Australia’s Penal Colony.

Let Me Remind You…
About Australia’s founding Penal Colony.



Captain Arthur Philips of the HMS Sirius landed the first boat at the shores of New South Wales (now, currently Sydney). It was a long time since his boots touched solid land, but now they crunched on the hot rocks of Botany Bay. Even though it was January 1788, the temperature was warm and sunny. It was a quick reminder he was now in the Southern Hemisphere, where seasons were in opposite months from his home in the UK.
It took two years to get here and if the passengers were restless and agitated before, the trip around the world didn’t help. Food was scarce, with almost 800 passengers spread out over 6 ships, it was no wonder tensions were high as everyone was crammed into a 200ft space, practically sleeping on one another and fighting over food. They wouldn’t be the first fleet to come either; there was already a plan for more ships to bring more “passengers”.
Disease was rampant. Cholera, dysentery, and typhoid ravaging bodies through the boats, killing some. The ones that survived did so on small rations of hardtack and mush.

The passengers ranged from nine years old, up to eighty-two. The men were the first to arrive to the island with a mission to establish an “agricultural work camp”. They would literally have to start from scratch; finding and building their own accommodations, and prison quarters. The “passengers” that had arrived, and would be arriving for the next century were convicts from the UK mostly, some from New Zealand and few other countries.

In the mid-eighteenth-century London, at the peak of the industrial revolution, people found themselves out of work because the new technologies that took over their jobs for them, including farmers. With the lack of work and loss of money, the already overcrowded London received hundreds, if not thousands of people from the surrounding country towns. The overpopulation, lack of jobs and food led to thousands of poor, hungry families and in-turn, skyrocketing crime rates. Eventually the jails became overcrowded, and officials grew tired of even the pettiest of crimes. No matter if a person robbed someone or murdered them; rioted or had a minor assault, they started shipping them off to America. But then the American revolution ended, they were no longer welcome there and the UK was forced to find somewhere else to ship their misbehaved. Insert Australia: the new prison. It was no matter to them that the large island was already inhabited by aboriginal peoples, they had “dealt with” that when they colonized America over 150 years earlier.

The aboriginal peoples knew the new settlers were there but left them alone for the most part; silently watching them from the bushes. Very rarely were there encounters, but Captain Philips was adamant that the aboriginal Australians were treated with kindness and respect—even when he was speared in the shoulder by one during an altercation.

Captain Philips

It took only 2 years for the settlement to become stable and about 5 for it to become fully established. Until then, the unfamiliar land and climate proved difficult to learn how to tend for food. For years, fleets bringing more prisoners also brought food. So when a ship of women convicts came, with the thought of boosting moral for the men, they were ill received at first; looked at as “more mouths to feed”. Not to mention that some of the women had given birth along the 10-month voyage. But, after time, the men relented, and the women were welcomed.
During the 5 years, Captain Philips had tried to return to England, but communication was lacking as they seemed to have been mostly forgotten. By the time the 3rd fleet arrived with 2000 passengers, they had to send a boat to Calcutta for supplies. Despite that though, he managed to incorporate his past job experience and create a whaling industry, bringing trade to the harbor. He also started tending sheep to breed and raise them for their wool. At this point, some of the convicts’ sentences were already running out, but they remained and started farming the land and tending to the sheep. Captain Philips managed to get off the colony about 10 years after he got there.

Though some of the prisoners were well behaved and served their time, some were so rotten they were unmanageable and had to be sent away to a smaller island off Australia, called Norfolk island. At the time it had been inhabited by the East Polynesians, but when the prisoners got there they left. No one would return for almost 100 years, when the descendants of the mutineers from The Bounty were taken there from Pitcairn island.

By 1868, over 160,000 convicts had been sent to Australia but they put an end to the penal colony. They had been dealing with protests against the penal colony for many years at this point since Australia had been established as free in the 1820’s. People were living there now, separate from the jail. They didn’t like the colony being there any longer.
Even though the convicts had been emancipated, many stayed and started a life in Australia. The last convict, Samuel Speed, died in 1938.
It’s said that 20% of the people in Australia are descendants of the penal colony. Even a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.



Sources:
Worldatlas.com
Grunge.com
History.com
Wikipedia.com

New York City’s Historic Steam System

Let Me Remind You…
About New York City’s Steam System

Everyone knows what happens if you put a whistle-top kettle on the stove, half-full with water, and turn the heat up as high as it will go. When the water starts to boil rapidly, it produces steam, when that steam escapes through that whistle, you know it’s done and time to make tea.
But what if you boil water to 305-450 degrees Fahrenheit in a closed system with strategically placed vents, like radiators and other systems of pipes throughout a building? You now have heating, cooling, steaming and in some instances, even sanitization.

Harnessing and controlling the power of steam is not a new invention by any means. The ancient Romans were one of the first to use steam to heat up their homes and baths.
A few hundred years later, in 1882, some businessmen in New York City started the New York Steam Company, providing steam heating/cooling to over 300 buildings. The city gave them a contract and they built the first boiler plant at the site of the world trade center.

But in 1888, a blizzard blanketed the city in snow, knocking out power lines and forcing everyone inside, trying to stay warm. This tragedy was an eye opener for officials. They saw how efficient steam power was for the 300 buildings and they extended the contract to service over 1500 buildings in NYC, which happens to be the same number today. Some saying closer to 1800.

Using steam instead of coal reduces carbon emissions (though I’m not certain they were overly concerned about that at the time), and changed how we see NYC today. If it weren’t for the steam system, the skyline would be dotted by buildings covered in chimneys and the power grid would be far more extensive and less eco-friendly.

1888 blizzard leaves the city blanketed in snow


NYC has the largest steam system in the world, larger than the other major steam-using cities put together.
Some of the more notable buildings that have always used steam include the Empire State building, The Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station and Rockefeller. Apartment buildings in NYC still have steam heating/cooling systems.
Having steam used in these buildings allows for other buildings like hospitals to divert the use of electricity for modern machinery like MRI’s and Xrays  etc. and using the steam for heating/cooling, sanitizing and laundry.
Museums even use the steam technology to help regulate the humidity in the galleries in order to help preserve the artwork, restaurants use it to sanitize dishes and laundromats use it for pressing clothing.

The great part about the steam system is that it can be tapped into without requiring your own boiler. Kind of like just attaching a pipe under your sink to drain in more than one place.
Obviously, it would be efficient to have your own boiler system, especially if you’re not near one of the boiler plants, and even though the entire system is completely interconnected, some places do have their own system. NYU has the largest privately-owned facility. These smaller plants are called “co-generation plants”.

But with the massive power of steam being forced through the pipes comes disaster. A user on a forum* said that he was speaking with a ConEdison employee about why residents on a massive stretch of the city didn’t have water leading up to Hurricane Sandy. The employee said, “ they’re doing it so that floods won’t hit the steam pipes and cause explosive rupture, with flying manholes to boot.”
Despite being made from heavy metal and getting serviced monthly, there’s still room for error, or fluke accidents, usually caused by a compromised pipe that’s decades old, affected by something called “steam hammer” or “water hammer”, which can lead to a faulty steam trap and cause explosion. this usually occurs when the hot steam is traveling through the pipes and runs into something cold, like water. These have happened a few times in the past. A couple notable ones happened in 1989, and another in 2007.

1989 steam pipe explosion


So next time you’re in NYC, If you see one of the iconic orange and white stacks in the street, shooting steam out the top, that means they’re working on some pipes below. If you’re lucky, you might have seen an (illegal) art installment by an artist, Mark Reigleman II,  who makes small houses to put over the stacks and it looks like steam is coming out the chimney. Though the city is aware of him, they haven’t been able to catch him yet.  

Mark Reigelman art installation: “Smokers”



fun fact: 1 gallon of water will produce 8lbs of steam.

Sources:
Untappedcities.com
NYtimes.com
Thevintagenews.com
AmNY.com
LaughingSquid.com (photo only)
*Boards.straightdope.com


As always, thank you for taking the time to read! Have a great day!



Kristina Moore is the Author of The Pecan Trees, available on Amazon.

The Maritime Express

Let Me Remind You…
About The Maritime Express: The flagship train that united Eastern Canada.

Maritime Express Postcard taken by an unknown photographer for the ICR

It was only going to be a day’s travel, a far cry from the multiple days in a rickety box, trying to get comfortable in a small cabin with less than meager accommodations. The days it took always seemed longer than they were. Now, it would be like traveling in luxury; a personal cabin with sleeping quarters; a restaurant car adorned with varnished wood and polished silver. A menu to choose from and cocktails while you could look out your window, watching the land pass by. So much green whipping by so quickly it appeared the train was going backwards. When the dense tunnel of forest opened up, you would be surprised with a vast scape of rolling green hills and farm land, or even a mountainous range where the Appalachian trail poked it’s long limbs over the border into Canada.
Although the trains and speed may have changed over the years, the view from the windows going from Quebec to Nova Scotia has not changed much. You can still see what the passengers of one of the first Express trains would have seen as they travelled to see family, or vacation on the East coast.


The road to civilization and building a country is a long one. Or maybe it’s a short train track.
Before the Confederation in Canada, in 1867, Canada was 3 separate colonies. As the population started to grow,  and the government started to dig their claws into the land, a dirt road and carriages were starting to seem to be an outdated way to communicate and travel through the Eastern provinces. Especially during winter storms which could potentially bury the trails. Even train travel during snow storms would become difficult, and they ended up building stretches of snowsheds; long tunnels to protect the tracks from getting piled in multiple feet of snow.

It all started when the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia wrote to William Gladstone (Prime Minister of the UK at the time) with a request to survey a train route through the colonies. Once he got the go-ahead, he started scouting the best places to set the tracks. It took many years and a death of the head surveyor before they finally established a route and could start building in 1868. Leg-by-leg, stop-by-stop, the railway was completed.
Even though it was completed after Canada joined the 3 colonies and became a country, It was still called Intercolonial Railway or ICR.

By the 1890’s people were using the trains to go see family on the east coast, or the reverse: going to Quebec. Being smart business men and knowing what the competition had, In 1891, The Maritime Express was added as the flagship for the ICR, in competition with other “Express trains”. This passenger car would make the 1000+mi trip from Quebec to the far corner of the East coast in 28 hours (If you’ve read Anne of Green Gables, or some of L.M Montgomery’s other books, this is the train frequently taken.)

The ICR recognized the active tourism that naturally occurred with this connection and started marketing it as such; toting the beautiful areas of Nova Scotia. This drove people to start vacationing there even more. Eventually, the combination of travel during the holidays and tourism led them to add more times and railway lines in the early 1900’s.
But even though the Maritime Express could have you at your destination by 3:30pm the following day, it still made many stops and was a longer trip than other express trains the competition had. That’s when the ICR added the Ocean Limited, which could make the same trip in 3-4 less hours.

Pamphlet for “The people’s railway”



The ICR’s direct competitor, The Canadian pacific Railway (CPR) had a train that was making the trip from Quebec to Nova Scotia in even less time. They also had “running rights” from the federal government, organically forcing business to them.
This drove the ICR to try a rebranding tactic. They petitioned the federal government to extend their own tracks and improve existing rails and cars. By 1912 the Maritime was a huge success and even made it on to the $5 bill. The ICR was now dubbed “The People’s railway”. In 1917, the Halifax Explosion took out a large section of the tracks, but this would not stop the momentum the ICR had been building.

Maritime Express on the $5 bill.

Going into the wars, the ICR had an influx of traffic. Afterwards, not so much. They had to cut back a lot and the express trains were starting erode with wear-and-tear that no one wanted to deal with apparently. By the 1960’s the Maritime Express was running local routes and eventually by 1964, the Maritime Express was retired. I imagine with the popularity and availability of cars it just wasn’t needed as much.

To this day, you can still take a train across Canada, or even just short trips. You can even take the same route that was traveled in the late 1800’s. But if you want to go from West coast to East coast, you may have to adjust your schedule and train tickets as the west and east have their own railroad companies and aren’t a fan of each other.
Check out some of the routes HERE.

I would love to hear if you’ve travelled any of these railways. Information was harder to find than I thought, and was conflicting in a lot of places. I would love to hear more personal accounts and fun facts about this.

Sources:

Wikipedia
prism.ucalgary.ca
nshdpi.ca
viarail.ca
University of Calgary
 

As always, please check out my novel The Pecan Trees, a fictional novel set in Hill Country, Texas. Available on Amazon or my website:

http://www.authorkristinamoore.com

The Ogallala Aquifer

What if I told you that 300 feet beneath the surface of 8 states, in almost exactly the same place the dustbowl happened, there’s a 2.9 billion acre-feet, or 978 trillion gallons of water just sitting there, resting among the sand, gravel, silt and clay it’s mixed with.
That’s like laying an entire Lake Huron beneath the surface. The difference? It’s actually an aquifer.
So, real quick definition of an aquifer: “An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock, rock fractures or unconsolidated materials (gravel, sand, or silt)” (wikipedia)

This specific aquifer is the largest in North America and one of the largest in the world.
It was discovered in 1898 by N.H. Darton, and named after the town it was discovered in, in Nebraska.
It’s been there for 3-6 million years, going all the way back to when it was an ancient river system. The material it saturates was part of that river system when the tectonic plates were still moving.

over 174,000 sq miles

It ranges anywhere from 1-1500 feet deep and covers 174,000 sq. miles from S. Dakota to the south of the Texas Panhandle. The kicker is that while many were struggling their way through the 10 year dustbowl in the 40’s, this gigantic body of water was laying right beneath their feet.
Eventually they learned how to tap into it, drilling 300ft down, creating wells and large “pumps and taps” that farmers could hook up their irrigation system to for their crops. This helped to end the dustbowl.

An aquifer well

The problem is that the Ogallala is not a replenishing aquifer. Rainwater in these areas either drains off the surface or evaporate from the ground and plants. Every year only ONE inch is added to the actual aquifer, while in the meantime farmers are using hundreds of gallons per day to water their crops or supply drinking water to over 2,000,000 people. At that rate, it would take 6000 years to replenish it.

Since the 1940’s, the aquifer has dropped 300 ft in volume. In some places it went from 240ft to just 80ft in fifty years. In Texas, it’s completely tapped out and many of the grain elevators in the panhandle have closed down because of the inability to grow and water their crops. If the aquifer keeps getting drained, eventually the farming land that depends on it will cease to grow anything as well.

20% of the corn grown in the US and overseas depends on this region. Farmers going back to the 1800’s have depended on this region. While it’s not too late, they are doing anything they can to conserve the aquifer, but even that’s not going to be enough to save it, as so many people depend on it.

In the 2000’s the Transcanada pipeline had planned to run across the aquifer and so many opponents to the TCPL said this wasn’t a smart move incase of a spill or a leak, which could get into and contaminate the aquifer. People who were all for the TCPL mentioned many other pipelines that are in the same area that don’t have any issues.
Either way, there are non-profits that help to save the aquifer, including the North Planes Groundwater Conservation District.

There’s many ways we can help the aquifer, including donations, but one of them is to remove dependence or need for corn products and byproducts. This creates a double-edged sword though, since that’s a main crop for farmers in the area. However, conservation of water in any capacity is always beneficial to human kind.

If interested in helping, there are many links that can be found, including the ones* below.



fixingourfood.wordpress.com
prezi.com (article by Megan Peddle & NBC learn)
USDA.gov
*www.Northplainsgcd.org
Wikipedia.com
Nebraskaeducationonlocation.org
*Support AGWT | American Ground Water Trust
*www.greatnonprofits.org

As always, you can find my fictional novel, The Pecan Trees on Amazon, or in the home page of my website, www.Authorkristinamoore.com

Flour Sack Dresses

A group of girls in matching Feed/Flour Sack dresses

There once was a time when DIY and thrifting wasn’t just a fun thing to do and share on social media, but it was a necessity for survival.
During and after the great depression, it’s no surprise that a lot of people were struggling. People in rural communities were also hit hard with the dustbowl that came to follow. Money wasn’t something people had to spare and was reserved for necessities only.

So what happens when the only dress you own is slowly tattering away; or your bed sheets and curtains are full of holes? You get creative. Previously used for rags around the farm, women of the household now saw something already in their home that they could reuse: flour/feed sacks.

The sacks were originally made from burlap, or a rough fabric called Osnaburg, it started by simply cutting some holes for arms and your head. Even men would wear these as a tunic-type shirt. With the the sewing machine becoming a household item, it made things a lot easier to doctor into nicer designs. Fortunately the feed manufacturers started using a slightly softer, cotton-based fabric for the bags.

printed sacks. You can see the label on the front that they would have to soak off.

By 1925, a company in the UK called The Gingham Girls started printing floral and other patterns on the bags.
Now women were requesting their husbands pick up specific floral prints from the feed store to hopefully match one they got before. Because one 100lb feed sac was the equivalent to a little over 1 yard, people would usually need a couple bags to complete an adult-sized dress. If they didn’t have extra, sometimes a trade could be made with a friend or neighbor to get a pattern needed. At this time even magazines started printing patterns on how to make the clothing.

The manufacturers of the grains still had to print a logo on the front of the bags for sale, which was hard to remove in the beginning, but the trusty housewife figured out that soaking it in kerosene or lard overnight would help to dissolve the ink. Eventually the manufacturers switched the type of ink they used to be easily removed before use, and soon started to print instructions for removal right on the sacks.

A dress in the Smithsonian that was a 2nd place winner of one of the national competitions.

During WWII, cotton was in a shortage for most people because it was being diverted for uniforms and other war things, so grain manufacturers started using paper bags instead. The National Cotton Council and Textile Bag Manufacturing Association worked with McCalls and Simplicity to hold annual competitions nationally to see who could make the best dress. This was mostly a marketing tactic to keep promoting a healthy demand for the sacks, while showing off new design patterns and gave people a chance to show off their sewing skills. At this time, the dresses had molded into a sense of fashion rather than thrift.

In the 1960’s businesses started putting Disney prints on the sacs to try and entice the housewives to buy their material. From what it sounded like, it didn’t catch on quite as well. Slowly the use of the feed sacks died out, but the style of dress lasted for a bit longer. If you look back, there are many common styles still used today.

Do you or your family have memories of wearing feed sack clothing? I would love to hear your story.

Sources:

TheVintageNews.com
Si.edu (the smithsonian)
Flashback.com
NutShellSchool.com
Wikipedia.com

Kristi Moore is the Author of The Pecan trees, A fictional novel, set in Texas about family.
You can find it on Amazon or her website.

Norma Wallace; The Last Madam of New Orleans

Let Me Remind you…About Norma Wallace…

TW: suicide, sex-work

Norma Wallace

If you google-maps 1026 Conti St, New Orleans, you might see a rundown building, in the middle of a tattered neighborhood that wouldn’t catch any of your attention as you walked by. But you would be missing a history of scandal, sex, crime, love, bribes and a woman who ruled the streets of New Orleans for nearly 40 years.

Author Christine Wiltz didn’t know where to start when she was handed a box full of tapes, journals, notes, and more, detailing Norma Wallace’s life. The voice coming through the cassettes was old, but not weak, and her story was remarkable.


Christine had been contacted by the Norma’s ex-husband, Wayne and his current wife, Jean who had pushed the meeting. She knew of Norma’s wonderful stories, Probably because she was dating Wayne when he and Norma were still married.  Heck, they still lived in Norma and Wayne’s house in Mississippi. The house which still had a bullet hole in the ceiling (We’ll get to how it got there later). Christine was an author of multiple thrillers that Jean was fond of, so when everyone else had fallen through while Wayne and Jean pursued writing the book about Norma, Jean reached out to Christine, and the book of Norma’s unbelievable life came to fruition.

But lets start at the beginning.

Norma was born anywhere between 1900 and 1916—the dates on that could even be off because she fabricated her age many times, to the point where she admittedly couldn’t even remember it herself.
She said,  

“Don’t ask me what year [I was born] because I lied so much about that I don’t even know anymore. My mother caught me lying about my age once. Then she started lying about her age, and I wound up older than my mother!”


Her father seemed to be a relatively decent man, but after he caught his wife cheating on him, he left. Without looking back, he left Norma at 11 years old along with her younger brother Elmo to fend for themselves. Norma’s mom, an alcoholic, was known to leave the kids for weeks at a time. Norma and her brother would steal food where they could but when the neighbors realized what was happening, they took the kids in, and made sure they were fed and taken care of.
Later, when Norma was making loads of cash, she made it possible for these families to purchase their homes (minorities were unable to own property at the time).
Eventually her father was found in Slidell, where he had another family and his own lumber business.

At fourteen or fifteen, Norma knew what she could do to get by. She wasn’t dumb or blind and had seen the women in the windows and streets of Memphis. She became friendly with a local veterinarian, who was already decades older, but somehow telling him she was seventeen made everything okay. She strung him along for six weeks, going out for lovely dinners and shopping, until finally he gave up when she wouldn’t give him everything he wanted.

It wasn’t long after she started using her body for money. She had a bigger goal though, and by the age of 19 she became one of the most renowned Madams of one of (what some might call) the most notorious brothels in New Orleans.
As much as she was breaking the laws in ways, she was also helping law enforcement. Her most popular house, 1026 Conti Street) was no stranger to well-to-do businessmen, policemen, politicians, actors (and actresses) and even the mayor of New Orleans. She knew everybody’s business and she wasn’t one to stay tight-lipped if she knew it could buy her some favors or get-out-of-jail-free cards. She knew when to keep her mouth shut, but she knew when to run it and who to run it to.
This didn’t save her from multiple raids, but being a savvy businesswoman, she had an adjoining apartment building that she could drop a plank of wood to cross the upper balconies and her girls would shuffle over to the other house until the police left. She also kept a little book with the names, times and dates of everyone that filtered through, so if anyone tried to threaten her, she could pull out the book that even had personal details only the person themselves and the girl who serviced them would know…if you catch my drift.

In the 1960’s though, there was a new district attorney in town, Jim Garrison. He was intent on “cleaning up the city” and was ready to crack down on Norma’s establishment. Eventually even Norma couldn’t outsmart him and she went to jail. She had a personal relationship with the judge though and he let her out after a mere 3 months. She had said that being in that place was enough for her to realize she wasn’t going to do this anymore. It wasn’t the first time she had been to jail, but it was going to be the last. She opened up a restaurant out of town, called the Tchoupitoulas Plantation. I’m not going to get into all the things wrong with the name, but I’m sure you can imagine. It was a two-for-one hit to minorities. After that, she never went back to being a madam, but instead stayed as the owner and presence of the restaurant.

At 1026 Conti she ran a tight ship when it came to her house and girls. The girls would be cleaned and were taught how and what to look for in the men to make sure they were disease-free. They weren’t allowed to have pimps and if they worked for Norma, they only worked for her. It seems that many of the girls became like daughters to her since she never had her own; there was a mutual respect between them.

She was married though—5 times and they all seemed tumultuous. She collected diamonds like a child might collect rocks.
The first love of her life was a bootlegger, Andy Wallace. They never legally married but referred to one another as such. Andy was wishy washy and Norma was a firecracker. It never lasted. She did have this to say about it:

I kicked up something of a fuss, you might say, and I’ll tell you what I got for my trouble. I got shot. Well, I also got a seven-carat diamond ring.”


The husbands in between the first and the last were not much of note—and quite frankly, I couldn’t keep track when I tried to line them up. I think one was in law enforcement (this could be the one she couldn’t even remember the last name of); one rumored to be in business with Capone; another was actor and musician, Phil Harris, who is recalled changing his song line-up and lyrics when Norma and her girls walked into the bar and Norma shrugged off her over-sized fur coat in the middle of the walkway, assuming someone would be there to catch it.
Either way, husbands 2-to-4 were the jealous type. One set multiple fires in the Conti house while she was on vacation with her new husband. Her right-hand girl called her in a frenzy announcing that he was there “setting the couch on fire”. Norma told her to deal with it and hung up.

Then there was Wayne Bernard. Norma was 60 when she found Wayne, who was 38 years her junior and seemed to be the most stable of all her other husbands. Him and Norma moved to the country in Mississippi. Partially a tactic by Norma to keep Wayne from being tempted by younger women, though she knew he was fooling around and seemed to accept it. Eventually, Wayne too lost his immunity to women his own age and stopped coming home on a regular basis.

In 1974, with one of her girls, Rosemary and her baby in the other room, Norma grabbed a pillow, a pistol and walked into the kitchen to call Wayne’s sister while she shot twice, killing herself.  She was anywhere from 60 to 74 years old.
Eventually Wayne and Jean, whom he was seeing regularly behind Norma’s back, got married and still lived in that small country house when Christine Wiltz gathered the tapes to record Norma’s life.

What I touched on here it not even the tip of the iceberg; it’s like a corner piece that broke off and floated away. I would highly recommend at least listening to the Death By Champagne episodes on this, go to one of the websites below, or check out Christine Wiltz’s book.

Further Reading: The Last Madam by Christine Wiltz

Sources:
NPR.org
Criminalwisdom.com
TheLastMadam.com
Backstoryradio.org
NYtimes.com
1026contist.com

Death by Champagne podcast.

Don’t forget to check out my novel
The Pecan Trees
Available on Amazon or my website, HERE.

Thomas Crapper

Thomas Crapper

Let Me Remind You… about Thomas Crapper

When the American soldiers were serving in England during WWI, they came up with a clever new phrase we still use today: “I’m going to the crapper.” No need to delve into what it means, I’m sure we all know.
But how did this phrase come about?


In 1861, at about 29, Thomas Crapper, who was a journeyman plumber, inventor, and businessman started his first business as a sanitation expert and with his imagination, he invented the ballcock (It’s the round bulb part in the tank of your toilet that stops the water from filling too high). Though, this was used for syphon toilets (think the high wall-mounted tanks with a pull string), we still use them in the modern toilet.

syphon toilet



Eventually, he would open the very first bathroom showroom that showcased many of his items, which included not just toilets, but also bathtubs and sinks. While people were there, they could try them out, so-to-speak, and see just how they liked them. In a time where you could barely show your legs, actually trying the toilet out in public became a scandal. Eventually it would shut down, but his success was not tarnished by any means.
His wares were so high-end that word of mouth travelled and eventually he received his first royal warrant from Prince Edward for Sandringham palace. After that, he received many more royal warrants finishing the bathrooms for Westminster, Buckingham Palace and Windsor castle. Today, if you walk around London, you can still see his name on some of the manhole covers.

showroom advertisement

So why did Americans call it “the crapper”? Well, it was hard to miss the large

Crappers
Valveless Waste Preventer
no[serial number]

On the front of all the toilet tanks, sinks, etc., emblazoned in large embossing. Thus leading to the calling of the toilet “the crapper”.


Eventually Thomas Crapper would give his business to his nephew, and business partner, which was sold to a rival company in 1966 until it was completely dissolved. After many years, a historian, who enjoyed antique bathroom fittings, started remaking the items as authentically as he could, and still sells them in a not-so-scandalous showroom today.

They are actually quite beautiful, and I would recommend checking them out here.

There is a couple myths that float around today:
1.”The word ‘crap’ came from him too.” It’s actually been around for many years before with some roots in French and Dutch.
2. “He invented the toilet.” The toilet itself was actually invented by a Game Of Thrones star’s distant relative: Sir John Harrington. Sir John invented a complex toilet system for Queen Elizabeth I using a cistern, a series of pipes and holding tank that would provide a flush of water to remove what was in the tank. 
We can also thank Sir John for the phrase, “I’m going to the John.”

Sources:

Mentalfloss.com
farmersalmanac.com
youtubepedia on Youtube.com
Nwihomeinspections.com
Wikipedia

Half-Hangit Maggie

Let Me Remind You… Half Hangit Maggie

Trigger Warning: child loss, possible infanticide.

The salty dampness of her palms ironed wrinkles into her apron as she twisted and untwisted the linen in her hands. Maggie Dickenson awaited her sentence from the judge. She knew she would be charged, but with what, she wasn’t sure. She thought about the little baby she laid on the side of the riverbank. Her stomach still hurt from the birth just days ago. With no family in Edinburgh and her estranged husband, a fisherman, who didn’t know where she’d gone, she was alone. She couldn’t count on the baby’s father, her employer’s son, to be at the birth—or the trial.
She had tried to conceal her pregnancy as long as she could, which is what ultimately became her sentencing: concealment of pregnancy. In 1724, this was a real, punishable law. But what choice did she have? She would have been run out of town, or at the very least, definitely fired from her job and chastised. After all, she was still married, and the baby wasn’t her husband’s. She just needed some time to save some money and figure things out.

She tried to smooth the wrinkles out of her apron, but it was useless. And what would it matter? Soon she would be hanging from her neck in the Grass Market, in front of a crown of men and women, who wouldn’t even be looking at the wrinkles on her apron. Men and women, who thought she murdered her own baby by drowning it in the River Tweed. What they didn’t know was that she could never do such a thing.* She and her husband already had two children; she would have more, given the opportunity– and a husband that didn’t hit her.

When Maggie arrived in Kelso (a town near Edinburgh), she got a job as a fish and salt vender, but when that wasn’t enough to pay the bills, she took a job at a local inn. The proprietor’s son was younger than her, but relentless, and so charming. Eventually she gave in to him and they had a lustful affair for months before she became pregnant.

No one seemed to notice her pregnancy and up until the end she thought she had gotten away with it. Even up until the moment she gave birth by herself and laid the child, bundled up on the riverbank. She had tried to fling the baby into the river, but she couldn’t, she was too weak. Or maybe she was too weak mentally. No one was supposed to find the child, but they did. And here we are.

Maggie thought she was almost free when they had no proof that she killed the baby herself; It was born stillborn. But the damned physician said that the lungs aspirated water. Even then, the admission of pregnancy that no one else knew about, that was still punishable by death.

She was sweating, her whisps of hair sticking to her forehead. The pounding of blood in her ears prevented her from hearing the judge, but as if it went quiet for just the right length of time, she heard:

“…Death by hanging.”

Her head dropped and a tear fell from each eye. One for her and one for her child. The guards came to her, grabbing her by an arm each, and dragging her out of the courtroom. She tried to walk, but her legs wouldn’t cooperater. Her body tingled with numbness.

A crowd gathered around the gallows as Maggie was brought through the town square. She tried to tell people that she didn’t kill her baby, but it was no use. They didn’t believe her, and anyways, that’s not what she was being hung for. Her throat tightened with each step towards her death, choking her before the noose was even upon her neck. The roaring of foul words and shouting from the crowd deafened her thoughts.

Grass Market, Edinburgh. The spot where Maggie was hung.


The executioner placed the bag over her head and noose was tight but still rested on her shoulders. It was heavier than she imagined. The twine poked and bristled her skin. Soon it won’t matter. She told herself. Without warning, she heard a THWAP and fell until she was dangling from a knot behind her head. The hangman had forgotten to tie her hands behind her back and she reached up and squeezed a couple fingers between the rope and her flesh. The thumping of her artery pressed against her cold fingers. Then the blackness took over.

The physician came to pronounce her deceased. Once he did that, her body was placed into a coffin and hoisted onto a carriage. Her family had fought against the doctors who wanted her body for study, and they won. She would be brought home to her birthplace of Musselburgh, just a few miles outside of Edinburgh.
despite what would be a 25-minute drive today, the men that were taking her body were apparently in no rush and decided to stop for a pint at a watering-hole just outside of town, body-and-all.

Maggie was in a state of delirium. Like that feeling you get after you wake up from a nap. The pain on her neck reminded her of what just happened. Her eyes blinked open to nothing but black. She assumed with the pain in her neck, her throbbing headache and the confinement of the dark space was an indication that she was in Hell. But she could  hear voices outside of the space; men laughing and glasses being placed on the table, the clinking of coins at a nearby card game. That’s when she started banging on the sides of the wooden coffin. She tried to scream, but nothing but a high-pitched whisper was coming from her sore throat. She kicked and punched until she saw a crack of light coming through the lid; three sets of eyes peering in. The men removed the top of the coffin and Maggie propped herself up on to her elbows. Before she could speak, the men screamed and ran off.
 

Eventually she was taken before the Judge again. No one knew how to handle such a situation and Maggie herself didn’t know what to expect. To her relief, the judge declared that she had fulfilled her sentence: She was hung until pronounced dead and now she was free to continue her life.

Maggie did continue her life. At some point her husband returned to her and apparently turned a blind eye to the whole situation because they continued their marriage and had a few more children themselves, the first coming just 10 months after her hanging.

Within the years to come, the concealment of pregnancy law was laxed, but they did change the wording: “to be hanged until dead” to “Death by hanging” in order to make sure that any future death penalties would result in an actually dead person.

Over the years, Maggie became a bit of a sensation through Edinburgh; a celebrity, you could say. She made money off of just being the woman who survived a hanging, people would send her jewelry and other things so she and her husband lived a very comfortable life. Maggie ended up living another 40 years and even had a pub named after her in Edinburgh. Right in the Grass Market, where she was hung.



***




*It’s unknown for sure whether she killed the baby, or it was born stillborn. For the sake of the story, I picked one.

***This was written to be a dramatized version of the real story. While the facts are there, artistic license was taken.

Sources:

Thevintagenews.com
thenational.scot
geriwalton.com
Thescotsman

Unearthed podcast

The Origin Of The Flower Girl

Let Me Remind you…

Of the origin of flower girls.

               We can thank the Roman Empire (4th-5th century) for crafting this custom of cute little girls, usually tossing rose petals down the aisle, smiling brightly in their 15 minutes of fame—or crying, as the bride ambles down a velvet carpet behind her, to her groom.

               In ancient Rome, It’s likely she was chosen to represent the bride in her youth, with the bride following behind. The procession represented the woman being passed from childhood into adulthood, and soon-to-be motherhood.
The little girl was typically dressed similarly as the bride and held a basket or a sheath of herbs and wheat, instead of flowers. She would toss them along the path in front of the bride to embody and bring forth fertility and blessings. In some instances, she would carry a ring, or bundle of garlic to ward off bad spirits and offer protection.

Over 1000 year later, when the tradition was adopted into the Elizabethan era, not much changed. Though, the flower girl would now toss rose petals, a symbol of love. She would start from the bride’s house and guide her all the way to the church.

Over the years, the tradition stayed the same, but the dresses changed. They went from bride’s dress copies to elegant puffy things, to a flapper-style dress in the 20’s to slowly what you see today.

The flower girls have always been the youngest person in the wedding party, around the age of 6-8 years old. Today, they are typically a family member, maybe even a daughter, or friend’s child. Some women today even opt to have no flower girl at all. The custom has certainly changed from something that had a strong preternatural belief to the desire to be able to include all ages into one’s ceremony.

Did you have a flower girl? (reply on my Instagram post @Kristina_moore_author)

Online Sources:

OureverydayLife
Blacknbianco
wikipedia

(more were read, but with no new info)

Georgia Tann, an American child trafficker

*Trigger warning: child abuse & child loss

     You hear of child abduction or human trafficking in the news today and it’s something so awful and unimaginable you don’t want to believe it. But would you believe over 5000 children were stolen and illegally sold out of an adoption home in Memphis Tennessee between 1924 & 1950, all at the hands of one woman and an intricate system of connections and societal status.
The home: The Tennessee Children’s Home Society, was functioning as an adoption agency with much dire circumstances and unconventional tactics. The head of the facility, Georgia Tann, was a stout woman with short, cropped hair, tiny glasses and a smile with a hidden meaning. She was said to be abrasive and hot-headed with an apt for charisma and gaining prestigious friends.

Before running the TCHS, Georgia grew up in a prominent family in Hickory Mississippi. Despite wanting to become a lawyer, her father and judge, swayed her to find a path into social work after graduating from university; a job more “fit for a woman” he said.
She moved around the US, learning and adapting the techniques she would soon use to run the TCHS. Starting under the guidance of Kate McWillie Powers in Jackson, she learned the in’s and out’s, including how to exploit the very lax system for adoption. Eventually she moved to Dallas, and a short stint in New Orleans. But when authorities would start sniffing around, she packed up and moved on. Eventually she ended up as the Executive Director at the Memphis branch of the TCHS. She learned how to work the system and her way into elite society becoming fast friends with the mayor, Edward ‘Boss’ Crump. Through his political connections she was even consulted by Eleanor Roosevelt on child welfare and even personally invited to the inauguration of President Truman. Eventually, it would be some rumors in this exact circle and a run for governor that would unravel the secrets she had been holding behind locked doors.

Georgia Tann knew there was a demand for children with parents that were unable to conceive. She helped to remove the stigma from adoption, making it a completely acceptable option, when before adoption was a frowned upon. she particularly liked the blonde-haired, blue-eyed ones, but she wasn’t known to discriminate. In fact, she even pushed adoption for bi-racial children, who were once only adopted for house slaves and indentured servants. Unfortunately, the good she did was washed away like a sandcastle in a storm when the secret doors to her home were broke wide open by soon-to-be Governor, Gordon Browning.

Georgia and her team had a few different ways to acquire the children, the rarest of them was when the parents brought the children willingly to the TCHS. More often than not, Georgia would steal the babies and children right off of front lawns, playgrounds, or even daycares, where she would have either a fake, or a bribed social worker enter the premise and remove the child under the “orders of the state”.
When and if the parents would find their children, there was almost no chance of getting them back. Georgia would falsify documents, including birth certificates, renaming the child completely and telling the parents that there was no such child by that name at the facility. If the parents were lucky enough to afford to take Georgia to court, she would pay off Judge, Camille Kelley, who handled the juvenile cases. Kelley would be more than happy to sign a few papers deeming the parents (or commonly a single mom) unfit and transferring custody of the children to Georgia. The children were commonly told their parents had died to prevent any snooping or spreading of “misinformation” once they were placed in an adoptive home.

In other instances, Georgia would go straight to the hospital and through her system of bribed contacts, the newborn babies would be handed off to a social worker and put in a car to be driven to the TCHS. When the new mother asked about her child, she was told that the baby was born stillborn or died after birth, leaving the mother in anguish while only her body held the reminder of her child.

The adoptive parents Georgia dealt with were typically high-class families, usually recommended by a friend. Including actress Joan Crawford, and a NY governor among others.
They were given papers and under the impression that the children and babies were all received through a cooperation between parents and TCHS. Georgia took their fees, pocketing over 70% herself sometimes. If the parents came to question her, possibly when the child admitted to being stolen off a playground, Georgia would threaten to take the child back from the new parents who had been desperately waiting so long and came to love the child. If the parents were willing to give the child back, she would plan to bury them in legal fees, or blackmail them, dropping their status in society. Georgia had a knack for being able to divert issues and blame, including when rumors started to spread about her. She and the mayor, Crump would start switching the spotlight on problems with other adoption agencies in town.

During the holidays, Georgia found the perfect money-making trick: place an ad of a beautiful child in the local paper with a caption that said, “Want a real-life Christmas present? … How can you say no?”
These ads actually worked and her sales of the children would sky-rocket. When asked to stop placing the ads by local officials, she refused.  


Meanwhile, at the facility, the children were not kept in good circumstances. They were typically unwashed and underfed. The babies slept 5 or 6 to one crib, often left to cry alone with watered down formula or corn mush. Their diapers were rarely changed, and the babies would constantly get sick. At one point, a dysentery outbreak killed over 50 (documented) babies before they got it under control. The TCHS alone even raised Memphis’ infant mortality rate to the highest in the nation.

If the children would misbehave, punishment was swift and harsh. For weeks they could be locked in a closet, fed only water and stale bread. They would be hung from coat hooks for hours and other unimaginable ways of abuse. It was known that sexual assault was happening at the hands of the staff of the TCHS. One particular staff member, the janitor, who had a room in the basement of the house where he was known to take the little boys. Georgia herself would also sexually abuse and rape the little girls. Survivors of the TCHS can recall the bright, frilly nature of her bedroom; once so inviting and calm, now remembered as a torture chamber.
This wouldn’t be the end for the children either. Georgia’s vetting process became next to nothing. She stopped doing in-home visits with the adoptive parents; she stopped placing the children and let the parents choose which ones they wanted. This was the dismal concoction for unfit parents to gain access to the children and many faced abuse at the hands of their new family.

Eventually, over time, Georgia got complacent. She still funneled money into her account; charging fees where there shouldn’t be, or charging a fee that belonged to another, more expensive adoption, like an out-of-state adoption. Her (assumed) girlfriend, would pick up children, where she would get five or more for the cost of one, pocketing the rest of the money and forging any documents needed.

By 1949, Gordon Browning was running for governor. There were rumors going around about what was happening at THCS. In an effort to not only humiliate his opponent, but uncover what was happening, he hired investigator and attorney, Robert Taylor, to look into Georgia. Robert went as far as to follow Judge Kelley’s assistant when she went all the way to LA to gather children and bring them back for Georgia. He was able to gather records showing her fraud. But when questioned about it, Georgia stated she was just following procedure by eliminating files. Back then—and in some states still, adoption files were sealed completely with no access.
Eventually, Robert made a case against Georgia, and in 1950 she was finally set to go to court. But not for human trafficking, only for the fraud and money laundering. At this point, Georgia was in the very late stages of uterine cancer and she died before the charges were even brought. Days later her friend, Judge Camille Kelley resigned from her post. The TCHS was closed with only 20 children left and none of the staff were charged with any wrongdoing.

To this day, less than 10% of the children from the TCHS were able to find their birth families. Over 500 (documented) children died at the facility at the hands of Georgia and the staff. There is now a memorial where the cemetery is.
Crump currently has statues and streets named after him to this day. He died in 1954 with no repercussions for his actions or involvement. Wikipedia doesn’t even mention the TCHS under his name.
In a proverbial silver lining, Tennessee strengthened their adoption policies and procedures. As of recently, they are one of the only states to allow unsealed adoption papers, allowing children to see the documents and possibly find their birth parents.
This story has been depicted in a couple other movies and shows, a book with survivor interviews and most recently, a novel by Lisa Wingate: Before We Were Yours. Until I read this, I had never heard of this story. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the last time things like this have happened in America. There have been a few women following in Georgia’s footsteps, but that’s a story for another time.

Online Sources:
Nchgs.org
NYpost.com
Wikipedia
UnsolvedMysteries.com
Adoption.com

Podcasts:
Southern Fried Crime
Most Likely Misinformed