Posts by Geri Walton

Bicycling in the Victorian Era and Lady Riders

Bicycling in the Victorian Era was a popular pastime with men and women everywhere owning bicycles. However, it was women who found cycling a freeing experience and in fact, America’s devoted feminist and social reformer, Susan B. Anthony, coined the bicycle the “freedom machine.” The president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Frances Willard, thought…

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A Hanging Known as English Open-air Entertainment

The following article (part of a much larger article) starts off with a visitor planning to attend the Lewes Fair but instead finds himself at a hanging in Lewes. The article was first published in Dicken’s Household Words on 8 May 1852 and then appeared in the Leicestershire Mercury and General Advertiser for the Midland…

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Jack the Ripper: Contemporary Press and Public Suspects

An unidentified assailant nicknamed Jack the Ripper committed a series of murders in 1888 from August to November in the East End of London. Since that time the identity of the killer has been widely debated and over 100 Jack the Ripper suspects have been named. Despite all the suggestions, experts have not found any…

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Cat Superstitions in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

There are many cat superstitions, much more so than dog superstitions. In fact, superstitions surrounding cats have existed for a long time. One example is Ancient Egypt where cat sacrifices were made to the gods during the Hellenistic period and where mummified remains of cats have been discovered. Cat superstitions were also known to have…

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Belle Starr: An American Female Outlaw

Belle Starr was an American outlaw born Myra Maybelle Shirley on her family’s farm on 5 February 1848 near Carthage, Missouri. Her father was John Shirley, and her mother was his third wife, Elizabeth Hatfield.* john Shirley was a prosperous farmer but also the “black sheep” of a well-to-do Virginia family. In 1860, he sold…

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William Marwood: British Hangman from 1874 to 1883

William Marwood was born in 1818 in the village of Goulceby. He was the fifth of ten children born to William and Elizabeth Marwood and became a cobbler like his father. However, he harbored a deep desire to be an executioner and eventually did becoming the chief executioner for London and Middlesex from 1874 until…

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Rat Pits, Rat Baiting, and American Sportsman Kit Burns

Rat pits were an infamous form of entertainment that people like Christopher Keyburn promoted. Commonly known by his alias Kit Burns, he was a mid to late nineteenth century American sportsman, saloon keeper, and underworld figure in New York City. His business in the Bowery was located on Water Street in a nice-looking but plain…

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Onion Pie Murder in 1852 by Sarah Ann French

In 1852, the Onion Pie Murder occurred. The case involved Sarah Ann Piper who married William French on 14 September 1844 in Hellingly, Sussex, England. She was heavily pregnant at the time and later delivered a strong healthy boy who they named James. As far as anyone knew Sarah and William had a happy marriage,…

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Henry Brown: A Slave Who Mailed Himself to Freedom

Henry Brown was a slave who at the age of 33 mailed himself to freedom. He placed himself in a baize-lined wooden crate that had been addressed to an abolitionist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Because of his clever plan he acquired the nickname of “Box” at a Boston antislavery convention in May 1849 and thereafter called…

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Mary Pearcey and the Hampstead Murders

Mary Pearcey was born Mary “Nellie” Eleanor Wheeler in 1866 and was convicted of what became known as the Hampstead Murders.* These killings happened on 24 October 1890 and involved the murder of 31-year-old Phoebe Hogg and her 18-month-old daughter, nicknamed “Tiggy.”

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