Archives Find of the Month: Trouble at the Goo Goo Saloon

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Clerk File 14547 contains the following report from Police Chief John Sullivan, dated April 24, 1902:

“I beg leave to report to your honorable body that on the night of April 23rd, 1902, H.H. Wilkins Jr. and a party of friends entered the Goo Goo Saloon and Concert Hall, on the southwest corner of 2nd Ave. South and Main streets, in this city. He drank a glass of beer and in a few moments was taken sick. A waiter came rushing up, gave him a glass of seltzer sour, and told his friends to take him out. As soon as they reached the sidewalk with him he became unconscious. Dr. DeSoto, who happened to be in the vicinity, applied restoratives, and Wilkins was brought to the police station. Dr. Bories was then called to attend him, and, after an examination, said that Wilkins had been given a large dose of chloral, and had it not been for the prompt attention given him by Dr. DeSoto he undoubtedly would have died.

James Sloan was picked up in the same place about two hours afterwards in a dazed condition, undoubtedly suffering from the effects of chloral, claiming that he had been robbed of fifteen dollars.

This report is made to your honorable body in order that you may take such steps as you deem best in the premises.”

The Seattle Times filled in more details about Sloan’s case, saying that a patrolman had noticed him inside the saloon in a “dazed condition” and left to call a patrol wagon to take Sloan to the police station. When he came back inside, Sloan was gone, and the bar’s occupants “professed not to know what had become of him.” About 15 minutes later, the patrolman found Sloan “in a box, where he evidently had been placed by some one.”

The Times reported that at the ensuing trial against the proprietors of the Goo Goo, a former bartender testified that chloral poison was kept behind the bar to mix in the drinks of “customers who happened to exhibit any large sum of money on their person.” However, the defense attorney got the victim Wilkins to admit that he had drunk whiskey earlier in the night and wasn’t feeling well all evening. Despite the two doctors’ testimony that they believed Wilkins’ symptoms to be from poison, the judge ended up dismissing the case.