No. 653
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 27, 2024

Surf Swimming at Hawaii, Sandwich Islands.

Faahee, or surf-swimming, is a favorite pastime with the natives of the Sandwich Islands.
April 21, 2015
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The archives of the Humble Oil & Refining Company are about the last place where you’d expect to run across a first-rate poltergeist account, but it just goes to show that we live in a funny old world.  In 1948, a folklorist and historian was browsing through the company’s papers when he came across a letter that had absolutely nothing to do with oil.  It read:Jan [illegible] '
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Strange Company - 5/27/2024
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
When these photos from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York were taken at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery at the end of May in 1899, Memorial Day didn’t exist. “Decoration Day,” however, was an established holiday celebrated every May 30. The idea was to visit the final resting places of thousands of […]
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Ephemeral New York - 5/27/2024
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
John Wesley Elkins.11-year-old John Wesley Elkins was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds. He was intelligent and well-spoken, and he had never caused trouble until the day he murdered his parents. At 2:00 am, on July 24, 1889, while his parents were sleeping in their Iowa farmhouse, he shot his father in the head and then beat his mother to death with a club.
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Murder By Gaslight - 5/25/2024
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
Said She Would and Did. | Society Women Turn Burglars.

Surf Swimming at Hawaii, Sandwich Islands.

Surf Swimming

Surf Swimming at Hawaii, Sandwich Islands. [more]

Faahee, or surf-swimming, is a favorite pastime with the natives of the Sandwich Islands. According to Ellis, a recent writer, “Individuals of all ranks and ages, and both sexes, follow this sport with great avidity. They usually select the openings in the reefs or entrances of some of the hays, where the long, heavy billows rolled in unbroken majesty upon the reef or the shore. They used a small board, which they called papa faahee—swam from the beach to a considerable distance, sometimes nearly a mile—watched the swell of the wave, and when it reached them, they mounted on its summit, and amid the foam and spray rode on the crest of the wave to the shore; sometimes they halted among the coral rocks, over which the waves broke in splendid confusion. When they approached the shore, they slid off the board, which they grasped in the hand, and either fell behind the wave or plunged toward the deep and allowed it to pass over their heads.

“Sometimes they were thrown with violence upon beach, or among the rocks on the edges of the reef. So much at home, however, do they feel in the water, that it is seldom any accident occurs.

“I have often seen among the border of the reef, forming the boundary line to the harbor of Fare in Huahine, from 50 to 100 persons, of all ages, sporting like so many porpoises in the surf that has been rolling with foam and violence toward the land; sometimes mounted on top of the wave, and almost enveloped in spray, at other times plunging beneath the mass of water that has swept like mountains over them, cheering and animating each other ;and by the noise and shouting they made, rendering the roar of the sea and the dashing of the surf comparatively imperceptible.”

 


Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, April 7, 1866.