No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 29, 2024

Too Fond of Kissing.

A Steamship Steward Who Has Been Kissing Fourteen Years and Hasn’t Got Sick of It.
May 22, 2018
...
...

Via Newspapers.comPhantom stagecoaches are always fun (especially when they generate manic headlines.)  The “San Bernardino News,” December 7, 1914:Have you seen the phantom coach that dashes madly, silently, down the steep, rugged mountain trail near Pilot Rock? It is a weird story, this. It deals with the apparently supernatural. Possibly it isn't that at all, maybe it is simply some
More...
Strange Company - 2/28/2024
`
HE DUEL IN ELLEN'S HONOR. Soapy Smith’s grandmotherOn Wednesday, August 9, 1820, an argument between 17-year-old, James Bowe Boisseau (1802-1820) and Robert C. Adams (unknown-1820) vying for the attention of 18-year-old Ellen Stimpson Peniston (1802-1860), took a terrible turn. The happy party in her honor took a tragic turn when the competition for Ellen’s affections ended in a deadly duel,
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/10/2024
There’s nothing wrong with the MTA’s usual subway signage: the directions are clear, the design is simple. But when a contemporary sign happens to be stuck underneath original signage made with decorative tile and an unusual typeface—as it is inside the Sixth Avenue F and M station at 14th Street—the old-school sign wins hands-down. Subway.org […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 2/26/2024
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: […]
More...
Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.Read
More...
Murder By Gaslight - 2/24/2024
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.
More...
Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
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
More...
Executed Today - 11/13/2020
A Wine-Inspired Wager. | Renewed Activity of "The Finest."

Too Fond of Kissing.

Too fond of kissing.

A Steamship Steward Who Has Been Kissing Fourteen Years and Hasn’t Got Sick of It. [more]

A too jovial disposition has got John Barbour, the good-natured, good-humored, Falstaffian steward of the steamer Hecla, of the Cunard Line, into trouble. John has too great a propensity for kissing the girls, a predilection that sooner or later bound to lead a man into kissing the wrong girl and being brought up with a round turn in consequence.  Thus, it was that John, when his stately ship left Liverpool, just two weeks ago, began to make love to all the females in his steerage domain. It was one of his duties to distribute food to the passengers.

The artful fellow would generally manage to exact the penalty of a kills for such sight culinary favors as he granted. The women soon grew accustomed to his odd fancy and avoided him. But one of the “told” on him as soon as the vessel reached p[ort a few evenings ago. Her name is Mary Roberts, and into the astonished ear of Superintendent Jackson of Castle Garden, she poured the story of the gay Britisher’s conduct. And not only this, but other whisperings affecting the management of the steerage quarters and separation, or rather non-separation, of the sexes ‘board ship, passed between the informer and the informed.

The result was an investigation which was conducted before the Commissioners of Emigration. John was hauled up, overhauled and keel-hauled by the angry Commissioners, and made to confess his misdeeds. He stated that he had “sailed the ocean blue” for fourteen years, and during all that time he had been kissing steadily.

Commissioner Lynch inquired where he wasn’t tired of it by this time.

Commissioner Ulrich asked if he wasn’t ashamed of such Barbourous conduct.

Another commissioner said he should be compelled to label such behavior as monstrous.

John’s examinations further revealed the fact that he kissed Mary Roberts “once,” but as she didn’t scream, he assumed it was all right. The girls he found didn’t object every much to being kissed unless he had been drinking beer. Then they wouldn’t stand it.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, October 2, 1880.