Roofies In 1910

“Serious Charges Preferred Against Rich Furniture Dealer by Department Store Girl,” so reads a headline published in The Fargo Forum and Daily Republican, June 25, 1910; below the headline, a photograph of one Sadie Finklestein, “who has brought suit for $25,000 damages against a rich merchant. Declares that he drugged and mistreated her.”

What follows is a rather incomplete story, said to have taken place on January 15, 1910, in which Sadie S. Finkelstein “an 18-year-old-girl” (not an 18 year old woman) claims to have been drugged by one “Samuel Lyons, a wealthy west side furniture dealer.”

Finklestein and her friend, Sophia Mitchell, had just left a matinee and were eating ice cream in a store, when Lyons entered, accompanied by a “Louis” who is identified by his address and his status as a manager in one of Lyon’s stores. Finklestein was then introduced to Lyons by Mitchel, presumably their mutual acquaintance, upon which Lyons invited the women to Sullivan’s saloon for a lemonade. The women accepted.

“When I first placed the glass to my lips I noticed a peculiar taste to the lemonade, but thought nothing of it at the time. Soon, however, I began to feel dizzy and my head swam around and around until I almost lost consciousness. I immediately asked to be taken out into the air, where I thought I would feel better, and Mr. Lyons assisted me to the street. Taking me by the arm he led me to the rooming house at Thirtieth street and Wabash avenue, where I willingly went, not knowing the nature of the place and thinking he was endeavoring to assist me.”

The article then continues with the testimony of the next person to take the stand — a person identified only as “Hirschfeld” — who “denied that Miss Finkelstein had been drugged and stated that they remained in the hotel but 20 minutes.”

I don’t know how this Hirschfeld is connected to events or persons in this story. Is Hirschfeld the manager of one of Lyon’s stores — the afore mentioned Louis? Maybe he (if it is a he) is the owner of the non-respectable rooming house?

But if that drives one crazy with curiosity, the article simply ends with detailed description of Lyons’ businesses (presumed wealth) and even more detailed description of Lyons himself: “He sat through the session with a passive expression on his face, from which he constantly wiped the perspiration with a handkerchief.”

And so I am left wondering about the oldest (quasi) detailed account of a date rape drug related crime I’ve ever read. I shall have to return to the public library’s microfilm to search for any possible additional information, for the internet is of very little help…

The only Sadie Finkelstein I could find turns out to be a roaring 20’s Coe College hoax — most amusing in its own right, but certainly of no help to this story of a young woman who was quite possibly slipped a Mickey. And yes, the slipping of Mickeys was nothing new in 1910.

None of the names we are given turn anything up; the only lead lies in this sentence from the first paragraph: “Her story greatly resembles that told by Evelyn Thaw about Stanford White.”

Evelyn Thaw, aka Evelyn Nesbit, was involved in what was dubbed the “trial of the century” — the trial of her millionaire husband, Harry Thaw, for the 1906 murder of architect Stanford White. Apparently defending her husband, Evelyn Nesbit Thaw testified at the 1907 trial that she had been drugged and kept in a studio by White.

That Finklestein’s 1910 legal action would mention the Harry Thaw trials isn’t so surprising; after all, it wasn’t called “the trial of the century” for nothing. The Thaw trials were a sex scandal sensation, as Irvin S. Cobb, a reporter in 1907, explained:

You see, it had in it wealth, degeneracy, rich old wasters, delectable young chorus girls and adolescent artists’ models; the behind-the-scenes of Theatredom and the Underworld, and the Great White Way…. the abnormal pastimes and weird orgies of overly aesthetic artists and jaded debauchees. In the cast of the motley show were Bowery toughs, Harlem gangsters, Tenderloin panderers, Broadway leading men, Fifth Avenue clubmen, Wall Street manipulators, uptown voluptuaries and downtown thugs.

Did Sadie S. Finklestein’s saga suffer from a second-rate cast, relegating both she and her story to murky micorfilm and obsessive amateur historians while Nesbit continues to have books published about her? I continue to look for more on Sadie and her story; if you know anything, let me know.


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