Pesky Pedestrians Pose Plentiful Problems

Sixty-two companies were building horseless carriages in 1906, from the National Sewing Machine Company of Belvidere, Illinois, the White Sewing Machine Company of Cleveland,  to Cadillac, Locomobile, Jackson, Moon, the St. Louis Motor Carriage Company, and the Eisenhuth Horseless Vehicle Company, whose Compound Model 4 featured an innovative three cylinder motor. In 1906, a Ford Model T could get up to 45 mph, and a Stanley Steamer topped out in the high 30’s. These newfangled contraptions bred trouble for pedestrians, and had ever since Henry Bliss became the first automobile fatality in 1899.

Fortunately for the victims of the speeding motorist (called a “scorcher” in the parlance of the times), a nameless English inventor came to the rescue, and just fastened a cowcatcher, such as those that used to exist on steam trains, to the front of his car. The cowcatcher, padded and furnished with strong springs, so as not to damage the car, simply pushed those pesky pedestrians right out of the way.


Meet Stubby, decorated soldier of WWI

John Conroy met his best friend, Stubby, while an undergraduate at Yale in 1916. Despite the fact that Stubby was not yet 18, and thus ineligible for the American army, Conroy smuggled Stubby aboard the transport SS Minnesota when the 26th “Yankee” Division set out for France. Although Conroy’s commanding officer wanted to ship Stubby stateside, Stubby had learned a modified salute, and the hardnosed CO was so charmed he let Stubby say.

The Yankee Division served in four separate offensives, and Stubby, while still not officially a member of the U.S. Army, took shrapnel from a German grenade in the leg, and survived a German gas attack. Stubby became so adept at knowing when German gas shells were incoming, that during an early morning attack while doing sentry duty, he successfully roused the men of the Division from their deep slumber, saving many a life. Stubby even took down a German spy, earning a promotion to Sergeant. All told, Stubby saw 17 battles .

Returning stateside, Stubby was given a hero’s welcome, meeting President Woodrow Wilson. His military service done, Stubby volunteered for many causes, but especially took to heart his work with the Humane Society.

Here’s a picture of Stubby, wearing his many decorations:

Oh, and while Conroy was studying law as Georgetown, Stubby served as the Hoya. He met Presidents Harding and Coolidge, and passed away in 1926. If you want to meet Stubby, his remains currently reside at the Smithsonian.

Charles Myrick, Company A, 8th Regiment, Maine Volunteers

It being Memorial Day Weekend, we are reminded of all who gave their lives in the armed services of the United States.  Not all of these deaths were combat related; experts tell us that 414,152 perished from disease during the Civil War (twice as many as from battle).  Forgotten Stories is dedicated to discovering the individuals behind the numbers, and in honor of Memorial Day, we present you with the death and funeral of one of these 414,152 men; Charles Myrick of Maine.  Although we usually edit articles from the past for brevity (our forbearers were incredibly long-winded), today we present the article from Frank Leslie’s of February 7, 1863 in full:

Imagine a crowded transport steamer, homeward bound from the war, with her human freight of sick and wounded, of officers returning on leave for a brief respite from Southern miasma and camp toil, of poor, enfeebled men dragging themselves home to die.

The lamps are lit in the long upper saloon.  Though the vessel heaves and strains in the wild, angry sea, they shine pleasantly on the little groups which surround the card-tables, gather round some veteran story teller, or chat eagerly as they anticipate, in imagination, their safe arrival and welcome home.  All seems bright and cheerful.  There is a little stir, a sudden interruption; a poor soldier, himself an invalid, as his sunken cheeks and hollow yet brilliant eyes but too clearly indicate, enters and asks eagerly for a physician – his comrade is dying.  A little party, of whom the writer is one, detach themselves from the light and noisy gaiety of the comfortable upper cabin and go down into the hold, which has been roughly fitted up for human habitation.  It reeks with smells; it is dimly lighted by swinging lanterns, which rock to and from, keeping time, pendulum-like, to the roll of the sea.

The sounds which salute the ear are in keeping with the scene.  Here a smothered groan, an impatient murmur, a weary sigh, the heavy monotonous clang of the ever-moving machinery, mingle strangely with the dull swash of the waves as they glide by, or break angrily beneath our counter, making mournful music.  The man leads us on to the darkest dreariest corner.  He pauses by a miserable bunk, where, upon a blanket, with his knapsack for a pillow, lies something that, in the dim, uncertain light, takes human shape and form. “Bring a lantern here,” says the doctor.  A light, which had hitherto hung against a distant bulkhead, is brought.  It reveals a filthy, foul-smelling resting-place, upon which lies stretched a young soldier, yet in the agonies of dissolution.  The rattle is already in his throat.  I take the cold hand in mind, the pulse just flutters – that is all – the extremities are already chill in death.  He swallows a little stimulant, but the lingering disease (chronic diarrhea) has already done its wasting work.  His comrade leans over and strives to rouse him.  He shouts “Charley!  Charley!” but the words fall upon an ear already deaf to all earthly sounds.

I think to myself how many times has he heard the name in his far-off New England home, from a mother’s, a sister’s, it may be yet dearer lips.  And now the broad chest heaves convulsively, the face is distorted and drawn in its death agony.  The eyes are opened, then closed again.  They will look no more upon the sunlight; they are sealed, to open upon the resurrection.  There is a shudder, a contraction, and expansion of the limbs, the jaw drops, a ghastly hue overspreads the face – the man is dead; a soul drifts out upon the stormy night wind, on its way God alone knows whither – a unit is removed from the sum of human existence – a Union soldier, who died as patriotically as though he has fallen upon some hard won field, has gone to his long account.

And what a death!  No one to weep over the clay; the stiffening hand held in a stranger’s grasp; the attenuated corpse rolling to and fro with each motion of the angry waves over which we ride, as it lies waiting for the speedy burial which already hastened corruption renders necessary.  The body is borne forward and placed between decks.  It is sewn in the camp-worn, travel-stained blanket.  The chaplain and the officers are called.  We gather round a strange, mysterious bundle whose rigid lines and mummylike shape indicate what is concealed within.  Every brow is bared, every utterance hushed, as the corpse, stretched upon a board and covered with the flag he died to serve, is carried to the gangway.  Then come the solemn words with which the Episcopal Church commits the body to the deep, “to be turned into corruption, looking for the general resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come.”  The lanterns throw their sickly gleam upon the funeral rites, upon martial forms, upon the bare headed seaman, waiting to perform the last offices which mortals can render to mortality.  The stars shine without, the gloomy sea heaves and tosses, the waves lift up their white-fingered hands, as if pleading for their prey.  There is a pause, a lifting of the shrouded clay, a dull, heavy splash, and the vessel staggers on, to lie weighted down beneath the sea and to drift with the tide.

I turn away, and go sadly back to muse over the strange burial I have witnessed.  A hand touches my shoulder, I turn around.  The sick soldier who had shouted “Charley!” in the dead man’s ear hand me the “descriptive list” which he has taken from the pocket of the deceased.  I carry it into the light, and read “Charles Myrick of Co. A, Captain Perry, 8th regt. Maine Volunteers, enlisted August 23d, 1861, at Lowell, Maine, aged 21 years.”


A little more about Maine’s Eighth Volunteer Regiment can be found here:

More on Louis Haas, Crime Fighting Philadelphia Jeweler

Elizabeth Foxwell, whose blog can be found here: did a little further digging into our friend Philadelphian Louis Haas, the crime fighting jeweler. You can read our original post about Haas here:

Foxwell’s digging turned up an article in The Reading Eagle from 1924, which reveals that Haas, a former boxer, was the victim of yet another attempted robbery. This time three men attempted to loot the store, and when Haas tried to stop them, the robbers shot him three times before fleeing.  Haas still wouldn’t quit, and grabbing his revolver he staggered to the street, but the robbers were out of sight.

Many Thanks Elizabeth!

The Reading Eagle Article is here: 

Meet Miss Grace Keator

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles on Forgotten People. The previous article can be found here:

To the many young women who learned to shorthand from her, Miss Grace Keator was something of a heroine. Miss Keator had developed a special machine for taking shorthand notes, which were  then easily transferred onto a typewriter for review and signature.

According to Miss Keator, “We have a machine for taking shorthand notes. It has six keys. These keys punch combinations of dots that take the place of shorthand notes. These dots appear on a narrow paper tape.” To read the dots, the paper strip was unrolled on the secretary’s lap, and used to type the letter on a standard typewriter.  Instruction in how to use the machine could be had, under Miss Keator’s tutelage, at the New York Association for the Blind.

Miss Keator herself had lost nearly all her sight in an illness in the late 1890’s. With her dreams of a career as a literature teacher dashed, Miss Keator learned Braille at Batavia’s Institute for the Blind, and taught herself how to use a typewriter. Her efforts attracted attention, and Miss Winifred Holt hired her on at the New York Association for the Blind as a secretary. Nor was Holt the only one to employ Miss Keator; on a visit to New York City, President Taft heard of the blind secretary, and personally requested that she take shorthand for him.

His attention did much to publicize the work of the Association, and r a fundraising drive raised $100,000 for a new Association building. Located at 111 East 59th Street, New York City, it housed a library, rooftop garden, swimming pool, dorm rooms. In its class rooms, the blind were taught trades, such as carpet weaving, broom making,  chair caning, sewing, and of course, shorthand and typewriting under the tutelage of Miss Keator.  The Association sent out blind teachers to blind students who could not attend classes at the Light House. 200 blind boys and girls were mainstreamed into public schools, assisted by children with good sight especially trained to help them.

“One of our most important branches of the work is the care of those who become blinded through industrial accidents,” Miss Holt told the New York Times.“The other day two Italian laborers at work in one of the shafts for the new aqueduct were blinded by an explosion of dynamite and take to the Presbyterian Hospital. When they leave there, they will have no means of support unless the association takes them in hand and teaches them some trade. This we intend to do, as we have done in any number of similar cases in which the victims of such disasters have been made happy and contented wage earners, even though blind for life.”

What “personalized earrings” really means

We here at Forgotten Stories have a fashion sense all our own. We’ve worn white on the second Tuesday in September, have and proudly wear a bowler hat, and even pulled off a suspender and belt combo. On occasion our ideas have been known to backfire; we still face the occasional barb for the kilt debacle of 2004 (damn wind). But we’re pretty sure that Dame Fashion, who recycles fashions from the past with reckless abandon, needs to bring this 1921 idea back, a lovely earring, with a picture of a loved one, looped directly over one’s ear.






For two weeks in late November 1877, New York caught the baby flu. At Meade’s Midget Hall there were Icelandic babies, Jewish babies, Polish babies, Welsh babies, English babies, Irish babies, one Chinese baby known as Wee Boo, fat babies, skinny babies, homely babies, angelic babies, triplets, phenomena babies, noisy babies, supercilious babies, laughing babies and mostly, crying babies.

Meade, a pale imitation of P.T. Barnum (and all the paler after two weeks listening to infants cry for ten hours a day), was putting on the National Baby Show, wherein mother and child competed for a prizes with a combined worth of a thousand dollars.

Some five hundred mothers lined the walls of the Meade’s Hall, sharing two hundred rocking chairs as spectators examined the small specimens. Upon entrance, each visitor received a ballot, which entitled them to one vote for handsomest mother, prettiest baby, finest triplets, prettiest twins, greatest novelty, prettiest two year old, prettiest four year old, and prettiest five year old. The terrible threes must have been terrible indeed, for their category was omitted.

Above the Exhibition Hall, meals were provided for the mothers, consisting mainly of cold roast beef and mince pie, with a glass of milk. A full time nurse was on-hand. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which had given hints it disapproved of the event, was even invited to provide one of their wards, as an exhibition of a baby neglected and beaten…they declined.

Few fathers were in attendance, but the Brooklyn Eagle managed to secure one for an interview. His infant bore the name George Theodore Franklin Thurlow Washington Rutherford. The father told how his wife strolled the bed chamber with babe in arms; “George Theodore Franklin Thurlow Washington Rutherford, you are mama’s little popsey wapsey woopsey, ain’t you George Theodore Franklin Thurlow Washington Rutherford.” The Eagle’s man, obviously a bachelor, showed enough sensitivity to female sensibilities to wait until the next day’s paper to remark that the baby was so pug-nosed it looked like it had been flattened by a brick.

A few minutes later, a shrill piercing “Henry” went through the Exhibition Hall. Audible even over the crying of five hundred infants, it came from a tall, red-headed woman, pushing her way through the crowd. Another father had been spotted, this one escorting a young lady who was not the mother of the infant on display. The Eagle reporter learned that he’d abandoned mother and son, named Tommy, a few weeks before; he’d had no idea that his child would be on display at the Baby Fair when he went there on a date.

One sweet little cherub with curly hair excited much admiration from the crowd; a young bachelor declared, “If I had such a bright little fellow as that, I should call him George Washington. There’s high physical courage, if ever a pair of eyes told of such a thing. And look at that forehead. There’s true manliness even in babyhood.” A fellow bachelor disagreed; “that boy is no more like George Washington than you are; he’s a young Bonaparte, a short stout determined man…you should call him Napoleon Bonaparte.” The debate, which threatened to devolve into fisticuffs, only ceased when the parties were informed that the mother had already named the child “Mary.”

After “Floory” a blonde haired sweet little girl of two years age started running away with the lead for the votes for the most beautiful baby, competition in the other categories heated up.  Floory’s mother, also blonde, was a lead contender for the most beautiful mother, her fiercest competition was a woman from Albany, who had no baby with her; questioned as to how she could win most beautiful mother, she noted she had a ten year old child upstate.

It was the phenomena babies which earned the most attention. A five month old baby, weighing fifty pounds (a future member of the New York Fat Men’s Association no doubt) was exhibited next to a five week old weighing a scant three pounds. Women flocked around the small thing. There was an toddler that purportedly tried to commit suicide by drowning itself in a bath tub, a child aged thirteen months with no hair or nails, two sets of triplets, a baby who looked like an elf, one who looked like a monkey, a baby who couldn’t stop laughing and the dog baby, who had a long ears and jaw, and barked when he wanted food.

The Eagle’s man didn’t stick around to see who won the various prizes; the sound of screaming infants drove him from the building, and it wasn’t until he was two blocks away that the piercing squalling faded from ear-shot.

Meet John Miller and Joseph Wardle

Even the well documented lives of history’s most important people, we never learn everything there is to know. Did JFK have a habit of picking his nose and wiping it on the office desk? Was Frederick Douglass inordinately afraid of crickets? Did George and Martha share an inside joke about Thomas Jefferson’s body odor?

These are the well documented lives. From the great teeming masses, come brief snippets, voices shouting from the past “here I am” before sinking once more into obscurity. One of our missions here at Forgotten Stories is to introduce you to these heretofore nameless folks, who lived, laughed and loved. And so, in what we hope shall be a regular column, we introduce you to two of them:

Meet John Miller of Chicago. For a few months in 1919 and 1920, Miller was a busy fellow. The Government had ruled that all advertisements for liquor, which included signs saying “Bar” and “Saloon” must come down. That was Miller’s job. He’d chip away at the iron signs until nothing was left to inform the passing pedestrian that demon rum had once been served inside.
Here we have Joseph Wardle, who made his living stopping by the White House after a reception by the President,

and taking away the discarded flowers. After he pressed them, he sold them to Washington D.C. tourists as a souvenir of their visit. Joe’s career lasted him through twelve Presidential Administrations, from Grant to Harding


Crime Fighting, Philadelphia Style

Louis Hass had had quite enough. In November of 1919, his jewelry store, located at 1436 North Tenth Street in Philadelphia, had been robbed of $500.00, and two weeks later, right around the Thanksgiving holiday, vandals had broken his front window. The boards covering the window weren’t even gone yet, and here, in mid-December, was George Donnelly, pointing a revolver at Hass’ stomach and ordering him to raise his hands.

Hass did nothing of the kind. He vaulted over the counter and tackled Donnelly. For three or four minutes the two wrestled, “and did more damage to the store that the proverbial bull in a china shop” reported the Philadelphia Public Ledger of December 19, 1919. Hass bit into Donnelly’s left hand, and attempted to maneuver the would-be robber over to Hass’ safe, where he had a gun. When this failed, he managed to roll the thief over towards a bucket of ice water. Freeing one hand, Hass brought the bucket, filled with frigid water down square upon Donnelly’s head.

Meanwhile, a group of neighbors rushed in. Julia Young, who lived above the store, had heard the commotion downstairs and ran to the corner saloon to get help. With Prohibition less than a month away, the bar was packed with patrons for whom “Old time was still-a flying” and they rushed to Hass’ defense. Julia Young had a gun in her hand, a gift from Hass after she’d told him the first robbery had scared her. She gave it to one of the bar patrons, and all went storming into Hass’ back door.

As they came in the back, Donnelly managed to extricate himself from the bucket, and ran out of Hass’ store. The man with Young’s gun shot at him, missing wildly and taking out the glass transom above Hass’ entryway. Running as fast as he could, down Tenth Street towards Jefferson, drenched and bleeding profusely from the hand, he aroused the suspicion of Albert Sarbrey, superintendent of the public baths at Eleventh Street and Girard. Sarbrey decided to stop the fleeing man, and as Donnelly came towards him, threw a large metal trashcan at him. He hit Donnelly in the head, but the panicked robber kept on running.

A block or two later, chased by firearm wielding citizens, a superintendent of the public baths, and one very angry jewelry store owner, drenched to the skin with ice water in mid-December, bleeding from the hand, and dazed from a trash can to the skull, Donnelly ran smack-dab into Officers O’Donnell and Crooks (Ed. Note: Best Policeman’s Name Ever), of the Eighth and Master streets station, and was taken into custody.

“Leaves of Grass” a “Vulgar, Beastly Book”

We here at Forgotten Stories are not the what one would call fans of poetry, with the exception of a risqué limerick or two. But, we have read Leaves of Grass, and not only because our 12th Grade English teachers thrust it upon us; actually we rather enjoyed it . Imagine our surprise at reading the following contemporary (1856) review from Frank Leslie’s, which we present in abridged form:

“We find upon our table (and shall put into the fire) a thin octavo volume, handsomely printed and bound, with the above curious title. We shall not aid in extending the sale of this intensely vulgar, nay, absolutely beastly book, by telling our readers where it may be purchased. The only review we shall attempt of it, will be to thus publicly call the attention of the grand jury to a matter that needs presentment by them, and to mildly suggest that the author should be sent to a lunatic asylum, and the mercenary publishers to the penitentiary for pandering to the prurient tastes of morbid sensualists. Ralph W. Emerson’s name appears as an indorser of these (so-called) poems (?) – God save the mark! We can only account for this strange fatuity upon the supposition that the letter is a forgery, that Mr. E has not read some passages in the book, or that he lends his name to this vile production of vitiated nature or diseased ambition, because the author is an imitator of his style, and apes him occasionally in his transcendentalism.”

That volume that the editor confined to the fireplace is worth upwards of $40,000 today.

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