Thanksgiving, Thanks-living, and the Jacobite Rising

A sermon was preached on 9 October 1746 by Pastor William Wood to the congregation of Protestant-dissenters in Darlington after the Jacobite Rising. Wood stated that his sermon was to “cultivate Loyalty and Social Affection, on the large and solid Basis of Christian Catholicism, Universal Charity and Benevolence, to which the popish Practice of Persecution for Conscience-Sake is diametrically opposite.”[1] Continue reading

Jack the Ripper’s Canonical Victims

Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes, and Mary Jane Kelly are considered Jack the Ripper’s canonical victims, so-called because their murders had the same pattern with the same modus operandi, and these five women are considered to be his officially accepted victims. The murders also happened in a relatively short period in 1888, between 31 August and 9 November.

Jack the Ripper, also known as the Whitechapel Murderer or Leather Apron, became known for operating in the slum areas in and around London’s Whitechapel district. Attacks attributed to him typically involved female prostitutes who lived and worked in the area and whose throats were cut prior to him committing some sort of abdominal mutilation. In fact, because of the mutilations and removal of internal organs, it was initially suspected the killer had some sort of anatomical or surgical knowledge.

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One Visitor’s Tale of Madame Tussaud’s 1883 Exhibition

Madame Tussaud. Author’s collection.

Heavy rain showers induced one Londoner who had been reading William Black’s Macleod of Dare to ponder about a better way to spend his time. When he looked out his window and saw wet streets and large splashing raindrops, instead of staying inside or following Black’s advice to enjoy an art pilgrimage to the National Gallery or South Kensington Museum, he decided to do something entirely different. Something that he had never done before.

What he decided to do was visit Madame Tussaud’s well-known establishment located on Baker Street. He hailed a hackney cab and gave this report of his visit that was published in November of 1883 in the Aberdeen Press and Journal: Continue reading

Thirteen Tales of Murder and Death in the Victorian Era

The Victorian Era is often remembered for its morality with women’s buttoned-up collars and high boots that prevented even the slightest hint of skin beneath. However, there were also many tales of murder and death during that era that captured the public’s imagination. Here are thirteen stories for Halloween.

Murder and Death in the Victorian Era

One unusual death happened in May of 1875. A miser between 60 and 70 years of age named Samuel Whitehead was found dead and there seemed to be no real reason for it. He lived for many years in Birmingham in a tenement off Moor Street and had been a recluse ever since his mother died twelve years earlier when she burned to death under rather mysterious circumstances. When Whitehead was found, according to newspapers: Continue reading

Laura Bell Courtesan and Preacher

Laura Bell Courtesan and Preacher
Laura Bell by Wallace Ernest-Joseph-Angelon Girard (1813 – 1898) c. 1850. Courtesy of The Wallace Collection.

Laura Eliza Jane Seymour Bell was born in 1829 in Glenavy in Northern Ireland to Captain R. H. Bell, who managed Hertford’s Antrim estates, and to the illegitimate daughter of Lord Hertford. Laura who supposedly had an unsupervised childhood, eventually moved to Belfast. There she worked as a shop assistant but was alleged to have earned extra money by occasionally working as a prostitute, although she denied it. She next moved to Dublin and was frequently spotted riding around in her own carriage in the tree-lined avenues of Phoenix Park. It was also while she lived in Dublin that she reportedly had a relationship with Dr. William Wilde, father of Oscar Wilde.

In 1849, she moved to London where she became a well-known courtesan referred to as The Queen of London Whoredom because of her wealthy clientele of noblemen and dukes. Part of her success as a courtesan was that she was strikingly beautiful, so much so that on “one occasion at the opera the entire house rose simultaneously to look at her as she was leaving.”[1] In addition, as she had done in Dublin, she was often seen riding in her carriage, but this time it was in Hyde Park in a gilt one drawn by two magnificent white horses. Continue reading

Napoleon’s 13-year-old Friend Betsy Balcombe on St. Helena

Napoleon looking out to sea on St. Helena. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Napoleon’s voyage into exile ended on 15 October 1815 at half past ten when the Northumberland anchored at St. Helena. That night he slept aboard the ship and on the morning of the 17th, he traveled to Longwood House, the residence of the lieutenant-governor that was designated as Napoleon’s future residence. He seemed satisfied with Longwood but because it needed to be repaired, refurbished, and enlarged, he needed to stay somewhere else temporarily.

It was decided he would stay at the Briar’s homestead with William Balcombe, an English merchant and superintendent of Public Sales for the East India Company. William was married to Jane Cranston and they had two daughters and two sons: Jane (1779), Lucia Elizabeth “Betsy”(1803), Thomas Tyrwhitte (1810), and Alexander Beatson (1811). Jane and Betsy had been educated in England and taught the French language. Continue reading

Van Hare the Ultimate Showman of the 1800s

G. Van Hare. Public domain.

G. Van Hare was the ultimate showman of the 1800s and traveled to nearly every European country during his fifty-year career. In his travels he experienced an endless string of odd adventures and unusual experiences that included interesting incidences with not only people but also dogs, lions, and a gorilla.

One interesting story about Van Hare is after he purchased a nearly 1-year-old Newfoundland pup in 1857 It became known as Napoleon the Wizard Dog and eventually ended up in his show. Napoleon was said to be as smart as he was handsome, and the Illustrated Sporting Times and Theatrical and Music-Hall Review wrote an article about him on 20 September 1862 stating: Continue reading

George Cruikshank the Caricature Artist and Humorist

George Cruickshank. Courtesy of Royal Academy.

George Cruikshank, the caricature artist and humorist, was born in London on a Thursday on 27 September. His mother was Mary Macnaughten and his father, Isaac Cruikshank, a leading caricaturist of the late 1790s. Mary and Isaac had five children: two died in infancy and then there was artist Isaac Robert born in 1789, George born in 1792, and Margaret Eliza, a promising artist born in 1808 who died of tuberculosis at the age of eighteen.

George had a limited education with his most valuable education being taught to him by his father when he served as his apprentice. When George was twelve, he received his first paid job and produced an etching of a child’s lottery picture. He also drew Horatio Nelson’s funeral car after the inspirational hero was shot and killed during his final victory at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. George’s earliest signed work was dated about two years later when he created the “demagogue Cobbet on his way to St. James’s.”[1] Continue reading

A Georgian Era Tragedy at a Puppet Show

Location of Burwell within Cambridgeshire. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

A Georgian Era tragedy at a puppet show in 1727 resulted in 78 people dead, many of them children. The story begins with a man who owned a family-run puppet show who was named either Richard Shepherd (or perhaps Richard or Robert Sheppard). As he was passing through the village of Burwell, about 10 miles (16 km) north-east of Cambridge, with his wife, his daughter, and two servants, he decided to put on a show and rented a barn on 8 September.

Word quickly spread that Shepherd was going to perform that evening in a barn built of Warble stone and thatched with straw. (The site where the barn stood is today located in Cuckolds Row.) Young people and children were particularly excited to see the show, and attendance promised to be high because people would not have to travel far and because Shepherd was charging an entrance fee of 1d. Continue reading

Francis Tussaud: Madame Tussaud’s Son

Francis Tussaud, from his great-grandson’s book of 1920, “The Romance of Madame Tussaud’s.”

Francis (François in French) Tussaud was Madame Tussaud‘s son. He was born to her and her husband François on a Saturday, 2 August 1800. Two years later, Madame Tussaud decided to promote her waxworks in England, and she left her son Francis behind in the care of her husband, mother, and aunt, and took her 4-year-old son, Joseph, with her. Madame Tussaud eventually broke it off with her husband but continued to write to Francis, her mother, and her aunt from England.

Francis grew into a young man who had a strong desire to be an architect. However, his father must have thought otherwise because he obtained an apprenticeship for him with a grocer. The apprenticeship proved costly, and once François discovered this, he then found an apprenticeship for his son with a billiard table builder. For a time, Francis unhappily pursued that career, and, perhaps, that is why he finally joined his mother and brother in England. Continue reading