Suicide story: York hotel proprietor ‘found a package that had contained about a quarter of a pound of Paris green’

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A multiple-deck headline in The York Dispatch on Tuesday evening, Oct. 6, 1891, tells how a man took his life. Such detailed stories were common in that day. Background posts: West York ritualistic suicide forgotten by many, but investigators remember and Abraham Lincoln’s ‘melancholy’ and The bad, and yes, the good of the Great Depression in York County.

With nostalgic thoughts about newspapers of yesteryear in mind, readers sometimes pose two questions about modern newspapers:
Why are there so many typos today? And why are papers today so sensational?
The first concern can be addressed by taking a scroll through newspaper microfilm. There they are, typos on most every page. In those hot lead days, it was difficult and expensive to change typos, even if they were caught in advance.
And as for sensationalism, the above headlines lead off a blow-by-blow story about how a York man poisoned himself to death, typical of the day… .


Here’s an excerpt from The York Dispatch, although rival newspaper The Gazette also ran such accounts:

“Blum’s lips were covered with a green powder and on a stand nearby was a bottle that had something green in it. The slop bowl showed that he had vomited something green. Mr. Heindle (Northern Central Hotel proprietor) felt in Blum’s pockets and found a package that had contained about a quarter of a pound of Paris green, only a small quantity of which had not been taken. He accused Blum of having taken the poison and insisted on his having medical attention… . He remained around the hotel until about 5 o’clock last evening, vomiting severely several times. He then departed for his boarding place, in the old Cottage Hill seminary. He retired early but was quite sick until 11 o’clock when he told a neighbor who came to his assistance that he would see something in the morning. About 6 o’clock this morning, Wm. Stouch, with whom he boards, found him dead in bed.”

The story goes on to discuss how Blum lost an adultery case he had prosecuted against a possible rival. That might have caused his despondency, the newspaper conjectured.
Today, The Daily Record/Sunday News only writes about suicides that occur in public places and with far less detail.
A historical gem revealed in this account suggests that by 1891, the Cottage Hill Academy, a former finishing school for girls from the South, had fallen on hard times. It had become a boarding home for the down and out.
(Charles F. Dye of York passed along this copy of The York Dispatch.)

About Jim McClure

Editor of the York Daily Record/Sunday News, ydr.com and its many digital products. East Region Editor, Digital First Media. Journalism/history blogger: yorktownsquare.com. Author or co-author of seven York County, Pa., history books.
This entry was posted in Archives, all posts, Books & reading, Cops & courts, Explanations/controversy, Genealogy/research, Local journalism & Web, Mail bag, Pain & trauma. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Suicide story: York hotel proprietor ‘found a package that had contained about a quarter of a pound of Paris green’

  1. Judy says:

    Good Lord! I have ancestors by that name, although I’ve never heard of Mathias. What a terrible way to go.
    Not only did newspapers of that day describe suicides in detail, they often described accidental or sudden deaths in great detail, as I discovered during genealogical research.

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