Friday, August 22, 2014

Eat this! Mmmmmmmm!

     The February 6, 1832 Hampshire Telegraph was reporting on a duel between two lawyers over a case that had recently been tried in London. It was interesting but just below it was an even more interesting story.
    At the Queen Square Police station, a case had been heard about a dispute of wages between a master butcher and his journeyman. Part of the evidence heard was that the two had dressed an old cow that had died of udder disease and sold it to a sausage maker in Cow Cross. The journeyman also told the court that he had been hired to dig up some pigs which had died of disease and had been buried. They dressed those pigs and sold them to the same sausage maker.
     This is why we have and need government meat inspectors and they are worth every penny.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Sailor and the Princess

      One finds the most extraordinary stories in old newspapers. I spotted an article in the August 4, 1834 Hampshire Telegraph about the captain of an American whaling ship the Erie who had married a princess. The captain was from Newport on the Isle of Wight, hence the interest from the Telegraph, but they seem to have gotten the name of the kingdom wrong. They identified her as being from Hawaii which they spelled 'Gwyhee'.
     Always looking for confirmation of extraordinary stories, I went searching for other sources to confirm this event. When distance is involved, newspapers are not reliable. I found a French book on curiosities called Le Livre des Singularit├ęs by G.P Philomneste, published in 1841 . He too found the story interesting enough to relate on page 43. Philomneste stated that Captain Charles Spooner of the Erie married Kingatara-Oruruth, the daughter of a chief in Tahiti,  in 1834. There were some racist and snide comments about the bride's tribal markings. The bride, who was a skilled swimmer, celebrated the marriage with a demonstration of her skills for the guests. He ended the story by commenting he did not know how the marriage worked out since the maritime annals were silent on the subject.
     On page 150, Whaling by Charles Boardman Hawes, published in 1924, also describes the marriage. Hawes stated that the wedding took place in 1843 but this was a typo since news of the marriage clearly appears in the Telegraph in 1834. He states that the marriage took place at Otahete in the Society Islands, which Tahiti was a part of. He repeated the humorous and racist comments the editor of the Philadelphia newspaper saw fit to print adding that the princess was 16 years of age and a giant at 6'6" in height. Nobody masticates sugar cane. Using that term applied to a human is clearly making her less evolved. The article goes on to say that the Erie left its captain in New Zealand and took on a new commander Captain A.W. Dennis but the fate of Spooner and his bride were unknown.
      A more recently published book(1976): Islands and Empires: Western Impact on the Pacific and East Asia by Ernest Stanley Dodge also described the marriage. I do not have a copy of the book so I cannot read what Dodge had to say about it but the Telegraph did have something to say about the fate of the marriage. Two weeks after the marriage had been reported in the Telegraph, there had been an update. Miss Cingatara Oruruth had gone into the water to amuse her husband with an exhibition of her extraordinary feats of swimming when she was attacked by a large shark. The unfortunate princess was cut in two by the shark that had seized her in its jaws. The story was a reprint from the Bristol Gazette so it is difficult to say if in fact the poor girl died but surely, if there had been a Captain Spooner, he would have returned to England or whaling upon her death and there would have been some kind of confirmation that the story was true. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Circus Comes to Town (1891)

Found this ad in the Orillia Packet. It must have been quite a show - a $30,000 parade for such a small town financed by a 50 cent ticket. The biblical spectacle must be a pious way of featuring dancing girls since it includes the Queen of Sheba and - a Roman Hippodrome and three monster menageries!!



Sunday, May 11, 2014

Canadians! Look Out For the Man-Stealers.

    This was one of the headlines in the September 24, 1847 Barrie Magnet newspaper under a column called Colonial Items. Also in bold letters was the phrase 'IMPORTANT SLAVE CASE'. The article relates to an escaped slave case that began with a slave by the name of Brown who had been murdered by his owner Mr. Somerville of Maryland. Mr. Somerville was later also the victim of murder and the brother of the killed slave was accused and tried for the offence. Astonishingly he was acquitted but Somerville's family sold the brother into what was described in the Magnet as the "desolating bondage of the South". He then escaped and reached Philadelphia, where he expected to live in some safety. He also had a wife and seven children in Maryland that he was anxious to free as well and had assumed the name of Russell. Somerville's family learned of his whereabouts and sent men from New Orleans to claim that Brown was a murderer. "This is a favorite and hackney mode of seizing a victim" Two men showed up in Philadelphia at a magistrate's office and had the man put in prison but the Abolitionists succeeded in having him released as the warrant was improperly done.
     After such a narrow escape,  the man made his way to Canada accompanied by Rev. Young from New York.  They laid a case before Lord Elgin claiming the protection of the British crown, which the Governor General agreed to. On the next day, the two bounty hunters arrived in Montreal demanding Brown's surrender. They were turned away but the writer carried on saying "some magistrate, from ignorance of the facts, may possibly give him up on a charge of murder, although this is not likely. However to prevent it, we have to request our contemporaries, as an act of justice and mercy, to hand around this not of warning. Let it never be said that there is a single magistrate in the length and bread of British North America so ignorant, or so indifferent as to surrender a fellow man into the hands of the relentless slave holder - Globe"
     For good measure, the Magnet's editor added, "We have always been decidedly opposed to Lynch-law, and should deem it a very hard case if the above mentioned 'free and unlightened' citizens, during their 'n***** hunt' should happen to get unmercifully tar'd and feathered!" It is awkwardly worded but the editor is clearly outraged on behalf of the fugitive and his treatment.
     If only this had been the last time an American bounty hunter forgot that Canada is politically and legally separate from the U.S. and one cannot just come here and grab fugitives.
    Curious if there is any information on the escapee, I am delighted to find an article from the Maryland archives that the fugitive was named Isaac Brown and he escaped to Canada with his family.
Full article here: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/refserv/bulldog/bull05/bull19-02/bull19-02.html and there is more information included in this book: Fugitive Slaves and American Courts: The Pamphlet Literature, edited by Paul Finkelman. There are a large number of webpages devoted to the case which must have been very important in 1847. As well, a Canadian, researching his own family history with an ancestor also named Isaac Brown, wrote a book about the case and Brown's history. The book is called One More River to Cross by Bryan Prince. In it, he states that Brown kept his alias of Samuel Russell in Canada and eventually settled in Chatham, Ontario where he died.