Thursday, March 31, 2011

Two Paintings about 19th-Century Morals by American Artist Alice Barber Stephens 1858-1932

Alice Barber Stephens (American artist, 1858–1932) The Women's Life Painting Class in Pennsylvania 1879 (For Women Only)

Alice Barber Stephens (American artist, 1858–1932) Church Scene with Worshippers Amused by Off Key Singer.

1873 No birth control info, obscene, lewd, or lascivious matter may go through the US Mail

On March 3, 1873, Congress passed Statute 598, better known as Comstock Law. The common name for the law comes from its chief proponent, Anthony Comstock. This law amended the Post Office Act making it illegal to send any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail, including contraceptive devices and information about birth control techniques.

Part of the text read:  Be it enacted… That whoever…shall sell…or shall offer to sell, or to lend, or to give away, or in any manner to exhibit, or shall otherwise publish… or shall have in his possession…an obscene book, pamphlet, paper, writing, advertisement, circular, print, picture, drawing or other representation, figure, or image on or of paper or other material, or any cast instrument, or other article of an immoral nature, or any drug or medicine, or any article whatever, for the prevention of conception… On conviction thereof in any court of the United States…he shall be imprisoned at hard labor in the penitentiary for not less than six months nor more than five years for each offense, or fined not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two thousand dollars, with costs of court."

The same year the law was passed, Anthony Comstock, its namesake, created the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, an institution dedicated to supervising the morality of the public. It was through this organization that Comstock and others kept the new law in the headlines and ensured that federal and state authorities took action when violations occurred, sometimes leading authorities to to the violators directly.

This law led to many arrests like the one described below in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

From THE CHRISTIAN RECORDER, August 23, 1894
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

LANCASTER, Pa., August 21. – M.M. Denlinger, proprietor of the largest and most prominent boarding house in this city, and Charles C. Rickerson, a young man of good family, were arrested here yesterday on the charge of printing and circulating immoral literature through the mails.

The arrest were made through Anthony Comstock, who came here with evidence that immoral books and pamphlets had been sent to schools in various sections of the state. In the upper story of Denlinger’s house was found a well equipped printing office, where the mater was printed.

Comstock took Richardson to Philadelphia to answer the charter of illegally using the United States mails, while Denlinger was locked up here to answer the charge of printing matter prohibited by the state law.

Two large sacks of immoral literature were found in Denlinger’s office.

Off to Japan - American Artists Paint Japonisme Fans

.Here are a few American painters including fans in their portraits.

Cephas Giovanni Thompson (1809 – 1888) Young Lady in a Blue Dress

De Scott Evans (1847 – 1898) The Connoisseur

Edwin Howland Blashfield (1848 – 1936) Portrait of the Artist's Wife

Ethel Mars (1876 – 1956) Woman with a Fan

Hamilton Hamilton (1847 – 1928) Woman with a Fan

James Wells Champney (1843 – 1903) The Fan

Lee Lufkin Kaula (1865 – 1957) The Black Fan.

Cooking Eggs in 19th-Century America

Godey’s Lady’s Book, October, 1889

Household Department: A Chapter on Eggs
Edited By Mrs. I.D. Hope, Teacher of Cookery in the Public Schools of New York.

Eggs are very nutritious and contain about as much flesh-forming and heat-giving substances as an equal weight of beef. They contain all the elements necessary for animal life, the young chick being developed from them—although in this case the shell is also used, the mineral matter, which is chiefly carbonate of lime, being absorbed.

The shell is porous, the air being conveyed in this way to the young bird during the process of hatching. It is this, also, which causes the egg to spoil, and anything which will seal up the pores and so prevent the air from entering, will effectually, preserve the egg—provided, it is applied while the egg is perfectly fresh.

The albumen of the egg is enclosed in layers of thin-walled cells, that break up during the process of beating, and this albumen, owing to its glutinous nature, catches and holds the air and increases very largely in bulk. It is this property of holding the air which causes eggs to make cake and pastry light.

Eggs, to be wholesome, should be fresh. To tell a stale egg from a fresh one, drop them carefully in a basin of cold water, those which lie on the side are good; those which stand on end are stale, or hold them upright between the thumb and finger of the right-hand before a lighted candle, and with the left-hand shade the eye, if the white looks clear, and the yolk is distinct, the egg is good; if stale, it will look clouded, and the outline of the yolk will not be distinct.

The shepherds of Egypt cooked eggs without the aid of fire. They placed them in a sling and turned it so rapidly that the friction of the air heated them sufficiently.

Have ready a sauce-pan of boiling water; put the eggs into it with a spoon, letting the spoon touch the bottom of the sauce-pan before it is withdrawn to prevent breaking; let them stand where the water will keep hot but not boil, from six to ten minutes. The white will be soft and creamy and the yolk soft but not liquid. In boiling eggs do not cook more than six at a time as more will lower the temperature of the water too much. The eggs should be well covered,and the lid of the sauce-pan fit closely.

Hard-Boiled Eggs.
Cook them in water just below the boiling point, one-half hour. Eggs cooked in this way are dry, mealy and easily digested. Cooked, as many cook them, ten minutes in boiling water they are tough, leathery and almost perfectly indigestible.

Poached Eggs.
Have a deep pan half full of boiling salted water. Allow one teaspoonful of salt and one tablespoonful of vinegar to every quart of water.Eggs to poach well should be at least twenty-four hours old. Break each egg separately in a saucer and slip it carefully into the water and keep it gently simmering until the white is set and a white film has formed over the yolk. Take up carefully with a skimmer and serve on toasted bread, or on slices of ham or bacon. When the egg is slipped into the water the white should be gathered together to keep it in a round shape or a cup may be turned over it for half a minute.

Poached Eggs A La Creme.
Poach as above. Prepare a cream sauce with one tablespoonful of butter, one of flour, one cup of milk and seasoning to taste. Pour it over the eggs and toast; sprinkle a little finely chopped parsley over the dish and serve immediately.

Baked Eggs.
Butter an earthen dish and break in as many eggs as will cover the bottom of the dish; put a small piece of butter on each egg, dust lightly with salt and pepper, and bake in the oven until the whites are set.

Four eggs, two tablespoonfuls of milk, on spoonful of salt, a dash of pepper. Beat the yolks until light-colored and thick, add the milk,salt and pepper, mix thoroughly, then stir in lightly the whites which have been beaten stiff and dry. Put a large teaspoonful of butter in a clean frying-pan and when it bubbles all over,pour in the omelet. Slip a broad bladed knife under to keep it from burning in the middle.Lift the pan from the hottest part of the fire, and when lightly browned underneath, put it on the oven grate to dry the top. When a knife put in the center will come out clean, run the knife around the edge, fold carefully and turn out on a hot platter. Serve at once. Add a half-cupful of chopped veal or chicken, stewed tomatoes, or sliced raw tomatoes, oysters which have been parboiled and drained or clams chopped fine,may be spread on the omelet before folding, making a fancy omelet and taking the name of the added ingredient.

Jelly Omelet.
Allow an even tablespoonful of powdered sugar to each egg and omit the pepper. When ready to fold put three tablespoonfuls of any fruit, jam or jelly, fold and sprinkle with sugar.

Orange Omelet.
Three eggs, three even tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar, the grated rind and half the juice of an orange. Beat the yolks, add the sugar, rind and juice. Stir in lightly the beaten whites and cook as in preceding recipes. Fold,turn out on a hot platter, dredge thickly with powdered sugar and score across both ways—forming squares, with a clean red-hot poker. The burnt sugar gives a fine flavor. For a change,cut the orange in small pieces, removing the tough skin and seeds, sprinkle with sugar, fold,dredge sugar over the top and serve.

Omelet Soufflé.
Beat the yolks of two eggs until smooth and thick, add two rounded tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar, and one-half teaspoonful of vanilla. Beat the whites of four eggs until stiff and dry,and stir them lightly into the yolks. Pour lightly into a well-buttered baking-dish, dredge with powdered sugar, and cook in a moderate oven till well puffed-up and a straw comes out clean.It will take ten or twelve minutes. Serve at once or it will fall.

Plain Omelet.
Beat two eggs lightly-enough to break them up. Add one spoonful of salt, a dash of pepper, and one tablespoonful of milk. Pour in a hot-buttered pan and cook, as in omelet number one.

Creamy Omelet.
Pour one-half cupful of boiling milk over one cupful of bread crumbs, and let stand until cool.Beat the yolks of three eggs, add the soaked bread, season with salt and pepper. Add the beaten whites, pour into a hot pan, in which a large teaspoonful of butter has been melted,cook slowly until a delicate brown, dry the top in the oven turn out on a hot platter and serve.This omelet will not fall but is delicate and tender when cold.

Pickled Eggs.
Remove the shells from hard boiled eggs and put them carefully in a jar. Pour over them boiling vinegar which has been well seasoned with salt, pepper-corn, cayenne, mustard-seed, allspice and mace. When cold seal up. They will be fit for use in two weeks, but will be better if allowed to stand a month.

Scrambled Eggs.
Beat two eggs slightly, add three tablespoonfuls of milk, salt and pepper to taste. Turn into a hot-buttered pan and cook quickly, stirring all the time until like custard. Serve on toast. If cooked too long or allowed to stand a moment without stirring it will be tough and dry.

Fried Eggs.
Have a small frying pan with enough clear hot fat in it to cover an egg. Drop each egg carefully into the fat, dip the fat with a spoon and pour it over the eggs until a white coating forms. Serve with bacon or ham. The fat in which the bacon or ham has been cooked is best for frying eggs.

Macaroni With Eggs.
Break half a pound of macaroni into small pieces and cook for twenty minutes in salted boiling water; drain, put into an earthen dish and pour over it a cupful of white sauce into which has been stirred three heaping tablespoonfuls of grated cheese, two well-beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste. Cut one large tablespoonful of butter into small bits and mix with the macaroni. Sprinkle grated cheese over the top and brown in a hot oven.

Deviled Eggs.
Six eggs, one slightly rounded teaspoonful of French mustard, two tablespoonfuls of boiled ham or tongue, one-half tablespoonful of olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Boil the eggs hard, and throw them in cold water for twenty minutes. Remove the shells and cut them in half lengthwise. Take out the yolks carefully. Rub the yolks to a smooth paste with the mustard and oil, then add the finely chopped ham or tongue and seasoning. Fill the whites with this mixture and serve on a bed of lettuce.

Coddled Eggs.
One cup of scalded milk, four eggs, two tablespoonfuls of butter, salt and pepper to taste.Beat the eggs slightly, add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Set the pan containing the mixture in boiling water and stir constantly until quite thick. Serve on rice or toast.

Betsy Ross House As It Appeared in Late-19th-Century Philadelphia


Caption on this stereo card reads: Birthplace of Old Glory, Betsy Ross House, Philadelphia, Pa. Copyright, 1909, by Stereo-Travel Co.

Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia in 1895

Godey’s Lady’s Book of July, 1895, Reported on Philadelphia's Betsy Ross House

The Stars and Stripes -- Betsy Ross House

On Arch Street, below Third, in Philadelphia, there nestles between the towering walls of two big buildings a quaint two-and-a-half story brick house. Its steep, shingled roof and dormer windows, together with its diminutive size, mark it as belonging to a period long gone by; and a glance at its interior confirms the impression. This house is over two hundred years old. The bricks, of which it is largely built, came over in the ship Welcome; and tradition has it that William Penn himself laid part of the walls. This was the second house of its kind to be put up in Philadelphia, the first being Penn’s own cottage, not many years since removed from a nearby site to a more conspicuous one in Fairmount Park.

But besides its age the Arch Street house has claims to distinction which make it historic in the truest sense of the term. Few buildings are as deserving of the patriotic interest of every loyal American as this; for within its walls was made the first flag of the United States.

The passer-by would, in most cases, remain in ignorance of the history of the place were it not for a gayly-painted board beside the broad, low doorway, which informs all that this was the birthplace of the Stars and Stripes. More than half of the front of the building is occupied with a show-window in which are displayed smokers’ articles. In fact, the house is used as a tobacconist’s shop by its present occupant, yet it is to her credit that, for over half a century, she and her family have kept the building intact, and, with a patriotic instinct worthy of emulation, have scrupulously preserved every fixture and bit of interior furnishing.

When I went there recently and told Mrs. Mund that I wished to look over the house, she seemed to take the request as a personal compliment to herself and immediately led the way into the back room, in which the flag was cut and sewed together. The doorway through which we passed, in its construction gave the key-note to the whole interior. Dark with age, with worn panels of broad boards and with its iron latch still in place, it swung on its right-angled hinges as easily as though it had been put up a year ago instead of two centuries and more past. The sunken heads of the old-fashioned, hand-wrought nails by which the hinges were made fast to door and frame attested to the fact that no change had been made here since that time when the Continental generals passed in to see Betsy Ross , the owner of the house, probably stooping their heads to do so.

The reason for choosing stars and stripes as the distinctive marks of the American flag is somewhat doubtful. The weight of opinion seems in favor of the idea, however, that, in so far as the stars are concerned, they were suggested by the Washington coat of arms, which bore on the upper part of its shield three stars. But as the stars thus shown have but five points an acceptance of that theory would render it very improbable that Washington or anyone else should have made the mistake of drawing six-pointed stars in the pattern presented to Betsy Ross .

The Rev. A.N. Whitmarsh, writing of the origin of the flag, says: “The idea was taken from the constellation Lyra, a northern group of stars, harp-like in shape, suggesting harmony. This group contains the colony number thirteen, and on the flag represents as a constellation unity and similarity. Animals were not considered appropriate, crosses suggestive of popish idolatry, white suns and moons were indicative of Mohammedanism. These were ruled out by the committee [of Congress], and the stars unanimously adopted.” The explanation is, at least, entirely reasonable.

In regard to the stripes, it is not improbable that they were suggested by the banner of the Dutch Republic, which in part was the flag under which the Continental soldiers of New York were marching. Washington’s coat of arms, with its bars, also may have given the idea to the designer. The colors were happily selected for their sharp contrast with each other. Their meaning has been variously explained, but upon this point I cannot see that there is any certainty.

The admission into the Union of Vermont in 1791 and of Kentucky in 1792 led to the passage of an act in 1794 providing for an increase of two stars and two stripes in the original flag; and on May 1, 1795, this act took effect. Under this flag were won the glorious naval victories of the war of 1812.

April 4, 1818, another act relating to the flag was passed, and the admission of Tennessee, Ohio, Indiana, and Louisiana was indicated by the addition of a star for each of the new States, the stripes reverting to the first number, thirteen. This act included the further provision “that on the admission of every new State into the Union one star be added to the union of the flag, and that such addition shall take, effect on the fourth of July next succeeding such admission.” The act was approved April 4, 1818.

Since that time the changes in the pattern of the flag have been only minor ones, such as the modification of the shape of the union, it now being rectangular instead of, as formerly, square. Stars have dotted the field more thickly as new States have been created, but Betsy Ross’ s flag remains to all intents and purposes. Whether waving aloft in the sea breezes over one of our speedy cruisers or floating from the flag-staff of a frontier post, it is yet the banner of a nation whose heart throbs at the sight of it and whose life-blood would run in its defence. For one hundred and eighteen years it has been the banner of liberty and of the most enlightened nation of the world.

Off to Japan - The Japonisme Effect on American Artists

Alberta Binford McCloskey (1863 – 1911) Woman in a Kimono

Alfred Wordsworth Thompson (1840 – 1896) The Japanese Lady
Arvid Nyholm (1866 – 1927) Young Woman in Kimono

Helen Maria Turner (1858 – 1958) Girl With Lantern

Joseph Rodefer DeCamp (1858 – 1923) The Blue Mandarin Coat
Lee Lufkin Kaula (1865 – 1957 The Green Shade
Lee Lufkin Kaula (1865 – 1957) The Silk Kimono
Lillian Mathilde Genth (1876 – 1953) Woman with a Japanese Lantern
Marguerite Stuber Pearson (1898 – 1978) The Music Room
Susan Ricker Knox (1874 – 1959) Japanese Tea Party
William Chadwick (1879 – 1962) Woman in Kimono


Off to Japan - A Visit to Japan in 1898

Godey’s Lady’s Book, published between 1830–1898, reported on a visit to Japan in its June, 1898 issue.

Japanese Glimpses by By Mabel Cronise Jones

In view of the really palatial steamers now to be found on the Pacific Ocean, a flying trip to Japan will soon be considered the natural sequel to a trans-continental tour. It is extremely easy to visit the Orient today, and unless one spends his funds needlessly in little extravagances, the trip may be made very economically. Even a fortnight in Japan can give a person a good general idea of the more prominent features of Japanese daily life.

At the same time it must be freely acknowledged that a score of years could be well utilized in studying all the minute details of the social life as it is exemplified in the different castes.

Japanese women, unless of the lower classes, are well educated, speaking, of course, from a Japanese point of view. We should certainly not consider them well educated, for their learning is for the most part confined to superstitions and mythical history, and is bounded by the confines of Japan. Polygamy is not allowed, but the husband can secure a divorce through legal processes. A wife convicted of infidelity can be put to death by her husband — he, however, can commit the same crime openly and neither law nor society will offer a remonstrance.

When a maiden marries, her teeth are blackened, her eyebrows plucked out, and artificial ugliness is cultivatedt o the utmost limit. She is taught that her first duty is to render herself obnoxious to all men but her husband. Theoretically, he issupposed to love her “soul,” despite the outward ugliness. Practically he does nothing of the sort. A father in Japan may legally sell his daughter for a certain term of years.

The bath is a great institution in Japan, and forms a kind of people’s parliament. The men and women make free use of the same bath-houses without the faintest sense of immodesty. All the gossip of the day is retailed in these resorts.

The tea-houses are another peculiar feature of the country. The wayside tea-house is a picturesque structure, and the girls who serve the fragrant drink in the daintiest of cups are worth going a long way to see.

The children look quaint enough at their play–clad, as a rule, in one looseflowing robe, and with their bare feet tied on to clumsy wooden sandals. The town costume of the Japanese men consists of a loose silk robe, extending from the neck to the ankles. It is gathered in at the waist by a girdle of brocaded or embroidered silk; over this is worn a wide-sleeved “spencer” or jacket, and this is always embroidered with the armorial device of the wearer, provided,of course, that he belongs to the upperclasses and can boast of an armorial device. Trousers are only worn by officials on occasions of great State ceremony. There are also on our Japanese gentleman, when he goes out for a walk, a cylindrical cap of bamboo and silk, white stockings and straw sandals. As a rule, the men’s bodies are elaborately tattooed with pictures of lions, dragons, and tigers.

The general attire of the women is very much like that of the men, except that their hair is arranged more elaborately and artistically.

There is much that is truly charming and delightful about the Japanese. They are quick, alert, energetic, enthusiastic; scrupulously neat, and possessed of an innate love for the beautiful. To see Japan once is to see a little glimpse of fairyland. When one sees it the second time, however, he becomes aware of a certain moral degradation and blindness which exist there, and which make all philanthropists pray for the introduction there of our purer and higher civilization.

Off to Japan - American Artists & Japonisme

Japonisme, a French term also used in English, refers to the influence of the arts of Japan on those of the West. The word was first used by Jules Claretie in his book L'Art Francais en 1872. The widespread interest in all things Japanese--art, furnishings, costume, etc.--blossomed after the opening of Japan to Western trade in 1853-54. Western woman began adopting Japanese fashions & portrait painters were excited by the new color & patterns these costumes presented. The color harmonies, simple designs, asymmetrical compositions, & flat forms of Japanese wood block prints strongly influenced the composition of Impressionist & Post-Impressionist art.
Parasols, fans, kimonos, and even goldfish were staples of artists adopting some elements of Japonisme.

Japonisme. Edmund Charles Tarbell (1862 – 1938) Cutting Origami

Japonisme. Guy Rose (1867-1925) Blue Kimono

Japonisme. Robert Lewis Reid (1862-1939), Blue and Yellow

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Japanese Print 1898

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) The Japanese Book 1900

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) The Kimono 1895

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Blue Kimono 1798

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Girl in a Japanese Kimono

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Peonies 1897

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Study of a Girl in a Japanese Dress

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) The Black Kimono

Japonisme. William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Woman in Kimono Holding a Japanese Fan

Japonisme.William Merritt Chase (1849 - 1916) Study for Making Her Toilet 1892


Sharpening Tools

.Edward Lamson Henry (American Painter, 1841-1919) Showing a Child How to Sharpen the Saw

Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919) was an American genre painter born in Charleston, South Carolina who came to live in New York at an early age.

1868 Earthquakes and Tidal Waves Affect California

Earthquakes and Tidal Waves - December 5, 1868

Later and fuller details are every day increasing the interest with which scientific observers regard the recent earthquakes and tidal disturbances, and confirming our first impression that these convulsions of nature would prove to be among the most remarkable and extensive of which there is any written record. They have been experienced at short intervals during the last three months, and there is no reason to suppose that we have yet felt the last of them, the latest having been reported only a week ago.

The shocks have followed no particular direction, and been confined to no particular quarter of the earth. Beginning in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they seem to have affected all its eastern shores and its southern and western islands, and, skipping the whole breadth of the North American Continent and the Atlantic Ocean, to have broken out in Ireland.

We may yet learn that the remoter countries of Asia have likewise been shaken. The first of this great series of convulsions, so far as our intelligence now extends, occurred, in the Sandwich Islands, eleven days before the terrible disaster in Peru. Violent shocks were felt in different parts of the groups from the 2d to the 9th of August, accompanied with heavy storms of thunder and lightning. The western coast of South America was devastated by awful earthquakes from the 13th to the 15th of August, and at the same time the shocks were felt again in the Sandwich Islands, though less severely than before.

On the 17th there were shocks in New Zealand. About the middle of September shocks were felt by vessels in the Eastern Pacific. On or about the 1st of October, they were experienced again in the Sandwich Islands. In California they wee felt from the 21st to the 25th, with considerable severity, and were repeated slightly up to the 6th of November. On the 23d of October we hear of earthquakes in Ireland. On the 4th of November there was one at Vancouver Island.

The tidal waves which have accompanied all the most serious of these convulsions are peculiarly interesting subjects of study. It has been remarked, as an evidence of the rapidity with which they travel, that they reached the California coast as early as the morning of the 14th of August, having moved over a distance of 4,000 miles in a little more than 14 hours; but it now appears that their speed is even greater than this, for they were felt in the Sandwich Islands, nearly an equal distance, on the evening of the 13th, only four hours after the earthquake in Peru, lasting through the night, and obtaining their greatest force the nest morning, almost simultaneously with their appearance on the opposite California coast. This would give them a velocity of about a thousand miles an hour. They seem, however, not to have been driven in more than one direction at a time. The Sandwich Islands lie north west of the place of disturbance in Peru. Toward the west and southwest, we have no record of tidal phenomena earlier than the 15th of August, when the waters of Japan and Australia were simultaneously agitated in the same manner.

These waves may have been either propagated by fresh convulsions on the South American coast, or revulsions from the disturbances at the Sandwich Islands. We have no sufficient data as yet determining in what direction the waves traveled, or what was their size or their velocity. We trust that the attention of competent observers may have been drawn to these points; for by means of them it would be possible to determine the depth of the Pacific Ocean, the size and velocity of waves bearing, as is well known, a fixed ratio to the depth of the water.

A great tidal wave fell upon Hawaii, one of the Sandwich Islands, on the 15th of October, destroying a great many houses and other property. Accepting the generally received theory that these phenomena are caused by earthquakes , we may expect intelligence of another great calamity about that date in some country bordering on the Pacific from which we have yet received no advices. But the disturbance may have arisen in the bed of the ocean, in which case, unless a stray sailing vessel chanced to be within reach of it, no account of the phenomenon may ever come to us.

New York Tribune, November 17, 1868.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nellie Bly Reporting on Being A Shop-Girl Making Hat Boxes in 1880s New York City

Nellie Bly as a White Slave.

VERY early the other morning I started out, not with the pleasure-seekers, but with those who toil the day long that they may live. Everybody was rushing–girls of all ages and appearances and hurrying men–and I went along, as one of the throng. I had often wondered at the tales of poor pay and cruel treatment that working girls tell. There was one way of getting at the truth, and I determined to try it. It was becoming myself a paper box factory girl. Accordingly, I started out in search of work without experience, reference, or aught to aid me.

It was a tiresome search, to say the least. Had my living depended on it, it would have been discouraging, almost maddening. I went to a great number of factories in and around Bleecker and Grand streets and Sixth Avenue, where the workers number up into the hundreds. "Do you know how to do the work?" was the question asked by every one. When I replied that I did not, they gave me no further attention.

"I am willing to work for nothing until I learn," I urged.

"Work for nothing! Why, if you paid us for coming we wouldn't have you in our way," said one.

"We don't run an establishment to teach women trades," said another, in answer to my plea for work.

"Well, as they are not born with the knowledge, how do they ever learn?" I asked.

"The girls always have some friend who wants to learn. If she wishes to lose time and money by teaching her, we don't object, for we get the work the beginner does for nothing."

By no persuasion could I obtain an entree into the larger factories, so I concluded at last to try a smaller one at No. 196 Elm Street. Quite unlike the unkind, brusque men I had met at other factories, the man here was very polite. He said: "If you have never done the work, I don't think you will like it. It is dirty work and a girl has to spend years at it before she can make much money. Our beginners are girls about sixteen years old, and they do not get paid for two weeks after they come here."

"What can they make afterward?"

"We sometimes start them at week work–$1.50 a week. When they become competent they go on piecework–that is, they are paid by the hundred."

"How much do they earn then?"

"A good worker will earn from $5 to $9 a week."

"Have you many girls here?"

"We have about sixty in the building and a number who take work home. I have only been in this business for a few months, but if you think you would like to try it, I shall speak to my partner. He has had some of his girls for eleven years. Sit down until I find him."

He left the office, and I soon heard him talking outside about me, and rather urging that I be given a chance. He soon returned, and with him a small man who spoke with a German accent. He stood by me without speaking, so I repeated by request. "Well, give your name to the gentleman at the desk, and come down on Monday morning, and we will see what we can do for you."

And so it was that I started out early in the morning. I had put on a calico dress to work in and to suit my chosen trade. In a nice little bundle, covered with brown paper with a grease-spot on the center of it, was my lunch. I had an idea that every working girl carried a lunch, and I was trying to give out the impression that I was quite used to this thing. Indeed, I considered the lunch a telling stroke of thoughtfulness in my new role, and eyed with some pride, in which was mixed a little dismay, the grease-spot, which was gradually growing in size.

Early as it was I found all the girls there and at work. I went through a small wagon-yard, the only entrance to the office. After making my excuses to the gentleman at the desk, he called to a pretty little girl, who had her apron full of pasteboard, and said:

"Take this lady up to Norah."

"Is she to work on boxes or cornucopias?" asked the girl.

"Tell Norah to put her on boxes."

Following my little guide, I climbed the narrowest, darkest, and most perpendicular stair it has ever been my misfortune to see. On and on we went, through small rooms, filled with working girls, to the top floor–fourth or fifth story, I have forgotten which. Any way, I was breathless when I got there.

"Norah, here is a lady you are to put on boxes," called out my pretty little guide.

All the girls that surrounded the long tables turned from their work and looked at me curiously. The auburn-haired girl addressed as Norah raised her eyes from the box she was making, and replied:

"See if the hatchway is down, and show her where to put her clothes."

Then the forewoman ordered one of the girls to "get the lady a stool," and sat down before a long table, on which was piled a lot of pasteboard squares, labeled in the center. Norah spread some long slips of paper on the table; then taking up a scrub-brush, she dipped it into a bucket of paste and then rubbed it over the paper. Next she took one of the squares of pasteboard and, running her thumb deftly along, turned up the edges. This done, she took one of the slips of paper and put it quickly and neatly over the corner, binding them together and holding them in place. She quickly cut the paper off at the edge with her thumb-nail and swung the thing around and did the next corner. This I soon found made a box lid. It looked and was very easy, and in a few moments I was able to make one.

I did not find the work difficult to learn, but rather disagreeable. The room was not ventilated, and the paste and glue were very offensive. The piles of boxes made conversation impossible with all the girls except a beginner, Therese, who sat by my side. She was very timid at first, but after I questioned her kindly she grew more communicative.

"I live on Eldrige Street with my parents. My father is a musician, but he will not go on the streets to play. He very seldom gets an engagement. My mother is sick nearly all the time. I have a sister who works at passementerie. She can earn from $3 to $5 a week. I have another sister who has been spooling silk in Twenty-third Street for five years now. She makes $6 a week. When she comes home at night her face and hands and hair are all colored from the silk she works on during the day. It makes her sick, and she is always taking medicine."

"Have you worked before?"

"Oh, yes; I used to work at passementerie on Spring Street. I worked from 7 until 6 o'clock, piecework, and made about $3.50 a week. I left because the bosses were not kind, and we only had three little oil lamps to see to work by. The rooms were very dark, but they never allowed us to burn the gas. Ladies used to come here and take the work home to do. They did it cheap, for the pleasure of doing it, so we did not get as much pay as we would otherwise."

"What did you do after you left there?" I asked.

"I went to work in a fringe factory on Canal Street. A woman had the place and she was very unkind to all the girls. She did not speak English. I worked an entire week, from 8 to 6, with only a half-hour for dinner, and at the end of the week she only paid me 35 cents. You know a girl cannot live on 35 cents a week, so I left."

"How do you like the box factory?"

"Well, the bosses seem very kind. They always say good-morning to me, a thing never done in any other place I ever worked, but it is a good deal for a poor girl to give two weeks' work for nothing. I have been here almost two weeks, and I have done a great deal of work. It's all clear gain to the bosses. They say they often dismiss a girl after her first two weeks on the plea that she does not suit. After this I am to get $1.50 a week."

When the whistles of the surrounding factories blew at 12 o'clock the forewoman told us we could quit work and eat our lunch. I was not quite so proud of my cleverness in simulating a working girl when one of them said:

"Do you want to send out for your lunch?"

"No; I brought it with me," I replied.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, with a knowing inflection and amused smile.

"Is there anything wrong?" I asked, answering her smile.

"Oh, no," quickly; "only the girls always make fun of any one who carries a basket now. No working-girl will carry a lunch or basket. It is out of style because it marks the girl at once as a worker. I would like to carry a basket, but I don't dare, because they would make so much fun of me."

The girls sent out for lunch and I asked of them the prices. For five cents they get a good pint of coffee, with sugar and milk if desired. Two cents will buy three slices of buttered bread. Three cents, a sandwich. Many times a number of the girls will put all their money together and buy quite a little food. A bowl of soup for five cents will give four girls a taste. By clubbing together they are able to buy warm lunch.

At one o'clock we were all at work again. I having completed sixty-four lids, and the supply being consumed was put at "molding in." This is fitting the bottom into the sides of the box and pasting it there. It is rather difficult at first to make all the edges come closely and neatly together, but after a little experience it can be done easily.

On my second day I was put at a table with some new girls and I tried to get them to talk. I was surprised to find that they are very timid about telling their names, where they live or how. I endeavored by every means a woman knows, to get an invitation to visit their homes, but did not succeed.

"How much can girls earn here?" I asked the forewoman.

"I do not know," she said; "they never tell each other, and the bosses keep their time."

"Have you worked here long?" I asked.

"Yes, I have been here eight years, and in that time I have taught my three sisters."

"Is the work profitable?"

"Well, it is steady; but a girl must have many years' experience before she can work fast enough to earn much."

The girls all seem happy. During the day they would make the little building resound with their singing. A song would be begun on the second floor, probably, and each floor would take it up in succession, until all were singing. They were nearly always kind to one another. Their little quarrels did not last long, nor were they very fierce. They were all extremely kind to me, and did all they could to make my work easy and pleasant. I felt quite proud when able to make an entire box.

There were two girls at one table on piecework who had been in a great many box factories and had had a varied experience.

"Girls do not get paid half enough at any work. Box factories are no worse than other places. I do not know anything a girl can do where by hard work she can earn more than $6 a week. A girl cannot dress and pay her boarding on that."

"Where do such girls live?" I asked.

"There are boarding-places on Bleecker and Houston, and around such places, where girls can get a room and meals for $3.50 a week. The room may be only for two, in one bed, or it may have a dozen, according to size. They have no conveniences or comforts, and generally undesirable men board at the same place."

"Why don't they live at these homes that are run to accommodate working women?"

"Oh, those homes are frauds. A girl cannot obtain any more home comforts, and then the restrictions are more than they will endure. A girl who works all day must have some recreation, and she never finds it in homes."

"Have you worked in box factories long?"

"For eleven years, and I can't say that it has ever given me a living. On an average I make $5 a week. I pay out $3.50 for board, and my wash bill at the least is 75 cents. Can any one expect a woman to dress on what remains?"

"What do you get paid for boxes?"

"I get 50 cents a hundred for one-pound candy boxes, and 40 cents a hundred for half-pound boxes."

"What work do you do on a box for that pay?"

"Everything. I get the pasteboard cut in squares the same as you did. I first 'set up' the lids, then I 'mold in' the bottoms. This forms a box. Next I do the 'trimming,' which is putting the gilt edge around the box lid. 'Cover striping' (covering the edge of the lid) is next, and then comes the 'top label,' which finishes the lid entire. Then I paper the box, do the 'bottom labeling,' and then put in two or four laces (lace paper) on the inside as ordered. Thus you see one box passes through my hands eight times before it is finished. I have to work very hard and without ceasing to be able to make two hundred boxes a day, which earns me $1. It is not enough pay. You see I handle two hundred boxes sixteen hundred times for $1. Cheap labor, isn't it?"

One very bright girl, Maggie, who sat opposite me, told a story that made my heart ache.

"This is my second week here," she said, "and, of course, I won't receive any pay until next week, when I expect to receive $1.50 for six days' work. My father was a driver before he got sick. I don't know what is wrong, but the doctor says he will die. Before I left this morning he said my father will die soon. I could hardly work because of it. I am the oldest child, and I have a brother and two sisters younger. I am sixteen, and my brother is twelve. He gets $2 a week for being office-boy at a cigar-box factory."

"Do you have much rent to pay?"

"We have two rooms in a house on Houston Street. They are small and have low ceilings, and there are a great many Chinamen in the same house. We pay for these rooms $14 per month. We do not have much to eat, but then father doesn't mind it because he can't eat. We could not live if father's lodge did not pay our rent."

"Did you ever work before?"

"Yes, I once worked in a carpet factory at Yonkers. I only had to work there one week until I learned, and afterward I made at piecework a dollar a day. When my father got so ill my mother wanted me at home, but now when we see I can earn so little they wish I had remained there."

"Why do you not try something else?" I asked.

"I wanted to, but could find nothing. Father sent me to school until I was fourteen, and so I thought I would learn to be a telegraph operator. I went to a place in Twenty-third Street, where it is taught, but the man said he would not give me a lesson unless I paid fifty dollars in advance. I could not do that."

I then spoke of the Cooper Institute, which I thought every New Yorker knew was for the benefit of just such cases. I was greatly astonished to learn that such a thing as the Cooper Institute was wholly unknown to all the workers around me.

"If my father knew that there was a free school he would send me," said one.

"I would go in the evenings," said another, "if I had known there was such a place."

Again, when some of them were complaining of unjust wages, and some of places where they had been unable to collect the amount due them after working, I spoke of the mission of the Knights of Labor, and the newly organized society for women. They were all surprised to hear that there were any means to aid women in having justice. I moralized somewhat on the use of any such societies unless they entered the heart of these factories.

One girl who worked on the floor below me said they were not allowed to tell what they earned. However, she had been working here five years, and she did not average more than $5 a week. The factory in itself was a totally unfit place for women. The rooms were small and there was no ventilation. If case of fire there was practically no escape.

The work was tiresome, and after I had learned all I could from the rather reticent girls I was anxious to leave. I noticed some rather peculiar things on my trip to and from the factory. I noticed that men were much quicker to offer their places to the working-girls on the cars than they were to offer them to well-dressed women. Another thing quite as noticeable, I had more men try to get up a flirtation with me while I was a box-factory girl than I ever had before. The girls were nice in their manners and as polite as ones reared at home. They never forgot to thank one another for the slightest service, and there was quite a little air of "good form" in many of their actions. I have seen many worse girls in much higher positions than the white slaves of New York.

"Oh, anything," I replied, with a generosity that surprised myself.

"Then I shall put it chambermaid, waitress, nurse or seamstress." So my name, or the one assumed, was entered in the ledger, and as I paid my dollar I ventured the information that if he gave me a situation directly I should be pleased to give him more money. He warmed up at this and told me he should advertise me in the morning.

"Then you have no one in want of help now?"

"We have plenty of people, but not just now. They all come in the morning. This is too late in the day. Where are you boarding?"

At this moment a woman clad in a blue dress, with a small, black shawl wrapped around her, entered from a room in the rear. She also looked me over sharply, as if I was an article for sale, as the man told her in German all that he knew about me.

"You can stay here," she said, in broken, badly broken English, after she had learned that I was friendless in the city. "Where is your baggage?"

"I left my baggage where I paid for my lodging to-night," I answered. They tried to induce me to stop at their house. Only $2.50 a week, with board, or 20 cents a night for a bed. They urged that it was immaterial to them, only I had a better chance to secure work if I was always there; it was only for my own good they suggested it. I had one glance of the adjoining bedroom, and that sight made me firm in my determination to sleep elsewhere.

As the evening drew on I felt they would have no more applications for servants that afternoon, and after asking the hour that I should return in the morning, I requested a receipt for my money. "You don't need to be so particular," he said, crossly, but I told him I was, and insisted until he was forced to comply. It was not much of a receipt. He wrote on the blank side of the agency's advertising card:

"Sally Lees has paid $1. Good for one month use of bureau. 69 4th Ave."

On the following morning, about 10:30, I made my appearance at the agency. Some eight or ten girls were in the room and the man who had pocketed my fee on the previous afternoon still adorned the throne back of the desk. No one said good-morning, or anything else for that matter, so I quietly slid onto a chair near the door. The girls were all comfortably dressed, and looked as if they had enjoyed hearty breakfasts. All sat silent, with a dreamy expression on their faces, except two who stood by the window watching the passing throng and conversing in whispers with one another. I wanted to be with or near them, so that I might hear what was said. After waiting for some time I decided to awake the man to the fact that I wanted work, not a rest.

"Have you no place to send me this morning?"

"No; but I advertised you in the paper," and he handed me the Tribune of October 25 and pointed out the following notice:

"NURSE,&c.–By excellent, very neat English girl as nurse and seamstress, chambermaid and waitress, or parlor maid. Call at 69 4th ave.; no cards answered."

I choked down a laugh as I read myself advertised in this manner, and wondered what my role would be the next time. I began to hope some one would soon call for the excellent girl, but when an aged gentleman entered I wished just as fervently that he was not after me. I was enjoying my position too much, and I fear I could not restrain my gravity if any one began to question me. Poor old gentleman! He looked around helplessly, as if he was at a loss to know what to do. The agent did not leave him long in doubt. "You want a girl, sir?"

"Yes, my wife read an advertisement in the Tribune this morning, and she sent me here to see the girl."

"Yes, yes, excellent girl, sir, come right back here," opening the gates and giving the gentleman a chair behind the high counter. "You come here, Sally Lees," indicating a chair beside the visitor for me. I sat down with an inward chuckle and the agent leaned over the back of a chair. The visitor eyed me nervously, and after clearing his throat several times and making vain attempts at a beginning, he said:

"You are the girl who wants work?" And after I answered in the affirmative, he said: "Of course you know how to do all these things–you know what is required of a girl?"

"Oh, yes, I know," I answered confidently.

"Yes–well, how much do you want a month?"

"Oh, anything," I answered, looking to the agent for aid. He understood the look, for he began hurriedly:

"Fourteen dollars a month, sir. She is an excellent girl, good, neat, quick and of an amiable disposition."

I was astonished at his knowledge of my good qualities, but I maintained a lofty silence.

"Yes, yes," the visitor said, musingly. "My wife only pays ten dollars a month, and then if the girl is all right she is willing to pay more, you know. I really couldn't, you know—"

"We have no ten-dollar-girls here, sir," said the agent with dignity; "you can't get an honest, neat, and respectable girl for that amount."

"H'm, yes; well, this girl has good references, I suppose?"

"Oh, yes; I know all about her," said the agent, briskly and confidently. "She is an excellent girl, and I can give you the best personal reference–the best of references."

Here I was, unknown to the agent. So far as he knew, I might be a confidence woman, a thief, or everything wicked, and yet the agent was vowing that he had good personal references.

"Well, I live in Bloomfield, N.J., and there are only four in the family. Of course you are a good washer and ironer?" he said, turning to me. Before I had time to assure him of my wonderful skill in that line, the agent interposed: "This is not the girl you want. No, sir, this girl won't do general housework. This is the girl you are after," bringing up another. "She does general housework," and he went on with a long list of her virtues, which were similar to those he had professed to find in me. The visitor got very nervous and began to insist that he could not take a girl unless his wife saw her first. Then the agent, when he found it impossible to make him take a girl, tried to induce the gentleman to join the bureau. "It will only cost you $2 for the use of the bureau for a month," he urged, but the visitor began to get more nervous and to make his way to the door. I thought he was frightened because it was an agency, and it amused me to hear how earnestly he pleaded that really he dare not employ a girl without his wife's consent.

After the escape of this visitor we all resumed our former positions and waited for another visitor. It came in the shape of a red-haired Irish girl.

"Well, you are back again?" was the greeting given her.

"Yes. That woman was horrible. She and her husband fought all the time, and the cook carried tales to the mistress. Sure and I wouldn't live at such a place. A splendid laundress, with a good 'karacter,' don't need to stay in such places, I told them. The lady of the house made me wash every other day; then she wanted me to be dressed like a lady, sure, and wear a cap while I was at work. Sure and it's no good laundress who can be dressed up while at work, so I left her."

The storm had scarcely passed when another girl with fiery locks entered. She had a good face and a bright one, and I watched her closely.

"So you are back, too. You are troublesome," said the agent. Her eyes flashed as she replied:

"Oh, I'm troublesome, am I? Well, you can take a poor girl's money, anyway, and then you tell her she's troublesome. It wasn't troublesome when you took my money; and where is the position? I have walked all over the city, wearing out my shoes and spending my money in car-fare. Now, is this how you treat poor girls?"

"I did not mean anything by saying you were troublesome. That was only my fun," the agent tried to explain; and after awhile the girl quieted down.

Another girl came and was told that as she had not made her appearance the day previous she could not expect to obtain a situation. He refused to send her word if there was any chance. Then a messenger boy called and said that Mrs. Vanderpool, of No. 36 West Thirty-ninth Street, wanted the girl advertised in the morning paper. Irish girl No. 1 was sent, and she returned, after several hours' absence, to say that Mrs. Vanderpool said, when she learned where the girl came from, that she knew all about agencies and their schemes, and she did not propose to have a girl from them. The girl buttoned Mrs. Vanderpool's shoes, and returned to the agency to take her post of waiting.

I succeeded at last in drawing one of the girls, Winifred Friel, into conversation. She said she had been waiting for several days, and that she had no chance of a place yet. The agency had a place out of town to which they tried to force girls who declared they would not leave the city. Quite strange they never offered the place to girls who said they would work anywhere. Winifred Friel wanted it, but they would not allow her to go, yet they tried to insist on me accepting it.

"Well, now, if you won't take that I would like to see you get a place this winter," he said, angrily, when he found that I would not go out of the city.

"Why, you promised that you would find me a situation in the city."

"That's no difference; if you won't take what I offer you can do without," he said indifferently.

"Then give me my money," I said.

"No, you can't have your money. That goes into the bureau." I urged and insisted, to no avail, and so I left the agency, to return no more.

My second day I decided to apply to another agency, so I went to Mrs. L. Seely's, No. 68 Twenty-second Street. I paid my dollar fee and was taken to the third story and put in a small room which was packed as close with women as sardines in a box. After edging my way in I was unable to move, so packed were we. A woman came up, and, calling me "that tall girl," told me roughly as I was new it was useless for me to wait there. Some of the girls said Mrs. Seely was always cross to them, and that I should not mind it. How horribly stifling those rooms were! There were fifty-two in the room with me, and the two other rooms I could look into were equally crowded, while groups stood on the stairs and in the hallway. It was a novel insight I got of life. Some girls laughed, others were sad, some slept, some ate, and others read, while all sat from morning till night waiting a chance to earn a living. They are long waits too. One girl had been there two months, others for days and weeks. It was good to see the glad look when called out to see a lady, and sad to see them return saying that they did not suit because they wore bangs, or their hair in the wrong style, or that they looked bilious, or that they were too tall, too short, too heavy, or too slender. One poor woman could not obtain a place because she wore mourning, and so the objections ran.

I got no chance the entire day, and I decided that I could not endure a second day in that human pack for two situations, so framing some sort of excuse I left the place, and gave up trying to be a servant.

Sunday Visiting

.Edward Lamson Henry (American Painter, 1841-1919) Sunday Afternoon 1900

Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919) was an American genre painter born in Charleston, South Carolina who came to live in New York at an early age. .

Nellie Bly Reporting on Employment Agencies in 1880s New York


NONE but the initiated know what a great question the servant question is and how many perplexing sides it has. The mistresses and servants, of course, fill the leading roles. Then, in the lesser, but still important parts, come the agencies, which despite the many voices clamoring against them, declare themselves public benefactors. Even the "funny man" manages to fill a great deal of space with the subject. It is a serious question, since it affects all one holds dear in life–one's dinner, one's bed, and one's linen. I had heard so many complaints from long-suffering mistresses, worked-out servants, agencies, and lawyers, that I determined to investigate the subject to my own satisfaction. There was only one way to do it. That was to personate a servant and apply for a situation. I knew that there might be such things as "references" required, and, as I had never tested my abilities in this line, I did not know how to furnish them. Still, it would not do to allow a little thing like a "reference " to stop me in my work, and I would not ask any friend to commit herself to further my efforts. Many girls must at one time be without references, I thought, and this encouraged me to make the risk.

On Monday afternoon a letter came to the World office from a lawyer, complaining of an agency where, he claimed, a client of his had paid for a servant, and the agent then refused to produce a girl. This shop I decided to make my first essay. Dressed to look the character I wanted to represent, I walked up Fourth Avenue until I found No. 69, the place I wanted. It was a low frame building which retained all the impressions of old age. The room on the first floor was filled with a conglomeration of articles which gave it the appearance of a second-hand store. By a side door, leaning against the wall, was a large sign which told the passing public that that was the entrance to the "Germania Servants' Agency." On a straight, blue board, fastened lengthwise to a second-story window, was, in large, encouraging white letters, the ominous word "Servants."

I entered the side door, and as there was nothing before me but the dirty, uncarpeted hall and a narrow, rickety-looking staircase, I went on to my fate. I passed two closed doors on the first landing, and on the third I saw the word "Office." I did not knock, but turned the knob of the door, and, as it stuck top and bottom, I pressed my shoulder against it. It gave way, so did I, and I entered on my career as a servant with a tumble. It was a small room, with a low ceiling, a dusty ingrain carpet and cheaply papered walls. A heavy railing and a high desk and counter which divided the room gave it the appearance of a police court. Around the walls were hung colored advertisements of steamship lines and maps. Above the mantel, which was decorated with two plaster-paris busts, was a square sheet of white paper. I viewed the large black letters on this paper with a quaking heart. "References Investigated!!" with two exclamation points. Now, if it had only been put quietly and mildly, or even with one exclamation point, but two–dreadful. It was a death warrant to the idea I had of writing my own references if any were demanded.

A young woman who was standing with a downcast head by the window turned to look at the abrupt newcomer. A man who had apparently been conversing with her came hastily forward to the desk. He was a middle-sized man, with a sharp, gray eye, a bald head, and a black frock-coat buttoned up tightly, showing to disadvantage his rounded shoulders.

"Well?" he said to me, in a questioning manner, as he glanced quickly over my "get up."

"Are you the man who gets places for girls?" I asked, as if there were but one such man.

"Yes, I'm the man. Do you want a place?" he asked, with a decidedly German twang.

"Yes, I want a place," I replied.

"What did you work at last?"

"Oh, I was a chambermaid. Can you get me a position, do you think?"

"Yes, I can do that," he replied. "You're a nice-looking girl and I can soon get you a place. Just the other day I got a girl a place for $20 a month, just because she was nice-looking. Many gentlemen, and ladies also, will pay more when girls are nice-looking. Where did you work last?"

"I worked in Atlantic City," I replied, with a mental cry for forgiveness.

"Have you no city references?"

"No, none whatever; but I want a job in this city, that's why I came here."

"Well, I can get you a position, never fear, only some people are mighty particular about references."

"Have you no place you can send me to now?" I said, determined to get at my business as soon as possible.

"You have to pay to get your name entered on the book first," he said, opening a large ledger as he asked, "What is your name?"

"How much do you charge?" I asked, in order to give me time to decide on a name.

"I charge you one dollar for the use of the bureau for a month, and if I get you a big salary you will have to pay more."

"How much more?"

"That depends entirely on your salary," he answered, non-committal. "Your name?"

"Now, if I give you a dollar you will assure me a situation?"

"Certainly, that's what I'm here for."

"And you guarantee me work in this city?" I urged.

"Oh, certainly, certainly; that's what this agency is for. I'll get you a place, sure enough."

"All right, I'll give you a dollar, which is a great deal for a girl out of work. My name is Sally Lees."

"What shall I put you down for?" he asked.

Spinning Jenny

Edward Lamson Henry (American Painter, 1841-1919) Spinning Jenny 1874

Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919) was an American genre painter born in Charleston, South Carolina who came to live in New York at an early age.

Nellie Bly - Ten Days in a Mad-House - Chapter 17 - The Grand Jury Investigation


SOON after I had bidden farewell to the Blackwell's Island Insane Asylum, I was summoned to appear before the Grand Jury. I answered the summons with pleasure, because I longed to help those of God's most unfortunate children whom I had left prisoners behind me. If I could not bring them that boon of all boons, liberty, I hoped at least to influence others to make life more bearable for them. I found the jurors to be gentlemen, and that I need not tremble before their twenty-three august presences.

I swore to the truth of my story, and then I related all–from my start at the Temporary Home until my release. Assistant District-Attorney Vernon M. Davis conducted the examination. The jurors then requested that I should accompany them on a visit to the Island. I was glad to consent.

No one was expected to know of the contemplated trip to the Island, yet we had not been there very long before one of the commissioners of charity and Dr. MacDonald, of Ward's Island, were with us. One of the jurors told me that in conversation with a man about the asylum, he heard that they were notified of our coming an hour before we reached the Island. This must have been done while the Grand Jury were examining the insane pavilion at Bellevue.

The trip to the island was vastly different to my first. This time we went on a clean new boat, while the one I had traveled in, they said, was laid up for repairs.

Some of the nurses were examined by the jury, and made contradictory statements to one another, as well as to my story. They confessed that the jury's contemplated visit had been talked over between them and the doctor. Dr. Dent confessed that he had no means by which to tell positively if the bath was cold and of the number of women put into the same water. He knew the food was not what it should be, but said it was due to the lack of funds.

If nurses were cruel to their patients, had he any positive means of ascertaining it? No, he had not. He said all the doctors were not competent, which was also due to the lack of means to secure good medical men. In the conversation with me, he said:

"I am glad you did this now, and had I known your purpose, I would have aided you. We have no means of learning the way things are going except to do as you did. Since your story was published I found a nurse at the Retreat who had watches set for our approach, just as you had stated. She was dismissed."

Miss Anne Neville was brought down, and I went into the hall to meet her, knowing that the sight of so many strange gentlemen would excite her, even if she be sane. It was as I feared. The attendants had told her she was going to be examined by a crowd of men, and she was shaking with fear. Although I had left her only two weeks before, yet she looked as if she had suffered a severe illness, in that time, so changed was her appearance. I asked her if she had taken any medicine, and she answered in the affirmative. I then told her that all I wanted her to do was tell the jury all we had done since I was brought with her to the asylum, so they would be convinced that I was sane. She only knew me as Miss Nellie Brown, and was wholly ignorant of my story.

She was not sworn, but her story must have convinced all hearers of the truth of my statements.

"When Miss Brown and I were brought here the nurses were cruel and the food was too bad to eat. We did not have enough clothing, and Miss Brown asked for more all the time. I thought she was very kind, for when a doctor promised her some clothing she said she would give it to me. Strange to say, ever since Miss Brown has been taken away everything is different. The nurses are very kind and we are given plenty to wear. The doctors come to see us often and the food is greatly improved."

Did we need more evidence?

The jurors then visited the kitchen. It was very clean, and two barrels of salt stood conspicuously open near the door! The bread on exhibition was beautifully white and wholly unlike what was given us to eat.

We found the halls in the finest order. The beds were improved, and in hall 7 the buckets in which we were compelled to wash had been replaced by bright new basins.

The institution was on exhibition, and no fault could be found.

But the women I had spoken of, where were they? Not one was to be found where I had left them. If my assertions were not true in regard to these patients, why should the latter be changed, so to make me unable to find them? Miss Neville complained before the jury of being changed several times. When we visited the hall later she was returned to her old place.

Mary Hughes, of whom I had spoken as appearing sane, was not to be found. Some relatives had taken her away. Where, they knew not. The fair woman I spoke of, who had been sent here because she was poor, they said had been transferred to another island. They denied all knowledge of the Mexican woman, and said there never had been such a patient. Mrs. Cotter had been discharged, and Bridget McGuinness and Rebecca Farron had been transferred to other quarters. The German girl, Margaret, was not to be found, and Louise had been sent elsewhere from hall 6. The Frenchwoman, Josephine, a great, healthy woman, they said was dying of paralysis, and we could not see her. If I was wrong in my judgment of these patients' sanity, why was all this done? I saw Tillie Mayard, and she had changed so much for the worse that I shuddered when I looked at her.

I hardly expected the grand jury to sustain me, after they saw everything different from what it had been while I was there. Yet they did, and their report to the court advises all the changes made that I had proposed.

I have one consolation for my work–on the strength of my story the committee of appropriation provides $1,000,000 more than was ever before given, for the benefit of the insane.


Edward Lamson Henry (American Painter, 1841-1919) Stopping for a Chat

Edward Lamson Henry (1841–1919) was an American genre painter born in Charleston, South Carolina who came to live in New York at an early age.


Nellie Bly - Ten Days in a Mad-House - Chapter 16 - The Last Good-Bye


THE day Pauline Moser was brought to the asylum we heard the most horrible screams, and an Irish girl, only partly dressed, came staggering like a drunken person up the hall, yelling, "Hurrah! Three cheers! I have killed the divil! Lucifer, Lucifer, Lucifer," and so on, over and over again. Then she would pull a handful of hair out, while she exultingly cried, "How I deceived the divils. They always said God made hell, but he didn't." Pauline helped the girl to make the place hideous by singing the most horrible songs. After the Irish girl had been there an hour or so, Dr. Dent came in, and as he walked down the hall, Miss Grupe whispered to the demented girl, "Here is the devil coming, go for him." Surprised that she would give a mad woman such instructions, I fully expected to see the frenzied creature rush at the doctor. Luckily she did not, but commenced to repeat her refrain of "Oh, Lucifer." After the doctor left, Miss Grupe again tried to excite the woman by saying the pictured minstrel on the wall was the devil, and the poor creature began to scream, "You divil, I'll give it to you," so that two nurses had to sit on her to keep her down. The attendants seemed to find amusement and pleasure in exciting the violent patients to do their worst.

I always made a point of telling the doctors I was sane and asking to be released, but the more I endeavored to assure them of my sanity the more they doubted it.

"What are you doctors here for?" I asked one, whose name I cannot recall.

"To take care of the patients and test their sanity," he replied.

"Very well," I said. "There are sixteen doctors on this island, and excepting two, I have never seen them pay any attention to the patients. How can a doctor judge a woman's sanity by merely bidding her good morning and refusing to hear her pleas for release? Even the sick ones know it is useless to say anything, for the answer will be that it is their imagination." "Try every test on me," I have urged others, "and tell me am I sane or insane? Try my pulse, my heart, my eyes; ask me to stretch out my arm, to work my fingers, as Dr. Field did at Bellevue, and then tell me if I am sane." They would not heed me, for they thought I raved.

Again I said to one, "You have no right to keep sane people here. I am sane, have always been so and I must insist on a thorough examination or be released. Several of the women here are also sane. Why can't they be free?"

"They are insane," was the reply, "and suffering from delusions."

After a long talk with Dr. Ingram, he said, "I will transfer you to a quieter ward." An hour later Miss Grady called me into the hall, and, after calling me all the vile and profane names a woman could ever remember, she told me that it was a lucky thing for my "hide" that I was transferred, or else she would pay me for remembering so well to tell Dr. Ingram everything. "You d—n hussy, you forget all about yourself, but you never forget anything to tell the doctor." After calling Miss Neville, whom Dr. Ingram also kindly transferred, Miss Grady took us to the hall above, No. 7.

In hall 7 there are Mrs. Kroener, Miss Fitzpatrick, Miss Finney, and Miss Hart. I did not see as cruel treatment as down-stairs, but I heard them make ugly remarks and threats, twist the fingers and slap the faces of the unruly patients. The night nurse, Conway I believe her name is, is very cross. In hall 7, if any of the patients possessed any modesty, they soon lost it. Every one was compelled to undress in the hall before their own door, and to fold their clothes and leave them there until morning. I asked to undress in my room, but Miss Conway told me if she ever caught me at such a trick she would give me cause not to want to repeat it.

The first doctor I saw here–Dr. Caldwell–chucked me under the chin, and as I was tired refusing to tell where my home was, I would only speak to him in Spanish.

Hall 7 looks rather nice to a casual visitor. It is hung with cheap pictures and has a piano, which is presided over by Miss Mattie Morgan, who formerly was in a music store in this city. She has been training several of the patients to sing, with some show of success. The artiste of the hall is Under, pronounced Wanda, a Polish girl. She is a gifted pianist when she chooses to display her ability. The most difficult music she reads at a glance, and her touch and expression are perfect.

On Sunday the quieter patients, whose names have been handed in by the attendants during the week, are allowed to go to church. A small Catholic chapel is on the island, and other services are also held.

A "commissioner" came one day, and made the rounds with Dr. Dent. In the basement they found half the nurses gone to dinner, leaving the other half in charge of us, as was always done. Immediately orders were given to bring the nurses back to their duties until after the patients had finished eating. Some of the patients wanted to speak about their having no salt, but were prevented.

The insane asylum on Blackwell's Island is a human rat-trap. It is easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out. I had intended to have myself committed to the violent wards, the Lodge and Retreat, but when I got the testimony of two sane women and could give it, I decided not to risk my health–and hair–so I did not get violent.

I had, toward the last, been shut off from all visitors, and so when the lawyer, Peter A. Hendricks, came and told me that friends of mine were willing to take charge of me if I would rather be with them than in the asylum, I was only too glad to give my consent. I asked him to send me something to eat immediately on his arrival in the city, and then I waited anxiously for my release.

It came sooner than I had hoped. I was out "in line" taking a walk, and had just gotten interested in a poor woman who had fainted away while the nurses were trying to compel her to walk. "Good-bye; I am going home," I called to Pauline Moser, as she went past with a woman on either side of her. Sadly I said farewell to all I knew as I passed them on my way to freedom and life, while they were left behind to a fate worse than death. "Adios," I murmured to the Mexican woman. I kissed my fingers to her, and so I left my companions of hall 7.

I had looked forward so eagerly to leaving the horrible place, yet when my release came and I knew that God's sunlight was to be free for me again, there was a certain pain in leaving. For ten days I had been one of them. Foolishly enough, it seemed intensely selfish to leave them to their sufferings. I felt a Quixotic desire to help them by sympathy and presence. But only for a moment. The bars were down and freedom was sweeter to me than ever.

Soon I was crossing the river and nearing New York. Once again I was a free girl after ten days in the mad-house on Blackwell's Island.