No. 522
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
May 17, 2021

Defying the Guards.

Downed by Kindness After defying a host of armed keepers, James Driscoll, in the Trenton, N. J. Sta
January 12, 2015
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The following tale comes from that classic collection of mostly first-hand accounts of supernatural encounters, "Lord Halifax's Ghost Book."  It was related to Lord Halifax in 1920 by his nephew, Charles Dundas.  Dundas had recently heard the tale from a renowned Royal Air Force pilot named Edward Villiers.  (Later Sir Edward Villiers.)  It is one of the briefest stories in the "Ghost Book," but
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 5/11/2021

Born in 1870 and completed 13 years later (at a cost of $15 million and with more than 20 worker deaths), the Brooklyn Bridge is marking its 138th birthday this week. What better way to honor an icon than with a brilliant lithograph produced by a Pearl Street publisher depicting the fireworks, ship parade, and […]
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Ephemeral New York - 5/17/2021
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 engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
The crack of gunfire startled the residents of 88 Merrimack Street, a boarding house in Lowell, Massachusetts, around 10:00, the night of  August 31, 1876. The boarders rushed to Lulu Martin’s room on the third floor, where the shot was fired. The door was locked; they heard a man inside shouting, “Go for the police! She has shot me! I will hold her! Break open the door!”A group of men broke in
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Murder By Gaslight - 5/15/2021

Along with Bertie Whitehead, Abby’s half-sister, May 13th was also the birthday of Helen Craig, famous stage actress best-remembered for Johnny Belinda. Helen Craig, who played Abby in The Legend of Lizzie Borden was born May 13, 1912, a month after Titanic sank. Helen Craig was not a great beauty by Hollywood standards, but a very fine actress. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0185871/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 Her portrayal of Abby Borden as a mean, greedy glutton, more than any other thing, has affected the way most people think of Abby Borden. Sadly it was not an accurate portrayal. Helen did some television in her later career, most notably The Waltons. She died in New York City in 1986. She was married to stage and film actor John Beal who played Dr. Bowen in Legend of Lizzie Borden. They are seen together in the publicity photo below.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 5/13/2021
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Song of the Great Blizzard. | Cheating the Liquor Laws.

Defying the Guards.

Downed by kindness

Downed by Kindness.
After defying a host of armed keepers, James Driscoll, in the Trenton, N. J. State prison succumbs to a gentle word. [more]

One convict causes a great commotion in the Trenton (N. J.) State Prison, Tuesday week last. On the afternoon of that day the prison alarm signal was rung for the first time in many years, and deputy keepers and guards came. They found all the prisoners at work except James Driscoll, a powerful convict, who had been sent from Passaic for two years for burglary. He stood in one corner near the elevator, armed with a heavy chisel and a long needle. In from of him stood tow deputy keepers covering him with their heavy revolvers.

The other prisoner were removed from the shop and then the head keeper stepped up to Driscoll, around whom a dozen keepers were clustered with drawn revolvers. “Driscoll,” he said, “if you don’t lay those things down in five minutes we will shoot.”

“Shoot and be d—d. I will have one life anyway.” Replied Driscoll, doggedly. The keeper held his watch in his hand and told off the minutes as they passed.

“One—two—three—four—“ “Don’t shoot!” interposed Prison Inspector Cartwright, who was an eye-witness of the scene, and whose word is law in the prison. “Give him time to consider.”

Arguments were used in vain. Driscoll refusing to lay aside his weapons. Inspector Cartwright finally realized the extreme measures would have to be resorted to and started to leave the room, but as he closed the door he changed his mind and returned with the determination to prevent bloodshed.

“Hold on! Wait a moment,” he said, as he advanced toward Driscoll, despite the efforts of the keepers to restrain him. “Now, look here, young man,” said the inspector, he stood within five feet of the prisoner, “you are throwing your life away. Do you know me?”

“No, I don’t know you, and I don’t want to know you,” answered Driscoll, as he brandished his weapons.

“I am one of the inspectors and it is my duty to protect you. That is what I am here for. My name is Cartwright. “

If your name is Cartwright you have got a good name in this prison. If you will send these hounds away from here I will go anywhere with you.” Said Driscoll, taking both weapons in his left hand, and allowing the Inspector to take him by the right. After nearly every official had left the room, Driscoll laid down the weapons and waited quietly with the Inspector to the rotunda. Driscoll was then handcuffed and placed in the dungeon on bread and water. The immediate cause of Driscoll’s revolt was an order of Deputy Keeper Ashley for him to stop singing, which he refused to obey.

Driscoll has the reputation of being very unruly. He has served a term on Blackwell’s Island for burglary, and also ten years in Sing Sing for the same crime and shooting a policeman in New York.


Reprinted from The National Police Gazette, October 9, 1886.