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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:

I’m not sure I see anything particularly “diabolical” about Finzer’s mode of self-deliverance. Presumably he’d already pawned the family guns and thus had to make do with an old gun barrel that was kicking around the house. “McGyver-esque” is the adjective that springs to my mind. Of course, they didn’t know about McGyver in 1883.


  1. He was certainly versatile. I would have guessed hanging (a la Jude the Obscure), but he seems to have been willing to try anything once.

  2. Good with his hands, evidently. Jack-of-all-trades type.

  3. Resourceful , I guess yes-yes! Seems like the kinda guy who deserves a crack at a job.Maybe it was his communication skills let him down.

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