The Days’ Doings May 6th 1871

Masthead of the 6th May 1871 edition of The Days’ Doings


Heroic Attack upon the Matchbox-makers, Matchmakers and Match-sellers.

“In conformity with a proposed programme a demonstration of matchmakers, numbering between 9,000 and 10,000 took place the other day, in order to protest against Mr. Lowe’s tax on matches. The men, women, and children met at the Bow-road, and, having organized themselves, marched uninterruptedly in procession until they reached the Globe Bridge, Mile-end-road, at which place a force of constables was stationed, and intercepted the progress of the processionists. A kind of general mêlée ensued in the endeavour to force the way of the procession over the bridge, but after some rough horseplay, the matchmakers were compelled to break up into sections, and in this manner they pursued their course along the intervening streets to the Farringdon Road, and thence by way of the Thames Embankment to the House of Commons. Each one had a bill stuck in his cap, of which the following is a copy:―

“TO THE ELECTORS OF THE EAST OF LONDON. Remember, at the next election, that Ayrton voted for the tax on matches, and tried to take the flowers away from Victoria-park.”

There was evidently all along the route which the procession was to have taken a considerable amount of disappointment at the non-appearance of the bands and banners.

About two o’clock numbers of persons, many of them women and young girls―matchbox-makers, matchmakers, and matchsellers―congregated on the Thames Embankment, near to Whitehall-gardens. A covered cart, with placards pasted over, was driven up, on which was printed:―”Are we to be starved to the death by thousands?” The driver of the cart was received with great cheering, amidst vociferations of “No, we won’t be starved to death at the bidding of one man!” “Yells for old Lowe!” some of those congregated now mounted the mounds of earth thrown up in the alterations, but on this the police made their appearance and attempted to disperse them. The mob refused to go, and further assistance was sent for from Scotland-yard. A large force was turned out, and one or two of the ringleaders were taken or attempted to be taken. There was a dash for a rescue amidst yelling and stone-throwing. A number of placard-boards were seized, split into pieces by infuriated women, and divided among them, and a dash against the police called for. Another force of police was marched down the embankment, and about fifty were posted at each bridge and approach.

Any one who witnessed the concourse of these men and lads, women and children, at Westminster, could not fail to be struck with the difference between this gathering and the familiar London crowd. It was apparent that these were genuine workpeople, of the lowest section of their class indeed, but orderly in their gathering. They were away from their work to enter a protest against menaced destruction of their means of livelihood; and the spontaneous character of their demonstration afforded a prompt answer to the hurried attempt to consummate this cruel act of legislation, in defiance of public opinion, and of the special grievance of this class which the press, to its honour, has made so widely known.


It is not generally known that the east-end matchmaking occupies some 30,000 persons. Hundreds and thousands of families, consisting of man, wife, and from four to six children, labour from early in the morning till nine at night, to earn, possibly, £1 a week. Many shoeless and almost garmentless little infants of two or three years of age render service in the manufacture of matchboxes, by carrying or handing to their parents paste and wood, and like trifles, to economise time and labour in the houses where this kind of work is proceeding. City missionaries tell us of some few infants who toddle about in this way utterly naked, so poor are their parents that even rags are almost unattainable. The proposed match-tax, therefore, was undoubtedly an indefensible item in Mr. Lowe’s Budget, since it would have doomed the greater part of these to absolute pauperism or starvation.”

The response of the police to what was a relatively peaceful protest by young persons was widely condemned by the British Press and the proposed tax on matches was withdrawn. The manufacture of matches in London in the 19th century was exploitative in the extreme. Bryant & May, amongst others preferred to outsource production to home workers to avoid compliance with any form of (rudimentary) health and safety legislation. White Phosphorous was one of the chemicals used in the 19th century and its use persisted even after safer alternatives were identified. Bryant & May continued its use until 1901!

Site of the old Bryant & May Factory in Fairfield Road, Bow, London Image from Julian Walker on Flickr

Although the tax was not imposed (much to the relief of employers like Bryant & May who wanted no disruption to the status quo) the dreadful conditions of those employed in the match trade continued. It would take the Matchgirls’ strike in 1888 to achieve any improvement in conditions.


Heartrending Incident in the Streets of Neuilly.

“WHAT a sad and mournful picture the outlying streets of Paris must now present.

Let us glance at Neuilly; its doorways crowded with people, chiefly women and children, timidly venturing into daylight after nearly three weeks’ imprisonment in their houses, and even cellars. One man begged for a newspaper, declaring he had heard nothing from the outside world for many days. These wretched people have been kept from starvation by occasional donations of food, given sometimes by the Versailles troops, sometimes by the Communists, as each side got possession of the houses. We read that the cellars are dark, close, and damp; in one of these lay the body of a woman, dead from the effects of imprisonment, no doctor having been procurable for her. And our illustration represents, in a heartrending manner, the death, by the bursting of a shell, of two children, victims to the unholy and inhuman plague of civil war now crushing the French nation.”

engraving on back page of The Days’ Doings. May 6th 1871

The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871

Masthead of The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871


“THE procession of the matchmakers to Westminster appears to have been quite as natural a demonstration as many others that have been lately made. The interference of the police was as unnecessary as arbitrary. It is a fact that the proposed tax of a halfpenny per box would greatly limit the demand, and therefore interfere greatly with the labour―already the most illpaid people of any, slop shirt-making not excepted―of the thousand upon thousands of the poorest people. The idea of Mr. Gladstone or the Chancellor of the Exchequer being intimidated by a crowd of half-starved boys and girls is absurd. But it might well have been well if they had enjoyed the opportunity of seeing the poor creatures on whom the tax would press most heavily. They have not the command of the columns of influential newspapers, they have no direct representatives in Parliament, and public men are apt to forget the existence of a few thousands of miserably poor people who live in Bethnal Green or Whitechapel. The police showed distinguished courage in charging and driving them back; and will, perhaps, derive so much encouragement from the success of their exploit that they will be able, should occasion arise, to take care of the park railings, and save the trees from being damaged. The licensed victuallers have, if we may be believe all they aver, a very big grievance indeed to complain of; and they might think fit to go to Westminster in a body and present a petition against Mr. Bruce’s bill. In that case, would the police form two deep on the embankment and use their truncheons freely on the heads of well-to-do publicans and influential brewers? We suspect not. But these victuallers are important persons, who hold a large amount of property, and brewers are wealthy gentlemen, many of whom have seats in the House of Commons; and matchmakers are very poor and common people indeed. The police must have a little amusement sometimes, and commissioners and superintendents an opportunity of exhibiting their talent for military organization.”


The Working of the American Submarine Company.

“ON the first of next month the barque Nellie Gay will leave New York for Cumana Bay, Venezuela, under the auspices of the American Submarine Company, for the purpose of working upon the old wreck of the Spanish line-of-battle ship San Pedro de Alcantra (sic), which blew up in the Bay of Cumana, in the year 1815. The story of the loss of this vessel is of the most disastrous character, and is as follows:―In the middle of February, 1815, there sailed from Cadiz an expedition almost rivalling, with its ninety-nine vessels, the Spanish Armada, which , more than 300 years ago, left the Tagus for the annihilation of the British navy. The fleet was intended for the complete subjugation of the young Republics of South America, which were then in revolt against their Spanish rulers. The fleet consisted of the San Pedro de Alcantra, the admirals ship, of 74 guns, three frigates, thirty smaller gun vessels, with an armament of cannon ranging from 18 to 32-pounders, and 65 transports with 18,000 troops. The flag ship had on board chests containing 3,000,000 dols. in Spanish doubloons, and all the vessels succeeded in safely reaching Cumana Bay. “

Map showing Cumana Bay, Venezuela (Map prepared for The South American Handbook 1948 by Trade & Travel Publications Ltd, 14 Leadenhall Street, London.

“A portion of the troops landed, and several unsuccessful engagements took place with the insurgents, who had entrenched themselves near the city of Cumana, which then contained a population of about 30,000 people. The loyal Spaniards and nobility, finding that the King of Spain was becoming daily more unpopular, decided to take their families and valuables on board the San Pedro, where the commander offered them every hospitality. The process of transferring the gold and silver plate, &c., from the city to the ship, occupied nearly fifteen days. After having suffered a number of severe defeats at the hands of the Republicans, the Spaniards concluded to pillage the magnificent cathedral of the Concepcion, together with all the other churches of Cumana, and after having transferred the booty on board the flag ship, to abandon the enterprise. This was done, and on the next day all the vessels were to set sail, taking the loyal subjects and the troops back to Spain. On the eve of the departure a fire was discovered in the spirit-room of the San Pedro. The flames spread very rapidly, and were quickly seen streaming from the port-holes fore and aft. The fire soon reached the deck, and rendered all attempts to reach the boats ineffectual, and as the guns were all charged none of the other vessels dare approach. The flames speedily reached the magazines, and the whole stern of the ship was blown out, the vessel sinking in ten fathoms of water [just over 18 metres], with about 800 persons on board, all of whom were drowned.

Image from a spanish language history site Correo de Lara.

“Since then different expeditions have been fitted out to endeavour to recover the specie and valuables. In 1845 a French company endeavoured to get at the treasure but failed; but in 1850 Captain Couthway sailed from Boston for the wreck, and, after several months work, secured 70,000 dols. in money and plate, including a diamond cross worth 10,000 dols. In 1857 the crew of the brig Monagas, of Boston, after spending two years on the wreck, managed to get 40,000 dols. In 1867, CaptainScandella, who had been engaged in raising some of the vessels lost in the great tidal wave at St. Thomas, went to Cumana bay in the schooner Mary Gage, and on arriving there he was informed that a stray wrecker from the island of Trinidad had been at work on the wreck and had found a golden crown, set with precious stones, which had formerly belonged to the statue of the virgin in the cathedral of the Concepcion, and which was valued at 12,000 dols. Other divers also have, in the wreck of the San Pedro, found great quantities of human bones and jewellery. A large piece of coral, in which are embedded a number of Spanish dollars, has also been found. The expedition , which sails on the 1st of the next month, will have on board all the most improved diving apparatuses, and will be superintended by some of the most improved divers. The amount of gold coin, plate, jewellery, and precious stones which still remain in the wreck of the San Pedro is said to be something fabulous, and nearly all the Spanish specie chests which were on board the San Pedro are believed to remain intact, as they were constructed of iron. We give our readers a full page illustration which ingeniously shows the working operations of another America Submarine company engaged in recovering property from the sunken ships of war and otherwise, in Charlestown Bay.”

Full page engraving from page 221 of The Days’ doings of April 29th 1871


What Nursing the Wounded Was, and What it Is.

“THE last act seems now at hand in Paris. All appearances conspire to induce this chief belief. The national troops are now massed about Paris in such force as almost to insure the breaking of any line of defence that can be opposed to them. It would be hazardous to affirm that any conclusion is certain in the present condition of France, but, unless we are much misled, the forces of the Commune will within a brief space be driven within the enceinte of Paris, and the tricolour will be once more mounted at all the gates. What must follow can only be the subject of conjecture.

We have, however, ample evidence that the present condition of the city is painfully sad. The excited population, who at one moment had their fears intensified by the erection of the dreaded guillotine, were the next moment partly reassured by the burning of that loathsome thing. In an illustration, we this week represent the effect of the conflagration, which must have brought intense relief to many an anxious heart.”

Quarter page engraving from page 216 of The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871

“But there may be worse evils than the guillotine. With pain wehear that many of the wounded have died in the ambulances and hospitals, of the amputation cases almost all. The mortality is further increased by the disorganization of the regular societies, and by the expulsion of the ladies who nursed the wounded, and the Sisters of Charity who so scrupulously attended to their duties. They have been replaced by the young ladies of Belleville, who have introduced into these sanctuaries of pain customs and language little fitted to raise the moral tone of the victims whose physical force has failed them. We give a heartrending illustration of what the nursing was, and what it is at present.”

AS IT IS AT PRESENT. Quarter page engraving from page 216 of The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871
AS IT WAS A FEW WEEKS AGO. Quarter page engraving from page 216 of The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871


Engraving from page 212 of The Days’ Doings April 29th 1871

“DURING a performance of “The Huguenots” the other evening, a cat ran across the stage during the death scene of Marcel―laughter mingled with the dying strains of the music; and, at the same moment, a lady in a private box dropped, by accident, her opera-glass upon the shining bald pate of the leading trombone player, who rose to his feet quicker than some men pay their debts, and disorganized one of the second violins, making altogether a mirthful scene of an operatic death.”

The Days’ Doings. April 22nd 1871

Masthead of The Days’ Doings of April 22nd 1871

The cover picture of this weeks The Days’ Doings has no accompanying story. The title is The First Cigarette.―A Sketch From Modern Life, Drawn Expressly For The “Days’ Doings.”

cover image of The Days’ Doings April 22nd 1871

The following story about a man who refused to have a smallpox vaccination appears in the Jots and Tittles section inside the front cover (page 194, column 2) Sadly there was no engraver on hand to capture the scene.

“THE pleasure of being a martyr is doubtful. The duty may be apparent if the cause is worthy of the sacrifice. But to be a martyr—in the sense of suffering imprisonment—for refusing to do one’s best to stop the progress of a terrible disease, appears a strange claim to consideration. But a tobacconist of Derby, who has suffered 14 days’ imprisonment for refusing to obey a vaccination order, appears to think differently, and he and his friends made an extraordinary demonstration on obtaining his liberty. A procession was formed, headed by a Scotch piper—(a Scotch fiddler would perhaps have been more appropriate to an occasion connected with an unpleasant eruption)—and the tobacconist paraded his prison number, and held aloft the tin can and wooden spoon with which his gaol meals were served. We suppose—not being practically experienced—that these articles were the property of the court, not of the prisoner; and perhaps the jubilant anti-vaccinator can explain how he became possessed of them. In front of the procession was a lad carrying a red republican flag; the remarkable appropriateness of which to the occasion must have been impressed on every reflective mind. But so dull is the general public to the influence of generous emotions, that the tobacconist of advanced opinions, was actually “chuffed,” and complimented on his improved appearance, the result of being close cropped and clean shaved.”


“A PARTY, comprising two men and a young woman were rowing down from Oxford to Nuneham the other day, when in passing through Sandford Lock. just before the lower gates were opened, the boat was unfortunately capsized. One of the men alone of the party could swim; but he in some way got underneath the boat, and was therefore unable to render aid to either of his companions; when Stephen Blake, the lock-keeper, bravely jumped a depth of 12 feet into the pound, the water being more than 6 feet deep at the time, and swam at once to the rescue of the girl, who had also got entangled in some way in the boat without being able to keep her head above water. He succeeded in bearing her to the edge of the lock, where by hanging to a chain with one hand, in his other he was just able to support the poor girl. In the meantime one of the men had swum to the opposite side of the lock, while the other had managed to get a holding on the bottom of the capsized boat. The wife of the lock-keeper, finding out what had occurred, rushed out of the house, and by her cries called the attention of two gentleman who had just been walking down the river side. They were not long in making their way to the spot, when they were at once able to comprehend the fearful situation of the case. There was no boat at hand, and apparently there were no other means whatever of getting the unfortunate people out. They at once ran to Mr. Cooper’s inn, where in the yard they fortunately found a ladder, with which, although it proved but just long enough to reach the surface of the water, they succeeded in rescuing first the girl and then the three men, Blake insisting upon being the last who should be helped out.”

Half page engraving from page 200 of The Days’ Doings April 22nd 1871

The lock-keeper, Stephen Blake was awarded a Bronze Medal by The Royal Humane Society for his actions having “jumped into seven feet of water in the lock, and supported Sophia Wood until assistance arrived.” (Fevyer & Barclay. Acts of Gallantry Volume 3. The Naval & Military Press, 2002 pp.70 ) He added a RHS clasp to the medal in 1885 when he rescued a woman from drowning in the River Thames at Sanford on the 21st July


“THERE has been but little change in the position of the contending forces round Paris during the past few days. The Commune assert that the troops under General Dombrowski attacked the Versailles troops at Nenilly, and were nearly masters of the bridge at Courbevoie. The fighting has been almost confined on the west side to a cannonade between Valérien and the batteries at Neuilly, and those at the Maillot Gate and at the Trocadero.

THERE are said to be a great number of English thieves in Paris just now. The Parisians have naturalized the English word pickpocket, and developed for it a feminine—pickpocketienne.

IT is known that the Commune lately issued a decree prohibiting priests from attending prisons. The other day, however, one of the authorities yielding to the importunity of a dying prisoner, made an exception, and gave a priest a pass thus worded:—”These presents are to authorise the governor to allow the visit to prisoner A—— of citizen B——, who says he is the servant of somebody called God [le nommé Dieu].”

ONE of the most amazing sights in the present state of military affairs in Paris is to behold the efforts of the new aides-de-camp and other horsemen to retain their seat. As a general rule, the breches of the improvised cavaliers work well up over the calf of the leg; the body of the rider is kept well forward, so as to be near the mane in case of danger, and the guidance of the animal is left pretty much to caprice.

A RUMOUR is current that the Ambassadors of Great Britain, Italy, and the United States are endeavouring to bring about a truce between Versailles and Paris, in order to stop the present bloodshed.

THE Commune has been doing nothing since it was installed except destroying what it found established, and then contradicting its own decrees. Its edict on rents, remitting three quarters of the tenant’s debt, has had no other result than to relieve from their expenses the least deserving portion of the population of the population of Paris.

THE Commune has no money in reserve, and lives from hand to mouth on small municipal revenues, &c., on the plate of the Ministerial offices, and acting in contradiction to its own edicts, it demands aloud the back rents of premises belonging to the city which have been let to private individuals.

THE aspect of the Place Vendôme is rapidly changing. The old, ragged barricade of stones is now pulled down to make way for a solid tripple row of masonry and earth a few yards further back.

Barricade in the Rue de la Paix (Place Vendôme) from US Library of Congress

TWO hundred men have been at work upon a barricade at the corner of the Rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Concorde. It is ten metres deep, constructed of earthwork and masonry, and is garnished with torpedoes.

Place de la Concorde: Barricade in the Rue de Rivoli and Rue Saint-Florentin. Photo by Auguste Bruno Braquehais and downloaded from US Library of congress

MANY inhabitants of Neuilly having been unable to escape in time remain incarcerated in their cellars, which they have now occupied for some days, while the battle raged above their heads.

THE latest report about the Column in the Place Vendôme is that a well-known American banker has expressed his readiness to purchase the Column and transport it to the Central Park in New York.”

photo of The Vendôme Column taken by Auguste Bruno Braquehais shortly before the Communards had it dismantled


Engraving from foot of page 196 of The Days’ Doings of April 22nd 1871

“A PHOTOGRAPHER the other day presented a revolver at the head of a gentleman who was sitting for his photograph, with the encouraging remark;―”My reputation as an artist is at stake. If you don’t look smiling I’ll blow your brains out.” He smiled a ghostly smile.”


Engraving from foot of page 196 of The Days’ Doings of April 22nd 1871

“A STOLEN kiss saved a girl’s life in Sheffield last week, for if the man who did the deed had not pulled her head forward just as he did, a beam which fell from the upper floor, would have dashed her brains out.”


Engraving from foot of page 196 of The Days’ Doings of April 22nd 1871

“FRANCIS CREELEY, aged 80, often said he would be willing to die when he had seen his youngest grand-daughter married. He attended her wedding the other day, and, taking part at a dance in the evening, fell dead without a groan.”


Engraving from foot of page 196 of The Days’ Doings of April 22nd 1871

“A TALL muscular girl, fashionably attired, was walking towards the Waterloo Station the other day. Coming to the street crossing at the York-road, she met a dandified young man. The lady selected the least muddy spot she could find, and was about stepping from the kerbstone, when the young exquisite, who was unwilling to soil his patent leathers, and was in great haste to gain the opposite corner, in a rough manner pushed her on one side till he crossed. Her reply was in the shape of a blow “straight from the shoulder,” which sent the young swell clean off his feet into the mud, when she calmly stepped over his prostrate form and continued the even tenour of her way.”

The Days’ Doings April 15th, 1871

Masthead from The Days’ Doings, April 15th 1871

This weeks edition gives up a classically 19th century British racist piece on the meeting of travellers and academics at Oxford University, followed by a harrowing description of how small pox patients were being treated on Roosevelt Island in New York at that time, some commentary upon events in the Paris Commune and ending with a “story” that would still pass muster in the tabloid press of today as a plucky English salt gives one to an uppity Flemish official. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


“SPANISH Gipsies and Spanish Dons have national characteristics ; and the Don may regard the Gipsy with complacency, as another type of the same proud race to which he owns his own blue blood. But just as there are Gipsies—and Gipsies, so there are Dons—and Dons.

The glowing canvasses of Philip “of Shain” made us well acquainted with the leading charms and picturesque dresses of the Spanish gipsies ; and, since his death, Mr. Burgess, Mr. Ansdell, and other painters—not forgetting Gustave Doré—have helped to familiarize us with the Zingari tribes of whom Mr. Borrow had so much that was interesting to tell us. But the English gipsy is another character ; although the members of the Lees, Jones, Hernes and other families proudly hold their heads as being above the travelling “muggers” and tramping vagabonds who mend pots and kettles and re-seat old chairs. Yet, even out of the English gipsies, so much cannot be pictorially obtained as is got from their Spanish brethren ; and when Mr. F. Walker painted them in his admirable picture of “Vagrants,” the artistic success of the canvas was mainly due to its admirable colouring and chiaroscuro. “

“Of late years the English gipsies have made money by moving about from pace to place, and on certain evenings in the week, giving invitation balls to the whole neighbourhood. The plan would seem to have answered vey well. It was, for example, quite successful in Worcestershire, three years ago, where we saw one of these invitation balls. The gipsy tents were grouped around, their contents being displayed in the most enticing way, and other tents were fixed for the dancing ; the whole being liberally lighted up with candles. Then, to the gipsy music, the gipsies danced by themselves ; and afterwards, the spectators and guests were invited to dance. Donations were asked from the spectators, though it was l;eft to the liberality of each guest to give what sum he liked. These gipsy entertainments were repeated in various places ; and last summer, they were given in the city of Worcester, and attracted a considerable number of spectators.

The Epping Forest tribe have been encamped in a field close to Oxford ; and one Friday recently they gave a ball on the greensward, under capacious tents ; which ball, we are told, was attended, in the afternoon, by many of the leading dignitaries of the University and city, with their wives and families, and, in the evening, by a more numerous, though less dignified, company. But, while the College Dons and city magnates were thus enjoying themselves with the novel spectacle of the gipsies’ ball, the very persons to whom such a scene would have presented the greatest attractions were debarred from witnessing it. The undergraduates were strictly forbidden, by the Senior Proctor, under divers pains and penalties from attending the gipsies’ ball. The Dons could patronise the wanderers freely, but the Freshmen and undergraduates were not allowed to gain a glimpse of the Zingaris’ dance. Hapless undergraduates ! not to them was given to chant, in chorus,—

"Bohemian gals,won't you come out to-night,
      And dance by the light of the moon." 

Notwithstanding that the gipsies behaved themselves, it is said, “with great decorum,” and that their ball proved to them a “great pecuniary success,” the younger members of the University of Oxford were not permitted to enrich the Bohemian exchequer by paying for a sight of the gipsies ball. The Dons had it all to themselves, and the heads of houses showed their faces where the undergraduates were forbidden to look. Just as there are gipsies—and gipsies, so there are Dons—and Dons ; and there is as much difference between the Spanish gipsies and the Epping Forest gipsies as there is between the Spanish Dons and the Oxford Dons, notwithstanding the similarity suggested by the present case, where a gipsies dance was watched with pleasure by the Dons. It also demonstrates what the Oxford poet said,—

"Oh, believe it, throbbing pulses flutter under,
     folds of starch,
And the Dons are human-hearted, if the
     ladies' smile be arch."

And the fact that the ladies of the recent greensward ball were gipsy girls would not detract from the truth of the poet’s statement. But, with regard to the disappointment suffered by the undergraduates, we should not like to be in the Senior Proctor’s shoes when he has to face the storm of disapprobation, and the stinging slang that will be hurled upon him next Commemoration from the undergraduates gallery. The scene that could be harmlessly witnessed by civic authorities, their wives and families, as well as by Dons and their daughters, would surely not have proved hurtful to the undergraduates. But Senior Proctors are autocrats, and they are unwilling that those in their power should forget the fact. Doubtless the undergraduates will bear in mind next June.”

Half page engraving from page 184 The Days’ Doings. April 15th 1871


Small-pox in the Two Continents.

“NOT only in this country but also in America the pestilence of small-pox is existent. We have this week to give to our readers an illustration of one of the many painful incidents we receive from our American cousins.

Let us take the following:—Adolphe Vogt lived in a boarding-house on Madison avenue, where he received the kindest treatment. His physician, who is severely censured by the friends of the deceased for inattention—having deserted him, they declare, from Wednesday morning until Thursday night, and then only when he was sent for, notwithstanding the symptoms of varioloid were evident—becoming convinced the disease had attacked him, informed an officer of the Board of Health, who had him removed to Bellevue Hospital ; from there he was sent to Blackwell’s Island, where he died a few days ago of congestion of the brain. His uncle, Mr. Bonner, went to see him during his illness ; and the latter, on his return, saw the small-pox boat arrive at the island, when he witnessed, he says (and is prepared to make an affidavit to the fact), a scene that made his blood run cold and shiver in his veins. They brought a man over in his canvas-covered conveyance in his bare feet, and without any other covering on him than his night clothes. On the landing of the boat there was no one to receive him, and the deck hands refused to touch him or come near him, and would have nothing to do with him, so that in this condition the poor fellow, covered with the virus was compelled to walk through the snow and slush up to the hospital alone. On the following Friday this gentleman saw a woman brought over for whom no preparation had been made. There was neither stretcher nor attendance of any kind to receive her, and the men who brought her across threw the unfortunate creature on the ground and left here there. The officers of the Board of Health assert they have nothing to do with the patient after putting him in Bellevue Hospital. On seeing that the case is a proper one, they take it in charge from the attending physician, convey it to Bellevue, when their control ends.

half page engraving from page 180 of The Days’ Doings newspaper for April 15th 1871

The warden at the hospital then receives the patient and retains control of him until he is placed in the boat for transit to the Island. The matter now rests between the officials on the boat and those at the Island, and it is to be hoped they can satisfy the public these are exceptional cases. The great excitement in the minds of the people at the present time, with regard to small-pox, is not likely to be calmed by this treatment of the sufferers from the disease by the officials, who should certainly show another kind of humanity for the money they receive from the “City of Charities.” Let us hope incidents of this kind, are the exception, not the rule.”


THE Commune are doing their best to discredit themselves by laying hands upon everything which suits them. The other day 200 National Guards arrived at the house of Prince Murat, and stripped it of the whole of its furniture.

ANOTHER party of the Reds took possession of the house of the Prince of Wagram, but, not having waggons with them, they told the person in possession to turn out, as the house would be stripped shortly.

THE Commune have laid hands upon the funds of some of the charities ; they have seized the funds of a society and ordered all future receipts to be paid into their hands. They have, among other things, requisitioned—it sounds nicer than stolen—200,000 kilos. of salted meat belonging to a very large importer of cattle, who supplied the hospitals and ambulances during the siege, and have not even gone through the formality of giving him a bon for the value.

THE English Society for Relief has been obliged to suspend its operations in Paris, the preserved milk and other matters which it distributed to the poor having been confiscated. The Reds have seized and confiscated the property of M.M. Thiers, Jules Favre, Dufaure &c. The mob invaded the mansion of the former in the Place St. Georges and carried off his matchless collection of strategic and other books from his library, with all his pictures, plate, &c.

THE revolutionary battalions are almost all outside the walls. Thirty thousand—I do not say resolute men, for five thousand of these would suffice—National Guards of the party of order could become masters of the town with scarcely an effort, and by shutting the gates could keep out the whole of the insurgent National Guards, and then , placing them between both fires, compel them to lay down their arms and submit.

UNFORTUNATELY the emigration of the class whose duty it was to have assisted in stemming the flood of revolution has amounted, it is asserted, to 180,000 persons. In the respectable quarters of the town half the shops are shut, and the closed blinds and shutters of the upper storeys show how few of their inhabitants remain.

THE Commune has requisitioned horses in all directions, the omnibus company being the principal sufferer. The lack of funds, in fact, is daily making itself more and more felt, and is daily driving the Commune to measures more and more confiscatory in their character. They affected to justify this ruthless spoliation by the decree which is placarded on the walls this morning:—”Considering that the men of the government of Versailles have ordered and commenced civil war, attacked Paris, killed and wounded national guards, soldiers of the line, women and children; considering also that the crime has been committed with premeditation and treachery contrary to all right and without provocation decrees as follows:—’Art 1. MM. Thiers, Favre, Picard, Dufaure, Simon, and Pothuan are impeached. Art 2. Their property shall be seized and sequestrated until they appear to be judged by the people.'”


A Ludicrous Incident at Antwerp.

Half page engraving from page 185 of The Days’ Doings of April 15 1871

“A CURIOUS and ludicrous incident occurred the other day on the quay at Antwerp. It was as follows:—A good specimen of the representative north country English mercantile captain, being requested to move his vessel from one station to another by the custom-house officer of the port of Antwerp, pointedly refused, adding to such refusal what Mr. Gladstone called “a strong figure of speech.”

The heavy phlegmatic Flemish official, not being in a frame of mind to brook refusal, reiterated his demand; whereupon our worthy master mariner, giving instructions to his first officer, used his “donkey engine” to some purpose by drenching the custom house authority and many of the unprepared lookers-on. we illustrate this cold water victory, and at the same time suggest to other persons in a similar position to do likewise.”

The Days’ Doings. April 8, 1871

Masthead from The Days’ Doings April 8th 1871


“A GENTLEMAN on the borders of Roxburghshire has a very fine sheep in his possession which has been made a pet of by the whole family. Sometime since, straying a long distance from the house, it was attacked by a strange and unusual enemy — an eagle, to which it gave battle manfully, in a manner contrary to the proverbial gentleness of the lamb. The sheep finally vanquished its adversary, and was taken to the house by a farm hand who had witnessed the occurrence, and knew how much his employer prized it. Its wounds, which were very slight, were soon dressed.”

woodcut showing sheep fighting with large bird of prey from page 173 of The Days’ Doings April 8 1871


Back cover, full page illustration related to the recent University Boat-race. Page 176 The Days’ Doings April 8 1871

There was a story to go with this picture but a combination of technical issues and the tedium of retyping 3000 words of overblown and misty-eyed prose defeated me. In summary: Everyone was wearing blue, the students of the 1870’s were too cultured for their own good until they got bladdered and started fighting policemen.

The Days’ Doings. 1st April 1871

Masthead of The Days’ Doings of 1st April 1871

The cover of this weeks The Days’ Doings relates to the annual Boat-race between the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford which was first held in 1829. This years Boat Race 2021 (the 166th for men and 75th for women) is on Sunday, 4 April but will not be on the usual course due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The race will be run on the River Ouse at Ely.

Cover picture of The Days’ Doings April 1 1871
double page map of the route of University Boat Race from Volume 1 of Fifty Years of Sport at Oxford, Cambridge and the Great Public Schools arranged by Lord Desborough. 1913, Walter Southwood & Co. Limited.


“YEAR by year and step by step the Oxford and Cambridge Boat-race has risen in importance until at length London recognizes the day of this great event as a metropolitan festival. College races at both Universities had been the fashion long before the contending crews ever came before the public, and it was probably some private boasting that roused the emulation that resulted in the first great Oxford and Cambridge Boat-race — a race which, this year at least, has caused intense interest far beyond those connected with the Universities, and seems fairly to outrival the attractions of Epsom itself.

There has been a little unseemly temper shown by some of our contemporaries in consequence of an attempt made by the University Boat Committee to exclude Press men or reporters from the steamers which are allowed to accompany the race, on the ground that the race is strictly private.

THE HORRORS OF WATER.-A SCENE ON THE TOWING-PATH NEAR BARNES AFTER THE ‘VARSITY RACE. engraving from page 152 of The Days’ Doings of 1st April 1871

One newspaper says :–“London did not invite Oxford and Cambridge to town; Cambridge and Oxford came to town of their own free will. They established their racing headquarters amongst us simply because between Putney and Mortlake they found just the stretch of water they wanted for their annual contest.

“If the University Boat race were pulled every year in some remote nook or corner of these islands, very few persons, save those who were connected with the respective champions by old academical associations, would give themselves much concern about the matter. The race would degenerate from the dignity of a great national event to the proportions of an ordinary struggle for a challenge cup.

“If the gentlemen who represent the two Universities are then asked, ‘Why don’t you go?’ If it really be, that they have tried, in courteous and dignified fashion, to obtain a clear course, and they have found this impracticable, the sooner they move away from a town of three millions of inhabitants the better it will be for themselves and all parties concerned.

This is surely illogical. The two boat clubs are first abused for soliciting the hero-worship of the public, and then censured for exhibiting symptoms of a desire for privacy.”

The story on page 146 then concedes that as the result of the race was not yet known then a list of the results of previous 27 races would have to suffice.


The Days’ Doings went to press before the race took place so the following is extracted from Fifty Years of Sport at Oxford, Cambridge and the Great Public Schools arranged by Lord Desborough Volume 1 of 2 published by Walter Southwood & Co. Limited 1913 page 204

“In 1871, in spite of the fact that Cambridge had the services not only of Mr. Goldie, who was President again, and the four stern oars of the previous year, whilst the Oxford President, Mr. Benson, who was himself unable to row, had only three old oarsmen left, the race was very hotly contested. A very good oar, however, was found to stroke the Oxford crew in Mr. R. Lesley, and to his rowing the fact that the Dark Blues were as good as they were is undoubtedly due. Mr. Lesley had a most extraordinary capacity for taking his crew along at a high rate of stroke even over long distances, and in the race itself he very rarely dropped the stroke below 40 to the minute. Starting off with a great effort he at once seized a lead, but the stroke was rather too much for his crew, and off the Point they became very unsteady, so that Cambridge, although rowing several strokes a minute less, drew up and passed them. Off the Crab Tree they were half a length to the good, and after that went away so rapidly that the race appeared to be over. At Hammersmith the Light Blues were nearly a length clear, but from this point a most determined series of spurts by Mr. Lesley brought them back, and at Chiswick Church Oxford were overlapping. At Barnes Bridge Mr. Goldie had drawn well clear again without raising his rate of stroke, and was content to allow Oxford, still making the most desperate efforts, to draw up again, so that they were only beaten in the end by a good length in the rather slow time of 23 min. 5 sec.”

The winning Cambridge team of the 1871 Boat Race from Fifty Years of Sport at Oxford, Cambridge and the Great Public Schools arranged by Lord Desborough. 1913. Walter Southwood & Co. Limited Volume 1 pp. 198
The teams and weights of the 1871 Boat Race from Fifty Years of Sport at Oxford, Cambridge and the Great Public Schools arranged by Lord Desborough. 1913. Walter Southwood & Co. Limited Volume 1 pp. 204
The Oxford team of the 1871 Boat Race from Fifty Years of Sport at Oxford, Cambridge and the Great Public Schools arranged by Lord Desborough. 1913. Walter Southwood & Co. Limited Volume 1 pp. 198


This story from the Jots and Tittles section which always appears on page 2, although written in the racist language of Victorian British society, will resonate with fans of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman.

“THERE is a touch of romance–if the account be not exaggerated–in the description of a grand ball, given by a tribe of gipsies, in a field near classic Oxford, which we read “was attended in the afternoon by many of the leading dignitaries of the University and city with their wives and families.” Unless a contradiction appear, we shall be justified in supposing that a college don danced a polka with Starlight Bess, and a solemn professor of mathematics–not to say of divinity–had the honour of conducting a real gipsy queen to the refreshment tent. Of course there could be no reason why the dons should suspect that the cold chickens had been “looted,” or that any of the side-dishes were hedgehogs in disguise. The reception of the reverend seigniors of the University by the brown-skinned wanderers must have reminded some of the spectators of the interviews between Robin Hood and his merry men under the greenwood tree. Was there any gipsy Friar Tuck among the dwellers in tents to challenge a pot-wine-loving proctor or college tutor, , not to an unseemly bout with quarter-staves, but to the solution of a problem in conic section or the integral calculus? One thing strikes us as inconsistent. Although the dons and dignitaries enjoyed themselves at the gipsies’ ball, the undergraduates were strictly forbidden to approach the festive scene. If it was a bad place for the young folks, the older people might as well have kept away. But, perhaps, the philosophy of teaching by example is not considered worthy to hold a place in the University educational course.”


News about the Paris Commune. At the foot of column 3 on page 147 is the following short paragraph.

“HOW far any of the troops in France can be relied upon for action against the insurgents is indeed a very serious question, and this uncertainty may account for the inaction which appears so strange in England. The last account, however, is that matters are to be brought to an immediate issue. Every day’s experience shows that the longer the struggle is delayed the more fearful it is likely to be.”

On page 158, tha last but one page of the weeks issue is a column of news and opinion.


PARIS has held her elections in the Red Flag with a tranquility, almost an apathy, strangely in contrast with the tumult and bloodshed of the week before.

THE Central Committee has kept its promise. It has retired into private lifeso soon as the citizens had chosen their commune.

WITHIN the city arestill no inconsiderable number of National guards, who prefer the National to the Communal Government, because they prefer the restricted freedom of a secure civil state to the unbounded liberty that entitles its possessors to rob or to be robbed indifferently. For such men it will be specially ominous that the suppression of the police stands prominent in the list of the “Red” articles of faith.

CHANZY, released from a captivity that seemed certain to end in a bloody death — Saisset, returned from a mission that ended in ignominious failure — went back to Versailles with the very worst opinion of the state of Paris.

“ACTION” ought to be the watchword of France; and action comes neither from the east nor from the west–neither from the Right nor from the Left.

GENERAL FAIDHERBE has left for Versailles, having been summoned by the Government.

General Faidherbe, whilst playing a small role in The Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath is now mostly remembered for his time prior to that when he consolidated the colonisation of parts of West Africa, most notably Senegal where, amongst other things, the bridge he helped deliver at Saint louis is still named after him.

EXHORTATIONS to abstain from voting in Paris fell flat after the decision of the Mayors to countenance the elections. This decision is a tremendous fact, the importance of which the Versailles Assembly does not appear to understand. So far from M. Thiers being master of the situation, the situation is master of him.

THE Commune has been proclaimed at Toulouse.

BUSINESS is said to be duller now in Paris than it was during the siege.

THE Patrie and other French papers congratulate the National Assembly on having refused a vote of thanks to the English people.

PARIS may very well be compared to a madhouse where the inmates have got the better of their keepers. The most extraordinary and mad-like actions are performed and no one seems to know why. The Government posts upon the walls milk-and-water proclamations, calling upon the same part of the population to come to its assistance, but no one listens to it.

PRINCE BISMARK has telegraphed an offer of assistance to put down the disturbance in Paris. M. Thiers has declined the offer. In a few days the National Guards of Paris will be summoned to surrender, and, failing to do so, will be at once attacked. Nine hundred officers who have returned from Germany have tendered their services to the Government. Chanzy’s liberation by a majority of the Central Committee was brought about by a Government agent from Versailles.

GENERAL JULES BERGERET, who commanded the National Guard in the Place Vendôme, gives the following account of his knowledge of the bloodshed in that quarter:– “For some days we have endeavoured to overthrow the illegal government in Paris, and establish one founded on universal suffrage. This effected, the elections will approve everything we have done. We intend to ratify the peace made with the Prussians, and heal the wounds of France. The mad population are ready to take advantage of the situation to rob and murder. On Tuesday a large crowd approached the Place Vendôme shouting and hissing the government of the Central Committee, and showed a disposition to drive the National Guards from their position. I wished to dally with them, but they refused, with characteristic monarchial intolerance, and hissed and shouted. They retired, threatening to return on the following day. On Wednesday they again prepared a demonstration, and some were armed. I placed men in the Rue de la Paix to keep back the mob, if any attempted to invade the Place Vendôme, with orders not to fire. At one o’clock a large crowd of ten thousand advanced and overpowered the first line, wrenched the rifles from the troops, beat and maltreated them. I ordered the second line to retreat slowly upon the Place Vendôme, and to keep back the crowd without violence. The guns were taken from more soldiers, upon which I ordered the line to take up a position across the Rue de la Paix, near the Place St. Rory, in numbers enough to resist the crowd by force ; but I told them to throw up their rifles, so as to assure the people that we wished to avoid effusion of blood. They remained face to face some minutes. The crowd tried to break the cordon, and, yelling against the Government and the National Guard, at last they commenced using their revolvers, so that four of our men fell. One died immediately, shot through the brain ; and the others were seriously wounded. The National Guard, finding that the mob meant bloodshed, fired first into the air. Some, enraged at seeing their comrades fall, fired at the crowd, and killed five and wounded fifteen or twenty. The mob then dispersed in great confusion, and I hope will attempt nothing of the kind in future. We don’t want war, nor do we wish to kill each other, for our enemies are scarcely out of the city. What can we do? The Government attempted to take our cannon, and to prepare for a monarchy. The Assembly has a fixed determination to force a King on us. We will avoid further bloodshed.” Bergeret expressed great regret that so much blood had been shed. He is a small man, with large, dark eyes, slightly bald, wears a general’s kepi, civilian coat, and trousers of the National Guard, and appears quiet but determined.”

The preceding account is of the riot on 22nd March 1871 when a large crowd of Parisian citizens marched towards the Place Vendôme to protest against the Commune. The National Guardsmen were under the command of General Jules Bergeret (pictured left) An estimated dozen protestors died as well as the National Guardsman.

The Days’ Doings March 25th 1871

Masthead from The Days’ Doings of March 25th 1871


Engraving on front cover of The Days’ Doings for March 25th 1871

150 years ago, at the end of the Franco-Prussian War the city of Paris was briefly controlled by a grouping of workers and members of the National Guard known as The Paris Commune. The story was presented thus in The Days’ Doings.


Fearful state of Anarchy in the French Capital.

“THERE has been another Revolution in Paris! Since the conclusion of the peace, part of the National Guard of Paris has never lent obedience to the New Government, but converted the heights of Montmartre into an entrenched camp, with shotted guns pointed towards the city. The command of the troops of the line has been held by General d’Aurelle de Paladines, whose known relentless sternness it was hoped would spread terror amongst the insurgents, and lead them to lay down their arms.

But such was not the case. The Government then tried proclamations of a concilliatory nature, without effect ; and lastly tried force. On Friday last, at midnight, a detachment of troops proceeded to Montmatre, and succeeded without difficulty in seizing many cannon, and four hundred prisoners.

But almost immediately afterwards, without a shot being fired, the prisoners were released, and the troops and the insurgents fraternised in a most cordial manner.

Throughout the city the same extraordinary scene was witnessed ; resistance ended in fraternisation, and the guns again passed into the hands of the mob. In some cases shots were exchanged. Officers giving the word to fire were shot by their own men ; and soon the entire city revealed all the grim features which it wears in time of Revolution. Shops were closed, and hastily-formed barricades were erected ; cabs, carriages, and carts were overturned ; stones were torn up from the streets to fill the caps, and one part of the capital was completely cut off from the other. A Red Republic was proclaimed, and, actuated by the true ferocity of the canaille, they shot Generals Clement Thomas and Lecomte, an account of whose murder we give elsewhere.

The Ministers fled to Versailles, where they are protected by 40,000 men, under the command of General Vinoy ; but the fidelity of the men is doubtful. Thus we have open war between Paris and Versailles — between the Red Flag and the Tricolor — between all France on the one side and the mob of the capital on the other. We have again the Commune pitted against the Convention.

Our illustration represents a scene indicative of the lawless nature of the ruling population of Paris at present. The scene is the Place St. Pierre by the Rue Marie Antoinette, a dirty looking café open at the further end, and unmistakable evidences of carousal. The room filled with rebel National guards and Mobiles, and a sentry at the door. Half of the revellers very drunk indeed, and all decidedly noisy. A half-dressed woman standing on a table, not without an effort at an upright position, singing madly to a frantic audience, and occasionally haranguing them, pointing with menacing gestures to a gaudy red flag she holds in her left hand. The men armed, and the tables strewn with cartouche-boxes.”



“NOTWITHSTANDING the velocity of the Niagra river above the Fall, its width, and its turbulence below, a bridge of ice usually forms in the winter time, by a peculiar process characteristic of the locality. The ice above the cataract is solid and, as it were, of legitimate freezing. That which forms below is very different in character, being the accumulation of spray, which, by the time it reaches the level below, is sub-divided to the fineness of minute dust. Out of this feathery material is built a gradual structure which, widening out from the jagged rocks of either shore as a base, in every capricious and fantastic form conceivable, ultimately covers the entire river and attains a solidity which is safe for the foot of man. Under this fantastic bridge the eternal river races and roars ; and the British and American shores, usually separated by the most impracticable of chasms, become firmly welded together. Our picture repeats with much felicity the photographic effect of one of the most recent views from the camera of Mr. C Bierstadt, brother of the painter. This gentleman has for years past made the great American cataract a field of artistic study, and the singular beauty and difficulty of his results elevate them high in the science of photography.”

engraving of Ice-bridge at Niagra from page 133 of The Days’ Doings. March 25th 1871

In most winters of the 19th and 20th century when there had been long periods with temperatures below zero, the phenomenon known as the ice bridge would form. The currently accepted explanation for the phenomenon differs from that given in The Days’ Doings. In the early months of the year, during a mild spell followed by a strong southwest wind, the river ice would break up and travel down the Niagara River and over the Falls. The chunks of ice collected together below the Falls and accumulated as one large frozen mass many metres thick. From the 1880’s onwards, it became increasingly popular for tourists to gather on the ice for entertainment and refreshments served from the wooden huts set up on the frozen surface. This continued until 1912, when an ice bridge that had formed in mid January broke up when the weather took a milder turn and 3 three people died.

photograph of Niagra Falls in the winter, Niagara 1912 Library of Congress Despite the label, the photo is not really of the Ice Bridge which is the area below the falls


Fall of the “Man-Fly.”

“THERE has been another acrobat murder in Trieste. We are told of one Hansom Thure, who had styled himself the man-fly, and exhibited himself walking on ceilings. He gave an exhibition in the theatre of Trieste, and on the first evening fell into a net which was suspended underneath. On the next evening he fell again ; but, unhappily, outside the net, and his head and the upper part of his body came against some of the scenery. He expired a few minutes.”

1/4 page engraving from page 136 of The Days’ Doings. March 25th 1871.


“AN extraordinairy incident has taken place in Belgium. It seems a sealed tin containing potted oysters had been left carelessly on a hot stove in a house in Antwerp, suddenly the tin exploded with terrific force, bursting the stove to atoms, shaking the house, and severely injuring a bystander.”

engraving from column 1, page 140, The Days’ Doings. March 25th 1871

The Days’ Doings March 18th 1871

Masthead from The Days’ Doings March 18th 1871


Cover image of The Days’ Doings, March 18th 1871.

“Agreeable to a request from our numerous Irish subscribers, we this week honour the festival of their Patron Saint by giving on our front page an illustration of the unconventional type of Irish beauty, a Colleen Bawn. We cannot do better than add the following lines, written by their national poet:–“

Lyric by Thomas Moore, Lesbia hath a beaming eye (Nora Creina) from page 114 column 1 of The Days’ Doings of March 18th 1871

Lesbia hath a beaming eye was written somewhere between 1807 and 1811 by Thomas Moore (1779-1852) as one of his Irish melodies, lyrics to various popular Irish tunes, in this case a tune known as Nora Creina. Co-incidentally, the same tune was picked up at around the same time by Beethoven and incorporated into his seventh Symphony. There is a settlement in Australia called Nora Creina, named so, after the 1853 wreck of the Nora Creina, a two masted brigantine built by Fellows & Co. of South Quay, South Town, Great Yarmouth in 1834 as a two masted schooner.

Gilt stamped portrait or Thomas Moore on front board of “Albion Edition” of The Poetical Works of Thomas Moore. Frederick Warne and Co. 1891


“NEAR Barton Mills, in Suffolk, an adventurous tiller of the soil found it necessary the other day to repair the roof of a somewhat isolated barn. While descending from the peak he slipped, and rolling to the edge of the roof, he was held by a projecting spike, which, catching in stout corduroy, effectively prevented him from falling to the ground. The texture of the cloth admitted no hope of its giving way, the spike would not break, and the poor man saw no prospect of escape from his inconvenient attitude.

For a while he abandoned himself to despair, or, as he put it “made up his mind to hang there until cured like a piece of hung beef.” In happier moments it had been the good man’s practice to amuse himself by teaching a favourite horse various tricks by whistling. In desperation, he made the usual signal to his equine friend, tied at some distance from his own elevated perch.

The sagacious beast struggled vigorously, and, succeeding in freeing himself from his halter, hastened to the place where his master’s feet dangled from the projecting eaves. The intelligent animal, by standing on his hind legs, furnished a basis for the man’s feet to rest on. As the man himself relates it, he “got purchase to raise a stock of corduroy and human flesh from the spike that held my toes four feet from the precious soil of Suffolk.”

engraving from page 117, column 2 of The Days’ Doings March 18th 1871

Being buried alive was a not uncommon fear in the late 19th century though the moral panic that culminated in the formation of the London Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial in 1896 had more to do with formal burial in a coffin. However, any newspaper editor in 1871 would recognize the value of the words “buried alive


Buried Forty Feet and Saved.

“A SINGULAR and almost miraculous affair occurred in the North Tyne district of Northumberland the other day. Mr. John Fletcher, a popular and well-to-do farmer in the neighbourhood, had dug a well some forty feet deep, and had walled it up about fifteen feet, when it was discovered that the well was about to cave in. Mr. Fletcher gathered up an armful of short boards, and went down a pole ladder fastened to the side of the well to lay them across the wall, so as to prevent the dirt as it fell from filling up that part of the well walled up. He had not more than reached the bottom, as it was thought, before the well fell in, filling up to a few feet of the top. The alarm was given, and the neighbours gathered: but all believing him dead, they returned to their homes to make arrangements to come the next day and dig him out.

Mrs. Fletcher and two grown-up daughters and several smaller children refused to leave the spot, but sat on a log near the well, crying, until late in the evening, when all at once they saw Mr. Fletcher emerging from the well covered with clay, and coming towards them. The children all ran screaming to the house, bolted the doors and fastened the windows, believing it to be their father’s ghost. But Mrs. Fletcher ran to meet him, screaming at the top of her voice, “Oh, John ! oh, John ! is that you ?” When she reached him, she fell fainting at his feet.

It seems that when he got to the bottom of the well, he looked up, and saw the top giving way, and believing that he had no time to make his escape, he slipped under the boards which he had laid across the well, when the whole thing fell in upon him. All hope at first gave way, and he was about to let himself drop into the water below, and end at once his miserable feelings, but feeling above, he found the clay easily crumbled, and hope revived. The pole ladder, it seems, was still standing, and getting hold of it with one hand, , he with the other scratched away for life, the dirt falling into the water below as he dragged his body upward. It seems he did not suffer much in breathing, as fresh air came down the pole, around which the dirt was loosely packed. In the incredibly short time of seven hours he scratched a hole some forty feet long, through which he made his escape. This is one of the narrowest hairbreadth escapes from a horrible death on record.”

engraving from page 124 of The Days’ Doings of 18th March 1871

The Days’ Doings, March 11, 1871

Masthead of The Days’ Doings of March 11, 1871
cover engraving of The Days’ Doings of 11th March 1871

The cover illustration refers to a change in the way that the British army was organised. The changes were part of the series of modernising reforms initiated by Edward Cardwell, Secretary of State for War. In this case Cardwell abolished the practice whereby a gentleman with enough money could purchase a rank in the army. This was effectively done by depositing a large bond with the army in return for a commission, the bond being held against any debts or dishonorable conduct and eventually returned upon retirement from the army. The success of the Prussian army in the recently finished Franco-Prussian war had demonstrated the value of a more professional army with advancement by ability rather than bank balance. The Days’ Doings span it thus;

” In connection with this subject, we give, on our front page, a drawing which shows how seductive the profession of arms can now be made by an artful recruiting-sergeant to his unsophisticated rustic novice. What tempting future the sergeant is whispering into the willing ear — a future that actually may include the acheivment of a prize that the bucolic imagination never realized in its wildest dreams.”


“RICHARD HOSKINS, a clerk in the Norwich branch of the National Provincial Bank of England, has been taken before the Norwich magistrates upon a charge of embezzling £1893. 3s. 3d., the moneys of his employers. Mr. Stamford, travelling inspector of the bank, said he arrived in Norwich on Thursday evening, March 1, and on Friday he went to the branch bank at Norwich, and commenced his inspection. His first duty was to count the cash of each cashier, and the prisoner,s cashbox was brought to him. The box was locked, but witness had the lock picked, and found £2289. 10s. in the box. Witness examined the prisoner’s jotting cash-book, and found that the amount in the cash-box ought to have been £4182. 3s. 4d. Prisoner was absent from duty in the country, and a clerk was despatched for him. Witness went the same evening to the prisoner’s lodging with Mr. Hitchcock, the chief cashier at Norwich. It was a painful scene at first, as the prisoner was much affected. The prisoner burst into tears before anything was said to him, and when Mr. Hitchcock said he could not believe that he had taken the money, the prisoner said it was too true. The prisoner afterwards said he had taken £1835, and lost it in horse-racing and backing horses during the last six months. The prisoner was remanded.”

This story of a gambler funding his addiction by embezzlement was on page 107 at the foot of column 2. The National Provincial Bank of England of 1871 was probably located in what is currently the Ivy Brasserie at number 30, the current ornate facade of which dates from 1906 to 1908 and was designed by George Skipper. Up high on the front can be seen the name of the bank. Whites directory of 1877 is non specific for the number of the building on London Street but Whites of 1890 places the bank between numbers 34 and 38 which would fit with the Ivy site. Eventually the National provincial would have the building at the junction of Bedford Street and London Street built in 1924.

On page 106 was a short, unillustrated story about small-pox anti-vaxxers

“WE notice a queer sort of publication named “The Co-operative and Anti-Vaccinator.” What connection there is between a system of buying tea, sugar, firewood, and doormats at wholesale prices, and the resistance to sanitary measures, fail to perceive. On the contrary, they appear to be entirely dissimilar. Co-operation implies the united efforts of a number of persons for mutual benefit, while the anti-vaccination agitation represents the crotchety selfishness which, from an ignorant spirit of opposition, would incur the risk of the most terrible calamity to the entire community rather than co-operate in a measure of the utmost possible value. But somehow, people have a mania for “movements,” for opposing somebody or something; all things by turns and nothing long, are at one time vegetarians, at another teetotallers; then secularists, or anti-vaccinators, understanding quite as much of one subject as of the other.”

The Co-operative and Anti-Vaccinator referred to was probably The Anti-Vaccinator , a journal published previously with the title The Co-operator which had been published since 1860 and changed its name to reflect the growing concerns of people about compulsory vaccination for smallpox. No copies are available online but there is a holding in the National Co-operative Archive which we are sure will be well accessed in the next 5-10 years by researchers writing on our current pandemic.


Violent Conduct of “Officers and Gentlemen.”

half page engraving on page 104 The Days’ Doings of 11th march 1871

“A SUBSCRIPTION ball was lately held at the Town Hall of Waterford; and amongst the visitors were Lords William and Marcus Beresford; Mr. G. Power, Tramore; Mr. G. Courtney, and some officers of the 51st Regiment now quartered in the neighbourhood.

Towards the small hours in the morning some misunderstanding took place in the refreshment department, which resulted in a very unpleasant altercation, ending in a general mêlée and free fight. “Officers and gentlemen” were seen hustling, pushing, and knocking each other into the street. One gentleman received a merciless beating. Altogether the disgraceful proceeding produced a profound sensation of shame in the city of Waterford. Since then a paragraph has been industriously circulated to the effect that no officer actually in the 51st regiment of light Infantry took part in the fracas, the blame resting upon the other military and respectable(?) visitors who were present.” from top of column 4 on page 103.

Lord William Beresford was aged about 24 at the time of this story and an officer in the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers which he had joined in 1867. His brother Marcus or to use his full name, Lord Marcus Talbot de la Poer Beresford had no military connection, devoting himself to all things horse related instead.

The Days’ Doings, 4th March 1871

front page of The Days’ Doings for March 4th 1871

Finding the concerns of today reflected in a newspaper from 150 years ago provokes thoughts about the illusion of progress as seen in this small-pox vaccine related article from column 2 of page 82.

“THE CRY “To arms!” has resounded throughout the land. Let there be no mistake; we are not growing more warlike, only rushing to get vaccinated. The Queen has been vaccinated, and wishes everybody to know it. All the Admiralty officials are to undergo the operation, so are the police. We have a suggestion to make. It is very generally believed that the constitution of the patient is likely to be affected according to the quality of the lymph employed. Perhaps corresponding mental results might be produced, if care were taken. Suppose, for instance, the Lords of the Admiralty were made the recipients of vaccine matter taken from the arm of somebody who had some acquaintance with naval affairs, the Board might be all the better for the operation; and if the detective police were vaccinated from the shoulders of one or two sharp swindlers, can it be doubted that the intelligence of the force would be increased? We do not wish to push our theory too far, but it really opens a wide field for speculation.”

And on page 86 is some more small-pox vaccine commentary reminiscent of Dolly Partons reworking of Jolene to Vaccine on the radio yesterday morning!


[Written after reading “Faustine,” with apologies to Mr. A. Swinburne.]

photo of parodic poem entitled Vaccine based upon Faustine by Algernon Swinburne. Page 86, column 3 of The Days’ Doings, March 4th 1871.


Narrow Escape of the Commodore of the Poughkeepsie Ice-Boat Association.

“THE Commodore of the Poughkeepsie Ice-Boat Association hoisted sail on the Snow Flake the other day, and, accompanied by John G. Vassar, started for a three mile dash.

The Commodore lay flat on the floor of the boat, heavy coated and heavily muffled, with hand on the tiller, while Mr. Vassar took a position upon the windward side of the runner plank. Then the craft was put on the wind which whistled in the rigging and “bellied” the canvas to its fullest extent. The boat dashed over the ice like mad. It was scarcely a minute before she had left a mile of ice behind, when suddenly she lifted forward.

To describe such a lift would be almost impossible, but ice-boats often do “lift.” The great force of the wind, if they are not heavily laden, raises their bow clean from the ice, when the boat, with speed not in the least diminished, dashes along on the rudder runner alone, the helmsman losing control. In such an event near shore, the situation becomes perilous, for then the voyagers are in danger of being whirled against the rocks; but should it occur in the middle of the river, then it becomes the wildest and most exciting sport imaginable.”

engraving from page 93, The Days’ Doings March 4th 1871 Vol. II No.32.

“When the “lift” occurred with the Commodore, his boat was in the middle of the river. Her bow rose to an angle of 45 degrees, and young Vassar was about to leave his post when a quick “Stay at the shrouds!” from the helmsman warned him that there was danger in desertion. On went the novel craft, with fearful rapidity rushing over the ice.

The Commodore being unable to control the boat, was about to let the sail go, when a flaw of wind struck her and over she went, the windward end of the runner plank going high in the air, and young Vassar with it. The shrouds were “his best hold,” and he clung to them. Mr. Booth, the Commodore, was hurled out, and slid off on the clear smooth ice fifty or one hundred feet, without receiving a scratch. Of course, as soon as the boat upset she stopped, and then Vassar slid down the shrouds to the masthead which lay on the ice. Both got to work as soon as possible and hoisted sail, after righting the boat, and came back to Poughkeepsie in a “jiffy.””

The following article about Ice yachting on page 86 ends with the same story as published in the previous weeks edition of The Days’ Doings. Here is the additional technical description of the making of an ice-boat and an engraving on page 85 which claims to be accurate since it was made from photographs taken at the time.


Victory of the Ice-boats “Zephyr” and “Icicle” over the Chicago Express Train from New York.

engraving from page 85 of The Days’ Doings, March 4th 1871. Vol. II. No.32.

“ONE of the most exciting of out-door winter sports on the northern rivers and lakes in America is that of coasting on an ice-boat. Yet, comparatively few persons in the United States, much less in England, have enjoyed this rarest of rare sensations, which, perhaps, next to journeying through the air in a balloon, is one of the most curious and exhilarating that is known. Just think of skimming over the glassy surface of a pond or lake at the dizzy, dashing rate of a mile a minute! Where are your fast trotters, your two-fifteeners, and even your lightning express trains, alongside such a greased-lightning machine? Sixty miles an hour! Fourteen hundred and forty miles a day! Here is speed for you. Perhaps, however, you are sceptical of such a performance. Very well, go and try it for yourself during the first cold winter we have. Be sure, however, that the various necessary conditions to such a rate of speed are in your control, before venturing the experiment. In the first place, there must be a substantial boat, broad of beam, with all the fixtures in good order. Then there must be a good expanse of clear and well-made ice, with no ridges, hills, nor bergs, over which your boat will have to jump, and you may have to break your neck; for if you are spilled out against an obstruction, or the rising bank of the pond, river, or lake, your executor might soon be applying at the probate and life insurance offices. In England, it is difficult to find suitable localities, save in Lincolnshire. In Scotland, they are more readily found. But the most important condition to a lively sail is a good, stiff, snorting breeze. The ice-boat is not a new institution. It has been used for many years on the North American Lakes, on the Hudson River, and in many other places too numerous to mention. It is simply constructed, although its construction can be made as compound as you please. The country lad who might wish to get up an ice-boat, would obtain a couple of deals or planks, and dovetail, or fasten, the end of one — which should be about twelve feet long—on to the centre of the other, about eight feet in length, at right angles. It would form the frammework of the boat, and would be something like the following diagram:—

diagram to indicate proportions of a typical ice yacht of 1870’s in USA

Having fastened these together, he would then run boards from a to c, by way of b b. At the junction of the original planks, d, he would make a hole large enough for the mast used in his father’s small boat. From the mast in front, e, a board about 6 feet long, tapering to a point, would be run out at right angles and fastened securely around the mast. A board of hard wood, tough and springy, about twelve feet in length, is then taken, and on to each end are fastened runners of oak, each about eighteen inches long, and shod with steel bought to an edge or point where it comes in contact with the ice. This plank, with its runners, is then securely fastened under the cross-plank, c c, beyond which it projects about two feet on each side. At a, which is the stern, a hole is bored, through which the rudder is run. This is usually a round piece of iron, bent over so as to form a handle or tiller. At the bottom, it is gradually bent in an opposite direction, something like the forward part of a sleigh runner. This part is usually of steel, which is bound to an angled edge, so as to catch and hold the ice in manoeuvering the boat. The rudder has a ring, or rest, at a proper distance up for the stern of the boat to rest on. The sail is fixed in. The mast is secured to each end of the cross piece by braces or shrouds. A jib is then bent from the masthead to the end of the bowsprit, and the ice-boat is complete.”