Friday, May 31

Henry Wells' Joyride

Image = eyewitness to History
By Art Cashin

On this day in 1896, a man named Henry Wells of Springfield, Mass. decided to show the folks of New York City just what a clever fellow they had the luxury to see among them. (Wells may not have realized that the streets of New York are littered with the bones of folks who proposed to show the same thing.)
Wells left his digs in his new and expensive "Duryea Motor Wagon." (You will recall that the giddy Duryea brothers had invented something called the automobile in an earlier episode.)

Anyway, Wells was powering uptown (balloon horn a' honk) at maybe an amazing 18 MPH. Suddenly in his path was a Ms. Evelyn Thomas, astride her recklessly ridden bicycle. Unfortunately, for Wells there were two Irish cops at that corner. Given a Gaelic sense of justice they determined that right was weight or maybe inversely. (If you're not a Gael perhaps that may seem confusing.)

Nonetheless, the boys figured the car was bigger than the bike and thus it was not a fair fight. So they put Wells in jail overnight and sent Ms. Thomas to Manhattan Hospital to assess her life threatening injuries (a fractured leg).

After shaking Wells loose of some excess weight in his wallet (fines, legal fees, municipal scams), the authorities released him. It is assumed he returned north and lived out his days in one of those burgs where life is played at AAA level.

To celebrate take someone for a joyride. But recall that DWI tests aren't always administered by guys who try to match their cultural heritage with your blood/proof level.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Tuesday, May 21

Marie Besnard was Relatively Toxic

By Grant Davies

On this day (-10) in 1949, authorities in Loudun, France, were leaning on their shovels after having spent a fair amount of time exhuming the body of a certain Monsieur Leon Besnard.

Poor Leon had left this earth in October, 1947, after consuming some bad soup. While examining Leon's remains, it was concluded that what made the soup bad was the amount of arsenic in it, 19.45 mg to be exact. At least that was the amount left in what was left of Leon a year and a half after he slurped the soup.

It seems that Leon was only one of many people who got fatal indigestion after being in close proximity to his wife, Marie. The number turned out to be thirteen. And when their remains had been similarly dug up, Marie Besnard found herself in the soup, too.

The local gendarmerie had been informed of the unusual string of fatally bad luck that befell almost everyone  around Marie. Well, at least those who coincidentally had some franc fran├žais that would pass to Marie in the event of their failure to exist. Naturally, they told the magistrate, who ordered the above digging and counting of arsenic milligrams to be performed. Marie was charged with thirteen homicides.

The poisonous family relationships began soon after Leon's parents inherited a ton of wealth from someone who probably died a natural death. In one of the most unfortunate relocation decisions on record, they accepted their son and daughter-in-law's invitation to move in with them.

It turned out to be a short visit instead of a long residence. Leon's father died soon thereafter, apparently from eating poisoned mushrooms. (Perhaps the kind with arsenic in them?) His mother died of "pneumonia" three months later. No word on whether her condition had poisonous residue.

Subsequently the Besnard's decided to rent space to some wealthy friends who conveniently had named Marie as their sole beneficiary, and who even more conveniently soon passed away from "pneumonia" and "aortitis"(18 mg and 30 mg)

Marie's father also died, of cerebral hemorrhage (36 mg). Marie's cousins were not lucky either. Both of them died within nine days of each other from the same stupid mistakes. The first mistake they made was naming Marie their sole heir. The second was that they ate lye for dessert by accident. (48 mg and 20 mg) Hey, it happens all the time! Lye can get in your pie pretty easily. The list goes on but I won't poison your opinion of Marie's guilt or innocence by piling on. 

So Marie was convicted and went to prison forever and everyone was satisfied. 

Umm, not so fast. Not every story has justice being done. Marie had three trials, and in the end (1961), she beat the rap. Legal "Dream Teams" of the "OJ" variety are not exclusive to America it seems. Marie herself didn't pass away until 1980 but it seems likely that she didn't die of poisoning since there was no one left to spice up her soup. So if she did it, she got away with murder. Er..thirteen murders.

To mark the date, slip on down to the "Bad Luck Bar and Grill" and have a sip of something strong. But if the bartender asks "What's your poison?" watch closely while your drink is being mixed.

Post Script
Oh, I forgot to mention, Leon wasn't Marie's first husband. His name was Auguste Antigny, her cousin, who she married in 1920. His death was from pleurisy in 1927, (60 mg). I don't remember things as well as I did before I had that soup for lunch...

Thursday, May 16

If You Need to be Tired, Don't Get Gassed so Often

Image =

By Art Cashin

On this day in 1942, the U.S. Government invoked the war status to proclaim the rationing of gasoline. The public understood. With a war on (WWII in case you forgot) it was clear we needed to conserve fuel.

Well that was a nice thought. But the real reason that government decided to give out A-cards or B-cards was not gas. It was tires.

When the war began America had more than enough fuel to last two decades. But it had no rubber. So it had no tires. How do you conserve tires? Well, knowing Americans, they knew that if they banned the sale of new tires, folks would just drive the same way until the old ones wore out and then park the car permanently. (To say nothing of the potential of guys jacking up your car and stealing all four tires - - in
New York City, they can do that while you're driving.)

Anyway, the Washington wizards decided that the most effective way to save rubber was to get us to drive less. And the best way to do that was to ration gasoline.

To celebrate stop by the "Garage" but be careful not to get gassed up. And, while you are sipping your ration, try to figure what they are trying to conserve with the prices (and taxes) at the pump these days.

Many thanks to Mr. Cashin and UBS Financial Services who graciously allow his historical musings to be republished on this site. To enjoy more of Art's posts simply click on "Cashin's Comments" in the label section on the sidebar.

Sunday, May 12

Please Pardon the Interruption

Too many projects, not enough time. Posts will resume shortly. Thanks for visiting Cheeky History.

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