The Evil of the Age
August 26th, 1871, was a humid, busy Saturday at the Hudson River Depot in New York City. Sweat and fatigue had crept in by mid-afternoon, when a porter suddenly smelled the stench of decaying flesh.
Along the wooden platform lay hundreds of trunks and bags, piled haphazardly, ready for loading onto a Chicago-bound train. During rough handling in the baggage room, the lid of an ordinary, 2'8" by 18" packing trunk had cracked open, releasing the foul stench. The porter immediately called Robert Vandeward, the baggage-master.
Vandeward deliberated for a moment, then moved the trunk, bringing it out of the public eye and into a nearby, open railway ...view middle of the document...
m. in a one-horse coupé. She wore a common calico dress and a thin shawl. She beckoned Paddy, saying "Sonny, can you tell me where the ticket office is?" When a truck arrived with the trunk, she paid him to help lift it. She urged him to be careful - it contained glass. She would never be found.
Earlier that day, she'd hired the truckman to transport the trunk. Paddy had young, keen eyes. He remembered the small inscription on the truck's cab - "Tripp" - which became, for a brief time, a holy grail of sorts. Policemen fanned out across Manhattan in search of the truckman, hoping he would lead them to the murderer.
By afternoon, every paper in the area splashed the story across their front page, proclaiming it "The Great Trunk Mystery."
Five days later, a handsome young bookkeeper at the Dale Silk Mill in Paterson, NJ unlocked his lower desk drawer and dug out a Smith & Wesson six-shooter revolver. He strode quickly to the fireproof vault at the back of the mill. Stowed in this cave-like room were the finest-woven silks, dyed in deep hues, ready to be cut into award winning scarves and blouses.
He raised the revolver to his head, felt the cold metal on his skin, and shot himself through his right temple.
No one heard the shot. It was mid-day, dinnertime; he was alone in the mill. Alice Edge, a silk sorter, heard groans from the vault when she returned at a quarter to one. She found him lying face down, with blood and brains spilling from his left ear. Two silk finishers moved his body from the vault. Three local doctors rushed to his side. Within an hour, he was dead.
By evening, local newspaper headlines screamed "The Sequel!" and "The Double Tragedy of the Trunk Murder."
Eight days earlier, on Wednesday, August 23rd, 1871, Alice Bowlsby rose early to catch a 9:15 a.m. train from Newark, NJ to Paterson, NJ, by way of New York City. No direct route cut through the 15-miles of farmlands and small towns that separated the two New Jersey cities.
The morning was hot and sticky, holding the promise of rain.
Alice, who was 25, placed a white straw hat atop her long, golden curls. She wore a freshly pressed white lawn dress, tucked and ruffled, with a blue sash and ribbons around the waist. Underneath the dress she wore false bosom pads, as was the style, which she had sewn with extra dress material. She draped a light shawl over her shoulders, then grabbed a parasol and her black satchel, which contained 80 cents and a white handkerchief, with stenciling that read 'A.A. Bowlsby' in tiny, black letters.
Before leaving, Alice thanked her Aunt for the 12-day visit. Then she sauntered out the front door, bidding her mother, who was staying on in Newark, goodbye with the wave of her handkerchief. As she stepped outside, she heard children arriving at pre-school, saw their fretting mothers release them for the morning. Church bells rang
It was 9 o'clock as she made her way to the railroad station.