The lead isn’t the only thing that was buried.

I’m kidding. Mostly.

But there’s a story in the NYT about the archaeological excavation of what turns out to be a 19th century brewery, that makes me go “Hmmmmmm.”

Not so much for the excavation itself, but for some of the surrounding details. Either this guy was really unlucky, or the past really was a different country. Or maybe both.

Once a servant in Schnaderbeck’s house mistook arsenic for baking soda. The pudding she made poisoned Schnaderbeck’s family.

Damn. I hate it when I confuse the arsenic and the baking soda.

Another time, a man who had been staying in Schnaderbeck’s house died in bed. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle said the coroner attributed the death to natural causes until a packet of strychnine was found “in the bed he had lain on.” The cause of death was changed to suicide.
“Apparently, Schnaderbeck had known about the packet,” Dr. Bergoffen wrote in one of her archaeological assessments, “but ‘kept mum’ as he said, ‘It was bad enough to have the old scoundrel die in my bed without having any more bother about him.’”

I know it sounds mean, but really, killing yourself in someone else’s bed and home is kind of inconsiderate, don’t you think? Schnaderbeck probably had to get all new sheets and bedding, and probably a new mattress as well. And this was the 19th century: it isn’t like he could just have ordered a new mattress from one of those Internet mattress sellers that I won’t give free advertising to here.

(Seriously, I feel a rant coming up in the not so distant future about the internet mattress/prepackaged meal delivery/website hosting based economy of podcasting. But that’s another subject for another day, after I finish updating some lists.)

One Response to “The lead isn’t the only thing that was buried.”

  1. Old 1811 says:

    I like to read books about crimes from the past (1700s to 1920s), and one of the most amazing aspects of them is the carelessness and cavalier attitudes about things that were known to be deadly even then. Arsenic was used in patent medicines, nobody was careful with flames, and acids, corrosives, and explosives seemed to be everywhere, with no precautions taken whatsoever.
    The wonder isn’t that this guy offed himself in his friend’s house; it’s that he lived long enough to do it.