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

Old King Brady.

The greatest dime novel detective.
February 14, 2012
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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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Strange Company - 5/17/2021

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LOOK OUT FOR "SOAPY" SMITHSt. Louis DispatchSeptember 23, 1897(Click image to enlarge) e reported himself in good health and money."   New information showing that Soapy Smith did go to St. Louis to check up on his ailing wife, Mary, after leaving Skagway.  Below is the transcription of the article from the St. Louis Dispatch, September 23, 1897. LOOK OUT FOR “SOAPY” SMITH ― The Smooth Man
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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
It Was Another Kind of Cat. | A New Gag.

Old King Brady.

Hop Lee
Old King Brady was probably the most popular of the nineteenth-century dime novel detectives. The first of his adventures was published in 1885 (though the action takes place in 1881) when New
Sleuth-Hound
Old King Brady, 1885
York City detective James Brady was between fifty and sixty years old. He was called King because he was “…the most celebrated of all the famous detectives the United States has produced.” “Old” was probably added to his title as an attempt to ride the success of Old Sleuth, the first dime novel detective who was introduced in
Old-Sleuth
Old Sleuth
1872—though Old Sleuth was actually a young man who would disguise himself a wizened old man.

 

Old King Brady was tall and clean-shaven with short gray hair. He had gray eyes, an aquiline nose, and perfect white teeth. Brady always wore a long, blue, military cut coat and a broad-brimmed hat. He did not possess the keen intellect of Sherlock Holmes or Edgar Allen Poe’s C. Auguste Dupin, nor was he afflicted with any of the eccentricities of these literary detectives. He was pure and moral, solving his cases with dogged determination, and thorough police work. And in the inevitable showdown with the bad guys, Old King Brady was a man of action who never failed.

 

104 Old King Brady stories were published between 1885 and 1894 written by Francis Worcester Doughty under the penname “A New York Detective.” After a five year hiatus, Old King Brady returned in 1899 forming the Brady Detective Bureau which reported directly to the United States Secret Service. Joining him was Harry Brady, known as Young King Brady—they had the same last name, but James and Harry were not related. Also with the Bureau was Alice Montgomery, a blond, attractive former operative for the Australian Secret Service.

Joss-House-Jim
The Bradys and Joss House Jim

Though they fought crimes throughout the United States and in exotic locations around the world, the Bradys spent much of their time on Mott Street in New York City, and in San Francisco’s Chinatown, fighting the “Yellow Peril.” Their enemies were most often Chinese highbinders, opium peddlers, and white slavers, with names like Hop Lee, Hi-Lo-Jak, and Joss House Jim.

After 726 more weekly adventures between 1899 and 1912 the Brady Detective Bureau closed up shop. “A New York Detective” had run out of plots and dime novels, in general, could not compete with moving pictures for the small change of American boys.














Sources:
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. Old King Brady, the sleuth-hound. New York: F. Tousey, 1885.
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. Hop Lee, the Chinese slave dealer, or, Old and Young King Brady and the opium fiends: a story of shrewd detective work in San Francisco. New York: Frank Tousey, 1899.
  • Doughty, Francis Worcester. The Bradys and “Joss House Jim,” or, Tracking a Chinese Crook. New York: Frank Tousey, 1909.
  • Hoppenstand, Gary. The Dime novel detective. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1982.
  • Old Sleuth, the detective, or, The Bay Ridge mystery. New York: G. Munro, 1885.
  • Dime Novel Castle