Jerry Kuntz (Writer)

Exploring American History through Unique Individuals

Archive for the month “August, 2015”

Alfred Lawson / Baseball Fiends

Between 2009 and 2013, I maintained a Typepad blog entitled More Fiends to give post-publication updates to my book Baseball Fiends and Flying Machines. Although I stopped posting to that blog over a year ago, I left it online until now. [I believe WordPress is a stronger platform; and also wanted to create a blog for all my projects, not just one title.] Since publication, I’ve collected more items on Alfred and George Lawson; and at the same time requested that McFarland designate that the title is out-of-print.

Potentially, I have enough material to create a revised edition, although I would probably only do so through an ebook platform, since the market would be very limited. That’s somewhat down the list of my writing and promotion priorities, since I have a new title forthcoming in early 2016 from SUNY Press, as well another another one being researched and written right now.

If anyone is trying to track down posts from that Typepad blog, contact me and I’ll provide a copy.

Nellie’s New Vice

In Minnesota’s Notorious Nellie King I detailed Nellie’s several substance abuse habits: whiskey, laudanum, morphine, and cocaine. Just recently, however, a new favorite of hers has surfaced:


from Duluth Evening Herald, Sep 29, 1891

This should come as no surprise, though. Opium use was rampant during the 1880s and 1890s, and opium joints likely existed in every American city and frontier town. I wonder if contemporary readers instantly recognized what “sadly demoralized state” meant, e.g. withdrawn from a drug high.

Maud Lee Healed!

In an effort to find some new tidbit on the tragic Maud Lee (subject of my book A Pair of Shootists), I stumbled across a reference to a name that appeared in my earlier book on Alfred Lawson (Baseball Fiends and Flying Machines). Lawson, between the years 1917 and 1921, befriended Wilbur Glenn Voliva, leader of the community/cult “Christian Catholic Church” of Zion, Illinois. Voliva was a serious proponent of the theory of a Flat Earth. He had taken over as leader of Zion in 1906 from John Alexander Dowie, an Australian faith healer who developed a huge following in America. As he aged, Dowie became increasing messianic, and proclaimed himself the Prophet Elijah.

However, back in the mid 1890s, Dowie held huge faith healing events in Chicago. On November 17, 1895, one such event was held in the Chicago Auditorium in front of 4000 people. Typically, Dowie planted individuals in the crowd to get up and attest to his miraculous cures. On this day, it appears that Maud was one of the plants:


There’s no proof positive that this was Maud, but circumstances fit–she often posed as the sister, daughter or niece of Buffalo Bill. The year 1895 is a blank in her history, but in July of 1894 she was injured while parachute jumping from a smoke balloon in Indiana. (see earlier post). This could be the injury that she claimed Dowie healed.

What would it mean to her story if this was Maud? At the least, it’s more evidence that Maud was desperate enough to do nearly anything for money–especially if it involved being in front of a large audience. Or maybe a favor was dangled by Dowie–it was the next summer the she obtained her best gig, the Wild West show at the Cincinnati Historical Exposition. Could he have put in a good word for her?

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