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

Crazed by Politics.

Lendall Pratt, and aged Long Islander, kills himself while in a political frenzy.
November 7, 2016
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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
The Women Screamed. | Eloped with a Convict.

Crazed by Politics.

Crazed by Politics

Lendall Pratt, and aged Long Islander, kills himself while in a political frenzy.

Col. Lendall Pratt, of Hyde Park, Queens county, worked hard to secure the election of Mr. Blaine throughout the last campaign. Although seventy-three years old, he did not spare himself, and day and night his sturdy figure could be seen all over the county. As election day drew near, he became somewhat erratic and his friends came to the conclusion that his reason had become impaired. The conflicting stories the following day about which candidate was elected seemed to unsettle his mind altogether, and he became violent. He threatened to kill his wife to hoe he had hitherto displayed the greatest affection, and it was considered dangerous for her to allow herself to remain alone with him. On Thursday, Nov. 6, he grew worse, and on Friday his violent manner hot having subsided, it was decided to put him in the county insane asylum at Mineola, from which his house is not a half a mile.

At 1 o’clock on the morning of Nov. 7 he quietly arose and dressed himself. His movements were so stealthy that they did not arouse the other lunatics. H went to the window, raised it, and seizing hold of the iron bars, began to tug at them. This noise aroused the other lunatics, and they sat up and looked at him. One of them, a lad of eighteen, jumped out of bed, and, shouting for an attendant, ran toward the door. Col Pratt caught hold of him and threw him back, then he glared the other lunatics, and threatened to kill them if they made any outcry. Thoroughly cowed, the crouched down in their cots, and watched him with frightened eyes.

The madman went back to the window, and seizing the bars again, he tore them out of their sockets. He took several blankets and threw them out of the window upon the slanting roof of the plaza, ten feet below. At this moment, an attendant who had heard the cry for assistance appeared at the door. Col Pratt turned and looked at him. The next instant he plunged head first through the window carrying with him the sash. He struck on the slanting roof, and rebounding, landed heavily on the ground, a distance in all of twenty feet. When Mr. Cement reached him he was dead. The fall had broken his neck.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, November 29, 1884.