Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Rube Goldberg — Sporting Days in San Francisco

1910s  1  Cartoonists Rube Goldberg (right) & Harry Hershfield (left).

“Reuben L. Goldberg draws pictures with his funny bone and can write as freshly as he draws. He is now in Reno, and will write and draw of the great fight today for The Call.” — The San Francisco Call, July 4, 1910
by John Adcock
RUBE. Reuben Lucius Goldberg, previously sporting cartoonist on the Chronicle in San Francisco, where he had started at $8 per week in 1904, was hired to replace Tad Dorgan as the Bulletin’s sporting cartoonist. (Tad had left the San Francisco Bulletin for New York on March 31, 1904, to drew cartoons and write sporting columns for Hearst.) “One of my secret ambitions, which I never had dared confess,” Goldberg recalled, “was to learn to write — which I had never attempted. Now I commenced to write in the vein of the pictures; a sort of mild, semi-sarcastic ridicule, not of individuals but of situations and action.” At the Bulletin he was often teamed up with writer Bill McGeehan, who once described boxing as “the cauliflower industry.”

1907  2  ‘Fitz In Role Of Sculptor’s Model.’ Denver Post, Sep 24.
TEX. George Lewis “Tex” Rickard, following a career in the Klondike as a prospector, gambler and dancehall king pulled up stakes and headed to a new boom town at Goldfield, Nevada where he got in to the boxing promotion business. There he convinced the town big shots that a championship boxing event would put the place on the map. Pugilists Oscar “Battling Nelson” (34) and African-American Joe Gans (24) took him up on the offer. The prize of $30,000 in twenty-dollar gold coins was put on view in a shop window.
1909  3  ‘Many Forces At Work To Arouse Jeffries To Action.’ Denver Daily News, Jan 15.

“I had no idea that the big newspapers of the country would pay any attention to us. I knew it would attract sportsmen, and that we might have a chance to break even. But we weren’t concerned about profit and loss. We figured to lose. I got my first big shock when two young fellers came up to me and said they represented the San Francisco Bulletin. They looked so young that I thought that somebody had sent them in to kid me. But when young Bill McGeehan and Rube Goldberg, the cartoonist, showed me their credentials, I nearly fell down. And I got shock number two when they hired a hole-in-the-wall on the main street and stretched a banner across the street announcing to the world that here was the San Francisco Bulletin’s headquarters for the great $30,000 ‘Battle of the Century’” — Tex Rickard quoted in ‘Yes, “Tex” Gave Them a Great Show Until the End,’ in the Literary Digest, Jan 26, 1929
1910  4  ‘Anything To Help The Big Fight Along.’ Rube Goldberg sporting cartoons in the Denver Daily News, April 5.
1910  5  DRAMATIC PHOTOGRAPH. This week’s front page of The San Francisco Dramatic Review — ‘A Group of Notables Who are Interested in Theatricals and Well Known in Business Circles’ — presents Jack Kipper, Walter Kelly, Hector D. McKenzie, Nat C. Goodwin, James J. Jeffries, Sam Berger, and Tex Rickard. March 12.
WINNER JOE GANS. The fight took place on Sept 3, 1906 and was filmed. Battling Nelson lost on a foul, disqualified for low hitting in the forty-second round. It was America’s first national boxing spectacle.

“Bill McGeehan and Rube Goldberg received a wire from their editor instructing them to meet a lady reporter at the train. They looked anxiously for her all night. Between waits they bathed their patience at Tex Rickard’s bar. The lady writer arrived at 7 A.M. and got a very incoherent welcome from two wobbly young men. Bill and Rube sat down to write their stories for the paper. Rube’s hands floundered over the typewriter keys, his eyes became glassy, and darkness closed in around him. He fell forward, dead to the world, using the exclamation mark as a pillow. McGeehan deposited him in a convenient waste basket, re-wrote Rube’s entire story and sent it to the paper signing Rube’s name. when Rube woke up, he was handed the following telegram: ‘Best story you ever wrote. Send us more of the same stuff. Fremont Older, Editor.’” — ‘In One Ear,’ in Collier’s, Dec 22, 1928
1910  6  ‘In The City Of Sagebrush And Divorce.’ The San Francisco Call. June 24.
BULLETIN. Goldberg worked for the San Francisco Bulletin as both cartoonist and sporting columnist until 1907.

“From the Chronicle, I went to the Bulletin, where the cartoonist was given a better show. Here I developed a New York bug. The editor offered me $50 a week to stay put, but it was the big town or nothing. Arrived in the city of my dreams, I peddled my drawings to every paper. I ended with the Mail and there I landed. That was thirteen years ago (1907). I’ve been on the Mail the entire stretch.” — Seven Men Who Draw Funny Pictures — and Large Salaries,’ in the Literary Digest, Aug 14, 1920
1910  7  ‘Reno Is As Reno Does.’ The San Francisco Call. June 25.
WINNER JACK JOHNSON. Goldberg took a train to New York in 1907 and hit every newspaper office in the city before landing a job on the New York Evening Mail. In 1910 he took a vacation from the Evening Mail to cover the fight between Johnson and Jeffries at Reno, Nevada. His coverage of the match appeared in the San Francisco Call. On July 3, one day before the match Goldberg wrote that “asking a man to pick a winner in the Jeffries-Johnson battle is like requesting a condemned felon to choose between the electric chair and the gallows.” Nonetheless, based on a week of studying the two fighters in the training camps, Goldberg took “the fatal Brodie” and chose the Negro boxer to win.
1910  8  ‘Writers and Fighters Who Will Describe the Big Battle for The Call,’ full sporting news page in The San Francisco Call with mugshots of the 11 men-strong crew. Writer and cartoonist Rube Goldberg. Writers Fred R. Bechdolt, Edward F. Cahill, Robert Edgren, Joe Murphy, Ashleigh Simpson, William J. Slattery, and James W. Coffroth. Prize fighters Bob Fitzsimmons, Battling Nelson, and Tommy Burns. July 4.

“I drew and wrote sports until around 1914, when I was working on the New York Evening Mail. I created Boob McNutt, my principal character, in 1915, and continued a human-interest daily cartoon, both of which I am still doing for the Hearst papers and others round the country.” — Rube Goldberg, looking back in 1933, in the Literary Digest.
1910  9  ‘The Last Page Of The Johnson-Jeffries Story.’ The San Francisco Call. July 6.
Picture [1] photo source: Harry Hershfield Collection (Billy Ireland Museum).


  1. Superb, as usual. Great research... forgotten history... great illos.

    Not a thing to correct, never is in YP, but I can add a couple of side notes if that is OK.

    "Tex" Rickard dabbled in other sports too. He grew up in Texas, though not born there, I forget where, but hence the "Tex." He went Alaska during the Gold Rush, made a fortune, and lost it gambling. He met and became friend with Wilson Mizner, later owner of the Brown Derby and founder I think of Boca Raton FL -- where the Museum of Cartoon Art established its shady third home in Mizner Park, if I remember.

    Anyway, Rickard also built the third home of Madison Square Garden and started a hockey team. The rangers got their name via a pun -- Tex's Rangers.


    The boxer "Battling Nelson," most fans know, was married to the cartoonist Fay King, who proved too tough for the slugger, and they divorced. I am not FayKing.


    Goldberg's tenure at the Evening Mail was marked by controversy, and his loyalty. The publisher, Rumely, was suspected and hounded by the US Government for being an agent of German propaganda (before American intervention; so it was not illegal). H L Mencken wrote for the Mail, too, during this rocky period. Goldberg started to do Sunday color work for Hearst while still with Rumely, then switched over altogether.


    The vintage page from the SF Call lists Robert Edgren as a writer, but he was -- in the tradition of Goldberg, TAD, Hershfield, Herriman, Ripley, Bud Fisher, and many others... down to this generation;s Bill Gallo of the NY Daily News, a sports writer AND sports cartoonist, usually great at both. — Rick Marschall

  2. Thanks for the additions, Rick, always OK and corrections as well if you notice any mistakes. Tex Rickard was with Wyatt Earp (later a boxing referee) in the Klondike in the Soupy Sales days. An old Canadian newspaper story tells how Earp refused to turn over his guns when in the saloons (a belligerent drinker). The Mounties were notified, stopped him on the trail on his way back to the States, and the American gunslinger meekly handed over his pistols.

  3. What a treat for an insomniac to find Yesterday's Papers in the mail with delicious stories behind Rube Goldberg, Tex Rickard,and Wyatt Earp! Better than a trip to the fridge for a Dagwood sandwich. Wish I had known your blog before I retired from teaching journalism history. - Strand

  4. Thank you! Your encouragement is most welcome!