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

Oscar Wilde Gets a Reception.

Too, too, utterly utter! Remarkable effect of the appearance of Oscar Wilde, the apostle of Aestheti
June 24, 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
Eaten by Sharks. | What it Has Come To.

Oscar Wilde Gets a Reception.

Too too utterly utter

Too, too, utterly utter!

Remarkable effect of the appearance of Oscar Wilde, the apostle of Aestheticism, on the streets of New York City. [more]

The appearance of Oscar Wilde, the great London apostle of Aestheticisim, in New York the first week of the new year was an event that thrilled the first circles and provoked all the wits in town to open their battalions on him. As he stepped nimbly ashore, though, and holding his head high proposed to a friend who had done America before to frown down the hackmen and walk to his hotel, he met quite a different reception from what he had possibly anticipated. With his sprig of fern in hand, his quaint stride, his long locks, his wild eye and his incroyable air generally, he made a genuine sensation on Broadway. The newsboys and bootblacks, that precocious set who hail a novelty with delight, saw in him a fresh guy and made the most of him from the moment he burst in all his aesthetic effulgence upon their astonished vision.

They dubbed him “Count” on the first sight, varying it by occasionally saluting him on his promenade as “Charley, the Masher,” and have even gone so far as to organize a procession in his train, bearing cabbages, onions and garbage from the streets with an air of affectation of aesthetic grace that is laughable from its close imitation of Oscar’s poise of the lily and the fern.

The police will have to furnish a guard to protect him in the streets form the burlesque advances of the fierce and untamed bootblack if he remains among us long, that is a certainty.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, January 21, 1882.