"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This tale of domestic bliss comes from the "Bloomsburg Columbian," July 6, 1888. (The story is reprinted from the "Chicago Times.")

Mrs. Emma Mumford, at the Armory Police Court yesterday, sold her husband, William, for $200, $50 of which was paid in cash and tho other $150 promised in monthly payments of $50 each.

William is not a bad looking fellow. He is tall, well-built, has a mustache and side-whiskers, dresses well, and with his gold eyeglasses a stylish appearance. Altogether it would seem that William was quite cheap at the price, but he has his failings, and it was these that led his wife to let him go as cheaply as she did.

Mr. and Mrs. Mumford lived in Montreal, Canada. He was a bookkeeper in a large house and earned sufficient money to support his wife comfortably, but he wouldn't do it; he preferred to spend his earnings on fine clothes and let her win the bread for the house. Then he became fascinated with the charms of Clara Brown. Miss Brown is fair, fat and forty, and suffers by contrast with Mrs. Mumford, who is a pretty little black-eyed woman, with a sweet smile and vivacious manner. However, Miss Brown reciprocated Mumford's admiration and he accepted her proposition to run away to Chicago. They got here a little over a week ago, and were followed by Mrs. Mumford, who arrived here last Friday. A warrant charging the pair with criminal intimacy was sworn out and served by an officer, who brought the couple before Justice R. H. White.

They were badly frightened as they stood waiting for the case to be called. Mumford sent word to his wife that he wanted to speak to her. Mrs. Mumford walked over to where her husband stood beside the woman for whom he had forsaken her. Mumford begged her not to prosecute, but she was firm. He leaned over as though to whisper in her ear and his arm stole towards her waist. She jumped back and shook him off. "Emma," he said, "don't prosecute me and I'll go back and behave myself."

"Oh, no you won't. I am not going to pay your way back to Montreal and then have to support you."

"But you wouldn't send your own husband to tho penitentiary?"

"Wouldn't I? You wait and see."

Then Mrs. Mumford thought a moment. "I'll tell you what I'll do, ma'am," she said turning to Miss Brown. "I have scarcely a dollar in tho world. If you will give me $200, enough to start a small business in Montreal, you can have him and I won't stand in your way."

Miss Brown pleaded that she didn't have the $200, but was told that she had better raise it before the case was called. This roused her to action and she left the station. Half an hour later she returned with a despairing look on her face. "I could only raise $50," she said, but I will get the rest if you will give me time."

The wife saw that this was the best she could do and took the money. She then made Miss Brown sit down and write out three notes for $50 each payable in 30, 60, and 90 days. These she put in her pocket, and fifteen minutes later the case was dismissed for want of prosecution.

I think we can all agree that Mrs. Mumford definitely got the best of the bargain. I'd be curious to know how she did with that shop she planned to open. With her business acumen, she probably wound up owning half of Canada.


  1. I think it's a good way of getting rid of a bad and spineless spouse, male or female. But political correctness probably wouldn't stand for it, so we have high murder rates instead.

  2. I have somehow never managed to hear the phrase "criminal intimacy" until today . . .

    1. It was a staple of any really good Victorian newspaper item!

  3. I've previously read accounts of Victorian men selling their wives (sometimes with the enthusiastic encouragement of their wives), but this is the first time that I've heard of a woman selling her husband. I can only agree with your assessment of her business acumen...


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