Sunday, July 14, 2013

New M.E. Meegs find: Psi, a little magazine

It has been almost two years since I came across the Morgue of M.E. Meegs. Since then, I’ve become more curious about odd paper artifacts. I’ve bought a number of old magazines, quirky publications and things like that, the little pieces you see wrapped in plastic in used bookstores.

I was visiting a friend upstate a few weeks ago and we stopped by antique book fair in Cooperstown. Looking through a bin of a dealer, I came across a funny little publication called Psi that was published in 1902.  Imagine my surprise when I looked inside and saw the name M.E. Meegs! She (I now think it’s a woman) is listed fiction editor. There are only three other names listed and all are women.
I showed this to Mr. Pearson (the retired librarian I mentioned earlier) and he said this was a very typical “little magazine”. There were apparently many of them around 1900. He showed me some from his collection, The Chap-Book, The Lark, M’lle New York, The Philistine. They’re all small and look sort of hand made. He had never heard of Psi, and at first said he couldn’t find any record of it. But then he found a listing in the 1905 addendum to Frederick Faxon’s list called “Ephemeral Bibelots”. The entry was:

Psi.  Brooklyn, N.Y.
Quarterly, illustrated,  8 x 5¼.  Vol. I, no. 1, Spring, 1902. ||

Mr. Pearson says that means there was only the one issue.

The stories inside are very silly, just like the newspaper clippings in the Morgue I posted earlier. One is about a woman who turns into a snail and the other is about a girl who’s sold by her fiancĂ© to a eunuch who runs the King of Siam’s harem. There are also two off-color Limericks. The worst words have been deleted and the editor offers little explanations.

The Snail Woman of Trieste

The only image that seems to have anything at all to do with the content is one that shows the snail woman. Mr. Pearson said he wasn’t sure if it was meant to be a parody of the other little magazines, or if the women producing it were just very amateurish. He didn’t think it was very valuable, but said it was interesting as a curiosity.

Limericks & Letter From Bangkok

Back Cover
Now that I had a city, I tried looking up the names in the census records for 1900 and 1910. I found some that were close, but none seemed to be really right. For instance, there was a nine-year-old orphan named Emily Reese in Brooklyn in 1900. Then a friend showed me how to find a particular address. It’s very complicated, you have to first find out what enumeration district the street was in, then find the right pages that correspond to that, and then just page through. I did find the page that had 34 Plaza St. in 1910 and one name looked like it could have been Emily M. Reese (though it didn’t turn up when I searched.) The person writing that page had very bad penmanship, so I can’t be sure. Emily is 32 in 1910, so she’d be 24 when Psi was published.

I will keep looking for other traces of M.E. Meegs.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Leverton and the Long Island cave mystery

I met a man who used to work for the NY Public Library. His name is Edmund Pearson and he is a sort of expert on  books of the 19th and early 20th century. He has looked at the morgue twice and he has come up with a theory that Meegs was an author who wrote dime novels and made some money on the side writing these little pieces. And since they seem to be from British newspapers, maybe he was British himself.So now I am looking for a an Englishman who came to the U.S. and wrote dime novels around 1900.

Mr. Pearson also thought there is a possibility that the silly story written about Leverton the Pinkerton and the cave at Sag Harbor might have seen by Arthur Conan Doyle and he then used it in his Sherlock Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Red Circle".

I asked how Arthur Conan Doyle could have been fooled into thinking such a silly story was true and Mr. Pearson said that maybe Doyle meant it as a sort of joke. He said he can just see Holmes saying, "The hero of the Long Island cave mystery?" with a smile on his face.

 Here's the picture of the clipping again. I transcribed the text back on the first posting. It's the one on the right. Next to it is written "from the Leek Times and Cheadle News". Leek is in the Staffordshire Moorlands, and that newspaper really did exist.

I would like to think that Mr. Pearson is correct about this, but who knows. I will continue my search for M. E. Meegs and post again when I find something new.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

News from London

The professor from London I mentioned in the last posting sent me an email and said that he has looked into it and the Sherlock Holmes story that mentions the Pinkerton Leverton (The Adventure of the Red Circle) wasn't published until 1911.

So if Meegs based his story on the Sherlock Holmes story, it couldn't have been written until after that. But the other stories, at least two of them, seem to have been written around 1900, and they come later in the order of the clippings.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Guest from England

My neighbors had a guest from England visiting them and they brought him by to see my morgue.

He is a professor at the University of London. He told me that newspapers often put humorous pieces among the real stories. He suggested that maybe the clippings in the morgue were written for that purpose. He thought maybe sometimes "M.E. Meegs" took his ideas from the newspaper, and once from a Sherlock Holmes story, but basically made most of it up just to be funny.

He mentioned P.G. Wodehouse (of Jeeves and Wooster) wrote such pieces around 1901 and Wodehouse moved from London and lived in Long Island somewhere.

I went to the library and found a biography on Wodehouse and he did write little bits for newspapers, but they were mostly funny poems. And in 1901 he worked at a bank in London. He didn't move to Long Island until 1915, I think.

But maybe that is the type of person I should look for, an Englishman living in Brooklyn, or on the Island.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Further research

I've been showing the morgue to all sorts of people and one of my friends suggested I look to see what I could find in the Brooklyn Eagle which the library there has put online.

I searched for "Jacob Worth Robert Pinkerton" and did find a story about Jacob Worth having his watch stolen while he was with Robert Pinkerton. This was on August 7, 1900. Then two days later there's another story where Robert Pinkerton denies he was with Worth when the watch was actually stolen. And the reason Pinkerton's company is called a "firm of insomniacs" is that their motto was "we never sleep". Haha.

I also found several stories on Zeimer and two women were mentioned who gave false testimony, Mary Thompson and Mrs. Byrde Herrick. The stories are all from November and December 1900.

Not surprisingly there was nothing on Leverton and white slavers and no mention of the Italian countess.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sixth Clipping on Pickpocket Countess

The sixth clipping has a story about a pickpocket in Brooklyn who turns out to be an Italian countess. This is another silly story that seems very hard to believe. It also ties in to the other story about Jacob Worth having his watch stolen by a pickpocket. This titled "Virtuosa Pickpocket is Italian Countess".

A pickpocket of unusual skill has been operating in the precincts of Brooklyn for some time and it is only now that police believe they have identified the culprit. The Countess Consuelo Maria de la Salsiccia, well-known at the gaming tables of French resorts, has chosen the City of Churches as her new home.

Police have known of the woman for some time but it was only when she made the mistake of relieving Mr. Edwin Vanderheim of $1800 that she was identified. Mr. Vanderheim is himself a frequent visitor to the casinos of Europe and recognized the Countess at once. However, he did not realize his large bank roll was missing until the next morning and police have been unable to locate the courtly lady as of this report.

This ability to retrieve, empty and return a man’s wallet unnoticed is the hallmark of the Countess’s nimble work. A few months past, she deftly made off with the watch and jeweled chain of Jacob Worth, yet left behind in his vest pocket the keepsake photograph that had resided in a locket attached to the chain.
I could find no Edwin Vanderheim or Edwin Van der Heim. I looked up the Countess de la Salsiccia and I believe it is just a made up name that translates to something like "Countess of the Sausage".

Below that story is another titles "Lady Huntly’s Jewels". 
The case of the Marchioness of Huntly v. the Bedford Hotel Company, Brighton, to recover L1300, the value of jewels stolen from a box in her room while she was staying in the hotel, came on Saturday before Mr. Justice Wills in the Queen’s Bench Division. At the trial the jury found the Marchioness had been guilty of contributory negligence. Sir Charles Hall, QC, now argued against that finding, but his lordship upheld it and entered judgment for the defendants. 
Since the first one mentions Brooklyn I think that must be the one meant to be clipped, but thought this one was worth posting as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fourth Clipping about a Divorce Mill

The fourth clipping is really two. The piece in the center of the photo is a continuation of the one on the left. It involves a "divorce mill". The person being interviewed explains how she lied to help people get divorces. It is titled "Confessions of a Co-respondent".

Here is the text of the story:

NEW YORK--The recent exposure of a divorce mill in this city has yielded the following lurid account by one of the participants, who has given to calling herself Miss Letitia Dare.

"I was born into one of the fine families of Boston, so you will understand my need to remain concealed behind this false appellation. It was through a youthful indiscretion several years back that I was forced to leave my family's protection and learn to fend for myself, in a world much crueler than I had ever imagined.

"Since that time, necessity has forced me to perform many tasks, and make numerous acquaintances, which I would have joyfully avoided had circumstances allowed me. I will leave it to your readers no doubt able imaginations as to the details of my trials.

"It was through some legal difficulties that I first became acquainted with the lawyer Henry Zeimer. He offered to help me even though I lacked the means to pay for his services. And he did so admirably.

"I soon learned that he did, in fact, expect payment, but through an unconventional means. He explained that he had a woman client who had been much abused by her husband. She wished to divorce him, to save her children as well as herself, but the husband had had no trouble in making this impossible.

"Mr. Zeimer proposed that if I were to make the acquaintance of this husband, and be seen with him publicly, I could free this anguished woman from her prison-like marriage. The plan required that I appear before a judge and give certain testimony that, while not altogether true, was neither complete fabrication. When I met this woman, and saw the genuine tears she shed, and the spiritual bruises she bore, I agreed most willingly to aid her as best I could.

"I played my part with such proficiency that Mr. Ziemer soon brought to me other women, similarly bound to despicable men, that I might free them as well. Then he introduced me to a gentleman who told a tale at least as harrowing as any of the women. He, quite literally, brought tears to my eyes. There was little question that I was anxious to help the poor soul, but I didn't see how I could.

'As was so often the case, Mr. Zeimer came upon a solution. This man would hire me as a private detective. In that role, I would testify to having seen his wife in various liaisons with men of unknown identity. In this way, no one innocent of cruelty would be harmed."

It should be noted that Miss Dare was given a suspended sentence by the judge in the case, while Henry Zeimer was sentenced to ten years in State Prison.
 Letitia Dare is a common name believe it or not. Also she says it is not her real name. But I also searched "Henry Zeimer divorce" and I found several stories about him and his divorce mill in the New York Times. They are all from the end of 1900. He was sentenced on December 22, 1900, in New York City. This is the first story that seems to have really happened. And the date is very near the 1901 written at the top of the first page.