Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: September 2010

Barre Gazette, June 25, 1847. Getting some people to pay their bills is like pulling teeth.

Grand Forks Daily Herald, November 25, 1883. Now there’s a headline to stir the blood, all quivering as it is with walrus-mustachioed dudgeon
and outrage and all good stuff like that. But the tragedy behind it is anything but “unparalleled”: We’ve got a father (fella named Finzer, in Pittsburgh) who’s unable to provide for his family (too sick to work) who solves the problem by murdering his dependents (a wife and two kids in this case) and then himself. Same basic thing happened all the time, folks. According to this very interesting book I read recently, German immigrants and German Americans had a particular bent for this kind of behavior when they were losing economic ground—it was the signature crime of the male German murder defendants. But there is one somewhat distinctive detail to this tragedy, viz: Read More »

Avon Paperback Original, 1956. Liberace, for the benefit of you young ‘uns, was a superstar pop pianist. And boy, was he ever heterosexual! Lana Turner, Sonja Henie, Shelly Winters, Mamie Van Doren, Judy Garland, and countless starlets whose names are long forgotten . . . It sez right here, he just knocked ’em down like bowling pins.

Daily Picayune, September 9, 1866. The phenomenon of the middle-class shoplifter gets to be a endemic social problem after the mid-19th century, and judging from the newspaper coverage, non-professional light-fingeredness was overwhelmingly a feminine attribute. Of course, it could have been the case that female criminals were considered more newsworthy.

Harper’s Weekly, April 16, 1904.I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something subtly disturbing about this ad.

Check out this demented 1908 ad for some dude’s skull-reading academy. He hasn’t left a whole lot for your collage-happy Euro-surrealist crowd to do. The guy himself was quite a visual feast, as this second broadside reveals:

I’ve finally found a use for my fancy and protracted education: firewood.

New York Herald May 5, 1891. Do kids still play this game? I remember it as a pretty common part of the pre-adolescent repertoire of pranks. It had a whole bunch of different names, the only one of which now comes to mind was something like “Knock on the door ginger,” which is remarkably uncatchy. The standard praxis was to hit the same house multiple times. I can’t recall ever having been so victimized since I became the proprietor of my own door and bell.

I’ve lost track of when and where this was published. A hobo pie is a Michigan delicacy: You take two pieces of the worst white bread available, fill them with something tasty and meltable, slap them in a hinged iron on a handle, and stick the business end of the apparatus into a campfire. You can make them sweet or savory according to your druthers. Best one I ever had contained orchard-fresh green apple, brie and brown sugar. I would have made for one posh hobo.

Idaho Statesman, Februay 4, 1891. Magic isn’t all bats and black cats, you know. “You ought to be scragged” is a lovely bit of self-explanatory onomatopoeia.