: “We avoided being kidnapped into Mexico by voicing in the street the intentions of our captors. A big crowd gathered, and it was necessary for our abductors to take us to the police station, and to rapidly manufacture a charge against us.”

The men were defended by Job Harriman, described by The Times as a Socialist agitator.

De Lara said upon his arrest: “I am a student, a writer and, if need be, a martyr. I have written many books. I am now on a cycle of novels in which socialistic questions are discussed. Like Balzac or Zola, I have a mission. I am arrested and thrown into a dungeon. I care not for that, if they furnish me paper, ink and a light.”

To be continued.

Ricardo Flores Magon site
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

An EBay Mystery

Nov. 6, 1907
Los Angeles

Here’s a real mystery, although a minor one, and like all real mysteries, it is incomplete and may have no solution.

Exhibit 1: This postcard up for auction on Ebay.

Here’s the front, Burmese fortunetellers.

And the back.

As for the postcard, we find that D.A. Ahuja of Rangoon published a series of Burmese cards. Presumably the card was sent during a voyage because it is stamped “Sea Post Office.” The stamp is from India, a 2 Annas, 6 Pies with the image of King Edward VII. (Here’s one that was used in Bahrain).

Now for the message:

“Kindly accept my sincere sympathies on the loss you have sustained. Was very sorry indeed to hear of the loss.

Kind regards from
Val Leonard 25/11/07”

It’s too bad there isn’t more to the message. Presumably the writer didn’t want to reveal too many details on a postcard. And doesn’t a photo of Burmese fortunetellers seem an odd choice for a sympathy note? Maybe it’s just me.

Note the method of indicating the date, with the day first, then the month and finally the year. The easy guess is that the writer is not an American; but again, only a guess. Who is Val Leonard? A Proquest search turns up nothing.

What’s curious is the cancellation on the stamp “_ASER STREET.” Unfortunately, it’s incomplete, but appears to say rather clearly “25 10 07.” One wonders whether the postal clerk neglected to change the month on the rubber stamp or if something else is afoot.

Also note the address: 150 S. Vendome St., Los Angeles, California, USA is written in dark ink, while the name is so light that it’s nearly unreadable: Mrs. J.F. Hue—something. Or wait. Is it Mrs. J.F. Thie—something?

I recall a Sherlock Holmes story in which the character wrote the name in one manner and the address in another, prompting Holmes to infer that the writer had to look up the address. In this case, however, it seems that the address and message were written at the same time and the name at another. The question of why is one for Mr. Holmes.

Unfortunately, the California death records for 1907 don’t reveal a Hue or a Thie, nor does Proquest, so this line of research comes to an abrupt halt.

We can find out a bit about the address, though. It was a house and was advertised for rent on March 7, 10 and 12, 1907. The question would be whether the loss occurred before March, leaving the house vacant, or after. The answer to that would involve the question of how long it took news of Mrs. J.F’s loss to travel to someone on a voyage and then how long it took the card to arrive. Presumably, it took so long that by the time the card was delivered that Mrs. J.F. had moved to Boulder, Colo. Note that it was a post office box rather than a fixed address. Holmes would have fun with that.

So then, what was the loss? The absence of a Mr. and Mrs. J.F. points toward the loss of a husband, but it could easily be some other loved one.

Now wait a minute. Maybe that’s an “S” as in the capital S of "S. Vendome." Hmmm. Maybe it’s Mrs. J.F. Shie.

Proquest is seemingly helpful here: A mail clerk named Albert W. Shie was killed in a terrible railroad accident at Colton, Calif., on March 29, 1907, which is shortly after the house at 150 S. Vendome was up for rent. The Times says that Shie had been working on the train from El Paso to Los Angeles for five years and lived with his wife at 555 Ruth Ave. in Los Angeles.

Is this Mrs. J.F.’s loss? Presumably she might be Albert Shie’s mother, but given the information available, it may never be clear.

A fun mystery, thanks to Ebay.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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Sunday, November 05, 2006


Nov. 5, 1907
Los Angeles

John Richie led the bass section of the choir at St. Machar’s Cathedral in Aberdeen, Scotland, while Testristina Adams was a contralto. They sang in the choir for about 10 years, and fell in love.

Two years ago, in hopes of more opportunity, John left Scotland and came to Los Angeles, but not before asking Testristina, a pretty brunette, according to The Times, to marry him. “If I had not said that I would follow him he would never have come,” she said.

Recently, she embarked on a 7,000-mile journey to join John, who works at a Los Angeles hardware company. “She arrived in New York on Monday, Oct. 28,” The Times said, “on the Caledonia after nine days of the most strenuous voyaging that boat had ever experienced. Miss Adams, filled with the thought of seeing her lover after long years of waiting, refused to succumb to the illness which overcame even the stewards and landed in New York after a thoroughly enjoyed passage.”

Testristina said that of the people in her railroad car traveling from Chicago, 80 were planning to settle in Los Angeles. “All of them had nice things to say about California,” she said.

John, 31, and Testristina, 26, were married at the home of friends at 4419 Pasadena Ave. They did not plan a honeymoon trip, The Times noted, because “Miss Adams says she had had quite enough of traveling.”

Aside from John being selected as a soccer referee in 1908, I can find nothing else about the Richies in The Times, despite Testristina’s extremely unusual name (The Times also spelled it Testrestina) but I hope they had a long, happy life together and many grandchildren.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

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