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

Picnic on Marblehead Neck.

August 5, 2014
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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
They Got Hilariously Full. | Beautiful Forever.

Picnic on Marblehead Neck.

Picnic on Marblehead Neck.

Summer Pleasures—A Picnic on Marblehead Neck. Massachusetts. [more]

The march of progress has not destroyed that freshness of pleasure which ever attends a bit of cold chicken or lobster salad with a glass of fiz, partaken of on the green grass, whether it be by the hillside or riverside or seaside. There is a piquant flavor in the food, a bouquet in the wine, a joyousness in the feast, which surpasses all the sensuous gratification of a superbly set table with its cut glass and glowing flowers and glittering cutlery and tidbits that a cordon bleu could serve in the form of a dainty dinner. With the greensward for a carpet, the blue sky for a roof, and the murmuring sea for music, the picnic which we illustrate is simply perfect. The yellow basket has been carefully packed, the champagne very judiciously iced, the young couples with the “gooseberry-picking” boy capitally matched. Everybody is hungry, for the ozone-laden breeze stealing across the heaving ocean is the best sauce ever served up with human food. The pastry has been made by the white hands of the girls and will be rapturously eaten by the gentlemen in waiting, the small boy doing yeoman’s work. Under the genial influence of the champagne the timid young man will become emboldened, and vows that lay “full fathoms five” in his bashful heart will come to the surface during that postprandial stroll on the tawny sands. What fun washing up the dishes and plates and knives and forks! What fun setting up an empty bottle to fling pebbles at! What fun re-packing! What laughing at the awkwardness of the gentlemen! It is all fun, innocent merriment, and that delightful abandon begotten of youth, health and the freedom of a meal taken al fresco.


Reprinted from "Picnic on Marblehead Neck." Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 11 Aug 1883: 403.