Lena Corazon

Flights of Fancy

ROW80: Lady Criminals of 19th century San Francisco

Wow, we’re one month into ROW80! I don’t quite know where time goes.  I feel like summer just started, but now every time I turn on the television I’m seeing “Back to School” advertisements. *shudder*  Thankfully, UC Santa Barbara is on the quarter system, which means that I don’t have to go back until the end of September.  Till then, I’ll be at my parents’ house, relaxing, catching up with friends, writing, and finishing the 1st draft of my thesis.  I miss little things about Santa Barbara — my desk, sunshiney deck, and the beach especially — but it’s always nice to be back home with the family.

My progress update is short and sweet for today.  Given that I’m using 750words, I apparently need to bump up my daily writing goal to 750.  I’ve exceeded that over the past few days, adding about 2000 words to tell me no lies since the last check-in. At the moment, the MS is about 8000 words long, which isn’t bad for one week’s work. I need to clean some things up and start knitting scenes together (I’m writing in a bit of a hodgepodge fashion at the moment, jotting down conversations and scenes as they come to me, but an outline is going to be necessary to wrangle all my subplots into order), so that’s the goal for the coming week.

I’ve been slacking off a bit as far as Life List Club goals are concerned, chiefly when it comes to exercising, so I’m placing that at the top of my priority list this week.  And once I finish grading final exams and essays, I’ll be returning to the thesis.


Anyway, with that out of the way, I turn to the fun stuff: lady criminals from 19th century San Francisco. I ran across a few mugshots by accident, scanning through archives for photographs of SFPD uniforms from the 1880s.  These come from the Jesse Brown Cook archives, held by UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.  Cook was a member of the SFPD from the 1890s to the 1930s, starting off as a beat cop and ending his career as Chief of Police.  Only a few volumes of the vast collection of photographs, newspaper clippings, and other miscellany are online, but they are absolutely fascinating to browse.

Source: Jesse Cook Archives, Bancroft Library

Mabel Keating is one woman who I ran across in my research. The archives describe her as “a clever pickpocket of this city,” and tell us that she “roamed on Grant Avenue and her prey were men from the Palace and other Hotels, as she was sure that they would not dare to prosecute.”  The Cook archive states that she left San Francisco for Chicago (presumably to attempt the same trade) in 1895, though not before being convicted for grand larceny in California.

Source: Jesse Cook Scrapbooks, Bancroft Library

Likewise, Hannah Landridge (apparently known as “Fat Annie”), also hung around the hotel district and robbed unsuspecting men.  She was arrested in 1896 for allegedly stealing $300 from a farmer, Felix Busch, convicted of grand larceny, and spent two years in San Quentin prison.  According to this article from the San Francisco Call, there was a great deal of controversy that surrounded Landridge’s case — chiefly, that the money she had stolen had disappeared.  Rumors indicated that at least one police officer was involved, leading to the suspension of one, Patrolman Rourke, who was accused of “embracery” (the attempt to corruptly influence a juror, apparently).  When interviewed, Rourke indicated that he had “friendly feelings” for Landridge, as she had proved to be a valuable witness in a criminal investigation a few years previous.

Finally, I wanted to include a picture of the so-called “Chinatown Squad,” who are near and dear to my heart.  Due to the level of crime and corruption in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Chinatown Squad was created in 1879.  The squad was made up of plainclothes officers who were armed with pickaxes and sledgehammers (!) so that they could get into gambling dens and other centers of illegitimate activities. If my protagonist’s love interest, Adam Davenport, the detective in tell me no lies charged with investigating crimes around the Barbary Coast district, was a real person, he would have been part of the Squad.

Source: Online Archive of California

Above is a picture of the Chinatown Squad circa 1898.  The Chinese man in the middle is the Squad’s interpreter, Dong Tying.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, that’s an opium pipe laid out on the floor (evidence, presumably).  The men are also armed with their trademark axes and sledgehammers, and while they look rather fierce, I have to admit that their facial hair makes me giggle.  Such thick moustaches!

Anyway, that’s just a few of the nuggets that I’ve picked up over the past couple of weeks.  I raise my glass to the rest of my ROW80’ers, and encourage all of you to bloghop about and offer words of support as well.


  1. Great progress on your WIP! 750 words sounds like a nice pace. Loved the info about lady criminals! Fascinating. It piques my interest in your book. Best wishes for a successful ROW80, fellow writer!

  2. I’ve been waiting for these mugshots. Somehow, the cute little hat and the bow about ‘Fat Annie’s’ neck steal away any hardness I see in her shot. Ha! But that first lady, Mabel, she’s a hard one!
    Men in those days looked so rugged. But I have to agree with you, those mustaches make me giggle, too. They’re just so bad! But I guess when you carry a sledgehammer & pick-axe, you can have all the facial hair, however crudely managed, that you wish.
    Enjoy your visit at home and keep up on the writing with 750words. I’ve still not checked it out, (I’m a bit slow in getting around to things sometimes), but it keeps popping up all around ROW80 pages.
    As for the copy editing I’m doing, I have to read out loud as well. It does help me catch mistakes better. I just finished chapter ten, and my eyes are absolutely finished for the night.
    Take care ~ Nadja

    • Haha, you’re so right! Mabel definitely has that hard-eyed look about her — definitely not a lady I would have wanted to cross.

      So glad to hear you enjoyed the photos, Nadja. I’m having a blast posting these little research tidbits.

  3. Thanks for sharing your research, Jamila. Fascinating to see these people, the fashions, and the backgrounds that peek from behind them.

    You’re doing great; it sounds like you have a good plan to keep it going. and you’re about the tenth person who has mentioned exercise today–I’m beginning to take that as an omen!

    Have a great week!

  4. Love the mugshots! I am really starting to consider doing something more ‘historical’ at some point as I find it fascinating!

    Well done on your goals and I am sure now you are on summer break your word counts are going to be incredible! I thought I would be able to write for hours each day now I am not at work for the summer but I keep getting busy with family and friends…not that I am complaining!
    Have a great week!

    • Oh, I know what you mean about getting busy! I’m going to have to adjust my writing schedule — I’ve tried to kill two birds with one stone by writing while I hang out with my parents, but it is NOT working at all. I think it’s going to be a lot of late nights for me for the rest of the summer.

  5. Oh, what cool stuff you dragged up! Makes me want to start writing about the lady criminals too. *g* Congrats on all the progress on the goals, and have a great week!

  6. What a wonderful post – loved the lady criminals – so very cool!

    Congrats on all that you’ve accomplished so far on ROW80! I hear you on the exercise front…I throw my exercise clothes on first thing when I wake up, spend about twenty minutes trying to talk myself out of doing the exercise, and then throw a video in and start doing it. I’d like to say that I wake up enthused and motivated, but that just isn’t the way of it, lol.

    Best wishes on the rest of your week and making those goals!!


    • Marie, that’s an excellent idea. When the school year was in swing I was fairly successful at rolling out of bed and working out, but now that I am on vacation…. I am going to have to work a little harder. :p

      Hope your week is going well!

  7. Glad to hear the writing’s going well! Thanks for sharing the mugshots – I hadn’t known about the Chinatown Squad before!

    • I’ve been really surprised at all of the cool tidbits that I’ve managed to drag up without too much effort — all of the online archives and whatnot are an absolute treasure trove. Glad you enjoyed!

  8. Hello Ms. Jamison,

    I came across your blog when I was google searching information about the Chinatown Squad. I am writing an undergraduate senior thesis about the Chinatown Squad and was wondering if I could ask you a bit about the sources you mentioned in your post and if there are any primary source documents you are working with?

    I would love to hear more about your research on the Squad and can tell you more about my project. If you would like, my email is rshuen@wellesley.edu


    • Hi Rachel,

      My google search only turned up a handful of resources, but I’m more than happy to pass them along to you. I’ll send you an email.


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