‘Pretty Little Mrs Cassell Honorably Discharged’: what happened next in Hoboken, 1893
Yesterday I posted about Agnes Mills Kosel’s arrest on her wedding day, as reported in the 8 March, 1893 New York Herald. The incident was covered in more than one paper, and the next day this follow-up appeared in New Jersey’s Evening Journal. Note the Anglicized spelling here of Agnes’s married surname, which was actually Kosel; I’m inclined to wonder whether this was deliberate, as other newspapers – less local to the events – got it right.
Sorry about the quality of this image: it’s a little harder to read than yesterday’s.
And so the conclusion contemporary readers would have been hoping for is confirmed. It’s good to know that Agnes and Frederick had a long (and, one hopes, happy) life together in Hempstead, as recorded on the census records I mentioned yesterday.
But I’m most interested in the way the whole incident was reported: it’s an aspect of the so-called New Journalism in action, isn’t it? (The usual disclaimer regarding my lack of expertise in these matters applies.) Populist, entertaining, almost winking at its readers: the reporters knew what the public expected, and gave it to them, fitting real people neatly into a set of persuasively familiar stereotypes. The public knew the tricks of the popular press, but still enjoyed the satisfaction of a gossip-worthy tale amusingly told. Marriage, marital strife, family discord, and divorce were big topics of interest in a period of rapid social change; they would remain a preoccupation of the press for decades to come.
And Agnes’s story, though not a tremendously significant one, has lots to offer: the beautiful, wronged bride with her ‘lovely black eyes’ (the phrase echoes an enduringly famous 1886 music-hall number, ‘Two Lovely Black Eyes’, though I don’t know whether that would have been familiar to Americans in 1893); the responsible, devoted groom, ready to step up and marry her at a moment’s notice; the ‘harsh and unnatural parent’ threatening to thwart the course of true love. All this, and a happy ending, too.