Log in Subscribe

Sunday Favorites: Unwarranted Reprimands


Whistling at this woman in the 1800s might get you shot!

Photo: Florida Memory Project

Just about everyone has received what he or she deemed as an unjustified reprimand from a local law enforcement department. Whether it was a speeding ticket, a citation for a rolling stop or a wild adventure that resulted in jail time, the definition of unfair retribution varies depending on whom you ask.

But what if you were arrested for annoying someone, or shot on the spot when you called a woman an unflattering name? Reproaches such as those seem unreasonable, but those were just some of the outlandish ordinances that were once common practice in the region.

Take retired war correspondent Maj. Alden Joseph Adams who resided in Bradenton during in the early 1900s. The wealthy store owner who served as town mayor, a city councilman and justice of the peace over the duration of his residence owned more than 8,000 acres of land in the area, but his wealth and influence weren’t enough to get him out of a speeding ticket. 

His daughter, Tekla Maude Adams, was fond of wildly galloping into town on her horse. The town sheriff deemed her actions a danger to pedestrians and gave her father a ticket to get her to slow down. 

In the 1920s, Sarasota Mayor Everett J. Bacon, issued a moratorium on “mashing” and instructed the local police department to jail and or heavily fine any man who was “annoying’ women walking down the street. He said he issued the command on behalf of “the well being of the fairer sex,” according to The Hidden History of Sarasota by Jeff LaHurd.

The Sarasota Herald backed up his decree, even taking it a step further. An editorial in the paper dated August 8, 1926 was titled “Shoot Them on the Spot.” According to LaHurd, the article said that any man who insults a woman should be shot on sight. The opinion piece goes on to recommend that every man should buy his wife and daughter(s) a gun and encourage them to keep it on their person at all times; after he teaches them to use it, of course. 

The “mashing” epidemic may have been spurred by an increasing number of inebriated men wandering the streets of Sarasota. The chief of police, S. Tilden Davis, made it known that he would not tolerate such behavior, especially on Sundays. Davis said any man who was caught slurring his speech or stumbling along the road would be jailed.


Maj. Adams is seated between his daughters Telka Maude (left) and Irma Adelaide. Tekla's fondness of riding wildly through town on her horse got her a speeding ticket from the town sheriff. 

Photo: Manatee Historical Archives

The Sarasota Herald published an article the next day recommending a new jail as soon as possible. The old one was simply “not large enough to deal with the new element making its way into Sarasota during these wild, roaring twenties days.”

During the 1950s, cars traveling though Palmetto didn’t have to do anything wrong to get pulled over. The Palmetto Police Department routinely stopped out-of-towners and took them directly to city hall for their court appearance. (Sound similar to the plot of Trouble starting Chevy Chase and Demi Moore?)

The city had gained a reputation a speed trap and AAA would regularly route travelers around the city to avoid speeding tickets. As a marketing ploy, the Chamber of Commerce came up with the idea of “hospitality traps,” which were intended to paint the city in a positive light.

After the tourists were done having a heart attack, they were presented with a fresh bouquet of gladiolas (which were grown in Palmetto) and a gratis hotel and dinner reservations instead of a ticket.

So the next time you get a ticket, take a deep breath, refrain from screaming and imagine how silly that citation will seem in one hundred years. In the future, when marijuana is smoked in restaurants and using plastic bags is a felony, you can look back and laugh about it. 


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.