Posts by Geri Walton

Josiah Henson and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”

Josiah Henson was an author, abolitionist, and minister who escaped slavery in the United States with his story being supposedly utilized by Harriet Beecher Stowe when she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Henson was born on 15 June 1789 on a farm in Port Tobacco in Maryland that was owned by Francis Newman. Henson’s father was…

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Madame Rachel: A Victorian Era Con Artist

Sarah Rachel Russell was born into a Jewish theatrical family around 1814 and became known as Madame Rachel, an infamous criminal and con artist who operated in Victorian London. She was purportedly cousin to musician Henry Russell, an English pianist, baritone singer, and composer. She was poor and illiterate and grew up in London’s East…

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Cats in the 1700s: Pleasant and Unpleasant Tales

There are many interesting tales about cats in the 1700s. For instance, the same year that Jane Austen was born, it was reported that a “melancholy accident happened” because of a crazed cat in Doctors-Commons, on St. Bennet’s Hill, in London. It began when the family of a Mr. Gardner shut a cat up in…

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Trial of the Detectives and Harry Benson and William Kurr

The “Trial of the Detectives” was a notorious police corruption scandal that involved officers at Scotland Yard in 1877. The criminals who bribed certain Scotland Yard officers were two swindlers, Harry Benson and William Kurr. In the end, both Benson and Kurr became notorious enough that their wax figures ended up in Madame Tussaud’s Chamber…

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Cane Contrivances: Unique Inventions for Users

In the 1700 and 1800s cane contrivances were created that showed “considerable ingenuity.” For instance, Parisians were known to have carried a sword cane for many years and leaden canes were trendy everywhere because they be used as a bludgeon. There were also the popular hollow affairs relied on by smugglers to sneak in expensive…

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Dolly Varden Fashions: A Late Nineteenth-Century Fad

The Dolly Varden fashions were a version of popular fashions worn originally in the 1770s and 1780s embraced by women such as Marie Antoinette, the Duchess Polignac, or the Princesse de Lamballe. Dolly Varden fashions later became popular in Great Britain and the United States between about 1869 and the 1880s with the fad peaking…

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People’s Grocery Lynching of 1892 in Memphis, Tennessee

The story of the People’s Grocery lynching begins with increasing racial tensions in the Tennessee area in 1892 around the same time that Mark Twain was finishing his “Tom Sawyer Abroad.” The lynching was connected to the People’s Grocery, a grocery store that first opened in 1889 as a cooperative venture formed by 11 prominent…

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Leadville Ice Palace: Colorado’s Creation of 1895 and 1896

A year after Mark Twain filed for bankruptcy, a mammoth Leadville ice palace was planned in Leadville, Colorado. It came about when Leadville citizens decided to outshine nearby Denver and reinvigorate their long, cold winters. In addition, desperate townspeople wanted to create jobs as the once mining boom had fizzled. Similar ice structures had been…

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Dr James Graham: Sexologist and His Temple of Health

Dr James Graham trained in medicine and although he never graduated, he became a self-styled doctor who promoted unusual cures, pioneered sex therapy, and opened a Temple of Health. He began his medical career by setting up an apothecary in Doncaster, Yorkshire. Then in 1770, he left for America where he traveled around the middle…

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