The Wasp Loved a Juicy Scandal

And there was none juicer in 1880s San Francisco than the case of Sharon v. Sharon, which pitted elderly millionaire William Sharon against his mistress/wife (take your pick) Sarah Althea Hill. I wrote about this Scandalous Saga last year and you can follow the whole story by clicking through to that post and subsequent posts. It is a story replete with civil suits ranging from divorce to libel to slander; criminal prosecutions from adultery to larceny to murder; allegations of forgery, blackmail, and voodoo, and pistols and knives drawn in the courtroom. It has it all!

At the time I found a couple of cartoons from the Wasp about the scandal and courtroom drama, but now I have a few more to show you.

After the court dismissed the suit against William Sharon for adultery on a technicality, Sarah Althea Hill promptly sued for divorce, claiming that they had a secret marriage. Hence we have this cartoon titled “Re-Opening the Ball.” Althea, decked out in extravagant fashion, is on the arm of wizened old ex-Senator Sharon (or he is on her arm).

althea ball

Judge Sullivan starts up the music, while the crowd of attorneys promenades in. The fat man with the spade beard and spectacles is David S. Terry, who will later marry Althea and come to a Very Bad End.

The bearded gentleman dressed up as a lady in yellow with a bright red fan is Althea’s attorney, George W. Tyler. He is also the central figure in the scene of courtroom mayhem below. As he questioned Mrs. Shawhan, and implied that she was less than respectable, she fingered a pistol in her pocket, and Tyler reached to draw his own pistol. Pandemonium ensued — you can read about it in the Pistols in the Courtroom post.


About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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