Royal Reels: Gambling


Four fronts of covers were recently seen on Ebay sent from Sydney with a printed address of Messrs. Hind, Rolph & Co., 230 California Street, San Francisco, U.S.America. Two have been chosen to introduce this company, and the first has four copies of the grey 2d ‘Roo on Map of Australia’ stamps cancelled by a roller cancel of SYDNEY/ 9-PM/ DE 30/1918/ N.S.W. The second has a roller cancel of SYDNEY/ 1918 on a single grey 2d “Roo on Map of Australia’ and a single red 1d KGV head (Figures 1 & 2).

James Rolph junior was born August 23, 1869 in San Francisco to James Rolph senior and his wife Annie Marshall Read . He was educated in Mission District schools. After schooling he went to work as an office boy in the commission house of Kittle & Co. Upon graduation from Trinity College, he formed a partnership with George Hind and engaged in the shipping and commission business. The company was formed in 1900 and they were the first to to field a fleet of west coast American ships to bring sugar cane from the kingdom of Hawaii to the newly formed California and Hawaii Sugar Company. As briefly described later these ships also sailed to Australia.

In 1903, James Rolph Junior helped found the Mission Bank, of which he became president, and he also served as president of the Mission Savings Bank. He founded the Rolph Shipbuilding Company, and the James Rolph Company. He was asked to run for mayor in June 1909, but declined, choosing instead to run in the 1911 election. For the next 19 years Mayor Rolph was “Sunny Jim” to San Franciscans with ‘There are Smiles That Make You Happy’ as his theme song. In 1915 he appeared as himself in an early documentary film titled Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco, which was directed and starred in by Fatty Arbuckle. A picture of Mayor Rolph addressing a crowd at the World’s Panama-Pacific Exposition in 1915 as vice-president of the Exposition is shown in Figure 3.

Along with his job as mayor and his private shipping interests he also served as director of the Ship Owners & Merchants Tugboat Company, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, and president of the Merchants’ Exchange. In November 1930, James Rolph, Jr. won the California gubernatorial election as a Republican, with his resignation as mayor effective simultaneously with his inauguration as governor, on Tuesday, January 6, 1931. James had been the longest serving mayor of San Francisco of 18 years.

On November 9, 1933, Brooke Hart, son of a wealthy San Jose merchant was kidnapped. The two men responsible were caught, later forcibly removed from jail, and hanged by a vigilante committee in San Jose’s St. James Park. Governor Rolph, by condoning the lynching, was nicknamed “Governor Lynch” and received extremely bad publicity across the nation. Following this episode, he suffered several heart attacks and died at Riverside Farm, Santa Clara County, on June 2, 1934, three years into his term. He was interred at Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma California. As his legacy, the official name of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the James “Sunny Jim” Rolph Bridge.

Rolph (with the exception of the last para) was very highly regarded: “No man has surpassed his personal popularity in the service of the people of California, nor has excelled his tolerant, intelligent, and astute manner of conducting the responsible duties which have been assigned to him. The thinking citizens of his native city and state recognize his keen understanding of human nature, of human rights, and his ability to apply this extraordinary knowledge to the task in hand. The welfare of his city and state have been his uppermost concern, and in countless ways his executive genius in promoting civic development.”

There was a definite association of Hind and Rolph’s ships with Australia: Hind & Rolph would name most of their ships with ‘kanaka’ or local Hawaiian names. Their ships started in San Francisco, sailed up to Washington to load lumber. From there the heavily laden four masted schooners raced to Australia, where the lumber was exchanged for coal. Their holds brimming with coal, they next raced to Pearl River Harbor on the island of Oahu, where a permanent U.S. Navy coaling station had recently been established. Whilst Rolph was well documented, there was no further information available on his first partner, George Hind.

A photo of James Rolph junior is seen in Figure 4.

Categories: Business, Political