No. 650
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
April 18, 2024

Snares for the Unwary.

The "Sawed-Door Game" on a Gudgeon.
May 17, 2022
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Via Newspapers.comAs I believe I’ve mentioned before, I have a particular fondness for obscure, unimportant, but intriguing little mysteries.  One such example appeared in the “London Morning Chronicle,” April 21, 1809:Nevis, Feb. 7, 1809.“Dear Sir,"I beg leave to mention the following circumstances, and leave to your better judgment the propriety of making the same public.-- "About a
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Strange Company - 4/17/2024
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
How many ways are there to style a subway entrance sign? In New York City, dozens of designs and typefaces are used across the subway system—often with no rhyme or reason. Take this gold and white sign on William Street. It’s for a side entrance/exit for the Fulton Street station, affixed to a 20th century […]
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Ephemeral New York - 4/15/2024
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
 Samuel Smith and his wife Emma appeared to the world as a happy and affectionate young couple. She was pretty and vivacious with a dazzling wardrobe, and he was energetic with a winning personality. But beneath the surface was a hidden turmoil that did not come to light until Emma was found dead in their apartment, her head blown apart by a shotgun blast, and Samuel nowhere to be found.Read
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Murder By Gaslight - 4/13/2024
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
A Female Gambling House in Boston. | They Ran a Snide Game.

Snares for the Unwary.

sawed-door

A more scared looking lot of prisoners than those gathered in from ten alleged disorderly cafes in the Eleventh Precinct in New York the other night has seldom been seen in Essex Market Police Court.

The policeman had been just three days obtaining the necessary evidence. The places raided were ten in number, and fifty-nine inmates were captured. Capt. Cortright instigated the raids.

"These cafes," said a New York detective, "do much more harm than any full-fledged disorderly house could do, for this reason: Men are on their guard not to be trapped in full-fledged houses of ill-fame, and in the old days, the best houses run by the leading madames were safer for a man's money and for chance of blackmail than any hotel in New York. The cheap cafes and coffee houses are now simply sitting places for 'skin' Mollies and fishing grounds for adventuresses and women who ply their persons to trap men for the purposes of robbery.

The panel house is an old form of crooked joint. The 'sawed door' joint is quite common now as the resort of the coffee house dames when they have trapped a countryman or a gudgeon. A heeler who has one of these sawed door joints will have half a dozen different women running their prey to his joint. He does the 'unexpected return' act and, carrying a revolver in his hand, he and the women shake down the victim and shanghai him into the street. There are very few kicks.''

If the badger workers concerned in these jobs are caught it is seldom that the money is ever recovered. And it there is no money to be regained, the victim says to himself: "What sense is there in exposing my own folly and sending good money after bad?"


Illustrated Police News, May 4, 1895.