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

The Drama of Life,

September 1, 2014
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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
Take a Chance? | An Undertaker’s Assistant’s Mistake.

The Drama of Life,

Drama of life

Whose Strangest Tableau Was Played on the Bowery Sidewalk—The Chance Which Reunited Two Sister and Spoiled a Juvenile Target Party. [more]

There was a mob of urchins assembled in front of a Bowery groggery the other afternoon as a Gazette reporter traveled up town. They were filling the air with those hideous noises only boys and girls who go to school in the gutter, and are brought up by hand, with a club in it, know how to produce.

They were also loading the atmosphere with a miscellaneous assortment of missiles, comprising pretty nearly everything capable of being thrown, form a gob of mud or a putrid orange to the corpse of a cat which had tried to stop the wheels of some wagon and made a bad failure of it.

The object of these attentions was a woman.

She was a wretched, tattered, bloated, battered wreck, staggering even as she leaned against the wall with the fumes of the liquid poison she had been imbibing mounting into her brain.

She yet presented some traces of feminine beauty in her puffed and swollen face. Her eyes, bleared and bloodshot, were still large and shaded by ling silken lashes. Her skin, even under the grime that coated it, fine of texture. The unsteady had with which she strove to ward off the fusillade she was being made the target of, though unlashed and blackened, was as small and taper-fingered as the finest lady’s

There clung to all the shameful distortions of her womanhood, in fact, a subtle suggestion of some better past that an observant eye could not fail to discover.

The Gazette reporter had just insinuated to a red-headed boy with a decayed head of cabbage in his hand the he could find a better use for it than throwing it at a drunken woman, and the youth was rubbing the part that hurt him the most saying naughty words about the reporter, when there was a rustle of silken skirts and a voice cried sharply:

“You little wretches! How dare you! Stop at once or I’ll have you all arrested!”

For an instant the two stood looking at one another. No one but a blind man could have mistaken the resemblance between them, any more than any one could have mistaken the meaning of the simultaneous exclamations—

“Nellie!”

“Grace!”

In a moment more the outcast had staggered forward and was folded in her happier sister’s arms, with her foul rages sullying her skirts and her bruised face hidden on her bosom. Even the gutter brats looked on in awestruck quiet, and then the lady said sharply, “call a hack, somebody.”

The first to start at full speed, yelling after a passing coach was the red-headed boy, who had forgotten his injuries all at once, while a string of his comrades followed him, rending the air with shouts that made the hackman pull up with a suddenness that almost jerked his horse over his head. Before the crowd which had gathered with the suddenness that characterizes a street mob had really commenced to wonder what it was about, the coach door had slammed upon the strangely contrasted figures and the vehicle whirled away.

Five minutes later the tide of life that ebbs and flows in the great thoroughfare of the east side was in full progress again, little dreaming of the drama of real life whose strangest tableau had just been enacted on the busy pave.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, December 11, 1880.