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

Another Steamboat Disaster.

New York City, -- The Steamboat Riverdale blown up, August 28th – Rescuing the passengers.
October 3, 2016
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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
Watched her Lovers Fight. | A Man under Her Bed.

Another Steamboat Disaster.

Steamboat Explodes

New York City, -- The Steamboat Riverdale blown up, August 28th – Rescuing the passengers. [more]

A sad disaster occurred on the North River, off New York City, on the afternoon of August 28th, when the steamer Riverdale burst her boiler and sunk in mid-stream. The Riverdale made daily trips between this city and Haverstraw, Dobbs Ferry, Tarrytown, Yonkers, and other places up the river, and carried both freight and passengers. She had started from the Harrison Street pier, where about fifty people had boarded her, and was to take on most of her passengers at the foot of West Twenty-Second Street. As she approached that point, the pier was seen to be occupied by another vessel and the Riverdale reduced her speed. The steamer was nearly opposite the foot of Twentieth Street, and was about 150 rods from the shore, when a dull, heavy sound, like the fall of a ponderous hammer, was heard, followed by the uprising of a dense cloud of smoke, steam and flying splinters. The pilot-house and smoke-stack were thrown high in the air, and the vessel soon began to sink, disappearing from view within ten minutes. About one-half of the persons on board had distributed themselves upon the upper decks, fore and aft, while several women and children were in the after cabin. Many of them were blown into the air or thrown into the river by the shock, two being killed outright by the explosion, and a third drowned while two others died within a few hours from their injuries. Fifteen more persons were injured and the loss of life would have been much greater if a large fleet of tug-boats and row-boats which were near by had not gone immediately to the rescue. The Riverdale was an old boat, built about thirty-five years ago, and had twice changed her name. She met with an accident a year ago which would have been terribly fatal had she been laden with passengers. The drumhead of her steamchest blow off as she lay ate her dock waiting for a load of Coney Island passengers, and the steam poured forth in volumes, sweeping away the upper deck. Experienced river men say that she has been unsafe for many years, and the disaster has provoked a loud demand for a more effective inspections and government of the steamers which ply our rivers.


Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, September 8, 1883.