No. 444
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
October 15, 2019

A Substitute for a Wife.

October 27, 2014
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Our old familiar the Newgate Calendar supplies us with this narration of a Scottish Jacobin to pop the powdered wigs from Edinburgh to Westminster. A published version of the trial in question is available here, and a last-speech broadside awaits you here. Watt is the only monument in Executed Today‘s pages to the attempted creation […]
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Executed Today - 10/15/2019

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By Jo Anne Giovino with photography and research by Barbara Morrissey and Kristin Pepe *(All rights reserved, August 2019) Although …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 7/31/2019

Generally speaking, poltergeists are the bratty kids of the paranormal world. They create a lot of noise, cause some damage, and make obnoxious spectacles of themselves, but they are, on the whole, seemingly helpless to do any real harm. Their antics are tiresome, rather than evil. On occasion, however, polts exhibit threatening, even fiendish behavior. Reading these accounts, one
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Strange Company - 10/14/2019
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
John Delaney met Mary Jane Cox in October 1886; she smiled at him as they passed each other on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, and he turned to follow her. She was 17-years-old, he was 15. Mary Jane did not refuse his advances outright, but gave him her address and told him to write to her. Their relationship progressed quickly, and eight months later, Mary Jane told John she was pregnant, and he
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Murder By Gaslight - 10/12/2019

In this photo, some of the letters look red, others are definitely pink. No matter what colors the letters are, this gorgeous glowing sign for Neil’s Coffee Shop on 70th Street and Lexington Avenue is proof that New York bars and restaurants still feature the city’s iconic iridescent neon store signage. Neil’s is an under-the-radar […]
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Ephemeral New York - 10/13/2019
[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
Bulldozing a Voter. | "It Costs Money to Fix Things."

A Substitute for a Wife.

Substitute Wife

A disconsolate widower secures a dummy, and dresses it up in his wife’s clothing, just to humor a “little fancy;” New York City. [more]

A Dummy Made to Fill a Wife’s Place.—The Force of Habit.

The breezy Captain Marryat relates in one of his novels an incident illustrative alike of the wonderful force of habit and the facility of substitution, so to speak, in human nature. Its awful to think that one’s place in the world may be filled by a scrubbing brush, and yet the captain demonstrates the possibility of such a thing. A worthy old salt, so goes the chronicle, has been in the habit of sleeping with his hand on his wife’s head. She wore her hare close cropped, it is narrated, yet to the weather-beaten hand the stubble cushion seemed of downy softness, such is the power of infatuation and perfect sympathy.

The worthy tar all too soon became a widower, and when he stretched out his hand in his bed and found only smooth pillow beside him he could not sleep. Long and deeply was he troubled and the physicians tried in vain. Finally, he one night took the scrubbing brush to bed with him, placed it upside down on the pillow next to him, reposed his hand upon it and nature’s sweet restorer came swift on downy pinions to light upon his tear-sullied lids. Now, another widower, who states that he lives in New York, has written a letter to this office to state that he has had the extreme felicity of burying his wife, and that he misses her well-dressed form in the house he intends, instead of getting an old maid for a companion, to purchase as dress-maker’s dummy and dress it up four or fives times a year in the newest flounces and millinery wrinkles and so replace his loss.

“So long as the bills from the dressmaker come in regularly,” he writes, “I can still feel like a married man.”

From some subsequent allusions in this purported widower’s letter the suspicion grows that he is not what he pretends to be, but is, in fact, a married man who has failed to subscribe for the new fall number now due, and his faithful wife has grown acrimonious.

 


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, October 23, 1880.