Tag: Crime

A Victorian Wife's Best Friend: The Role of Cats & Dogs in Cases of Spousal Abuse

Her Favourites by John Charlton, 1881.

The nineteenth century news is filled with reports of hero pets rescuing their masters and mistresses from various catastrophes. Dogs routed burglars and saved children from drowning, while cats meowed the alarm when the house was on fire or when a family member had stopped breathing in their bed. Both cats and dogs were also known to intervene in cases of spousal abuse. For a battered Victorian wife, this animal intervention could sometimes mean the difference between life and death. […]Continue Reading

A Victorian Era Criminal Leads Police on a High Speed Bicycle Chase

Bicycle Detail, Poster of the Société Parisienne, 1895.

In September of 1896, British newspapers reported the remarkable use of a bicycle in a New Jersey murder case.  The case involved two men who had both emigrated to America from London in the early 1890s.  One of these men was a farmer named Mr. Haggett who settled down with his family on a farm near Somerville.  The other man was a fellow named Mr. Clossen who Haggett employed as a farm laborer.  Sometime in 1896, Haggett caught Clossen stealing.  In consequence, he not only fired him from his job, but also refused to pay him the thirty dollars in wages that Clossen believed he was owed.[…]Continue Reading

Victorian Magistrate Orders Child Horse Thieves to be “Well Birched”

A Girl and a Boy Riding Ponies in Wales, 1885 .(National Library of Wales)
A Girl and a Boy Riding Ponies in Wales, 1885 .
(National Library of Wales)

Stealing a horse during the 19th century was a serious crime.  Those convicted could be heavily fined, sent to prison, sentenced to hard labor, or even executed.  But what if the horse thief in question was only a child?  Unsurprisingly, there were many incidents of child horse thieves in Victorian England.  Not all were hardened street criminals.  Some were simply immature youths tempted by the opportunity of an open stable door and the chance to make an easy few pounds.  An 1886 issue of the Dundee Evening Telegraph reports just such a story.  The fiendish criminal in question?  A ten-year-old boy from South Yorkshire.[…]Continue Reading

From Duels to Suicide: The Perils of Consorting with Cyprians

Lady Hamilton as Bacchante by George Romney, 1784.
Lady Hamilton as Bacchante by George Romney, 1784.

Often referred to as “Fair Cyprians” or “Dashing Cyprians” by Regency era newspapers, a Cyprian was, quite simply, a high-class prostitute.  The truly celebrated amongst them could take their pick of protectors – gentlemen of means who could provide the discerning Cyprian with a fine house, expensive jewels, and a carriage of her own.  Once established with such a gentleman, a Cyprian might be kept by him for a number of years.  But what happened when a Cyprian grew old or lost her beauty and allure?  And what happened to those gentlemen foolish enough to lose their hearts to these high-class prostitutes?  Or the gentlemen who ran out of money with which to afford them?  Below are a few 19th century reports which illustrate the hazards of being a Cyprian – and the perils of consorting with them.[…]Continue Reading

The Shocking Death of Victorian Servant Eliza Bollends

A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.
A Scullery Maid at Work by Charles Joseph Grips, 1866.

Many historical novels feature a serving girl who has gotten herself into “trouble.”  In fiction, the understanding mistress of the house is quick to intervene and, in short order, the serving girl’s future is secured to everyone’s satisfaction.  In reality, female servants of the 19th century were expected to preserve their reputations in order to maintain genteel employment.  The character of one’s servants was a reflection on the house as a whole.  To that end, no respectable Victorian lady wanted a light-skirt for a housemaid or a wanton for a cook, and many mistresses strictly forbade male callers or “hangers on.” […]Continue Reading