Jam and outrage in East Melbourne

The National Library of Australia hosts a very popular database of digitised Australian newspapers in Trove. Articles have been transcribed electronically, allowing users to search the text.

I’ve spent many hours on Trove researching my house, family and local community. I often start by trying to answer one question, then find something else that interests me, which leads to an intriguing anomaly, which leads to a possible connection, which leads to another question.

In short, Trove is a tremendous way to entertain myself and waste time.

For example, I decided to look for articles on my suburb published 100 years ago.

Search: “East Melbourne” year: 1919

The first article I read titled ‘Robbery at East Melbourne’ (The Argus, 29 December 1919) begins, ‘Employing a piece of paper and a quantity of jam to facilitate the noiseless removal of portion of a window pane, thieves gained admittance to a boarding-house in Grey street.’

Article headlined Robbery at East Melbourne

I don’t approve of robbery, but I thought using jam was clever. It made me wonder if early 20th century thieves commonly carried condiments.

Search: jam thieves

I was immediately distracted by, ‘Poison Jam Stolen’ (The Daily Telegraph, 21 May 1953) which reports, ‘Thieves yesterday stole a new sedan car containing four half gallon tins of poisoned jam. The jam had enough arsenic in it to kill 1,000 people. The jam was intended for bait for rabbits and rats.’

The car’s owner, Enid Taylor, was buying a steering wheel lock when her vehicle was stolen (which might be ironic, I’m never sure). I read that Enid owned a babywear shop, which makes possessing gallons of poisoned jam seem creepy, however, it was a different time.

Newspaper headline: Poisoned jam stolen

I had to know what happened to the jam.

Search: jam poison car

Luckily I quickly found, ‘Car with Poison Jam Found(National Advocate, 22 May 1953), which reports that Enid’s car was recovered with the poisoned jam intact.

I was relieved that 1953’s scone-loving Australians were safe. I also knew I was drifting and needed to refocus on East Melbourne.

Search: jam “East Melbourne”

This produced, ‘Wedding in East Melbourne’ (The Jewish Herald, 10 April 1903), describing the wedding of Priscilla Perlstein and Nahum Rapken at the Albert Street Synagogue. All the wedding gifts are recorded, including at least four jam dishes. This highlights the perils of the pre-gift registry era.

Due to Trove’s forgiving algorithm, searching for ‘jam’ also returns results for ‘James’. That’s how I came across, ‘The East Melbourne Outrage’ (Australian Town and Country Journal, December 4, 1880).

This article has nothing to do with jam, but it made me think about how the use of  ‘outrage’ has changed. In this article, ‘outrage’ referred to a nasty physical assault. These days ‘outrage’ usually refers to expressing disapproval.

Search: “East Melbourne” outrage

This search showed that ‘outrage’ was common in headlines in the late 19th century. My favourite is ‘Terrible Burglarious Outrage’ (The Weekly Times, 18 October 1889).

Newspaper headline: Terrible Burglarious Outrage: A Lady's Head Broken

I was sad about the lady’s head (actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds) but I also reflected that I don’t come across the word ‘burglarious’ often. I wondered if it used to be common.

Search: Burglarious (headlines only)

I found 227 burglarious articles, including:

This last article is about a circus elephant who broke into a cottage and ate several pots of jam.

I’m pretty sure that answers my original question. Happy Troving everyone.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Skip to content