S.F. Shootout

I'm glad that I'm not a professional historian because if I were, I might have to find some other way to express this: Dennis Kearney* was an utter ass-wipe. An immigrant himself, Kearney founded California's briefly influential (and highly racist) Workingman's Party. He made a political career out of the thoughtful slogan, "The Chinese Must Go". His fiery speeches were quite radical – he advocated lynching of wealthy business owners – but he wasn't marginal. His political ally, Isaac Kalloch, became San Francisco's mayor in 1879.

That is disturbing, but not surprising. Here's the crazy part: in the 1870s, the founder and editor of the Chronicle, Charles de Young, railed against Kearney and Kalloch (then only a mayoral candidate) in his paper. I haven't read the editorials directly – anyone know of where I can find those archives online? But from what I understand, de Young wasn't particularly concerned with Kalloch's racism, but more with his popularity. Trying to undermine the mayoral candidate, he publicly exposed a sex scandal that Kalloch (a Baptist minister) had been involved with in another state. Kalloch ridiculed de Young right back and from the pulpit, calling de Young's mother "whore-mongering", and then in retaliation de Young, the editor of the Chronicle, shot Kalloch, the mayoral candidate!

Kalloch survived, and won the election in part because of the sympathy he garnered for his injury, but a year later his son, defending the family honor, fatally shot de Young. He admitted to the shooting but got off free. Fortunately, Kearney's Workingman's Party faded shortly thereafter, but Kalloch did fine, serving two years as mayor.

*Note that Wikipedia reveals that Kearny Street, which runs right through Chinatown in SF is not actually named after Dennis Kearney. This information comes as a relief, but I wasn't too excited to learn who it was named after: Stephen Kearny, who founded of the US Cavalry and used those troops to expand white US occupation into Native American homelands in the Western part of the continent. He went on to command a number of battalions in the Mexican-American War, winning California for the US of A, which, I imagine, is why he got a street named after him in San Francisco. Related: we can also breathe a sigh of relief that Geary street is named after a former postmaster, not California Congressman Thomas Geary, who wrote an 1892 law extending the Chinese Exclusion Act, and expanding it to require Chinese-Americans to carry permits at all times, or risk deportation or punishment by hard labor. His act also denied habeus corpus to imprisoned Chinese-Americans, removing their rights to ask a judge to review the legality of their detentions. If you want to know who any other SF streets are not named for, look at this site.


Hillary said...

Fascinante. And both shooters went unpunished? Interesting.

anniez-k said...

I poked around for online access to the SF Chronicle in the 1870s and it looks like the digital versions only go back for about 20 years (or less). So you're stuck going to a library and digging through microfilm. Berkeley and SF public library and UC Berkeley all have it in microfilm, I think. You might call them before you head over. Is there a closer library to you?

Bay Radical said...

Annie! I should have asked you in the first place!

Thank you for the encouragement. It really makes me feel official! Seriously, it's nice to transition from having a quirky hobby to real project. And since it's a 'real project' now, I should probably get organized, like keeping a running list of things I need to check next time I'm at the big libraries. I have to say, I really enjoy microfilm, it's just that going to the library is hard to schedule with the young uns. I'm sure you understand.

Which reminds me, I owe you some pictures. I'll email them right now.

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