Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Fitness in America

Velocipede tobacco
Manufactured by Harris, Beebe & Co. Qunicy, Ill.
The Hatch Lith. Co. 32 & 34 Vesey St. N.Y.;  c1874
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA 

Ivory Soap advertisement
The Century / Volume 50, Issue 6, Page 1066
Publisher: The Century Company Publication; Date: Oct 1895
Making of America Collection, Cornell University Library

Electro-Vigor advertisement
The San Francisco Call
San Francisco, California
Sunday, 7 Jan 1906
Page 40, Column 4-7

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Black Sheep Sunday: Giuseppe Balsamo / Count Cagliostro

Alessandro, Count di Cagliostro spoke of his childhood as few children would ever have imagined. He claimed his name was Acharat and that his parents were a Christian Prince and Princess of the Anatolian Christian Kingdom of Trebizond, who left him orphaned. He was raised by the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, Althotas who gave him the name of Cagliostro.

At age twelve, Althotas took the boy with him on a grand journey into Arabia. Acharat claimed to have lived for three years in Mecca, in the palace of the Cherif, then wandered another three years in Egypt, Africa, and Asia. Upon arriving in Malta, he was initiated by Althotas into the ancient esoteric mysteries of the Knights. After Althotas' death, Cagliostro traveled in Greece, Sicily, and finally Rome.

On April 20, 1768, while still living in Rome, he married the beautiful fourteen year old Lorenza Seraphina Feliciani. Seraphina's parents were offended by Cagliostro's crudely lustful ways and would not allow the couple to stay with them. They set off on their own, parleying Cagliostro's winning charm and Seraphina's beauty and sexuality into steps up the social ladder.

For about 30 years, Alessandro, Count di Cagliostro traveled throughout Europe, selling potions, amulets, seances, and his mystic, psychic gifts to the wealthy and noble. Because the Egyptian Masonic movement tied in so handily with his growing reputation as a occultist, he advocated the society and founded several branches. He became very rich with his activities, living lavishly in Paris. In a city known for the elaborate decoration of it's civic and royal dwellings, Cagliostro's 1785 home left an impression.

Unfortunately for him, a political scandal surfaced in which he was implicated, the Affair of the Diamond Necklace. He was arrested August 23, 1785. After spending nine months in the Bastille, he was acquitted, but pointedly told to leave France, partly from his flirtatious behavior and partly because of the background that came to light.

In preparation for this trial, his past was researched by Goethe of Weimar himself, who wrote in his Italian Journey, that Cagliostro's identification as Giuseppe Balsamo was made by a lawyer from Palermo who provided copies of pertinent documents. In 1787, Goethe interviewed Balsamo's mother and sister. Afterward, he called all of the Count's claims, "silly fairy-tales". From the research, it seems that Cagliostro wasn't titled or even a Trebizondian citizen.

He was born Giuseppe Balsamo in Palermo, Sicily in the Albergheria or Jewish Quarter, on 8 June 1743.*  His family struggled with money, but tried to provide their son with a good education. He was tutored, then placed as a novice in the Catholic Order of St. John of God. However, with his habit of being expelled from every school he attended, he never completed an formal education.

Instead, he joined vagabond bands of highwaymen, bilking, stealing, and assaulting his way through his teens. He was jailed several times, gaining a notorious reputation in the process.

Balsamo fled Sicily and actually did go to Malta where he joined the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and also became a skilled pharmacist. This background gave him the skills he needed to ply his mysticism and elixir trade through Europe. He was fortunate enough to meet other rogues along the way that added to his resume with forgery skills and helped him increase his charismatic manipulation of his wealthy marks.

In 1769, Giuseppe and Serafina Balsamo even tried to dupe the ultimate manipulator, Giacomo Girolamo Casanova, as the seducer documented in his diary. However, he recognized that they weren't the pious pilgrims they claimed to be, gave them some alms, and sent them on their way. Since Casanova was recovering from pneumonia at the time, it gave him an uncharacteristic will to resist Seraphina's sexual advances.

In 1776, the couple was now the Count and Countess Cagliostro with nowhere to go but up. Between then and 1786, they traveled, claiming to be physicians and the discovers of an elixir that stopped aging. Balsamo claimed to be adept in magic and alchemy. It seemed that wealthy European royalty couldn't enrich the Balsamos fast enough.

On a 1789 trip to Rome, as the mystic attempted to found yet another Egyptian Freemasonry group under the Pope's nose, he was arrested on 27 December 1789 as part of an inquisition on Freemasonry. He was sentenced to death for being a Mason. Although the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by the Pope, he lived only until 26 August 1795.

There are two paths of thought in the history of Alessandro, Count di Cagliostro. One believes that he was extraordinary medium who was misunderstood, libeled, and betrayed. They offer a sympathetic view of the man as a martyr to Masonry and deny that he was Giuseppe Balsamo. The other camp considers him a consummate con artist, a quack's quack, capable of great hypnotic charm and quick violence, who was the re-packaged Giuseppe Balsamo.

* Balsamo's great grandfather was Matteo Martello. Martello had two daughters, Vincenza (married Giuseppe Cagliostro from whom Balsamo would "borrow" his surname), and Maria (married Giuseppe Bracconeri). Maria had three children: Matteo, Antonia, and Felicitá. Felicitá married Pietro Balsamo, son of bookseller Antonino Balsamo. Before Pietro died bankrupt at age 44, they had son Giuseppe Balsamo and a daughter, "Signora Capitummino". The Signora had two daughters and a son. Felicitá was still alive in Palermo in 1787 when Gothe visited her.

The Washington Post
Monday, February 12, 1910
page 4, col 3


Cagilostro Asserted He Was Present At Crucifiction
Spurious Count Became Fabulously Wealthy Through Sale of Elixir of Youth--Performed Many "Miracles"--Actually Did Foretell Fall of Bastile--Sentenced to Prison by Pope.

From the New York Evening World.

"A liar of the first magnitude. Thoroughpaced in all the provinces of lying. What one may call the King of Liars."

Thus wrote grim old Thomas Carlyle. And the victim on whom he showered such abuse was Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, master of a thousand brilliant fakes. Even the man's high-sounding name was a fake. He was really Giuseppe Balsama, a Sicilian peasant's son. 

Cagilostro as a mere child was expelled from the local charity school for some abominable bit of mischief. Next he went into a Palermo monastery where h found work in the monk's apothecary shop. There he showed a positive genius for medicine and soon knew more about chemistry and the use of drugs than did any one else in the whole brotherhood. Incidently he learned a few tricks, too, a few great truths that always proved invaluable to doctors and showmen alike. He found out that many people trust physicians as they trust no one else. Also that a large percentage of the public are really fooled by any nonsense that is cleaver enough to attract them. On these teo human failings the lad built his future career of gigantic swindling.
Sold Mythical Treasure

So when a feat of audacious blasphemy on his part led the monks to kick him out, Cagilostro was quite ready to start upon his career. To provide himself with ready money for a tour of Italy, he tricked a rich Sicilian into buying from him at a large price, the secret of a treasure cave that did not exist. Driven out of Sicily, he wandered through Europe and the orient perfecting himself in the best art of all the fakers he met on the way and swindling every simple minded traveler he met. Then with a gloriously beautiful young girl whom ha had married in Rome, he launched forth as the discoverer of a miraculous liquor which he asserted would prolong life and restore youth. Pointing to his lovely young wife he related that she had recently been a whithered old crone of 80 and had been made a girl again by one draught of wine of Eygpt.

He himself he said had already lived for 2,000 years by constantly drinking this wine. He told as an eyewitness about events that had happened many centuries before and described the spiritual marriage feast at Canna in Galilee at which, he said he had been an honored guest. He also declared he had been present at the Cricifixion, and he used to burst into reminiscent tears at the sight of a crucifix. 
Traveled in Gilded Chariot

People listened greedily to Cagliostro's absurd lies. Through the sale of his wine of Egypt, he grew fabulously rich. He traveled from place to place in a gilded chariot with a retinue of servants. Princes and other notables vied with one another to do him honor. He speedily became one of the foremost men of Europe. Not content with claiming to have discovered the secret of perpetual life, Cagliostro proceeded to found a sort of masonic order with himself as its high priest. Thousands of people in all stations of life joined the cult and the man's wealth and fame still further increased. He next obtained favor and more money by establishing Masonic lodges for women.

Not were these the greatest of Cagliostro's impostures. He claimed to be of semidivine birth, said he had power of rendering himself invisible and added the information that he could not only make diamonds and other precious stones but could transform all metals into gold. The wonder was less that he should make such assertions than that nearly all _____ should believe him. By clever spiritualistic seances he apparently raised the ghosts of the great dead. He persuaded some of the craftiest noblemen of the day that they had actually seen him make diamonds and turn iron bars into gold nuggests. He was a brilliant hypnotist, too, at an age when hypnotism was thought to be a miraculous power.
Foretold Fall of Bastile

He went to Paris. There his vast charities made him popular. His boundless wealth backed his assertion that he could make gold. The neat, hand made miracles that he performed astounded the wisest Frenchmen. Prince Cardinal de Rohan, grand almoner of France and shrewdest of statesmen was utterly hood winked by him. In fact, Cagliostro has always been suspected of using the Cardinal as a dupe of the famous--or infamous--affair of the queen's necklace. As a matter of fact, some of the miracles performed by the archfaker still defy detection. He foretold many great events that actually occured. He readily announced the lucky numbers of the government lotteries. When temporarily locked in the Bastile prison in 1786 on suspicion of having shared Rohan's supposed guilt in the theft of the diamond necklace, he wrote on his cell wall "The Bastile shall be destroyed and the people shall dance on the [site?]". In three years his prophecy was fulfilled.

After a luxurious life in Paris, Cagliostro went to Rome. There the Pope condemned him to life imprisonment as an enemy to the Christian religion. He died in his cell August 26, 1795 having for years duped the whole world.  

The depths of Balsamo's outrageous behavior and claims are only hinted at here.  For more information, pro and con, consult the above newspaper article about him and the links below. 

Internet articles:

This  article on Cagliostro has an extensive bibliography:  Wikipedia

Alessandro, Count di Cagliostro


Great Theosophists: Cagliostro

The aptly named:  Count Cogliostro[sic]: Alchemist who could turn people into gold

Downloadable book:

The Life of Joseph Balsamo, Commonly Called Count Cagliostro [1791]

Engraving of Joseph Balsamo [Giuseppe Balsamo]:
Frontpiece [no artist or engraver attributed, undated],
The Life of Joseph Balsamo, Commonly Called Count CagliostroBarberi, Alessandro Cagliostro, Apostolic Chamber, Catholic Church. Camera Apostolica
C. & C. Kearsley, 1791

30 June 2009 Addendum added:

- Some dates corrected.

- Additional tidbits were found:

- This is the only mention of any possible children of The Balsamos that I've found, so far:
It is said, though with what truth cannot be stated, that "she occasionally spoke of a son who was a captain in the service of the dutch government."

Cagliostro, By William Rutherford Hayes Trowbridge, page 205.

What became of Seraphina? Around the time in 1789 when Balsamos was condemned to death, then had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, "His wife was shut up in a convent, and died soon after."

The Secret Societies of All Ages and Countries By Charles William Heckethorn, page 79.

- Additional genealogical details of Giuseppe Balsamo's Palermo family was found in  

Count Cagliostro: An Authentic Story of a Mysterious Life By Constantin Photiades on page 58.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Barbara Jean Everett & Sibling-ettes, 19 Dec 1957, Miami

Please contact me.

Black Sheep Sunday: Just Another Day in Brooklyn


The Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn, NY
Tuesday, June 28, 1853
one cent.

Last evening, about 9 o'clock, during the severe rain shower, the house 112 Henry street, occupied by Mr. George COGGESHALL, was entered by a thief or thieves by the way of the back piazza, and sundry things stolen therefrom. Among others a valuable shawl was taken. This depradation was committed while the family were in the parlor below. The thieves had the precaution to lock the doors, and decamped by the same way they came in before the family retired to rest.
ALLEGED BIGAMY   [p2, col 2]
A man named John ALDSWORTH, formerly of Boston, was on Saturday arrested by Constable MUNDELL, on the charge of bigamy prefered by his first wife, who came on here from that city. It is alleged that he was married to a girl in this city [Brooklyn, NY] some months since with whom he lived up to the time of his arrest. He was held for examination.

On Saturday evening some of the officers recently appointed in this ward to preserve the peace of the Sabbath, heard a disturbance in a house in Eighteenth street. They entered for the purpose of stopping violence when the fury of the party was turned upon them, and they were driven into the street. There over a hundred others joined in the melee, and another officer from the fourth district police came to the assistance of the attacked, and made captive one who appeared to be the ringleader of the mob; he was attacked in turn and the prisoner rescued. These officers then had to beat a retreat to Twenty First street, to which point they were persued, and made their escape without any prisoners.

On Saturday morning officers FROST and MCLAUGHLIN, while proceeding to search some apartments in a house in State street, on the authority of a warrant issued by Justice SMITH, were attacked by one of the occupants of the premises, named John SHANNON, and considerably beaten. Some half a dozen women held the officers while SHANNON pummeled them. He was eventually arrested, however, and locked up.

RUFFIANLY ASSAULT.   [p2, col 1]
Yesterday a lad, by the name of Michael KELLY, who is employes[sic] on board of the Kinckerbocker steamboat that runs up the East River and Long Island to Norwich, Connecticut, was the victim of a ruffianly assault, committed by a colored[sic] man, known as CHARLEY, who is employed on board of the same steamboat, as an under cook. It appears that the boy KELLY had been in the cookhouse, and had taken some peas out of a plate, which was seen by the cook, who attempted to snatch the plate out of his hand. A scuffle ensued, during which the colored under cook laid hold of an axe and inflicted a blow across the eyelid of KELLY. The latter was conveyed to the Hospital, and the colored fellow ran off from the dock at the foot of Cortland street, where the steamboat lay, and has not since been heard of. It is supposed by Dr. MCCOMB, who attends the case, that KELLY will lose the sight of his eye.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wedesday: Fashion - Headwear Critiques

Punchinello [magazine]
Volume 2, Issue 36
Punchinello Pub. Co. Publication
New York
Dec. 3, 1870
p 152  [artist un-named]
Transcription: "Fashion correspondants report that "nets are to be worn much longer." Punchinello suggests, then, that they might be profitably adapted for catching fish as well as beaux." 
Available for download at:
Cornell University Library
Making of America
Modes & manners of the nineteenth century, as represented in the pictures and engravings of the time, Vol. 1. 1790-1817.
Fischel, Oskar, 1870-1939; Boehn, Max von, 1860-1932; Translated by M. Edwardes; Introduction by Grace Rhys
Publisher: London : J. M. Dent & Co.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
"The Hats of 1810
Haller v. Hallerstein
p 118
Available for download at:
Internet Archives
Modes & manners of the nineteenth century, as represented in the pictures and engravings of the time, Vol. 2. 1818-1842.
Fischel, Oskar, 1870-1939; Boehn, Max von, 1860-1932; Translated by M. Edwardes; Introduction by Grace Rhys
Publisher: London : J. M. Dent & Co.; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co.
Page heading: Nineteenth Century
Available for download at:
Internet Archives

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Black Sheep Sunday: Captain Kidd, the Pirate: 1st Installment

Captain Kidd and his crew capture a merchant vessel.
From A History of the City of Brooklyn and Kings County, Vol 1. page 146-152:
During this period a system of privateering came into vogue, which in a great measure received encouragement from the authorities. The entire coast was infested by daring buccaneers and pirates, who plundered the shipping, making serious depredations upon the commerce of the country. The province suffered greatly from these freebooters, and, although complaint was made from time to time to the constituted authorities, no redress or protection was received. The officials themselves were corrupt, and participated in the profits derived from the nefarious and infamous business. Governor Fletcher fell under strong suspicion of complicity. Legitimate trade was destroyed, and many embarked in the new calling who under other circumstances could not have been induced to pollute themselves by engaging in so vile a traffic.
The English government at last became alarmed. Trade was suspended and merchants were afraid to send their vessels and wares over the ocean. They were unwilling to risk their property in so dangerous and hazardous an enterprise. It became necessary to adopt active means to suppress piracy. The Governor could not be trusted, and, in order to break up this evil, Governor Fletcher was recalled in 1695, and Lord Bellomont appointed in his stead.

Lord Bellomont did not enter upon the discharge of his duties until 1698. He was a man of quick perception, and was convinced that active measures were necessary. To carry out his views he urged the Government to equip an armed naval force to cruise in the western waters and capture the human sharks who were pillaging vessels and destroying the commerce of the nation. England at that time was engaged in a war with France, and had not the means or equipments to respond to the appeal. She required all her naval vessels to defend herself against her neighbor. Bellomont was determined to accomplish his laudable undertaking to destroy piracy in American waters, and, as he could receive no aid from the Crown, resolved to organize a stock company for the purpose. He was encouraged in his effort by the King, who approved the plan, and, with the Duke of Shrewsbury and others of the nobility, became a shareholder in the company thus formed. The object of the company was to build and man vessels to capture the pirates. A sum of money amounting to about $30,000 was raised. A fine and strong vessel called the Adventure Galley was placed in commission. She carried sixty sailors and mounted thirty guns.
Captain William Kidd, a bold and adventurous officer, was placed in command of the ship thus equipped. In order to encourage him in his labor, it was provided that his share in the enterprise should be one fifth of the proceeds. He was a man of large experience, having been engaged in the West Indian and New York trade for many years, and having at various times been employed as captain of packet ships. His experience and knowledge of the coast preeminently fitted him for the undertaking. He had lived in New York a long time, owned considerable property, and was looked upon as a man in every way worthy to discharge the duties assigned him. Bellomont and Robert Livingston had the utmost confidence in him, and gave him a warm recommendation for the position. He married a lady of high social rank in New York, and was privileged to move in the best circles of the city.

The vessel sailed under flattering auspices in April, 1699, from Plymouth, England, for New York. Arriving at the latter port, Captain Kidd shipped ninety additional men, and proceeded to the Indian seas in search of pirates. Kidd soon found that his own seamen sympathized with the buccaneers, and were far from unwilling to assume the role of pirates. It will never be known what arguments induced him to turn aside from the path of duty, and join the band of pirates he was sent to destroy. The fact is that he was led to abandon his enterprise, and became the most daring and bold robber on the sea that ever trod the quarter deck. Reckless and energetic, he soon enriched himself with booty taken from merchantmen upon the high seas. It is said that he would often return to the shores of New York and Long Island, and bury his ill-gotten gains for future use.
Kidd not only buried treasure on Long Island, but, if romantic traditions are to be believed, visited the island under certain sentimental conditions. He is credited with having made early visits to Bushwick in attendance upon a pretty young woman whose family resided in that region, and with having sought hospitality at the “Kiekout,” on the way to and from the home of the lady.

Even after the character of his undertakings became known, Kidd ventured to return to Long Island. After capturing a large frigate he landed at Gardiner’s Island, and buried a quantity of treasure. After dividing some of the ill-gotten gains with his crew, he discharged them, and went to Boston to reside, under an assumed name, hoping that he would not be discovered. In this expectation he made a great mistake. A man like him could not pass long unnoticed. His past career rendered his detection sure. Bellomont was in Boston attending to certain affairs of state, and, meeting Kidd in the street, at once recognized him, and speedily caused his arrest. It was a proud and happy day for Bellomont, and proved to be a crowning effort in his life. His wish was accomplished! He had found and with his own hand arrested the notorious pirate. The prisoner was at once sent to England on a charge of murder and piracy, was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death, and executed on the 12th of May, 1701. Kidd’s family continued to reside in New York, feeling keenly the disgrace which had been brought uponthem. 1
Diligent search was now made for his buried treasures. A large quantity of valuable jewels and gold and silver was found at Gardiner’s Island. The excitement on the subject became intense. Bellomont and Livingston, having recommended Kidd for appointment as commander of the expedition against the pirates, and in consequence of their former friendliness for Kidd, were accused unjustly of having connived at and participated in his spoils. Had this charge been true, Bellomont would hardly have been so ungrateful or imprudent as to arrest him in the streets of Boston and transport him to England for trial and execution.

1 There are varying views of Kidd’s character and career. Thus Berthold Fernow writes in the Narrative and Critical History of America (vol. v. p. 195): “To-day that which was meted out to Kidd might hardly be called justice; for it seems questionable if he had ever been guilty of piracy.”

A History of the City of Brooklyn and Kings County, Vol. 1
By Stephen M. Ostrander, Alexander Black
Published by Pub. by subscription, 1894
Published in part in a series of articles in the Brooklyn "Eagle" during 1879-80. cf. Pref.

Available for download online from various sites. Also look for Vol. 2:
Illustration, page 315:
Buccaneers and pirates of our coasts
By Frank Richard Stockton
Published by The Macmillan Company, 1898

Available for download online: