A daily celebration of the news—and the news media—of years gone by. From front page stories to colorful tales from the back pages, Not Your Century from the San Francisco Chronicle takes you on a quick tour of the Bay Area and the world as it used to be, which often colors the world of your century. Hosted by King Kaufman.
S.F. Chronicle founder and editor Charles de Young's political beef with Baptist minister and mayoral candidate Isaac Smith Kalloch culminates in a shooting. But that's not where it ends.
1991: Gorbachev Survives Coup Flu
The Soviet president was held prisoner in his vacation home by hardliners who announced he was sick and threatened to remove him — maybe kill him — if he didn't back off his glasnost and perestroika reforms. He didn't.
1911: Mona Lisa Stolen
The Mona Lisa was famous among art lovers when Vincenzo Peruggia walked out of the Louvre with it under his arm. Since that moment, it's been the most famous painting in the world.
1968: Prague Spring Crushed
The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies invade the capital of Czechoslovakia, bringing a violent end to the eight months of liberalization and reform under Alexander Dubček.
1957: The Giants Are Coming
The board of directors of the New York baseball Giants makes official something the Chronicle had reported three months earlier: The most successful team in National League history was moving to San Francisco for the 1958 season.
1965: A Tense Peace in Watts
The neighborhood south of downtown Los Angeles has been wracked by six days of violence in the wake of a traffic stop of a black man by a white cop. Was the fighting a riot? Or was it a community rising up against its oppressors?
1969: Woodstock, Day 1
We know it as an iconic "three days of peace and music." Early media reports made it sound like a natural disaster had hit Max Yasgur's farm, and barely mentioned what happened onstage.
1962: Crusading Against Animal Nudity
G. Clifford Prout Jr., president of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, has toured the San Francisco zoo and discovered a shocking amount of animal nudity there. His group is fighting for the nation's morals!
1961: The Berlin Wall
Germans would come to know it as Barbed Wire Sunday. With a railroad line that bypassed the city complete, East Germany shut down border crossings in Berlin and put up fencing. It was the beginning of what would become the wall.
1964: Great Train Robber Escapes
Charlie Wilson busts out of Winson Green prison in a caper nearly as sensational as the crime that put him there: The Great Train Robbery of 1963 outside London.
1934: Alcatraz Opens for Business
The first federal prisoners arrive by train, then barge, under heavy guard, with prison officials lying about them to throw off any pals with escape plans on their mind. Al Capone and Pretty Boy Floyd will be there soon.
Corrected—1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
Dear Subscribers: Thanks to a file mixup, you got a preview of tomorrow's episode about Alcatraz instead of the correct one about Nixon's resignation. We're republishing the episode with the correct audio. Sorry about the error! The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
1974: Richard Nixon Resigns
The president lost the support of Republicans in Congress following the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape," which revealed him plotting to obstruct the Watergate investigation. Saying "I have never been a quitter," he quits.
1964: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
President Lyndon Johnson applauds Congress for authorizing him to take all necessary steps to defend Southeast Asia against Communist aggression. It's based on a lie.
The headlines couldn't have been more stark. The most terrible destructive force ever harnessed by humanity had been unleashed on a Japanese city, with tens of thousands dead.
1981: Reagan Fires 11,000
Ronald Reagan liked to point out that he was the first president who'd been a union chief, and he'd even led a strike. But when air-traffic controllers went out, he fired them. It was a devastating loss for organized labor.
1873: The First Cable Car
The story is that Andrew Smith Hallidie, who manufactured "wire rope," saw horses struggling to pull a streetcar uphill. So he had an idea, and this run up Clay Street was its first test.
1955: L.A.'s First Smog Alert
It wouldn't be the last. People had been donning gas masks in the smoky air for joke photos for a decade, but this was the first official recognition of Los Angeles' signature air pollution.
1996: Clinton Triangulates
Bill Clinton's central campaign promise in 1992 was to "end welfare as we have come to know it." With Election Day looming, he backs ending cash welfare. A Bay Area congressman calls it a "cave" to the GOP.
1975: Jimmy Hoffa Disappears
The former Teamsters president was trying to regain control of the union after serving time in prison. He had what was supposed to be a peace conference with a couple of dangerous enemies. He hasn't been seen since.
1945: Empire State Building Plane Crash
World War II was still being fought in the Pacific, but this wasn't an enemy attack. An American B-25 pilot got disoriented in the fog and slammed into the 79th floor, killing 14. One woman fell from the 80th floor — and lived.
1984: The Original Psycho Checks Out
Ed Gein barely rated a mention in the obituary column when he died in prison, but the psychotic Wisconsin killer launched a Hollywood genre. Norman Bates, Leatherface and Buffalo Bill were all based on him.
1997: Critical Mass Goes Critical
Chaos rules the streets of the Financial District as Mayor Willie Brown's attempt to crack down on the monthly freeform bicycle ride backfires in a big way.
1959: The Kitchen Debate
A grumpy but funny Nikita Khrushchev mixes it up in a model American kitchen in Moscow with a charming — at least on the Nixon scale — Vice President Richard Nixon.
1976: Chowchilla Suspect Surrenders
Richard Schoenfeld and his two accomplices would eventually be convicted of a kidnapping that shocked the nation: 26 children and their schoolbus driver buried alive. Driver Ed Ray led the kids to safety.
1916: Preparedness Day Bombing
Two labor leaders are framed for the worst terrorist act in San Francisco history. They spend 23 years in prison for the parade bombing that kills 10 and wounds 40.
1993: Don't Ask Don't Tell
President Bill Clinton knows you're not going to like the new policy he's announcing on gays in the military. Whoever "you" are. Even the policy's creator didn't think much of it.
1938: Wrong Way Corrigan Lands in Ireland
Douglas Corrigan takes off for L.A. from Brooklyn, and 28 hours later he lands ... in Dublin! He says he misread his compass and couldn't tell because of the heavy clouds. And if you believe that, there's a bridge in Brooklyn he could sell you.
1944: Port Chicago Explosion
The disaster at a munitions depot near Martinez kills 320 sailors, most of them African American, and highlights racial inequality in the Navy.
1969: Apollo 11 Launches
Hundreds of thousands of people crowd the Florida coast to brave traffic jams, parties and the sight of a sweaty Ed McMahon as Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins sit on top of a rocket that hurls them toward the moon.
1997: Gianni Versace Murdered
A shocking, brazen killing on the front steps of the designer's South Beach mansion. Suspicion quickly falls on one of the FBI's 10 Most Wanted — prostitute Andrew Cunanan, already suspected of 4 killings.
1972: Ho-Hum, 2 More Hijackings
After D.B. Cooper, the thing to do was take over a plane and demand half a million bucks and a parachute. It rarely worked, but it sure got tried a lot during the golden age of hijacking.
1967: Ballet Superstars Busted
A complaint in the Haight leads to the cops breaking up a hippie pot party. Among those under arrest: Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn. Rudy pouts and tells reporters, "You're all children!"
1925: The Scopes Monkey Trial
The nation is captivated as Clarence Darrow battles William Jennings Bryan over evolution in a — but very real — trial. "Do you think about things you DO think about?"
1893: A Medical Moses
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who ran the first African American-owned hospital in the U.S., was sure he'd performed the first successful open-heart surgery. It was actually the second, but he was still a giant.
1987: Oliver North Testifies
The Reagan administration was trading arms for hostages in the Middle East and supporting right-wing rebels in Nicaragua. North's idea was to put the two together, and that was Iran-Contra.
Best of NYC: You'll Get No Theme and You'll Lik...
More of our favorite episodes for your longer-form holiday listening, with stories about banana-smoking hippies, Evel Knievel, Randy Shilts and Herb Caen.
Best of NYC: True Crime!
From the SFPD bunko scandal to the possibly imaginary criminal element of North Beach's topless joints, revisit our favorite law-and-order tales.
1995: Talking With the Unabomber
"I'm just very fortunate that I'm not dead," UC Berkeley professor Tom Tyler said after receiving a letter from the Unabomber. It was his manifesto, not a mail bomb. And Tyler wrote back.
1937: Amelia Earhart Disappears
The press called her Lady Lindy. She looked a little like Charles Lindbergh, but she was also a record-seeting flyer in her own right — an aviatrix, they called her. Now, an around-the-world flight almost done, she went missing.
1946: The A-Bomb at Bikini Atoll
For the first time, the world knows about a nuclear weapon being detonated before it happens. Some of the most brilliant scientists and engineers in the world ... have no idea what they're doing.
1914: Archduke Franz Ferdinand Assassinated
Gavrilo Princip was pouting in a cafe after missing his chance to assassinate the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary. Then the archduke's driver took a wrong turn down a narrow street — right in front of Princip.
1997: Climate Change and Humor
Five years after the heady optimism of Rio, the Earth Summit+5 international conference on climate change is a failure. But a confab on humor in Norway is serious business.
1945: United Nations Charter Signed
As World War II nears its end, Harry Truman announces the dawn of the U.N. in San Francisco. "If we had had this Charter a few years ago," he says, "millions now dead would be alive."
1876: The Battle of Little Big Horn
They used to call it "Custer's Last Stand," thanks to nearly a century of myth-making. But the real story is it was a great victory, but a last stand, for the Lakota Sioux
1977: The President Insists on Paying Taxes
President Jimmy Carter owes nothing on his federal income taxes because of deductions and investments in the family business. So he sends a request to the IRS: Please let me pay $6,000.
1967: Muhammad Ali Appeals
He was undefeated in the ring, but the heavyweight champ was on a losing streak in court. Appealing his conviction for refusing induction into the armed forces, he said there was another possible outcome besides Vietnam or jail: Justice.
1953: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Executed
Albert Einstein, Pablo Picasso and Pope Pius XII are among those begging for mercy on their behalf, but the New York couple, convicted of selling secrets to the Soviets, are the first Americans put to death for espionage.
Republish: 1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Subscribers got the wrong episode yesterday. The correct episode is now in place, but we’re republishing it here as a “bonus” so you don’t have to re-download it yourself. Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
1906: San Francisco Rebuilds
Two months after the earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco, donations are pouring in from around the country to reopen schools. Dentists are sending tools. The city is digging itself out.
1992: A Win for Prop 13
Proposition 13, the property tax rollback that forced massive government cuts and launched the taxpayer revolt of the '80s, is upheld by the Supreme Court, confirming it as California's political third rail.
1976: Selling off the Oakland A's
All owner Charlie Finley wants to do is get something for his star players who are about to become this new thing, free agents. But commissioner Bowie Kuhn says that kind of deal — now common — is "not in the best interests of baseball."
1996: Herb Caen Day in San Francisco
Robin Williams, Willie Mays, Bill Walsh and Amy Tan are among the throngs celebrating the city's "voice and conscience" — in the words of his Pulitzer Prize — in a downtown celebration. "God, I love this town," he said. It was mutual.
1983: Drug and Alcohol Crowd at the White House!
That's what Interior Secretary James Watt called the audience for the Beach Boys when he banned them from a July Fourth concert at the National Mall. But whoops: The Reagans dug the nostalgia act.
1923: Why Not a Businessman President?
Does this sound familiar? A rich guy who owns a famous company that's popular with consumers talks about running for president. Grab a cup of coffee and listen to the story of ... Henry Ford.
1971: Alcatraz Captured
A 19-month occupation by American Indian activists ends when U.S. marshals take back Alcatraz Island. The protest action has a huge influence on U.S. policy toward native tribes.
1946: Death of a Champion
Jack Johnson was the Jackie Robinson of boxing. He broke the color barrier as the first black man to fight for the heavyweight title, and the first to win it. He died while traveling to see the second black champ, Joe Louis.
1992: Say Goodbye to the Giants
The local 9 lose again at the ballot box in their attempt to get a new publicly funded stadium. They're 0-for-4. They're never going to get a new ballpark, are they?
1944: D-Day by the Bay
As Allied troops storm the beaches of Normandy, a Chronicle reporter patrols the city. He finds a subdued reaction, with scattered rejoicing in the immigrant-heavy produce market and at the French consulate.
1972: Angela Davis Acquitted
"Wild Scene in the Courtroom." The former UCLA professor had been charged with supplying the guns in a 1970 courtroom takeover that left a judge and three others dead.
1986: Crisis at the Mexican Border
The Reagan administration says it's going to get tough and crack down. "The drug trafficking and related violence along the border is a horror story," says one official. Sound familiar?
1913: The Last Horsecar in San Francisco
Mayor Sunny Jim Rolph grabs the reins and drives old Car 45 on its last Market Street run. Horse-drawn streetcars are going the way of, well, horse-drawn streetcars.
1964: The Rolling Stones Invade America
First the Beatles and now these guys. The Chronicle wants to know: When will this British Invasion end? At least they're just bringing music from England, not the battles between gangs of Mods and Rockers.
1911: The First Indy 500
It wasn't just the first Indianapolis 500, it was the first 500-mile race, period. The winner was the only solo driver. Ray Haroun didn't need someone to help watch out for other cars. He used his new invention: A rearview mirror.
1987: The GMO Food War Begins
Activists resort to vandalism to block the University of California from field testing Ice-Minus, the first experiment with genetically modified crops outside a lab.
1975: Evel Knievel Is Through!
The Most Important Man in the World — at least according to the 11-year-old future host of Not Your Century and his bike-jumping friends — says he's retiring after his latest crash, at Wembley Stadium in London.
1943: Inside a Japanese Internment Camp
San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Milton Silverman tours the camp at Tulelake. Though the camps enjoy overwhelming popular support at the time, his report is surprisingly frank.
1967: Sex is Everywhere
With the sexual revolution in full swing, a study says it's having an effect on the mental health of young women. In San Francisco, the obscenity trial over Lenore Kandel's erotic poetry collection "The Love Book" continues.
1956: The Destruction of the Fillmore
The Board of Supervisors approves a plan that will devastate the African-American community of the Fillmore, "the Harlem of the West." It's urban renewal, which James Baldwin says "means moving the Negroes out. It means Negro removal."
1910: The King Is Dead
He wasn't king long, but Edward VII had a whole era named after him. His mother, Queen Victoria, blamed him for the death of his father and never forgave him. But other people liked him. Especially the ladies.
1999: Dan Quayle in San Franciscoe
The former VP, running for president, returns to the scene of his "Murphy Brown" comment, for which he was roasted—but not like he was roasted for spelling potato "potatoe."
1954: Brown vs. Board of Education
The Supreme Court delivers a death sentence for the doctrine of separate but equal, the basis for legal segregation. It's an epochal decision, but not the top headline in the newspaper.
1967: Undercover With the Hippies
A Chronicle reporter spends a month in Haight-Ashbury, living with the flower children, getting high with them and trying to understand their culture of peace, love and psychedelic bananas you heard us psychedelic bananas.
1960: San Francisco Protests HUAC
The anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee is holding hearings at S.F. City Hall, and protesters — chanting, singing and comparing the committee to Nazis — are brutalized by police.
1932: Who Killed the Lindbergh Baby?
The search for the missing Charles Lindbergh Jr. had gripped the nation. Now that the 2-year-old has been found dead, the great aviator has recruited some sketchy characters to help find the killer.
1982: Randy Shilts and the Dawn of AIDS
The headline about what would become the AIDS epidemic was buried on Page 6. It was the first story on the disease by the man who would become its voice: Randy Shilts. A special longform edition of Not Your Century.
Bonus: Randy Shilts Biographer Andrew E. Stoner
Host King Kaufman interviews Andrew E. Stoner, the author of “The Journalist of Castro Street: The Life of Randy Shilts,” which is out this month.
1869: The Golden Spike
The transcontinental railroad is completed by the driving of the final spike. It's hooked up to telegraph wires, so Leland Stanford's hammer blow sends a nationwide signal for the celebrations to begin. It's the first mass media event.
1959: Great White Shark Attack
San Francisco teenager Albert Kogler is killed by a "maneater" while swimming in the bay. Shirley O'Neil braves the shark's attack to pull him from the water, then becomes an international sensation when she baptizes her dying friend on shore.
1965: A Surrender to the Fleshpots of North Beach
San Francisco Mayor John F. Shelley has given in. Not to the temptations of the flesh, but to the idea that topless entertainment is here to stay in North Beach.
1942: Japan Routs the U.S. at Corregidor
The last allied stronghold in Southeast Asia falls. General Douglas MacArthur had hoped to hold out for reinfocements, but they never came. Still, the battle had slowed Japan's drive to conquer the Pacific, and the tide would soon turn.
1970: The Kent State Shooting
President Nixon reverses course and escalates the Vietnam War by invading formerly neutral Cambodia, and America's college campuses erupt in protest. In Ohio, National Guardsmen open fire on unarmed demonstrators, killing four.
1945: Adolf Hitler's Suicide
A day after Americans learned that the Nazi leader had died, they learned that Germany's official announcement that Hitler had died in battle was a lie. He had killed himself as the Red Army captured Berlin and closed in on his bunker.
1973: Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice at the Whi...
Investigators have evidence that high-ranking officials of the White House and President Nixon's reelection committee conspired to cover up the Watergate break-in. They haven't figured out Nixon's role yet, but John Dean is about to start talking.
1913: The SFPD Bunko Scandal
Fat envelopes of cash are being handed over the bars of North Beach. To the cops. And they're going down. The real scandal? A century later, not enough people use the word "bunko" anymore.
1986: The Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
The USSR has finally admitted that something happened, but Western observers are worried it's worse than officials are letting on. The Soviets rarely ask the West for help, announce a problem on Tass, or say a government investigation is underway.
1958: U.S. Space Program Failing
The Soviet Union is sending Sputnik satellites into orbit, but for the United States, it's failure after failure. The latest Vanguard rocket has plunged into the sea from 140 miles up.
1963: Fidel Castro Visits Nikita Khrushchev
In something of a surprise, the Cuban premier heads to the Soviet Union for the first time amid rumors of tensions with the Soviet leader in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Meanwhile, Khrushchev opens a new front in the Cold War: Women's panties.
1894: The First March on Washington
The Butte, Montana, faction of Coxey's Army has stolen a freight train and is headed east, part of a nationwide convergence to demand a jobs and infrastructure program. So who was Coxey? And how'd he get an army?
1957: Failed the Bus Driver Test? Try Cable Cars
If you blow the San Francisco Municipal Railway's bus driver test, don't worry. They'll send you over for cable car training. The Public Utilities Commission thinks that's odd, but Muni defends its policy.
1935: Pan Am Clipper Crosses the Pacific
In the first of four test flights, Pan American's "flying boat" completes a round-trip to Hawaii with a water landing in front of 10,000 spectators at Alameda. It's the first step toward passenger service to Asia.
1993: Hacker Busted, Joe Montana's Farewell
Prosecutors are throwing the book at Kevin Lee Poulsen, a notorious hacker who rigged radio station contests to finance his life on the lam for other crimes. Plus: Joe Montana bids adieu to San Francisco and the 49ers.
1962: The Prehistoric Google Bus
Commuters are taking private luxury buses to their jobs on the Peninsula, and people are fighting mad about it. It's a preview of the Google Bus fights of a later century. But without Wi-Fi.
1912: Scant News from the Titanic
Three days after the great ship sank, news is still scarce. The rescue ship Carpathia has gone silent. But word is filtering in over the wires about who survived — and who didn't.
1990: Chinatown Is Closed
Mayor Art Agnos wants to tear down the Embarcadero Freeway, badly damaged in the Loma Prieta earthquake. Chinatown shuts down as its business leaders head downtown to fight for repair of the road they say is their lifeline of customers.
Bonus: Mike Sager on Janet Cooke
Mike Sager worked with and dated Janet Cooke at the Washington Post and later wrote a book about her. The veteran author and magazine writer talks about his friend, "the fabulist who changed journalism."
1981: Space Shuttle Soars, Janet Cooke Crashes
Real news: The inaugural flight of the space shuttle Challenger. Fake news: The Washington Post returns Janet Cooke's Pulitzer Prize after editors discover she made up her story about an 8-year-old heroin addict.
1891: A Lot of Ruckus Over Oranges
The people of Chicago are amazed! They're coming by the trainload to gaze at produce from California. The oranges are the star of the show. It's a precursor to the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, which in turn would lead to a giant fair in Golden Gate Park in 1894.
1923: General Theory of Relativity Confirmed
You'll be glad to know Albert Einstein was right. Astronomers at the Lick Observatory in San Jose confirmed it by examining photos of a 1922 eclipse. How did that confirm Einstein? We asked an astronomer at the Lick Observatory. Plus: The curse of the mummy’s tomb!
1906: Mount Vesuvius Erupts
Untold thousands died when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D., including Pliny the Elder. The death toll wasn't as high in 1906, but it was high. Vesuvius remains an active volcano. How am I going to be an optimist about this?
1952: Nationwide Labor Strife
Big Steel accuses President Harry Truman of being in bed with the labor unions after he nationalizes the industry to ward off a strike by steelworkers. There are huge strikes in industries across the country as labor battles the wage and price controls Truman had put in place at the beginning of the Korean War.
1975: Operation Babylift
85 Vietnamese orphans arrive at Travis Air Force Base in the latest flight of Operation Babylift — the massive, controversial evacuation of children from South Vietnam in the dying days of the Vietnam War. President Gerald Ford is there for a photo op.
1924: Ambushed in Albania—2 San Franciscans Killed
The U.S. Navy would send warships to the area after a pair of American businessmen are killed by a bandit gang. The accused killer claims he was under orders from the prime minister—who would later become king.
1961: Raising Muni Fares and Honoring Hydrant 12
San Francisco bus fares are the lowest in the nation and Muni, facing a deficit, wants to do something about that. Plus: A plaque for the hydrant that saved the Mission District in the 1906 earthquake and fire? Spoiler alert: Yes. You can go look at it.
1910: Teddy Roosevelt vs. the Pope
You've got to be pretty bold to tangle with the pope. Teddy Roosevelt was pretty bold. On a post-presidential world tour, TR wired to ask for an audience with Pius X, but when the Vatican asked him to submit to certain conditions, the old Roughrider got rough. Featuring guest star Jason Feifer, host of the history podcast Pessimists Archive, as Roosevelt.
1954: Last Stand at Dien Bien Phu
Viet Minh forces were laying siege to Dien Bien Phu, which the French had fortified in hopes they could bait the rebels into a battle the French thought they could win. They were wrong about that. Plus: A San Francisco boxing champ wins, and the Army makes a significant hire.
1997: Cult Left an Arsenal Behind
The beatific, peace-loving Heaven's Gate cult, whose members had committed mass suicide, left behind a cache of weapons and ammunition, police find. Plus: On Opening Day for the Giants, Matier and Ross note fans' sticker shock at the concession prices at Candlestick Park. Would you believe $4 for a beer!
1981: "I Am in Control Here, at the White House"
Secretary of State Alexander Haig takes heat for his behavior in the hours after the shooting of President Ronald Reagan, and authorities delve into the bizarre motive of shooter John Hinckley, who wanted to impress teenage actor Jodie Foster.
1981: "Honey, I Forgot to Duck"
President Ronald Reagan and three others are shot as he walks out of a Washington hotel following a speech to the AFL-CIO. The shooter is John Hinckley, who wanted to impress actress Jodie Foster. No one is aware the president has been hit until after he arrives at the hospital.
1928: Hundreds Dead, Mulholland Takes the Blame
You know the name Mulholland from the famous street in the Hollywood Hills. Did you know William Mulholland, who designed the aqueduct system that allowed Los Angeles to grow into a big city, was responsible for the second-worst disaster for loss of life in California history? "Don't blame anyone else," he told a jury. "You just fasten it on me."
1977: The First Female Chief Justice
Rose Bird was used to firsts. She was the first female public defender in Santa Clara County and the first female cabinet secretary in California, and now she was the first female state Supreme Court chief justice in California—and probably the first to get a kiss in public from the governor. But the good times wouldn't last for her.
1935: Fatso Rats Out Baby Face Nelson's Pals
It was dangerous to call George Nelson "Baby Face" to his face, but Baby Face was dead by 1935, when Fatso Negri walked into a San Francisco courtroom to testify against nine locals accused of helping the notorious gangster when he was on the lam out west. Still, Fatso looked plenty nervous.
1949: Anti-Semites in the New York Schools?
A litigious former magistrate is suing to get these purveyors of anti-Jewish feeling out of the curriculum. Their names? William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens. Plus: The House Un-American Activities Committee had a book out too. It says there are 825,000 domestic traitors and spies in the U.S., and it didn't pull that number out of thin air at all.
1875: The Best Game of Base Ball Ever
It's a sparkling start to the 1875 season of base ball—which was two words back then. The crack San Francisco Club looks poised to wrest the championship from the Oakland players, having beaten them twice already. Center fielder Murkey is the San Francisco star. In one game, he made two fly-catches!
1946: Axis Sally Captured, Frank Sinatra Conquers
U.S. counterintelligence agents capture American Nazi propagandist "Axis Sally," who'd been hiding out in Berlin since the end of World War II. Back in San Francisco, bobby soxers with notes from their parents skip school to line up for hours to see Frank Sinatra, whom the Chronicle calls an "astonishingly inoffensive and almost colorless young man."
1913: Who Killed King George?
Why was King George I of Greece shot and killed as he walked the streets? Greek authorities have a suspect. His motive was a mystery, they say. And that motive would remain a mystery right up until he "fell" out of a police-station window six weeks later.
1974: The Children of the Divorce Wave
The first comprehensive study of the effect of divorce on children is being conducted as the divorce rate is roughly doubling in a decade. Many of the conclusions seem obvious today, but were anything but 45 years ago. Plus: Rotten advice from columnist Count Marco.
1907: Weigh a Soul? Nikola Tesla Says No
Nikola Tesla says, "It is altogether too absurd for discussion," and he's somehow not talking about Elon Musk. "It" was whether a person's soul can be weighed, which was a debate in 1907. Plus: Upton Sinclair's house burns down as he's researching a book on the steel industry. Suspicious?
1984: Larry Flynt and Dianne Feinstein
They didn't have anything to do with each other except they both were in the news. Flynt for wearing an American flag diaper in court, among other protest moves that got him locked up for contempt, Feinstein for talking, at the start of her second San Francisco mayoral term, about her political future. She says that having worked in both the executive and legislative branches, she sees her future in the executive. Narrator voice ...
1948: A Democratic Party Civil War
Southern Democratic governors, led by Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, vow to oppose the reelection of President Harry Truman, or anyone else who supports Truman's civil rights program. It's the first stirrings of what would become the short-lived Dixiecrat Party, with Thurmond as its nominee.
1976: Gov. Moonbeam Throws His Hat in the Ring
Jerry Brown, the charismatic 38-year-old governor of California, announces that he's running for the Democratic nomination for president. It's a bit late to do that — the primaries are already in full swing. But not to worry, Brown says. He's only running in California.
1924: The President's Plan to Slash Taxes
Sound familiar? President Calvin Coolidge wanted Congress to put aside all its other business and get to work on his proposal to slash income taxes. What was it that Silent Cal wanted Congress to stop doing to work on that tax cut? Investigating corruption in the executive branch.
1916: The U.S. Invades Mexico
In response to a raid on a small New Mexico town by Pancho Villa, President Woodrow Wilson taps Gen. John "Blackjack" Pershing to lead a force across the border to chase the revolutionary leader down. The Punitive Expedition would last until the U.S. entry into World War I the next year.
1964: Civil Rights at the Palace Hotel
After the biggest mass arrests to date in San Francisco history, demonstrators who had shut down the Palace Hotel were victorious: The city's hotels had agreed to fair hiring practices. As the triumphant protesters carried their leader on their shoulders, she shouted, "We got everything we asked for!" Her name was Tracy Sims. She was 18 years old.
1956: Gum Machines: Devil's Spawn
Eldon C. Middleton of King Street, Redwood City, has a clear idea of what lies "at the very foundations of wickedness which are threatening to engulf us all." Gumball machines. And he's letting the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors know the awful truth. Today, gumball machines. Tomorrow? "Pinball machines, slot machines, canasta and even Scrabble."
1913: A Monkey Cage for the Veep
Vice President Thomas Marshall doesn't think much of his new office. History doesn't think much of his tenure as V.P. — neither did the president Marshall served, Woodrow Wilson. But Marshall did leave us with a memorable phrase: "What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar." Plus: Famous lawyer Clarence Darrow was in court. That certainly wasn't unusual but this was: It was Darrow himself who was on trial!
1896: Do You Poop Out at Parties?
An ad says the cure for "womb trouble" and all sorts of other female maladies is Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound, Blood Purifier and Sensitive Wash, a version of which you can still buy at your local drug store. Plus: The climax of the Italo-Ethiopian War, and Spanish university students burn American flags.
1922: The Whiskey Heist Heroine
At the height of Prohibition, 100 cases of rare whiskey are stolen from a Menlo Park mansion in a daring robbery. The bandits, who tippled as they stole, didn't hurt anyone, thanks to the quick thinking of the family's nanny — also a noted "aviatrix."
1905: "I Am Poisoned!"
Jane Lathrop Stanford, co-founder of the university, survives a poisoning attempt at her palatial home in San Francisco. Devastated, she sails to Hawaii, vowing never to return to her house. She doesn't. A second poisoning kills her—a murder that Stanford's president covers up.
1980: A Murder in Berkeley
Al and Jeannie Mills are found dead in their home. They had been members of Jim Jones' People's Temple before leaving and becoming fierce critics. Fifteen months after the Jonestown Massacre, had surviving cultists carried out the killing on an order given by Jones before he died?
Bonus Episode: Marshall Kilduff
The reporter who exposed the abuses of Jim Jones and the People's Temple in 1977 talks about covering the murder of former temple members Al and Jeannie Mills for the San Francisco Chronicle in 1980.
1919/1969: The More Things Change
A hundred years ago, an education official says wealth inequity is the greatest threat to equal education. Fifty years ago, violent right-wing groups are making surprising appearances in the Bay Area.
1933: "Alfalfa Bill" Murray Empties the Jails
Imagine the surprise for the prosecutor when he looked out at the law class he was teaching and saw the face of the man he'd just put away for murder. Why was Oklahoma's controversial governor freeing so many prisoners?
1942: The Battle of Los Angeles
Weeks after Pearl Harbor—and one night after a minor attack on a Santa Barbara oil field by a Japanese submarine—Los Angeles is thrown into a panic by reports of an air raid on the city. There's no raid, but five people die, and calls for Japanese internment intensify.
Coming Soon: Not Your Century
Not Your Century launches February 25 from the San Francisco Chronicle, celebrating the news—and the news media—of years gone by.