No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 30, 2022

Another Voice for Cleveland.

December 13, 2011
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Fifteen-year-old Jody Randall of Long Beach, California, was in most ways a typical suburban teenager.  The one thing that set her apart was a passion for antiques which was unusual for someone of her youth.  As a result of spending all her available free time (and her parents’ money) on her hobby, she eventually amassed some impressive pieces, including a doll collection noteworthy enough to
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Strange Company - 11/28/2022
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Shell and Pea Game on the Trail"Sketched from life by M. W. Newberry"San Francisco ChronicleApril 10, 1898(Click image to enlarge)    UNKO MEN AND THEIR TRICKS      A wonderfully detailed description of the modus operandi of Soapy Smith's three shell and pea manipulators along the Chilkoot and White Pass trails. Witnessed and reported by Joseph D. Barry, and published in the San Francisco
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 11/21/2022
Working as a domestic servant in 19th century New York City had plenty of challenges. Sure, servants received room and board in addition to their wages, and they usually had at least Sunday afternoon off. But living in another family’s home was isolating and lonely—particularly if you didn’t speak English or weren’t accustomed to urban […]
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Ephemeral New York - 11/28/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
Museum of the City of New YorkWilliam Howe and Abraham Hummel were the most successful criminal lawyers in Gilded Age New York. With a combination of skill, showmanship, and unethical practices, they defended most of the city’s significant criminals and many of its murderers. Whether they won or lost, Howe and Hummel made every trial sensational. Here are a few of the many accused murderers
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Murder By Gaslight - 11/26/2022
Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
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
An Irishman and a Yankee Settle a Dispute. | Anti-Everything.

Another Voice for Cleveland.

I want my pa

July 1884-Another Voice for Cleveland. In the presidential election of 1884, Maria Halpin accused candidate Grover Cleveland of being the father of her love-child—a charge the candidate did not deny. [more]

In 1873, Grover Cleveland was an up and coming lawyer in Buffalo, New York with a reputation as a hard drinking brawler and womanizer. He was introduced by a mutual friend to Maria Halpin, a young widow who worked in a department store and on the evening of December 15, 1873 Cleveland met Maria on the street and persuaded her to join him for dinner. After dinner he walked her back to her apartment and there, in a situation that could only be described as rape, he had sex with her.

Six weeks later Maria Halpin realized she was pregnant. In hysterics she went to see Cleveland and insisted that he marry her. He told Maria he would do “everything that was honorable and righteous” and, according to Maria, he agreed to marry her. He put her in the care of Dr. James E. King who delivered the baby boy on September 14, 1874. At Cleveland’s insistence the boy was named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, after his best friend and law partner, Oscar Folsom. But Grover Cleveland did not marry Maria Halpin.

Dr. King took the baby and for the first year of his life he was raised by a foster family who called him Jack. Maria took him back and raised him as Oscar Folsom Cleveland, but 1n 1876, Grover Cleveland arranged to have Maria declared an unfit mother due to alcoholism. She was sent to a lunatic asylum and the boy was sent to an orphanage. In 1877, Maria Halpin was given $500 to give up the child and Dr. King took him from the orphanage and raised him as James E. King, Jr.

1884-campaign-cartoon-2
Anti-Blaine Cartoon

Despite persistent rumors, Grover Cleveland was able to keep the matter quiet through successful campaigns for Mayor of Buffalo and Governor of New York. In 1884 Cleveland was chosen as the Democratic candidate for president. With a reputation as a reformer and a man of integrity, Cleveland was seen as the perfect opponent for James Blaine, the scandal ridden Republican candidate, who was accused, as Speaker of the House, of pushing legislation to benefit various railroad companies in exchange for financial kickbacks. Cleveland’s candidacy was so appealing that may prominent, life-long Republicans bolted from their party to support him.

But in Buffalo, some of those who were familiar with the story of Cleveland’s illegitimate child and his treatment of Maria Halpin, did not feel they could stand by and watch such a man become President of the United States. In July 1884, during the Democratic Convention, Reverend George H. Ball, pastor of the Free Baptist Church in Buffalo, sent a letter to the Chicago Advance telling the whole story. The letter bounced around to several newspapers before the story was finally published by the Buffalo Evening Telegraph.

The press was exceedingly partisan in 1884—Republican papers picked up the story and ran with it while Democratic papers ignored it. But the voting public could not ignore the Halpin Scandal and many who had once ardently supported the reform candidate now had doubts. Cleveland was dogged at rallies by opposition groups chanting “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?”

Cleveland himself decided to stay above the fray and issued no public statement, hoping the scandal would blow over before Election Day. He told his campaign staff, “No matter what, tell the truth.” –which they almost did. They admitted that in an act of youthful indiscretion Cleveland had taken up with Maria Halpin, as had two of his friends, including Oscar Folsom. When she became pregnant, Cleveland, being the only bachelor of the three, took the responsibility to save his friends from shame. In fact, they said, no one knew who the father was.

This statement infuriated Maria Halpin, who had never known a hint of scandal until she met Grover Cleveland.  She issued a sworn affidavit saying, “There is not and never was a doubt as to the paternity of our child, and the attempt of Grover Cleveland or his friends to couple the name of Oscar Folsom or any on else with that of the boy, for that purpose, is simply infamous and false.” In a second affidavit she described in detail how she had been ravished by Grover Cleveland, saying, “While in my rooms he accomplished my ruin by the use of force and violence and without my consent."

The presidential election now came down to which candidate’s scandalous behavior was less repellent to the public, Blaine’s railroad kickbacks or Cleveland’s abuse of Maria Halpin. Cleveland won an extremely close election; he won the popular vote by just 25,000 and a switch of 600 voters in New York would have given Blaine the election.

The Halpin Scandal soon died down and eventually was all but forgotten. In fact a 768 page biography of Grover Cleveland, published in 1923, does not even mention Maria Halpin. On June 2, 1886, Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom, 21-year-old daughter of his late law partner Oscar Folsom. Grover Cleveland was the last bachelor to be elected president.


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