OCR Interpretation

The mirror. (Stillwater, Minn.) 1894-1925, March 06, 1902, Image 1

Image and text provided by Minnesota Historical Society; Saint Paul, MN

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90060762/1902-03-06/ed-1/seq-1/

What is OCR?

Thumbnail for

Vol. XV.—No. 33.
* JRb Old Cime American Prison. «
j. _ j,. + **^ —
iT* p> -*-•»£©
IN glancing over an old volume of
Ballou’s Pictorial Magazine of the
date of 1858, the writer came
chusetts state prison situated at
Charlestown, which he believes will b°
of general interest to the inmates of
this institution and will enable them to
make comparisons between the present
methods of dealing with prisoners in
penal institutions and some of the ideas
prevalent half a ceDtury ago.
The article in question is illustrated
with a number of cuts of the institu
tion showing the general character and
•arrangement of cells, kitchen; yard,
etc. One of these pictures presents a
convict in his prison dress. This dress,
in which all the prisoners were clothed,
was half red and half blue, so that on
one side they appeared red and on the
other blue. The third grade suits in
use at the Stillwater penitentiary, and
which are very seldom worn by over a
dozen inmates at any one time, are
dress suits as compared with those
blue and red affairs in which the old
bay state robed her convicts in those
early days. And the cap they wore!
Made of the same two colors as the
suits, it was built up to about three
stories, and came to an apex something
like an old-fashioned loaf of sugar.
The original structure of the Charles
town prison was built iu 1804 and 1805.
In 1826 another wing was added to the
main building. It was built on what
was then known as the Auburn system,
and at that early day was looked upon
as a model of humanity and propriety;
“yet at the present day,” (1859) says the
writer, “with the increased knowledge
of prisoners and prison discipline, it is
looked upon as barbarous, from the
coffin-like size of its cells, its narrow
areas, and its gloomy porthole win
dows in the exterior walls.” The outer
windows on the old parts were mere
slits or loopholes in the massive walls
admitting little air and less light. The
•cells in themselves were narrow and
with very clumsy entrances, having
doors mostly solid, which gave the in
mates but a small allowance of light
and air admitted from the outer win
. .I
\ •
The report of the board of inspec
tors for the year 1858 says: “The pris
oners as an almost universal thing,
have been prompt, orderly and respect
ful. Many of them have shown an un
usual and most encouraging desire to
form fixed habits of industry and be
havior, so that on regaining their lib
erty, they may be prepared to lead vir
tuous lives.” These convicts were
imbued with the right kind of motives
and intentions, and if they lived up to
them after their release they no doubt
became exemplary citizens. The re
port then goes on to state that no cor
poreal punishment had been inflicted
for two years. Previous to that period
the favorite mode of punishment was
to strip the prisoner to the waist, fasten
him to a post and then play the devil’s
tattoo on his back with a cat o’ nine
tails, until either the recipient fainted
or the wielder of the whip desisted
from sheer exhaustion. Corporeal
punishment is still inflicted in a large
number of the prisons and convict
farms of the southern states. The
laws of these states prescribe the num
ber of blows that shall be inflicted on
the convict’s bare flesh, and also desig
nates the size and weight of the strap
to be used. The state of Delaware
uses the whipping post for the punish
ment of minor infringements of the
In 1857 the good time law went in
to effect. As to the excellency of
the law, the report says: “This wise
across an article on the Massa-
provision has been observed to have a
very salutary influence and is a very
strong incentive to good behavior.” As
the last few months of a prisoner’s
term, like the closing weeks of a long
voyage, hang much the most heavily,
the prisoner, knowiug that by a few
months’ perseverance in the good de
corum thus induced, can lessen his
term several months he naturally does
his best. It also has the result of
forming in the convict permanent hab
its of obedience and self-control, and
developing in him a more hopeful and
therefore more kindly and tractable
Here is an extract from the warden’s
report: “Not a stripe with the lash has
been inflicted for an entire year; the
cat has been laid aside for ever; soli
tary confinement has been substituted
with the very best results. Jhe argu
ment heretofore raised in favor of the
lash has been that by this mode the
state has not been deprived of the la
bor of the convict, as would be the case
were he shut up. Dollars and cents
should not weigh against discipline and
reformation; excessive severity always
tends to harden the heart. The stout
est man that ever breathed will suc
cumb beneath the lash; he may be con
quered but not subdued, and he returns
to his work neither a wiser nor a better
man, but too often with feelings of ha
tred and revenge rankling in his bosom;
Upon the other hand, there is not
probably, any degree of personal se
verity that produces such a powerful
impression on the human mind as soli
tary confinement. Thus condemned to
his own thoughts, he' has an opportu
nity of renewing his past misconduct.
In fact he must reflect, and he knows
that the length of his punishment rests
with himself.
“A day or two will hardly elapse be
fore a change is visible, and the proud
est spirit will solicit enlargement, with
premises of the utmost industry
and quietness. Instances could be
cited where all other methods had
failed, and the subjects given up as in
corrigible and hopeless; yet under this
treatment they have been changed, and
are now among the most industrious
and well-behaved men in the prison.
Wholesome seclusion from the world,
coupled with constant occupation,
form the extent of their punishment.
Nothing that will humiliate or degrade
a convict is demanded or expected of
It seems that the old theory that
prisons ought to be not merely places
t)f restraint, but of restraint coupled
with deep and intense misery, and that
so much evil is repaired by so much
misery, Was beginning to be considered
as a little Jess than barbarous in Mas
sachusetts in 1858.
The inspectors of the prisons also
recommended the adoption of a rigid
classification of the inmates, as by that
means the most good could be secured
to the convict and the highest degree of
efficiency to the prison in its character
of a penal and reformatory institution.
The entire labor of the convicts was
let out to lessees.
The health of the prisoners was ex
ceptionally good, as out of a popula
tion that averaged 638 not one death
occurred in ten months and the in
mates of the hospital only averaged
four per day for the year. F.
The greatest bay on the face of the
earth is that of Bengal. Measured in
a straight line from the two inclosing
peninsulas, its extent is about 420,000
square miles, or nearly double that of
There’s a building boom In Nowhere land—
It's the one that comes each year,
When the spring is new
And the skies grow blue
And the south wind whispers cheer.
Witii Fancy as architect, we’ve planned
(His charges are small but fair)
1 mprovements great
For each vast estate
And our castles in the air.
It's only a minute we need to see
The minarets and towers
In beauty rise
’Neath our very eyes
And these treasures all are ours.
Your likes may be fickle and strange ami free,
For easily you repair
The wreck that falls
When the old charm palls
In your castles in the’air.
When the golden rivers of twilight start
And the scarlet suivsinks low,
It’s a journey slight
To that laud of light
Where the maybe blossoms blow.
And It’s only the friend with the honest heart
Who has followed through ill and fair
Who can be your guest "
As you dream and rest
In your castlesJn the air.
WHEN Conan Doyle intro
duced herlock Holmes
to the world of fiction he
gave us a character rich in
many interesting traits. That subtle,
crafty genius of deduction has .had
many imitators, some good, some bad
and not a few simply ridiculous. The
reasoning of some of the disciples of
Sherlock Holmes is very illogical and
would be tiresome were it not for the
amazing conclusions they ofttimes all
unconsciously reach.
In one of the recent periodicals there
appeared a story entitled “A Challenge
to Crime,” in which the author tells us
his tale “is the account of a coid-biooded
conversation and its gruesome sequel,”
Gruesome it is, and cold-biooded
enough to suit the most frenzied reader
of blood and thunder literature; butits
text is an absurd fabrication of illog
ical nonsense. The characters in the
tale are three students and a villain of
stupendous originality who is known
by the mystery-inciting name of “Un
der the Tiles.” The students lived to
gether in happy comradeship, marred
somewhat by the austere, cynicism of
“Under the Tiles.” This villain is
peculiar in more ways than one. Mr.
S. Verney, his creator, says of him:
“‘Under the Tiles’was an old stager
and had given years of his life to his
pet subject.” His net subject was the
study of crime—“the analytical mania
and the love of intricate problems.”
This analytical maniac spent most of
his time in reading literature devoted
to his peculiar ailment and searching
among the superannuated documentsof
the British museum for records of an
cient criminal history. His early life
was a mystery; the only fact known
about his existence previous to making
the acquaintance cf the three students
was that he “had led a wild life as a
cowboy in Mexico.” “His room was a
back attic, ventilated and lighted by a
large skylight.” Rather confined quar
ters for one who had tasted the free air
of the plains, and no wonder he turned
out bad with no other outlook upon
the world than a skylight— One or two
windows would have perhaps arrested
his morbid tendencies.
It is important to bear in mind the
location of the villain’s room in order
to understand the peculiar conclusion
Bolton, one of the students, arrives at
in his deduction? from the facts that
surround the tragedy. “The house was
a detached one, and between it and the
one in which we lived was an attached
row of twelve, none of which had sky-
light windows or a means reaching
the roof from the inside.” A very re
markable omission in the construction
of these houses. The roofs wert* flat,
and all such roofs have some means of
communication with the attics below
them—this is necessary to faciliate re
pairs and made imperative by fire ordi
nances. This was necessary to carry
out the deductions of the shrewd Bol
The three students are visited in their
quarters by “Under the Tiles” quite
frequently, Bolton being particularly
interested in “Tiles’s” “pet subject.”
One evening during one of these
periodical visits, the subject of crime
and murder is more thoroughly dis
cussed than usual and Bolton expresses
the opinion that when the opportunity
offers he will surprise the slow-going
members of the poliee force. Edwards,
the dullest of the students, withdraws
from the gruesome atmosphere and
seeks the attic room above, where he
has been in the habit of burning the
midnight oil over his studies. When
Edwards leaves the room it is remarked
that he appears melancholy. “Under
the Tiles” closes the discussion by a
brief lecture on his pet hobby and bids
the vivacious Bolton good night.
Next morning Edwards fails to ap
pear as usual and his two friends as
cend the stairs to the attic to find the
reason. They find the door locked and,
on looking through the keyhole, dis
cover the lamp burning on the table;
they twist open the door and find, “in
the center of the room with the feet
just lifted from the fioer almost an
inch, hung the body of Edwards.” Bol
ton, cool and collected, —all the heroes
of this kind of a tale are perpetually on
ice—restrains his friend from cutting
down the body of Edwardß and sends
him after an officer. By the time the
officer arrives Bolton has the mystery
solved. “Under the Tiles” arrives up
on the scene with “JTack,” who meets
him as he is returning from wiring the
police. Bolton says that it is a case of
cold-blooded murder and scorns “Un
der the Tiles’s” suggestion of suicide.
He makes the whole thing clear by the
simple process of logical deduction,
saying that Edwards was strangled by
an assassin who threw a lasso from
the open skylight of the attic and en
circled Edwards’ throat with its noose.
Edwards was studying, and as the
crime was commitetd after midnight,
he was without doubt tired and proba
bly sat resting his head upon the open
palm of his hand as he bent over his
book. This is the natural attitude of
one deeply interested in study. Bolton
reasons that Edwards bolt upright
in his chair, thus offering'a good target
for the noose. What nonsense! And
again, you cannot throw' a lasso through
an open skylight with any success; you
must have room to give the coils of
rope full swing—so much for this re
markable deduction. Bolton says the
murderer crossed the roofs of the ad
joining houses, neither of which had
any means of communication with the
attics below them. What a ridiculous
statement! He reasons that when the
murderer lassoed his victim he pulled
poor Edwards from his feet and left
him suspended in the air and fastened
to a spike that was part of the appa- .
ratus which raised or lowered the sky
light. A man does not submit to such
drastic usage without some protest.
Why, before the assassin could have
drawn that rope taut, Edwards would
have got a foothold on the chair,
reached up and grasped the rope
above bis head with both hands, kicked
the table over and made noise enough
to raise the whole block. Mr. Bolton,
your dedufetion is too “obtuse.”
Bolton trails the murderer from the
scene of the tragedy oyer the roofs of
the adjoining houses until the trail is
broken by an alley. But an alley ten
feet wide does not stop Bolton; he says
the assassin bridged it by throwing his
—Washington Star.
TERMS:-I S-OOperyear.inadvam®
1 Six Months 50 cents.
lasso over the chimney on the opposite
house and then making fast to another
chimney that w r as handy and crossing
the chasm hand over hand. This reads
well, but such a feat is impossible. You
must have good daylight to throw a
lasso accurately. Bolton says this feat
was done on a dark night. Why ten
feet is not such a great distance; one
could easily have jumped it.
The climax of the tale is when Bol
ton denounces “Under the Tiles” as the
guilty party. “Under the Tiles”
promptly shoots himself, and well he
might. Most anybody-would be driven
to extremes by such a fabrication of
illogical nonsense. ♦
Fiction that deals with the detection
of crime in this absurd manner and en
deavors to make of crime a high art is
very injurious to moral development.
Crime, when stripped bare of the
glamor of romance, is hideous, and to
treat the subject of murder and cow
ardly assassination as a fine art is not
only illogical, but is in itself debasing.
Dime novels have been condemned by
the public as moral poison, but here is
a leading magazine story that endeav
ors to make cowardly assassination a
fine art and dishes up the ghastly de
tails of a debasing tragedy as an ex
ample of current fiction.
THIS question would mean the
consideration of present con
tions as compared with those
of the past, which enable a
young man to succeed in
gaining a competency and a position
among his fellow men.
Success does not necessarily mean the
acquisition of wealth or fame. Wealth
rightfully obtained and used unselfish
ly may be an evidence of success, but
in all times the key to a successful life
has been industry, honesty and intelli
gence. The demand for honest and
intelligent men is steadily increasing,
and the demand for such will ever out
number the supply. The educational
facilities of today are greater than ever
On the farm there is less risk of fail
ure and equal opportunity for improv
ing oneself in the profession. In me
chanical occupations, the attentive
and industrious workman has great op
portunities for rising to the top. The
same principles are patent in obtaining
success in the professions. Few can
otftain great wealth or influence, but
ail may be prosperous and successful.
Success and good luck are not the
same, as some would have you believe.
Success only crowns those who toil and
wait and trust. All humanity is in the
race for success; if we look into the
lives of successful men we find pres
ent three ruling qualities: labor, pa
tience and faith. The first essential is
labor. Something cannot b© had for
nothing. Genius has been defined as a
capacity for hard work. Patience or
perseverance is also a prime requisite
for success, for no one can pass through
this world without meeting difficulties
that only patience can surmount.. A
foundation for any structure that is
lasting must have had expended upon
it a vast amount of time and patience.
The nobility of toil has always been
a favorite subject to writers, and yet
it seems to have more flatterers than
friends. Labor is the price paid for
everything and all values are based up
on it. Nature has shown us the neces
sity of labor’s exercise by giving us
bodies constructed for that purpose.
Labor is invaluable in its effect on the
mind, keeping it clear and untroubled.
It is a duty and a necessity to those
born to fortune that they should fol
low employment of some kind. The
duty of labor also belongs to nations.
The toiling masses are supreme in
America. The achievements of labor
are ever greater and more honored.

xml | txt