May 8, ‘Divorce case of Dr. William E. Thomas’ in 1902
Brooklyn Reading Works presents Edgy Moms 2014: Provocative Writing about Mothers and Motherhood today at 8 p.m. The reading is at The Old Stone House in Park Slope and costs five dollars. There will be wine and refreshments. … There is a gallery tour of the Brooklyn Museum’s “Ai Weiwei: According to What?” exhibition at 6:30 p.m. The tour meets on the fifth floor. … The Brooklyn Public Library is holding a free bicycle helmet fitting today from 4 to 6 p.m. at their Kensington Branch, in anticipation of their second annual Bike the Branches event on May 17.
Notable people born on this day include guitarist Joe Bonamassa, who turns 37; singer Enrique Iglesias, born in Madrid, who turns 39; and “Gravity’s Rainbow” author Thomas Pynchon, who turns 77.
The French chemist Antoine-Lauren Lavoisier—who is called the “father of modern chemistry”—was executed on this day in 1794. Lavoisier first explained the real nature of combustion and showed that matter is not destroyed in chemical reactions. Born in Paris in 1743, he was guillotined at the Place de la Révolution for his former position as a tax collector. The Revolutionary Tribunal is reported to have responded to a plea to spare his life with this statement: “We need no more scientists in France.”
It is No Socks Day. If we give up wearing socks for one day, it will mean a little less laundry, thereby contributing to the betterment of the environment and everyone will feel a bit freer for the day.
Mount Pelée erupted on this day in 1902 on the island of Martinique in the Caribbean. It was the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th century. In minutes a cloud of ashes, gases and rocks destroyed the thriving port city of Saint-Pierre, killing all but one if its 30,000 inhabitants.
On this day in 1902, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on the divorce case of Dr. William E. Thomas and his wife Frances H. Thomas, of 18 Hanson Pl. According to the article, Mrs. Thomas was seeking a divorce not only because her husband beat her and was unfaithful, but also because he was “performing illegal operations upon women and that the bodies of babies have been buried upon the premises at 18 Hanson place. These charges are absolutely denied by Dr. Thomas.”
Dr. Thomas was out on an operation” when called at his office, at 18 Hanson [Pl.]. It was stated that he would return at 2 o’clock, but at 2:30 he was still absent.
The Eagle visited the alleged backyard cemetery, and noted that it “[adjoined] the freight yards of the Long Island Depot. It [was] similar to the ordinary court in size. In appearance it [was] unlike the average court. It [had] a surface of dirt and not a green thing relieves the barren appearance. Scattered promiscuously about the court are piles or rubbish and dirt. In one corner [was] a large pile of boxes and wood, covering a space of several square yards.
The surface of the yard [was] not level. In many places the ground is sunken, the depressed earth forming well defined holes. The center of the yard [had] recently been swept. Countless insects and flies were hovering about one portion of the court. They were not observed in adjoining courts. … A large bulldog, which apparently makes his home in the yard, was nosing about the piles of rubbish.”
Mrs. Thomas’s lawyers said that their client had told them that a “woman gave birth to a live child on October 2, 1901, and [Mr. Thomas] did it up in a sheet and threw it in a corner; then called an undertaker, living near, who buried the child.” This accusation was affirmed by Edward Heard, who at the time was boarding with the Thomas family. According to Heard, “who was at a window in the rear of the house, 18 Hanson place,” he saw a “dog belonging to the [Thomas family] dig up a body of a child, and drag it about the yard.” He then “went down into the yard and rescued the body from the teeth of the dog [and later] the plaintiff buried the remains.”
Dr. Thomas said “the story about the corpse of a child in the yard of the doctor’s residence was the slander of a man who had occupied a room in Dr. Thomas’ house and had been dispossessed for not paying his rent.”
18 Hanson Pl. is now a part of the Atlantic Terminal mall complex.
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