Local Man Sets Record

January 20, 1927
Los Angeles

A short notice in the paper today about Sidney (or Sydney) Adams who, on August 2, 1925 (most likely) mortally shot his wife Annie in their home at 1234 East Twenty-First Street.

august25Despite there being a chance for a difference—Adams steadily asserted that the woman committed suicide—on October 12, 1925 it took a Los Angeles jury a record twenty-five minutes to send him to the gallows.  (This being in part or wholly dependent on Adams’ race seems obvious—writ large as he’s routinely described as the “giant negro,” a term of which Times seems unusually fond.)

Hangings were on the mind of all Californians as executions ushered in C. C. Young’s gubernatorial regime. The previous four years of Friend Richardson’s governorship were marked by constant rejections of eleventh-hour appeals for executive clemency; in a show of consistency Young had five executions in the first five weeks of his stewardship and saw that each one went through unchallenged.  


There were six sitting in San Quentin’s death row when S. C. Stone  joined the bunch on January 6, 1927—making it lucky number seven.  Adams’ departure today took it back down to six.

Good Find is Hard to Help


December 2, 1927

theclimaxMrs. Margaret Pumphrey, 27, of the Milner Road Pumphreys, was standing in her bedroom of her hillside home, preparing to go downtown, when she was approached by her white-jacketed butler.  He asked if there were any further orders.  Mrs. Pumphrey said there were none.

With that, her servant—Richard R. Ewell, 30—developed an “insane gleam” in his eye and approached further…whereupon Mrs. Pumphrey noticed the .45 automatic in his hand.  

The chase—and fusillade of shots—began!  Mrs. Pumphey fled through a bathroom and into an adjoining bedroom, through a hallway and down the stairs, but there’s no running from the staff.  They know the house better than you do.

The mad pursuit and firearm blasts continued from room to room to room until Margaret managed to lock herself into a downstairs bedroom.  Ewell fired several shots into the door to break the lock, but once he heard the window open, he ran around the house to catch her escaping.  And catch her he did—as he climbed into the window, he shot her in the side as she ran screaming out the door.  

The screams alarmed neighbor Mrs. Johnstone, who came running (with her two maids in tow [also suitably armed?]) and Ewell fired upon them from the home’s entryway—but Ewell, realizing that the alarm had been raised and his game discovered, put the barrel to his head and sent his brains all over the foyer he’d kept so spotless the three months he’d been under the Pumphrey’s employ.

Mrs. Margaret Pumphrey (could Kaufman & Ryskind have scripted a name of greater puffery?) suffered more from shock and fright (as visions of FLW’s former servant surely flashed through her head) than from her injury; she was rushed to Hollywood Receiving and was treated for the superficial wound and released.  

According to LeRoy Bird, with whom Ewell lived at 4307 Hooper Avenue, Philadelphia native Ewell was an industrious man of good character and habits and never had any previous trouble.  Detective Lieutenant Mahoney contends that Ewell had probably been crazed by dope, especially as he’d been out the night before and had acted strangely in the morning.

Ewell leaves a widow, Inez Ewell, in Kansas City.  Because his death was self-inflicted, there was no inquest over the body.  A small notebook was later found in Ewell’s possessions, and it was greatly hoped by Captain of Detectives Slaughter to contain names of prominent Hollywood people and information about dope trafficking; but sadly for Slaughter, “the only names in the book, the officer declares, are those of negresses and it is devoid of anything referring to narcotics or trade in the drugs.”

So why did Richard Ewell snap?  If only we had some sign.

Mr. Wrong, Edendale-Style

October 3, 1907

It’s 2006, and Edendale is the quaintest durn area of Silver Lake, where you may dine at the Edendale Grill and think back on when Edendale was full of Keystone Kops and horses from Tom Mix’s Mixville Studios.  You can mull over Edendale’s history as the birthing-place of identity politics, where gay rights began and Communists cruised the hills and bohemianism was actually daring.  And now, next time you’re in Edendale, I hope you think of Mr. A. B. Wright.

Mrs. Jennie Gamble bought a lot in Edendale when it was laid out in 1903, and built a nice little four-room cottage.  She decided to sell in 1907, and did so, to the aforementioned Mr. Wright, the $1200 deal was closed, and Mrs. Gamble deposited her deed with a trust company.  All fine and good, except for one thing:  A. B. Wright is black.

The neighborhood went nuts, threatening “dire things” and making uncomplimentary remarks to Mrs. Gamble.  A great banner was raised, announcing a mass meeting set for tonight to protest against the incursion.  

But the protest was averted, as R. R. Carew, original promoter of Edendale and a resident therein, “proved to be the Moses in the present difficulty, and led his people out of trouble.”  And he would have been in trouble indeed, in that he had personally assured prospective homemakers that no black family would be allowed to settle in the community.  What Carew said to Wright is unknown, but Wright did ultimately decide not to move his family into Edendale.


There still aren’t a lot of black people in Edendale. 

There is a Balm in Gilead

August 31, 1907
Los Angeles

William Bradley, the “Singing Negro,” was arrested three times yesterday before performing an act of singular bravery today.bradley

Everyone likes the religious fanatic,  and because there is no law prohibiting a man from singing religious songs on the street, he’s been busting out camp-meetin’ aubades downtown in a voice “that would make the steam whistle on a New Orleans cotton-boat turn green with envy.”

When some motorman on the Temple-street car finally had had enough, and after his strenuous objection to authorities, a warrant was sworn out on Bradley for Disturbing the Peace.  Friends quickly put up bail and Bradley burst into spirituals on the steps of the station.  Arrested again as he marched down Spring, he was released and promptly arrested again as he belted out canticles on South Broadway.  He finally agreed to hold in his gospel long enough to reach home, though said he guessed he’d “might near burst open.”

Today, Bradley was walking along Temple, singing at top strength, when a runaway horse charged down the hill, bearing straight for two women and a little girl.  Men did not care to step off the sidewalk, but Bradley never stopped singing, his voice in fact rising higher in song, as he dashed into the street to throw himself upon and pinion the mad animal.  

Without waiting for thanks, he lifted his voice and trudged away.