No. 465
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
April 07, 2020

A Substitute for a Wife.

October 27, 2014
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John Gavin/Gaven, a 15-year-old who had been transported from England just months before, hanged at Fremantle on this date in 1844. This was the day between Good Friday and Eastern Sunday, and Gavin was the first European executed in the new settlements of Western Australia. Working as a farmhand, Gavin yielded to an impulse to […]
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Executed Today - 4/6/2020

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Epidemics can shape the way a city develops. And it was an outbreak of a lethal disease that helped create the Greenwich Village that’s been part of the larger city since the 1820s. In the 17th century, the village of Greenwich was a mostly rural suburb of farms and estates (below, Aaron Burr’s home, Richmond […]
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Ephemeral New York - 4/5/2020

Entire article Seattle Daily Times Aug 19, 1898 (transcribed below) (Click image to enlarge) he looked her trouble in the face and did not hesitate to go into the camp of his enemies." The following is an interesting newspaper clipping discussing Mary Smith's (Mary Eva Noonan) trip to Skagway, Alaska to settle her husband's (Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II) estate. She knew
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/6/2020
Beginning on January 1st, W&W will begin featuring fascinating short clippings from the Fall River papers and other newspapers from …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 12/29/2019
Robert Hoey told police that as he was coming home from work in the early hours of March 15, 1898, he literally tripped over the body of a dead woman in the courtyard of the tenement where he lived at No. 27 Monroe Street in New York City. An autopsy revealed that the woman had been strangled to death and the police believed that the body had been dragged to the courtyard known in the
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Murder By Gaslight - 4/4/2020

"Morning Post," March 17, 1823, via Newspapers.com Sometimes, people voluntarily confess to having committed heinous crimes; usually due to a bad conscience and a desire to make some amends. However, some confessions are fake. These are generally the result of genuine delusions, a perverse form of masochism, or just a desire to create a sick hoax. There are, more rarely, instances
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Strange Company - 4/6/2020
[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.