Receipt for Jack's Cadillac Touring Car, 1909 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000033)

Written by on May 22, 2014

Jack Growing Into the 20th Century

Derrick Usher is a communication studies major (Fall ’14) completing an internship in Special Collections and Archives. He is working on a project to organize the papers of the Jack Family of San Luis Obispo.

This is the third in a series of blog posts in which he shares his experiences processing the Jack Family Papers and some of the stories that he uncovers (read the first three blog posts here, here, and here).

Throughout the early 1900s R.E. Jack sold property in Lompoc, Eureka and parts of his Cholame Ranch. While he continued to sell properties throughout this time, he wasn’t hindered in his acquisition of other properties: in 1903 R.E. Jack bought 3,008 acres of foreclosed properties. During this time Jack also expanded his oil holdings by developing his oil lands and leasing or selling their mining rights.  Jack also invested in the “Alaska Grubstake Proposition,” a venture that sent one J.R. Marston to investigate and develop gold-bearing lands near the Seward Peninsula of Alaska.

R.E. Jack’s first agricultural contribution in California was bringing sheep to the Central Coast. Between 1900 and 1910 Jack went on to run cattle by the thousands, and grew crops consisting of mustard, wheat, and citrus to name a few. He also leased a significant amount of land to other ranchers and farmers that, I’m sure, contributed to a vast array of agricultural growth and diversity throughout California. Jack’s increased interest in agricultural and entrepreneurial endeavors definitely proved fruitful considering his gross income for 1910, from cattle and housing alone, totaled roughly $35,000.

Railroad Plans

One of R.E. Jack’s notable aspirations was a railroad that would connect the Central Coast to the San Joaquin Valley. Jack, along with a few others, proposed a railroad route starting in Arroyo Grande by way of Pismo. The route would then head north to Morro Bay and Cambria, then through Morro Pass to Atascadero, Templeton, and Paso Robles. Finally, after crossing the Salinas River, near San Miguel, the route would go through Polonio Pass to Hanford in order to connect with the northern and southern railroad lines there.

While this proposed railroad route was never constructed, it was an interesting proposition. If completed it would have changed the relationships between the Central Coast and the San Joaquin Valley, both fiscally and otherwise. It would have eliminated, or reduced, the fantastical illusion of a utopian community that one experiences on the Central Coast. That being said, I don’t think that the lack of this proposed route proved too detrimental to the relationships between the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast, considering the developments in motor vehicles and highway systems that took place in the early 1900s.

New Car Problems

Receipt for Jack's Cadillac Touring Car, 1909 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000033)

Receipt for Jack’s Cadillac Touring Car, 1909 (Jack Family Papers, Special Collections, California Polytechnic State University, 014_spc_000033)

In 1909 R.E. Jack decided to order a Cadillac 30 Touring car from San Francisco. Jack had to wait a few weeks for his Cadillac to be delivered to San Luis Obispo. I’m sure Jack was raring to roar down the road in his new $2,000 luxury vehicle when it arrived; however, the dealers failed to include the crank needed to start the car. Jack had to wait more than three weeks for the crank to be delivered. Once Jack’s Cadillac was road-bound (for less than one year) the battery proved to be faulty. Subsequently, the Cadillac was out of commission for the better part of another month.

While Jack’s negative experience with buying a car happened over 100 years ago, I felt a mild sense of joy when discovering it as I considered that the proverbial insult–to-injury experience of Jack buying a car bore a resemblance to similar experiences today.

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