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Practical Joke Gone Awry

19th century blacksmiths at work


One of the reasons I started this blog is because I love reading old newspapers.  It's amazing how much times have changed; things that happened in everyday life a hundred years ago would never be tolerated in this day and age.  Take the following story, for instance, about a blacksmith who burned a young boy with acid- just for the fun of it.

From the Middleburgh Post, October 3, 1895:

On Saturday afternoon H.D. Stahlnecker, the blacksmith at the West end of the borough, and Warren Bowersox, a son of Curtis Bowersox, as a joke poured strong acid down the back of John Wagner.  The acid used is similar to sulphuric acid and had been utilized by the blacksmith to burn corns out of horse's hoofs.  In a few minutes after the acid had been applied to the boy the solution ate the seat out of the boy's trousers and began gnawing at his flesh.

Any person can imagine the amount of pain the boy endured when it is known that a single drop of undiluted acid applied to human flesh causes pain that endures for an hour.  For a time it was feared the boy would lose his life, but hopes are now entertained for the boy's recovery.  

It is dangerous to fool with hydrocholoric, nitric, or sulphuric acid and as yet no one knows what may result from this unwarranted and unjustified attempt to play a practical joke.

(the original article can be viewed here)

Interestingly, it appears that neither of the perpetrators were ever arrested for this horrific joke which probably resulted in the permanent disfigurement (and near death) of a child.  Newspaper searches of the time show that, in the months and years following this incident, H.D. Stahlnecker continued to advertise in the Middleburg paper, while blurbs about Warren Bowersox's prowess as a hunter regularly appeared in the Middleburgh Post.


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