Governor James Rolph and the Great Depression in California

Governor James Rolph and the Great Depression in California

by James Worthen


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Governor James Rolph and the Great Depression in California by James Worthen

In 1911, when businessman James Rolph first ran for mayor of San Francisco, he promised, “I will be mayor of the whole city, and not the mayor for any particular section.” This statement seemed to characterize Rolph’s political career. After serving an unprecedented five terms as mayor, he went on to win California’s 1930 gubernatorial election. Rolph, however, had severely underestimated the challenges he would be up against as a Depression-era governor. A genuine love of people and desire to help had gotten him as far as the governor's office but could do little to help him solve the new problems he found. Lack of a firm agenda coupled with an unrealistic (or perhaps idealistic) governing style left him at odds with the legislature and found his chief lieutenants forming into warring cliques. Ultimately, Rolph—in spite of good intentions and a love of civil service—was unable to translate his mayoral triumph, with all its charm and style, into a gubernatorial success.
This biography relies heavily on primary sources such as contemporary newspaper articles and firsthand recollections. Beginning with Rolph’s mayoral career, the book enumerates the qualities which led to his phenomenal success as San Francisco's top politician. The work then examines the criticisms levied against Rolph as governor and the ways in which these complaints were, and were not, justified. The unfortunate historical timing of Rolph’s governorship is also discussed. In many ways, Rolph’s attempt to translate from prosperous ’20s mayor to Depression-era ’30s governor was simply ill-fated from the very beginning. A detailed bibliography and index is also provided.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786425747
Publisher: McFarland & Company, Incorporated Publishers
Publication date: 07/11/2006
Pages: 235
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

James Worthen writes about the impact of personality on political behavior. A former program manager at the Central Intelligence Agency in Washington, he currently lives in Pismo Beach, California.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction: “The ‘Humanest’ Human Being I Ever Knew” 9

PART ONE: The Citizen Politician

1. “Mission Jim” 17

2. From the Earthquake to the Mayor’s Office 22

3. Moving Through Cheers 30

4. Friends and Family 38

PART TWO: A Civic “Hereditary” Monarchy

5. Second-Term Challenges 47

6. Wealth and Generosity 53

7. Strange Interlude—The First Run for Governor 56

8. Reversal of Fortune 59

9. Third Term—Growing Conservatism and Passivity 61

10. Hetch Hetchy and Municipal Ownership 67

11. Overdoing the Good Life 73

12. A Strong Finish 78

PART THREE: Moving On to Sacramento

13. The 1930 Campaign for Governor 89

14. Great Expectations 98

15. The Appointment Wars 106

16. Rolph and the Legislature 109

17. The Permanent Campaign 115

PART FOUR: The Long, Downhill Slide

18. The Depression Worsens 121

19. Capital Punishment and the Mooney Case 125

20. 1932—A “Most Troublesome Year” 135

21. A Government Divided 142

22. The Firestorm Over Taxes and Spending 146

23. 1933—In the Eye of the Storm 152

24. California’s Tax Revolution 159

25. Embattled, Fatigued and Broke 170

26. The Farm Labor Crisis 174

27. Preparing for the 1934 Campaign 179

28: The San Jose Kidnapping 182

29. The Central Valley Water Plan 187

30. 1934—Recovery and Ruin 192

31. A Final Accounting 198

Chapter Notes 209

Bibliography 219

Index 225

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