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

The Lady Flashes Dance.

Dizzy cigarette girls have a most hilarious time in the Lyceum Opera House, this city.
August 21, 2017
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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
The Latest Invention. | A Human Rat Eater.

The Lady Flashes Dance.

Lady Flashes Dane

Dizzy cigarette girls have a most hilarious time in the Lyceum Opera House, this city. [more]

The Lady Flashes, an organization of the New York cigarette girls, had their annual ball in Lyceum Opera House, this city, last week.

After the grand march there came the lanciers. Such a whirling and stamping and jumping is seldom seen. Buxom lassies were tossed high in the air, landing with a heavy indisposing thud. As the music rose and quickened a fat girl shot up five feet in the air and landed in a sitting posture.

“Oh, Roxy, are you hurt?” asked the girl next her.

“It’s the softest thing I ever struck.” said Roxiana, as she rose to her feet.

Just where the cigarette girls get the marvelous step they dance is a mystery. They would stride five feet, hop three feet, circle stretch their legs as if there were a pair of calipers, close them, half open them, twist them around each other, untangle, kick and wriggle and then sink into the arms of a young man and rest their head on his shoulder.

As the time flew, beer followed it. Cigarette girls like beer and are susceptible to its effects. It brings about a feeling of affectionate languor. It banishes the blue law, that forbids a young man to kiss a girl, and bids him kiss her as often as he can. It also directs him to make a mattress of himself if necessary, and permit a girl to recline at will. In the second chapter it bids a young man become lively and urges the girl not to suppress her hilarity. The second chapter was reached about 2 A. M. Costumes with troublesome trains were cast aside The heat caused heavy Mother Hubbards to be thrown off.

The ardor of the dancers increased. They hugged each other vehemently as they danced and executed wonderful movements. Beer-glasses were tossed aside as worthless for refilling.

Crowds gathered in corners and gazed tremulously at visions of limbs flashing in difficult dances like streaks of lightning. The Koota-Koota dance, adorned with east-side variations, was realistic.

The young men rushed about, and when the orchestra poured forth “Old Rocky Roads” bedlam broke loose. Knots of dancers vied with each other in their efforts to create confusion. Girls were lifted off their feet and carried laughing about the room.

In the cork-room even policemen, unable to resist the temptation, joined in the dance. Hats were kicked high in the air. Songs were sung that called forth choruses of “Ohs.”


National Police Gazette, December 16, 1893.