From the January 22, 1943 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
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In 1752, according to Benjamin Franklin’s Pennsylvania newspaper, a woman wed while naked, and though the details make the whole thing sound like an extended New Jersey joke, it apparently occurred. The topic was dear to the Founding Father’s heart since he was a devout nudist himself, given to a half hour of clothesless writing or reading each morning. I also recall reading (I believe in one version of The Book of Lists) that he participated in orgies in which the men dressed as priests and the women nuns. I can neither confirm nor deny such a thing. The following article from the July 7, 1934 Brooklyn Daily Eagle recalls the naughty nuptials.
Tags: Benjamin Franklin\
From the November 19, 1927 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
A giant bullet shot through the sky is one way to describe British scientist W.D. Verschoyle’s early-20th-century plan to propel goods and people through sealed tubes. As described in an article in the September 14, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle, the inventor envisioned oxygen supplies keeping passengers alive as they were blasted at nearly 1000 mph, enabling them to circle the globe in 24 hours.
Tags: W.D. Verschoyle
From the August 2, 1864 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Announcing God’s death probably wasn’t a real consensus-builder back in the 19th century, so Friedrich Nietzsche was crucified in effigy by some newspapers when he died. This postmortem, originally published in the Springfield Republican and reprinted in the November 4, 1900 edition Brooklyn Daily Eagle, was a merciless takedown of the extremist philosopher.
Mollie Fancher didn’t exactly sleep through history, but she certainly reclined as it passed by.
The odd woman, known as the “Brooklyn Enigma,” reportedly suffered a pair of accidents in the 1860s while on the cusp of adulthood and repaired to her bedroom where she spent the rest of her life, saying that she could no longer walk. It’s not something you’d normally question, but doctors could never precisely figure out her condition, and Fancher became known for her strange claims that she could go years without solid food (a “fasting girl,” she was called) and that she was a clairvoyant. (It’s also possible she had multiple personalities.) Over the next 50 years (or 438,000 hours), some of which she shared with her parrot, Joe, the Brooklyn Bridge was built, streetcars and automobiles began replacing horses and the telephone was patented and proliferated. All the while, Fancher clung to her pillow.
One month before her death, she celebrated five decades of being bedridden with a party of sorts, as was recorded in an article the January 30, 1916 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Tags: Mollie Fancher
There was something rotten inside Robert Louis Stevenson, as there is in all of us, but he had a name for it: Mr. Hyde. Not to suggest the author’s voluminous and varied output can be reduced to one novella–I’m talking about the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, of course–but it’s rare that something can written about the human mind, in this case the subconscious, that will be true as long there are people.
The following article from the December 17, 1894 Brooklyn Daily Eagle announced the sickly author’s death, which occurred two weeks earlier from a cerebral hemorrhage he experienced while living on the Samoan Islands.
Tags: Robert Louis Stevenson
From the November 5, 1912 New York Times:
ST. LOUIS -– Tight lacing caused the death last night of Joseph Hennella, a female impersonator, at the City Hospital, after collapsing on the stage of a South Side vaudeville theatre late on Sunday night.
In order to add to the illusion when he appeared in a woman’s role he wore a corset tightly laced, to give the effect of a small waist.
Hannella fell unconscious on the stage in the course of his act. He died three hours later. The hospital physicians said the tight lacing had caused a kidney trouble and induced a tendency to apoplexy. Hennella was of medium height, and inclined to be stout. He was 40 years old. In his younger days it was easy for him to get the feminine lines, but lately his increasing girth made it necessary for him to lace extremely tight to create the illusion. Usually he made several changes of costume in the course of an act, and the constriction caused by the corset rendered this a fatiguing and laborious process.•
French aviation pioneer Robert Esnault-Pelterie, inventor of the joystick flight control, knew 41 years before “the giant leap” that a manned trip to the moon and back was theoretically possible. He believed we were “actually becoming birdmen” and thought atomic energy might aid us in reaching not only the moon but also Mars and Venus, a plan Project Orion scientists worked on in earnest in the 1950s. Below is an article from the February 12, 1928 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Tags: Robert Esnault-Pelterie
From the March 10, 1876 New York Times:
Louisville, March 9--The Bath County (Ky.) News of this date says: ‘On last Friday a shower of meat fell near the house of Allen Crouch, who lives some two or three miles from the Olympian Springs in the southern portion of the county, covering a strip of ground about one hundred yards in length and fifty wide. Mrs. Crouch was out in the yard at the time, engaged in making soap, when meat which looked like beef began to fall around her. The sky was perfectly clear at the time, and she said it fell like large snow flakes, the pieces as a general thing not being much larger. One piece fell near her which was three or four inches square. Mr. Harrison Gill, whose veracity is unquestionable, and from whom we obtained the above facts, hearing of the occurrence visited the locality the next day, and says he saw particles of meat sticking to the fences and scattered over the ground. The meat when it first fell appeared to be perfectly fresh.
The correspondent of the Louisville Commercial, writing from Mount Sterling, corroborates the above, and says the pieces of flesh were of various sizes and shapes, some of them being two inches square. Two gentlemen, who tasted the meat, express the opinion that it was either mutton or venison.•
From the March 17, 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
People in Brooklyn in the late-nineteenth century apparently stunk to the high heavens, and everyone was close to fainting from the funk. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle offered a solution for the cleansing of filthy citizens in the most demeaning, insulting terms in an August 13, 1897 article: Build some public baths, so the miserable scumbags could be less stanky.
From the December 15, 1907 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Camels are mostly associated with other parts of the world, but they originated in what we today call the United States of America. In the 1850s, Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of War, thought the desert animals might be useful for military purposes, scouting expeditions and as beasts of burden transporting goods and water across the Southwest, so he ordered a couple shiploads of camels to be purchased abroad and delivered to Texas. An article in the October 17, 1920 recalled the effort, which ultimately failed for several reasons, including that little thing called the Civil War.
From the November 30, 1902 Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
Despite choosing the dangerous profession of mountain climber, Annie Smith Peck somehow made it to the end of her life in one piece, even surviving accidents involving street cars and mules. The apex of her adventurous career was probably her 1903 ascent of Illampu in Bolivia, which she made with geologist Dr. W.G. Tight and two guides, a treacherous scaling reported on in the September 2, 1903 Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
Tags: Annie Smith Peck
No one has ever come up with a bigger lie than F. Scott’s Fitzgerald with this whopper: “There are no second acts in American lives.” There have always been second acts and many more after that. I mean, not if you drink yourself to death, but for anyone who waits out the bad times with good humor.
Bat Masterson was many things in his sixty-seven years–buffalo hunter, Army scout, sheriff, gambler, boxing manager, etc.–until he was one final thing in his dotage: a New York City newspaper sportswriter. He died an ink-stained wretch at an editor’s desk, not a gunslinger in a saloon. The report of his death from the October 26, 1921 New York Times:
William Barclay Masterson, better known as Bat Masterson, sporting writer, friend of Theodore Roosevelt and former sheriff of Dodge City, Kan., died suddenly yesterday while writing an article at his desk in the office of the The Morning Telegraph. He had been connected with the paper for more than ten years, and for the last few years had been one of its editors.
At one time Masterson was said to have been the best known man between the Mississippi and the Pacific Coast, and his exploits and his ability as a gun fighter have become part of the tradition of the Middle West of many years ago. He was the last of the old time gun fighters.
He was born in Iriquios County, Ill., in 1854, the son of a farmer who came originally from St. Lawrence County, N.Y. Little more than a boy, Bat, his rifle across his knees, left the farm and rode into the then Fort Dodge and joined a party of buffalo hunters. Then his actual career began, and probably more weird and bloodthirsty tales have been written about him than of nearly any other man. His fights, however, were in the cause of justice, and he was one of a group of gunfighters who made that part of the country unhealthy for the bad men of the period.
While in the frontier town Bat heard one day that his brother had been killed across the street. Bat headed over. What happened he thus told later on the witness stand:
‘The cowboys had been on the range for some time and were drinking. My brother was the Town Marshall. They were carrying six-shooters and he attempted to disarm one of them who was particularly mean. They shot and killed him and they attempted to kill me. I shot and killed them–one at any rate–and shot the other one.’
His second killing was a cowboy named Jim Kennedy, who had come to town seeking the life of the Mayor. Kennedy shot several times through the door of a Mayor’s house and killed a woman. Then Masterson started out to get him. And he did.
One of Masterson’s most famous exploits was the battle of Dobe Walls, when with nine companions he stood off 200 Indians in a siege of 29 days. The attacking force was composed of Arapahoes and Cheyennes. A fortunate accident–the fall of part of the dirt roof of a saloon in which the buffalo hunters were sleeping–prevented the party from being surprised by the Indians and murdered in their sleep, for the attack was not anticipated. In the gray light of a June morning, when the hunters were engaged in restoring the roof, the Indians descended upon them. The hunters abandoned the roof and took to their guns. Time after time the Indian attack was stopped and the enemy driven back to the shelter of a fringe of cottonwoods along the Canadian River.
Masterson was only 18 years old when he joined Lieutenant Baldwin’s civilian scouts under Colonel Nelson A. Miles. He participated in the battle of Red River, where the Indians were commanded by Geronimo, and in other Indian engagements. Masterson lived fifteen years in Denver. There he became interested in pugilism. He went broke backing Charlie Mitchell in his fight with James J. Corbett. He was an official in the fight between Fitzsimmons and Corbett.•
Masterson officiating Fitzsimmons-Corbett in 1897: