The news in the very early 1900s is full of tantalizing suggestions of corruption and outrageous party politics. Reading between the lines is not easy, and it's quite possible that, without further evidence, we are misreading these articles.
Nevertheless, it appears, and not at all very surprisingly, that Salem's small-town party politics were infected by a criminal element. The Portland Vice Commission report of 1913 found an astonishing overlap between city leaders and those who profited directly or indirectly from vice. (In Merchants, Money, and Power: The Portland Establishment 1843-1913, E. Kimbark Maccoll notes that Weinhard's among those profiting from vice!) So it would be surprising if Salem were exempt from the fashion!
As we do more reading, we'll try to learn more about the ways party politics and individual rivalries echoed debates about morality and crime. (The relations between progressives, Republicans, and Democrats are shifting and sometimes tricky in this decade.) In the meantime, here's some tasty bits!
THE SPREAD OF VICE
The communication read before the city council Tuesday evening by City Recorder Judah, and referred without action, relating to the spread of vice in this city, was worthy of more attention.
It is to be regretted that it was not signed by some of the women of the city, as the letter seems to have been wrung from the experiences of some suffering mother, who has felt the contaminating influences.
That vice is spreading its foul network over more of our fair city's territory than every before cannot be disputed. It has extended to at least one piece of property in North Salem.
Who is to blame? The property owner in selling property or leasing property for such purposes, because it is outside the city limits. It is beyond regulation or control of the city authorities.
When the new city boundaries go into effect the city will have authority, and all houses of ill fame can be concentrated in one quarter of the city, where they shall be publicly known for their true character.
This is not said in condemnation of anyone, and even with the sincerest pity for those living in moral darkness, but to sound the public warning that the spreading evil may be dealt with.
FOR A CLEANER CITY
Chief of Police Cornelius deserves popular approval for his efforts to make this a cleaner city, and drive out the disreputable characters who prey off the unfortunate women of the town.
A bill has passed this legislature to make their calling a felony, and Police Judge Moores should be commended for enforcing the laws as they stand.
The people should fully understand, and will be given more fully to understand, that the fight on the Republican ticket came from that source.
Of course, many good people were supporting Mr. Skipton for marshall, but the fact remains that the tough element was against Cornelius.
After all the abuse that has been heaped upon the Republican city government under Mayor Waters, it will be found to stand for morality and a business administration.
Marshal Cornelius will make a chief of police over the world's fair year [referring presumably to the Lewis & Clark Exhibition in Portland later in 1905] who will life and property and keep down criminality.
As we saw in the news piece about the Albany farmer in 1900, the Eldridge block appears to have been an active site for assignations! This is also from February 1905.
SALEM POLICE COURT
Various Characters Arraigned and Asked to Leave
Myrtle P. Wallace, the Indian woman, whose name so often appears upon the police court docket, was arrested again last night, as was her "friend," John Gilpin, in the Eldridge rooming house, on Commercial street, where the pair had made their headquarters.
The Wallce woman was arrested on January 31st, and sentenced to 20 days in the city jail, but, upon promising to leave town and return no more, she was released. Last night it was learned by the police that she was in the city again, and was once more visiting her friends in Chinatown. A visit was made to this neighborhood by the officers, where it was learned that Gilpin had come after her, and taken her away, but the Celestials claimed they did not know where. After a short search the couple were found in the Eldridge, and they were promptly arrested. The woman still has 19 days on her January sentence to serve, and the man will be detained until a preliminary examination of both of them is held on the charge of lewd cohabitation, which will mean that they will be bound over to await the action of the circuit court, and, upon conviction, about six months in the county jail.
John Lickusky, an ex-convict, who served 15 years for the state, was arrested this morning about 3 o'clock and fined $10 this morning by Judge Moores.
Madam Dollarhide, another of Salem's notorious characters, narrowly escaped being gathered in by the mighty arm of the law last night also, for she had been located by the police, but when a trip was made after her, it was learned that her trunk was packed, and she had started for pastures new.
By March 1905 Salem enacted its first blue law and temperance legislation.
Clearly the brewery knew how to work around it!
This editorial from March 1905 shows that Salem was in the mainstream of opinion that sought to confine vice to a red-light district rather than to eliminate it completely. (Just this year in her book For Business and Pleasure: Red-Light Districts and the Regulation of Vice in the United States, 1890-1933, Mara Keire has traced this trend in New Orleans; New York City; San Francisco; Hartford, Connecticut; Macon, Georgia; and El Paso, Texas.)
MORE CLOSED TOWN
Salem Dry on Sunday and no Gambling Games are Permitted
Ever since the Salem city council passed, by an almost unanimous vote (Alderman Goodale alone dissenting) the stringent Sunday closing ordinance, even prohibiting drug stores and restaurants from selling liquor at any time, Mayor Waters and City Marshal Cornelius have seen to it that the laws are enforced. Salem continues a Sunday closed town, and the laws against gambling are strictly enforced. All efforts to shake them in their determination have failed, and they say if Salem is ever again to be a wide-open town the city council must repeal its laws deliberately enacted, and enacted without party or factional lines being drawn. The attempt of those who fought the Republican city ticket at the last election to make political capital out of these officers doing their duty, as ordered by the city council, has proven a failure, as Waters and Cornelius say the laws are made to be enforced, and the politicians who wanted the saloons and gambling protected should have thought of that before enacted such a stringent ordinance. The rest of the people are not complaining. City Marshal Cornelius is showing that he [is] made of the right stuff in making war on the assignation houses and male solicitors for houses of prostitution. He says let the red light district be confined strictly to its own precincts, and the rest of the community will not make complaint, but the inmates must not walk the streets, frequently saloons or lodging houses.
As we saw with Oswald West, in the early 19-teens, downtown prostitution was still a problem. This is from December 1911.
POLICE MAKE RAID ON RESIDENCE HOUSE
THREE WOMEN TAKEN - TWO FINED FOR VAGRANCY, ONE STANDS TRIAL
Yesterday evening the police raided a house and took in charge three women, Mary Koning, Edith Jerman and Maud Vaughn. The first named was charged with selling liquor without a license and will stand trial. The others were charged with vagrancy and fined $20 each.
It is probable that all the women will be held later in the justice court on charges of conducting and being occupants of a bawdy house.
(Oh yeah, and in case you were wondering about current political silliness, the OLCC cancelled the State Fair homebrew and amateur wine-making judging.)