In my recent foray into the federal archives, I began to notice that the reference info on many of the most interesting photos indicated they came from San Francisco. Many of these San Francisco images were tagged “glamour photographs”: an irresistible combination!
I’m excited to share my findings here, but first I need to issue a warning that you may need to adjust your ideas around what glamour is. In some cases, what qualified as glamorous and exciting in 1900, may not be enough to land you in the next issue of Vogue in 2019. Also, Victorian San Francisco was a little less sensitive to language, as evidenced by some of the photograph titles.
April 9, 1901. Catherine Coarum had been drinking whiskey and beer with Charles Daniels at her home on Clay Street. They started to argue and she seized a gun and shot the victim three times, killing him. After she shot him, she dragged his body to the cellar. A short time later, her neighbors heard her hysterical screams and summoned the police.
Initially, Mrs. Coarum blocked the door and only opened it after Officers Rodiger and Ward threatened to break it down. When the door swung open, it revealed a woman in what the officers later called “a state of hysterical intoxication.” She sat down at her kitchen table and resumed her drinking, but immediately told the officers she had killed a man and his body was in the basement. There was no doubt about any of this; Catherine admitted it all.
This is the conclusion of Catherine’s story. Click here if you haven’t yet read Part 1.
December 1901. Catherine’s trial began in early December, and the proceedings lasted four days. Her attorney, Robert Ash, had done his best to defend her, but he was not sanguine about the outcome. The story was salacious enough to attract attention, but Mrs. Coarum was not a defendant who excited much sympathy. The newspapers described her as a large, powerful woman, with coarse features. She was known to be an incorrigible drinker. Ash had tried to portray her in the best light, a task Catherine made nearly impossible with her frequent outbursts in the courtroom.
The defendant’s husband, Joseph Coarum, had testified in Catherine’s defense. He said when he returned home and heard his wife was in the City Jail, he did his own investigation and turned up some evidence the police had overlooked, including the razor Catherine claimed Daniels had wielded, a bullet that was consistent with the ones that had killed Daniels, and a bullet hole in the steps that proved the victim had shot at his wife.