Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Tumult Last Night

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

In a comment to the second installment A Shot - Part II of Shades Starts The Year With A Bang - Make That A Shot, Donna Pointkowski (What's Past Is Prologue) asked why the uproar over this murder. An excellent question and one I can only surmise.

The newspaper article that follows discusses the frustration of the people of San Francisco over the deaths of so many woman and the fact their murderers are not seeing justice meted out in a swift manner. Mamie was also a child, murdered at a time when children were not shot dead on the streets as they are today. That surely added to the senselessness of this crime. (The loss of every child is senseless and Donna is correct - Why don't we line the streets when a child is murdered? Why don't we care if there is justice for these children? I don't have the answer.)

I've also added an article that gives you a look at the attitude of the 1880s to insanity. While Aleck Goldenson obviously had mental problems, I don't believe he fit the legal definition of insane.

Daily Evening Bulletin
San Francisco, California
November 13, 1886

The city has been stirred more deeply by the murder of the little school girl, Mamie Kelly, than it has been for a long time. This most fiendish crime is the culmination of a long series of atrocities in which females have been the victims.

The manly Anglo-Saxon notion, crystalized by Shakespeare, that he who lays his hand save in the way of kindness, on a woman, 'twere base flattery to call him coward, seems to be disappearing from our civilization.

Women have been shot at, maimed and murdered in what may be called erotic frensy, real or pretend, by brutes in human form, till the long cowardly, bloddy, infamous and schocking list has assumed a startling length.

There may have been some excuse, therefore, for the popular demonstration last night, but no justification. San Francisco has grown too large a city for the wild justice of the frontier. There is a acumulated power in society amply sufficient to suppress such uprisings with the strong hand.

There was a meaning in the tumult, however, which should not be lost on the judicial mechanism. No illegal tendencies would have been exhibited if there was anything like certainty in the matter of punishment of criminals. There are too many big holes in the judicial act for the escape of the lawless. There are too many quips and turns in the law. There are too many new trials and reversals. There are more pardons than any reasonable criminal reformation could justify. There will have to be a change in these particulars, or something is sure to get smashed, and that before long.

Even in New York swift justice is sometimes meted out. They can get boodle Alderman into the State Prison there on the double-quick. If we had such a trial it would probably convulse the whole judicial machinery. The end of it, with defective pleadings, errors, disagreeing juries, new trials and other judicial devices, would not be reached for years.

There is more grumbling on this subject in this city than is generally supposed. There is an indication just now that the murder of the little school girl which has so wrought on the town will stimulate the judicial mechanism into swift and sure action. If it does it is to be hoped that the new energy will be maintained. If not, it will be in order to remodel the whole system.

California has 667 people on death row. 13 people have been executed since California reinstated the death penalty in 1977, but 56 others have died on death row of other causes, including 14 of suicide (since 10/25/2007). California’s last execution was of Clarence Allen in January 2006.
Allen had been on death row for 23 years, 1 month.

It took two years to bring Aleck Goldenson's crime to a conclusion in the courts in San Francisco. Very quick by today's standards, but an eternity for the city in 1886.

Silver City, ID
March 19, 1887

Goldenson, who murdered Mamie Kelly, is reported to have an attack of insanity. This is a disease that usually presents itself about the time men of his ilk begin to feel the hangman’s noose about their worthless necks. The insanity dodge will not help him, and, coward though he is, he will live long enough to be hanged.


Unknown. "The Tumult Last Night." Daily Evening Bulletin, 13 November 1886. Online archives King County Library Infotrac Gale Group. http://infotrac.galegroup.com : 2008.

Unknown. "No Title." The Idaho Avalanche, 19 March 1887. Online archives King County Library Infotrac Gale Group. http://infotrac.galegroup.com : 2008.

Dolan, Maureen. "California may resume executions by year’s end." Los Angeles Times. (April 2008) Electronic edition. Los Angeles Times Online. http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/17/nation/na-impact17 : 2008.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The initial news of this event even made it to the Iowa newspapers! An intriguing tale with so many ramifications. Your blog is my guilty pleasure!

January 14, 2009 at 6:43 AM  

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