Saturday, December 23, 2006

On the Frontiers of Mental Health

Dec. 23, 1907
St. Louis, via Direct Wire to The Times

Dr. Henry S. Atkins, superintendent of St. Louis’ insane asylum, has found that Christmas is a perfect time to test his theory that shopping cures insanity.

Atkins and two attendants took 60 women from the asylum “into the world of department stores and the activities which all women enjoy,” The Times said.

The patients and the two female attendants, who wore civilian clothes instead of their uniforms, mingled with crowds downtown, “swallowed up among the thousands of other women bent on the same mission.”

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Mystery Solved

Dec. 22, 2006
Los Angeles

A quick (well, relatively) check of the Sanborn maps (online via the Los Angeles Public Library website) shows (Vol. 11, Sheet 1143) the intersection of McCollum and Berkeley. Alas, the impact crater was not recorded. Apparently all other variants were typos.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , ,

Ecclesiastes 1:9

Dec. 22, 1907
Los Angeles

As Police Capt. Flammer approached Yuma, Ariz., to take custody of George White, he noticed the smoke of hundreds of campfires made by hobos burning old railroad ties.

The hobos, Flammer learned, were avoiding Yuma because the marshal meted out hard justice to vagrants, as he warned in posters all over town. But Flammer also learned all those homeless men were heading for Los Angeles.

“The chief of detectives pictured in his mind another winter of lawlessness,” The Times said. “Last week 130 hobos were on the chain gang, working from eight to 10 hours a day, but thousands more were coming.”

The city of Los Angeles printed thousands of posters that were placed along railway lines from the coast to the desert warning hobos: “The police of this city are waiting for them and that they will be put to work as soon as they arrive here.”

The Times also noted that the city planned to build a stockade to accommodate all the tramps who were expected. Not so simple a task, however. While one faction wanted a stockade in the riverbed, another thought it should be in Chavez Ravine. Still others wanted to use the money for a new automobile for officials.

The council was eventually split between putting the stockade in Chavez Ravine or next to the jail on Hill Street. Police, meanwhile, backed a proposal to add cell space by cutting the jail’s existing “bull pen” horizontally with a new floor halfway up the wall.

Eventually, it was noted that the state penal code called for a $5,000 fine and imprisonment for inhumane treatment of inmates; the grand jury began looking into the situation.

By the end of January 1908, city officials rejected the idea of a stockade in favor of a new jail or workhouse. Meanwhile, a public works program was begun for unemployed men with families to build a boulevard between Griffith and Elysian parks.

In February 1908, the council reversed itself and put out bids for a stockade “near the sand pits east of Elysian Park.” But by the time the stockade was finally built in June 1908, “hobo season” was over and there were few occupants.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 “There is nothing new under the sun.”

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

South Hope

Dec. 21, 1907
Los Angeles

Lillian Poelk was new to Los Angeles, with no friends and little more than a job as a waitress that didn’t quite cover the rent of her room at 831 S. Hope.

“While other girls were getting pretty things and preparing for a pleasant Christmas, she was shut up in a cheerless room,” The Times said.

Poelk went to visit an acquaintance at a rooming house at 138 N. Spring St. On her way to the woman’s room, Poelk passed the quarters of Mary Del Rose, who had left her door open. Seeing two $5 gold pieces on the dresser, Poelk impulsively took the money.

Apparently instead of visiting, Poelk left the rooming house but was overcome with guilt and fear of being arrested. She went into a department store and threw “the money into the toilet room,” The Times said.

The rooming house’s janitor saw the theft and reported it to police. When Poelk was arrested, she begged for mercy. Police Capt. Auble said: “if we find that Miss Poelk is a good girl we will do all we can to secure her release. A girl living by herself is beset with enough trials and temptations to wreck a saint.”

There are no further stories on Poelk, so we don’t know what became of her. Nor do we know if Del Rose received restitution for her money ($205.24 USD 2005). We can only hope for the best.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Dec. 20,1907
Los Angeles

Mr. C.D. Roberts of 1900 E. Main was feeling a bit unwell. He had bad headaches, an irregular appetite, saw dark spots before his eyes and felt as if something in his stomach was alive.

Not sure what to do, Roberts consulted the European Medical Experts at 745 S. Main St., where he was treated with the secret cure of “The Great Fer-Don.” “He was prevailed upon to try it, with the result that his system was quickly relieved of this monster scores of feet in length,” surely the Loch Ness creature of internal parasites.

Mr. Fred Schaffer, 125 W. Colorado in Pasadena; Albert Crist of the Parker House on 5th Street; and others have been similarly cured, the ad in The Times says. The European Medical Experts miraculously used bloodless surgery to treat Mrs. M.J. Brenner of San Gabriel, relieving her of gallstones; removed a tumor from Mrs. Jack Rowell of 303 Central Ave. without an operation and treated half a dozen people for deafness.

One might wonder, since Main Street runs north and south, where “1900 E. Main” might be. More to the point, who is the Great Fer-Don?

One ad says, “He is a man of large build, has dark hair tinged with silver gray. His flow of speech is pleasing and magnetic. In his lecture and demonstration Fer-Don said: ‘I came to your city to introduce my medical compound discovery and bring with me some of the methods of the old world, which will be demonstrated to the public by the staff of European Medical Experts.”

Fer-Don is not a registered doctor with the state of California, but the staff members are, the ad says. And what miracles they worked: little lame children walked again and cancer was removed without a trace. He was a philanthropist too: Not only did the Great Fer-Don treat a poor Pasadena woman without charge, he gave her $50.

Above, Vivian Edwards and his transcontinental goat team.

Among those providing testimonials was Capt. Vivian Edwards, who apparently won fame for crossing the country in a buggy pulled by goats. “I was in so great pain that I would have tried anything,” he said. “I would have suffered being cut open or would have drunk molten lead if I had thought it would bring relief.”

Three doses of medicine from the European Medical Experts was sufficient, however. “Like electricity, it went through my system,” he said. “In five minutes I knew I was going to find an end to pain. With the next dose I felt still better and the next morning with the third and last dose of this medicine I was relieved of a large number of gallstones.”

Before long, the Great Fer-Don was giving free lectures on a lighted platform in the vacant lot at 7th and Spring streets. The Diamond Cluster Band preceded his carriage and performed for 15 minutes before lectures. Eventually, Fer-Don added acts until he had an entire vaudeville show.

The Great Fer-Don said that he would leave Los Angeles on Jan. 1, 1908. But after announcing that he was staying indefinitely, the Great Fer-Don and his medical experts disappeared in May 1908.

When next heard from, James M. Fer-Don and his wife were being sought on a felony warrant from Sacramento. It seems that his $100 medical cure was nothing more than colored water. He appears to have been in Oakland about 1909 before vanishing permanently from the historic record.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It Wasn't His Fault

Dec. 19, 1907
Los Angeles

What you have to understand first about George White is that he isn’t to blame. Oh he’ll take his prison sentence for robbing the Hot Rivet Saloon, 1006 N. Main St., but it’s not his fault; he fell in with the wrong man. He just hopes that when he’s released he won’t be turned over to the Army as a deserter.

“The best and worst thing that ever happened to me was the Army,” White says. That’s where his problems began, you see. That’s where he got the habit of never staying too long in one place. And that’s where he got in trouble with a tough, cocky lieutenant who was always riding him.

White was used to serving in the Philippines, where life was “swift and rather free,” but he was transferred to the East Coast. One day the lieutenant ordered White, who was trained as a carpenter, to do some carpentry work but White refused and fled after beating up his superior officer. That wasn’t his fault; the lieutenant shouldn’t have been giving him such a hard time.

He began wandering: London, Scotland and all over the U.S. But not as a freeloader, for he always earned a living. “I worked most of the time,” White said. “I would get a job and stick at it a while and then I would get this itch to go someplace else.

“I have done everything that you can do to earn money at except law, theology and medicine; and I could make a pretty good bluff at those if I had too. All during this life of wandering I had definite ambition. I wanted to study law. In fact, I did read law for 10 months. But I never could get far enough ahead to do anything much.”

White was in Portland, Ore., and doing fairly well, he says, when he met a down-and-out ex-soldier. White says he felt sorry for the man and loaned him $5. Nothing wrong with that, you know, for there’s a unofficial fraternity among former military men.

And then White got that itch to travel and decided to come to Los Angeles. Of course he was broke and he ran into his old friend from Portland. The friend didn’t have much money, and certainly couldn’t repay White, but he knew about the Hot Rivet Saloon, and how it would be full of ironworkers who had just been paid, so a robbery would be easy pickings.

Robbing a crowded saloon might frighten most men, but the Army teaches you not to be afraid and how to handle a weapon, White says. It wasn’t his fault; the military taught him how.

So on Nov. 16, 1907, a little after 11 p.m., White walked into the Hot Rivet with two pistols drawn and said: “Get into the back end of the barroom or I will plug you.” His partner, who had entered the saloon half an hour before and had several drinks, emptied the cash register of $103 ($2,134.45 USD 2005) and an $85 paycheck, scooping the money into his hat. It wasn’t White’s fault that neither man wore a mask, so they were easy to identify. The plan was to leave town immediately.

“I would know that big fellow a year from now if I met him on the street,” one witness said. “His eyes are as black as coal and his chin is square set. The other fellow is a smooth talker and it surprised me when he walked behind the bar and started to get the money. I had three drinks with him.”

White hit the rails, but was caught in Yuma by a Southern Pacific detective who was rousting a hobo camp and thought White resembled one of the robbers described in a police bulletin. White denied the charges, but the railroad detective had him photographed and sent the picture to the Los Angeles Police Department, where it was identified by half a dozen holdup victims.

Naturally, White says his partner cheated him out of his fair share of the money. That wasn’t his fault, either, but he refused to tell police the man’s name. In fact, he wouldn’t have been arrested if the detective hadn’t found his revolver. You see, he needs to carry a gun because the railroad brakemen shake down hobos riding the rails and if they can’t pay, they’re thrown off, sometimes while the train is moving. It’s not his fault.

“I’ve got to go to prison now,” White told The Times. “A fellow only has one life to live and it’s pretty hard to know he has wasted that. It’s all off with my ever becoming a lawyer now. The best of my life will be caged up. It will be all the way from five to 15 years before I ever see outdoors again.”

It’s impossible to tell what became of White after he served his prison sentence. He told police he had a wife and baby but hoped they wouldn’t learn of his crime. But it wasn’t his fault.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Walk in L.A., 1951

Whats in That Embalming Fluid?

Dec. 18, 1907
Los Angeles

Los Angeles County Coroner Roy S. Lanterman was arrested on charges of being drunk and disorderly at the Navajo, a bordello run by Ida Hastings, 309 Ord St. Hastings called police, who arrested Lanterman.

A Mills Seminary graduate nicknamed “Suicide Ida” because of her attempts to kill herself “every time she has a serious setback in her numerous ‘love’ affairs,” Hastings had contacted police earlier in the evening, asking for protection from Lanterman, saying that he had attacked her. Hastings notified police when Lanterman, who was married, returned to the bordello, went to her bedroom and after a fierce fight, removed several photographs of himself as well as a letter.

Upon arriving, police found Lanterman hiding in a bathroom and refusing to come out. When officers finally took him into custody, they discovered he was drunk and armed with two revolvers. They also seized the photographs and the letter Lanterman had taken from Hastings.

“The Hastings woman refused to make any statement of the affair when seen early this morning. She said the facts would probably come out in court,” The Times said.

Lanterman contended that he was summoned to the bordello because a woman was in hysterics and while attending her, he was arrested by a new and apparently inexperienced police officer.

The desk sergeant said: “He was drunk; good and drunk.” An observation corroborated by the arresting officers, the night jailer and several others at the police station.

Lanterman hired famed defense attorney Earl Rogers, but Hastings refused to appear in court to press charges, so the case was dropped. However, charges were later brought by prosecutor E.J. Fleming under an 1880 law demanding the dismissal of any official who is intoxicated while on duty.

Officials closed the Navajo, and in January 1908, Lanterman resigned as coroner. He was soon indicted on charges of making false statements about his election expenses and submitting fraudulent travel expenses to the Board of Supervisors. In April 1908, he was sentenced to a year in prison, but his conviction was overturned on appeal in 1909.

Lanterman’s legal troubles were far from over, however. He was freed on a technicality after being indicted in 1916 on charges of performing an abortion on 17-year-old Elizabeth Johnson. The Times said: “Dr. Lanterman has practiced in Los Angeles for many years and is one of the best-known members of the local medical fraternity. He has offices in the Grosse Building.”

He was arrested in 1917 on charges of performing a fatal abortion on Mrs. “Reggie” Regina Greenburg Evans of San Francisco, which he claimed was “spite work” by his political enemies. In her dying declaration, Evans told her brother that Lanterman performed the abortion, but she told others at County Hospital that she tried to perform it herself. He was found not guilty and after a petition drive, regained his medical license in 1921.

In 1918, he was accused of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, 20-year-old Marjorie Woodbury, during an outing to Malibu.

He and Dr. Paul Traxler were accused of murder in the 1929 death of film actress Delphine Walsh during an abortion. He was found not guilty, but lost his medical license for a second time.

He died in 1948 at the age of 79 in his home, 4420 Encinas Drive, La Canada, survived by his wife, Emily; and sons Lloyd and Frank. His services were conducted at Church of the Lighted Window, which his family helped found. The Lanterman mansion was turned into La Canada’s City Hall in 1985.

Bonus facts: His father, F.D. Lanterman, bought Rancho La Canada from the Verdugo family in 1875. The portion of the Glendale Freeway between the Ventura Freeway and La Canada is known as the Frank Lanterman Freeway in honor of the late state legislator, who served in the Assembly from 1950 to 1978.

e-mail: lmharnisch (AT)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,