Your Country Has Ceased to Exist, And That’s For Your Own Good

Well, I have finished Frederick Shoberl’s little guide to early 19th century Imperial Austria, Austria; Containing a Description of the Manners, Customs, Character and Costumes of the People of That Empire, and it appears that he saved the worst for last.

Generally, Shoberl thinks most highly of those in the Western part of the Austrian Empire, and his opinion of people decline as he travels east. German Austrians in all their permutations are perfectly wonderful, if somewhat quaint, followed by the western Slavs (Czechs and Slovaks), and then the southern Slavs (Croats), and then the Magyars, and finally, he has little good to say about those Romanians living within the confines of the Austrian Empire.

But his worst opinions are saved for those Poles who came under Austrian rule following the multiple partitions of Poland by Russia, Prussia and Austria in the second half of the 18th century. Apparently, the disappearance of Poland — something lamented by Polish nationalists well into the 20th century — was a benefit for the Poles themselves, since they were incapable of enlightened self-rule:

Much as it has been the fashion to deplore the “fatal partition” of Poland, and to execrate the powers concerned in it, we have now the satisfaction to know that to the Poles themselves this measure has proved one of the greatest blessings. Every individual has gained by it, excepting a few selfish, pampered magnates, who abused their overgrown power, and inflicted perpetual misery on the serfs whom Providence had subjected to their rule.  

If ever there was a country where “might constituted right,” that country was Poland. The most dreadful oppression, the most execrable tyranny, and the most wanton cruelties, were daily exercised by the nobles on their unfortunate peasants. Dr. Neale in his Travels adduces a few facts which prove but too clearly their miserable condition.  

The life of a peasant was held of no greater value than that of one of his horned cattle; and if his lord killed him he was merely fined a hundred Polish florins, or two pounds sixteen shillings of our money. If, on the contrary, a man of low birth presumed to raise his hand against a nobleman, death was the inevitable punishment. If any one dared to question the nobility of a magnat, he was required to prove his assertion, or doomed to die: nay, if a powerful man took a fancy to the field of his humbler neighbour and erected a land-mark upon it, and if that land-mark remained three days, the poor man lost his possession.  

The atrocious cruelties habitually exercised almost exceed credibility. A Masalki caused his hounds to devour a peasant who chanced to fright his horse; a Radzivil had the belly of one of his serfs ripped open, that he might thrust his feet into it, in the hope of being cured of a malady with which he was afflicted. Still there were laws in Poland, but how were they executed? A peasant, going to the market at Warsaw, met a man who had just assassinated another: he seized the murderer, bound him, and having placed him in his wagon together with the body of his victim, he went to deliver him up to the nearest Starost. On his arrival, he was asked if he had ten ducats to pay for his interference, and on his answering in the negative, he was sent back with his dead and living lumber. After this fact, the reader will not be surprised to learn, that it cost a merchant of Warsaw fourteen hundred dollars to prosecute to conviction and execution two robbers who had plundered him.

Of course, we all know that the lives of the poor — peasant, urban dweller, Irish — were sacred in the United Kingdom. We all know in 1828 Britain, a rich man could never take the life of a poor one with impunity, could never steal the small holding of a peasant legally, and the lives of the poor were respected as if they mattered as much as those of the wealthy or were of the gentry.

But enough. Let’s go on. Because it gets worse:

The morals of the people, were then, as they still continue to be, nearly at the lowest point of debasement. Female chastity is a virtue unknown in Poland. Among persons of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest, with very few exceptions, the most dreadful licentiousness prevails. The men are equally profligate; and debauchery of every kind prevails among them to a degree unknown in other countries of Europe. Education is in general much neglected, the lower classes being unable to obtain the means of instruction: and among the higher, where no man is assured of the legitimacy of his offspring, a total indifference prevails as to the training of the doubtful brood. They are therefore neglected from their cradles, and left to the indulgence of every passion, undisciplined, untutored and uncontrolled. Endowed by nature with great personal beauty, the young Polish noble makes the tour of France and Germany, engrafts the vices of every capital that he visits on his own native stock; and after dilapidating his revenues returns to his paternal estate with a train of French cooks, valets, parasites and all the paraphernalia of modern luxury, to wallow in sensuality, and to die prematurely of acquired disease.

I read this and was reminded of the really bad joke, “So, why wasn’t Jesus born in Poland?” It reads like some moralist’s lecture on the evils of, well, being Polish. As if that were a choice, or something. I’d like to say this is as bad as it gets, but … it does get worse.

Because apparently Poland has far too many Jews in it. And one of Emperor Joseph II’s great attempts to better Polish life was to place restrictions on what Jews could do in Galicia, that part of Poland the Austrian Empire acquired in the dicing up of Poland:

In no country in Europe have the Jews obtained such firm footing as in Poland, where Casimir the Great, at the instigation of his Jewish mistress, Esther, took them, four centuries ago, into his especial favour and protection. Enjoying privileges and immunities which they possess in no other region, with opportunities of engaging deeply in traffic and accumulating immense fortunes; masters of all the specie and most of the commerce of Poland; mortgagees of the land, and sometimes masters of the glebe—the Jewish interlopers appear to be more the lords of the country then even the Poles themselves.  

All the distilleries throughout Poland are farmed out to Jews, who pay large sums to the nobles for the privilege of poisoning and intoxicating their serfs. Mr. Burnett states, that when he was in Poland, a company of Jews paid to Count Zaymoski the sum of three thousand pounds sterling annually for the mere privilege of distilling spirituous liquors on the largest of his estates, which, to be sure, comprehends at least four thousand square miles. Hence some estimate may be formed of the enormous quantity that is consumed. 

When Joseph II. obtained possession of Galicia, that judicious prince perceived the necessity of limiting the privileges of the Jews. He took from them the power of cultivating the lands belonging to the serfs subject to contributions, and prohibited them from keeping inns and distilling spirits: but at his death these regulations ceased to be enforced, and the Jews have since been silently regaining their former influence.  

The inns, as has been already observed, are now altogether in their hands, as well as the fabrication of ardent spirits and liqueurs. They have all the traffic in peltry, the precious metals, diamonds and other jewels, and they are also the principal agents in the corn-trade. Of late years many of these Jewish families who had amassed great wealth by commerce, having affected to abjure their religion and to embrace the Catholic faith, have been ennobled and permitted to purchase extensive estates: still true, however, to their own nation, they have built large towns and villages on these estates, and peopled them exclusively with Jewish families; for from a singular instinct the Poles seem to detest their fellowship, and generally herd together in their own miastas.  

The enjoyment of liberty and civil rights seems to have produced a strong effect on the physical constitution and physiognomy of the Hebrew race, and to have bestowed on them a dignity and energy of character, which we may look for in vain in the Jews of other countries. The men, clothed in long black robes reaching to their ankles, and sometimes adorned in front with silver agraffes, their heads covered with fur caps, their chesnut or auburn locks parted in front, and falling gracefully on their shoulders in spiral curls, display much manly beauty. In feminine beauty, the women are likewise distinguished; but beauty is not uncommon among the Jewesses of other countries. When looking at them, says Dr. Neale, seated, according to their usual custom, on a wooden sofa, by the doors of their houses, on the evenings of their sabbath, dressed in their richest stuffs and pearl head-dresses, I have imagined that I could trace a strong resemblance between their present head-ornaments and those sculptured on the heads of the Egyptian sphynxes. Nor do I think it at all improbable, that the dresses of the Hebrews of both sexes in Poland, are at this day nearly the same as those of their ancestors when they quitted the “house of bondage.”

Ahh, those wretched, thieving, king-seducing and utterly unchanging Jews bereft of any civic spirit and poisoning the people with your vile liquors and your miserable hostels!

In this chapter, Shoberl quotes a lot from a Dr. Neale’s Travels (a book I cannot find with a cursory Google search), and at first it seems like he’s not even bothered to visit Galicia himself. But he adds that he found Dr. Neale’s account hard to believe, and wouldn’t have believed if it he hadn’t seen with his own eyes the mean state of those in Austrian Poland. I’m trying to consider the nature of Shoberl’s animus toward the Poles — could it be that they were enthusiastic supporters of Napoleon (and the country was temporarily revived during the Napoleonic Wars) and thus on the wrong side of what, by 1828, were The Late Unpleasantries? It’s hard to tell.

I have a difficult time believing the state of your typical Pole was all that different than the Magyar peasants describes, and yet he doesn’t call their subjugation by their Magyar overlords something done for their own good. And he doesn’t single out Jews for such abysmal treatment until he gets to Poland. (Indeed, aside from noting that Austria is full of Jews, he doesn’t even describe how they live until he gets to Poland.)

Well, I’ve had another armchair tour of the continent from the early 19th century. These are fun to read. Even when they aren’t.

Then Why Aren’t There Slovaks Everywhere?

Thanks be to Project Gutenberg, I’m reading this charming little guide to Austria (really, the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire from Aš to Braşov, which isn’t just the cute little Austria we now know all snuggly in mitteleuropa) — Austria; Containing a Description of the Manners, Customs, Character and Costumes of the People of That Empire by one Frederick Schoberl, published in 1828. It’s a charming little book, filled with the certainties of the educated Englishman (or Anglicized German, as Schoberl likely is), for whom the Magyar and the Wend are as much foreign and exotic people — and separate “races” of human beings — as were the Zulu, the Bengali and the Mongol.

Case in point, this little bit from his brief overview chapter early in the book. On Slovaks, which he spells (following, I think, the Polish, but I’m probably mistaken there) “Slowack,” which sounds like the kind of thing that might happen at a baseball game on a particularly hot afternoon. He is praising either their fecundity, or their pushiness, or quite possibly both. And it makes me wonder — why aren’t there more Slovaks?

The Slowacks, the relics of the Moravian monarchy, which comprehended Moravia and the north-western part of Hungary, are nearly confined to those two countries. There are nevertheless some of them in Bohemia. To those people particularly applies the observation of Schwartner, who remarks, that of all the inhabitants of Hungary the Slowacks multiply fastest. Wherever they settle, the Germans and Magyares gradually disappear. Thus in the 14th century the mountainous part of the county of Gömör was entirely inhabited by Germans, whereas at present the population consists exclusively of Slowacks.

I suspect many Slovaks wonder this as well (and probably dispute Schoberl’s and Schwartner’s assertion, given how persistent German settlement was and what a problem that would be in the 20th century). But Schoberl didn’t live in that world. He lived in that era between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the Revolutions of 1848, of which I know little about save that lots of educated Englishmen and women traveled the continent, staying and studying in Germany and Italy and elsewhere, and then wrote a ghastly number of books about it all. Schoberl might not have even lived to see 1848. I don’t know.

The Schwartner in question might be this man, Marton Schwartner, a Magyar academic from the 18th century. No, I do not read Magyar, and the Google translation of the Magyar is a mess. He was a teacher, a protestant, wrote some books (including one excellent statistical volume on the Kingdom of Hungary) and left his personal library of some 12,000 volumes to a high school somewhere. Probably in Magyarország. Or quite possibly Slovakia.

Sorry, “Slowackia.” You’re out!

The End of Class Solidarity

There’s something interesting hinted at in this piece by John Lingan on the difficulties the city of Winchester, Virginia, has had with embracing the legacy of country singer Patsy Cline:

The entire Winchester-area middle class has traveled a similar path since about World War II. Economic, cultural, and political changes have elevated these proprietary sons and daughters beyond the abidingly second-tier status that their parents held. Starting in the 1950s, the new “business progressive” mindset replaced the previous Southern focus on industry and agriculture, and Winchester went all-in. The current Winchester-Frederick County Manufacturing Directory includes about 100 companies, most of which have come to the region in the last 60 years. The Winchester section of I-81, which forms the city’s eastern border, was completed in 1965. Thanks to that road and the other major local thoroughfares—I-66 and state Routes 7 (the Harry F. Byrd Highway) and 37-50 percent of the U.S. population lives within a day’s drive. Virginia’s sole inland port was built just 12 miles south of Winchester in 1989, so shipping traffic now accounts for part of the region’s economic pull, as well. The first industrial parks were built in the ’80s, and now they cover a shudderingly vast sprawl of land above the city limits along the interstate. 

 Not surprisingly, the region’s population growth over the past four decades has rivaled that of any other U.S. county in the 20th century, as the Winchester-Frederick County Economic Development Commission will happily tell you. U.S. manufacturing jobs decreased throughout the ’80s and ’90s, but Winchester-Frederick County’s spiked. And inside the Winchester limits alone, the population increased 7.4% from 1990 to 2000, and 11% from 2000 to 2010. 

There have of course been what Anita mournfully called “growing pains.” Many residents pay an inadvisable third or more of their income in rent. Nearly a fifth live below the poverty level, a figure slightly higher than the national rate. Like America at large, Winchester’s economy has become increasingly corporatized and unfriendly to the truly working-class. The big employers in town aren’t the old local tycoons but monolithic corporations like Rubbermaid, Pactiv Foodservice Products, and Valley Health, which owns the infinitely expanding Winchester Medical Center on the city’s west side. Nearly a quarter of the workforce is employed in the human services field, especially health care, and an additional quarter works in manufacturing and retail. 


… With the old social structure no longer economically relevant, the descendants of Patsy’s people are now in positions of power and influence. Patsy is their north star, their spirit animal. She embodies everything they claim to value in a person: hard work, generosity, humor, irreverence, and God-given talent. Winchester is a town that clings to family stories and historical claims with grim obstinacy, and Celebrating Patsy Cline is attempting to reclaim that identity as other long-held stories crumble under the weight of prefabricated shopping centers and an influx of outsiders.

We forget, I think, that as the racial order was destroyed in the South (and across the country) beginning in the 1950s, so was the class order. And with that, the social solidarity that made it possible for the white working class to be “progressive” in large numbers.

Lingan writes about how Winchester’s elites — mainly professionals, landowners, bankers, and clergy (he hints at this description more than outright stating it) — have been reluctant to embrace Cline because she was “white trash.” The city’s tourism focuses mainly on the Civil War and its apple festival, things the town’s gentility can and have organized (and been passionate about). In the passage I cite above, he notes that the “business progressive” view took hold about the time segregation was challenged. That “business progressive” view needed not just an end to segregation, but an end to the class structure as well.

Why? The working class, prior to the 1950s, were fairly well cordoned off from the elites. They were ruled, and had little say in how they were rules or who ruled them. The children of the working class could, if they were very smart or very talented, becomes something other than industrial or agricultural laborers (or small-time merchants). But mostly, to be born working meant that you would most likely do what your father and grandfather had done before you. Your options would be fairly constrained.

And it is in this constraint, this limit on mobility and freedom — a limit held firmly in place by the structure of power — that created a working “class” that could identify itself as such. Few could hope to get rich, or even rise to management or government, so you then fought for the best deal not just for yourself but also for your neighbors. Because they and you were in the same situation, the same condition, and shared the same fate. And this was involuntary. Few could choose to move higher (though that always existed, it was limited only to the very best and very brightest). A class was forged because it had no choice.

Destroy the social structure, however, and you remove the compulsion. Anyone can become anything. Even a professional. Even, as Lingan’s story notes, those who end up running Winchester. Once “working class” is no longer an involuntary identity, one held together by rigid social norms, and lack of opportunity and mobility, and a fair amount of violence, then solidarity disintegrates. And you no longer have a “class,” you have a mass of individuals, each believing — and rightly so — that they can succeed at whatever they wish without external limitations. There is no longer a class interest because the “working class” are no longer in it together.

Instead, what comes to matter is “hard work, generosity, humor, irreverence, and God-given talent” in each individual. That had always been true, but this was no longer tempered by the real hopes placed in the very exceptional versus the very real fact that some people don’t have talent or won’t work hard. And thus will never become much more than what their parents were.

This, I think, is the answer to Thomas Franks as to why the “working class” don’t vote their class interests. Because they no longer have a class interest, only a shared set of individual interests (which is not the same thing). Because of that, they have affected a cultural identity (in much the same way African American nationalists did in the 1960s) that is grounded in a real culture but that comes without the real solidarity. It may be that in a world of atomized individuals, all collective identities are affectations — choices made — rather than real markers of class or social status.

But that is as far as I want to take the theorizing now, I think.

Insane Pride

No morally upright critique of vice, sin, iniquity an corruption would be complete without a condemnation of homosexuality. And boy, does L. O. Curon let the condemnation flow freely in Chicago, Satan’s Sanctum. He does everything except actually use the word “homosexual.” Which I’m guessing no one did in polite company in 1899.

(One interesting side light. When Curon wants to get graphic about sexual practices he considers immoral, he retreats into ancient history and ancient Greek literature for his examples. It’s an interesting use for a classical education. Some of that is at work here in this passage.)

Anyway, back to Curon. And some of his purplest prose yet (starts on p. 145)!

The dens of the sexual pervert of the male sex, found in the basements of buildings in the most crowded, but least respectable parts of certain streets, with immoral theaters, cheap museums, opium joints and vile concert saloons surrounding them, are the blackest holes of iniquity that ever existed in any country since the dawn of history. A phrase was recently coined in New York which conveys—in the absence of the possibility of describing them in decent language—the meaning of the brute practices indulged in these damnable resorts, and the terrible consequences to humanity as a result of unnatural habits—“Paresis Halls.” 

No form of this indulgence described by writers on the history of morals, no species of sodomy the debased minds of these devils can devise, is missing from the programme of their diabolical orgies. In divine history we read of the abominations of the strange women of Israel, with their male companions, in their worship of Moloch, Belphegor and Baal, and of the death penalties pronounced by Moses against the participants in them. To suppress the brutish immorality, and prevent the spread of disease arising from it, the Jewish law giver put to death all his Midianite female captives except the virgins. Profane history tells of the infamies of the Babylonian banquets, of the incestuous and “promiscuous combats of sensuality” of the Lydians and the Persians; of the Athenian Auletrides, or female flute players, who danced and furnished music at the banquets of the nobility and wallowed in the filth of every sensual indecency, and of the polluted condition of Roman life, prior to, and as the Christian era dawned, but in all the untranslatable literature of eroticism no description of the debaucheries of the ancients, if freely interpreted into English from the dead languages in which they are preserved, could depict the nastiness these yahoos are reported as having introduced into our midst, and rendered more hateful and disgusting by the squalor of their underground abodes. The young are lured by them, ruined in health and seared in conscience. The very slang of the streets is surcharged with expressions, derived from, and directly traceable to, the names of these unmentionable acts of lechery. 

Not content with the private and crafty pursuit of their calling, they must flaunt it in the faces of the public and under the very eyes of the police, in a series of annual balls held by the “fruits” and the “cabmen,” advertised by placards extensively all over the city. At these disreputable gatherings the pervert of the male persuasion displays his habits by aping everything feminine. In speech, walk, dress and adornment they are to all appearances women. The modern mysteries of the toilet, used to build up and round out the female figure, are applied in the make-up of the male pervert. Viewed from the galleries, it is impossible to distinguish them from the sex they are imitating. Theirs is no maid-marian costume; it is strictly in the line of the prevailing styles among fashionable women, from female hair to pinched feet. The convenient bar supplies the liquid excitement, and when the women arrivals from the bagnios swarm into the hall, led in many instances by the landlady, white or black, and the streets and saloons have contributed their quotas, the dance begins and holds on until the morning hours approach. The acts are those mainly suggestive of indecency. Nothing, except the gross language and easy familiarity in deportment, coupled with the assumed falsetto voice and effeminate manners of the pervert, would reveal to the uninformed observer what a seething mass of human corruption he is witnessing. As the “encyclopedia of the art of making up” puts it, “the exposed parts of the human anatomy” usually displayed in fashionable society are counterfeited so perfectly, the wigs are selected and arranged with such nicety, the eyebrows and lashes so dexterously treated, and the features so artistically touched with cosmetics, as to make it very difficult, at first glance, to distinguish between the impostor and the real woman. The big hands and tawdry dresses, the large though pinched feet and the burly ankle, betray the sex of the imitating pervert. 

No reason, except that the police are paid for non-interference with these vice pitted revels, can be given for their toleration. The city’s officials are either in collusion with their projectors, they are incompetent, or are the willing tools of these stinking body scavengers. These beasts look with disdain upon the votaries of natural pleasures, and have an insane pride in their hopeless degradation.

His citing of biblical commands — “the Jewish law giver put to death all his Midianite female captives except the virgins” — suggests Curon would happily take the first stone (and second, and third) and throw them. Hard. But he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say anything except condemn these saloons full of drag queens and people with ruined bodies and seared consciences. I’m guessing he doesn’t really care what the police, when they aren’t being paid to let these places do business, would do to their inmates.

More than anything, he wants to prevent people from living like this. From falling to this. The fact of such people in a society are a sign not just of its decadence, but it’s weakness. Which is why society needed to be regimented, tightly controlled, scripted and organized, young people given strict guidance and things to belong to — sports clubs, Boy Scouts, classrooms, armies. (The hymn that most reflects this awful worldview is “Earth and All Stars.”) A weak society cannot engage in uplift, cannot defend itself from barbarians (Filipino cockfighters and Chinese opium dealers!), cannot redeem the world.

And this is the face of the Liberal Christianity of the late 19th and early 20th century that we inherit — a faith that saw itself as acting to redeem the world, a world that human beings would have to redeem if it were to be redeemed at all. If Curon is a churchman (I and believe he is; he devotes a whole introductory chapter to quotes from other churchmen on the evils of Chicago and the need for better or more moral government), the faith he subscribes to puts the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ far to the side. Jesus doesn’t really save us, and he is almost peripheral to our actual salvation. Rather, Jesus empowers us to save ourselves using all the scientific tools that mass industrial democratic civilization give us.

This is the legacy of Liberal Christianity that I oppose. Because we still struggle with that, in the ethics of Niebuhr, the social activism of Martin Luther King, in all the revolutionary nonsense (pseudo and real) of liberation theology, which in the end, makes human beings the agents of their own salvation. Indeed, necessary agents of their own salvation, as it won’t otherwise happen if human beings don’t act.

In this, the cross and empty tomb become quaint stories, things to sing sanctimonious and sentimental hymns about, but which don’t really matter. Because the saving of the world is man’s work.

When You Go to Court in Los Angeles, Please Don’t Bring Your Guns.

I have been off and on reading this little gem, Sixty Years in Southern California by Harris Newmark. Written in 1913, Newmark was a German Jew who emigrated to Los Angeles from northern Germany via Sweden, England, Nicaragua and San Francisco. It’s a fascinating tale, especially all of his details about Los Angeles in the early 1850s. Newmark was skilled as an ink maker in Germany, but joined an older brother in Los Angeles as a dealer in dry goods. I’m not through the 1850s at this point, but I’m guessing Newmark does pretty well for himself.

But this book, given all of his adventures (Nearly arrested in Liverpool for consorting with a Swedish bank robber! Nearly drowned in the North Atlantic when a storm wrecks sailing ship!), isn’t as well written as it could be. It does, however, have that matter-of-fact narration that lends itself to the understating of some very interesting and funny events. He writes at length about the state of the law and the legal profession in early 1850s Los Angeles, and tells this wonderful little story:

Speaking of the informality of courts in the earlier days, I should record that jurymen and others would come in coatless and, especially in warm weather, without vests and collars; and that it was the fashion for each juryman to provide himself with a jack-knife and a piece of wood, in order that he might whittle the time away. This was a recognized privilege, and I am not exaggerating when I say that if he forgot his piece of wood, it was considered his further prerogative to whittle the chair on which he sat! In other respects, also, court solemnity was lacking. Judge and attorneys would frequently lock horns; and sometimes their disputes ended violently. On one occasion, for example, while I was in court, Columbus Sims, an attorney who came here in 1852, threw an inkstand at his opponent, during an altercation; but this contempt of court did not call forth his disbarment, for he was later found acting as attorney for Pancho Daniel, one of Sheriff Barton’s murderers, until sickness compelled his retirement from the case. As to panel-service, I recollect that while serving as juror in those early days, we were once locked up for the night; and in order that time might not hang too heavily on our hands, we engaged in a sociable little game of poker. Sims is dead. 

More than inkstands were sometimes hurled in the early courts. On one occasion, for instance, after the angry disputants had arrived at a state of agitation which made the further use of canes, chairs, and similar objects tame and uninteresting, revolvers were drawn, notwithstanding the marshal’s repeated attempts to restore order. Judge Dryden, in the midst of the mêlée, hid behind the platform upon which his Judgeship’s bench rested; and being well out of the range of the threatening irons, yelled at the rioters: 

Shoot away, damn you! and to hell with all of you!”

Have Scissors, Will Commit Felony

Another wonderful tidbit from L.O. Curon’s 1899 volume of moral agitprop, Chicago, Satan’s Sanctum. The pool room in question is not for billiards. Rather, it is an illegal gambling establishment where people bet on “pools” of things — racing results, baseball games, the Yale-Harvard crewing regatta, Filipino cockfights, whatever. Curon has not so far explained how it works.

The want of an energetic police is the cause of the prevalence of such abominable offenses as hair clipping, or the severing from the heads of young girls upon the public streets their braids of hair. One of these perverts was arrested and excused himself upon the ground that it was a mania with him, and that the temptation to cut off the braids of hair from every young girl he met, was almost irresistible. If detectives, instead of lounging around their daily haunts for drinking purposes, loafing in cigar stores, and playing the pool rooms, were mingling with the crowds upon the streets, offenses of this character would be nearly impossible, although this particular weakness seems to lead its impulsive perpetrators to less crowded thoroughfares, and selects the hours of going to and returning from school, as the most favorable parts of the day for its gratification. It may be prompted by a morbid desire, but it is none the less a serious offense, which, as yet, the criminal law has not defined, and has therefore not provided a proper penalty for its punishment. No evidence, so far as it is known, has yet been adduced to show that the braids of hair are ever sold to dealers in that article, such as wig manufacturers, etc. If such evidence should be forthcoming, the ingenuity of the average criminal for the discovery of new methods of despoliation will receive additional confirmation.

The quality of our perverts has sadly declined in the last century. Maybe it’s because so many girls don’t wear their hair in braids anymore.

When You Visit Chicago, Always Bring Your Guns With You

Another post from Chicago, Satan’s Sanctum, by L. O. Curon. From chapter four (I think it starts at the bottom of p. 117) which outlines the various different kinds of gambling, robbery and theft that went on in Chicago 100 years ago. For obvious reasons, I’m not gonna comment on this. Because, to be honest, there’s just not a lot to add to this account. I make no apologies for Curon’s language. He is, after all, writing in 1899:

Boys in their teens, men and women, both black and white, the latter of the strong armed class, comprise this coterie of criminals. The strong armed women, generally negresses, have the developed muscles of the pugilist and the daring of the pirate. They entice the stranger into dark passage ways, that innocent stranger, so unfamiliar, but so willing to be made familiar with the wickedness of a great city, who seeks out its most disreputable quarters and scours its darkest byways, to report to his mates, on his return to his country home, the salacious things that he has heard of, and a few of which he witnessed. In these dark and dangerous ways the strong armed women garrote and rob their victims, or they entice the innocent, but lustful, stranger to their rooms, and there, through the panel game, or by sheer strength or drugged potations, appropriate the innocent stranger’s valuables. Mortified and humiliated, the stranger usually has nothing to say to the police of the affair. Then the emboldened strong armed women go upon the street in couples, and rob in the most approved methods of the highwayman. Alone, one of these notorious characters is said to have pilfered to the extent of $60,000. She was, and is, a terror to the police force. Released from the penitentiary not long ago, she is now undergoing trial for a fresh offense. Approaching a commercial traveler from behind, she is charged with having nearly strangled him, and then robbed him of his money and jewelry. 

“Only one man ever got the best of E. F.,” said detective Sergeant C. R. W., of Harrison street station, who had arrested E. F. frequently. 

“Once she held up a cowboy and took $150 from him. He came up to the station hotfoot to report the robbery. We were busy and a little slow in sending out after E., whereupon the cowboy allowed he’d start out after her on his own hook. He met her down by the Polk street depot, and the moment he spotted her he walked right up close to her and covered her with two six-shooters. 

“You’ve got $150 of my money, now shell out nigger,” he said. 

“Go and get a warrant and have me arrested then,” replied the big colored woman, who wanted time to plant the coin. 

“These are good enough warrants for me,” returned the cowboy significantly, as he poked the revolvers a trifle closer to her face. “Now, I’m going to count twenty, and if I don’t see my money coming back before I reach twenty, I’ll go with both guns.” 

“When he reached eighteen, E. weakened. She drew out a wad and held it out toward him. But the cowboy was wise and would not touch the roll till she had walked to the nearest lamplight under the escort of his two guns and counted out the $150. Then he let her go and came back to the station and treated.”

Progressives, Behold Your Forebears!

Gosh, but it’s been too long since I’ve posted here.

I have been downloading and reading books from Project Gutenberg. It’s a wonderful site, and you should explore what they have. Mostly old books, and some of them are gems (I’m currently reading Samuel Johnson’s rendering of The Illiad.). It’s how we’re keeping Jennifer in reading material right now. I download books and then put them on her Kindle for her. And she reads 40 or so in the span of about three weeks.

Me? I don’t read so fast. Today, however, I found this little book from 1899, Chicago, Satan’s Sanctum, by one L. O. Curon. The book doesn’t say who he is, but if I have to guess, I’d say he’s a Methodist or Presbyterian minister. And he spends the book railing against all sorts of things. Mostly, he is convinced that the City of Chicago is one giant den of iniquity, vice and corruption. I’ve not gotten to Curon’s conclusion, but if I had to guess, I would think he is in favor of the civil service act, good government, women’s suffrage, regular church attendance, prohibition, social and moral uplift, honesty, decency and good Christian living. I think he’s in favor of those things. So far, he’s more against than for.

Because it’s clear what he’s against: drunkenness, prostitution, bars open after midnight, houses of ill repute, gambling, dishonest policing (he spends a whole chapter, and a not so interesting one, on the corruption of the Chicago Police Department), dancing, street life, lesbianism, cockfighting (described as “the national pastime of the Filipinos”), and that constant threat to proper Christian life in America, negro music:

Strolling bands of negro musicians, scraping the violin and strumming the guitar and mandolin, or the home orchestra, composed of these dusky minstrels, add their alleged harmonies to the occasion, and, with nasal expression, roll of coon songs in the popular rag time, with their intimations of free love, warmth of passion and disregard of moral teachings. At times, with assumed pathos and mock dignity they warble a sentimental song with some allusion to “Mother,” “Home,” or “Just Tell Them That You Saw Me.” The spree goes on, with fresh additions from the bagnios. Women with the most repulsive signs of prolonged dissipation, of advanced disease, with the upper parts of the body exposed, not perhaps more than is customary at a fashionable charity ball, join in with salacious abandon.

(Perhaps Curon would have felt differently about “alleged harmonies” had they been singing “Nearer My God to Thee” accompanied by a harmonium in a church somewhere…)

My guess is Curon is probably opposed to race mixing, too. And if he’s the late-19th/early 20th century pastor I full expect him to be, he’s probably a progressive, in the way Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson were progressives, believers in clean government, social uplift, labor laws, imperialism, and eugenics. Yes, liberals and progressives, these are your forebears. You may not have a problem with the “scraping of the violin and the strumming of the guitar and mandolin” by “strolling bands of negro musicians,” but this kind of prissy nonsense — that sought the eradication of anything remotely interesting in city life, and instead its replacement with “alleged” small town virtue (later combined with scientific management concocted at leading universities) — is part and parcel of the striving for a state-centered society in America.