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.