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Findings of 1891 Wallace Grand Jury on Corruption

War Between Labor and Capital

Ruef's Failure to Control The District Attorney's Office

Investigation into Schimitz-
Ruef Regime

Explanation of Types of Graft

French Restaurant Extortions

Prize Fight Trust Briberies

Overhead Trolley Bribery

The Park Side Bribery

The Home Telephone Bribery

The Pacific Telephone Bribery

The Gas Rate Briberies

The Corporations' Share in the Briberies

The Park Side Company Board of Directors

United Railroads' Board of Directors

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) Board of Directors

Pacific States Telephone Board of Directors

Spring Valley Water Co. Board of Directors

Granting of Immunity to Certain Supervisors

Rights of Citizens to Help Prosecute Crime

Commencement of the Prosecutions

Election of D.A. Langdon in 1907

Causes of Municipal Corruption

Dynamiting of Supervisor Gallagher's Home

Kidnapping of Fremont Older

Bribery of Jurors

Shooting of Francis J. Heney

Stealing of Government Papers and Secrets

Crimes in the Police Department

Fall 1909 Election

Grand Jury Recommendations


1903 – Union Labor Party Platform

1906 – Timeline of Graft Investigations

1906 – "The Situation in San Francisco" by James D. Phelan

1906 – Boston Herald Interview With James D. Phelan

1907 Streetcar Strike

1908 – Mysterious Death of Police Chief Biggy

1911 – Fremont Older Wants Ruef Released from Prison

Report on the Causes of Municipal Corruption
in San Francisco, as Disclosed by the
Investigations of the Oliver Grand Jury,
and the Prosecution of Certain Persons for
Bribery and Other Offenses Against the State.


Commmittee appointed by the Mayor,
October 12, 1908.

Published by order of Board of Supervisors,
City and County of San Francisco,
January 5, 1910

Rincon Pub. Co. 130 McAllister St.

San Francisco, December 31, 1909.

Honor Edward R. Taylor, Mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, San Francisco.

Dear Sir:

On the 12th day of October, 1908, your Honor addressed a letter to each of us, requesting an investigation into the circumstances giving rise to a series of criminal trials which have seen been known as the "Graft Prosecutions".

It is our understanding, gathered from your letter and, more particularly, from the subsequent conferences with you, that our functions were to make an analysis of the crimes for which indictments were brought by the Oliver Grand Jury, particularly with reference to their classification as briberies or extortions; together such evidence as we could find concerning the classes of persons taking profit from the criminal or vicious enterprises uncovered by the investigation; the extent of which the public has been debauched or deceived into according political, social or commercial prestige to such persons; and the obstructions that the state has met in attempting to uncover the crimes or punish the offenders. In other words, what was desired was primarily, a collection of the more recently manifested symptoms of a deeply seated disease in our body social and politic, in the hope that it may lead to a true diagnosis and the discovery of a cure.

Acting under your warrant, we have called for a conference with us men from many classes of the city's social, industrial and political organization. The response has been on the whole, extremely willing, as soon as the invited persons have been convinced that we are not trying to secure evidence for the pending criminal cases and that we were not seeking to procure any further indictments.

The accompanying report is made up from the statements of these persons, the examination of City and County records, the confessions of those charged with crime, and from various matters that have come under our own observation. As such a committee has not power to summon witnesses, no attempt has been made to determine what particular persons connected with the various quasi-public corporations engaged in bribery, actually collected and handled the money.

No one of the many persons we have interviewed has seriously questioned that all but one of the larger of these corporations, by some chain of agency, did pay moneys for favors done or promised. In view of the confession of Abraham Ruef who, as the attorney for nearly all of them, delivered the money to the officials, and of their ratification of the briberies by the acceptance of the benefits, we have taken the guilt of the corporations to be one of those facts established beyond a reasonable doubt.

The reader of the report must always bear in mind that we are considering a disease in the community, and that the description no more pictures the workings or organization of the whole corpus of the people than a treatise on tuberculoses describes the structure or healthy functions of the human body.

The trust officer who invests trust funds in a house of assignation is not a fair representative of San Francisco bankers, nor is the example a fair one of his daily banking activity. The president of an exchange of merchants who becomes bondsman to the prostitute because it may help his sale of liquors to the lower class saloons, is not a fair sample of her merchants. The manager of the gambling stands of a race track who becomes a director in a social club of gentlemen is very far from a fair illustration of his fellow members. Yet each is, in our opinion, a fair illustration of the symptoms of the disease which you have commissioned us to describe.

Nor is it to be inferred that San Francisco alone is a victim of the malady. The evidence is conclusive that a like evil exists to a greater or less degree in all of the larger American cities It is to San Francisco's credit, however, that she has been the first to show the moral courage to attack the persons responsible for the condition, regardless of their social, political, or financial power–and in some instances regardless of the fact that, in other respects, they are valuable members of the community.

We have to regret the sickness and absence from the city has prevented the Reverend Father Crowley from participating in most of our sessions, and hence in our final report. He joins in our recommendations and expresses his sympathy with the ideals and purposes of the committee. A copy of his letter to Mr. Denman is appended to the report.

In further response to your suggestion, we have appended certain general recommendations which we believe may be of value. The evils disclosed are firmly established in so many of our institutions that no single remedy can be expected to eradicate them. The school house, the club, the church, the bank, the business establishment, the political caucus, and the newspaper office, each must feel the force of an enlightened public opinion, and be levied upon for its contribution in the struggle which in its last analysis is but a phase of the eternal war between man's civic consciousness and his private greed.


Report on the Causes of Municipal Corruption
in San Francisco, as Disclosed by the
Investigations of the Oliver Grand Jury,
and the Prosecution of Certain Persons for
Bribery and Other Offenses Against the State.


The history of municipal wickedness in San Francisco dates back to the days of the discovery of gold and its population by gold seekers and adventurers from all parts of the world. The story of the Vigilance Committee of 1856, with its violent and extra legal efforts to suppress the demoralizing reign of crime then controlling the city, and is well known; and the struggle against corruption by public affairs had been continuously active, in one form or another, from that time to this.

However, until the empanelment of the Wallace Grand Jury in August, 1891, we find no attempt made at a comprehensive search under forms of law for the causes and persons ultimately responsible for the class of municipal dishonesty now known as "grafting." This Grand Jury was empaneled under Judge William T. Wallace, then on the Superior Bench, but formerly a Chief Justice of the State. They were sworn in on August 20th, 1891, and reported September 23rd, 1891. The first pages of this report show there was at that time, the same relation between a plutocratic organization of special privilege and the office holder, the politician and the public, that was disclosed by the more complete investigation of the Oliver Grand Jury in 1907.


"To the Hon. W.T. Wallace, Presiding Judge of the Superior Court of San Francisco:

"This body was assembled and sworn by the Court as a Grand Jury on August 20, 1891. It began work at once, appointed sub-committees, and arranged for frequent sessions. Very soon thereafter Stephen T. Gage, one of the directors of the Southern Pacific Railway, and Richard Chute, a salaried employe of the same company, declined to obey the subpoena of the Grand Jury.

Their attorneys asserted that we were not a legal body exercising official authority, and when brought before his court, Judge Murphy sustained this view.

"By other processes the question was carried to the Supreme Court, and Creed Haymond, general solicitor of the Southern Pacific Railway, attacked the validity of the Grand Jury before that tribunal.

"The Supreme Court, after some days' deliberation, decided that we could subpoena and compel the attendance of witnesses. But these harassing delays consumed a month or more, and in the interval we could do very little as it was thought proper to be sure that we had the rightful power before it was exercised with necessary firmness. Then came a period of about six weeks without other legal checks or impediments. During this time we were free to delve into the arcana of rascality and dishonesty that fronted us everywhere. We made all efforts to fulfill our duty, and heard many witnesses. We collected an immense quantity of evidence tending to show venality and money taking by various officials both municipal and legislative.

"We found that agents and brokers, who were fully recognized as such, went freely to persons interested in legislation and agreed to defeat or pass measures.

"Many persons other than those in office were implicated, and we began to wonder to what heights our researches would lead us. A number of men, presidents and directors of corporations, who had paid moneys either direct or through agents and brokers, had consented to make a full and unreserved confession in case we were adjudged by the highest legal tribunal in the State a lawful Grand Jury.

"These people maybe deemed by some moralists more culpable than those to whom were paid the price of dishonor, upon the principle that if there was no booty there would be no thieves. The corporation owners defend the payment of this tribute in saying that th legislators and supervisors are highway robbers who have to be bribed; for otherwise, by adverse enactments they threaten the destruction of the financial interests involved. But in some instances these financial interests have been obtained in an improper manner, and a just enforcement of the statutes would cause the forfeiture of the acquired privileges.

"And if it be not so, who shall say these corporations are justified? What remedy can cure the injury to patriotism and free government that makes worthless rascals out of men who would have been perchance honest if they had not been tempted? Not even our vacuous laws admit any difference between the buyer and seller of men's consciences.

"Neither by law nor by that abstract sentiment of what is fair and right to man and man, is the tempter better than the tempted.

"The millionaire sitting in his luxurious office rotund with the wealth filched from the public coffers by unclean franchises, may hold up his hands and say, `Preserve me from these bandits.' But is he less culpable than the poor devil of a senator or assemblyman that has incurred debts during his candidacy which he is unable to pay? Who finds himself for the nonce lifted to a position which he knows is evanescent, and is tempted by wines, banquets and money?

"They are all alike guilty and criminal. But be that as it may, the tongues of these corporation owners for the present are silenced. For there came again legal intervention to thwart the Grand Jury."

The report was signed by the following Grand Jurors:


It is apparent that the problem of the relative immorality of bribe giving and bribe taking, and the holding of profits of the bribery had become, even at that time, one of public consideration.

The "legal intervention" which came again "to thwart the grand jury", followed the indictment and flight of [Blind Boss] Buckley and the summoning of Senator Stanford to testify to the part played by the Southern Pacific in the politics of the city and state. The Supreme Court of the State, by a vote of four to three, held that the grand jury was improperly constituted, because of an irregularity in the appointment of the elisor.

Among other matters considered in the report, was the following:

"The Mayor is helpless. He can do nothing. He is only a chief clerk. He has the appointment of his personal staff and no more. Like Prometheus bound to the rock of the Caucacus he sees these vultures eating the vitals of the City and can only cry out against the revolting deed.

"The Mayors of San Francisco have been generally reputable men. But could they, have they, stayed this dirty slime of corruption? It requires a rare order of courage to denounce those with whom one is in daily official and social contact. What, then, is the remedy?

"It is in a new charter, granting above all, enlarged powers to the Mayor and for the exercise of which he would be directly responsible. He ought to be really as he is nominally, the Head of the City Government. He should have the appointment of all subordinate officers whose election is now vested in the Board of Supervisors. His powers should include also the appointment of Park, Police and Fire Commissioners. For the Mayor's Office is executive while the Board of Supervisors are legislative, and to the executive, from the President and Governor on down, is granted the power and the right to appoint, while the legislature in certain cases confirms."

Acting on the suggestion of this report, Mayor James D. Phelan subsequently appointed a committee of one hundred citizens to draft a charter which should attempt to remedy the administrative defects of the loosely drawn "Consolidation Act" and other statutes then constituting San Francisco's organic law.

It was apparent from the debates of the committee of one hundred that they did not expect to eliminate entirely from our Government the evil of grafting. What they attempted was to so reorganized and concentrate the functions of government that the responsibility for dishonesty or inefficiency could be readily traced and public opinion intelligently applied for the removal or reforming of the offending officer. The result of their deliberations was a draft of a charter which, after the formality of a consideration by a freeholders' convention, was adopted by a vote of the people. It is interesting to note that the machine organization of both the Republican and Democratic parties strongly favored the old system of concealed responsibility and actually fused on the ballot to support a set of candidates for the position of freeholder who were antagonistic to the charter proposed.

Mr. Phelan was the first mayor elected under the charter and with him an excellent board of supervisors. It is admitted by practically all the witnesses we have had before us that the government during this and Mr. Phelan's succeeding (and last) term was excellently administered, both in its legislative and executive branches.

The War Between the Laboring and Capitalistic
Classes and the Development of the Schmitz-
Ruef Machine.

During these years, there had been a gathering of forces for the struggle between the then newly organized unions of laboring men and the combination of capital employing labor. The last year of the Phelan administration saw the first engagement between these two classes in what was generally known as the "Teamsters' Strike". With the merits of this controversy we're not concerned, but the breach between employer and employee was widened by the conduct of both parties. The teamsters claimed that their organization, to prevent the employment of non-union men, was justified, because without it they were unable to resist the attempt of the employers to lengthen the hours of labor and hold down the wage.

The employers' organization refused to recognize any right of the employees to organize and also refused to listen to any arguments presented on behalf of the employees by agents of the unions. The denial of the right to band together for the purpose of collective bargaining with capital, solidified at once the somewhat loosely combined forces of the unions. Certain acts of deliberate and cold-blooded cruelty and violence towards the non-union, strike-breaking teamsters, drove into the capitalistic organization many persons who otherwise would have remained neutral in the struggle.

This alignment of the citizens, based on bitter class antagonism, has shown itself in the political life of the city ever since. In the succeeding election for the mayoralty, all administrative and political questions were entirely lost to view. Eugene E. Schmitz, the Union Labor candidate, whose campaign was skillfully handled by Abraham Ruef, was elected by a large plurality.

The election of Schmitz afforded ideal conditions for municipal corruption. The voters who elect or vote against a candidate because he represents a class in a class war, regard him solely as a class representative. They overlook the method in which he performs the ordinary functions of his position and are absorbed entirely in those official or extra-official acts which favor or injure the apparent interests of their class. No form of charter or legislative enactment can be devised to carry a government successfully under such conditions. However, while the charter was powerless to prevent an election on class lines, it entirely vindicated the wisdom of its framers in the clarity with which it exposed the responsibility for the corruption and facility with which it lent itself to the substitution of an entirely new and clean administration, when class antagonism had quieted and administrative questions again became paramount.

During the first two Schmitz administrations, a majority of the Board of Supervisors was elected from incumbents of the Phelan regime, and no scandals have been discovered in the legislative branch of the government during that period. The second election of Schmitz, in 1903, found the laboring men still strong in his support, and his plurality should, in the main, be attributed to the class antagonisms again skillfully fomented by Ruef.

The activities of Ruef on his own behalf were shown to have begun in the profitable stimulation of the vicious industries of the town almost immediately after Schmitz's first election. These earlier enterprises were consummated through the aid of the various municipal commissions, all of which, with the exception of the Board of Education, are subject to removal by the Mayor without trial.

In the summer of 1903, Ruef had already begun to reach out beyond mere grafting on vice. We find him approaching Rudolph Spreckels with a scheme to so shape the relation between labor and capital in San Francisco that no bank would dare bid a fair price for the municipal bonds to be offered for sale in the fall of that year. Ruef's plan was to precipitate a street-car strike at the time of the receipt of the bids, thus enabling Mr. Spreckels to buy the bonds without competition, at a low figure. The day his proposition was made, Mr. Spreckels met Mr. Thomas Driscoll and Mr. Edward Tobin at luncheon and told them of his experience with Ruef and of his intention some day to organize and drive such men out of power in the city, and, by perfecting a good government organization, keep them out. Up to this time Mr. Spreckels had taken no special interest in civic affairs, but the boldness of Mr. Ruef and the viciousness of his proposition opened his eyes to the duty of men in his position to use their influence for better city government. It was this incident, he says, which turned his mind away from a career devoted exclusively to business.

The citizens still living, who had in the nineties organized for the overthrowing of the Buckley regime, were not blind to the conditions existing, but their appeals seemed to fall on deaf or unwilling ears. By their efforts both the Democratic and Republican parties were brought into fusion in 1905, and the campaign of that fall brought forth a full discussion of the evils of the administration. A final rally was held the night before election, at which Mr. Francis J. Heney told, in plain language, of certain briberies which were subsequently made the subject of indictment, and pledged himself to return to California and assist in prosecuting the guilty persons, of whom Mr. Ruef was one, should a third election continue Ruef in power.

Mr. Heney had just tried a remarkable series of cases, twenty-one in all, against a large body of men engaged in looting the Federal Government of its timber properties in Oregon and elsewhere. As a result of his prosecutions a vast conspiracy to defraud was disclosed and thirty-four men (amongst others a United States Senator), were convicted, but three of whom maintained successful appeals. These trials were all in the Federal courts, where the orderliness and dignity of procedure precluded the suggestion that the judgments were the result of any improper methods. All this prestige, however, failed to obtain for Mr. Heney sufficient attention among the voters to make any impression on the election results.

Nor was the support of Schmitz due to any failure on the part of the press to make public the character of his administration. For many months prior to the election of 1905, the "Evening Bulletin", under the editorship of Fremont Older, had been raising the cry of corruption. That paper painted a picture of the viciousness of the city government which, in its shocking verity–though amply justified by the subsequent investigations of the grand jury–gave offense to many good citizens, that is to say, to many good persons who were quite willing to stay blind apparently, at any cost to their inner self respect.

The third election of Schmitz showed a decided change in the character of the vote he received. In the portions of the city where the more prosperous merchants and capitalists lived, men who by instinct and interest would be most unlikely to support a Union Labor candidate, he received a very considerable plurality, while in the "Labor" districts his vote showed a decided falling off.

It was for a time suspected by many that the sinister strength of Schmitz in the wealthy quarter of town was due to tampering with the voting machine. It could not be believed that the financial leaders, the bank managers, the great merchants, and the more pecuniarily successful of the professional classes, were in sympathy with an administration pledged to an extreme labor platform and about which the odor of corruption was already discernible. The discovery, fourteen years before, by the Wallace Grand Jury, of the participancy of many members of these classes in municipal corruption, or their sympathy with it, had been forgotten.

As the reason for the majority of the Union Labor leader in the residential quarters of the town given over to the capitalist and his class, only became apparent upon the exposures of the Oliver Grand Jury, we leave to that chapter the explanation of what, on its face, is a political contradiction.

The Failure of the Schmitz-Ruef Ring to Control
the District Attorney's Office as shown by
Langdon's Raids on Protected Gambling
Resorts– His Independence the More Significant
Because of the Gambling Spirit in San Francisco.

Amongst others on the Union Labor ticket, was William H. Langdon, who was elected District Attorney. Ruef, not fully realizing the number of his friends among the richer classes, and, no doubt, feeling Schmitz's declining popularity with the laboring people, had sought to strengthen his ticket by placing on it Mr. Langdon, then Superintendent of Schools, who had a large following both inside and outside the School Department.

It had become apparent very shortly after his election that Mr. Langdon's hold on the sympathies of the average voter was largely based on much more of moral character than even the wiser political observers had given him credit for, and that whatever votes his name may have brought to the Ruef-Schmitz organization, Langdon did not intend that that name should be sullied by the corruption of the Schmitz administration. Shortly after taking the oath of office in January, 1906, he began a series of raids on the many establishments of the professional gamblers operating under the protection of the Ruef-Schmitz Board of Police Commissioners.

The significance of Langdon's raid became apparent when we consider the remarkable attitude which a very large portion of the community bears toward the vice of gambling. Men of recognized prominence in the social and financial life of the city openly admitted their proprietorship and participancy in gambling ventures of the most sordid character. The proprietor and manager of the Emeryville race track, the largest and most widely demoralizing gambling establishment west of the Rocky Mountains, a man who was also one of Schmitz's bondsmen, has been elected since the fire to the directorate of one of the oldest clubs in San Francisco. This organization has long occupied a commanding position in the social history of the city. It has among its members the largest number of the owners and managers of the various large quasi-public corporations of the state, and probably of the whole West, men who are real leaders in finance and trade, and creators of industries. While occupying the position in their governing body to which these gentlemen had elected him, the whole state arose in arms and, after a violent campaign in which was exposed the daily toll of embezzlement, suicide and ruin he caused, compelled the legislature to pass a law aimed at closing his gambling stands. With these high lights thus thrown on the character of his business, and despite his intimacy with the indicted Mayor, he was again chosen one of the directors at their next election.

The slot machine is a gambling device whereby a saloon-keeper or cigar man wagers liquors or cigars against his customers' small coin on the turn of cards mechanically shuffled. This contrivance was licensed by the Supervisors. It was installed openly on the street in cigar stands and stood on practically every bar in the city. At first the objections of the innocent were quieted by the suggestion that the device was a mere "trade stimulator"; but the lines of men and boys standing on the sidewalk waiting their turn to wager with the shop, and playing their coin long after their immediate need for tobacco had been supplied soon made it clear that its purpose was mainly to appeal to the gambling instincts of people of moderate means. To be more thoughtful, the suicidal policy of an American city licensing a machine to stimulate the nervous, high strung American to the use of alcohol or tobacco, was as abhorrent as the denial that th city was licensing gambling was absurd.

The large profits of these machines were divided between the high rents of the landlords and the proprietors of the stands, after paying the salaries of the considerable body of persons employed to supervise the playing. It is true that some landlords refused to become silent partners in such discreditable enterprises. The exceptions, however, were few and the numbers of such gambling plants in the city ran into thousands, standing educators to the children on the streets in the easily learned vice of seeking to acquire the property of somebody else without giving an equivalent.

It would seem that the banks, the supposed conservators of thrift and saving, would be the first to protest against the evil. On the contrary, we find that when the civic sense had been awakened to the point where the Supervisors were considering a bill to abolish the machines, the majority of the large commercial banks signed the following petition:

"To the Honorable Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco, State of California–Gentlemen:

"The undersigned of the City of San Francisco, respectfully request of your Honorable Body that Bill No. 782, passed to print on Monday, April 5, 1909, be amended so as to limit the number of slot machines in use at any one place, to two (2); that the use of slot machines to be licensed be limited to stimulation of trade in merchandise dealt in by the owners of the machines; that all so-called `pay-backs' be prohibited; that the granting of licenses for slot machines be placed under the supervision of the Police Department in order that gambling may be prohibited; that the time for the issuance of licenses to any person, firm or corporation shall be limited to the period between July 1st, 1909, and January 1st, 1910, and that all licensing of all slot machines shall be discontinued on January 1st, 1910, instead of July 1st, 1909, as provided in the said Bill Number 782, all of which provisions are incorporated in a proposed amended Bill which will be submitted to your Honorable Body with this petition.

"We are moved to make this request by reason of the fact that the less than three months remaining until July 1st, 1909, is not sufficient in which to allow the cigar dealers of this City and real estate owners from whom they rent their places of business, to so adjust their business relations as to prevent the unavoidable and serious hardship that will result to all parties concerned, if the Bill is put in force at that time.

"Many tens of thousand[s] of dollars are invested and leases running into the thousands of dollars per month have been made upon the basis of the use of those machines as they were used prior to the fire and for the past fifteen years, and to entirely upset these arrangements, made in good faith by all parties, a large majority of whom have never used their machines as gambling devices, will mean ruin for many very worthy people, who are in no sense law-breakers, and are among our most respectable citizens.

"The mere fact that certain persons have violated the law and used their slot machines as gambling devices, should not move your Honorable Body, in your effort to reach and prohibit their schemes, to work a hardship to a much larger number of honest persons.

"Believing that you are actuated only by the best motives, and that you desire to do the greatest good to the greatest number, we respectfully submit this petition in the hope that it may be granted.


It is claimed that because on an average a day's play the so-called "honest" machines netted the house about a fair price for the drinks or cigars lost by it, the institution was not a gambling device. This equally shallow contention is answered by the fact that the same player does not play against the house all day. While the luck may average even for the house over a period of time, this is due to a balance of the cigars won by some players against the coin lost by others.

This what these banks call a "stimulation of trade" by machines not used as "gambling devices" by many "very worthy" and "most respectable" people.

The admitted purpose of this appeal of the banks was to allow the landlords and the keepers of the machines to take profit enough from the public to tide them over the period of readjustment and to a future date, when the practice would cease. To do this, however, they were willing to argue that the machine was not a gambling device because it decided a wager of tobacco against money instead of money against money.

In a community in which gambling was treated with such tolerance, it was a matter of more than ordinary significance that the District Attorney should have commenced a vigorous enforcement of the laws against the large gambling resorts. A number of church organizations, particularly the Catholics, and many good citizens, rallied to Langdon's support. As the entire city government, including the Police Department, every administrative board and the Supervisors, were under the control of Schmitz and Ruef, and as several of the police judges had been elected from their ticket, the task seemed almost helpless. Langdon could neither obtain the officers necessary to ferret out the criminals, or to enforce the laws, nor the funds from the Supervisors to hire special detectives for that purpose. Nevertheless, he was able to close two of the establishments which were running under the protection of the administration, and to prevent others being opened.

The significant thing, however, was the demonstration that the people had a District Attorney who was with them rather than in the camp of the enemy–and this at the beginning of the term of the corrupt Board of Supervisors, and before their alleged hold-up practices had been disclosed.

It was this fact of Langdon's willingness to enforce the law, even against a vice as complacently established as gambling, which brought ridicule on the subsequent claim that the quasi-public corporations had been held up and were victims of extortion. We have later set forth the name of the directors of these corporations. It cannot be doubted that if Mr. Langdon had had behind him the power and wealth of these men, either the alleged extorting would not have been attempted or the guilty parties would have been convicted without great delay.

The Commencement of the
Investigation of the Schmitz-Ruef Regime

As we have before pointed out, the Supervisors, the legislative body of the city, had not been captured by the Ruef-Schmitz machine until the November election of 1905, and that from the adoption of the charter in 1899, until January, 1906, the beginning of the term of the Ruef-Schmitz Board, there had been no suggestion of corruption with regard to the fixing of rates for water or gas, or the granting of franchises or permits. The attacks of the "Bulletin", and of the many speakers who took the stump in the fusion campaign of the fall of 1905, were all directed at the evils existing in the administrative boards which were appointed by Schmitz, particularly the Board of Public Works, which were spending large sums of tax-payers' moneys with an absurdly small showing in results, and the Police Department, which was marketing the privilege of violating the laws passed for the regulation or suppression of the city's vices.

In December, 1905, Mr. Older, Mr. Heney, and Mr. Lincoln Steffens met in Washington, D.C., where Mr. Heney was engaged in matters arising out of the prosecution of the timber frauds. These gentlemen had a long conference concerning the situation in San Francisco, and Mr. Older suggested that Mr. Rudolph Spreckels, a very large tax-payer, and hence interested in suppressing the extravagance of the Schmitz boards, could be persuaded to assist in securing funds to aid in exposing the corruption in San Francisco, and that Mr. Phelan, who had inaugurated the government under the charter, and had been very largely instrumental in securing its enactment, would also be willing to contribute for this purpose. Mr. Heney then agreed with Mr. Older that as soon as he could free himself from his engagements with the national government he would lend his services to a movement to prosecute the offending officials. The only condition he imposed was that Mr. William Burns, the Federal detective who had unearthed the timber frauds, should co-operate with him and that there should be sufficient funds supplied to secure Mr. Burns any other assistance he might think necessary. Subsequently, in January, 1906, Mr. Heney, Mr. Older, Mr. Spreckels and Mr. Phelan met in San Francisco, and plans were further matured. Mr. Heney's pre-occupation with the land fraud cases delayed the matter until June after the earthquake and fire of that year, when Mr. Burns' detectives began a systematic investigation.

All of this becomes pertinent in view of certain charges made long afterward "that the citizens should not support District Attorney Langdon or Mr. Heney (who subsequently became his assistant) because they were tools of Mr. Spreckels in an attempt to ruin certain persons indicted for bribery in connection with the passage of franchises for quasi-public corporations." The plan of attack on the Schmitz-Ruef administration had been determined at a time when the only evil aimed at was the corruption in the administrative boards of the government, months before the franchise briberies had been suggested, and even before the board which was subsequently bribed had taken office.

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