An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Seven

Above, Beethoven Maennerchor Hall on South Alamo Street

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Six

Andrew Stevens, June 1911

Mr. K, the Colonel and Representative Chester Terrell lean forward in their chairs as Andy’s brother John relates political developments from last evening. “Paul Steffler came through, delivering close to 1,700 union men to the smoker at Beethoven Hall. District Attorney Baker fired them up to join the parade and rally. Chairman Mauermann utilized the information Sheriff Tobin shared with us. He pointed out to reporters that, on Monday morning, July 3rd—a morning following a Sunday with no saloons open—eighteen persons were escorted into police court on charges of being drunk. Every saloon door was flung wide open for the Fourth of July celebrations, yet only two men faced that charge on July 5th.”

The Colonel shakes his head. “Sunday is a sad day for the poor working man who can’t find a saloon open. Of course, it beats North Texas. On Sundays there, a man can’t find a stand open for any kind of cold drink at all. You cannot even buy a cigar.”

John continues. “The Sheriff excelled in his speech at the meeting of the Retail Liquor Dealers last night. He branded Reverend Rankin’s claims that a quarter of San Antonio’s saloons openly defied the current laws as false. He went so far as to swear he would resign as sheriff if anyone could prove that even one percent of our saloons were shown guilty of breaching the statutes.”

Mr. Terrell pipes in. “Speaking of false, Tom Campbell is parading around the state claiming the Antis opposed labor measures in the Legislature. Last night, I set that crowd at the smoker straight about my record.”

Mr. K nods his approval. “While you were stirring up the union men, I sent Andy to find out what was going on at the prohibition campaign grounds. Any news, Andy?”

“Yes, sir. There were about 500 people present, sir.” Andy reads excerpts from his meticulous notes from the prior night. “Reverend Barton called the saloon ‘the enemy of home.’ He said, ‘The outlook for a prohibition victory is nowhere more promising than right here in San Antonio.’”

The Colonel chortles.

“And then Reverend Barton said, ‘The saloon is responsible for about 70 percent of the homicides….’”

“Lies!” Mr. K slams his fist upon the desk so hard that Andy jumps. “The preachers are worse than the former governor.” Mr. K wads up the newspapers on his desk and shoves them deep into the waste can. “Every single day, their advertisements are filled with more and more lies. What have you planned to counter these, Chester?”

Representative Terrell begins, “Our advertisements are getting rather expensive.”

Mr. K dismisses that concern with both hands. “Don’t worry about that. There’s more money where that came from. That advertisement they ran today particularly galls me—blaming saloons for breeding idiots, paupers, lunatics, even epileptics, and turning them loose on society. Whose signature do you think was at the top of the list on that advertisement?”

Prohibition advertisement from June 1911

The Colonel answers. “I imagine none other than your good friend who gave the city an immense park, the priggish George Brackenridge. A useless park to many because it is mandated dry.”

Mr. K scowls. “The sanctimonious hypocrite. He keeps his elegant crystal decanters stocked with fine brandy for his own consumption, yet claims the common man cannot be trusted to enjoy the same privilege.”

Representative Terrell resumes. “One of our best advertisements focuses on the number of men sent to the penitentiary from dry counties during the last five years—2,177—compared to wet counties—only 1,803. And there is more insanity per capita in the dry state of Kansas than in licensed Texas. Of course, we have advertisements warning that industrial depression would follow statewide prohibition.”

The Colonel lowers his head. “Not to mention the great depths of my own personal depression.”

Mr. Terrell agrees. “Along with tax deficits and the demise of the tourism industry. We plan to pull out the glorious past presidents of the country with a series of their eloquent words printed on a full-page advertisement indicating that ‘The Great Leaders of the Nation Condemn Statewide Prohibition.’ The negroes in particular should like the words from Abraham Lincoln. We have one advertisement ready that explains how prohibition has failed after a fair trial in Maine and Alabama, and we even dug up some quotations from some Georgia preachers testifying to the total failure of statewide prohibition there. One is headlined ‘Intolerance Is Breathing the Spirit of the Middle Ages.’ And every advertisement the committee is running includes a sample ballot clearly indicating how to mark it against prohibition. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention our advertisements noting that the liberty-loving Texans who perished at the Alamo, at Goliad and at San Jacinto to win our constitutional rights did not do so to see them lost at the ballot box. It is, after all, the duty of Texas voters to honor the sacrifices of these heroes.”

Anti-prohibitionist advertisement from June 1911

John nods in approval. “I have been working with Julius Oppenheimer and William Richter. There will be rallies and parades in every ward of the city. Sam Lucchese plans a massive rally for the Italians in the auditorium of the City Market. Restaurant employees are meeting at Owl Hall, and the saloon men are gathering at Scholz Hall. While the women in Abilene might be serving punch to Pro supporters….”

“It’s like another war between North and South,” the Colonel interrupts, “but this one is being fought along a line drawn across Texas. The lunatics even blew up a saloon in Fort Worth.”

A grunt of displeasure escapes from somewhere deep in Mr. K’s throat. “How are you coming on the big night here, Chester?”

Mr. Terrell smacks his hands together with enthusiasm. “The Battle of Flowers Parade pales in comparison. District Chair Oscar Guessaz and I will meet Governor Colquitt at the train station at 6:30 in the morning and bring him directly to the breakfast meeting at the St. Anthony Hotel. We have meetings scheduled every minute of the day. The Colonel volunteered his gleaming automobile to chauffeur the Governor at the head of the motor procession, which will make a long, circuitous route through downtown.”

John continues. “The parade will begin at half past seven in the evening at South Alamo and Market Streets; turn west on Commerce to Main Avenue; and then circle back on Houston Street to Alamo Plaza—passing particularly close to whatever rally will be taking place on the prohibition grounds—before winding up at Beethoven Hall.”

Representative Terrell resumes. “Sheriff Tobin will serve as Grand Marshall, and he’s freeing up an impressive squad of mounted police to lead the parade. We have county and city officials galore to ride in carriages illuminated with burning colored fire sticks. They’ll be followed by the labor unions, the German Alliance and the Italio-American Young Man’s Club in autos.”

John shakes his head. “The only problem we’re experiencing has been with the Carpenters’ Union. They are refusing to march behind Governor Colquitt because he vetoed the eight-hour law.”

The Colonel complains. “The carpenters always have been in Tom Campbell’s pocket, but they’ll be a sorry lot if they don’t support us now. Will they feel better, after their nine-hour days, if they no longer can find a saloon open on their way home? Who else among our friends has committed?”

John continues. “Mayor Callaghan will be joined by Mayor Schumann of New Braunfels. We have Labor Federation President William Hoefgen, District Attorney Baker, Judge Newman and, as you would expect, Paul Steffler, the president of the Bartenders Union. At Beethoven Hall, I’ll introduce the Governor, and Judge John Onion is committed to introducing that great orator of Denton, the Honorable Fitzhugh Hill. Missus Colquitt will be seated on stage, as will the Colonel, alas, minus his wife.”

The Colonel sighs. “Ah, Sophie and Emma claim the heat of the San Antonio summer is more than they can bear, but I think it’s more the heat of this election and the resulting impact on our moods as it approaches.” 

Mr. K nods in agreement. “Who will be speaking at the Pro rally at the Airdome that night?”

Representative Terrell answers. “That, we do not yet know. My guess is that once again they will assemble the pious leaders of the zealots—Bishop Mouson, Dr. McLellen of First Christian Church, Dr. Porter of the First Baptist Church and that evangelist, Sid Williams. I hope they don’t bring in Reverend Frank Norris from Fort Worth. He draws huge crowds everywhere he speaks.”

Mr. K grimaces. “Just so it’s not Tomcat Campbell. Chester, I’m worried not enough working men will be given time off on election day. Our success depends on their votes.”

“We’re taking care of that, Otto. I sent out letters on Friday requesting businessmen to close their doors for half a day on election Saturday so their employees can exercise their right to vote. I already have twenty-three positive answers. In fact, Portland Cement, Heye Saddlery, Union Meat, Heusinger Hardware and American Lignite are not even going to open their doors that day.”

The Colonel gives a half-smile. “As Otto is president, it comes as no surprise that our manager at American Lignite was wise enough to accept the invitation to remain closed that Saturday. I think we’ve got this election won hands down.” 

The other men offer up smiles of congratulation to one another, but Mr. K strokes his chin in thought. “Lieutenant Foulois spoke at a luncheon the other day. You know, he flew between Laredo and Eagle Pass without one single stop. People rave that the airplane represents the future of the Army, yet the Army’s first aviator questions the practical wartime applications for the airplane.

“The sheer weight of bombs would make it impossible to get the airship off the ground, and they would have to fly at an extremely low altitude to be able to hit a target. A battleship gunner could easily shoot an airplane down before it could get anywhere close enough to drop a single explosive. 

“Gentlemen, I have a lingering fear that we’re too conspicuous, a fear we’re showing our hand too soon. We’re flying so close to the ground that we make an easy target for our enemies. Let’s not be over-confident. There’s still time for the Pros to unleash some secret weapon. We must keep our spies vigilant.

1911 pearl beer ad
1911 Pearl Beer advertisement

“When I was driving my carriage by the Airdome, I noticed how hard it is for potential customers to spot Heinrich’s saloon. The speaker’s platform the Pros erected obscures his business from the view of anyone on Alamo Plaza or at the post office.

“Heinrich’s a good man. A large neon Pearl sign would help thirsty tourists visiting the Alamo find him. Andy, see that he gets one tomorrow. A giant one. That special one we reserve for the fairgrounds.”

Footnotes

Andy is once again serving as a pretty accurate reporter of anti-prohibition antics. Every other person mentioned in this chapter existed at the time.

After teaching himself to fly via correspondence with Orville and Wilbur Wright, Lieutenant Benjamin Foulois piloted the Army’s first aircraft over Fort Sam Houston in 1910. After crashing on his fourth flight, the aviation pioneer wisely conceived of the concept of employing a seat belt.

The featured image is an artistic rendering based on a photograph from The Conservation Society’s Raba Collection of Photographs. Click here to take a gander.

Continue to Chapter Eight

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