“These fingers all point to Jones”

One of my colleagues in the Woodson has been working with some of the many, many newspaper clippings we have from the William Marsh Rice murder trial and for a few days they were out on the back table. While the trial, to be honest, is not one of my favorite topics, anything that gets left where I can see it will attract my attention for at least a few minutes. The ones I looked at actually proved to quite entertaining.

Parts of the trial were what you might call “colorful” and these clippings were reports from some of the weirder days in court. The weirdness was only intensified by the reporting. New York at this time had a lot of newspapers and all of them covered the Rice murder extensively, competing for the people’s entertainment dollars with garish headlines and illustrations and some wild speculation. The term “media circus” hadn’t been invented yet, but that’s what it was. Think “Nancy Grace.”

For a while, a lot of the testimony revolved around the valet Jones and his alleged ability to hypnotize, the speculation being that he had somehow hypnotized Old Man Rice and then gotten him to change his will, etc. It was wild.

He was said to have taken lessons in hypnotism, as illustrated below. I wonder what our social scientists would say about this.

Sorry about the first lesson being cut off–it wasn’t me, it was the clipping service, which apparently got carried away with the scissors. There may be enough there for you to figure it out and give it a try at home. Let me know if it works.

Bonus: Speaking of the clipping service, they attached a small tag to each clipping that identified the source. I looked at it closely, but it took me a moment to register the quotation from Robert Burns’s “To A Louse.” How perfectly apt for a clipping service and yet how absolutely ghastly. Very clever advertising, though.


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2 Responses to “These fingers all point to Jones”

  1. Matt Noall says:

    The lurid style of headlines used to be the norm. Look at clippings from the Civil War period. We seem to be returning to that style today (well, you mentioned Nancy Grace). The entire Rice murder reads like a bad murder mystery anyway.

  2. Francis Eugene "Gene" PRATT, Institute Class of '56 says:

    The “punishment” meted out to the wrongdoers certainly seems to correspond to the “style today”.

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