Mrs. Christina Brown of Elgin, Illinois filed for divorce from her husband on the grounds that he was a wizard who wielded occult powers, compelling her to do things against her will, such as:
- Sitting for hours in one chair while he controlled her thoughts as well as actions without touch or word.
- Revealing the choicest bits of neighborhood gossip, no matter how solemnly she had sworn to keep them a secret.
- Telling him what she really thought of him, despite her effort to pretend that he was the only man in the world.
- Admitting that she didn't believe his fish stories.
- Confessing that she had cooked up the oldest and poorest food in the house when he brought a friend home to dinner unexpectedly.
- Purchasing a hat and gown at the cheapest store in town when she had fully intended to buy them at a more expensive establishment.
The Alexandria Times-Tribune - Sep 6, 1909
Algie R. Crook (or "Alja" Crook, as his name was sometimes spelled) was a professor of mineralogy at Chicago's Northwestern University. His great claim to fame, however, had nothing to do with science. Instead, it was that in April, 1901 he allegedly told his undergraduate class that he had never kissed a woman. More specifically, he reportedly said, "I have never uttered a profane word, never have smoked or chewed tobacco, drank intoxicants, nor hugged or kissed a woman."
Given that he was thirty-seven years old at the time, this was considered a remarkable admission. So remarkable that when word of it leaked to the press it became international news.
Great Falls Tribune - May 15, 1901
The media started referring to him as "Crook, The Unkissed." Acquaintances of Crook (or people who claimed to be his acquaintances) readily confirmed the tale, attributing his lack of kisses to his embrace of "austere science." One said, "the scientific atmosphere is inimical to the love germ."
Offers of marriage flooded in, from women hoping to be the one to thaw the professor's icy reserve.
Philadelphia Times - Apr 28, 1901
The French were particularly taken with the story. As reported in the Leavenworth Times
(May 8, 1901):
Leading [French] novelists and scientists have been interviewed. Some pronounce the Chicago instructor an "idiot" and a "monster," but a powerful clan uphold his theory that love for woman, even love of the ideal type, seriously impedes a man who would be great and learned.
Supposedly the news even reached as far as China where the dowager empress expressed a desire to see him.
Philadelphia Inquirer - Apr 27, 1901
Crook, for his part, was said to be "abashed and humiliated over the gossip the affair has provoked," and also furious at the "tattling undergraduates."
He issued a denial of the allegation, stating, "I have never told any one that I have refrained from hugging or kissing women, for the reason that I consider it nobody's business but my own."
He recalled having advised a student to do as he did — never to kiss, hug, swear, and so forth. And he figured that's how the story must have started. But he insisted that he hadn't said that he had never done these things at all.
However, it was too late. The story was out there and couldn't be taken back. His denial got buried in the back pages of newspapers, if it was printed at all.
In other interviews, Crook asserted that he had kissed female family members, which didn't help his case much since it implied that he had indeed never romantically kissed a woman. Also, a former student recalled that Crook had made similar claims before, noting, "He is a consistent Methodist, and his convictions sometimes cause him some trouble." So I kind of suspect that Crook really did make the no-kissing claim to his class, but denied it later out of embarrassment.
Whatever the case may have been, the tale continued to haunt him. The following year (1902) a group of students at Northwestern formed an "Anti-osculation Society," claiming that they were "following the teachings of Professor Algie R. Crook, the man who never was kissed." They elected him an honorary member.
In 1904 Crook got married, and inevitably this triggered a renewal of the no-kissing story. "Unkissed Man To Wed," reported the papers.
The Hutchinson News - Dec 28, 1904
Crook and his wife eventually had five children together. He died in 1930, at the age of sixty-six, and the kissing story resurfaced in his Chicago Tribune
obituary (June 1, 1930). It was, after all, the achievement he was most famous for:
In 1901 he won fame by being credited with having declared he was never kissed. He denied he had made the assertion after it roused world wide comment.
However, the memorial of him in the Journal of the Mineralogical Society of America
omitted the kissing story. Nor is it mentioned on the wikipedia page about him
Wiggle Stick, used for bluing fabrics
, was marketed heavily in the early 20th century. The name made some kind of sense, since it was a stick that you wiggled around in the water. But the ads with the women riding on top of a giant wiggle stick made it pretty clear that the name could be interpreted in more than one way.
Chicago Daily Tribune - Jan 6, 1904
Conspicuous Consumption - as it was done in 1903.
In order to celebrate the completion of his $200,000 stable, C.K.G. Billings held a "horseback dinner" on March 28, 1903 for 33 of his pals from the Equestrian club. It took 24 workers three days to convert the second-floor banquet hall at Sherry's restaurant in New York into a faux rural barnyard and stable.
The guests ate while seated on their horses. The various courses were served on a table attached to the saddle. There was an individual waiter for each rider, and a groom stood at each horse's head to keep it calm and prevent a sudden start from spilling the food. More details from the NY Post-Dispatch
(Mar 29, 1903) :
Each horses was equipped with a white, quilted satin saddle and bridle, martingale and shoulder-hangings in gold and white. Each guest was designated to his place by his name lettered in gold on the cantle of a saddle.
In the center of the horseshoe formed by the animals was a mound of green, surmounted by a mass of flowers. The grassy sides sloped off into a lawn, which spread to the horse's fore feet.
Beside each horse was a satin upholstered mounting box, from which the diner in the saddle was served. A board fastened athwart the pommel of the saddle served as a table, and that the steed might not curvette or prance or shy, and so spill gravy or salad, a liveried groom stood at each horse's head...
The equestrian guests entered fully into the spirit of the affair and soon the first banquet in the saddle was in full swing. And while the guests ate, so did the horses. While the courses were being served from the mounting blocks to dishes which were secured in holders on the saddle tables the horses munched oats from individual silk-covered mangers.
Twelve courses were served, then the tables were removed from the pommels and the guests lounged over their cigars in the padded saddles. Speeches followed, mostly laudatory of Mr. Billings.
It cost Billings around $1.3 million (in modern money) to host the event.
The Town Talk - Mar 27, 1903
Reference: Museum of the City of New York