The Battle for Incorporation
This year marks the 125th anniversary of the incorporation of Sausalito. That was a significant event in 1893, and like most events hereabouts, it wasn’t without controversy.
Several prominent – and vociferous – citizens opposed the idea, concerned that they would be unduly taxed to pay for improvements to a newly-incorporated town.
The Sausalito News pointed out in its maiden issue (February 12, 1885) that Sausalito “has no local government, but the necessity of incorporating is becoming generally recognized and before long measures will be taken to this end.” Jas. H. Wilkins, editor and proprietor of the paper, made no bones about being a booster for Sausalito’s potential growth and development: “We hope that the News will do effective work in heralding the merits of Sausalito Township to the world, and that it will more than earn any compensation it may receive from its patrons.”
However, the road to incorporation proved rocky. The matter was put to a vote in June 1888, but low voter turnout led to its defeat. By then, the Sausalito News was under the control of J.E. Slinkey and his editor, A.D. Bell. Slinkey had already established himself as a local mover and shaker. According to Sausalito historian Jack Tracy, “He had a hand in almost everything that happened in Sausalito in the 1880s, and his El Monte (Hotel) was a gathering place for political and social groups.” Slinkey and Bell expressed their disappointment with a gloomy report that began, “After the result of Saturday's election we may as well give up all thought of incorporating this town, for more than one reason. Some of our people, while they can grumble at bad government, do not recognize that it is not only their privilege but their highest duty to cast their vote at every election, whether it be municipal, state or national. The lukewarmness of the class that consider themselves so superior to their fellow creatures that it is almost beneath them to touch a ballot, are the bane, and may be the ruin of all government.”
The following year, a Citizens Meeting was held at the San Francisco Yacht Club to hear a report from the committee on incorporation. The News reported that committee members Major O. C. Miller (Owner of the Pines and one time president of the Sausalito Bay Land Company) and Dr. H. J. Crumpton (Postmaster, physician and surgeon) “reported verbally through J. W. Sperry, chairman of the committee, who said: ‘We have considered carefully this matter of incorporation, and while it is perfectly feasible, we believe it is impossible at the present time, owing to opposition from a number of residents on the hill and the Portuguese residents in the valley. The benefits to be derived from incorporation may be seen and more fully appreciated later on and those who are now against the measure may be then convinced of their error’.” Sperry was a prominent landowner who later became the first mayor of Sausalito.
Following the meeting, a new committee was formed to consider the best means for improving Sausalito, either by incorporation or by forming a village improvement society and “the raising of funds by a pro rata levy on the property holders here.”
While the debate dragged on, the Sausalito News continued toeditorialize in favor of the former choice. In January 1891, under new publisher Harry Elliot, the News declared: “Every vote for incorporation is a vote for improvement. Every step in the direction of improvement enhances the value of your property. Every vote for incorporation will assist in the equalization of taxation. Every vote for incorporation is a vote for a good sewer-age system. Every vote for incorporation means that Sausalito wants to become as clean, healthy and attractive a town as there is anywhere. Every vote for incorporation means the bettering of the condition of the masses. Every vote for incorporation is a squelcher on old-fogyism.”
The issue came up again in 1893, but opponents stacked the deck by bringing in outside agitators. At a meeting in July, the News reported, “a number of boys and nonresidents or electors of the district proposed to be incorporated, were present and took part in the ‘viva voce,’ voting. It would be well to appoint a sergeant-at-arms for future meetings and exclude all who have no interest in the proceedings. Also a list should be prepared, taken from the Great Register, of those electors who reside in the proposed town for even at the preferential election, should one he held, people may vote who have no right to do so. What is wanted is an expression of opinion by the people who will be affected by incorporation and not of outsiders.”
Sausalito’s controversy attracted attention as far away as the town of Wheatland, in Yuba County, where the local newspaper, The Four Corners, stated: “In Sausalito they are having big times over the question of incorporation. No town in the State perhaps has more codfish aristocrats than Sausalito, and they reside on the hill. They feel considerably elevated above the common people below, and these two factions have it hot and heavy as the election approaches.” Codfish Aristocracy was a disparaging term for the nouveau riche in 19th-century Boston, and in this case referred to hill dwellers and summer residents.
In August 1893 the Sausalito News responded: “We are glad to inform the ‘Four Corners’ that a substantial bridge has been constructed over the gulf which kept the rich and poor apart; and from now 'till the polls are closed, wealth and poverty will walk and work with one accord for Incorporation. The ‘dead-line’ est-ablished by plug hats and overalls has been obliterated until the sun g oes down on the 26th of August, and perhaps forever.”
And just a few days later, the townspeople of Sausalito finally voted in favor of incorporation, as reported on September 1, 1893: “At the election last Saturday incorporation was carried, and a full town ticket nominated.” A pro-incorporation slate was elected as Town Trustees, Town Clerk, Treasurer and Constable. The News particularly gloated over the victory of Stephen S. Fiedler for Treasurer. With 116 votes, Fiedler “caromed over Prof. E. C. Beasley, of ‘Anglo Saxon’ fame, who received 66 votes.”
But the fight was far from over. Beasley and his allies contested the result on a few technicalities regarding the notice announcing the election, and the tallying of ballots. Those charges were dismissed by Superior Court Judge F. M. Angellotti, but the opposition persevered, taking the case to the state Supreme Court. Marin Attorneys Hepburn Wilkins of San Rafael and Robert Harrison of Sausalito represented the interests of incorporation, while G. W. Towle and H. C. Campbell appeared for the plaintiffs, including the apparently indefatigable E.C. Beasley.
Finally, on March 23, 1895, the Sausalito News trumpeted: “INCORPORATION SUSTAINED! Progress Wins!”
The paper, which avoided naming the plaintiffs, referred to them as “silurians” or throwbacks from the third period of the Palaeozoic era; in other words, dinosaurs: “an opinion has been ‘handed down’ and its tenor and drift sustain, in every particular, the prior decision of Judge Angellotti, thus vindicating the judgment of that eminent jurist and placing victory in the hands of friends of progress and development and leaving the silurians free to climb on to the band wagon or go elsewhere.”
Celebrating the 125th Anniversary
The Sausalito Parks and Recreation department will sponsor an historic app-based scavenger hunt starting August 17 and ending September 14. There will be instructions in the email newsletter Sausalito Currents on how to download the app and participate in the scavenger hunt. And a City birthday party is planned on Saturday September 15 at Marinship Park from 1pm – 3pm. The party will feature a will be 10,000 square foot Big Bounce House plus cupcakes and ice cream as well as a presentation with dignitaries.
“No Name Stories”
Neil Davis, past owner of the No Name Bar on Bridgeway, has lent the Sausalito Historical Society memorabilia, documents and objects he collected from his years at the No Name for an exhibit. The grand opening of the exhibit will be Friday May 11, following a presentation, co-sponsored by the Sausalito Library and the Sausalito Historical Society, of “No Name Stories” at the Library at 7 pm that evening. Neil and other bar patrons from the 1959-1974 era will share some of their memories from that time. Neil was hired as the first laborer to tear out the old bar and put in the new one by the original owners of the establishment. They then decided to train him as their first bartender and eventually he became part owner. The original five owners couldn’t agree on a name for the bar, and by the time Neil became an owner, everyone was calling it “the no name,” which it remains until this day.
On display in the exhibit will be many items from Neil’s eclectic collection of items he received from patrons of the bar including Spike Africa’s macramé bottles, a Spike Africa “President of the Pacific Ocean” sweatshirt, a Val Bleeker painting, Sterling Hayden’s copy of the “Suddenly” movie script, and Tashi Monroe’s Heath Ceramics pitcher. Also on display will be some of the many documents Neil has collected: notes he received from staff and patrons, news articles about the No Name Bar, pictures of patrons, and notices of events at the bar.
Over 40,000 Visitors
We recently tallied the number of visitors to the Ice House Visitor’s Center in 2016 - it’s 41,391. Visitors asked about everything from Angel Island to the Wine Country, but the most common inquiries were for bus/ferry information, Muir Woods, the Floating Homes, the Marine Mammal Center and restrooms. Visitors also ask for restaurant recommendations and the restaurants most often suggested were Salito’s, Poggio, Spinnaker, Scoma’s, Trident, Napa Valley Burgers, Taste of Rome and Seafood Peddler. The Ice House is open Tuesday - Sunday from 11:30-4 and has a wonderful historical exhibit, items for sale and docents ready to answer your questions.
Gala Plays to Full House
The Historical Society’s annual fundraising Gala on January 16 at the Sausalito Yacht Club was a sold out event. SHS President Jerry Taylor welcomed everyone and City Councilman Joe Burns made brief remarks. The theme for the Gala honored the many films that have been filmed in Sausalito from the 1940’s to our current time.
Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist Jan Wahl hosted the event with excerpts from many films that shot here over the years, in collaboration with Sausalito’s Librarian and Director of Communications, Abbot Chambers. Film clips from many movies that have used Sausalito as their background were shown, and a few were presented later in their entirety as part of the Library’s Friday night film series.
Donations Gratefully Accepted
The Historical Society is pleased to accept charitable donations, including cash, marketable securities, bequests and beneficiary designations under revocable trusts, life insurance policies, commercial annuities and retirement plans/charitable remainder trusts.
If you would like to make a charitable donation, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Premium Level Members
Members and Major Donors
The Historical Society offers various levels of membership, with additional benefits. Recently, the following members have taken advantage of the opportunity to increase their support for our programs:
Mary Ann Griller
Patricia and Thomas Theodores
Pam and Roger Abenderoth
Anne Baele and John Kouns
Susan and Daniel Daniloff
Susan and Jeff Knowles
Janet and Robert Leonard
Jim and Rose-Meri Muldoon
Jamie and James Wycoff
Information about the various evels of SHS membership and tax-deductible donations can be found at http://www. sausalitohistoricalsociety.com.
R.I.P Bill Kirsch
Ex-Historical Society Board Member Bill Kirsch died on February 27 at his home at Commodore Marina. Bill curated a number of exhibits for the SHS, including the works of sculptor Al Sybrian and Poet/Songwriter/Cartoonist Shel Silverstein, who had been his friends. Those exhibits mostly consisted of memorabilia from Bill’s personal collection.
Just two weeks earlier, the Sausalito Historical Society’s Steefenie Wicks profiled Bill in the MarinScope newspaper. You can read it by going to www.sausalitohistorical society.com/new-blog/and scrolling down to “Bill Kirsch: Finding the Magic.”