Rossi case: Our first really good look at Mabel

— See Roster of Rossi posts


Mrs. Mabel Rossi — photo received from the Barnard-Stockbridge Collection, Special Collections and Archives, University of Idaho

Well then!  What can we mine from this first real image of Mabel, Mrs. Herman J. Rossi!  I think I notice first the smiling eyes and the petulant — and perhaps sensual as well — up-turn of her upper lip.  The presence of the dog is notable.  It would suggest a target of Mabel Rossi - The_Tacoma_Times_Mon__Nov_13__1916_some claim to sophistication if the breed were not so indefinite.  As it is, the dog seems…well…just a nice dog.  Mabel is dressed for winter — and so her sweater obscures as much as it reveals of her upper body.  The fullness of her face and the billowy fit of the sweater suggest of course that she was no Twiggy.  Yet normal weight for her height and age seem quite possible.  It’s not too hard to see how the sketch artist may have arrived at the rendering a newspaper article offered.  And yet this photo suggests a measure of youth and animation that the sketch somehow did not offer.  Looked at in a certain way, the face could almost be Slavic or Native American in its broad-cheekedness, I thought. How much playfulness lurks in this young woman is hard to say, yet there certainly is some measure of that quality.  There is confidence and assuredness in her gaze, too, I thought.  And certainly still the bloom of youth.  Comments from others — others perhaps better at this sort of thing — are welcome as always!

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Shoshone County’s mistaken origin accounts

Note:  This article was originally published under a different title (namely, “Did Shoshone County Turn 150 Years Old This Year”) in Idaho magazine, July 2008.


Hubert Howe Bancroft

There is a majestically large book in the Wallace Public Library’s locked glass case.  Its pages amount to a veritable bible of early Idaho history and biography.  It is titled An Illustrated History of North Idaho, Embracing Nez Perces, Idaho, Latah, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties, published in 1903. Historian Robert Wayne Smith wrote of this volume — in relation to Shoshone County’s early history in particular — that the book contained “…more documentary material and more authoritative information than any other work.”

The book says, on page 33:  “The territorial government of Washington…organized Shoshone County in January, 1858, comprising all of the country north of the Snake river and between the Columbia river and the Rocky mountains, with the county seat on the land claim of Angus McDonald.”

Organized in 1858?

If so, then 2008 would be Shoshone County’s 150th anniversary year.

No small anniversary.

An 1858 birth date would make Shoshone County older than the State of Idaho and even a little older than the Idaho Territory.  The state was created by the U.S. Congress on July 3rd, 1890, the territory on March 4, 1863.

But what is the source and authority behind this birth year assertion?

The great volume in the locked glass case offers no source.


A little digging revealed, however, that the 1858 claim appears in more than a few additional historical works.  For instance, Hiram T. French’s History of Idaho (1914, page 109) says Shoshone County was created on January 29, 1858.  Vardis Fisher, the celebrated Idaho writer and historian, dated the county’s origin to 1858 in his The Idaho Encyclopedia (1938, page 329).  W. Earl Greenough’s First 100 Years [of the] Coeur d’Alene Mining District (1947, page 7) says, “Shoshone county was without county government for three years following its creation in 1858.”  Even U.S. Senator Mike Crapo’s web page on Shoshone County offers:  “It was the first organized unit of government within Idaho boundaries, created and named for the Shoshoni Indians in 1858 by the Washington Territorial Legislature as part of Washington, effective in 1861.”      Continue reading

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Film Review: The City of Your Final Destination

Destination City Film

This is a very watchable film (2010), with some very good performances.  Laura Linney, contrary to type, plays a heartless and obstinate widow — and plays her character well, even with her native gifts of sympathetic eyes and gentle ways.  Anthony Hopkins plays an aging gay dandy with a golden heart all the same — and plays it well too.  I particularly liked the young would-be author and the young mother he becomes attracted to in the encampment in Uruguay.  There were annoying bits, I confess.  I wish the writers had come out earlier in the film that the would-be author was trying to write his doctoral dissertation — and not just some vaguely defined “book.”  (I did some pondering afterward as to why the writers did that — and maybe you will too.)  The would-be author’s official girlfriend, back at the University of Colorado’s literature faculty, was substantially overdrawn, IMHO, and, with that, too easily disliked for a plausible romance between them to have happened.  Yet the film had traction in its truths.  And the final scene, at the opera, in New York City was a wonderful way to find resolution for the intertwined stories.  The very tall figures on the stage, in luminous colors, were an eyeful too.  Very watchable film.  Like I said.

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Rossi case: Roster of Rossi posts

Dahlquist procession a

Posts So Far

(1) ‘Rossi case:  The telling case of Herman J. Rossi’s murder of Clarence “Gabe” Dahlquist — some first few words

(2) “Rossi case:  The proximate instigation

(3) “Rossi case:  Rossi shoots Dahlquist at Samuels Hotel

 (4) “Rossi case:  Clarence Dahlquist’s surprising procession to the Depot

 (5) “Rossi case:  Rossi surrenders his freedom

 (6) “Rossi case:  Rossi’s resume

(7) “Rossi case:  Rossi and the fraternal organizations as agents of pro-Rossi bias

 (8) “Rossi case:  Rossi’s mine holdings, wealth, and networks of contacts

 (9) “Rossi case:  Mabel Strikes Back

(10) “Rossi case:  Our first really good look at Mabel

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Rossi case: Mabel Strikes Back

Rossi post 9.1:  I’m stepping out of time sequence with this draft post, jumping ahead to after Herman J. Rossi’s murder trial to a brief consideration of the initial situation surrounding Herman’s suit for divorce against Mabel and her vigorous response.  Not to forget:  This is a work in progress.  Comments welcome, as always.

— See Roster of Rossi posts


The Shoshone County judge Mabel would address her appeal for a change of venue to.

Herman J. Rossi, at his murder trial, made a point of declaring, in sworn testimony from the stand, that he’d rather be hanged or sentenced to life in prison than allow his wife’s testimony to save him.  He wouldn’t stoop, his assertion suggested, to having someone he now so thoroughly disdained help him out of his jam.  There was bravado, of course, in Rossi’s declaration.  Yet there was also, one guesses, some false bravado too.  Why wasn’t Mabel present at the trial?  Was Mabel’s nowhere-to-be-found absence a strategic choice made by Rossi and his defense team?  Her absence and her silence certainly harbored weighty rhetorical advantages for Herman’s defense.  He could paint her, in effect, in any way he wished without fear of rebuttal or counter-painting offered in her own trial testimony or even in the press.  Why the prosecution did not think to interview or call Mabel as a witness is not known.  Maybe it never occurred to them.  Or maybe they thought Mabel’s presence would on the whole help Rossi’s defense.  Or maybe they tried and could not find her – or found her and decided her potential remarks at trial would be unhelpful.  She was still Herman’s wife, of course, and thus could not be compelled to testify against him. Continue reading

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French film, Standing Tall


Watched this new French film, on Netflix, last night.  Though by no means a great film, it’s nevertheless an interesting watch for at least two reasons.  First, it offers a sympathetic — as opposed to muckraking and critical — perspective on France’s juvenile justice system.  Catherine Deneuve (pictured above — and incidentally an old heartthrob of mine) plays the wise and forbearing judge faced with what to do with a youth plagued with serious frustration, anger, and self-control problems.  Second, the portrait painted of this troubled youth is quite good — including an intelligence-deprived, too-young mom, trying situations, and an errant sense of bravado-soaked personal honor.  The film’s final resolution, at the end, was perhaps a necessary denouement — although it comes off, I’m afraid, not quite credible.  Still, certainly a worth-watching film.  And Ms. Deneuve, who’s only a month younger than yours truly, is still a knockout!

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Four film recommendations, out of the box

I’ve had unusually good luck with Netflix or Amazon films lately.  All four I’m recommending here deal very effectively with what sociologists since Tomatsu Shibutani call “social worlds” (for more on the concept, download here).  All four are foreign films. Here you go — enjoy!



Out of Iceland, a beautiful panoramic film.



A French film, with endearingly warm and convincing role portrayals by both the lead actress and the male actor who plays her conflicted husband.  The tale is a metaphor for all the fictions we must maintain in order to get by in life.

Last Cab to Darwin


This Australian film is admittedly heavy-handed and overwrought.  But I liked it.  Even a lot.

Mr. Turner


Gruff and tender never had it so good before.

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