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Strange Times 65: Stealing the Towers of Notre Dame
Today we have a jostler jailed, twin towers stolen, walkways mooted, a bigamist exposed, and a president’s burial planned not-too-far in advance. Shift six feet of dirt for…
March 6, 1921
Three men and a boy have been arrested in connection with the $1,300 box factory hold-up yesterday, after their license plates were traced by the police.
After 12,000 visit Madison Square Garden to protest the "black horror on the Rhine" conspiracy theory, two American legion posts demand the removal of the Mayor for letting the racist, pro-German propaganda rally go ahead.
After seeing his brother for the first time in two years, Caruso's condition is "100 per cent. better," his doctor's say.
The Weather: Unsettled today, probably occasional rains; Monday fair and colder; strong southwest winds.
I had to read this three times before I caught on to the fact that jostling is an actual crime—it doesn't just mean bumping into people, but bumping into people while someone else is trying to pick their pocket. This means the takeaway is instead the patriarchal stench of a sentence being reduced "out of the consideration of the husband" and the baffling news that in 1921, people were still being sent to workhouses.
A woman describing herself as Mrs. Agnes Alberts, 30 years old, but refusing to give her address, other than to say she lived in Brooklyn and was the wife of a business man, was sentenced to fifteen days in the workhouse yesterday by Magistrate Rosenblatt. The woman was convicted of disorderly conduct, having jostled customers in McCreery's department store on Feb. 24.
The woman was arrested by Detectives Thomas Finn and James O'Brien of the Pickpocket Squad, who said they had her under observation for half an hour. In the West Thirtieth Street Station she was booked as "Jane Doe." Questioned by Matron Rose Taylor, she said she came from a prominent family in Flatbush and did not care to make her name public.
When arraigned the woman was represented by I. Rothmere, who made a plea for leniency after she had pleaded guilty. Mr. Rothmere told Magistrate Rosenblatt the woman's husband, who was in court, was "a very good man," and that he had promised to use his best efforts to keep his wife out of trouble in the future.
In passing sentence, Magistrate Rosenblatt said he would be as lenient as possible and would impose the minimum sentence. This, he said, was out of consideration for the husband. Ordinarily, the Court told the attorney, a sentence of six months was imposed for such an offense.
This is a truly thrilling heist story, about one or more burglars who risked extreme physical harm for a few minutes’ enjoying the best view in Paris and a haul that, in 2019, is only worth a few thousand dollars. French thieves—they are romantics at heart.
PARIS, March 5.—Some enterprising burglars stole the lightning conductors from the twin towers of Notre Dame Cathedral day before yesterday. How they did it and got away with their booty is a mystery, but why they did it is explained by the fact that the lightning conductors were each topped with 200 grams of platinum, which at present would bring something like 14,000 francs. They also removed a considerable weight of copper.
There is an old saying in Paris about stealing the towers of Notre Dame, but this is the first time anything like it has ever been attempted.
The burglars, according to the guardians' theory, must have passed the night in the towers, hiding themselves in some corner when the keepers made their rounds after the last visitor was supposed to have left. Even then they had to force several doors in order to reach the top.
Their work shows that they were not amateurs and must have been something of steeplejacks for the lightning conductors overtop the towers by 10 or 15 feet. When removing the platinum, therefore, the burglars must have had only a precarious hold on the slender rods, which, standing at the corners of the towers, added the peril to the enterprise of a drop to the pavement several hundred feet below.
As no trace of the thieves has been found the presumption is that they waited with their booty until some group of visitors was leaving next day and quietly walked out with them.
Part of the fun of writing this newsletter is to see history happening in the moment. We’ve all dreamed of visiting Paris and strolling along its famous underground moving walkways—this is when they were first planned! Actually, no, this never happened, perhaps because the thought of stepping onto a sidewalk whose slowest speed is nearly twice that of a modern airport moving walkway is extremely frightening and should never happen, especially underground.
PARIS, March 5.—A project for constructing and underground rolling footway the whole length of the boulevards from the Madeleine to the Place de la République is being seriously discussed by the Paris Municipal Council. Ever since the first moving pavement was set up at the Exhibition of 1900 the idea has been discussed and from time to time set aside. But this time it seems to have been revived in earnest.
Since that date the automobile has completely altered the problem of street traffic, and boulevards which were built for a city with 1,000,000 population and horse cabs for vehicular traffic, have become a deathtrap in a city with nearly 3,000,000 and an immense motor traffic.
The question was raised yesterday on the motion of Emile Desvaux, one of the most progressive Councillors, and was sent after debate to the traffic and engineering authorities of the city for consideration.
At present the boulevards are served only by motor buses, which have added enormously to the congestion, and one of M. Desvaux's arguments was that, even if the highest speed on the rolling way was only ten kilometers per hour, it would be faster than the present traffic, with its constant halts. To the speed of the rollers, too, the pedestrian can add his own walking pace and arrive uninterrupted at his destination.
The latest projects allow for the construction of three platforms moving at different speeds—four, eight and twelve kilometers an hour—so that passengers can step easily from one to another. Entrances will be made at frequent intervals, but the construction and working cost have to be worked out before the suggestion of Councillor Desvaux is considered again.
A bit more detail on the crimes of Harold Hammond, the baker’s-dozen-and-then-what-the-hell-how-about-one-more bigamist introduced in last week’s issue.
Miss Loretta Fitzhenry, who married Harold Hammond, formerly in the Naval Service, and now serving a term in the Portsmouth naval prison, discussed her marriage with and desertion by Hammond at her home in Holland Avenue, Rockaway Beach, yesterday.
Hammond is said to have admitted he had fourteen wives.
Miss Fitzhenry, who is the daughter of Joseph J. Fitzhenry, a truckman, said she met Hammond at the Rockaway Navy Air Station in January, 1919, and was married to him two weeks later. He told her he was rich and made many fine promises, she said.
After their initial marriage they lived in Hoboken until April, 1920, when Hammond left, and she went back to her parents. Last May, when Hammond returned, she said, she kept an appointment with him and caused his arrest on a charge of bigamy. She has a son, 15 months old, by her marriage with Hammond.
Well, this is ominous. In case you’re wondering, he didn’t use it—he was buried in Marion, not too far away.
LANCASTER, Ohio, March 5.—By a peculiar land grant President Warren G. Harding becomes the owner of a one-acre tract of land just west of Lancaster that he may use for his burial ground only.
According to court records here, the tract was deeded 100 years ago by Nathaniel Wilson, a pioneer farmer of Fairfield County, to President Andrew Jackson and to his successors in office to be used as their burial ground only.
Harding is the twenty-third President to be informed of the burial privilege. Wilson died in 1886.