Dec. 23, 1906 (Sunday)
A PERFECT CASE FOR CSI: PHILADELPHIA: Mrs. Bridget Carey (shown at right in an illustration in today's Syracuse Herald) is being held in Philadelphia for the deaths of two boarders, her husband and two of her children. Her husband died about 10 months ago. Then, boarder Cecilia Cook died on Aug. 14. This was followed by the death of boarder Patrick Coyle on Sept. 17. Daughters May, 8, and Anna, 6, died on Nov. 17. She nearly got a "hat trick" on her children, but 3-year-old Edward was taken away from the home by an aunt after he became seriously ill on Nov. 16. One break in the investigation surfaced when police discovered that Mrs. Carey had bought rat poison with an unusually large dose of arsenic. Then there were those insurance policies Mrs. Carey had taken out for her husband ($250), the children ($200 each) and all the boarders in the house. Great suspicion surfaced when the two children died the same day. At first, this was attributed to "bad candy." However, tests of candy at local stores indicated that was not the problem. The authorities quietly exhumed the bodies and found large quantities of arsenic in the children's stomachs. Things look bad for the mom, even though neighbors vouch for her. One, pursuing a bit of circular reasoning, said Mrs. Carey couldn't be as evil as the police say. After all, one of the boarders "had so much confidence in her that he had his insurance policy made out in favor of her." OK. I think that's what worries the police.
BOSTONIANS CAN DRINK MORE LIQUOR, LATER AT NIGHT -- THANKS TO THE REPEAL OF THE 'SEMI-COLON LAW': Voters in Boston this week backed an extension of the day's drinking by one hour, from 11 p.m. to midnight. This, in effect, "blue-pencils" the famous semicolon in the liquor law that kept the hotel dining rooms from serving liquor after 11 p.m.
The offending SEMI-COLON is at right, as printed in The New York Times on Dec. 6, 1900. It goes like this:
No sale of spirituous liquors shall be made between the hours 12 at night and 6 in the morning; nor during the Lord's Day, except that if the licensee is also licensed as an inn-holder he may supply such liquor to guests who have resorted to his house for food or lodging.
In the 1880s, the "12" was changed to "11." If there had been a COMMA after "6 in the morning" -- as it was in the original 1875 statute -- then everything would have been OK. However, the SEMI-COLON appeared in 1881. Nobody noticed. It was passed with that punctuation. And, in 1900, the Supreme Court ruled that the hotels could not sell liquor between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.