Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mrs. Delf's Unsuccessful Profession

Naughty Margaret Delf
I hope that whoever wrote the police court column in the Saint Paul Daily Globe in 1884 went on to bigger and better things. There’s some real style here, so I hope the anonymous journalist gave us some work at book length. It’s really amusing writing, which makes me think I should be dipping into the Saint Paul Daily Globe’s police column more frequently.

I’ve decided do things a little differently, and I’ve scattered a few footnotes into the text. The second item in the column was the one that lead me there, but this one was too good to resist.
“Is that you, darling?” whispered a soft voice in response to a quiet rap on the door of the castle presided over by pretty, but dissipated, Margaret Delf, in the classic precincts of Swede Hollow, as the hand on the clock pointed to 12 o’clock, Tuesday night.[1] “May I come in?” pleaded the quiet man on the outside of the castle, in tones tremulous with emotion. Then there was a scurry and flutter inside of the castle, and when pretty Margaret loosened the latch-string, in stalked the tall, robust form of a policeman, and this is how the castle and all its doves[2] and old pelicans[3] inside were captured. There was no mistaking it; they had been taken in and done for, and now they were ordered to put on their togs, and when a patrol wagon came they all took a ride. Yesterday morning they were arraigned, Maggie being charged with keeping a house of ill fame, and Josephine Johnson, A. Schmidt and B. Petzholdt and Louisa Scheffer,[4] inmates of the same. Maggie was fined $100, an even century or ninety days, and the others $25 each. After a while the fine of Maggie was reduced to $25 on condition that she leave the city, and they all paid.
It’s hard to say anything about the women. Some searching turned up a Margaret Delfs living in St. Paul in 1885 (likely the same woman). There is a likely Josephine Johnson and Louisa Scheffer in St. Paul in 1884, but there may be more than one of each. There were marriages recorded for women of those names in 1885. Maybe they were doing some part-time work to save up some cash.

As it turns out, the July 31, 1884 reference seems to be last of several articles citing the infamous Ms. Delf. Let’s just say that 1884 was a busy year for her.
February 17
Margaret Delfe and Walter Coolidge were arrested by Officers Wilkie and Scheffer, last night, in a house on Seventh street, between Wacouta and Rosabel streets for violating ordinance number 10. 
February 19
Margaret Delf, a poor harmless old hag and a young fellow named Coolidge, who should have been fined for having such bad taste, were up on the No. 10 ordinance farce. There was no evidence to show them guilty, and she promised to leave town, while he was discharged.
Must have been streetwalking. More problems were to come:
February 20
Sunday night a poor old girl named Mary Delfs was arrested for disorderly conduct.

She resided over the place where Jostin kept bar and when arrested her bail was fixed at $30. She had $15 in her trunk and she instructed Human to get this and borrow $15 more from a Mr. Allen and have her released. He did as directed but instead of having her released he took the money and skipped to Minneapolis. Yesterday he was in court, and the hearing was continued until to-morrow. Mean time he is in jail. 
February 23
The case of J. L Youngman, the wily knave who beat Maggie Delf out of $15, finally came up for hearing, and the young rascal went out for thirty days.
A bit of streetwalking in February was clearly a lot trouble. In June, she seems to have tried started a brothel, though not with much success. The article is somewhat damaged, and I’ve had to apply ellipses where I can’t puzzle out the missing letters.
June 27
Mrs. Margaret Delfs, who was pulled with Chas. Gilroy and R. Kilpatrick on lower Seventh street[5] on Wednesday evening for keeping a too promiscuous ranche, was fined $50 and her “boarders” $20 each. Mag wanted to pay for all hands, and went down home in care of an officer to get her money. As far as he could make out it was buried in the garden patch among the grass, from which she dug it up, and going back paid the $90 without a murmur. She is an old offender and probably didn’t the $40 she paid to keep possible state’s evince on the mo… …er shanty consists of two rooms with t… …s, and on the door in big letters is the announcement, “rooms to rent.”
A different article, same date:
Margaret Delfs, disorderly conduct; paid $50 fine.
The next-to-last article is just prior to the one at the top of the post. It’s dated July 30, 1884.
Bad House Pulled.
Margaret Delfs, an old offender, brought in three times before on the same complaint, was pulled by Officer Toory last evening, at Swede Hollow, on the charge of keeping a house of ill-fame, and Louisa Swret, A Smidt and A. Pathault, who were visiting the same, were also put under lock and key.
And, on the same page as the article at the top:
Municipal Court.
[Before Judge Burr.]
Margaret Delfo, Louisa Sheffer, A. Shmidt, B. Petzholtz and Josephine Johnson, visiting house of ill fame; fines of $15 each paid.
Our infamous Margaret Delf (or Delfs or Delfe) seems to have tried to make a go of it as a prostitute or madam in 1884 Saint Paul. She doesn't seem to have been cut out for it.

  1. That would be July 29, 1884.  ↩
  2. The prostitutes.  ↩
  3. Their clients.  ↩
  4. Note that the names of the “old pelicans” have not been included in this article.  ↩
  5. Seventh street (and "Swede Hollow") was clearly the bad part of town in 1884.  ↩

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