No. 423
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
April 23, 2019

Driven by Delusion

November 14, 2011
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Spanish general Jose Aranguren was shot on this date in 1939 by Franco’s Spain. A brigadier general of the Civil Guard — an internal-to-Spain paramilitary/law enforcement force that remained predominantly loyal to the Republic during the Spanish Civil War — Aranguren (the very cursory English Wikipedia entry | the more detailed Spanish) at the outset […]
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ExecutedToday.com - 4/22/2019

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The Savoy bookstore in Westerly, R.I. was cram-packed with Borden case enthusiasts this evening as author Cara Robertson held forth …

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Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 3/26/2019
"Roses are red, Violets are blue, And my cat is, too." Cats and weird little stories from the past.  What could be more Strange Company than that?  For this reason, I'm delighted to temporarily pass the blog's steering wheel over to Peggy Gavan, whose upcoming book, "The Cat Men of Gotham: Tales of Feline Friendships in Old New York" (Rutgers University Press, May 3, 2019,) is now available
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Strange Company - 4/22/2019

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
Rosa Buckstahlen and Ida Bjornstad, servants in the Chicago mansion of Amos J. Snell, were awakened at 2:00 the morning of February 8, 1888, by the sound of a gunshot from the floor below. They heard someone shout “Get out! Get out of here!” followed by more gunshots, then silence. Thinking that all was well—or more likely, too frightened to do anything else—the girls went back to sleep.
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Murder by Gaslight - 4/20/2019
I count six transportation options Brooklynites had in 1915, according to this rich and detailed postcard of Flatbush Avenue. There’s the elevated train, of course, as well as a streetcar, automobile, bicycle, horse and wagon, and of course, getting around on foot, as most of the crowd seems to be doing—when they’re not mugging for […]
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Ephemeral New York - 4/21/2019
[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
He Hit the Pipe | Whipped By Women

Driven by Delusion

Delusions

Lawrence, Mass., August 29, 1885 - Inventor Henry Goodwin visited the Lawrence, Massachusetts, office of his business partner, Albert Swan today. The two men spoke quietly for about half an hour, then Goodwin pulled out a revolver and shot Swan in the head, killing him. A crowd of people rushed to the office to see what had happened and Goodwin calmly told them “I have shot him, I meant to do it.” [more]

With the same calm determination Goodwin went to the Lawrence police station and turned himself in. When asked why he had killed Swan, Goodwin replied, “I told him a year ago that unless he came to some settlement with me about our matters, I would have his heart’s blood. He has robbed me of my papers and my patents, and when I have undertaken to sell them I could not give a good title. He has robbed me of $40,000. I did it, I meant to do it, and I am here to take the consequences.”

The patents in question were for telephone switches; Henry Goodwin was a gifted inventor in the nascent field of telephony. He had turned to his boyhood friend, and successful businessman, Albert Swan, for help in securing patents for his new inventions. They successfully patented one of his switches but the patent for his greatest invention, a switchboard that could route hundreds of calls through a central location, was lost to the Molecular Telephone Company of New York, because Swan did not finish the paperwork on time. As it turned out, Albert Swan had a business interest in the Molecular Telephone Company.

On his attorney’s advice, Henry Goodwin pled temporary insanity. Even before the patent deal, Goodwin had a history of irrational fear that his ideas were being stolen. He left two lucrative contracts in South America because in each case, he believed his employers were stealing his proprietary work. The same thing happened in the Midwest of the United States and by the time he returned to Lawrence his reputation prevented him from working anywhere.

But the jury did not buy it. The bad blood between Goodwin and Swan was well known in Lawrence. Goodwin had admitted to the murder and had admitted to warning Swan a year earlier. That sounded like premeditation and Henry Goodwin was sentenced to life in prison.

For the details on this case and about two dozen other historical Massachusetts murders, buy my new book, Murder & Mayhem in Essex County.