Within the pages of early 1900s Napa newspapers were some brief yet interesting stories about the human experience. Ranging in subject matter, from criminal to comical, these historical accounts provide glimpses into the life and times of long ago Napans as well as others.
The first article appeared in the Napa Daily Journal. It announced an upcoming example of “the agony of defeat and the thrill of victory.” Titled “An Election Bet,” the article reported, “This afternoon at 5 o’clock Arthur Parker will pay his election bet with Howard Roper by wheeling him from the Asylum to town in a wheelbarrow, and Frank Grigsby will march ahead of them beating a bass drum, to pay his bet with Sherman Gardner.”
About two weeks later the Journal profiled the anxieties related to the consequences of multi-tasking and its accompanying forgetfulness. It said, “A little piece of carelessness came near costing Harry Bernheim a pretty penny a few days ago. He received a package of jewelry by express and was in the act of unpacking it when a customer came into the store. Mr. Bernheim placed the package on a narrow shelf under the counter while he waited upon the customer. Other matters then occupied his attention and he forgot the package for the rest of the day.”
The details continued, “Beneath the shelf is the waste box. The package fell off the shelf into the box and was carried away by the scavenger (garbage collector). Fortunately some Mexican children found the package in the dump and it was restored to its owner.”
The next story demonstrates that truth and justice eventually prevail. The article headline said, “Couldn’t Fool Dr. Stone.” The Register reported, “On last Christmas night Daniel Isom and a number of companions were boisterously celebrating in a saloon in Modesto. City Marshall R. D. Young heard the disturbance and attempted to quell it. Isom objected to the interference of the arm of the law and shot and seriously wounded the Marshal. Young also wounded Isom.”
Luckily, both men recovered from their wounds. Oncehe was healthy enough, Isom was tried for attempted murder. However, he and his lawyer claimed Isom was insane and unfit to stand trial.
According to the Register, “A special jury was impaneled to try the question of Isom’s insanity. Ultimately, they declared him to be insane. Isom was there upon committed to the Napa State Hospital about two weeks ago.”
But his fallacious plan quickly began to fall apart. The article continued, “Isom had not been long at the Hospital before Dr. Stone began to doubt his insanity. He kept a close watch on the patient and the more he observed Isom, the more Stone was convinced that Isom was shamming. Finally, the Doctor took the man to task and on Tuesday Isom admitted that he was feigning insanity to escape punishment for his crime. Dr. Stone there upon notified the Judge of Superior Court of Stanislaus county to send for the prisoner. The Sheriff of Stanislaus county will come to Napa today to get Isom.”
The final piece of this collection, with some modifications, still resonates within today’s social and professional worlds. This story originated from Washington, D.C. The Journal’s reprint of that original article began with the headline, “Good News for the Postman.”
The article said, “An official ruling on the subject of hugging was handed down yesterday by the Post Office Department. It is that hugging even if done without pulling down the blinds, is no cause for dismissal from the government service. It is decided, however, that the girl must be a sweetheart, and must consent to be hugged.”
The report continued with the background issue leading to this ruling. It continued, “William Belleman, a rural carrier at Keir City, Kan., hugged his sweetheart before taking the precaution to pull down the blinds. An envious old maid filed a complaint with the Post Office Department and demanded that young Belleman be dismissed.”
The Journal added, “The rural carrier was represented by able counsel in the persons of two Kansas Congressmen. They pointed out that if the rural carrier was dismissed because he hugged a girl when she wanted to be hugged, the Department would have to abolish the rural carrier service entirely. The Department took this view, but notified Belleman to confine his hugging to his own sweetheart and to be certain that she is willing.”