Emily Spreckels vs. Adolph B. Spreckels, initial divorce court filing (1940)

In 1940, Emily Hall Spreckels (later Tremaine) courageously stood up and publicly blasted her second husband after a turbulent year-long marriage: "no" to his alleged spousal violence and "no" to his alleged pro-Nazism. This was reported, via her initial divorce filing, in probably all media markets across the United States via wire service reports. Then it got messy.

R.J. Preece (ADP)
Art Design Publicity at ADC | 29 July 2021 | Updated 27 October 2021

Below is a copy of the first four pages of the initial divorce court filing of Emily Spreckels vs. Adolph B. Spreckels, Jr. in September 1940. The court record is over 180 pages and includes two signed statements by Emily and one by Adolph. Additionally one long Q&A deposition of Emily was included in the record, presumably with this intention by Emily in consultation with her lawyer. The deposition of Adolph, which Emily’s lawyer later alleged that it included his admission of pro-Nazi support, was not included in the court record, presumably per Adolph’s wishes.

This court record is a key document in understanding what happened during the court case. In her initial filing below, Emily alleged extreme spousal violence requiring the attention of surgeons. She also alleges that Adolph was pro-Nazi and that she found the Nazi cause to be repugnant and against her principles and ideals.

Through the divorce, several news cycles entered the national news via wire services reported extensively across the United States, in newspapers in the largest cities to the smallest of towns.

The case was dismissed in 1941. The reasons for the dismissal are unknown at this juncture. After another divorce filing, later dismissed, the two were finally divorced towards the end of World War II.

Please note, in the developing discourse on Emily’s life in the 1930s, the two previous historical rounds mentioning the case by Housley (2001) and Welter (2019) did not refer to the court record for some reason, and they relied solely on limited newspaper reports. If they had referred to the court record available at the court house in downtown Santa Barbara, many unresolved issues / questions they put forth would have been quickly answered and undoubtably their summaries would have been different.

As a reminder to those unfamiliar, it is best practice to pull a copy of a court record when referring a legal matter, particularly of a highly sensitive nature, and not rely on "secondary source" news reports alone.

1: New discoveries: Emily von Romberg, Max von Romberg, Brünninghausen and more | 2: Emily Spreckels, Adolph B. Spreckels, Jr., Brünninghausen and more