Harper Bows to Threats of Exposure, Quits as Mayor,
Abandons His Recall Fight

He Leaves a Stormy Meeting With Newspaper Publisher,
Then Submits His Resignation

Progressive Alexander Edges Out Socialist Wheeler
to Succeed Caretaker Stephens in L.A.'s Top Spot

Recall Bid Originated With an Examiner Article, That Paper Claims

Los Angeles in the 1900s

March 1909

From the Los Angeles Examiner of March 12, 1909.
MAYOR HARPER RESIGNS HIS OFFICE
UNDER THREATS

Admits Indiscretions and Declares He Is Financially Ruined

UPHEAVAL STARTLES CITY
Ex-Mayor A.C. Harper

<—

Latest Photograph of Mrs. Harper and Her Children, Given to the Examiner Last Night by Mrs. Harper
Marjory Harper
Joseph Harper Franklin Harper Lucy Harper

 

‘I HAVE BEEN INDISCREET,’ SAYS HARPER:
‘I MUST TAKE THE BLAME

I am down and out. I have filed my request in writing with the County Clerk to remove my name from the ballot at the coming recall election, and I have filed my resignation with the City Clerk.

As to my reasons for my actions, I have nothing to say. I have made mistakes, and I have been indiscreet. People may draw their own conclusions, but I have no explanation to make. I must take the blame upon myself.

During the two years and two months during which I was Mayor, I never took a dollar, and the city has never lost one cent by me or, so far as I know, by any one appointed by me.

I entered the office of Mayor worth $200,000. I leave it tonight practically broke. I have been compelled to neglect my private business affairs during two years, and the result is that I now have to start in again from the beginning.

I shall leave town in a day or two and remain away until after the date set for the election. Then I shall return and go about my business as a private citizen.

I am grateful to my friends who have stood by me. They did what they could, but for my final action I alone must assume the entire responsibility.

 

The political situation received a terrific upheaval yesterday by Mayor Harper’s withdrawal of his name from the ballot and resignation as Mayor. He resigned under threats of exposure.

[Harper was facing a recall election.]

At 2 o’clock this morning [Police] Chief [Thomas H.] Broadhead announced that he had made up his mind to resign. . . . He denied emphatically that he was in any way involved in the charges that have

been made against Harper.

Other resignations are said to be contemplated by members of Harper’s administration. . . .

The Council will meet today for the purpose of choosing the mayor’s successor. . . . [William D. Stephens was chosen; he served only a few weeks. He was later elected governor of California.]

The many weeks of vilification were fittingly concluded with a series of

negotiations . . . that can hardly be described as creditable to anyone. . . .

Reports of incriminating documents and startling photographs were rife last night. . . .

One lurid story was to the effect that a padrone of the outlaw class had in a moment of revengeful feeling toward the city administration furnished evidence that made it impossible for certain officials to continue in office.

Harper Forced Out at Stormy Meeting

Mayor Harper filed his resignation with the City Clerk at 6:30 last evening and at the same time filed notice of his withdrawal from the ticket for the recall election. . . . He did this without advice from his attorneys. . . . those who supported him in the campaign declared sadly he had made a mistake. . . .

The resignation by the Mayor followed a conference with E.T. Earl [publisher of the Los Angeles Express], in which high words were used and which ended in the Mayor’s capitulation under threat of exposure in the columns of the newspapers which have been urging Harper’s recall.

When Harper left Earl’s office, he refused to shake hands with Earl, and a bitter exchange followed. Harper went to his office and dictated his resignation. . . .

There is no denying that Mayor Harper was literally forced to resign his office by the threats of Mr. Earl to publish certain
 

According to Leonard and Dale Pitt’s reference work, Los Angeles From A to Z, an Encyclopedia of the City and County, Mayor Arthur Cyprian Harper

”won praise for initiating plans for a new civic center, but encouraged vice and corruption in city hall. . . . Once elected, Harper fostered a sugar company stock speculation scheme to line his own pockets and backed private interests who were attempting to steal the city-owned Los Angeles River bed. The rakish Harper also frequented downtown brothels."
disclosures regarding his private life that not only would have discredited him, but it is alleged would have involved others.

Mayor Harper will not discuss the matter or make any statement, nor would Mr. Earl say anything for publication. That is understood to be part of the agreement under which the resignation was secured. It is said the libel suits against Mr. Earl and the Express will be dismissed. . . .

 There was no intimation of dishonesty on the part of the Mayor, but it is claimed he had been guilty of indiscretions that he did not care to have made public.

Through detectives all the details of these affairs were made known, and it is said that there are also photographs. . . .

Headlines and story from the Los Angeles Daily Times of March 27, 1909
Alexander Elected to Mayoralty,

Wheeler Giving Him a Hard Race

Socialist Carries Five Wards and Recall Candidate Four, Latter Winning by Only a Small Majority
This composite graphic from the Los Angeles Examiner shows Fred C. Wheeler on the left and George Alexander on the right.

George Alexander, recall candidate, was elected Mayor of Los Angeles yesterday, defeating his only opponent, Fred C. Wheeler, Socialist, by the narrow

margin of 1,705 votes.

The official returns give Alexander 14,043 and Wheeler 12,341 votes. There was a scattering vote of less than 500,

some of it going to Yerge, the Prohibition candidate, some to W.D. Stephens and one, at least, to Councilman Barney Healy. . . .

Conscious of the need to defuse working-class opposition, the progressive "Good Government" coalition, an organization independent of either major party, nominated former County Supervisor George Alexander. The progressives were confident that his record as an anti-corporate reformer would win support from the labor unions and the Los Angeles Record, the city's principal working-class newspaper.

Their confidence was also boosted by the fact that Alexander's nomination was challenged only by the Socialist Party, a party which had demonstrated little strength in previous elections. To their dismay, however, the Record endorsed the Socialist candidate, Fred C. Wheeler, while the Central Labor Council remained neutral.

Although his campaign was grossly underfunded and poorly organized, Wheeler, a popular union organizer, came within a few thousand votes of winning the mayoralty, taking five of the six working-class wards in the city.

From "No Make-Believe Class Struggle," Labor History, February 2000, by Daniel J. Johnson.

From the Los Angeles Examiner of March 27, 1909.
RECALL ORIGINATED IN EXAMINER INTERVIEW

The recall election held yesterday had its origins in an interview published in the Los Angeles Examiner Sept. 27 last, in which Thomas Lee Woolwine, then city prosecutor, in a three-column statement, made numerous charges against Mayor A.C. Harper.

The principal of these was that Harper had protected vice, especially in the redlight district. He [Woolwine] demanded a Grand Jury investigation. . . .

Shortly afterward the Grand Jury was impaneled. Nearly 300 witnesses were examined, but no indictments were returned.

The report criticized Harper, however,f

for visiting places of ill repute and engaging in orgies.

In the meantime, two newspapers of the city were printing anti-Harper articles daily and practically charging him with graft in the forming of three corporations.

Harper brought libel suits against the publisher of one of the papers, and members of his Police Commission followed his lead until the suits aggregated $650,000.

. . . on Jan. 20 the Municipal League called a meeting of citizens, admission being by invitation, and it was there voted almost unanimously to begin recall proceedings against Harper.

The petition . . . made of point of the fact that he had appointed Edward Kern, a former councilman, chief of police and political crony of Harper’s, to . . . the Board of Public Works.

The recall people claimed that the $23 million Owens River aqueduct . . . would be in jeopardy. . . .

The . . . Examiner demanded an investigation of this remarkable situation, and a Grand Jury. . . is now in session.

Two indictments have been returned, one against Sam Schenk, former Police Commissioner under Harper.

With Harper out, the machine elements in both the Republican and Democratic parties threw their support to Fred C. Wheeler, Socialist candidate.

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