Greetings, everyone! I’m a bit of a data geek, and have been looking at Old Spirituals 2019 results. I think it’s interesting stuff so I’m sharing with you.

First, thank you all, especially the regular readers, for helping to make 2019 the most successful year yet for Old Spirituals! Some years the growth has been slow, but last year there was a 49% increase in views across the board! In fact, December 2019 was the best month this site has ever had! I started Old Spirituals in November 2013, and I’m really proud of it. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but it’s come a long way.

What was new in 2019? There were 39 new posts on the site. Most of my posts take 2-3 days to produce. Of course, a series takes much longer. The amount of time required really depends on how much information is available. For instance, it’s easy to find information about Evelyn Nesbit and the Romanovs but I try to find stories that aren’t as well-known and they require a lot more digging and research. In looking at the top posts last year, I wasn’t surprised to see several posts about Evelyn Nesbit and the Romanovs. They’re always in the top 10, even though they were written in 2014-15, because those individuals are eternally fascinating to us.

However, the top post of the year was written on January 4, 2019: Successful 1905 Hoax Still Duping People. It’s really hard to guess what will interest people and the success of this post was a surprise to me. I thought it was an obscure story but it turns out, a lot of people know about it. There were also stories I thought people would really like, but that didn’t generate a lot of views like the series on Mata Hari and the Cruel Murder story.

Apart from the top 10, I wrote many posts about local San Francisco crimes, photography, and my first published book, The Poisoned Glass. My favorite post last year was Recalled to Life, but I can see how many people might find it difficult to look at the pictures.

The other interesting information from 2019 is who visited the site. The United States has had the most viewers every year, which isn’t a surprise since I’m American and probably 70% of the stories take place in the US. Thank you, American readers! Other countries who always have viewers in the top 10 are the UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. I’m so glad you all are continuing to visit. There were four new countries in the top 10, which is very exciting! Specifically, India, Paraguay, Indonesia, and Hungary. I’m delighted you’re here!


This year, I would like to hear from all of you. I’m interested in your reactions to the posts and whether there are any topics or stories you would like to see covered. I’m including a poll at the end of this post to find out which topics are most interesting to you. Please leave comments, too! Beyond that, I’d like to set up a site-specific email and work on the appearance a bit more in the coming year.

Thank you all again for a wonderful 2019, and I look forward to seeing what 2020 has in store for Old Spirituals!

This is a first, everybody. There’s never, ever been a recommendation on Old Spirituals to do anything before (generally, we don’t believe in doing things), but this is a momentous occasion that calls for an exception.

Here it is: You need to check out the new Raise the Dead podcast from Justin Robert Young. It is a historical series about the 1960 election between JFK and Nixon, and all the lessons we didn’t learn from it. I just listened to it tonight and I was blown away by how good it is. Justin has done a ton of deep historical research and he has a gift for bringing these old topics to life.

The first episode of Raise the Dead will be in the feed for Justin’s Politics Politics Politics podcast  Tuesday, November 26. You can also check out his YouTube channel. You’ll love it- whether you love or hate politics, you’ll love Raise the Dead. And, if you like (or even have an unhealthy love of) politics, the Politics Politics Politics podcast is not to be missed.



This stray article was in a February 19, 1913 edition of The Times and Democrat, an Orangeburg, South Carolina daily paper. According to the article, Mr. J.A. Brown was seeking a divorce from his wife Lizzie for cruelty and desertion. The Browns were residents of DeKalb County, Georgia, where they lived on a 27-acre farm owned by Mrs. Brown.

He provided just one example of the cruelty to which his wife subjected him. Lizzie Brown had apparently become infuriated one evening and decided to punish her husband for his real or perceived offenses. She retrieved a long board which was enhanced with a large nail.

“Brown recites that the nail protruded through the board, and when he was struck by the board, the nail penetrated the flesh to the bone of his thigh. He adds that if he had not held his wife until he could get a chance to get away he believes he would have been more seriously injured.”


The couple married in 1908 and lived together until August 1911, when the spanking occurred. Mr. Brown hinted the domestic abuse incident was not unprecedented. “He claims she made married life impossible by a violent temper, and that she would fly into a frenzy without cause, and would curse and abuse him.” After the spanking, he told the court, Lizzie abandoned him.

I wonder what happened to this couple. There was more to this story, of that I am confident. I couldn’t find a follow-up article, but I doubt Mr. J.A. Brown’s troubles were over. Even though his wife had abandoned him, it sounded like the property where they lived belonged to her. Moreover, the publicity this story received would have made his life very difficult. Besides Orangeburg, the story ran in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, and Greenville (SC). In a very masculine society, as the south was in the 1910s, you can bet Mr. Brown was never allowed to put this incident entirely behind him.