Charles Guiteau

The Dastardly Past:  Charles Guiteau.

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On June 30, 1881, Charles Guiteau was hanged for the assassination of United States President James Garfield.  Guiteau was an attorney, whose various applications for a Federal appointments had been rejected.  Feeling personally resentful, he shot Garfield in the railroad station of the Baltimore & Potomac in July 1880, and Garfield died from infection two months later.  During his trial Guiteau offered this unique defense:  “The doctors killed Garfield.  I just shot him.”

Robert Traver

The Dastardly Past:  Robert Traver.

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June 29 marks the birth–1903–of attorney John D. Voelker, pen name Robert Traver.  Traver’s best-known work is Anatomy of a Murder, which producer/director Otto Preminger promptly adapted for the screen (starring a scruffy James Stewart and sultry Lee Remick).  The book is as riveting as the movie.  Noir author James M. Cain, reviewing it for the New York Times in 1958 condemned the writing as naive, the subject as stale, and the organization as “jackleg” (???).  “Nevertheless, however, and yet,” Cain continued, “it held me as few books have.  I couldn’t put it down.”   The public agreed.  Anatomy of a Murder, both book and movie, have remained classics for nearly 60 years.

Fort Knox

The Dastardly Past:  Fort Knox

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On June 28, 1935 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered the building of a fortified vault at Fort Knox in Kentucky, which would become the United States Bullion Depository.  Construction on the granite building finished in December 1936, and by January 1937 the first shipments of gold began arriving.  During the second World War it also housed the United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence.  Since it was built, Fort Knox has occupied the popular imagination as the place of riches beyond the dreams of King Midas, or even Auric Goldfinger.  It’s also pretty cool for aficionados of Deco architecture.

Dark Shadows

The Dastardly Past:  Dark Shadows

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On June 27, 1966, ABC first aired the Gothic daytime soap opera, Dark Shadows.  It featured classic film star Joan Bennett, along with a host of ghosts, vampire, zombies, and the like, becoming a cult classic.