No. 526
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
June 21, 2021

Melancholy Boat Accident.

April 24, 2012
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"Louisville Courier-Journal," May 8, 1881, via Newspapers.comWhen I started this blog, I hoped to focus on the smaller, obscure stories from the past--the long-forgotten bits of random oddities that, when taken together, show just what a strange world we live in.  In short, the "uncommon" is really quite commonplace.One such story is the death of one otherwise completely unmemorable young man. 
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Strange Company - 6/21/2021

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An Ordnance to Cover the Defective Points.Denver Tribune-RepublicanMay 14, 1885(Click image to enlarge)   n order to cover such cases as "Soapy" Smith, the arrest of whom for violating the lottery ordinance"  Note how bad the Xerox copy at the top is. This was shared to my father, by his brother (my uncle) Joseph Jefferson Smith​ (1909-1977). Obviously, the copiers at the time did not do
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 6/13/2021

When railroad baron H.H. Cook decided to build himself a New York City mansion, he didn’t try to squeeze into a plot of land on Fifth Avenue in the 50s—an area that had been colonized by several Vanderbilt heirs and other Gilded Age moneymakers. Instead, he went to the then-hinterlands of Manhattan, purchasing the entire […]
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Ephemeral New York - 6/20/2021
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Parental hostility drove Fanny Madison out of her home and into the arms of her cousin, Thomas Cluverius. It was not a wise decision.Read the full story here: Kissing Cousins.                                             Pictures from Illustrated Police News, May 2, 1885.
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Murder By Gaslight - 6/19/2021

Producer-director Ric Rebelo has today, in memory of LeeAnn Wilber, former co-owner of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, released this award-winning film for public view on Youtube. This was filmed in 2010, some of the participants in the production are no longer with us today. What was recorded in 2010 has not changed much today in 2021, only intensified in fascination.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 6/16/2021
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Comstockery. | Burlesque Comes to America.

Melancholy Boat Accident.

Boat Accident

August 31, 1868 - Sad End of Two of the Demi-monde, near Cairo, Ill. [more]

Prostitutes and their Paramours Go Bathing

Two of the Unfortunate Women Drowned

The following account of a very bad disaster, we copy from a recent Cairo (Ill.) paper:

At a late hour on Saturday night, Aug 31st, Frank Douglas, proprietress of the notorious house of ill-fame, known as the “Flat Top,” situated on Fifth street, between Washington and Commercial Avenue, and three of her “lady” boarders, named Fanny Williams, Mollie Jones and Alice Forche, accompanied by four men, started for the Kentucky shore in a small skiff, for the alleged purpose of bathing. The party made the trip in safety, reached the other shore, and remained there for perhaps two hours. At about 1 o’clock they started back to the city, and report has it, that either the bath or something else had an exhausting effect on the party, for they are reported as being rather noisy and careless in the management of the skiff. The boat was a small leaky concern, unfit for carrying over four or five persons, but the party of eight were crowded in, and because they were far from the Kentucky shore, commenced leaking badly, perhaps on account of the reckless manner in which they acted, rocking the boat from one side to the other. To add to the trouble, the bailing dish had either been lost or thrown overboard, and the boat was soon in a swamping condition. When they reached a point opposite the stone depot, the boat filled with water to the seats, went under, leaving the party scrambling in the water. Their screams attracted the attention of Mr. Robinson, mate of the steamer Alpha, who immediately went to the relief in a skiff. On reaching the party, he ordered the men away from the boat, and threatened to strike with the oar the first one who attempted to get in, until he reached the females. He succeeded in picking up Frank Douglas, Fannie Williams, and the four men. Mollie Jones and Alice Forche were drowned.

Mollie Jones had resided in Cairo since 1863. She was a married woman about thirty years old, and her husband, a contemptible wretch, forced her to enter on a life of prostitution, so that he might live a life of ease.

The unfortunate Alice Forche, has been in Cairo about six months. She is reported as being of a decidedly prepossessing appearance, intelligent and of a good family. She was sixteen years old and came from Paducah to this place. It is said that she was seduced by a well-known and “highly respectable" Paducahian who send her here to get rid of marrying her.

One of the men, when the boat went under and he found himself in the water, attempted to remove his pantaloons, in the pocket of which was his pocketbook containing a considerable amount of money, and a fine gold watch. He had partly succeeded in doing so when one of the drowning females caught him and in the endeavor to save himself, lost his pantaloons, watch and money.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, September 14, 1867