18th and 19th Century: Nicolas Steinberg and the Murder of a Georgian Family

Originally posted on 18th and 19th Century.

St. James’s Church in 1806

Forty-year-old John Nicolas (or Nicholas) Steinberg was an optician and also a man considered to possess “inventive genius.” This was demonstrated by the fact that he received a patent for inventing a peculiarly constructed whip. But Steinberg’s peculiar whip would not be what he would become known for, rather he became known as a murderer.

On September 9, 1834, Steinberg ordered his fifteen-year-old servant, a girl named Pearson, to “go and fetch a pint of beer and a quartern of gin.” After delivering it to him, Steinberg suggested she stay the night, but she wanted to go home to her mother’s house, so he instructed her to return at six o’clock in the morning. The following morning Pearson returned as she was told to 17 Southampton Street (now Calshot Street), Pentonville. However, after knocking on the door for some time, she received no answer and left.

Between eleven and twelve o’clock, Pearson and her mother returned. They knocked but again there was no answer. Eventually, Pearson and her mother talked to a neighbor, and the neighbor concluded Steinberg and his family had left clandestinely to avoid paying rent, as Steinberg was six months behind, and, then the neighbor sought out Lewis Cuthbert, the landlord.

Cuthbert considered Steinberg a quiet and respectable “tradesmanlike man,” but now he believed Cuthbert had absconded, and, he and the neighbor returned to Steinberg’s house to further…

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18th and 19th Century: Cheating Valets and Tricks of the Trade

Originally posted on 18th and 19th Century.

One writer in the early 1830s believed that the moral character of household servants had declined. He claimed that despite there being an unspoken rule that servants could supplement their incomes indirectly from their employers, household domestics took advantage of the situation. One way was by using various tricks to regularly gouging their employers.

One nineteenth century nobleman decried that “there is not such an animal in nature as an honest servant.” Among the servants who reportedly cheated and took tremendous advantage of their employers were valets. One person explained why: “The whimsicalities and extravagances of many masters in high life, together with the total absences of thoughtfulness in some young men of fortune, [throws] wide a door…for the exercise of the tricks and impositions of this species of servant.”

Valets, similar to a household steward, used a variety of tricks to enhance their income. One trick was to complain…

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