Category Archives: Media

1899: Navy officer slammed for kissing 163 women

Richmond Hobson, ‘hero of the Merrimac‘ and sex symbol of the 1890s

Richmond P. Hobson (1870-1937) was an American naval officer. Born and raised in rural Alabama, Hobson enrolled at the US Naval Academy, Annapolis at age 14. In 1889, he graduated top of his class, though Hobson’s rigid discipline and dislike of both alcohol or tobacco made him unpopular with classmates.

When war broke out between the US and Spain in 1898, Hobson was sent to Cuba. In May 1898, he was ordered to seize control of a coal ship, the Merrimac, and scuttle it in the harbour mouth at Santiago, an attempt to trap Spanish ships inside the harbour. Hobson did manage to sink the Merrimac, though not accurately enough to block the harbour mouth. He and his men were captured and detained by the Spanish.

Though Hobson’s mission failed, the jingoistic American press presented it much differently. Hobson was hailed as the “hero of the Merrimac” whose courage and daring had thwarted the Spanish. Newspapers carried stories of his bravery and portraits of the dashing young officer, who became a celebrity and a sex symbol, even as he remained a prisoner-of-war.

Hobson was released later in 1898 and repatriated to the United States. He made a series of public appearances, most of which were flooded with eager young ladies. But these public audiences produced “shocking spectacles” that led to Hobson’s fall from grace with the press:

“The scene in the Chicago Auditorium, when Lieutenant Hobson was kissed by 163 morbid women, was loathsome. It is deplorable. It is sad that a man of his excellent courage and fine intelligence should so far forget the dignity of the American navy as to lend himself to a public exhibition of female hysteria… We shall never tire of boasting of his nerve and his unflinching devotion to duty; but no one is likely ever to hear us boasting about his modesty or his good taste.”

Reports were also scathing about the young women who rushed to kiss the “hero of the Merrimac“:

“We have no doubt they are heartily ashamed of themselves. They ought to be, at any rate.”

Hobson remained in the Navy, reaching the rank of captain, before resigning in 1903. The following year he was elected to the House of Representatives, serving there until 1916. In 1933 he received the Medal of Honour and a special pension for his exploits aboard the Merrimac.

Source: Pullman Herald, January 21st 1899. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1835: Giant beavers walk upright on the Moon

Sir John Herschel – possibly after reading discoveries attributed to him in The Sun

In August 1835 The Sun, New York’s most serious and conservative newspaper, ran a series of six articles detailing fantastic discoveries purportedly made by English astronomer, Sir John Herschel.

Citing an Edinburgh newspaper as the source, The Sun told its readers that Herschel had constructed a gigantic new telescope, featuring a precision-moulded glass lens weighing almost seven tons. Using some technical detail, The Sun explained how Herschel’s telescope had powers of magnification far exceeding earlier devices.

The unknown writer then offered a detailed account of what Herschel saw when he turned his enormous telescope on the Moon: vast oceans, giant mountain ranges, active volcanoes, tropical vegetation, thick forests – and several types of animal, including a form of beaver erectus:

“[Dr Herschel] classified nine species of mammalia and five of ovipara. Among the former is a small kind of reindeer, the elk, the moose, the horned bear and a biped beaver. The last resembles the beaver of the earth in every other respect than in its destitution of a tail and its invariable habit of walking upon only two feet. It carries its young in its arms like a human being and moves with an easy gliding motion. Its huts are constructed better and higher than those of many tribes of human savages, and from the appearance of smoke in nearly all of them, there is no doubt of its being acquainted with the use of fire.”

According to The Sun, Herschel documented numerous other species living on the Moon, including a humanoid race four foot tall with yellow faces, beards and giant wings like those of a bat:

“The wings seemed completely under the command of volition, for those of the creatures whom we saw bathing in the water, spread them instantly to their full width, waved them as ducks do their to shake off the water and then as instantly closed them again in a compact form. [The creatures] then almost simultaneously spread their wings and were lost in the dark confines of the canvas before we had time to breathe from our paralyzing astonishment. We scientifically denominated them as Vespertilio Homo, or ‘man bat’, and they are doubtless innocent and happy creatures.”

As might be expected, the reports in The Sun caused a sensation, giving rise to frantic discussions and speculations among New Yorkers. It also sparked a marked increase in the newspaper’s sales. Other American newspapers seized on it and ran excerpts from The Sun’s articles.

It wasn’t until October, some seven weeks later, that The Sun reports were exposed as a hoax. Despite this the newspaper never published a retraction, admission or apology.

Source: The Sun (New York), August 27th and 28th, 1835. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1866: Gordon Ramsay uses indecent language to newspaperman

In late 1866, a newspaper in colonial Jamaica reported an incident in its own offices. The incident involved Gordon Ramsay, a high-ranking British military officer.

This Gordon Ramsay had a well earned reputation for heavy handedness and brutality. During his tenure as provost-marshall of Morant Bay, hundreds of civilians were tortured or executed by troops under Ramsay’s command. Ramsay was later sent to court martial for murder but was eventually acquitted on a technicality.

According to the newspaper report, Ramsay entered its offices objecting to its coverage of his military service:

“He thereupon became violent, both in manner and speech, and used language both offensive and indecent to Mr Robert Jordan… He was ordered out of the place but positively refused to go, and shortly after assaulted Mr Jordan who, in return, struck him with a ruler…”

Ramsay was eventually escorted from the premises but continued his tirade:

“He swears to murder someone in our office. It would, perhaps, not be the first murder that he has committed…”

Source: Morning Journal, Kingston, Jamaica, November 10th 1866. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.

1813: John Sprigg missing; he has a wide mouth and zigzag teeth

A notice from a New York newspaper in May 1813 reports the disappearance of a local man:

“Ran away from his wife and helpless family on Friday last, John Sprigg, by trade a tailor, aged thirty-five. He has a wide mouth, zigzag teeth, a nose of high-burned brick blue, with a lofty bridge, swivel eyed and a scar, not an honorable one, on his left cheek… Had on when he went a three-cocked hat which probably he has since changed to a round one, with a blue body coat, rather on the fade. He was seen in Benning on Saturday last, disguised in a clean shirt…”

It then goes on to list John Sprigg’s personal habits, none of which were favourable:

“He primes and loads [takes snuff and smokes tobacco]; he is so loquacious [talkative] that he tires every one in company but himself. In order that he may entrap the sinner and the saint, he carries a pack of cards in one pocket and the Practice of Piety in the other; he is a great liar and can varnish a falsehood with a great deal of art… It is supposed that he did not go off without a companion, as he is a great favourite with the fair sex.”

Source: The New York Register, May 5th 1813. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.