Weird Universe Blog — July 10, 2020

The 1902 penny craze

Sometime in late 1902, a rumor began to circulate that a worker at the mint, while making the 1902 pennies, had accidentally dropped a bar of gold into the copper. As a result, the 1902 pennies were worth more than a penny. The treasury would supposedly pay up to 18 cents for each penny. So people began frantically hoarding and stockpiling the 1902 pennies.

Despite frequent denials by the treasury, the rumor persisted as late as the 1960s.

There are different theories about how the rumor began. The article below attributed it to a Brooklyn school superintendent. Another theory, offered over at, said that it started as a joke told by a fish dealer named Alvah W. Haff:

The rumor was said to have been started by Alvah W. Haff, a fish dealer of the Fulton fish market. Being a fish dealer, Mr. Haff had to always be ready to give change and when the Amityville bank accumulated too much small change, it notified Mr, Haff, who would take the change off of the bank's hands.
On January 29, 1903, Mr. Haff bought 3,000 copper pennies from the bank. Someone who witnessed the transaction commented on the strange occurrence, and Mr. Haff jokingly explained that he was going to take the coins and get the gold out of them.
The story spread like wild fire and people began hoarding 1902 pennies.

The Formoso New Era - Dec 11, 1903

The Spokane Spokesman-Review - July 12, 1961

Posted By: Alex - Fri Jul 10, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Confusion, Misunderstanding, and Incomprehension | Money | 1900s

Follies of the Madmen #482

A kind of housewife voodoo.


Posted By: Paul - Fri Jul 10, 2020 - Comments (2)
Category: Business | Advertising | Appliances | 1950s | Christmas

July 9, 2020

The strange death of Frank Hayes

June 4, 1923: Jockey Frank Hayes suffered a heart attack and died while riding the horse Sweet Kiss in the steeplechase at Belmont Park. He nevertheless won the race.

It's the only time that a horse race has been won by a dead jockey. And it's probably also the only time that a sports competition has been won by a dead contestant.

More info: wikipedia

St. Louis Post-Dispatch - June 5, 1923

Posted By: Alex - Thu Jul 09, 2020 - Comments (4)
Category: Death | Sports | 1920s

Laura Bullion, Pard to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Wikipedia says:

Members of the Wild Bunch nicknamed Laura Bullion "Della Rose", a name she came by after meeting Kid Curry's girlfriend Della Moore. Often, Bullion also was referred to as the "Rose of the Wild Bunch". When her boyfriend Ben Kilpatrick and she fled east to evade the law after a train robbery in 1901, the couple traveled under the names "Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Arnold".[7]

In an arrest report following the train robbery, dated November 6, 1901, Bullion's name is filed as "Della Rose" and her aliases are stated to be "Clara Hays" and "Laura Casey and [Laura] Bullion". The arrest report lists her profession as prostitute.[5] According to a New York Times article, she was "masquerading as 'Mrs. Nellie Rose' at the time of her arrest.[8] The same article also mentions the suspicion that she, "disguised as a boy", might have taken part in a train robbery in Montana. The paper cites Chief of Detectives Desmond: "I would'nt [sic] think helping to hold up a train was too much for her. She is cool, shows absolutely no fear, and in male attire would readily pass for a boy. She has a masculine face, and that would give her assurance in her disguise."[8] Instead of "Clara Hays", Bullion also used "Clare Hayes" or "Clara Hayes" as a version of her alias. Other assumed names she used at that time were "Desert Rose", "Wild Bunch Rose", and "Clara Casey".[7]

Her gravesite.

Posted By: Paul - Thu Jul 09, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Crime | Regionalism | Women | Nineteenth Century | Twentieth Century

July 8, 2020

Danderine Grows Hair

As far as I know, Jeanette Wallace's only claim to fame was appearing in an ad for Danderine Hair-Growing Remedy. The ad ran in numerous magazines and newspapers between 1906 and 1908.

She claimed that Danderine made her hair "fairly crawl out of my scalp"... which sounds like it could be the premise for a horror story.

Incidentally, according to Google maps, her address in New York is now occupied by a noodle shop.

Posted By: Alex - Wed Jul 08, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Patent Medicines, Nostrums and Snake Oil | 1900s | Hair and Hairstyling

The Sampognaro

My source for this illo claims the musical instrument depicted is called a "sampognaro." Yet googling reveals no such creature.

Who can help?

Posted By: Paul - Wed Jul 08, 2020 - Comments (6)
Category: Music

July 7, 2020

The Quest For A Blonde Mistress

Publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius debuted his "little blue books" in 1919. These were cheaply bound, pocket-sized literary and academic works designed to make highbrow culture accessible to the masses. They sold for five cents each.

Haldeman-Julius didn't do this for charity. He wanted to sell as many titles as possible, and to achieve this he would often alter the titles to make them more appealing to consumers. Basically, he would sex up the titles.

For example, he added the subtitle "The Quest for a Blonde Mistress" to Theophier Gautier’s novel The Fleece of Gold. Sales leapt from 6000 to 50,000 copies a year. (Apparently, 'quest for a blonde mistress' is an accurate description of the book's plot.)

Other titles that benefitted from a title change:

• "The Tallow Ball" by Guy de Maupassant became "A French Prostitute's Sacrifice."
None Beneath the King by José Zorrilla became None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman.
• Victor Hugo’s The King Amuses Himself became The Lustful King Enjoys Himself.

Haldeman-Julius didn't always make the titles more risque. Sometimes he emphasized self-improvement, and that also had a positive effect on sales. For example, sales of Thomas De Quincey’s Essay on Conversation jumped when it was renamed How To Improve Your Conversation. Similarly, Arthur Schopenhauer’s Art of Controversy became How to Argue Logically. And Dante and Other Waning Classics became Facts You Should Know About the Classics.

Haldeman-Julius was totally open, even boastful, about this strategy. From his book The First Hundred Million:

It is really amazing what the change of a word may do. The mere insertion of a word often works wonders with a book. Take the account of that European mystery of intrigue and political romance, which Theodore M. R. von Keler did for me under the title of The Mystery of the Iron Mask. This title was fair. It certainly tells what the book is about. But there is something aloof about it. It may, says the reader to himself, be another one of those poetic titles. It may fool me, he thinks, and so he bewares. But I changed it to The Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, and now there can be no question, for the record is 30,000 against 11,000 copies per year. Two other "slight" additions come to mind. Victor Hugo's drama, The King Enjoys Himself (Rigoletto; translated by Maurice Samuel), and Zorilla's, the Spanish Shakespeare's, None Beneath the King (translated by Isaac Goldberg) were both rather sick—8,000 for the first and only 6,000 for the second. In 1927, lo and behold, the miraculous cure of title-changing brought 34,000 sales for None Beneath the King Shall Enjoy This Woman, and 38,000 for The Lustful King Enjoys Himself! Snatched from the grave! Then there was Whistler's lecture, fairly well known under the title Ten o'Clock. But readers of Little Blue Books are numbered by at least ten thousand for each title yearly. Due to the concentrated interest shown in self-education and self-improvement this helpful lecture on art should be read widely—following this reasoning, the proper explanatory title evolved into What Art Should Mean to You. Readers are more interested in finding out what art should mean to them than in discovering what secret meaning may lie behind such a phrase as "ten o'clock." In 1925 the old title sold less than 2,000; in 1927, the sales, stimulated by The Hospital's service mounted to 9,000.

Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 07, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Literature | Books

Squatter, the Sheep-Raising Game

Entry at games database, with pix.

Wikipedia page.

"Some board games turn up the tension so high you practically sweat through your clothes. Squatter, an Australian import which brings home the high-stakes world of sheep-herding, is probably not one of them."

Posted By: Paul - Tue Jul 07, 2020 - Comments (0)
Category: Animals | Farming | Games | Australia

July 6, 2020

The Wyoming Cheese House

Oct 16, 2001: In Powell, Wyoming, artist Cosimo Cavallaro covered a house inside and out with government-surplus pepperjack cheese. He melted the cheese and then sprayed it on with a pump.

Photographer Dan Cepeda, who was assigned to cover the event, offered this commentary:

Specifics of many assignments fade over the years, but what will never fade is the unbearable stink of rancid fake cheese slamming me in the face with vomit-inducing intensity. I've got a strong stomach. I've survived some pretty brutal scents in my life. This one nearly got me.

The house was put on display for two weeks and then demolished.

More info: Cosimo Cavallaro

Casper Star-Tribune - Oct 9, 2016

Posted By: Alex - Mon Jul 06, 2020 - Comments (1)
Category: Architecture | Art | Food

Mystery Gadget 85

What's happening to this poor woman?

Answer is here.

Or behind the jump.

More in extended >>

Posted By: Paul - Mon Jul 06, 2020 - Comments (3)
Category: Technology | 1930s

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All original content in posts is Copyright © 2016 by the author of the post, which is usually either Alex Boese ("Alex"), Paul Di Filippo ("Paul"), or Chuck Shepherd ("Chuck"). All rights reserved. The banner illustration at the top of this page is Copyright © 2008 by Rick Altergott.

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