No. 661
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
July 25, 2024

A Magical Duet on the Guitar.

An extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix.
January 8, 2018
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Tag: New York City

Rogues' Gallery and Mementoes.

New York City Police, 1887.

5/14/2024

The Temptation of the New York St. Anthony.

A terrible struggle for member of "The Finest."

3/13/2024

Crowds Watch the Bicycle Race.

Wheelers break records in the six-day contest in Madison Square Garden, New York.

1/9/2024

A Lunatics Ball.

Ball of lunatics at the Asylum, Blackwell's Island, East River, N. Y.

10/10/2023

The Opium Dens.

New York City - The opium dens in Pell and Mott Streets - How the opium habit is developed.

7/11/2023

Skating in Central Park.

1/10/2023

Snares for the Unwary.

The "Sawed-Door Game" on a Gudgeon.

5/17/2022

Pandemonium in a Tumult.

Raid on the Broadway concert saloons, New York.

4/26/2022

Photography's Abuse by Blackmailers.

The Scheme of a Conscienceless Adventurer in New York - "Chippies" his Accomplices in Trapping Old Sinners into Hush-Money Situations.

9/28/2021

Pedal Advertising.

How two Dizzy Girls Advertised Their Charms and Political Faith.

11/5/2018

A Velocipede Riding-School.

Scene in a velocipede riding-school, New York City.

9/10/2018

Run on Max Greger's Hungarian Wines.

No. 232 Fifth Avenue, corner Twenty-Seventh Street, New York.

7/16/2018

Broadway Omnibus Racing Season.

Opening of the Broadway Omnibus Racing Season of 1884.

6/25/2018

The Lady Flashes Dance.

Dizzy cigarette girls have a most hilarious time in the Lyceum Opera House, this city.

8/21/2017

Their Sex's Worst Foes.

How the gilded vice of the metropolis fishes for its victims in the public streets, and innocent confidence is trapped by the fine feathers which disguise foul birds.

6/26/2017

What a New York Girl Did.

A vain girl makes a fireman wait until she fixes her hair preferring to risk her life rather than appear in public not “made up’; New York.

5/22/2017

An Easy Winner.

Architect John M. Merrick of New York triumphantly finishes his thirtieth canvas-back duck on the thirtieth consecutive day

5/1/2017

Robbing a Corpse.

Mrs. Day is accused of stealing a ring from the finger of dead Sophie Ahrens as she lay in her coffin.

2/27/2017

Another Steamboat Disaster.

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

10/3/2016

A Man under Her Bed.

Had Miss Baker looked under the bed before making her toilet she would have postponed it.

9/26/2016

Reward.

The Post Office Department will pay the sum of ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD, each, for the capture of Joseph Killoran, Harry Russell, and Charles Allen.

7/25/2016

An Irishman and a Yankee Settle a Dispute.

An Irishman and a Yankee Settle a Dispute Across the Breakfast Table at their Boarding House in New York.

7/18/2016

The Kissing Quadrille.

A New Attraction to the Ball Room Invented by a New York Genius for the Benefit of Bashful Men and Ugly Women.

4/26/2016

The Terrific Leap at Niblo’s Garden, From an Aerial Apparatus.

The original and daring aerial representation by Thomas Hanlon, now performed by him every evening at Niblo's Garden.

1/11/2016

Raiding the Joints.

Superintendent Walling makes a raid on a Sixth Avenue opium den and gathers in a motley crowd of smokers.

9/15/2015

A Hot Day in New York.

While New York is by no means the hottest city in the country, there have been a few days during the present season when the temperature reached a height altogether incompatible with human comfort.

7/20/2015

Oscar Wilde Gets a Reception.

Too, too, utterly utter! Remarkable effect of the appearance of Oscar Wilde, the apostle of Aestheticism, on the streets of New York City.

6/24/2015

What it Has Come To.

A scene from feal life in a sixth avenue smoking car—giddy girls who believe in taking a “whiff of the weed” in public as well as in priv

6/22/2015

Concerning Sensational Methods.

There is a class of publications whose lives depend upon their successful appeal to vicious instincts.

6/1/2015

Chorus Girls Fight.

Two of the charming girls who pose as "living pictures" in Rice's "1492" have a wordy war, which ends in a hand-to-hand conflict.

5/18/2015

Mdlle. Carlotta de Berg.

Mdlle. Carlotta de Berg, at the New York Circus, Fourteenth Street.

5/5/2015

Skating in Central Park.

Winter sports in the metropolis—a skating scene in Central Park.

2/9/2015

A Substitute for a Wife.

10/27/2014

The Green-Eyed Monster.

10/14/2014

The Drama of Life,

9/1/2014

Beautiful Forever.

7/29/2014

Scenes from “In the Tenderloin.”

6/16/2014

Collegians at Football.

12/10/2013

Hungry Joe.

The conmen of New York City were noted for their colorful nicknames: "Paper Collar Joe", "Grand Central Pete" Jimmy "the Kid" and the greatest of all "Hungry Joe".

10/20/2013

Lessons in Opium-Smoking.

10/8/2013
Via Newspapers.com There are a number of stories of churches haunted by spectral organists.  This example appeared in the "Ottawa Citizen," October 24, 1956:TORQUAY, England--The vicar says that when Henry plays the organ in vine-covered St. John's Church the music is something, but you can't help noticing you can see right through him. The vicar, Rev. Anthony Rouse, reported the
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Strange Company - 7/24/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
The low-rise, mostly commercial stretch of Brooklyn’s 18th Avenue running through Bensonhurst has a historic feel. That’s due in part to the circa-1829 New Utrecht Reformed Church and replica Liberty Pole facing the avenue. But a pocket park a few blocks away at 18th Avenue and 82nd Street contains an even more curious artifact from […]
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Ephemeral New York - 7/22/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 On Saturday, January 25, 1879, George Rowell returned home to Montville, Maine, from a trip to Bath, eighteen miles away. He lived in the house owned by John and Salina McFarland, a married couple in their seventies. Rowell, 40, married their son’s widowed wife, Abby, who had a 14-year-daughter, Cora McFarland. She also had an infant son with Rowell. All six lived together in the Montville
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Murder By Gaslight - 7/20/2024
CHIEF OF CONSThe Morning Times(Cripple Creek, Colorado)February 15, 1896Courtesy of Mitch Morrissey ig Ed Burns robs a dying man?      Mitch Morrissey, a Facebook friend and historian for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, found and published an interesting newspaper piece on "Big Ed" Burns, one of the most notorious characters in the West. Burns was a confidence man and
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/2/2024
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 … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
The New Rule at the Post-Office. | Afloat on a Cake of Ice.

A Magical Duet on the Guitar.

Magical Duet on Guitar

An extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix. [more]

So many wondrous stories are told by the ancient writes of magic and mechanism that ordinary belief is entirely at fault. If we are to believe what we read of the mechanics and learned men of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the little of chemistry or mechanical invention that we know in these times, but was then familiar to learned men, but was suppressed, either by monkish intolerance or noble ignorance. That much of these clams are true we must admit, from the fact that many wonderful inventions have come down to us, among which we can only mention gunpowder and watches as an example.

Among the wonderful stories of this kind is one told by Bonnet in his “Historie de la Musique,” where he gives the following extraordinary account of a mathematician, mechanician, and musician named Alix, who lived at Aix, in Provance about the middle of the 17th century:

“Alix, after many years’ study and labor, succeeded in constructing an automaton figure, having the shape of a human skeleton, which, by means of a concealed mechanism, played, or had the appearance of playing on the guitar. The artist after having turned in perfect unison two guitars, placed on in the hands of the skeleton, in the position proper for playing, and on a calm summer evening, having thrown open the window of his apartment he fixed the skeleton, with the guitar in its hands, in a position where it could be seen form the street. He then, taking the other instrument seated himself in an obscure corner of the room and commenced playing a piece of music, the passages of which were faithfully repeated or echoed by the guitar held by the skeleton, at the same time that the movement of its wooden fingers ,as if really executing the music completed the illusion.

“This strange musical feat drew crows around the house of the ill-fated artist; this sentiment was soon changed in the minds of the ignorant multitude into the most superstitions dread. A rumor rose that Alix was a sorcerer, and in league with the devil. He was arrested by order of the Parliament of Provence, and sent before the court, La Chambre de la Tournelle, to be tried on the capital charge of magic or witchcraft. In vain the ingenious, but unfortunate artist sought to convince his judges hat the only means used to give the apparent vitality to the fingers of the skeleton were wheels, springs, pulleys, and other equally unmagical contrivances, and that the marvelous result produced wat nothing more criminal than the solution of a problem in mechanics.

“His explanation and demonstrations were either not understood, or failed to convince his stupid and bigoted judges, and he was condemned as a sorcerer and magician. The iniquitous judgment was confirmed by the Parliament of Provence, which sentenced him to be burned alive in the principal square of the city, together with the equally innocent automaton figure, the supposed accomplice in his magical practices. This infamous sentence was carried into execution in the year 1644, to the great satisfaction and edification of all the faithful and devout inhabitants of Aix.”


Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, December 16, 1865.