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Tennessee’s Governor Malcolm Patterson occasionally granted reprieves to a condemned prisoner so he could study the case first. But the governor was going to be married December 7, three days before the hanging. Peter’s case didn’t appear to register in his consciousness.

On December 9, Sheriff Reeder prepared for the execution, noting the rope and scaffolding were ready to be used the following day. But late that evening, Governor Patterson granted a reprieve until January 11, 1908.

Tennessee’s Governor Malcolm Patterson

 

Ultimately, the governor agreed with the courts. Turner was guilty of premeditated homicide. On January 10, Peter was notified the he would be hanged the next day at 1:30 p.m.

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When Mr. and Mrs. Ivers of Devonshire, England welcomed their daughter Alice to the world on a cold February afternoon in 1851, there was nothing to suggest she would become anything other than a conservative English lady, like her mother. Even in their wildest imaginings, her family could have never pictured the life this child would lead.

When she was 12 years old, Alice immigrated to the United States with her parents. The Ivers family initially settled in Virginia, where Alice was sent to a boarding school to adopt the manners of a refined lady.

A young Alice Ivers

The family moved again a few years later, this time to Leadville, Colorado. It was here that Alice met Frank Duffield, a mining engineer and poker enthusiast. She eloped with him, likely due to her family’s objections.

Alice created waves right away. Frank was a familiar sight at the poker table but the clientele at the saloon was taken aback to find the new Mrs. Duffield was not about to stay home while her husband had all the fun. Alice accompanied Frank out in the evenings, and sat beside him at the poker table.

The marriage was not destined to last long. Frank was killed in a mine accident just a few years later. Her husband was gone, but for Alice, there was no looking back. Throughout the long evenings of watching Frank play poker, she’d learned more than the game itself. She had a natural gift for reading faces and she had perfected it during her marriage to Frank.  She took up gambling herself.

Alice, shortly after Frank’s death

 

Rather than return to her family, Alice whiled away her time playing poker in various and sundry saloons all over the Wild West. She quickly became well-known, running the table every night, and winning startlingly large fortunes, up to $6,000 on occasion.

Alice was not one to hoard her cash. In her younger days, she regularly traveled east to New York City, where she would spend vast sums on her wardrobe. This was said to be part of her strategy when she played cards. She would return to the smoky saloons of the west, dressed to the nines, in the latest fashions from Paris. It was a business investment, she told her confidantes, because the extravagant clothing distracted her opponents.

Fate intervened in Alice’s life once again in 1890. By then, she had acquired the nickname Poker Alice, and adopted the profession of a dealer at the Bedrock saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota. She was always armed with a gun, usually her .38 pistol. She had also taken to smoking cigars in her fine dresses.  One evening, Alice saw a drunken miner attempting to attack another dealer named Warren G. Tubbs with a knife. Alice quickly intervened with her .38 and settled matters.

Alice has her own comic book.

Shortly afterwards, she and Warren Tubbs married.  They seemed to have been very happy together. In their 20 years of marriage, they had four sons and three daughters. The Tubbs family lived on a homestead by the Moreau River, deliberately leaving the saloon life Alice and Warren once enjoyed far behind them. Their happiness ended in 1910, when Warren Tubbs died of tuberculosis.

Alice loaded his body into their wagon and drove 50 miles to ensure he had a decent burial. It was more than she could afford. She had to sell her wedding ring to pay for it. With no other means to support herself, Poker Alice made a triumphant return to professional gambling. Her skill at counting cards and calculating odds transformed her into a legend. She purchased a saloon in Fort Meade, South Dakota, and converted the upstairs to a brothel. The brothel operated continually but the saloon was closed on Sundays. In response to the grumbling, Alice explained sincerely that playing poker on the Sabbath was wrong. Prostitution on Sundays was apparently still okay.

When they lived on the homestead, she and Warren had employed a man named George Huckert to help them. Huckert was desperately in love with Alice, but she seemed to have no interest in him until it was brought to her attention that she owed him $1,008 in back wages. After a few calculations, Alice decided marrying Huckert would be more economical than paying him. It was another short marriage; George died in 1913.

Alice is at the center in a dark hat, dealing poker

The same year, Alice found herself in hot water. A group of drunken soldiers appeared at her saloon on a Sunday, and became unruly and destructive. Alice was infuriated and pulled out her .38. She said she only planned to shoot to establish order in the house, but the shot struck a soldier, killing him. Alice and six of her prostitutes were arrested.

Alice, now in her 60s, spent her time quietly reading the Bible and smoking cigars. When the case finally went to trial, Alice claimed self-defense and was acquitted and set free. The saloon, however, was closed for good. The brothel remained open.

Alice was not scared straight while in jail. After her acquittal, she was arrested frequently for gambling, drunkenness, operating a brothel, and selling bootleg liquor. Her last arrest was in 1928 and due to her age, she was pardoned by South Dakota governor William J. Bulow.

The last photo of Alice

The remarkable Poker Alice departed this world on February 27, 1930, at age 79. She is buried in St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.

Alice Ivers was known as a beautiful woman for most of her life, though not photogenic. However, the first photo I saw of her is the one on the left, and it took me a moment to realize that she wasn’t Archie Bunker. But there is a resemblance, don’t you think?

Alice bears a peculiar resemblance to another famous cigar enthusiast

Today’s sordid history from Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary is the tale of Adolph Fein, the one-time vice-president of the Hebrew chapter of St. Louis’ Jefferson Club, a local organization of young Democrats that wielded considerable power throughout the state of Missouri at the turn of the century.

Fein was a well-known politician in St. Louis but as we will see, not very well-liked. His steady rise through the ranks of the state party was abruptly halted when he was indicted with Jacob Weissman in late 1903, for helping immigrants fraudulently obtain U.S. citizenship, i.e., naturalization fraud.

For a man accused of a felony, Fein did not appear overly anxious. He had been on trial twice before and emerged with no serious consequences for his behavior.

In a news article from January 1904 titled Fein Says He Will Peach, the Omaha Bee quoted a blustery Fein:

“I’ll tell the Grand Jury who the fellows were behind those frauds, and they were big fellows, too. When I was indicted, my friends said they would come to the front for me, and I made up my mind to keep my mouth shut, but they deserted me. I waited until December 27. Then I made up my mind that if they wouldn’t come to the front for me, the government would. So I wrote to Col. Dyer, the U.S. District Attorney, and told him I would give up everything I knew.”

Adolph Fein’s friends certainly came forward as promised, but they weren’t there to help their old friend out of a jam. Instead, his former colleagues, also vice-presidents of the Jefferson Club, testified against him. Ferdinand Schwartz told the court that Adolph had instigated all the wrongdoing. Frank Hertz said that Fein had repeatedly cajoled he and others to get involved in his racket. And William Novak said Fein gave him instructions to help create fraudulent papers.

It took three trials, but the law finally caught up to Adolph Fein. Late in the afternoon on November 5, 1904, a jury in the United States District Court convicted him of aiding and abetting naturalization fraud. He was sentenced to five years in prison, plus a $1,000 fine.

In 1905, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Fein had been sent up to Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary, and the trouble started at once.

“Fein Feigned”: the newspaper’s editor has some fun with headlines

Upon arrival at Leavenworth, Fein convinced another prisoner that he was ill, blind, and suffering serious heart trouble. The other convict escorted Fein to the room where Deputy McClaughry was waiting to take his fingerprints. Despite the convict’s “strenuous” objections, McClaughry recorded his measurements on a Bertillion card, which was used with mugshots to identify prisoners. I’ll do a separate post on Bertillion cards soon.

Unfortunately for Adolph Fein, a Leavenworth doctor was on hand to examine him. He looked the new prisoner over, then he assured the deputy that Fein had excellent eyesight and was enjoying the best of health. McClaughry was not amused, and when Fein continued to insist he was really blind, the deputy sent him to solitary confinement for several days.

Adolph’s behavior grew increasingly strange. He continued to protest that he was blind and vague reports were heard back in St. Louis that he was a troublemaker. His hometown newspaper reported that Adolph was “most unruly”, and added with perceptible glee that his job while at Leavenworth was to “run a wheelbarrow”.

The guards told strange stories about Fein wandering around in a disoriented way, claiming he did not know who he was. Adolph continued to talk about his eyesight yet he had no trouble navigating the prison and the yard. They suspected he was trying to get out of work, and resorted to harsher treatment. The guards punished him by taking away his glasses and frequently locking him in solitary confinement.

 

Things began to change in 1906, when a different physician told the warden that Fein did have poor eyesight and could not work because he would injure himself.

In late March, Mrs. Adolph Fein received a letter from Leavenworth prison, informing her that her husband had been examined and pronounced insane. Three weeks later, a small blurb appeared in the Topeka State Journal that claimed Fein had been showing signs of insanity for the past six weeks, and had recently become violent. The article noted that Fein was transferred to an insane asylum in Washington, D.C., having spent about 5-and-a-half months at Leavenworth.

There were a few asylums in Washington D.C. at that time, but I haven’t been able to find out any more about Adolph Fein. It’s hard to say whether he was really insane, but I would guess he was — that prison just broke him, and his mind snapped. He had a very comfortable life in St. Louis and because he had more money and power than most, people indulged him, even if they didn’t like him. And he couldn’t tolerate his new reality – with the guards bullying him and being alone so much – so he retreated into a new world he invented for himself.