JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, August 15, 2014


  1.  I think the greatest myth about Democratic party decadence was born just after five on Monday afternoon, November 27, 1905. That was the hour when 38 year old Marshall Field  Jr, the eldest son and heir to the $150 million (about $10 billion today) MarshalI Field's fortune, died at Chicago’s Mercy hospital. He had been admitted five days earlier with a gunshot wound to the abdomen, and now he was dead. And there has never been a good explanation as to just how he had been shot.
    The official story was that while in his bedroom that morning Marshall (above) had been cleaning his gun, dropped it and the gun had gone off. The butler and a nurse said they had immediately rushed to his aide. But a reporter for the Daily News tried to replicate the accident with an identical weapon, but it  refused to discharge. The papers were afraid of losing advertising from the Marshall Field Department stores, the largest retail chain in America, so the public questions stopped there - for the time being. But then that sort of thing was becoming normal in Chicago.
    The Field’s mansions, father’s and son’s, stood next to each other on “Millionaires Row” - Prairie Avenue on Chicago’s south side. The row was home to Pullman, Armour, Sears, and the Fields. In fact 70 of the most powerful families in America lived within a square mile of each other on Chicago's south side, and this was not a place usually visited by public scandal. After the funeral, Marshall’s widow and three children moved in with his father. But it stood no chance of being a happy home. The very next year the elder Field died of pneumonia, and the widow returned to her native England, leaving behind an open wound - caused, many believed, by a section of Chicago called the Levee
    Less than a half mile from the Field mansions, the Levee District was home to sin and vice of unsurpassed depravity and popularity. It was bordered by 18th street on the north, 23rd street on the south, South Clark on the west and South Wabash Avenue on the east. And at its immoral center was the Everleigh Club. 
    For eight years Ada and Minna Everleigh (above) were the unoffical “Queens of the Levee”, running one of the most popular brothels in the Chicago. Minna (right) famously greeted each customer with a delightfully wicked, “How’s my boy?”
    Their thirty girls catered to an upscale clientele, charging $50 just to get in the front door of 2131-2133 South Dearborn (above). Once inside the plush parlor, the "extras" were extra. It was common knowledge that for years Marshall Field Jr. had been a regular at the Everleigh Club, and the rumor was that Marshall had been shot at the club by one of the working girls, or had shot himself because he was being blackmailed by one of the "ladies".  Those kinds of things were not unheard of in The Levee.
    To the south of the Club was Ed Weiss’s bawdy house, "The Capital", and to the north was "The Sapphro", run by his brother Lou Weiss. In fact, jammed into the Levee were dozens of such houses of prostitution; Dago Franks, French Em’s, Old 92, and in direct cutthroat competition with the Everleigh sisters was Madam Vic Shaw’s house at Dearborn and Cullerton. In between the whore houses were opium dens, cocaine factories, gambling joints, peep shows and bars - lots and lots of bars.
    Ringmasters of this sin circus, the Princes of the Levee, were two men; the big, blustery city alderman, John J. Coughlin (right), and his diminutive doppelganger, Michael "Hinky Dink" Kenna (left). 
    The gimlet eyed “Hinky Dink” (above) received his nickname because he stood just 5 feet tall. He was normally “…glum and quietly dressed”, and usually chewing on a cigar. He was a teetotaler, and his wife was a temperance worker. He also was an Alderman, as well as owning and operating several bars and gambling houses in the Levee, the most famous of which was The Workingman’s Exchange on Clark Street. 
    Here barflies, bums, tramps and the homeless could find beer for a nickel, a free lunch and, come election day, a job as a “repeater”, for this was where politics and vice crossed paths. Given pre-marked ballots by “Ward Heelers” who walked the district, these "repeaters" spread out to various polling places, where they would trade their pre-marked ballots for blanks. They then returned to "The Exchange" and handed in their blanks for a payment of fifty cents each. While they drank a free beer, their new ballots would be marked and the game would go another round. It wasn't as if the actual denizens of all those houses of prostitution could be expected to vote. But if they did they would have probably voted the way the repeaters did. The important thing was that in twenty years neither "Hinky Dink" nor "Bathhouse" John Coughlin ever lost an election.
    “Bathhouse” earned his nickname because he worked as an attendant at a bath house, a Levee euphemism for a gambling joint. Coughlin was over sized and overdressed and prone to outbursts of poetry, such as his infamous “She sleeps by the Drainage Canal” and “Why did they build the lovely lake so close to the horrible shore?”  His typical “Signs of Spring “concluded, “There are many other signs of spring which come by wireless wire; One of which is Yours Sincerely, who is tuning up his lyre. Just to twang a song to nature 'bout the brooks and fields of green; O, I wonder if I'm understood; I wonder, yes, I ween.”
    It was said that one of Chicago’s mayors asked Hinky Dink if Bathhouse was just crazy or a drug addict. Hinky Dink replied, “To tell you the god’s truth, Mayor, they ain’t found a name for it yet.” These two men had a genius for skimming protection money from the Levee. Their enforcement arm was the Chicago Police, and in addition to their weekly take of up to a thousand dollars per establishment, they sold tickets to the annual First Ward Ball. In the words of one web site, “Every employee of a house of ill-repute or gambling den, every robber, pickpocket, safe-cracker, and streetwalker, and every bartender, bawdy house entertainer, and low groggery proprietor, all were required to buy tickets…”
    The Ball was held each December, and Ike Bloom, owner of “Freiberg’s Dance Hall”, was responsible for selling the tickets. Ike was half clown and half cold blooded killer, whose club was “the most notorious place in Chicago”, which was quite a charge, considering Chicago. The ball was billed as a charity, and in 1906, as the press began to unearth the Levee on their front pages, a reporter from the Tribune asked Hinky Dink where all money went. Hinky Dink replied, “Charity, education, burying the dead, and general ward benefits for the people” Asked what he meant by ‘education’, Hinky got a little testy. “It consists of hiring good halls and good speakers to teach the people of the First ward to vote the straight Democratic ticket.” And that was the end of that interview.
    Each December the First Ward Ball grew in size and sank in reputation. The 1908 festivity attracted “20,000 drunken, yelling, brawling revelers” who filled the Chicago Coliseum on South Wabash Avenue and clogged the streets outside. When the Law And Order League tried to stop the orgy, they inspired Bathhouse to write, “Strike up the march, professor, and I will lead the way; We'll trip the light fantastic too, until the break of day. Who knows that ere another ball, we'll be outside the city hall; Be gay, but not too gay.” And Hinky Dink groused, “Whenever you hear one of them fellows shouting that Hinky Dink is a menace to society and that he has horns, just keep your hand on your watch. Savvy?”
    One newspaper  attempted to describe the scene inside the Coliseum. “The crowd was so enormous that when women fainted – a common occurrence – they had to be passed overhead from hand to hand towards the exits. Cigar smoke settled on the floor in such thick fogs that visibility was no greater than 30 feet in any direction. The noise of shuffling feet and murmuring overpowered the sound of the dance band, and fist-fights and shoving erupted in all quarters. When Lyman Atwell, photographer for the Tribune…began setting up his flash and tripod, security notified (Bathhouse) who…personally jumped on Atwell, breaking his camera and knocking him to the ground…
    "As usual, things started to get interesting at midnight, when the regiments of madams and their inmates showed up, led by the Everleigh Sisters. This caused another influx of thousands of men to attempt to enter the building…”  Hinky Dink lorded over the affair from a table off the main floor. Then, at midnight, Bathhouse, wearing a green jacket, a mauve vest, lavender pants and a stove pipe silk hat led a winding Conga Line called The Grand March. Said the newspaper, “The most infamous party in Chicago history lasted until 5 a.m., when the last drunken revelers staggered out…”
    But, since the death of the Fields, the millionaires were speaking with their feet, abandoning their mansions, and moving to the safer Gold Coast along the lake and other northern suburbs. One newspaper observed that Prairie  Avenue had become undesirable to those for whom it was affordable, and unaffordable to those for whom it was desirable. To the conservatives Republicans of Millionaires Row, it was the debauched Ward Heeler Democrats who were ruining the morals of  their city. And, perhaps not without a connection, the customers for the Levee were leaving at the same time as the millionaires. The bawdy establishments in the Levee began to scatter. The 1908 First Ward Ball would prove to be the last.
    The mayor finally ordered the Everleigh club (above) closed,  in October of 1911. The sisters walked away with $1,000,000 in cash. Minna took the change philosophically. “If it weren't for married men”, she admitted, “we couldn't have carried on at all, and if it weren't for cheating married women we could have made another million.” Minna died in 1948, Ada died in 1960. She was 93.
    Bathhouse John Coughlin served 46 years as a Chicago Alderman. He died in 1938, $50,000 in debt. “Hinky Dink” Kenna spent his last years alienated from his family, living in a suite in the Blackstone Hotel and cared for only by a male nurse. He died in 1946 and left behind a million dollars…in cash. His will stipulated that $33,000 of it should be set aside to construct a mausoleum for his grave. His survivors had Hinky’s will set aside. Instead they marked his passing with an $85.00 wooden tombstone. 
    At Hinky’s funeral, half the pews were empty, and few sent flowers. As one old First Ward lobbygog (Ward Heeler) put it, “If you don't go to other people's funerals, they won't go to yours.”
    In truth it was not the reformers or the Law and Order League that put the Levee out of business. Few were foolish enough to believe that all those sinners had repented. What killed the Levee was the arrival of Prohibition in 1920, which freed the Levee from its confinement, and let it spread out and multiply. The new Prince of Chicago sin was “Big Jim” Colosimo, the man who brought Al Capone to Chicago and who married Madam Victoria Shaw. As Hinky Dink explained, “Chicago ain't no sissy town.” And Marshall Field Jr. would have certainly agreed.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I believe that all battles are evidence of failure; of diplomacy, of politics, of military strategy. A million minor inconsequential things must go wrong for there to first be a war and then a battle, and another million unintended mistakes must cumulatively be made for a great battle to occur. Even the language we use to describe these disasters is mistaken. In battle, nothing is “great” except the courage of the men caught up in it.
Officals in Fukouka Prefecture kept a close watch on the young males growing up in the towns and fishing villages of Kyushu, the southern most island of Japan. Often they would drop in for an unannounced visits, to check on the boys health and status. Then, sometimes during the young men’s 20th year, in the middle of the night, their conscription notices would arrive. It was claimed this delivery in darkness was done for security reasons, but it was usually followed by a very public send off to basic training. More likely the military merely wanted to drive home their ability to reach into each individual house in the nation..
During the first year of war with America and the British Commonwealth (1942) the Imperial Japanese forces suffered 2,672 men killed each week (on average), while in 1943 that appalling number increased to 3,563 each week. And the future promised only expoental growth in those tragedies. On October 26, 1943, the Japanese Emperor Hirihito admitted that his nation’s situation was “truly grave”. It was accepted that 1944 would be Japan’s last chance to stave off defeat in a war they had started. In the Pacific the navy planned a counter stroke when the Amercians struck the Mariana islands. In China the Army launched “Operation One”, a three prong attack by half a million men. And against British India, the Japanese Army decided on Operation “C”, a strike from out of Burma, which they had conquered two years before. 
After their basic training and before leaving Japan, each of the 15,000 Fukouka soldiers wrote out his will and ceremonially gave his life to the Emperor. By now the nation could no longer wait until their twentieth year. By late 1943 the Japanese were inducting boys of 17 and 18,  and men up to 44 years old. But whatever their age, from day one the soldiers were treated brutally. Officers and non-coms often slapped and beat their men for minor transgressions. Personal violence was so common that Japanese soldiers often beat each other. 
This brutality was easily transferred to civilians and prisoners of war, particularly but not exclusively outside of Japan. The effect on unit moral was devastating, and by 1943 even the army high command wanted to correct it. But by then the war had grown out of their control
The men from Kyushu were formed into the 58th, 124th and 138th infantry regiments, a Mountain Artillery, an Engineering and a Transportation regiments. In late 1943 they were all assembled in Bangkok, Thailand and designated the 31st infantry division. 
Their irritable and dyspeptic commander was Lt. General Kotoku Sato. He was of the opinion that his commanding officer was a blockhead, and openly told his staff that during Operation “C” he expected them all to starve to death. Late in 1944 the division was moved by rail to the Northwest corner of Burma, to the head of navigation on the Chindwin River. 
Each soldier was issued a 20 day supply of rice. Their equipment and ammunition were carried on mules and elephants, but there would be no supply line back to the Chindwin. The plan was to move fast enough to capture British supply depots as they advanced. 
On March 15th, 1944, the 31st division, operating on the extreme right wing of four other divisions, crossed the Chindwin River by boat and raft on a front 60 miles wide. Moving quickly along winding jungle trails, their first objective was the tiny village of Kohima, 100 miles away and 4,000 feet up the 5,000 foot high Naga hills. They planned to reach this objective by a forced march in three days and nights. In fact it took them 15 days. 
The jungle was fetid, hot and sickening, filled with flies, ticks, mosquitoes and leeches big enough to crawl up your leg and suck your blood until they burst. The mosquito bites could cause septic sores. By the time the advanced elements of the 31st division reached the outskirts of Kohima the monsoon had begun, the trails were reduced to deep sucking mud, and the men of 31st division were strung out along the trials, exhausted and hungry. Sickness and casualties had already reduced the Japanese force by 3,000 men. Still the remaining 12,000 Japanese soldiers had caught the British high command off guard, again. The draftees from Fukouka Prefecture quickly surrounded the barely 2,500 Indian and British troops defending the Kohima Ridge. 
The ultimate goal for the 31st division was still 40 miles away; Dimapur, a British airfield, rail head and logistics base on the Brahmaputra River. From this depot a winding road climbed the Naga Hills, through a mountain pass along Kohima Ridge, and then ran southward to Impala. At Impala were three Indian divisions, commanded by British officers. The main Japanese thrust of four divisions was initially aimed at Impala. But if the 31st division could capture Kohima, those three British divisions would be cut off. And if it could capture Dimapur, the Japanese army would have enough food, ammunition and fuel to invade India itself. Sato’s goal was to capture enough supplies at Kohima for the next forty mile march. 
In a first rush on the evening of April 3rd , 1944, the men from Kyushu not only surrounded Kohima, they also captured British warehouses containing enough food to supply the 31st division for a year. But less than a month’s worth had been distributed when the Royal Air Force bombed the warehouses, and blew up the supplies. From this point forward each Japanese soldier received one rice ball, some salt and a bottle of boiled water a day. 
Beginning on April 6th , under daily downpours and heavy mortar fire, the Japanese began a series of infantry attacks, squeezing the defenders back onto isolated hill tops along the ridge until the British still held only one, Garrison Hill. And atop that, at a 280 degree bend in the switchback Impala Road, was DC Hill, where in peaceful times the District Commissioner had built himself a summer bungalow, complete with garden and tennis court. By April 9th the the Japanese and British lines were separated only by the Tennis Court, and the entire battle for India and Burma had been reduced to a battlefield just 36 feet wide. 
Attacks and counter-attacks raged across the court, for day after day . A British officer explained the battle this way. “We were attacked every single night... They came in waves…Most nights they overran part of the battalion position, so we had to mount counter-attacks...” Noted another source, “It was a very primitive battle. The Japanese had no air cover or air supply and attacked each night” Another British writer explained, “The defenders built barricades from the piled bodies of the attackers, the entire area eventually becoming a thick carpet of blackened and rotting corpses. When digging in, they found themselves often digging through the dead before hitting earth.” 
On the night of April 13th/ 14th , the Japanese managed to manhandle a 75mm cannon onto a slight rise to fire point blank into the forward British trenches. The survivors were forced to retreat. One of the Indian troopers, Wellington Massar, set up a machine gun on the billiard table in the remains of the club house, and cut down the following attack. A Lt. King led a counterattack which retook the trench. But the British position had been cut in half. With daylight the Japanese launched what was supposed to be the final annihilating attack, but it was repulsed. A British Officer told his commander, “The men's spirits are all right, but there aren't many of us left,” He said that if relief did not arrive within 48 hours, the position would fall. Five days later, the battle for the “shattered corpse-covered tennis court” was still raging.
On the morning of the 18th British artillery began to fall on the tennis court. It was the advance effect of the arrival of the British 2nd division, which had been flown into Dimapur the week before, and had now fought its way up the road. On the 19th the reliving column reached DC hill. What they found was “'filthy, bearded, bedraggled scarecrows” defending “shallow muddy trenches, dismembered limbs, empty cartridge cases, ammunition boxes and abandoned equipment, the debris of numerous assaults, and the stench of so many things rotting. The most lasting impression was caused by the litter of war- piles of biscuits, dead bodies black with flies and scattered silver from the DC's bungalow.”
Still the men from Kyushu did not give up. Now outnumbered and heavily outgunned, they contested every British advance, and were still holding and edge of the Tennis Court. As John Toland reported, in his book “The Rising Sun”, the 31st division was now eating “… grass, potatoes, snails, lizards, snakes – anything they could get their hands on, including monkeys”. Harold Jones, one of the reliving solders, describe Kohima this way. “I was there about 10 days. It was a terrible place”
By May 25th most the Kohima ridge was in British hands, and General Sato informed his despised commander that without food or ammunition his men could not survive past June 1st. When his commander ordered the 31st division to “fight with their teeth” if they had no more bullets, Sato instead ordered his men to withdraw. It was the only time in the Second World War that a senior Japanese officer disobeyed a direct order while under attack, and ordered a retreat..
Toland tells what the retreat was like. “On the long trek back over the mountains in pounding rain, men fought one another for food. Thousands of sick and wounded fell out of the march and killed themselves with grenades. The paths were seas of mud and when a man stumbled he became half buried in slime…Light machine guns, rifles, helmets, gas masks – anything useless – littered the trails. Only the will to live propelled the survivors…and those who lasted out a day’s march huddled together for sleep that rarely came because of the constant downpour. Many drowned, too feeble to raise their heads above the rising water, and the Chindwin River itself, their goal, claimed the lives of hundreds more in its swollen waters….by the end of the year Japanese rule (of Burma) was on the point of collapse.” (pp 693) 
The 31st division had been destroyed. 67% of its precious 15,000 men were dead or wounded. The British counted 5,000 Japanese bodies on the Kohima battle field alone, and best estimates are that 7,000 of the men from Fukouka Prefecture were sacrificed in the attempt to take Kohima.. Fewer than 600 were taken prisoner. General Sato was relieved of his command, and sent sent home as unfit for duty because of wounds and physical wastage he suffered before Kohima. The British poet JM Edmonds left the best epitaph on the battle, which appears on the British cemetery at Kohima, and which could apply to the sacrifice of both sides. “When you go home, Tell them of us and say, For their tomorrow, We gave our today.”
None of the Japanese counter strokes of 1944 worked. The Imperial Navy blundered into the “Great Marianas Turkey shoot”, which saw 3 Japanese air craft carriers sunk, and 633 air planes destroyed. The Japanese Navy never recovered. In China “Operation One” pushed the Chinese army back, and forced the American 20th Air Force to abandon their advanced bases, which prevented them from bombing Japan. But the Marinna's victory allowed the Americans to simply transfer the B-29 bombers to the Marshal Islands of Guam and Tainan, where they would prove even more effective at burning Japanese cities.
And Operation “C” had captured nothing and left 50,000 Japanese dead, and reduced the defence of Burma to an empty shell. And for all the treachery and villainy of the Japanese militarist in fermenting World War in the Pacific, their greatest victims were not citizens of the United States, nor the British nor even China. Their greatest victims were the people of Japan, like the young men of Kyushu.
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Sunday, August 10, 2014


I doubt most Americans remember James Gadsden (above) . In 1840 this ex-army officer became president and primary shareholder in the South Carolina Rail Road Company.  He had big dreams of a southern transcontinental railroad, beginning in Charleston and driving across Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. There were only three things that stood in his way. First, his railroad was only 135 miles long and went no further west than the Georgia border. Second, it was over $3 million in debt ($64 million today). And third, in 1840 everything west of Texas belonged to Mexico. But Mr. Gadsden was not willing to concede defeat before even starting. And because he was not, James Addison Reavis would have a golden opportunity to become one of the richest men in America – call it another unforeseen consequence.
By 1840 there were two routes under consideration for the first transcontinental railroad. The central route, favored by the business interests in New York and Chicago, started in Missouri and followed the trail blazed by wagon trains already heading to the newly discovered California gold fields. The route favored by Mr, Gadsden and most southern politicians, started in either South Carolina or Texas.  However, the southerners could not decide between themselves on how to finance the work. The slave owners suspected the Boston banks would end up owning California. And Gadsden was too arrogant to form a consensus from his allies. .The only thing the southerners could agree upon was that they would not allow the central route to be used. So as long as the south had a veto, any transcontinental railroad would remain a dream.
The Mexican War (1846-1848) had given America a vast new empire north of the Rio Grande River, comprising what would be the states of  Texas, California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico.  But even this conquest failed to supply an acceptable route for a southern transcontinental railroad. And the "Compromise of 1850" made things even worse. In exchange for relieving Texas of its huge public debt, Texas came in as a slave state and California was admitted as a “free” state. After that, no matter who built the transcontinental railroad or where they built it - and they couldn't sidetrack into Mexico, because slavery had been outlawed there since the 1845  -   the end of the line would now be a  “free state”.  Desperate to lure the Golden State back to the slavery side, even it it required cutting it in half, in 1851 Gadsden himself offered to supply 1,200 new settlers, if California would also admit “not less than two thousand...African domestics” into southern California. The ploy fooled nobody, and the proposal never got out of committee in the California legislature.  Defeated again, Gadsden decided to salvage what small part of the plan he still had some control over.
If he couldn't find a way around the Mexican border beyond Texas, Gadsden decided to move the border. With assistance from Mississippi's Jefferson Davis, who at the time was President Franklin Pierce's Secretary of War, Gadsden won appointment as an agent of the United States Government, authorized to buy a southern railroad route. Now, again, the one thing James Gadsden did not have were negotiating skills, and the minute he arrived in Mexico City and opened his mouth,  he offended the entire nation of Mexico. But Gadsden was in luck, because at the time (1853), the entire Mexican government consisted of one ego maniac, General Antonio Lopez de la Santa Ana.
This was Santa Anna's sixth go around as President-slash- dictator of Mexico. He is remembered in America for his capture of the Alamo, and killing “Davy” Crockett. But in Mexico he is remembered because he never seemed to learn from his mistakes, which constantly seems to have surprised the Mexican people. Every time a crises occurred, they turned to Santa Ana,  and he kept responding by looting the country and then burning it down to destroy the evidence. Typically, in 1853, Mexico was broke, and unable to pay her army. So no matter how many ways James Gadsden insulted him, and he did many times, Santa Anna could not walk away from the negotiating table,  because Gadsden was offering cash money.
The resulting Gadsden Purchase acquired 30,000 square miles of fertile farmland and valuable mineral deposits, and a railroad route over the Rocky Mountains, at the bargain basement price of $15 million – about thirty-three cents an acre. From the American point of view it was a great deal. From the Mexican point of view, it was rape. But really, nobody actually involved in the deal got what they wanted. The generals Santa Ana paid off with the cash were so offended by the deal, they overthrew Santa Anna again, and sent him into retirement for the sixth and final time. James Gadsden had so exhausted him self offending the Mexicans, he died the day after Christmas, 1858, and so missed the start of the American Civil War. But when the south went into rebellion in 1861 the north was free to finally build the transcontinental railroad via the central route  - which they finished in 1869. And when the southern transcontinental would finally be built in 1881, it would be by the same western men who had built the original central route out of California -  Huntington and Charles Crocker.
Crocker was a 49'er from Indiana, who made his first fortune selling shovels to miners in Sacramento. Then he went into banking, and he was one of Big Four who formed the Central Pacific Railroad, the western end of the transcontinental railroad. In fact "Charles Crocker and Company" was the prime contractor on the Central Pacific Railroad. Of course the shareholders in "Croker and Company" were the same men who owned the Southern Pacific. This is known as the "heads I win, tails you lose" school of finance. By 1877, the big Hoosier had so much money, he was running out of things to buy. And at that fortuitous moment, who should Croker meet but a slightly sleazy newspaper man named James Addison Reavis.
Reavis told Croker the story of the Peralta land grant. Of course he probably did not mention that the land grant was a myth. Probably. But Crocker and a few other select California investors were willing to fund more research into the claim. Did they ever believe in the validity of the grant? They would have smiled at that question, and regarded it as unimportant. The only thing that matters in the world of Capitalism, is what you can afford to prove in court.  And James Reavis could now afford to research the heck out of the Peralta land grants. And this old forger figured he stood a pretty good chance of finding every single document he went looking for. In fact, he could guarantee it.
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