Alternate History, History, Removing Statues, Sculpture, statue

Learning All About History by Looking at Statues. Chapter V ~ An Iron Curtain Descends

Fritz Pingelig “I can do nothing about this endless war, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

 

I’ve always revered architects, and will often come to a complete halt to admire a building.

Even if that’s frustrating to the people behind me, honking their horns.

But while I love architecture, I’ve never really cared deeply about interior design.

So I didn’t immediately identify this statue as one of the founding fathers of interior decorating, Fritz Pingelig, in his day, draped in glory, and known throughout Europe (as well as the Sultanate of Brunei, and some parts of Abyssinia), as “The Iron Curtain”  (or “Langsir Besi” in Malay, or “Yebireti Megareja” in Amharic).

He traveled the length and breadth of a war-torn continent, stitching together a more sophisticated lifestyle, advancing civilization yard by yard.  And in the process, developing valance theory.

 

The artist Pingelig in his salad days. When he ran out of windows, he’d hang curtains in the surrounding woods. Some people thought that was weird, and hampered the crossbow season.

 

Pingelig felt strongly about home décor, and nothing in his plans was more important than curtains and drapery.

The statue depicts him with a curtain rod, draped in one of his baroque creations.

“I care not a pin for putting up walls, but envision a Running Fence of Fabric, separating culture from the abyss.” 

During the endless strife during the Thirty Years War*, Pingelig somehow stayed neutral, traveling from court to court, castle to castle, on the rough corde du roi roads of the day, helping the hidebound to get over their hangups, introducing curtains and a bit of privacy to Europe.

I can do nothing about this endless war,” he declared, but at least I can oppose the drafts.”

He constantly exchanged ideas with other artists and architects of his day, through a network of messengers he called “The Silken Web.”  Whenever inspiration struck, usually in the wee hours, he would dash off a textile message.  The archive in Lisle, France preserves some of these notes, written in a tiny hand on scraps of foolscap – exhorting, self-promoting, criticizing – and they provide us a window into the past, and into Pingelig’s soul.  Essentially, he was mad as a hatter.

Somehow surviving a badly-frayed social fabric, and decades of warfare, his tragic death stemmed from his blind hatred for Venetian blinds.

“A window hanging is too good for them” he would often say.

He greeted each new acquaintance with the question You know how to make a Venetian blind?”

followed by “Poke him in the eye!”

Then he would laugh maniacally.

He never got tired of that one.

And he had a sword, so most people shuttered, but laughed along.

Finally, he trotted out this joke to a visitor named Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola.

Who did not cotton to this bit of drollery.

Andrea, better known by his professional name, Palladio, was not only one of the most famous architects of all time, but a proud citizen of the Republic of Venice.

Shortly after this, Palladio invited Pingelig to the unveiling of a grand colonnade of his design, hinting that a nice bit of chintz might be the perfect, neoclassical finishing touch.

But due to a typo in the brochures, the affair turned out to be a cannonade, and Pingelig died in an accidental crossfire.

We draw a curtain over his soon-forgotten life, a loose thread in the tapestry of history, his legacy just blowing in the breeze.

No one really pays any attention to that man behind the curtain.

Peace to thy gentle shade.

 

* Ok so technically, the Thirty Years’ War wasn’t endless, but a lot of people said it felt kind of endless, between the wholesale slaughter, burning, looting, and the Baroque music – you can only take so much harpsichord and sackbut.  A lot of folks said, you know, doesn’t it feel more endless than the Hundred Years’ War?  Which was kind of on-again-off-again, there were famines and plagues to kind of add variety, at least you got a break once in a while?  They would have laughed at the Seven Years’ War, big deal.  And in our gone-to-the-dogs modern times, talking about the 1967 Six-Day War, please, people from the 17th c. would find it pathetic.  Although the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896 clocked in at under 45 minutes.  Some people describe my digressions as endless, come off it, venga ya, they’re no ways as bad as the Thirty Years’ War.

 

P.S.  I did not make up the name Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola, that’s the Palladian architecture guy’s real name.  His father wasn’t a gondolier, either, so I don’t get it.

P.P.S.  There’s been a lot of confusion over claims that Pingelig claimed to have designed the Louvre.

He never said that.  It was already there, for centuries. And Cardinal Richelieu told him, they already had enough curtains.

Pingelig designed the louvre, or what we in the U.S. would call the louver.  

And when the Venetians came up with a better, adjustable version of slanted slats, that’s when the resentment started.

P.P.P.S.  from Carole King’s “Tapestry”

He moved with some uncertainty, as if he didn’t know
Just what he was there for, or where he ought to go…
Soon within my tapestry, along the rutted road,
He sat down on a river rock and turned into a toad
~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Chap. IV  “The Perils of the Pavement”   Dog Warden Philip Eckel 

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/07/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iv-p-eckel-the-perils-of-the-pavement/

Chap. III “A Tale of a Forgotten Colony”   Harold, of the House of Hamburg

http://www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/12/01/learning-all-about-history-by-looking-at-statues-chapter-iii-a-tale-of-a-forgotten-colony/

Chap. II  “Giving History an Icy Reception”  Teddy Roosevelt

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/22/giving-history-an-icy-reception/

Chap. I “Stumping for President”  George Washington

www.waterlooseneca.com/2017/11/17/stumping-for-president/

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A quiet farmhouse,

set back from the highway,

home to a nice family.

If you ever stayed up late, reading

Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood,

feeling more and more jumpy,

you’ll recognize the setting.

 

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Despite the lurid title, this is not pulp fiction.  This is a history article, about murders that happened in Kent County, Maryland, back in the 1800’s.  While I was going to college in the area, I ran across a mention of the trials in an old Baltimore newspaper, and tried to read every newspaper account I could find.  It was quite a story.

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Hangman’s Folly  

A few miles northwest of Chestertown, on the road to Baltimore, is the little town of Galena, formerly “George Town Cross Roads”.  And just south of town is the Moody Farm.

The Maryland State Archive did an historic site assessment, which told us that the farm was originally part of two tracts called “Hangman’s End” and “Hangman’s Folly.”

Appropriate names, as it turned out.

Robert Moody bought the land in 1768.  He was apparently a hard worker and successful.  The Archive noted “In his earliest land transactions, Moody is referred to as a farmer, but prior to his death in 1815…he is referred to as a gentleman.”

After farming for thirty years, Moody put up a brick house, and for some reason, it was built facing away from the road, and maybe that’s relevant to the story also.

From the description in the archive’s file, it sounds like a nice house.  The mantels had a “course of gouge-carved flutes and swags” and I guess it’s the rare person who doesn’t appreciate a few flutes and swags around the place.  There are a few pictures on The Star Democrat site (Easton, MD).

Apparently being on an Inventory of Historic Places doesn’t mean much in Kent County.  The Star printed the pictures in 2008, when it ran a piece from The Kent News — after people realized the house had been knocked down.

The Kent News reporter, Kevin Hemstock, interviewed someone who had toured the house, with the wonderful name of Paul W. T. Pippin.  Mr. Pippin happened to be an architect of note, who was born in Chestertown and graduated from Washington College.  He was related to the former residents, and commented that a house from that era “…had to have some importance to have paneled rooms.” [1]

Mr. Pippin also recalled there were bullets still lodged in the paneling.

 

The Massacre

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The colonial-era Moody house and farm were later owned by William Cosden, and it came to be better-known as the “Cosden Murder Farm”.

On February 27, 1851, Cosden, his wife, his sister, and his sister-in-law were shot, stabbed, and killed.

A servant (a black slave rented to the Cosdens by a local deputy sheriff) was also shot twice, but survived.   

Cosden’s sister was 17 years old, and his sister-in-law was ill and bedridden.   Mrs. Cosden’s 14-year-old brother was also in the house, but managed to escape.

The “Cosden Family Massacre” was bound to create a sensation in Kent County, but when I ran across the incident, reading the old newspapers at the Library of Congress, I realized the story ran in papers all over the U.S.. There was plenty of juicy “human-interest” stuff:  a quadruple slaying, the randomness of the attack, the gory details of the crime scene, the possible rape of the women, a number of mistaken arrests, the trial…

and finally the executions, which involved four hangings for three men.

 

 

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The Penny Dreadful

I’ve seen commentators advising us that the internet has given us an exaggerated fear of crime, because it instantly broadcasts every incident, in every penny-ante town.  But by 1851, the “penny press,” (the cheap newspapers which were hugely popular with the middle class, because they literally cost one cent) had already been “sensationalizing” the news for twenty years, and anything weird or horrible was sure to be passed along from paper to paper.

So Step 1, in the 1830’s, was hooking up a steam engine to the press, to crank out thousands of papers, instead of hand-printing them for rich folks.

Step 2, was dropping the price from six cents, to one cent.

Step 3, in the 1850’s, was the Magnetic Telegraph.

 

early Morse telegraph

early Morse telegraph

 

“How They Brought the Good News from Ghent…”

I think in part, this crime became a national story, because initially it was “telegraphic news”, a crime story relayed to out-of-town papers by telegraph wires that had just been strung, up and down the eastern seaboard.

In 1851, people had grown up in a world where news often trickled in weeks later.  The classic example being the Battle of New Orleans, our biggest victory of the War of 1812, fought after the War of 1812 was over .

This happened because the news of the Treaty of Ghent, ending the war on Christmas Eve, took a month to arrive in the U.S.

But the Cosden murders happened in a new era, and people all over the country began reading about it in mere days, instead of weeks. [2]

 

Morse telegraph

Morse telegraph. LOC

 

Hot Off The Press

The murders occurred on a Thursday night, and were reported in Horace Greeley’s newspaper (the largest in NYC) the following Monday, in the column “By Telegraph to the New-York Tribune”.   Similar “Telegraph Dispatches” ran in papers in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (“Fiendish Murder of a Family” in the Wilkes-Barre Star of the North).  The story then spread to papers in at least nine other states, and I’m guessing it was published in the other states, too, if I continued searching.   Newspapers as far away as New Orleans followed the arrests, trial, and hangings.

 

Chestertown’s Extravaganza

The news coverage brought what was probably the Chestertown’s biggest crowd of the century.  Steamboat companies brought in execution excursionists, and contributed to the seven or eight thousand spectators that flooded into Chestertown, controlled by hundreds of militiamen and cavalry.

I know that unlike the uncultured masses of the 19th century, the modern reader does not want to wallow in lurid sensationalism, but if you’ve stuck with me through the telegraph thing, you deserve the basic story.

 

 

 

Blackbird Forest

The four men convicted of the crime had been hanging around the Blackbird Forest.  There’s still a state forest in Delaware called that — 5400 acres, just a remnant of the huge woods which stretched from bay to bay, across Kent and New Castle counties.

Before the railroad came through a few years later, the area was still only lightly settled.

 

 

For unknown reasons, the men settled on this particular farm for a robbery, perhaps because the house faced away from the road.  At their trial, the men claimed they were simply looking for “pillage” or “plunder”, but they showed up like a NRA convention, armed with a musket, a double-barreled pistol, and three double-barreled guns.  Apparently they didn’t find much to steal;  four people were killed, and another maimed, for a few rings and earrings.

 

69 cal 1842-style lockplate, Belgian style nipple alteration w.replaced hammer $2-300

 

Tea and a Massacre

If the murderers had planned on a robbery, they might have knocked on the door, and stuck a pistol in the homeowner’s ribs.  But it began when one of the men saw Cosden sitting in front of his fire, and simply shot him through the window.  They then broke down a door, and shot and stabbed his 17-year-old sister.  His wife, also shot and stabbed, tried to escape, but only made it as far as the yard.  When the men realized the farmer and his wife were not yet dead, they were again attacked, but Cosden somehow survived long enough to describe the assailants.

Mrs. Cosden’s sister, Miss Webster, had been ill and bed-ridden for two weeks, and was shot where she lay;  the bedding was charred by the blasts.  Rings and earrings were taken from the women.  The papers reported that “it was the opinion…of the doctors who examined the bodies…that a rape had been attempted on both of them, either before or after they were shot,” although this did not seem to be brought up at the trial, so it may have been a reporter’s invention.

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The servant, a slave owned by Deputy Sheriff  Edwin Crouch, was shot in the kitchen, but ran off and survived, although she was left with only one functioning arm. Amazingly enough, Mr. Congden and his sister-in-law lived long enough to describe the attack to their neighbors.  Mrs. Congden’s 14-year-old brother was also visiting, and escaped to give the alarm to the neighbors.

Papers all over the country began following the story.  Part of the reaction may have been due to the randomness and lack of personal motive.  Cosden was described as “a most worthy and industrious, and highly respectable young farmer” and “a most excellent citizen, harmless and inoffensive.”   The family was “living in peace and quiet, unsuspecting harm from any one

(quotations from The Gallipolis Journal (Ohio, 3/13/51) and The Lancaster Gazette (Pennsylvania 3/13/51)

 

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Manhunt

Hundreds attended the funerals.  The constabulary and mounted patrols began beating the bushes, and the Chestertown jail began to fill up, and some suspects had to be sent to Elkton.  Some of the dragnet enthusiasm may have been due to the reward:  $1000 offered by the Governor, and talk of another $2000-$3000 from the citizens of Kent County. (The Daily Crescent, New Orleans,  3/12/51)

A man found in the woods making a brush shelter was arrested first, who had “a knife and a dirk, both with bloody handles, whilst there was also blood on his clothing…” (The Lancaster Gazette 3/13/51)  In March, the New York Daily Tribune (3/7/51) announced more suspects:  James Roberts, a traveling clock-mender, who had been at the house the day before, and William Shelton, a mill worker.IMG_1625

 

Roberts, supposedly identified by Miss Webster on her deathbed, was nonetheless released when he provided an alibi, and was immediately arrested again on a different charge “so as to have him at hand if further testimony should connect him with the transaction” (The Athens Post, Athen, TN 3/14/51)

Mrs. Cosden’s uncle, William W. Webster, who had quarreled with his niece and her husband in the past, arrived at the house for the funeral, did not appear to be sufficiently sad, and was promptly arrested.

For weeks, the papers reported suspect after suspect swept up in the manhunt in the surrounding area, then as far as Philadelphia.  A “Henry D. Webster” was apparently arrested in Baltimore simply because he was from the area and was thought to be a relative.

 

Confusion & Confession

In April, the papers began indicating there had been a confession, and some claimed the women’s uncle had admitted his guilt.

But finally, Uncle William Webster was cleared when Thomas Drummond, a woodcutter, confessed his involvement, and turned state’s evidence, naming the other gang members:  Nicholas Murphy, Joseph Shelton, Stephen Shaw, and Abraham Taylor.  (Evansville Daily Journal 4/23/51)  Drummond claimed that Taylor, a former convict, recruited him to go out robbing, telling him that Maryland owed him $7,000 for 7 years’ unjust imprisonment.  [The Daily Crescent New Orleans, 4/30/51]

A couple from Blackbird (the hamlet within the forest) testified that their boarder, Stephen Shaw, had come home drunk and confessed to them.  Shaw also escaped the noose by confessing and naming the others.

Despite all the yards of newspaper coverage, no one seemed to know much about these men.  One history mentions the forest as a refuge for Irish immigrants – was Murphy a desperate refugee from the Great Famine?  There seems to have been a long-time tavern in Blackbird run by a family named Murphy, that predated the potato famine years.  Were any of the men disturbed veterans of the Mexican-American War?  Added to my list of future research projects.

 

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Three Men.  Four Hangings

Eventually three of the men (Nicholas Murphy, Joseph Shelton, and Abraham Taylor) were convicted.  Dressed in shrouds, with black caps on their heads, they were taken in a wagon from the Chestertown jail to a scaffold a mile out of town.  There, in front of an audience of seven or eight thousand (“but not a white lady near,” according to one newspaper account), and hundreds of militiamen, they were hanged.

Following addresses by clergymen, the attorneys “took an affectionate farewell of their clients”, according to the Brooklyn  Daily Eagle account.  ““I shall send this lock of hair to your mother,” said one of the lawyers;   another handed a ten dollar note to a friend, to be given to the wife of one of the murderers.

(I’m assuming the lawyer was reprimanded by the bar association — giving ten dollar rebates when you lose a capital case would set a bad precedent.)

 

Famous Last Words.   Or not.

The convicted men continued frantic “protestations of innocence” until the nooses were around their necks.  Two continued to pray, and just before the trap boards dropped, Murphy was heard to utter his last words, “I am going safely home”.

This declaration turned out to be premature, and not his last words.  Murphy had an hour more to live.

Shelton and Taylor appeared to die instantly, but Murphy slipped out of his noose and fell eight-to-twelve feet to the ground, still alive, “to a universal thrill of horror,” according to one account.  The rulebook apparently required that the bodies be left to hang to make sure they were dead, so Murphy watched the other two men swing for 27 minutes, while he continued to protest his innocence, and refused to confess to the crimes.  He asked for a glass of water, but was unable to swallow due to his damaged neck.

He was eventually hanged again, although he “seemed to die much harder than the others, the muscular motion of the body lasting for some minutes”.   The authorities apparently reckoned they’d leave him hanging for a full hour, just to be sure he was dead this time.

So the steamboat excursionists enjoyed a good show.

 

Epilogue – Party Like It’s 1893

Chestertown wouldn’t see any more hangings for over forty years.  But in 1893, the town did its best to make up for lost time.  Newspapers as far away as Scotland and Ireland reported “The death sentence has been carried out in something very like wholesale fashion in Chestertown, Maryland”.

Chestertown prepared to out-do the Cosden executions, with a special gallows built for eight simultaneous hangings.  The eight had been convicted of murdering a Dr. J. H. Hill, on April 25, 1892.  When the governor commuted the sentences of four of the men, all under the age of seventeen (to life in prison), this extreme liberality aroused the ire of the victim’s widow and many locals, amidst talk of burning the jail.  A New York paper reported that only a heavy snowstorm had prevented a lynch mob from forming.

On the 13th of January, 1893, the remaining four men were hanged simultaneously:  Moses Brown, Charles Brooks, Fletcher Williams, Frisby Comegys.  Ministers were not allowed to attend them, but the weather had improved enough for a drunken crowd to gather at the jail, and some obtained tickets to stand at the scaffold.  The horrified reporter from The Sun (NYC) described drunken spectators, laughing and swearing at the foot of the gallows.

A particularly ugly incident.  So maybe I will explore it in more depth at a later time.

 

OK – Déjà Vu– One More Epilogue, Then It’s Really Done

The Parlor

 

George Town Cross-Roads.  People have just finished tea.  A figure outside the house fires a bullet through the window, and somebody dies.

Continuing to read back in time, through the old newspapers at the Library of Congress, I was floored to find a  murder scenario in the same tiny locale, with some similarities to the Cosden case.   The town is now called Galena, which is some kind of lead ore – – was there lead in the drinking water?  Too many Kent County first cousins marrying?

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So, in 1840 in George Town Cross Roads, there were two men and a woman.

You already see where this is going.

One man was named Wroth (as in, “the Sheriff of Nottingham waxed wroth…”), so you would expect him to be the perpetrator, but he was the victim.

Edgar Newnam was visiting and fell for a local lady named Lavinia Piner.   (I know, how could anyone resist a girl with a name like that.)

Intercourse tended to increase the passion of love which had been slumbering in his bosom…” says the account in the Baltimore Sun.

Speaking as a professional etymologist (well, anyway, I once drove through Intercourse, PA and read the sign), I hasten to clarify for Lavinia’s sake, that in 1840, intercourse just meant “fellowship” or “social interaction”.

But sadly, Lavinia did not fall for Edgar.

And Edgar believed that Lavinia liked James Wroth.

And Edgar was unhappy about this.

And, even more sadly, Edgar grew homicidally angry about this.

And so, Edgar waxed Wroth.

(Sorry, had to say it)

It wasn’t until the trial, that the newspaper brought out the fact that Edgar and James were cousins.

I think in Kent County, it was just assumed.

 

So on the night in question, after tea, Edgar pretended to go to bed.

Instead, he went out to the barn and got a gun.  He then apparently chickened out, went to his room, which he shared with another visitor, and had a few drinks.   Edgar then said to his roommate “Now I will try again”.

I have a tiny bit of Dutch ancestry and refuse to use the phrase “Dutch courage,” so let’s just say, as they do in the South, he “liquored up.”

DSC08273He went back outside the house, looked in the parlor, and saw that his cousin was still sitting with the family.  Edgar shot through the window “and literally blowed the head of the unfortunate victim to atoms – the brains were scattered all over the room, and those who were sitting

around”.

The Sun really knew how to write up a murder, even if they were a little hazy on grammar.

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Edgar immediately confessed and demanded to be arrested, but soon sobered up and got himself a Philadelphia lawyer.  They attempted to plead insanity, but that didn’t play in Kent County, and he was convicted of 2nd degree murder, and got 18 years.

 

So, faithful reader, what have we learned from all this?

 

Well, in Kent County:

>  When you’re done with your tea, for God’s sake, go straight to bed.

> Stay away from girls named Lavinia

> Curtains or venetian blinds are a real priority

 

— The End —

069

[1]   [The Star Democrat “Cosden Murder House Demolished” 11/2/2008  — by Kevin Hemstock  Special from The Kent News]

[2] The Battle of New Orleans was typical of a screwed-up war — a colorful Hollywood victory, with hillbilly riflemen, Choctaws, slaves, Cajun pirate cannoneers, and crusty army Regulars, all uniting under Old Hickory (the guy with the Mount Rushmore forehead on the twenty dollar bill) to whip the redcoats.

And then they find out the war was already over.

When the British realized their crushing defeat at New Orleans was after the peace treaty was already signed, they argued  that the Napoleonic Code does not allow for sudden-death overtime, but since we didn’t ratify the treaty until February, it definitely counts as a U.S. victory.  And supposedly, the British had secret orders to continue to capture New Orleans, regardless of any peace treaty.

The British commander, General Pakenham (Wellington’s brother-in-law), got the job because his predecessor, General Ross, had gotten killed in Maryland, trying to capture Baltimore.

After the battle, Pakenham’s body was shipped home in a barrel of rum.  My question:  what happened to the rum after he got home?  It is an historical impossibility that the Royal Navy dumped out an entire barrel of rum.  They were also famous for giving limes to their sailors, so was this how daiquiris were invented?  To disguise a funky…aftertaste?  Haven’t tracked down this theory yet)

[3]  E-mail:  The Treaty of Six Nations

I was struck by the national attention the Cosden Massacre received, and realized the telegraph’s contribution.  I was also surprised to see a “Treaty of Six Nations” mentioned in articles about telegraphs, because I’d been researching the Iroquois and knew nothing about this treaty.

Eight years before the murders, Congress gave Samuel Morse $30,000 to build a test telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington, D.C.. (And yes, Samuel Morse was of course honored with membership in the American Philosophical Society, my employer this summer.)

By 1851, there were dozens and dozens of telegraph companies, stringing competing lines from city to city, and already reaching to New Orleans.  In a few more years, they would lay down a cable across the Atlantic Ocean, and a few years after that, across the continent.  The so-called “Treaty of Six Nations” was simply a deal between telegraph competitors, realizing they would profit from “cooperating” (“collusion” is such an ugly word), and beginning the process that lead to the Western Union monopoly.  Newspapers began running columns with items hot off the wires.

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1850's, Chestertown History, Early American History, Gothic literature, Murder

At sundown, the killers emerged from the Blackbird Forest and approached the farmhouse…

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