Monday, April 13, 2015

The Sacco and Vanzetti Case - April 15, 1920



This week (April 13-19) in crime history – Serial killer Christopher Wilder shot himself to death to avoid capture (April 13, 1984); Old West outlaw Butch Cassidy was born (April 13, 1866); President Abraham Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theater (April 14, 1865); The Sacco and Vanzetti Case (April 15, 1920); Boston Marathon bombing (April 15, 2013); Nancy Titterton’s murder shocked New York City (April 17, 1936); Suicide bomber destroyed the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (April 18, 1983); The Central Park Jogger Case (April 19, 1989)

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On April 15, 1920, a paymaster and a security guard were killed during a mid-afternoon armed robbery of a shoe company in South Braintree, Massachusetts. Out of this crime grew one of the most infamous trials in American history and a landmark case in forensic crime detection. Both Fred Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli were shot several times as they attempted to move the payroll boxes of their New England shoe company. The two armed thieves, identified by witnesses as “Italian-looking,” fled and their abandoned car was found in the woods several days later. Through evidence found in the car, police suspected that a man named Mike Boda was involved. However, Boda fled to Italy.

Police did manage to catch Boda’s colleagues, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, who were each carrying loaded weapons at the time of their arrest. Sacco had a .32 caliber handgun, the same type as was used to kill the security guards and bullets from the same manufacturer as those recovered from the shooting. Vanzetti was identified as a participant in a previous robbery attempt of a different shoe company.

Sacco and Vanzetti were anarchists, believing that social justice would come only through the destruction of governments. In the early 1920s, mainstream America developed a fear of communism and radical politics that resulted in an anti-communist and immigrant hysteria. Sacco and Vanzetti, recognizing the uphill battle ahead, tried to put this fear to their advantage by drumming up support from the left wing with claims that the prosecution was politically motivated. Millions of dollars were raised for their defense by the radical left around the world. The American embassy in Paris was bombed in response to the Sacco-Vanzetti case; a second bomb intended for the embassy in Lisbon was intercepted. The well-funded defense put up a good fight, bringing forth nearly 100 witnesses to testify on the defendants’ behalf. Ultimately, eyewitness identification wasn’t the crucial issue; rather, it was the ballistics tests on the murder weapon. Prosecution experts, with rather primitive instruments, testified that Sacco’s gun was the murder weapon. Defense experts claimed just the opposite. In the end, on July 14, 1921, Sacco and Vanzetti were found guilty; they were sentenced to death.

However, the ballistics issue refused to go away as Sacco and Vanzetti waited on death row. In addition, a jailhouse confession by another criminal fueled the controversy. In 1927, Massachusetts Governor A. T. Fuller ordered another inquiry to advise him on the clemency request of the two anarchists. In the meantime, there had been many scientific advances in the field of forensics. The comparison microscope was now available for new ballistics tests and proved beyond a doubt that Sacco’s gun was indeed the murder weapon. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in August 1927, but even the new evidence didn’t completely quell the controversy. In October 1961, and again in March 1983, new investigations were conducted into the matter, but both revealed that Sacco’s revolver was indeed the one that fired the bullet and killed the security guards. On August 23, 1977, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had not received a fair trial.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:
 
 

Friday, April 10, 2015

O. Henry Published "The Four Million" - April 10, 1906




This week (April 10-16) in literary history – O. Henry published the short story collection The Four Million (April 10, 1906); Dorothy Parker resigned as drama critic for The New Yorker (April 11, 1931); Scott Turow was born (April 12, 1949); Eudora Welty was born (April 13, 1907); English novelist Jeffrey Archer was born (April 15, 1940); Kinglsey Amin was born (April 16, 1922).

Highlighted story of the week -

On April 10, 1909, O. Henry’s second short story collection, The Four Million, was published. The collection includes one of his most beloved stories, The Gift of the Magi, about a poor but devoted couple who each sacrifice their most valuable possession to buy a gift for the other.

O. Henry was the pen name adopted by William Sydney Porter. Porter began writing in the late 1880s but applied himself to it seriously in 1898, when he was jailed for embezzling from a bank in Austin, Texas. Porter, who came from a poor family in Texas, was married and had a daughter. He fled to Honduras to avoid imprisonment but returned to the U.S. when his wife was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He spent three years in jail and wrote tales of adventure, some set in Honduras, to support his daughter, Margaret. 

After his release, he moved to New York and was hired by New York World to write one story a week. He kept the job from 1903 to 1906. In 1904, his first story collection, Cabbages and Kings, was published. Additional collections appeared in 1906 and 1907, and two collections a year were published from 1908 until his death, in 1910. He specialized in closely observed tales of everyday people, often ending with an unexpected twist. Despite the enormous popularity of the nearly 300 stories he published, he led a difficult life, struggling with financial problems and alcoholism until his death on June 5, 1910 in New York City. He is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Asheville, North Carolina. 

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit his website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Sophia Loren Won Best Actress Oscar - April 9, 1962




This week (April 8-14) in Hollywood history – Sophia Loren won best actress Oscar for Two Women (April 9, 1962); Charlie Chaplin was awarded an honorary Oscar (April 10, 1972); First 3-D movie House of Wax premiered (April 10, 1953); Cher won best actress Oscar for Moonstruck (April 11, 1988); First silent movie palace opened in New York City (April 12, 1914); Sidney Poitier won best actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field (April 13, 1964); Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tie for best actress Oscar (April 14, 1969).

Highlighted story of the week -

On April 9, 1962, the 34th annual Academy Awards ceremony was held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. In addition to the overwhelming triumph of the musical West Side Story, which won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, one of the big victors of the night was the Italian actress Sophia Loren, who took home the Best Actress statuette for Two Women.

Born Sofia Scicolone on September 20, 1934, in Rome, the actress landed her first role as a slave girl extra in 1951’s Quo Vadis, directed by Mervyn LeRoy. After 15-year-old Sofia met the film producer Carlo Ponti while competing in the Miss Rome beauty contest, he began guiding her career. Taking the stage name Sophia Loren, she played a variety of small parts in low-budget films before breaking out in such movies as Aida (1953) and L’oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples) (1954), directed by Vittorio De Sica. Ponti helped her get exposure beyond the world of Italian film, including a part opposite Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra in 1957’s The Pride and the Passion; she subsequently signed a multi-picture deal with Paramount Pictures. 

Her marriage by proxy to Ponti (carried out by the couple’s lawyers in Mexico in 1957) caused a scandal: Ponti faced bigamy charges and threats of ex-communication due to Italy’s refusal to recognize his divorce from his first wife, Giuliana, and Loren was seen as his concubine. The divorce eventually went through, and Ponti and Loren married in a civil ceremony in France in 1966. They would stay together until Ponti’s death, in 2007.

Loren gave the most acclaimed performance of her career in De Sica’s Two Women, released in Italy in December 1960 and internationally in 1961. For her portrayal of a mother trying to protect her teenage daughter during World War II, Loren earned numerous accolades, including the top acting honors at the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals. Her Oscar win made her the first performer ever to win that award for a foreign-language.

West Side Story, the film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway hit, was an updated version of Shakespeare’s immortal Romeo and Juliet set on the gang-ridden streets of New York City. The film swept most of the other major Oscar categories in 1962, winning Best Picture, Best Director (Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise), Best Supporting Actress (Rita Moreno) and Best Supporting Actor (George Chakiris), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Score, Best Film Editing and Best Costume Design. The film’s star, Natalie Wood, was nominated in the Best Actress category for another film, Splendor in the Grass, but lost out to Loren.

Check back every Wednesday for a new installment of “This Week in Hollywood History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Fade to Black Graveside Memories of Hollywood Greats, 1927-1950. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:


Monday, April 6, 2015

Madame LaLauire's Torture Chamber was Discovered - April 10, 1834



This week (April 6-12) in crime history – Sam Sheppard died (April 6, 1970); Oscar Wilde was arrested (April 6, 1895); Rwandan genocide began (April 7, 1994); Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty (April 8, 2005); Billy the Kid was convicted of murder (April 9, 1881); Chicago 8 pleaded not guilty (April 9, 1969); Delphine LaLaurie’s torture chamber discovered (April 10, 1834); Emiliano Zapata was assassinated (April 10, 1919); Galileo was convicted of heresy (April 12, 1633).

Highlighted Crime Story of the Week -

On April 10, 1834, a fire at the LaLaurie mansion in New Orleans, Louisiana, led to the discovery of a torture chamber where slaves are routinely brutalized by Delphine LaLaurie. Rescuers found a 70-year-old black woman trapped in the kitchen during the fire because she was chained up while Madame LaLaurie was busy saving her furniture. The woman later revealed that she had set the fire in an attempt to escape LaLaurie’s torture. She led authorities up to the attic, where seven slaves were tied with spiked iron collars.

After Delphine LaLaurie married her third husband, Louis LaLaurie, and moved into his estate on Royal Street, she immediately took control of the large number of slaves used as servants. LaLaurie was a well-known sadist, but the mistreatment of slaves by the wealthy and socially connected was not a matter for the police at the time. However, in 1833, Delphine chased a small slave girl with a whip until the girl fell off the roof of the house and died. LaLaurie tried to cover up the incident, but police found the body hidden in a well. Authorities decided to fine LaLaurie and force the sale of the other slaves on the estate. LaLaurie foiled this plan by secretly arranging for her relatives and friends to buy the slaves. She then snuck them back into the mansion, where she continued to torture them until the night of the fire in April 1834.

Apparently her Southern neighbors had some standards when it came to the treatment of slaves, because a mob gathered in protest after learning about LaLaurie’s torture chamber. She and her husband fled by boat, leaving the butler (who had also participated in the torture) to face the wrath of the crowd. Although charges were never filed against LaLaurie, her reputation in upper-class society was destroyed. It is believed that she died in Paris in December 1842. Recently, actress Kathy Bates appeared as Madame LaLaurie in FX’s American Horror Story: Coven.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:
 
 
http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Mayhem-Shocked-California-1849-1949/dp/0764339680/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1428331643&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

Friday, April 3, 2015

Maya Angelou was Born - April 4, 1928



This week (April 3- 9) in literary history – The ACLU announced that it would defend Allen Ginsberg’s Howl against obscenity charges (April 3, 1955); Maya Angelou was born (April 4, 1928); Charles Darwin sent first three chapters of Origin of Species to publisher (April 5, 1859); Oscar Wilde was arrested (April 6, 1895); William Wordsworth was born (April 7, 1770); Barbara Kingsolver was born (April 8, 1955); Mark Twain received his steamboat pilot’s license (April 9, 1859).

Highlighted story of the week –

On April 4, 1928, poet and novelist Maya Angelou (Marguerite Johnson) was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents divorced when she was three, and she and her brother went to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. When she was eight, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. When she revealed what happened, her uncles kicked the culprit to death. Frightened by the power of her own tongue, Angelou chose not to speak for the next five years.

From this quiet beginning emerged a young woman who sang, danced, and recorded poetry. After moving to San Francisco with her mother and brother in 1940, Angelou began taking dance lessons, eventually auditioning for professional theater. However, her plans were put on hold when she had a son at age 16. She moved to San Diego, worked as a nightclub waitress, tangled with drugs and prostitution and danced in a strip club. Ironically, the strip club saved her career: She was discovered there by a theater group.

She auditioned for an international tour of Porgy and Bess and won a role. From 1954 to ’55, she toured 22 countries. In 1959, she moved to New York, became friends with prominent Harlem writers, and got involved with the civil rights movement. In 1961, she moved to Egypt with a boyfriend and edited for the Arab Observer. After leaving her boyfriend, she headed to Ghana, where a car accident severely injured her son. While caring for him in Ghana, she took a job at the African Review, where she stayed for several years. Her writing and personal development flourished under the African cultural renaissance that was taking place.

When she returned to the U.S., she began publishing her multivolume autobiography, starting with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Four more volumes appeared during the next two decades, as well as several books of poetry. In 1981, Angelou was appointed Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She has been nominated for several important awards and read a poem written for the occasion at President Clinton’s inauguration. Angelou died on May 28, 2014 and her remains were cremated and scattered at an unknown location.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that include Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit his website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following links:
 
 


Monday, March 30, 2015

First Female Judge in U.S. History Died - April 2, 1902



This week (March 3- April 5) in crime history – President Ronald Reagan was shot (March 30, 1981); Acquittal in the Manhattan Well Mystery case (April 1, 1800); Mob boss John Gotti was convicted of murder and racketeering (April 2, 1992); Esther Morris the first female judge in U.S. history died (April 2, 1902); Outlaw Jesse James was murdered (April 3, 1882); Bruno Hauptmann was executed (April 3, 1936); Unabomber was arrested (April 3, 1996); Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated (April 4, 1968); Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were sentenced to death for spying (April 5, 1951)

Highlighted Story of the Week –

On April 2, 1902, Esther Morris, the first woman judge in American history, died in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Although she is widely celebrated as a hero of the early suffragist movement, Morris was hardly a radical advocate for women’s rights. She spent the first 55 years of her life living quietly in New York state and Illinois. In 1869, she moved to Wyoming Territory with her second husband, who had opened a saloon in the gold mining camp of South Pass City.

That same year, a territorial representative from South Pass City introduced a bill giving women the right to vote and hold public office. Eager to promote territory and to attract more women settlers, the all-male territorial legislature approved the bill, making Wyoming the first territory or state in American history to enfranchise women. One of the strongest backers of the new law was the territorial governor, John Campbell. Eager to take more actions to further women’s political power, in early 1870 Campbell began to search for women qualified and willing to be appointed as justices of the peace. Morris became Campbell’s first and only successful appointment.

Hailed by American suffragists as the first female judge in the world, Morris does not appear to have been a dedicated activist for women’s rights. Appointed to serve out the term of a man who had resigned, Morris only worked for nine months as a justice of the peace. During that time she competently handled over two dozen cases. After she retired from the post in November 1870, however, Morris never again sought public office. When later asked about the issue of women’s suffrage, Morris replied that women would do well to leave the matter in the hands of men. Like many women of the time, Morris supported women’s rights, but she believed a gradual approach would prove most successful.

Despite her reluctance to be revered as an activist, Morris has often been celebrated as an important symbol of women’s rights. Nearly two decades after she died in 1902, a witness claimed that Morris had pushed for the introduction of the original bill granting women the vote in 1869, though other evidence contradicts this claim. Nonetheless, as the “first woman judge,” Morris has continued to be a symbol of the long battle for women’s rights in America. Bronze statues at the U.S. Capitol and in Cheyenne honor her memory.

Check back every Monday for a new installment of “This Week in Crime History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is a columnist for www.crimemagazine.com and is the author of six nonfiction books that includes Murder and Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California, 1849-1949. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His books can be purchased from Amazon through the following link:
 
 
http://www.amazon.com/Murder-Mayhem-Shocked-California-1849-1949/dp/0764339680/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1427742908&sr=8-2&keywords=michael+thomas+barry

Friday, March 27, 2015

Anna Sewell was Born - March 30, 1820



This week (March 27- April 2) in literary history – Poet Louis Simpson was born (March 27, 1923); Novelist Mario Vargas Llosa was born (March 28, 1936); Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin were married (March 29, 1797); Novelist Anna Sewell was born (March 30, 1820); Charles Dickens published first installment of The Pickwick Papers (March 31, 1836); Western novelist Vardis Fisher was born (March 31, 1895); Hans Christian Andersen was born (April 2, 1805)

Highlighted story of the week -

On March 30, 1820, Anna Sewell was born in Norfolk, England. The daughter of a successful children’s book writer, she helped edit her mother’s manuscripts from an early age but was not published herself until she was 57. Her novel, Black Beauty, was the first significant children’s story in the English language to focus on animal characters, and established the precedent for countless other works.

Appalled by the cruel treatment of horses by some masters during her day, Sewell wrote the book to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses. The story, narrated by the horse, showed Black Beauty’s progression through a series of increasingly cruel owners until the exhausted, ill-treated animal collapses. In the end, the horse is saved by a kind owner.

Sewell wrote the book during the last seven years of her life, when she became an invalid confined to her home. The book was published shortly before her death in 1878 and became one of the best-loved children’s classics of all time. The book was made into a movie three times, in 1946, 1971, and 1994. Anna Sewell is buried at the Quaker Burial Ground in Lamas, Norfolk, England.

Check back every Friday for a new installment of “This Week in Literary History.”

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of six nonfiction books that includes the award winning Literary Legends of the British Isles and America’s Literary Legends. Visit Michael’s website www.michaelthomasbarry.com for more information. His book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: