Murchison Avenue

Named for a nonexistent person – and a prank that changed the outcome of a presidential election. Here’s the story: In 1888, Democrat Grover Cleveland was running for his second term. Two months before the election, George Osgoodby (1853-1923), a rank-and-file Republican who lived in Pomona, penned a letter to Sir Lionel Sackville-West, British ambassador to the United States. Posing as a British expat named “Charles F. Murchison”, Osgoodby asked Sackville which presidential candidate he should vote for: incumbent Cleveland, or his Republican opponent Benjamin Harrison? Sackville’s response indicated that the UK preferred Cleveland – a controversial endorsement at a time when many Americans hated England. Osgoodby and his Pomona cronies knew they had political dynamite and eventually got Sackville’s letter to Harrison Gray Otis, the Republican owner of the Los Angeles Times, who was only too happy to publish it. The subsequent nationwide media uproar incensed enough voters to turn on Cleveland. Thus Harrison won the election (although Cleveland would retake the presidency four years later) and Sackville was fired for his impropriety. Pomona’s Murchison Avenue was jokingly named on November 1st, 1888 at the height of the “Murchison Letter” affair. It’s probably not coincidental that Cleveland Street lies nearby.