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

Concerning Sensational Methods.

There is a class of publications whose lives depend upon their successful appeal to vicious instinct
June 1, 2015
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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
The Minister Was Coltish. | Chloroformed While She Slept.

Concerning Sensational Methods.

worse and worse

[more]There is a class of publications whose lives depend upon their successful appeal to vicious instincts. According to the later significance given to the phrase of M. Dumas, these publications are the demi-monde of newspaperdom. Journalistic prostitution furnishes real prostitution with a large part of its sustenance. There are several phases of it. The least harmful is the frankly vicious phase represented the papers of the Police Gazette brand. The most insidious phase is represented by those papers that cloak their sensationalism with moral pretensions. Such a paper largely concerns itself with police and divorce-court records. Its best head-line reads in effect: “Testimony Unfit for Publication; It Was as Follows:” It may attain distinction by selling a few of its columns to thieves and libertines for assignation purposes, or by the light-hearted realism which animates its description of the underwear of a prominent actress. “Sensational” is the mildest epithet applied to such a paper, because it occasionally dallies with politics, or heads a subscription to purchase piano-lamps for starving infants. Its sprit is so insecure and debased that, in comparison, the editorial sprit of the New York Sun is positively one of lofty morality.


Reprinted from Puck, March 22, 1893.