Wife Skewers Cop with Hatpin
Welcome to the Flotsam Files, a weekly digest of odd stories from the past that have washed up on my desk.
In this installment, we travel back to the early twentieth century to learn why women were better armed when they wore hats; we receive timeless dieting advice that demonstrates there truly is nothing new under the sun; and finally, we meet the millionaire who found the perfect gift for a wife who has everything.
Woman Skewers Police Officer With Hatpin
Although Mrs. Otto Tosch’s name would suggest that she was not of Greek descent, the vengeful spirit of Electra ran through her veins.
She was not the sort of wife to leave violence done her husband unavenged. Our story opens on February 8, 1909, with the Chicago matron standing on the corner of North Avenue waiting for her spouse to arrive. As the streetcar approached the stop, she could see a policeman through the windows, Harry P. Stack, beating her husband, Otto, with his billy club. Much to her dismay, after a series of blows, Otto slumped to the floor of the trolley.
Why the beating? Officer Stack would later tell his superiors that Otto Tosch had stepped on his toe. He was already in a bad mood, and the assault on his phalanges set him off. He drew his club and began striking the clumsy Mr. Tosch.
When Mrs. Tosch saw what was happening, she emitted a shriek, drew a long silver hatpin from her headpiece, and charged the streetcar. She boarded the car and flung herself at the angry police officer.
She might not have prevailed against an armed police officer, but the other passengers on the streetcar were mortified by what they had just witnessed. They only needed a catalyst to convert their anger into action.
They joined Mrs. Tosch, kicking and punching the policeman. As Mrs. Tosch stabbed at her victim, someone from the aroused vigilantes tore off the policeman’s badge. Then the passengers hurled him off the trolley, dragged him through the mud, and rolled him into a slushy snow bank.
Someone in the evening crowd saw the policeman’s plight and called the Rawson Street Station for reinforcements. Officer Stack was rescued from his assailants before any permanent damage was done.
Mrs. Tosch escorted by policemen, took her husband to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. His scalp required stitches and the force of the blows had closed both of his eyes.
Officer Stack, having suffered a variety of kicks, punches, and puncture wounds, was compelled to answer for his part in the affray. He admitted that he had been drinking that afternoon; his consumption of spirits had contributed to his intemperate attack on lead-footed Mr. Tosch.
His superior officer, Lieutenant Duffy was not impressed. Nor was Police Chief Schuettler. “Lock him up, take away his star, and prefer charges against him,” ordered Schuettler. “He is not fit to be a member of the department. I will send out an order suspending him immediately.”
When in doubt, pull your hatpin out.
Source: Chicago Tribune, Feb. 9, 1909.
When it Comes to Food, We Still Don’t Get It
Pasadena home economics teacher, Grace Dutton, vented her frustration with the American diet in February, 1909.
“Hot lard is rank poison,” she told a reporter from the Los Angeles Herald. “Baked beans in this climate are horrible. Pie is dreadful.”
These and other curiously modern views, placed Dutton on the leading edge of nutritional science. Beef deserved censure, a meat that she claimed was responsible for many illnesses. Processed sugar was also problematic: people should only eat a “limited quantity of sweets.”
Did the radical firebrand have any positive diet advice? Indeed she did. “She advocated a diet of fruit and vegetables…Olive oil and a moderate quantity of butter fat were, in her opinion, the only fats that should be introduced into the system.” A sound, vegetable-rich diet should be accompanied with “more outdoor exercise and lots of fresh air.”
The Herald offered Dutton’s ideas, which resemble an early-American version of the Mediterranean diet, as a novelty. Who would be crazy enough to give up steak, baked beans, and sugary pie?
Source: Los Angeles Herald, Feb. 22, 1909
The Dirigible: Always a Perfect Gift
What do you get for the woman who has everything? More furs? More jewelry? Another house on the Cape?
Why not something that will make an impression?
Millionaire A. Holland Forbes, a man captivated by the dawning era of aviation, decided that a run-of-the-mill gift simply would not do for his lovely wife. In 1909, Forbes announced that he had commissioned a personal dirigible for his wife’s use.
The new machine, to be built by aviation pioneer Thomas S. Baldwin, was designed to seat four passengers and a pilot. It would be just the thing to allow Mrs. Forbes to travel in comfort from the family estate in Fairfield, Connecticut to New York to conduct her shopping.
Imagine the convenience of loading a few friends into the luxuriously appointed cabin, flying through the sky to the Big Apple, spending an afternoon in Saks’ Department Store, before riding the evening breeze home in comfort.
A. Holland Forbes was a visionary. In 1909, when his gift was announced, dirigible technology was still in its infancy. Holland had only recently succeeded in building a motorized dirigible for the Army. It was a great leap from the primitive, open-air contrivance to a luxury sky-cruiser.
Nevertheless, Holland was optimistic about the order. Driven by the newly-invented Curtiss Aircraft engine, he projected that Mrs. Forbes’ dirigible runabout would have a range of 210 miles. In his view, this airship would be the first of many, placing the United States at the forefront of dirigible technology.
“Our ideas in airships are the most advanced,” he told newspaper reporters. “In construction we have evolved practicable theories they are adopting in every country where they are building aerial craft.”
Mrs. Forbes’ reaction to her present are not recorded.
Source: Los Angeles Herald, Feb. 21, 1909.
The Flotsam Files is a weekly collection of interesting tales our great-grandparents would have read. If you enjoy these nuggets from the past, follow historian Richard J. Goodrich to ensure that you don’t miss an issue.
Looking for more Flotsam? You might also enjoy: