No. 427
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
June 16, 2019

Photographed as he Died.

June 24, 2014
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(Thanks to the late University of Illinois history professor Clarence Walworth Alvord for the guest post, which originally appeared in an essay he wrote for the centennial of the Land of Lincoln‘s 1818 statehood. For context to this 1779 execution, the area comprising the future U.S. state of Illinois had been attached by the British […]
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Executed Today - 6/15/2019

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Dressing Miss Lizzie, which is a paper doll book featuring Lizzie’s garments described in newspapers of 1892 -1893 is now …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 5/30/2019

This handsome cat displays an expression not uncommon among those who visit this blog for the first time. Watch out for those haunted elevators! Watch out for those haunted cars! Watch out for those Swedish ghost pigs! The Chevalier and his Clowder. Why gin explains a lot about the 18th century. Some bridesmaid superstitions. The murder of a roadhouse keeper. The barber and
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Strange Company - 6/14/2019
Jeff and Joe Soapy Smith buries Joe Simmons The Illustrated Police News April 9, 1892 (Click image to enlarge) oe Simmons was a tall, slender gambler known to many as “Gambler Joe” Simmons, a member of the Soap Gang who managed Soapy Smith's Tivoli Club in Denver, 1890, and Soapy's Orleans Club in Creede, 1892. According to William Devere’s poem "Two Little Busted Shoes," Simmons
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/25/2019
Two children playing near their house in Greenwich, New York, the morning of Saturday, October 20, 1889, found a woman’s hat and jacket lying on a log and reported them to a group of men who were working on a road nearby. Reuben Stewart, Superintendent of Streets who was also President of the Village, thought the circumstances were suspicious and went down to take a look for himself. It was a
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Murder By Gaslight - 6/15/2019

Countless artists have painted the Brooklyn Bridge. But not Edward Hopper. Instead of focusing on the city’s most beloved and beatified bridge, Hopper in 1928 used the nearby but less-loved Manhattan Bridge to depict the isolation and solitude of modern urban life. “In his powerful and evocative painting, Manhattan Bridge Loop, Edward Hopper has frozen […]
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Ephemeral New York - 6/9/2019
[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
Independence Day in the Country. | Scenes from “In the Tenderloin.”

Photographed as he Died.

Suicide

A Well-known photographer of Albany, Vt., Successfully takes a picture of his own suicide.[more]

Miles Pierce, a prominent photographer of Albany, Vt., posed himself in the big plush chair in his gallery with the utmost nicety one day last week. He presented a three-quarters view to the lens of the camera, which was focused upon him at close range. A drop shutter was attached to the instrument and an instantaneous plate was in the holder.

When the photographer had adjusted himself to his liking he picked up a big revolver that lay on a table conveniently near, cocked it and held the muzzle against his temple.

In his left hand he gripped the bulb connecting with the camera.

As the forefinger pf the photographer’s right hand pressed the trigger his left contracted upon the rubber bulb. Simultaneously with the report of the weapon the eye of the camera winked, and that was all. The body of the man collapsed in the red plush chair. The pistol fell with a clatter to the floor, a cloud of white smoke eddied up toward the sklylight and slowly dispersed, and all was silent.

An hour or two later the body of the man was found.

There was the usual wild excitement in the village, the constables were called, and then the coroner. The camera was shoved out of the way. The verdict was suicide by reason of temporary insanity. The real reason is that nobody in Albany wanted to be photographed, and that Miles Pierce had no more money.

The man who had purchased the photographic outfit found the plate in the camera. He had the curiosity to develop it. When the image on the negative sprang into view he was so startled that he let it fall and smashed the glass. It was piece together and a few proofs printed form it. The owner has exhibited them only to a few persons, and will not part with nay. The drop did its work and the picture was recorded the instant when the bullet had pierce the photographers’s skull.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, January 16, 1897.