In the early evening of June 10, 1900, a 19-year-old Croatian immigrant named Vido Opusich was on a mission. He was searching the streets of San Francisco for John Petrovich.
Petrovich was a 45-year-old waiter, commonly known by his nickname, Napoleon. He worked at a coffee house on the corner of Sacramento and Leidesdorff streets. At last Opusich found him at The Dalmatia, a saloon at the corner of Stockton and Pacific streets. The waiter was slightly drunk when Opusich entered the saloon and spotted him standing beside the bar.
Witnesses told police Opusich approached Napoleon, snarling something in a foreign tongue. The waiter jumped and immediately moved toward the street but Opusich pulled a revolver from his pocket and shot him. The bullet passed through Napoleon’s hat and lodged at the base of his brain. But he did not collapse. Instead, he staggered out of the saloon and into the street. Opusich followed him, firing three more shots.
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.