On This Day in 1901

The Curious Case of a Nurse and a Capitalist

If you spend any amount of time reading historic newspapers then you will learn first that there was no story too mundane to be printed, and second that there was a great deal of public drunkenness in the past. In fact, on the front page of the San Francisco Caller published on June 21, 1901 there was a story titled “Drunken Clerk Tries to Strike Crown Prince” in which a drunken clerk walked up to Prince Frederick William’s carriage and punched the window of his carriage, claiming that he only wanted to get a better look at him. Instead, he got a better look at the inside of a jail cell. 

On this day in 1901 we pick up on the third day of trial for Miss Bertha Smalley who is suing for $24,000 in unpaid salary as a nurse to James T. Murphy, enigmatically referred to as “The Capitalist.” This beef arises because The Capitalist is now dead and apparently hasn’t left any provisions to Smalley as he had allegedly promised. In fact, some testimony even supports the claim that The Capitalist even intended to marry Smaller “when his affairs were straightened out.” Unfortunately, those affairs were never straight enough.

The fact of Sally possibly being little more than a nurse to the Capitalist got blown into scandalous proportions when one witness testified to kicking the pair out of his hotel when he found them staying in the same room. However, the same witness later got over his anger when the Capitalist smoothed things over by explaining that Smalley was only there to care for him when be became “intoxicated.”

At the end of the day the jury was yet undecided. However, from our convenient perch in the future, we know that the trial lasted an additional two days before the jury decided that Smalley’s lack of a contract was too problematic for their taste.

What lessons can we learn from this slice of the past? First, for some, drunkenness only leads to destruction and heartbreak, but for others it leads to free companionship at the end of a long life as a Capitalist. Second, always put your agreements in writing.