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.

Third Clipping, three little stories

The third clipping has three little stories, The first two seem meant to be humorous, but then the third one is about a man being killed on a train.

After having done its best for horses, the Paris Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has now turned its kind attention to dogs and birds. Under the auspices of the association there has been erected a pyramid construction, surmounted by a wooden pigeon, on the Boulevard Barbes. Immediately under the pigeon is a small perch and a drinking basin of diminutive dimensions, wherein common sparrows from the housetops and other free and feathered inhabitants of the air will be able to slake their thirst.

The great detective, Robert Pinkerton, heir to the firm of insomniacs that bears his name, was caught unaware when his companion Jacob Worth had his watch stolen during an outing at Brighton Beach racetrack. The watch was of great sentimental and monetary value to Mr. Worth, a prominent politician of the Borough of Brooklyn. Though cognizant the turf is most congenial to pickpockets, Mr. Worth no doubt thought he was secure in the detective's company. The discomfited Mr. Pinkerton has vowed to apprehend the culprit, even if it necessitates another fifty years of sleeplessness.

This morning Charles Campbell, a soldier on his way home to Inverness from India, was found in a carriage of the mail train at Blair Athol with his skull fractured. It is supposed the unfortunate man had been looking out of the window and that his head came into contact with a standard on the bridge. Death must have been instantaneous.
The second one takes place in Brooklyn, which is part of Long Island. I have looked up Jacob Worth and he was a state senator from Brooklyn. He lived from 1838-1905. Robert Pinkerton was the name of one of the sons of the original Pinkerton. Robert died on a ship going to Germany in 1907.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Second clipping: White Slavers Routed

The second clipping (right side of photo) contains one short piece and part of another. The first is titled "White Slavers Routed". This is a very silly story that supposedly took place here on Long Island. It talks about stone cliffs above the shore and there are no cliffs. The best part is the all-female crew of a "white slave ship". Here is the transcription:

Sought Immigrant Girls.

New York, Thursday. The crew of the white slave ship Hippolyta, a schooner of unknown registry, has been driven from the shores of Long Island. Detective Leverton, an operative of the Pinkerton Agency, led members of the Sag Harbor Vigilance Committee in a fierce and prolonged battle against the ruthless slavers.
What made the affair most singular was that the slavers were, just like their captives, all women. They were of dark complexion and spoke in a tongue unrecognizable by their pursuers. All of the rogues escaped capture, but were forced to swim for their maleficent vessel. They left behind many of their weapons and much of their meager attire. Leverton was awarded the slave captain’s corset by way of a trophy.
For the moment, the fate of 147 immigrant girls, tempted from the docks and tenements of New York by the slavers, remained a mystery. But while the vigilantes returned to their domiciles, content with having secured their coast, Leverton maintained the search. It wasn’t until early the next evening that he heard a chorus of cries from the cliffs above the shore. Scaling the wall of stone, he came to a large cave and in it found the missing maidens.
So exhausted was he, that he spent the night with the grateful gross of girls. The next morning, he carried each down in her turn. A special train brought the freed captives back to their families. One of their number, an orphan by the name of Lele Losinzky, was wedded to Leverton the next day.
From Wikipedia: "In Greek mythology, Hippolyta is the Amazonian queen who possessed a magical girdle she was given by her father Ares, the god of war. The girdle was a waist belt that signified her authority as queen of the Amazons." It goes on to explain that Hercules ninth labor was to retrieve this girdle. In the story the corset seems to represent the girdle in the myth.

The only thing I can find about a detective Leverton from Pinkerton is a Sherlock Holmes story titled "The Red Circle". Leverton shows up in London to help track down some criminal who is a member of The Red Circle, a mafia type organization. Holmes is introduced and says, "The hero of the Long Island cave mystery?" But no more is really said about that mystery or Leverton.

So perhaps M.E. Meegs read this Sherlock Holmes story and made the rest up.

Next to this is part of a second story about a woman miner:

A PLUCKY LITTLE WOMAN--Lotta M. Bartlette, of Boston, who was Klondike's pioneer woman miner. She has lately taken up her residence in Salt Lake City, and will remain there during the winter painting, she being an artist of no mean ability.

Mrs. Bartlett does not look like one who could undergo the rigors of the Alaskan winters, yet she faced two of them undaunted, superintending the working of her claim and walking 50 miles to Dawson City every two weeks for mail and to post manuscripts written by her in her lonely cabin and sold to Eastern newspapers.
"I made a little money in Alaska, but I didn't fulfill my expectation of getting rich", said she last evening. "I was at Saratoga when Joseph Dadue came back from Alaska loaded down with nuggets that sent many mad with excitement.....
 I didn't find anything about Lotta M. Bartlette, but since this story is cut off before the end, I guess the first one was the one meant to be clipped.

First clipping: Gruesome Murder in Buffalo

I’ve begun to transcribe the clippings and here is the first one (on the left in the photo). The first clipping has three short notices under the heading “General News”.

Mrs. Ralph Watson, of Stacksteads, was on Friday delivered of triplets. Mother and children doing well.

Mr. George Norwood, former chairman of the London and India Dock Joint Committee, died on Thursday night, after an illness of some duration.

Miss Elizabeth Trembath, a worthy specimen of the old fashioned Lumb stock, has died at the age of 85. She had been 45 years in the postal service.

And then  a longer story under the headline “Gruesome Murder in Buffalo”.

The severely deteriorated body of a prominent lawyer of this city was recently found submerged in the Erie Canal. Charles Weigand, Esq., had gone missing in the Spring of this year. Weigand was an avid yachtsman and when his vessel was found disabled and abandoned, it had been presumed by police that he had drowned in a Lake Erie squall. Private investigators, however, had uncovered Weigand’s links to a ring of opium smugglers. As a base of operations, the smugglers used one of the towering grain elevators for which Buffalo is noted. The ringleader was the notorious David Lantry, a cunning criminal well known in New York. 

Weigand had been brutally murdered in the Spring, after arousing the displeasure of Lantry and his other confederates. His corpse was then sub-merged for safekeeping in the canal, at the rear of a concert saloon. Their plan was to allow the body to be disfigured by its long bath, enough so that the cause of Weigand’s death could no longer be determined. Then the body would be placed along the lake shore, giving the impression Weigand had died in the wreck of his yacht and that the body had spent the intervening months adrift.

The facts were uncovered when Lantry and his band attempted to collect on an insurance policy taken on Weigand’s life not long before the murder.
I find that story hard to believe. It is possibly true, but I can't find any other reference to it.

Beside the clipping is a notation written in pen. It seems to say "from The Bacup Times". There is a web site called the Bacup Times in Britain. It's a local history site. Under the heading "New Articles" there are stories and pictures from an old newspaper called the Bacup Times.

I'm not sure why this story about a man being killed in Buffalo would appear in a British newspaper. But I did check and the towns mentioned in the "General News" column, Stackstead and Lumb are also in Britain near Bacup.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Estate sale find

 Three weeks ago, I was at an estate sale and came across an interesting book. It is a reproduction of Edgar Allan Poe’s manuscript for The Murders in the Rue Morgue. It was published in 1895 by George Barrie in Philadelphia using the manuscript housed at the Drexel Institute. 

It’s a large book, 17” by 11”and printed on very heavy paper. As interesting as the manuscript is, I bought it for what comes before it. The leaves before the title page have been used as a sort of scrap book. At the top there is a title written in script, “The Morgue of M. E. Meegs” and the year, 1901. Below that are three newspaper clippings and three more on the facing page, and there seem to places where two others fell out..

Since buying the book I have been trying to figure out if M.E. Meegs was a real person. The stories in the clippings all seem nonsensical, though some more than others. I also found it odd that the newspaper hadn’t seemed to yellow the way old newspaper seems to. The pages of the book itself are cream colored and make the newspaper clippings in the photos look whiter than they do close up, but they are definitely whiter than I would expect a 110 year-old newspaper to look.

I asked my former son-in-law about the paper (he is an engineer at a paper company in Maine) and he told me that newspapers previously were published on paper that was less acidic and didn’t yellow the same way they do now. 

I’ve done searches on the name M. E. Meegs, Micheal E. Meegs, Martha E. Meegs, etc.,  but nothing likely comes up in the results.