Eugene Schmitz

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Eugene Schmitz
Eugene E. Schmitz.jpg
26th Mayor of San Francisco
In office
January 8, 1902 – July 8, 1907
Preceded by James D. Phelan
Succeeded by Charles Boxton
Personal details
Born (1864-08-22)August 22, 1864
San Francisco, California
Died November 20, 1928(1928-11-20) (aged 64)
San Francisco, California
Political party Union Labor Party
Profession Musician, Politician
Religion Roman Catholic

Eugene Edward "Handsome Gene" Schmitz (August 22, 1864 in San Francisco, California – November 20, 1928 in San Francisco, California) was an American musician and politician, the 26th mayor of San Francisco (1902-7), who was in office during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and became notorious for his conviction by a jury on charges of corruption.

Life and career[edit]

Born in San Francisco, Schmitz was the son of an Irish mother and a German father. He played the violin and conducted the orchestra at the Columbia Theatre on Powell Street in San Francisco, and was president of the Musicians' Union when city boss Abe Ruef chose him to run for mayor of his hometown on the ticket of the Union Labor Party. Schmitz was elected in 1902, giving protection to criminals including houses of prostitution for protection money while remaining popular with the working class, then, despite a reform candidate backed by a fusion party, reelected in 1905.[1] He was still mayor when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fire destroyed a prodigious amount of the city. On the day of the earthquake, Wednesday, April 18, 1906, he invited a cross-section of the city's most prominent businessmen, politicians and civic leaders, but none of the members of the Board of Supervisors, to form the Committee of Fifty to help him manage the crisis.

On June 13, 1907 Schmitz was found guilty of extortion, and the office of mayor was declared vacant while he was sent to jail to await sentence. Shortly thereafter he was sentenced to five years at San Quentin State Prison, the maximum sentence the law allowed. He immediately appealed; while awaiting the outcome, he was kept in a cell in San Francisco County Jail.

On January 9, 1908 the District Court of Appeals nullified his conviction. Two months later, the California Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals' ruling, and he was released on bail pending the resolution of the outstanding bribery indictments. In 1912 he was brought to trial once more, this time on charges of bribery, but after Ruef was brought from San Quentin to testify but refused to give evidence, and the other key witness, Chief Supervisor Gallagher fled to Canada, Schmitz was acquitted.

Schmitz ran for mayor again in 1915 and 1919, but was soundly defeated due to his past reputation. Elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1921, he remained until 1925. He was married and had two daughters.


  • New International Yearbook for 1907 and 1908
  • George Kennan, "The Fight for Reform in San Francisco," McClure's, Sept. 1907 & Nov. 1907.[2]



  • Walton Bean: Boss Ruef's San Francisco: The Story of the Union Labor Party, Big Business, and the Graft Prosecution (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1952; republished Greenwood Press, 1981, ISBN 0-313-23211-3).
  • Gordon Thomas & Max Morgan Witts: The San Francisco Earthquake (Stein and Day, New York; Souvenir Press, London, 1971; reprinted Dell, 1972, SBN 440-07631).

External links[edit]

Preceded by
James D. Phelan
Mayor of San Francisco
Succeeded by
Charles Boxton