Come Meet Edward F. Boxwell, a Forgotten Man from 1912

Edward F. Boxwell of Hoisington, Kansas, better known to his friends as “Buddie,” was a man of 6’3” and 289 lbs and a wealthy retired butcher. More importantly Boxwell just plain didn’t like Republicans. He was a staunch William Jennings Bryan man, Buddie made a wager with a friend in 1896. If Bryan won, he’d receive a $1000, and if Bryan lost, Boxwell wouldn’t cut his hair until a Democrat once more sat in the chair in the oval office. Bryan lost to McKinley, and Boxwell was as good as his word. He didn’t cut his hair in 1900, when McKinley won a second term, or in 1904, when Roosevelt won, nor when Taft won in 1908.

In 1912, when Wilson won, Boxwell received an invitation to the inauguration. By then, his hair was 42 inches long, which he kept either tucked in a sombrero, or hidden behind the back of his coat. At his arrival in Washington, some 500 barbers expressed an interest in cutting his curly locks, and letters poured in from across the country from hair aficionados, wanting the remnants.

Well, Wilson was inaugurated, but Boxwell decided not to spend the two bits for the shave and a haircut. “I gave my word as a gentleman not to have my hair cut until a Democrat was in the White House,” Boxswell explained. “I have kept my word as a gentleman, that’s all. I’m free to get a hair cut, but I guess I’ll let it grow for a few years more, anyway.”

Should have backed Harrison!

In every fourth year towards the end of October, and appropriately located on a curb right outside Wall Street, a vast market existed trading futures back and forth; but the futures they traded weren’t in corn, pork bellies, or soybeans. Instead, they traded elections, Garfield vs. Hancock, Cleveland v. Blaine, and so on. Much of the money laid upon the line, as it were, was placed by the various potentates in Republican and Democrat parties; and the wagers were viewed as a proxy of how confident the campaigns felt about their candidate.

As it wound its way into the closing weeks, the election of 1888 was particularly close. Benjamin Harrison, a former Senator from Indiana, was a dark horse candidate, nominated when the Republican Party faithful couldn’t agree on a candidate during the Convention in Chicago. Grover Cleveland, the Democrat Party nominee and the sitting President, had gotten married during his first term in office, opposed free silver, and while not particularly beloved of anyone but the new Mrs. Cleveland, stood a good chance at re-election.

Election bets went back and forth between political rivals, and between friends as well. Up in Jefferson County, New York, Adam Shead  and Clarence Cook laid an interesting waiver. If Cleveland was elected Cook agreed to be locked in his blacksmith shop and stay there three full days and nights; if Harrison was elected, Shead would agree to be locked in his barn for the same period. In New York, a pretty (but nameless) young lady wagered three kisses against a pair of stockings. When she lost, she met Thomas Ryan, an aged veteran, at the center of Herald Square, and plant three kisses on his forehead.

Some got in deeper than they could afford. Thomas L. Botts, an insurance broker at 32 Liberty Street, checked into the Hotel Royal near Bryant Park on November 11. He promptly lay down on the bed and shot himself. Found in his pockets were a membership receipt to the Insurance Clerks’ Mutual Benefit Association, an invitation to a reception from Miss Ella C. Jones of 346 W. 123 St., a gold watch, a ticket to a lecture, and some $200 in election bet receipts, all backing Cleveland.

Fortunately, most wagers didn’t end so tragically. New York Police Commissioner French backed Harrison against Judge Martine. As a consequence of his loss, the Judge was required to pay for the Commissioner’s wardrobe for a full year, with no limit on the amount of suits which could be charged to the Judge. “I could have a new suit every day if I wanted to take all I am entitled to, but I won’t push the Judge too far. There is no reason I should not dress as well as usual,” French told the New York Tribune. “However, I guess I’ll dress a little better than usual this year.”

Our favorite bet has to be that entered into by George W. Owens, a Republican, against Jake Schaeffer and David Powers, Democrats. All three worked at the Washington Market in Manhattan, and when Harrison won, Schaeffer had to push Owens over the Brooklyn Bridge in a wheelbarrow, and Schaeffer had to push Owens back to the Washington Market. While one pushed, the other carried a banner reading “We pay our debts although we are in the soup.” Several Cleveland allies lent Schaeffer and Powers moral support.

To Our Readership: We hereby propose an election day wager, to the first taker, along the lines of the Owens and Schaeffer bet. Loser has to roll the winner from the Brooklyn side of the River, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Washington Market Park, in a wheelbarrow. Wheelbarrow to be provided by the loser. Using Mr. Owens’ wager as a portent, we shall repeat his wager and back the Republican candidate.

“If by some chance you find yourself loving me / We’ll find a cloud to hide us / We’ll keep the moon beside us / Love is waiting there in my beautiful balloon”

We here at Forgotten Stories always thought that weddings were fairly easy things to execute; pick out a dress, have some food delivered, find a handy string quartet or enterprising disc jockey, choose a church, and behold, a wedding. Never ones to obfuscate an error in judgment (perhaps because we make so few), our mental impression was corrected by a recent experience with our sister’s wedding. We stand corrected, and offer hearty congratulations to every bride not on her nuptials per se, but merely at having gone through such an arduous journey to get there in the first place. Congratulations are especially due to Miss Margaret Buckley, who on Thursday afternoon, September 27, 1888 saw fit to get married at the Rhode Island State Fair.

Miss Buckley would have no normal wedding. There was a trend in those days to avoid an insufferably tame wedding; folks got married in railway cars, while dancing, in caves, and on theater stages. Any odd location would do, so long as it got folks talking. Miss Buckley capped them all by getting married to Mr. Edward T. Davis, Shipping Clerk, in a balloon.

 

A section of the fairgrounds had been roped off, and inside a platform had been built and carpeted. The bridal party arrived in a new carriage, and the bride was admittedly splendid in a dress of white satin. After the Margaret and Edward were helped into the balloon car, Reverend E.D. Hall performed the Episcopal marriage ceremony. Immediately after the groom planted a healthy kiss on the newly minted Mrs. Davis, the balloon was let loose to the cheers of 40,000 fairgoers.

At 4 p.m., it disappeared somewhere to the northwest, coming to rest hours later in a cedar swamp outside of Easton, Massachusetts, Mr. and Mrs. Davis barely escaping a good soaking in swamp water. Eventually rescued, travel for the rest of their honeymoon was by rail.

Introducing Charles Cull, Confidence Man

According to the New York Times of October 3, 1860:

Charles Cull was tried for obtaining money under false pretences from Mr. John F. Gilman, a resident of Maine…Mr. Gilman formed the acquaintance of Cull on board the Stonington boat, bound to this City. He rather liked Cull, and, being a stranger in Gotham, placed himself under his guidance. Cull, not unwillingly, took him in charge, and undertook to exhibit unto him the huge animal with the extensive trunk. Passing along some street, Cull bethought himself of his need to change a bill for $100, that amount, when unbroken, being not very eligible as a tender for a small sum for refreshments. Accordingly he went into an establishment, which he said was a bank, but came out much chagrined at finding it was past banking hours. What was to be done? A man with a hundred-dollar bill in his pocket in want of small change for drinks for himself and friend! A ridiculous position to be placed in, and perplexing, moreover. Could not his new Maine acquaintance oblige him with smaller bills — a twenty or so, a few tens and fives? Unfortunately the gentleman from Maine had not so much money about him, but having $30, he concluded that twelve shillings would see him through the night, and the next day he could easily be at the Bank before closing hours. So he gave $28 50 to Cull, and received from him the $100 bill, on “The City Trust and Banking Company.” Cull having succeeded in obtaining small bills, suddenly recollected that he had a little business to transact round the corner, but he would be back in a few minutes. Mr. Gilman by-and-bye became of the opinion that there were just twenty-four such minutes from midnight to midnight, or from noon to noon, and he became not unnaturally inquisitive about the value of the $100 bill. Inquiry demonstrated that it possessed no value at all. His poor recompense was his good luck in meeting subsequently with Cull and giving him into custody.

Recorder BARNARD briefly charged the Jury in the case, and then finding himself too unwell to remain longer on the Bench, quitted the Court, while Judge RUSSELL was sent for to receive the verdict. The Jury, after a short absence, found Cull guilty. Sentence was deferred until it could be passed by the Recorder, who tried the case. No other business was done.

A brief article from the New York Daily Tribune of  July 4, 1861, reproduced in full, shows that Cull failed to learn his lesson:

“A well dressed man, calling himself Charles Cull, was arrested yesterday, charged with swindling Mr. John Milleman of Weathersfield N.Y., out of $50 by the confidence dodge. It appears that Cull met Mr. M. at the Hudson River Depot; and, having introduced himself, informed him that he was going to Dunkirk, and as Mr. M. was going to Buffalo, proposed that the should travel together. This arrangement was acceded to by Mr. M., and the twain started for the Exchange Hotel. On their way, a confederate of Cull’s met them, and, presenting a small bill to Cull, asked for payment. Cull handed him a bogus $50 bill to take the required amount from, but the confederate could not change it. Mr. Milleman was then applied to, and gave good money for the bill. Cull and the confederate then decamped, but Mr. M., becoming suspicious, pursued Cull, and arrested him, with $48 of his money in his possession. The prisoner was taken before Justice Kelly, and locked up for trial. His confederate escaped.”

Foil-ing the Baroness’ Plans

Olga Alberta, the Baroness de Meyer may be one of the more fascinating women of the early 20th Century. Reputed to be the illegitimate child of HRH King Edward VII, she was a mutt of the aristocratic type, tied by accident of to nobility from France, Britain, Portugal, and with a dash of American to add some democratic flavor. Raised in Dieppe, she married in 1892 and got divorced six years later. That same year, she married Adolph de Meyer, a famed photographer, in nuptials more suited to her taste. Her husband was a homosexual, and she herself was bisexual; at the time of her marriage she was in the midst of a torrid love affair with Winnaretta Singer. Considered a great beauty, artists of the day painted and sketched Olga regularly, including John Singer Sargent:

Jacques-Emile Blanche;

 

William Bruce Ellis Ranking;

James Jebusa Shannon:

Even her husband snapped a photo;

 

She took a trip to the United States in 1911, where a whole raft of American artists stood ready with canvas and brush, but Olga had other things on her mind. The New York World reported, “If any American young woman wants to do a little fencing the Baroness de Meyer, who arrived on these shores on the Olympic, with her husband, to-day, is just pining for a match…The Baroness (shown in her travelling costume below) wore a leopard skin cloak and shoes with no heels at all. If she cannot get a woman opponent for her fencing, she is willing to meet a man.”

The Baroness need not have feared. At the Fencers’ Club at 37 W. 22nd Street, a whole host of female fencers stood ready to take her on. Prominent society women had recently been invited to join the Club, and had been practicing apace; in response to the Baroness’ challenge Miss Adelaide Baylis and Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish Jr. (shown below) issued a polite invitation to join them for a fencing match at the club. Both women defeated the Baroness handily, and it wasn’t until afterwards that word of her loss leaked out.

The Baroness sought to explain away her defeat by contending that she hadn’t been trying her best. “It was mere child’s play for me, a little informal practice,” and claimed that she’d given her opponents every advantage as one would an inferior. If there was anything American women bridled at, it was being called an inferior, and Mrs. William H. Dewar of Philadelphia came forth to champion the United States. She and her opponent scheduled a contest for January 27, 1912, to be held in New York City.

The match was a short one, for not only did Mrs. Dewar beat the Baroness, she demolished her. As the Washington Herald described it:

The word was given and the two ladies stood at attention – the baroness, a tall lithe figure, dress in white and Mrs. Dewar, shorter in stature, but sturdy and well built, garbed in black velvet. Society held its breath, for here was a contest of international import, and of deep concern to the American woman athlete.

Mrs. Dewar opened the attack, making a long, low thrust that surprised her antagonist. For fully half a minute she kept up the bewildering attack, at once fast, furious, and skillful, with the baroness parrying viciously the while on the defensive. Finally there was a flash of steel and the baroness received the point of the foil near her hear. A cheer from the crowd, and the little woman continue on.

For a minute more she pressed this same swift attack. The baroness, now convinced that here was a fencer worthy of her best steel, tried time and again to hurl the sword of her opponent, but without avail. The last clash of the foils was followed by a thrust straight at the heart of the baroness and the crowd wildly cheered a second point for Mrs. Dewar…

Mrs. Dewar waved a tiny American flag she’d placed in her blouse, and the crowd cheered. Her husband picked her up and kissed her. “I wanted so much to win for the glory of America” said Mrs. Dewar between gasps of breath. The baroness congratulated her opponent for her skill, and the two parted as friends.

“Seeking the Bubble Reputation”

Today Forgotten Stories makes but the briefest of stops at a fashionable party in 1879.  On the menu for entertainment, soap bubbles. According to a reporter at Frank Leslie’s, “the rosebuds of the bouquet of Society have, under the nod, beck and wreathed smile of Fashion, turn soap bubbles to account, and have placed them amongst the glittering nothings that constitute the amusement of the blasé upper ten.” Translation: All the cool rich kids were having soap bubble parties.  

The concept was simple. Take a large bowl filled with soapy water. Hand out eighteen clay pipes, similar to those used to smoke opium, and see who could blow the biggest bubble. If your bubble burst the contestant got to try again, until all three tries were used up. The largest bubble won a prize. Apparently the ladies were at a disadvantage, for men were used to smoking pipes. As our reporter described it “[s]ome of the young ladies looked uncommonly piquant as they adjust the pipes in their saucy lips, while others, in the exertion of blowing, caused their features to assume proportions comical to the last degree.”

Ed. Note: A brief comment on the picture above. First, the gentleman’s mustache on the left is particularly neat. Secondly, look at the young lady on the right, holding the fan. I’ve heard of wasp waisted women, and the effects of corsets, but her waist must be all of 22 inches.

I Guess You Could Say Arthur Collinge was “Dummy-founded”

On the evening of October 2nd, 1908, policemen Arthur Collinge of the NYPD was strolling his beat along Ninth Avenue. As he did every night, he made his way slowly towards 59th Street, trying each storefront door to ensure it was locked and secure. Approaching from behind, Collinge heard the rapid footsteps of a man coming towards him, quite literally screaming bloody murder. The unknown citizen’s face was white, his eyes bulging. “Murder,” he gasped, out of breath. The ever alert Collinge was on the case.

 

“Where?”

“In a doorway,” panted the man, “10th Avenue –58th Street – two men – killed a woman – seen them dragging – body – down steps – stripping body – jewels of her – hurry – catch them in act.” Collinge hurried his way to an all night drug store, and called his precinct, and requested the desk sergeant send all available men to 10th Avenue and 58th. Then Collinge drew his gun and hurried westward towards the 58th.

 

If they taught walking quietly at the Police Academy all the way back in 1908, Collinge must have missed that day of training, for as he approached the site of the ostensible murder, the criminals heard him coming and legged it up 10th Avenue as fast as they could run with their arms full of loot. Collinge took a quick look inside the doorway, and a glance told him that the story had been right; a woman with disheveled blonde hair lay naked in the doorway. Collinge raised his gun, and in timeless police parlance, yelled “Stop or I’ll shoot.” True to his word, when the men didn’t stop, Collinge let off two shots, aiming deliberately over their heads.

 

The men just ran faster. So fast that they outstripped the out of shape Collinge. Indeed, ahad one of them not tripped on the streetcar tracks that ran down the center of 10th Avenue, they both would have gotten away. Before the man could rise, Collinge was on him. The muzzle of his gun still warm from the warning shots, Collinge pressed it to the man’s neck. Watching the man carefully, Collinge ordered his prisoner to rise, and handcuffed him. The loot lined the ground, and Collinge picked up a handsome skirt, white women’s undergarments, and a large feathered hat.

Reinforcements in the form of police officers Evans and Donlin now arrived, and the three men escorted their captive back to the doorway. “A bad case fellows,” Collinge informed them, “woman killed and robbed. One of them got away, but I nailed this chap.” Their captive identified himself as Eugene Hefferman, of 256 8th Avenue, and the stern men in blue escorted him back to the doorway, where the body lay. “It was,” in the words of the The Evening World, “one of the handsomest tailor’s wax dummies that have ever been seen on the middle west side.”

A thoroughly embarrassed Collinge had Hefferman arraigned the next morning. The prisoner admitted that he’d helped smash the store window of tailor Israel Blum at 312 W. 58th Street. The two men had lifted out the dummy and carried her to a handy doorway where they stripped her naked, despite the climate. Hefferman was bound over for trial on $1,000 bail.

 

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