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

Recruiting For Sin's Army

July 5, 2011
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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
Cursing In Church | Taking The Census.

Recruiting For Sin's Army

sins army

New York, New York, 1882 – Tempting to Ruin! How Gotham’s Palaces of sin are garrisoned out of the hovels. The gaudy spider spreading her webs for the flies who make her loathsome trade profitable.[more]

A portly female arrayed in a sealskin dolman to her heels and with her blonde wig topped with a Gainsborough hat, descended from the elevated road at the United States Hotel, this city, recently. In the hallway she met another female who might have been her twin sister as far as costume went. The pair exchanged a profusive greeting, and the fine carat solitaires in their ears radiated a blaze of splendor as their heads bobbed together in the regulation kiss. It would have been evident to an experienced eye that the authors of these amenities belonged to a class more familiar to the police court than the prayer meeting and the glories of the attire they flaunted bore the taint of shame.

One of the women consulted a watch encrusted with diamonds and led the way to the street. They crossed Fulton Street, where one halted at the corner. The other passed on to the opposite side of Water Street, where she likewise halted. The passers-by cast curious glances at them but they did not flinch. They held their posts with the air of having a reason for doing so.

In a few minutes the shrill voices of many whistles announced that it was twelve o'clock. From the doorway of a tobacco factory near by a couple of girls came out. They went into a neighboring coffee and cake shop, passing one of the waiting women, who eyed them closely. They were ordinary-looking girls, in the shabby brown-stained attire of tobacco strippers. After them appeared a very pretty girl of perhaps sixteen years, who had a touch of coquettishness despite her cheap dress. She passed the second woman, who addressed a remark to her. The girl started, and the woman put a card into her hand, which she slipped into her pocket as she hurried away.

By this time the girls were pouring out of the factory in a steady stream. With a number of them, always the best-looking, it was to be seen that the woman repeated the performance already described. At half past twelve the two women went away up Fulton Street, leaving the girls gathered on steps and in doorways eating their lunches and talking. Several of them were comparing the cards which they had received.

A Police Gazette reporter who had observed all approached one of these groups and after considerable persuasion induced a pretty German girl to exhibit her pasteboard to him. It bore the address of one of the most noted procuresses on Twenty-seventh Street.

"Do you know what that card means?" asked the reporter.

"The lady asked me to come and see her," replied the girl after a moment's hesitation.

"What did she say to you?" "She said," replied the girl slowly and with her eyes on the sidewalk, "that I ought to be doing better than stripping tobacco for a living and if I came to her she would show me how."

"And do you know what she means?"

The girl cast a stealthy glance at her questioner and began to cry. Several of her companions gathered around her and took her away, assailing the scribe in vigorous words and intimating that he had better mind his own business. The policeman at the corner, coming up to the Police Gazette representative, said:

"Have you been giving the girls a steer about the madams? I thought so. Why, they nearly blackguarded the buttons off my coat the other day because I wanted 'em not to have anything more to do with those women. It's an outrage. The women have been coming down here about once a week these three months or so, and every time they come you find a couple of the girls leaving the factory. There was a girl last summer, one of the prettiest little things you ever saw. Her brother works in the market. She was the first one them women pitched on, and her brother told me yesterday that she's in a place uptown and won't come home. Every now and then one of the girls comes down here all rigged out in sealskins and diamonds and then there's a flutter among the other girls and one or two of them disappear. The women you have noticed pick out tobacco factories because the girls who work in them are numerous enough to pick and choose from and because the business itself is an unpleasant one and any girl employed in it is glad to get the chance to better herself even if it brings ultimate ruin on her. They take one of the girls from here whom they have gotten into their clutches, dress her up, cover her with diamonds, fill her half full of champagne and give her money to treat her former fellow workers with, and send her down here and she does more harm than they themselves can do, for she can poison the mind of any girl she gets hold of."


The National Police Gazette, November 3, 1888