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The San Francisco Daily Morning Call, August 6, 1864


A scoundrel named George R. Powers has been detected in the obscene book trade and captured. He has been carrying on the trade after a fashion of his own. Over the signature of "Mrs. Amelia Barstow," he writes chatty, familiar letters to young girls in the California seminaries, soliciting patronage for his infamous books and pictures. He made a mistake, though, when he addressed the following epistle to a school girl of fourteen years of age, for her home teachings had not been of a character to enable her to appreciate it, and she sent it at once to her father. From him it passed to Judge Coon, who handed it to Chief Burke to be disposed of. The Chief took a lively enough interest in the matter to take officer Hess from his regular duties in the Police Court and keep him on the track of Mrs. Barstow for a week and a half, with Officer Pike to assist him. We suppress the name of the young lady and that of the school she belongs to, of course:

San Francisco July 21st, 1864.

MISS ______: - I have just received from New York a large number of the most delightful books you can imagine. To refined young ladies of an amorous temperament, they are "just the thing." For five dollars sent to me through the Post Office, in two separate enclosures of two dollars and a half each, I will forward you two different volumes, each containing five tinted engravings. Accompanying the package will also be a beautiful life photograph, entitled "* * * * * * *." The strictest secrecy will be observed, which may be heightened by your transmitting a fictitious address, in case you reply to


(We suppress the title of dear Amelia's "life photograph," as being somewhat too suggestive. -REPORTER.)

Officer Hess suggested the policy of writing an answer to Amelia's note, and getting it sent through the Post Office to her, as coming from the young girl she had addressed. He framed the following note, putting in punctuation marks with great liberality where they did not belong, and leaving them out where they did, and mimicking school-girl simplicity of phraseology, and proneness to tautology, with great ingenuity. The Chief having approved of it, a lady copied it in the microscopic chirography of sweet fourteen, and it was ready for mailing, as set forth here below. We suppress the girl's name, and that of the Post Office:

* * * * *, July 27, 1864.

MRS. AMELIA BARSTOW - Dear Madame: - I received your letter which you sent on the 21st of this month and I am glad, for I have been wishing for something nice to read for a long time. Father has not given me much money this month and I cannot send this time the amount you say; but if you will send me one book by sending two dollars and a half, please write and tell me so, and by return mail I will send it. A number of the girls in my class wants some books also, and if you will send one book for two dollars and a half some four or five others will send for some also. Please direct to Charles Harris for if directed to a Miss or Mrs. some of the teachers may get the letter.

Yours truly, * * * * * *


The letter was put into the hands of Postmaster Perkins, who at once entered into the work of entrapping the miserable Mrs. Barstow with as much alacrity and earnestness as if the insulted girl had been his own child. He enclosed the decoy letter in a department envelop to the Post master of ____, with instructions to postmark and send it back through the mail to Mrs. Amelia Barstow at once. He also instructed the Post Office clerks to give Officer Hess and his assistant every facility for corralling the masculine miscreant who was doubtless passing himself for a woman in his nefarious correspondence; (no female had ever applied for letters under the name of Mrs. Amelia Barstow.) The decoy letter came back in due time, and was taken out by Mr. Powers while Mr. Hess was absent at lunch, but the clerk who officiates in the ladies' department at the Post Office took such a minute mental photograph of him, that the officer had no difficulty in following after and detecting his man in the street, from the description given of him. After walking around town for some time, Powers finally opened the letter, read it, and replaced it in his pocket. Hess entered into conversation with him, and in answer to certain questions, the fellow said he had no appointment to meet Mrs. Barstow at any particular place - expected to stumble on her in the street; said he had no particular occupation; was in the habit of taking her letters from the Post Office for her. It took him but a short time to discover that he was in the hands of an officer, and then his replies became decidedly non-committal. Hess asked him if he wrote the letter signed "Mrs. Aurelia Bar stow." Powers said, "If I were to say I did, what would be done with me? what could you make out of it?" When asked if Mrs. Barstow would come and clear him of suspicion if she knew he was about to suffer for an offence committed by her, he caught at the idea, and said she would; the thoughtless numskull even eagerly wrote her a note, which the officer was to deliver to her after accomplishing the hopeless task of finding her. That act furnished the officer all the information he lacked, and enabled him to "rest his case," but it ruined the unthinking Powers - for behold, the first words of the note, "MRS. AMELIA BARSTOW," were a perfect fac-simile of the name signed to the letter to the school-girl, and fully convicted him of being the writer of it. Powers will be tried this morning for offering to sell obscene pictures, and perhaps for opening other people's letters, and the chances are that he will be severely dealt with. He deserves it, for any one acquainted with the impressible nature of young girls, shut out from the world and doomed to irksome and monotonous school-life, knows the heightened charm and excitement they find in amusements that are contraband and have to be secured by risky evasions of the rules, and is also aware that a whole school might be corrupted by the circulation among them of a single volume of the lecherous trash dealt in by Mr. Powers.

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