Steppin’ Out

Criminal Annals, Part 38 – The Placer Times: Watchmen and Gold Coins

There being very little artificial light in early Sacramento during the night, the possibility of a crime or disruption of the peace occurring was high. Thus, the recently established city government took steps to help its citizens and protect the peace. On page three of the May 22, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” there is a notice of the establishment of a “Night Watch,” for the safety of the people of Sacramento, a portion of which is repeated here.

“AN ORDINANCE establishing a Watch for the safety and good order of the City of Sacramento.

“Section 1. Be it ordained, that there shall be appointed by the Marshal of the City and the Captain of the Watch ten able-bodied, sober and discreet men to constitute the Night Watch of the City of Sacramento. From the hour of seven in the evening until sunrise in the morning one half at least of said Watch shall be constantly on duty, unless sickness or some other cause of like character should render it impracticable for such a portion of the Watch to be on duty. That during the time any Watchman is on duty he shall have power, and it shall be his duty to prevent the commission of any breach of the peace, to suppress riots and all disorderly assemblages, to arrest and take into custody any person found committing any act injurious to the quiet and good order of the city, or to the person or property of any citizen; and also to arrest and take into custody all vagrants or suspicious persons whose appearance and conduct many seem to justify their being called to account for their manner of living.

“Sec. 2. Be it further ordained, that upon the arrest of any person under the provisions of the first section of this ordinance, such person so arrested shall be taken to the watch house, or such place as may be provided for such purpose, and delivered to the Captain of the Watch, who shall be informed by the person who may have made such arrest, of the occasion and circumstances under which such arrest has been made. And it is also further provided, that in no case shall any Watchman or any officer having in any manner any charge of such Watch receive from any person arrested or about to be arrested, or charged with any offence, any sum of money or any thing of value, either ass a present or as a fine, or in any other manner whatsoever.

Sec. 3. Be it further ordained, that at the earliest possible period after the arrest of any person as aforesaid, the Captain of the Watch shall report said arrest to the Marshal of the City, who shall take immediate custody of such offender, and report the arrest, the occasion of the same, the name of the party arrested, &c. to the City Attorney, in order that such offender may be brought before the Recorder for examination.”

After several more sections regarding the fine points of the process it notes in Section 7. that for any neglect or violation of duty by these “able-bodied, sober and discreet” watchmen, a fine of up to five hundred dollars and ten days in jail can be imposed. Section 8. adds that each watchman shall receive a monthly salary of one hundred and fifty dollars.

One of the biggest problems facing the miners in early California was disposing of the gold once they found it. Often the nuggets were saved and dust was just used as cash, a “pinch” at a time. It was carried around in a small leather bag called a “poke” and offered up to pay bills.
If a miner wanted to sell his gold, he had to use a speculator who would purchase it for less than its real value and make arrangements to have it shipped to the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, PA, where it would be assayed, melted and then cast into bars.

There were also a number of private mints making coins in California that often had less gold than the stated value (gold dust was valued at $16 per ounce, but a one ounce U.S. gold coin was worth $20). One of these private mints was F. D. Kohler and Co., which was sold to Baldwin & Co. in April of 1850.

After being petitioned by the citizens of California, the legislature of the “State of California” decided what was happening was not a good idea in many ways and in May of 1850 established the Office of the State Assayer.

The May 22 edition of the Placer Times published the new law in its entirety and then added a comment explaining the action in simple words.

“TO MINERS. – The foregoing law affords a remedy for an evil the mining community had long been subject to, in having their gold to pass into the hands of speculator at more than two dollars less than its value. – The State Assayer melts the dusts of the miner into bars or ingots, tests its fineness, and stamps it with the same value as would the United States Mint The dust current in this market is intrinsically worth above $18 – it assays at an average from $17 90 to $18 20 per ounce. Besides, but the Act creating the office, all stamped bars or ingots are received for all public dues throughout the State, at the same value as government coin.

“The Governor has appointed O. P. Sutton, Director, and F. D. Kohler [yes, the former private mint owner], Assayer. Their office is at San Francisco, on south side of Portsmouth Square.

“Under the provisions of the Act, a branch office will likely soon be opened at Sacramento City, and also one at Stockton.”
The State Assay Office of California was the only mint in the country to operate under the authority of a state, since the U.S. Constitution forbid the coining of money by states in 1789.

The California State Assayer refined and assayed gold dust and cast into ingots weighing a minimum of two troy ounces, ingots not being mentioned in the Constitution as being illegal and nobody seemed to care anyway. On these pieces he stamped the state name, value, weight and fineness of the ingot. Their value ranged from $36.55 to $150.00. The $50 “slugs” were probably the most common.

In late 1850 the California State Assayer’s office became the United States Assay Office, which issued United States coins noting that they were certified by the California Office and in 1854, the U.S. Mint in San Francisco was established, replacing it.

Most of the privately minted gold coins and early California gold coins were later melted down by the San Francisco Mint.


Criminal Annals, Part 37 – The Placer Times: The ‘Celestials’

Continuing with the May 13, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times,” on page two there is an interesting article from the San Francisco newspaper, “Alta California,” relating to the Chinese immigrants, who are often looked down upon by the Americans and others and believed by some to be cunningly dangerous.

The article refers to them as “celestials,” a term for Chinese immigrants used in the Old West, and elsewhere, derived from their status as subjects of the “Son of Heaven” (the Chinese Emperor). The term is no longer in common use and is rarely heard outside of western movies.
“Nankeens” refers to their trousers, which were made from “nankeen,” a hand woven, cotton cloth that was usually a brownish yellow in color. Their “pigtails” or “queues” were a mark of political enslavement to the Manchu dynasty, and a curiosity to the Americans. There was a belief among many that if the pigtail was cut off, the person’s soul could not go to heaven, thus, threats to cut off the pigtail were taken seriously. The pigtail was abolished in China in 1911 when the Manchu dynasty was overthrown in favor of the Republic.

“CELESTIAL. – It seems a little singular to an ‘outside barbarian,’ to see the Celestials in our streets carrying on various branches of industry. We have a great deal of respect for the Chinese, with their nankeens and their pigtails and are pleased to find them of so quiet, peaceable and industrious dispositions. We know of no class of citizens who conduct themselves more becomingly and are gratified to know that they meet with success. Several of the Chinese who kept restaurants were burned out at the last fire, but they have again commenced operations. In passing down Jackson street yesterday we saw our celestial friend Ahi, industriously employed in putting up a spacious frame covered with blue nankeen. He was surrounded by a crowd of Chinamen all working away, sawing, planing, hammering, nailing, and busying themselves in the most delightful manner, all in their native costume. – [Alta Cal. 11th.”

On page three of the May 15, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times” there are two articles regarding criminal acts. The first one relates to a crime at Benicia, and the other is a very small article regarding a problem encountered by miners returning from California, which is also a warning to those heading back east.

“ROBBERY AND ARREST. – Six rascals went on board a ship at Benicia while the Captain and other officers were on shore, drew knives and pistols upon the steward who was in charge, robbed him of $3,000 or $4,000, stole a whale boat and put off. An officer came up here [Sacramento] and notified Capt. [C. N.]Cunningham, who has had his efficient and indefatigable aid on the watch, and on Monday morning two of the thieves were arrested on their arrival and confined on board the Strafford [one of several ships used as a jail], whence they will be returned to Benicia for trial. The other four are hourly expected, having shipped to work up a schooner to this port.

“Our Marshal and Mr. Tutt are thoroughly organizing their department. Mr. [Jeremiah] Root has been appointed Captain of the Watch, and we may hope soon to enjoy all the security of a well regulated police system.”

“RETURNED CALIFORNIANS. – Mr. John Grigsby and D. F. McClellan were robbed on board the Ne Plus Ultra of $11,400, while the boat was at the levee in New Orleans. They had just exchanged their dust for coin. The loss has left them almost destitute.”

Note: “Ne Plus Ultra” is a Latin phrase meaning no more beyond, often used to mean the most perfect example of something. An ideal name for a boat, or anything else for that matter.

The question of people squatting on public lands and other people questioning their right to be there has reached the newly elected legislature of California.
Many of those arriving in California, after trying their hand at gold mining, have decided to find land for development or agricultural purposes and have taken possession of public lands.
The legislature has carefully avoided the issue of the Spanish and Mexican land grants, which are still being worked out by the federal government and have set up a method to defend title to claimed lands not being used for mining purposes.
Since the public lands belong to the United States, and not the State of California, one wonders what authority the legislature has and if this even further complicates this serious problem of questionable land ownership, which has resulted in untold serious fights and numerous deaths.

“The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
“Section 1. Any person now occupying and settled upon, or who may hereafter occupy and settle upon any of the public lands belonging to the United States, unoccupied, except upon land containing mines of any of the precious metals, may commence and maintain any action for interference with, or injuries done to his possession of said land, against any person or persons so interfering with or injuring such land, or such possession.
“Sec. 2. On the trail of any such cause, the possession or possessory right of the plaintiff shall be considered as extending to the boundaries embraced by the claim of such plaintiff, so as to enable him to have and maintain any action as aforesaid, which being compelled to prove an actual enclosure: Provided, that such ‘claim’ shall not exceed in any case one hundred and sixty acres of land.
“Sec. 3. Every such claim, to entitle the holder to maintain any action as aforesaid, shall be marked out, so that the boundaries thereof may be readily traced, and the extent of such ‘claim’ easily known, and no person shall be entitled to maintain any such action for possession of, or injury to, any claim, unless he occupy the same, or shall have made improvements thereon, to the value of one hundred dollars.
“Sec. 4. The neglect to occupy or cultivate such ‘claim’ for the period of three months, shall be considered such an abandonment as to preclude the claimant from maintaining any action as hereinbefore mentioned.
“Sec. 5. Any person or persons claiming the right of possession to land under this act, shall have the right to defend said possession and the claim thereto, and all the rights and privileges given them by this Act.

JOHN BIGLER, Speaker of the Assembly. JOHN M’DOUGAL, Lieutenant-Governor and President of the Senate. Approved, April 11th, 1850.”


Criminal Annals, Part 31 – The Placer Times: The California Question

The April 22, 1850 edition of the “Placer Times” is the first Monday issue of this newspaper, this being the week that it has gone from a weekly to a tri-weekly. It starts out with an article on what is often called “The California Question.”

California, at this point in time, has been ceded to the United States by Mexico, but is neither an official territory nor a state. It is what some call “A State out of the Union,” as it has a constitution, elected state officials and elected representatives to both houses of Congress. The issue that is holding up statehood is slavery and, according to this article picked up from the “New York Evening Post,” Congress is in a difficult position.

Some in Congress want to admit California as a free state, some as a slave state and others want to divide California, keeping the southern half as a territory. Although we today know what happened, in 1850 this was the most important issue before the citizens of California as it affects their legal and judicial rules, and it will be several months before it is settled.

“The Debate on the California Question has been opened in both houses of Congress, we are happy to observe, with a high degree of calmness worthy of the importance of the subject, and auspicious of an early conclusion of the controversy. The southern politicians may struggle to defer, but they cannot change the event of the dispute. California will be admitted into the Union with her present constitution, and with the boundaries marked out by it. There is no chance whatever of the success of any plan of mutilating her domain by keeping the southern half of it in the condition of a territory. No such plan can pass the House of Representatives, nor will the Senate, we think, dare to apply to one portion of the territory a constitution made for the whole of the State, nor venture to send back the Senators and Representatives – for that must be the effect of such a mutilation – who have come from the shores of the Pacific to take their seats in Congress. These men, elected by the entire state of California, cannot, of course, be allowed to represent a state from which they have received no commission – a different body politic from that which sent them to Washington – a state formed by the caprice of Congress out of a part of the country which elected them. If any such scheme be adopted, it will give them to understand that they have come to the Atlantic states on a fool’s errand, and that they are at liberty to go back, if they please, and solicit to be re-elected for the northern half of California. We are very confident that this farce will not be played during the present Congress.

“Nor will the admission of California be made to depend on any other question, or connected by congress with any controverted scheme to settle the slavery question. The political projectors, who are numerous enough in Congress, will doubtless endeavor to do this, but we are confident it cannot obtain the sanction of the majority. The people of California have been given to understand by the politicians, both of the south and the north, that all they had to do was to frame their own constitution, deciding for themselves the question of tolerating slavery, and that they should be immediately admitted into the Union. Shall those who have given these assurances keep the young state shivering on the threshold of the capitol, till a controversy, which may last for years, is adjusted between the slave states and the free? It will require a good deal of hardihood [boldness] to do this. It will require more hardihood that any of them, except the fanatical few, possess.

“The northern Senators and Representatives will all vote for the immediate admission of California. The most subservient to the southern aristocracy among them all are so fettered by their previous engagements, that they cannot so otherwise without making themselves infamous. The administration presses the immediate admission of the new state with what influence it can command. Mr. Benton will give the measure his powerful support, and Mr. Clay has declared that it is not his intention to shackle the proposal for receiving California into the Union, by connecting it with any debatable question.

“It seems to us, therefore, that the opposition made in Congress to the admission of California, will have no other effect than to show in what manner the fanatics of slavery would treat the new state if they were able. [N. Y Ev. Post.”

The “Mr. Benton” mentioned in the story is Democratic Senator Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) from Missouri, a strong advocate of the extension of the United States to the Pacific Coast. He was also the father-in-law of John C. Fremont, who, as an officer in the United States Army, explored the west in the 1840s. Fremont was also one of the two elected by California to serve in the Senate and in 1856 ran for President of the United States as a Republican.

The “Mr. Clay” is Senator Henry Clay, Sr., (1777-1852) from Kentucky, the “father of the Whig Party.” He served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and lost a son, Henry Clay, Jr., at the Battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican War. Senator Clay was several times an unsuccessful candidate for President of the United States and well known for his ability to obtain compromises on the slavery issue.

As we have previously seen, injury from a crime, accident or sure stupidity, was very common in the early days of California. There were doctors (some trained, some not), with few tools and little medicine, who could treat an injury. There were also a few early hospitals that could care for patients. One such hospital posted their rates in the newspaper on a regular basis. It was called the Sacramento Hospital.
“Sacramento Hospital, Under the care of Dr. Robert M. Stansbury.

“The undersigned, having purchased the interest of Dr. Cragin and Mr. Abell in the Sacramento Hospital, near Sutter’s Fort, are prepared to receive sick persons at the following rates:

“A patient occupying a room alone, $15 per day. Two or three patients in one room, each $12 a day. Ward patients, each $10 per day.
“This charge covers board, lodging, medicines, medical and other necessary attendance, and the washing of bed-linens and towels. An extra charge will be made for surgical operations.

“No person laboring under any form of mania will be received.

“Upon the admission of a patient, full security will be required for the payment of all charges which he may incur during his stay in the hospital.

“There is now on hand a large stock of medicines, carefully selected and imported direct, but the late superintendent, from which physicians and others can be supplied at reasonable prices.


Dr. Robert M. Stansbury would be one of the 17 doctors who would die while caring for victims of the 1850 Cholera Epidemic in Sacramento. He is buried in the Sacramento City Cemetery in an unmarked grave. There is a plaque at that cemetery commemorating the 17 doctors and their service to the community.


Steppin’ Out – “Beyond Belief” Burger and “They’re Back”

Well, first of all “Happy New Year.” It’s 2019 and from what I learned in school, so many years ago, among other things by now we should all be flying around in our own personal helicopter instead of driving cars.

For some reason this is one of the times of year that fast food restaurants add new menu items or bring back old ones to re-test the market. Maybe it is because the kids are out of school, or maybe not. I have never tried to figure out this industry.

First on my list this year is an attempt by Carl’s Jr. to open up a new pathway to the vegetarian market with a burger called the “Beyond Famous Star.”

No, this is not the burger that the actress is messily eating in the latest commercials, that is their iconic Famous Star which I believe is one of the better fast food burgers around. This new burger is made with a patty that contains no meat and is rated vegan. However, it can’t be called vegan in this case because it is cooked and assembled in a restaurant that serves meat.

The Beyond Famous Star is a plant-based version of the Famous Star. It’s quarter-pound Beyond Burger patty is cooked top-to-bottom on an open flame in Carl’s Jr.’s unique char broiler, giving it that familiar burger flavor. It has the same build as the regular Famous Star and comes topped with melted American cheese, lettuce, tomato, sliced onions, dill pickles, special sauce and mayonnaise on a seeded bun. If you want a fully plant-based option, simply ask for it without cheese and mayo.

The patty contains 20 grams of protein primarily from peas, but also from mung bean and rice. That is about the same as their regular patty. And, it is soy, gluten and GMO free.

So, last week I tried one, expecting to experience the taste I usually find in “veggie burgers” and was quite surprised…no, shocked and very impressed. It didn’t taste like beans or grains, it looked and tasted like meat. It even had a slightly pink color which is derived from beets. The texture was way better than many fast food meat patties and more like the hamburger you might cook at home: moister and softer than the sometimes rubbery patties that are often a result of beef being overcooked.

I was so impressed by this burger that I had to make sure that I hadn’t been given the wrong order.

Carl’s Jr. will replace the meat or chicken patty on any of their sandwiches with this new patty for an additional price. That is one of the drawbacks. It costs more, about $2 more per patty.

The other drawback is that it has about the same amount of fat and calories as the regular burger, not from beef fat but vegetable oil. Remember, fat is flavor and without it food would be pretty bland.

Beyond Meat Co., the producer of this product, has it in patties, crumbles or “chicken” strips for sale at local markets for use at home. They also make sausages, but I have not seen them yet.

In other news:

For a limited time, pastrami is back at Wienerschnitzel. You can get it as a sandwich on rye with cheese, pickles and mustard (sauerkraut extra), as a Pastrami Dog (all beef dog) or on Pastrami Chile Cheese Fries. I like their pastrami because, unlike most of the overly processed lean pastrami now common at delis, it has enough fat to give it a real pastrami flavor.

Jack in the Box has temporarily brought back their Pannidos, those long, thin sandwiches on a toasted Ciabatta baguette that are now available in Turkey, Bacon and Cheddar or a Deli Trio with Smoked Turkey, Ham and Salami.
I tried them in 2004, when they were first released, and really liked them. I looked back in my notes and they were “delicious, crunchy and different.”

Taco Bell, the restaurant with the most rapidly changing menu around, now has $1 Grande Burritos in two varieties: Chicken Enchilada and Three Cheese Nacho. They are available by separately or in a $5 Grande Burrito Box with Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos Taco, a Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twists and a medium drink. They also have a new $5 Chalupa Cravings Box that contains a Chalupa Supreme, Beefy 5-layer Burrito, Crunchy Taco, Cinnamon Twists and a medium drink.

I tried both of the new Grande Burritos and they were good, although nachos in a burrito is a bit “different,” but does add some texture.

By the way, in introducing their new “Beyond Burger,” the good folks at Carl’s Jr. coined a new word: “flexitarians,” people who are looking for options in what they eat. Now, wouldn’t that also describe people who go to a gym or yoga class to increase their flexibility? Maybe I can put these two together and stop for a burger on the way to the gym. Or, on second thought, maybe not.