Maury I. Diggs (1886–1953) was a prominent architect from a well-to-do Bay Area family who in the 1910's was the State Architect of California. California Democratic senator Marshall Diggs was the uncle of Maury Diggs. I.P. Diggs, a successful Berkeley contractor, was Maury Diggs' father.

Architectural Career

As a young man Maury Diggs and Clarence C. Cuff were architectural partners for several years in the firm Cuff & Diggs in Sacramento, California, where they designed many of the city's historical buildings. During that period, Maury Diggs was also the State Architect, and assisted in designing San Quentin Prison along with other buildings.

Due to a nationally-followed scandal which was brought about by his arrest and subsequent trial for violating the Mann Act, as described further below, Diggs' career (and life) changed dramatically, leading to his relocation to Oakland, California.

While in Oakland, Diggs continued his architectural career, designing race tracks such as Golden Gate Fields and Bay Meadows, as well as the Latham Square Building in Downtown Oakland and the Bechtel Building on Lakeside Drive.

Diggs also designed and constructed the Fox Oakland Theatre in 1928, although the firm of Weeks and Day were the architects of record. It appears Diggs designed the entire theatre, but due to his soiled reputation, was only credited with having designed the Baghdadian retail wings. 3, 4, 5

Maury Diggs and the Mann Act Scandal

When Maury Diggs was 26 years old and married, he and his best friend F. Drew Caminetti 27 years old and also married, became romantically and sexually involved with two young women, Marsha Warrington and her close friend, Lola Norris, in the spring to 1913.

After much crazy behavior, mainly on the part of Maury Diggs' father, who tried to end the affairs by hunting down his son, and the other three with a policeman, the young people tried to escape the ensuing scandal by fleeing Sacramento on a train to Reno, Nevada.

They were arrested in Reno and charged under the Federal Mann Act, also known as the White-Slave Traffic Act, which prohibited white slavery, the interstate transport of females for immoral purposes.

The two separate trials of Diggs and Caminetti were held in San Francisco Federal Court. Diggs' trial was first, which began on August 5, 1913, with a huge media circus of reporters and photographers chasing the trial defendants and witnesses.

During the summation, the federal prosecutor told the all male jury "the people of all these United States; 60,000,000 or 90,000,000 people are awaiting your verdict ... an acquittal in this case would be a miscarriage of justice."

Maury Diggs was convicted on four counts, and the judge sentenced him on September 17, 1913 to two years in prison and a $2,000 fine. Caminetti in his trial was also found guilty of transporting for immoral purposes, and was sentenced to 18 months and fined $1,500.

The cases of both men were appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (Caminetti v. United States), which initially denied the petition on June 14, 1915, but a week later reconsidered. The majority of the court "branded the weekend seducers and adulterers who traveled in interstate commerce as felons, regardless of the lack of coercion or compensation." 1

Diggs eventually served his sentence at the McNeil Island Federal Penitentiary in Pierce, Washington, beginning on April 4, 1917. He was released on parole on December 20, 1917, after serving a third of his sentence. 6

In 1937 Diggs and Caminetti were both granted a Presidential Pardon, which restored their civil rights (but not their previous good reputations).

Life After Conviction

Diggs and his first wife divorced in 1914.2 On December 15, 1915 Maury I. Diggs and Marsha Warrington married in Oakland, California; they had one daughter together. Maury and Marsha lived in a unit in the Bechtel Building at 244 Lakeside Drive, a building which he had designed, but Diggs lost the apartment in a card game. He and Marsha were forced to move into a smaller home at 2122 Lakeshore Avenue. In 1953 Maury I. Diggs died at the age of 66 in a St. Helena rest home. His widow Marsha Diggs passed away in 1965. 5

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Links and References

  1. Crossing Over the Line: Legislating Morality and the Mann Act by David J. Langum
  2. MAURY I. DIGGS MARRIES.; Marsha Warrington Bride of Californian Convicted Under Slave Act The New York Times
  3. Victorian Walking Tour sample - Woodland City of Woodland
  4. Maury Diggs, Fox Theater builder, ex-convict, by Angela Woodall, Oakland Tribune, 11/27/2009
  5. Man Wants Fox Theater Builder to Get Full Credit, by Angela Woodall, Oakland Tribune, 12/27, 2010
  6. McNeil Island, Washington, U.S. Penitentiary, Records of Prisoners Received. Ancestry.com