No. 583
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
November 29, 2022

Melancholy Boat Accident.

April 24, 2012
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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
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Melancholy Boat Accident.

Boat Accident

August 31, 1868 - Sad End of Two of the Demi-monde, near Cairo, Ill. [more]

Prostitutes and their Paramours Go Bathing

Two of the Unfortunate Women Drowned

The following account of a very bad disaster, we copy from a recent Cairo (Ill.) paper:

At a late hour on Saturday night, Aug 31st, Frank Douglas, proprietress of the notorious house of ill-fame, known as the “Flat Top,” situated on Fifth street, between Washington and Commercial Avenue, and three of her “lady” boarders, named Fanny Williams, Mollie Jones and Alice Forche, accompanied by four men, started for the Kentucky shore in a small skiff, for the alleged purpose of bathing. The party made the trip in safety, reached the other shore, and remained there for perhaps two hours. At about 1 o’clock they started back to the city, and report has it, that either the bath or something else had an exhausting effect on the party, for they are reported as being rather noisy and careless in the management of the skiff. The boat was a small leaky concern, unfit for carrying over four or five persons, but the party of eight were crowded in, and because they were far from the Kentucky shore, commenced leaking badly, perhaps on account of the reckless manner in which they acted, rocking the boat from one side to the other. To add to the trouble, the bailing dish had either been lost or thrown overboard, and the boat was soon in a swamping condition. When they reached a point opposite the stone depot, the boat filled with water to the seats, went under, leaving the party scrambling in the water. Their screams attracted the attention of Mr. Robinson, mate of the steamer Alpha, who immediately went to the relief in a skiff. On reaching the party, he ordered the men away from the boat, and threatened to strike with the oar the first one who attempted to get in, until he reached the females. He succeeded in picking up Frank Douglas, Fannie Williams, and the four men. Mollie Jones and Alice Forche were drowned.

Mollie Jones had resided in Cairo since 1863. She was a married woman about thirty years old, and her husband, a contemptible wretch, forced her to enter on a life of prostitution, so that he might live a life of ease.

The unfortunate Alice Forche, has been in Cairo about six months. She is reported as being of a decidedly prepossessing appearance, intelligent and of a good family. She was sixteen years old and came from Paducah to this place. It is said that she was seduced by a well-known and “highly respectable" Paducahian who send her here to get rid of marrying her.

One of the men, when the boat went under and he found himself in the water, attempted to remove his pantaloons, in the pocket of which was his pocketbook containing a considerable amount of money, and a fine gold watch. He had partly succeeded in doing so when one of the drowning females caught him and in the endeavor to save himself, lost his pantaloons, watch and money.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, September 14, 1867