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Abraham Ruef Trials: 1906-08

Ruef Is Convicted

In the end, none of the havoc saved Ruef, whom a jury finally convicted in 1908. He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in San Quentin, and finally, after exhausting his appeals, began serving his sentence. Of all of the bosses and corrupt politicians who had controlled the city since 1901, he was the only man to go to prison for his deeds. Mayor Schmitz was also convicted of bribery and extortion, but an appellate court overturned the verdict.

In August 1915, after serving fewer than five years of his term, Ruef was granted parole. During the course of his career he had taken at least half a million dollars in bribes. However, by the time he died in 1936 he had become bankrupt.

Ruef's case is one of the more dramatic stories of the rise of urban graft, the influence of political cronyism, and the battle of labor and party bosses with the emerging forces of the Progressive movement. Rarely in American history has a private citizen so tightly controlled a city's political machinery, and rarely has his downfall been so notorious and complete.

Buckner F. Melton Jr.

Suggestions for Further Reading

Bean, Walton. Boss. Ruef's San Francisco: The Story of the Union Labor Party, Big Business, and the Graft Prosecution. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.

Older, Fremont. My Own Story. Oakland, Calif.: The Post-Enquirer Publishing Co., 1925.

Thomas, Lately. A Debonair Scoundrel: An Episode in the Moral History of San Francisco. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1962.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Abraham Ruef Trials: 1906-08 - Reformers Begin To Battle Ruef, Ruef Is Convicted