Nov. 18, 1903: The hazards of photography

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

From the St. Paul Globe:



Photographer Hurt While Tak-
Ing Flashlight Picture

F.B. Chapman, photographer, 438 Wabasha street, and Byron Gibbs, his assistant, 228 East Seventh street, were seriously injured last evening by the explosion of a carbide tank used by Chapman in taking a flash light picture of two bowling teams at Chris Miller’s bowling alley, 221 East Seventh.

When the tank exploded Chapman held it in his hand and his thumb and fingers were nearly torn off. The injury is considered serious, as the flesh is burned from the palm and the inside of the hand.

Gibbs was struck in the head with a flying piece of tin, and his face was badly cut, the laceration extending from the chin to the forehead. His forehead was laid bare, the tin plowing off three square inches of skin and flesh. Both Chapman and Gibbs were knocked unconscious and remained in that condition for over fifteen minutes.

The tank broke through a wooden partition in the rear of the alley, and after crashing through a window, in the rear of the building, fell in the back yard. It was torn and shattered by the force of the explosion of the contents.

The members of the two bowling clubs posing for the photograph were badly shocked by the explosion, and several were thrown to the floor.

The police ambulance was summoned by telephone, and Dr. G.A. Moore, police surgeon, dressed the wounds of Chapman and Gibbs. They were then able to go to their homes.

A bowling alley in Lake City, Minn., in about 1900. Note how the two subjects positioned themselves far from the dangerous flash mechanism. (Photo courtesy

Aug. 29, 1924: A telling signature

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

As part of its coverage of the Leopold and Loeb murder trial, the Minneapolis Daily Star asked a local handwriting expert to analyze Richard Loeb’s signature. Not surprisingly, the expert found evidence that the well-known “thrill killer” possessed a number of undesirable qualities. Somewhat surprisingly, “heart trouble” was among them.

Loeb Writing Sifted By
Minneapolis Pen Expert

Extravagance of Mind,
Erratic Temperament
Indicated by Signature

Insincerity, tenacity of purpose, love of admiration and self-complacency are the outstanding characteristics displayed in the handwriting of Dick Loeb, according to C.A. Frantz, handwriting expert of the Minneapolis Business college.

“The initial ‘A’ indicates a person suffering with heart trouble,” says Mr. Frantz, “while the initial ‘D’ indicates clean faculties. The slope of the writing indicates hopefulness. This is especially true of the word ‘Dick.’

“The letter ‘L’ indicates an extravagance of mind almost akin to mania. It also denotes a person who is visionary on religious subjects. It shows an unusually sensitive nature, self-satisfaction and an unbalanced mind. It also indicates a person who is nervous, erratic, of an unreasonable disposition, thoughtless of the comforts of others.

“The disconnected letters show a person not practical or logical in deductions. This person’s acts and words are largely inspirational. He is an idealist, guided by his imaginations, impressions and subconscious mind. They also indicate a person who has psychic powers.

“The open ‘O’ shows that the writer possesses little tact and that his remarks are often ill-timed and indiscreet.”

July 23, 1903: Head blown away

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

I’ve been looking for a good example of the blood-and-guts reporting typical of newspapers published before about 1910. Here, with a headline to match, is a particularly gory piece from the front page of the Minneapolis Tribune.

Behind the gore lay a CSI-worthy mystery: The body of a farmer was found sprawled on a bed, his head nearly blown off, a half-spent double-barreled shotgun in one hand and an unfired revolver in the other. His three children were asleep in the room, but none reported hearing a gunshot. Was there more to this suspicious death? Unfortunately, no followup stories can be found in the next seven issues of the paper. Probably just a sad suicide, blown out of proportion by Minnesota’s newspaper of record.



Corpse Had Revolver in One Hand
and Shotgun in the Other – Stock
of Gun Rested Between His Feet
and One Barrel Had Been Explod-
ded – Position of Body and Nature
of Wounds Gives a Suspicion of
Murder – Inquest to be Held Today.

(Special Telegram to The Tribune)

ST. JAMES, Minn., July 23—Charles Rinne, a farmer, was found dead about 2 o’clock yesterday morning at his home on the Lamb farm in South Branch township, eight miles south of St. James, by his eldest daughter, Caroline, 16 years old. The entire back side of his head was blown off and his brains scattered all over the room.

The dead man when found was lying across the bed, with a revolver in one hand and holding a double-barreled shotgun in the other. The stock of the gun rested between his feet and one barrel had been exploded. The revolver had not been discharged.

Coroner Rowe went to the scene of the tragedy and decided that an inquest was necessary. The inquest will be held today.

The position of the body and the nature of the wounds gives a suspicion of murder.

The three children of the man were asleep in the room where Rinne met his death, but did not hear the report of any firearms, nor were they awakened by any commotion in the room.

The eldest daughter found her father and spread the alarm to the neighbors. The first report that reached St. James was that Rinne had committed suicide, but later information would seem to contradict this report. The result of the inquiry is awaited with great excitement.

The streets of St. James, Minn., looked pretty quiet — maybe too quiet — in this 1904 postcard. (Image courtesy