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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

Spokane’s Italian community was alarmed over a proposed immigration bill in Congress that would require prospective immigrants to pass a literacy test.

Spokane’s Italian-language newspaper, Il Corriere Italiano, was “taking the lead” in the nationwide drive against the bill, the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported. The paper printed a letter of protest (in English) and urged its readers to sign it and send it to the U.S. senators from the state.  The letter read, in part: “I, the undersigned, believing that immigration is a blessing to the country, and that we need immigrants for the development of our immense resources; believing that the existing laws are sufficient to bar out undesirable immigrants … and considering that the literacy test and other like measures tend to deprive the country of many honest and sturdy workers … ask you to refrain from voting in favor of the Burnett literacy bill.” The paper noted that there were thousands of Italians working on railroads in the region, and “the Italian vote in Washington is unusually large.”

From the convict beat: Mike Schomers was a convicted horse thief who was working on a chain gang in Spokane in 1907 when he managed to file off his shackles and make a run for it.

Seven years later, he was back in jail. He was arrested for running a “bunco” game and only later did police realize he was the chain-gang escapee.


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