The Waterfront Wars
the 1880's, the press had mounted a campaign against the Southern
Pacific Railroad's transportation monopoly. In this cartoon from the
"Wasp," a San Francisco weekly, the tentacles of an octopus grasp
businesses whose livelihoods depended on Southern Pacific. The
creature's eyes are the faces of Collis Huntington and Leland Stanford,
the last two of the Big Four owners of the railroad. The tombstone at
the bottom may commemorate the 1880 Battle of Mussel Slough in which
five farmers were killed by Southern Pacific agents.
In 1894, the Southern Pacific Railroad had, literally, tried to fence
Oakland off from the waterfront, but the fence was torn down by angry
citizens. In this 1896 cartoon from "The Examiner," the fence still
stands in front of the strikers' homes, a reference to the Pullman
strike of 1894. In the foreground, Collis Huntington holds out an
incentive to Stephen Gage from the local Republican Party which
routinely selected "railroad men" as candidates. Railroad party regulars
were responsible for getting out the vote by whatever means possible,
including intimidation and stuffing the ballot box.
The election of 1896 was widely seen as a referendum against Southern
Pacific's statewide monopoly. The "railroad men" were defeated in
Oakland as well as other parts of California. In this post-election
cartoon from "The Examiner," Collis Huntington is shown the door by a
stern California farmer. The creature at Huntington's feet is Grove
Johnson, U. S. Congressman from the Sacramento Valley who was roundly
defeated in the election.
"Walk Along the Water"
© Oakland Museum of California, used with permission.