The peculiar banner for this page, in which a gentleman seems to be inexpertly firing arrows into a skeleton as a woman bemusedly observes, is culled from the issue of The Illustrated Police News for the week ending Saturday, July 3, 1880. The complete original image explains what is going on here (sort of): [caption id="attachment_21" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Post Mortem Revenge on a Mother-in-Law, Illustrated Police News, 1888"]Post Mortem Revenge on a Mother-in-Law, Illustrated Police News, 1888[/caption] The caption reads:
Post-Mortem Revenge on a Mother-in-Law: A young Boston lawyer takes satisfaction out of his wife's mother by making an archery target of her skeleton.
Surely the most grotesque part of the image is the strange smile of the woman who, we must infer, is the wife of the would-be archer, and daughter of the skeleton. The Illustrated Police News was one of many illustrated tabloids around the turn of the twentieth century that offered peculiar, violent, and salacious illustrations of strange events from the week's news. The most popular of such tabloids in the United States was the National Police Gazette. Images from these publications offer a fascinating glimpse into the past, as well as a cheap, bit of a thrill; and, happily, the images themselves are in the public domain. If I have chosen this image for the header for this blog, it is not because of any hostility toward my own mother-in-law. Rather, it is for the stilted, nervous, and uncomfortable way in which the "young Boston lawyer" seems to be engaged in an activity that seems nevertheless to be so decidedly useless. Whatever else you will find here in the coming months and years, I will be sure to keep posting more such delightful bits of turn-of-the-century ephemera.