At TeslaCon 2019, I had the opportunity to do a presentation called “Guilty by Gaslamp: Criminals and Detectives of the Steam Era.” It was chock-full of history when it came to the first highly reported on court cases and info about real crimes that inspired some of the 19th century’s most famous literary minds. I started the talk off with a little game I called Crime or No Crime? where I drew from both historical examples (from the Villianous Victorians book) and my imagination to present unlikely crimes. The audience tried to guess which offenses were punishable.
How good are you at guessing?
- Racing your dog in the street and betting on the winner
- Throwing snowballs
- Eating a pork pie after 9pm
- Shaking out a carpet after 9am
- Being a man dressed in women’s clothes
- Whistling and singing on the street
- Coughing in church
- Throwing an orange peel on the pavement
- Dumping a dead cat in the street
Got your guesses in mind? Let’s take a look.
1. Racing your dog in the street and betting on the winner
CRIME: Though trespassing on someone’s property cost 1 penny, the racing was 1 pound each
3. Eating a pork pie after 9pm
No crime. It was just funny to think about the police trying to regulate this.
4. Shaking out a carpet after 9am
CRIME. I guess when people said “make it snappy”, they weren’t talking about home cleaning.
5. Being a man dressed in women’s clothes
CRIME: The fine in at least one recorded instance was two shillings and six pence.
6. Whistling and singing on the street
CRIME: Two pounds (twice as much as the gambling on dog racing!)
7. Coughing in church
8. Throwing an orange peel on the pavement
CRIME: In fact, this one is STILL on the books in London.
9. Dumping a dead cat in the street
CRIME: Much like the orange peel, London was concerned with the cleanliness of the streets and sidewalks. If that same feline found its way into the Thames, on the other hand, there was no punishment awaiting you until relatively recently.
If you are interested in the wild world of crime and punishment in the steam era, follow along here or on our Facebook page to make sure you never miss a post. I’ll have plenty more fun facts from history coming soon.