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

An Undertaker’s Assistant’s Mistake.

August 26, 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
The Drama of Life, | The Girls Have a New Game.

An Undertaker’s Assistant’s Mistake.

She wasn't the corpse.

She Wasn’t the Corpse.

The Queer blunder made by the assistant of an undertaker in a house of mourning, Bridgeport, Conn. [more]

In a town near Bridgewater, Conn., death entered an estimable household at midnight, and an undertaker from the city was summoned by telegraph. On arriving at the house the undertaker sent his assistant to an upper chamber to prepare the corpse. Taking her box of bandages, sponges, &c., the assistant went, as she thought, to the room indicated, but instead she entered the room of a young lady, a member of the bereaved family, who had fallen sound asleep from exhaustion caused by her constant attention at the sick bed. The attendant had an old-fashioned tallow dip, which she set on the stand, and depositing her box on the bed by the side of the sleeping beauty she began operations. Takin a soft sponged she carefully washed the face observing, what was not unusual, that the flesh was still warm. The young lady slept on, but when a fine-toothed comb was drawn through some tangled crimps of her hair she awoke with a suddenness that upset bot the attendant and the box of implements. Both ladies gave a shriek that could have been heard blocks away, and as soon as a match could be struck, for the candle had been overturned and extinguished, explanations followed. The attendant believed the corpse had come to life, and the awakened damsel thought she had been disturbed by a burglar. The household below was aroused, and they followed the undertaker in quick succession to the scene of the disturbance. Although the death had cast a gloom over the household there was a quiet laugh when the situation was explained.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, October 9, 1886.