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

Sparking in Tompkins Square

Cupid in Tompkins Square
June 28, 2011
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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
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Strange Company - 2/28/2024
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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,
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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 […]
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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: […]
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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
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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.
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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
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Recruiting For Sin's Army | Terrible Struggle with Flame and Flood

Sparking in Tompkins Square

Cupid-Tompkins-Park

New York, New York, 1888 - Sparking in Tompkins Square, a place which Cupid has made his favorite stomping ground, and where the stern paterfamilias is wont to appear. 

Cupid has had great sport in Tompkins Park, this city, on pleasant evenings of a Sunday for some time past. Recently the interesting spectacle of forty couples breathing tales of love was witnessed at this charming rendezvous for "spooney" young men and women. Near the circular structure in the center of the park sat a maiden of sixteen or thereabouts, clad in a maroon dress, which just reached to the tops of her buttoned boots, a lavender jacket, and a jaunty hat matching her dress, with a raven's wing in the band.

Close beside her sat a youth of equal age, who was gazing into her eye. He held her hand in his, and in an undertone told her many pretty secrets.

Changing her hand to his other one, his arm gently stole round her waist. She seemed unconscious of it. He whispered something and she shyly looked at him, presumably the better to understand his whisper. He inclined his face to hers and "just one" he pleaded-and hastily took one, two, three. He paused a few seconds in admiration of her and then resumed talking, and she talked, too, in a bashful way.

But presently a very substantial vision intruded itself upon their happiness-a tall, ponderous Dutchman in trousers of ample volume, a jean jumper and a velveteen cap similar to those worn by the drivers of brewery wagons.

"You vas here, eh?" he queried of the girl. "You vas coom home."

She coomed.

Another young couple plumped down. The Fellow manifested his affection by pulling his sweetheart's hair and pinching her ears. She tee-hee-hee'd, slapped him playfully, and twittered, "Now, Jamesie, you stop." But just the same she didn't seem pleased when Jamesie did stop. She slapped him some more; whereat Jumesie pushed hack her head and gave her a loud kiss.

With all the couples the time was fraught with happiness and sweetness and most of them didn't leave the park until the broad-faced clock in the steeple of St. Bridget's Church nearby tolled the hour of ten.

 


The National Police Gazette, November 3, 1888