mania

"Captain" Wolf Takes A Trip

kim
14 Jan 2010 - 12:56am

"Captain" Maximilian Wolf, self-styled, was a visionary of early Los Angeles. He arrived from San Francisco with a colleague who planned to host a fair at Hazard's Pavilion at 5th and Olive, went mad for a spell, was freed, then entered into a period of creative mania.
  
In 1896 he sought to demonstrate the efficacy of his theories on alternative transport by way of a Water Bicycle, a device comprised of two fifteen-by-two-foot pontoons on each of which a bike was placed. By pushing the pedals, a series of cogs revolved, eventually powering two fishy fins beneath each pontoon. Put an awning up, and one could enjoy a cigar or cool tea on the open water. A rudder, at the front of the device, turned with the handlebars--but Wolf refused to tell reporters what would happen if the two riders wished to go in different directions.

Perhaps this is a design flaw the good "Captain" should have paid more mind to, as the planned date for his demonstration ride in early 1896 slipped always over the next wave. For machine shop owner S.D. Sturgis, who had built the marvel "on spec" was now holding the craft hostage in the back of his store, insisting Wolf pay for the work before any lakeside show was put on. When Sturgis appeared, a nervous Wolf scurried off, mid-interview with a man from the Times.

Months passed, and there was no report of the wonderful Water Bicycle ever getting wet. Wolf turned instead to designing an air ship and told all who would listen how marvelous it would be when completed.

Then in September, Wolf took a most peculiar cab ride with a hack called H.A. Lowell. He asked first to be taken to County Hospital, complaining on the way of blood poisoning. But on learning there were no private rooms available, he asked Lowell to continue on to Boyle Heights, to his old friend Mrs. Hollenbeck's home where all the old folks stayed. He wrote a letter in German for the lady, but she claimed not to know him and turned him away.

From there, Lowell was compelled to convey Wolf to a nearby nursery, where the German proprietor reluctantly admitted to knowing the passenger, but refused to loan him $5. Then Wolf asked to be taken to the Masonic Hall, but the exasperated Lowell took him instead to jail, where he was relieved of his gold-headed cane and the lunacy commission called in.

Wolf then vanishes from the record, and his marvelous, futuristic craft with him.

Date

September 7, 1896

List of locations from this post

  1. Sturgis' Machine Shop
    208 West Fifth Street

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Anna's Voices

kim
24 Nov 2009 - 6:40pm

Pity Mrs. Anna Mulloy, who dabbled in the psychic sciences and discovered that the world of shadows and secrets is no place for a flesh and blood woman to linger.

Anna first looked to the mysteries back home in Manitou, Colorado, where her husband M.E. was busy with his work as a contractor. She found she had a gift for hearing the voices of the dead, and what else could she do then but to listen? "He's cheating on you," the voices said, "he loves another." And so in August 1899, Anna took her four little children and went to California. M.E. Mulloy sent her regular checks.

But now the voices sang a new tune. "Take the children," they said, "Go to the grandest hotel you can find, and stay the night." Sometimes the voices were so insistent that Anna checked her brood into the Westminster itself - at a lordly cost of $2.50 a night!
Westminster Hotel (USC collection)
But it was in more modest lodgings in SRO land from which Anna penned the inspired missive that would bring her exhausting journey to an end. It was twelve pages in length and barely coherent, and when she had finished it, she placed it in an envelope addressed "Policeman, Los Angeles, CA" and asked one of her little ones to deliver it. Officer Zeigler accepted the packet, and soon Humane Officer Craig arrived, to take Anna away to the County Hospital on a lunacy complaint, and the little children to the Home of Mercy, just down the way on Boyd Street, to await instructions from their father in Colorado.

Date

October 17, 1900

List of locations from this post

  1. Anna Mulloy's Lodgings
    225 Boyd Street

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The Bicycle Abstracter & Candy Fiend

kim
28 Jul 2009 - 10:43pm

Miss Lillian Wilson, a comely and seemingly respectable San Diego lass, was, alas, a maniacal gearhead. Her obsession and her downfall were other ladies' bicycles, which she could not stop herself from hopping onto and riding off with.... and quickly selling them for much less than they were worth to SRO Land dealers who asked few questions. She needed the money, you see, for candy, wonderful, beguiling, intoxicating candy. It was the only thing more fascinating to her troubled mind than bicycles.

She was found out after she stole Miss Elizabeth Altenhofer's bike from its spot on Hill near Sixth. Miss Altenhofer made a careful scrutiny of pawn and junk shops, finding nothing. Later, perhaps shopping for a replacement, she peered in the window of R.K. Holmes' bicycle shop at 208 West Fifth and saw her very own bike within.

Detective Joseph Ritch was grilling Holmes on the appearance of the woman who'd sold him the hot wheel when he exclaimed "There she goes now!" And indeed, a young woman was gliding along Fifth towards Spring Street on yet another bicycle. Ritch dashed after her, and when she slowed to avoid people walking, he grabbed the girl and compelled her to come with him back to the shop. She came readily, denying any knowledge of the stolen bike or the shop, and was promptly identified.

The handsome Featherstone bike she was riding was, of course, someone else's: Catalina Hotel resident Mrs. E. F. Sweezy's. Confronted with serial numbers that matched a police report, and Holmes' recognition, Lillian Wilson confessed that she had stolen both machines, selling Altenhofer's about twenty minutes after taking it, and snatching Sweezy's immediately after. Her South Main Street rooms were searched, and tool-bags from both bicycles found inside.

A third missing bicycle, belonging to Miss Mable Clapp and stolen from in front of her rooms at 614 South Main, was discovered in a shop on Broadway. The store owner well remembered seller Lillian Wilson, hailing from San Diego. All three machines had been taken within three hours on Saturday last.

Said cool Lillian, "I guess I'm in for it. You have got me, and I might as well tell you all about it. I'm not the crying kind. I'll take my medicine." She planned to plead guilty.

The bold girl was 20, and when not stealing, said she had been appearing as a flower girl in a play at the Burbank Theater. She had arrived but recently in Los Angeles, and was wanted for bicycle theft in her native San Diego, where she had worked as a book-keeper.

On September 23, she appeared in court, not so cocky anymore. Charged with two counts of theft, and represented by Hugh J. Crawford, Esq., she was somber in a white skirt, heliotrope shirt and waist and sailor hat. Crawford asked for a continuance, and it was noted that her parents were expected from San Diego.

The case dragged along until late December, when Lillian Wilson (not her real name, it transpires) quietly pled not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, and was acquitted. Her sister promptly fainted, as the girl thief announced that her intentions for the future were, simply, to be good.

Date

August 31, 1901

List of locations from this post

  1. Elizabeth Altenhofer's bike stolen
    6th & Hill Streets

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