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Arthur Samish
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:26 pm    Post subject: Arthur Samish Reply with quote

A man of great mystery and intrigue, the greatest being his true identity. Decades after his death, Arthur H. Samish remains in large part a myth, a creature of his own making. He admits as much on page 16 of his memoir The Secret Boss of California. "When I started in business, I adopted the name of Arthur H. Samish. Many...wondered what the middle initial stood for...I took it from my mother's name, Henrietta." A seemingly curious and innocuous statement it would seem were it not for the fact that it contains statements that are ‘like much of what we know about Artie and his activities,’ partial information. Now it is true that his name was Arthur and he was by birth a Samish, but this doesn't explain the creation of Arthur H. Samish as an identity. Indeed his father was a Samish "and I will return to this in detail in a moment," but the real mystery and the reason for all of the secrecy and deception was his mother. As Samish said, his mother was his religion and therefore it is understandable that he wished to protect her memory and honor. And so it was that he built a wall of protection around her that hid the sordid details of her past and the circumstances clouding his identity. That is why he offered little more than the fact that she was his mother and her name was Henrietta.

Therefore what Samish kept as a closely guarded secret can best be described in explaining who his father was. Returning to what Samish himself told us, his father was a china decorator in Los Angeles and there indeed on a part-time basis in the 1890s was such a figure in the personage of Mr. Robert Samish. Samish was a well known San Francisco china decorator who frequented Los Angeles where he maintained a studio where he taught painting and other craft related classes to the cities elite. His business was connected for a time with the Meyerberg Bros., gallery and his advertisements offering china painting lessons appeared regularly in the Los Angeles Times. Samish shifted his business up and down the coast and seemingly every time he returned he listed a new address for his business. In 1895, Samish's gallery was listed at 133 S. Spring Street, this location was a few blocks south of city hall in the heart of the business district. However Robert Samish presents a problem that contradicts Artie's memory of his father as a tall handsome man. By the 1890s Robert Samish was a man well past his prime and entering the latter stages of life. Therefore I would tend to exclude Mr. Robert Samish Sr, as Artie's father but that leads us to the tall and handsome personage of his artistically gifted son Louis Robert. L.R. Samish achieved a measure of fame as a government employed cartoonist best remembered for the cartoons he created promoting the sale of World War I bonds. Born in 1879, Samish would die without fan fair on March 18, 1963. Louis Robert often worked in his father's businesses and was considered quite the catch in his day. Is there a possibility that Samish simply picked up upon the name of the famous artist in an attempt to legitimize himself? Indeed but then too what maysterious forces shall we contribute the mystery of his meteoric rise? As for Ms. Henrietta, it is most likely that she was one of the soiled doves of the Crib and Tenderloin districts. I base this assumption on Samish's memory of his mothers boardinghouse on Eddy Street between Polk and Van Ness in San Francisco. This would have placed them on the fringes of the Tenderloin district and as was the case of San Bernardino's Josie McFarland, a well known denizen of the Red-light region whose son Chaunco had been fathered by a well known yet very married local businessman.

And so as Arthur H. Samish began his ascent first as an office boy in the law offices of Page, McCutcheon, Knight & Olney in 1913. Who later secured work with Charles Page at the Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., before landing a job in the office of San Francisco tax collector Edward F. Bryant. We see that Samish was placed on the fast track from the start. Now Mr. Bryant was associated with the political activities of Tom Finn a boss of San Francisco politics for decades. Young Artie Samish spent 3 years in the tax collectors office before Bryan spun him off to aide Harry Rooney in his fight against prohibition. Working through the Knights of the Royal Arch, Rooney gave Samish the tutoring he would employ later in his rise to fame and fortune. Samish credits Bryant deputy Maurice L. Rapheld with introducing him to to Alexander McCabe the architect of former California Gov., and Senator Hiram Johnson. McCabe polished Samish and filled in the gaps in regard to his political knowledge. However it was Senator/Gov. Johnson whom Samish called "the greatest we've had in California politics," who would play the biggest role in securing his future. Now Hiram Johnson was indeed a very powerful figure in state and national politics, he narrowly missed out on the White house in 1912 when he and Teddy Roosevelt were defeated by Woodrow Wilson and his financial backers.

Johnson joined Senator Ralph E. Swing as one of the promoters of the Johnson-Swing Bill which led to the construction of the Boulder Dam. The close ties of Senator Swing and Artie Samish would continue for decades to come but never was there anything close to a peerage relationship and despite the boastful claims in the media offered by Samish in later years, the Senator was always the straw that stirred the drink in regard to their dealings.
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