We have all been recipients of a certain type of e-mail, usually from someone claiming to be the heir to a sizable fortune or the representative of a financial institution based in Nigeria. Predictably, they all need help to transfer a significant amount of money in a covert and speedy fashion and promise a tempting percentage for whomever assists them. Although the technology is relatively new, this sort of swindle is at least over a hundred years old. Back in the late nineteenth century, con artists called "sawdust men" cast a similar net for unsuspecting victims by mailing out flyers, or circulars, to individuals they had identified as being particularly susceptible to these kinds of offers. The circulars offered to sell the recipient a large amount of counterfeit money in exchange for a smaller amount of actual cash. Once the sucker had been shown the funny money and had paid for it, the sawdust men would distract him or her while exchanging the bag full of counterfeit currency for one filled with nothing but sawdust. Much later, after the trick was discovered, the victim was usually left without recourse; to incriminate the sawdust men would be to reveal that they themselves had also planned to conduct illegal activity.
The details of this scam, along with many others, is described in Professional Criminals of America, a 1886 publication written by Thomas Byrnes. Byrnes, the NYPD Detective Bureau chief from 1880 until 1895, ostensibly published his book "pro bono publico" in order to keep members of the public from falling prey to less scrupulous members of society. His tome is filled with all manner of interesting facts about the criminal underground, including the habits and strategies of bank robbers, pickpockets and even fradulent horse salesmen. In addition to criminal methodology, Byrnes includes many photographs and biographies of notorious criminals who have apparently been in the business for quite some time. For example, he warns us about Charles Smyth, alias Doctor Smyth, alias Harrison, who is considered a "clever hand" at the "confidence and sawdust game," despite having been arrested and imprisoned for twelve months earlier that year.
However, despite his popularity, Byrnes also had a shady reputation himself; his interrogation rooms
To learn more about how to protect yourself from the trickery of nineteenth-century scam artists, come to Rauner and ask to see Rare HV6785 .B9.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Taylor assumed active duty as lieutenant commander in the U.S Naval Reserve Medical Corps and served as Chief Medical Officer at McMurdo Sound, Antarctica from 1955-1957. The airbase established at McMurdo Sound was constructed as part of the International Geophysical Year.
The Durham Morning Herald reported in 1957, “The year has been set up in order that simultaneous observations may be made over the entire world in such sciences as astronomy, meteorology, oceanography, geology, glaciology and others. Scientists from 55 nations are taking part in the program.”
|"One of the first planes to be flown in ('55) with Erubus in background steaming 12/55"|
Taylor’s previous research on the physiological effects of low temperature on tissue and his interest in Antarctic explorations led him to volunteer for the mission. For close to two years he studied hypothermia, the effects of cold weather on personnel, performed research and tended to the medical needs of the 60 men stationed at McMurdo Sound.
Almost half of his papers (Isaac Taylor papers Mss-219) are comprised of family correspondence. Throughout the entirety of his service in Antarctica Taylor exchanged hundreds of letters with his wife Trudy and their five children: Alec, James, Kate, Livingston, and Hugh. Taylor’s letters home include descriptions of his work, the landscape, newly constructed buildings and Naval equipment and vessels. From a letter dated January 10, 1956 Taylor writes to his two eldest sons:
It is evident that Taylor’s descriptions of his adventures in Antarctica and the general mystery surrounding such a far off place sparked the artistic minds of his children. You can see the product of their young imaginations and artistry in the drawings and paintings of Antarctica that accompany their letters back to Taylor.
This painting by his son James, shares a close resemblance to the volcano that Taylor described in his letter from January.
Personally, the letters and artwork so obviously represent the unwavering love between father and his children and the influence of his narrative and on their imaginations.
|“East Wind USCGC at ice ridge, McMurdo Sound, Summer 1956”|
The Isaac Taylor papers (Mss- 219) are a part of Rauner Library’s Stefansson Collection on Polar Exploration, which features the papers of many polar explorers in addition to published materials, photographs, and vertical files. If you would like to learn more about “Operation Deep Freeze” and the Taylor family you can request Mss-219 at the reference desk.