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Letters to Planet Slade: 2021

Intro, 2021,    |  Archive: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
Murder Ballads
Secret London


November 29, 2020. Martin Hill of South London writes:
“I have been reading your piece about the Whitefield Chapel burial ground with interest as I have recently done some research into Nathan Woolf Jacobson.
“You may be interested to know that Charles Wingard was the father of Annie, the fourth and final wife of Nathan Woolf Jacobson. Nathan and Annie had three children, Charles (born 1877), Rebecca (born 1879) and Julius (born 1880). I am not a lawyer and I don’t know why Charles Wingard and Annie Jacobson appeared to be on opposing sides of the case, but it may be that this was the only way he could help his daughter sort out the legal tangle - ie generate a legal case so that the matter could be settled.
“My own view is that Nathan was probably an unpleasant man. His second wife Mary Ann Isaacs obtained a legal separation and his third, Rebecca Levy, disappeared without trace. But there is no evidence of either a divorce or death.”

Paul Slade replies: Thanks very much for your letter. For the benefit of other readers, I should add that the case we’re talking about here is 1881’s Jacobson v Jacobson. It sprang from the fact that Nathan Jacobson had died intestate, leaving five of his children to sue his young widow Annie over the money he left behind. The five children’s case was spearheaded by what court documents call “their near friend” - one Charles Wingard.
I didn’t know that Wingard was Annie’s father, and the fact that he seems to have ranged himself against her in the case certainly adds another twist to the family’s warfare. I put your idea about Wingard’s motivation to UCL’s Dr Ian Williams, the legal historian who helped me with the original piece. “I think the suggestion is plausible,” he told me. “The litigation may have been contrived as a means to resolve uncertainties about the estate. This is still possible today in succession matters, sometimes with all the interested parties agreed they need the court to decide what needs to be done.”
I agree with you that Nathan Jacobson seems to have been rather a nasty piece of work. Even leaving the burial ground row aside, I’m pretty sure he supplemented the income from his jeweller’s shop and antique dealing with acting as a fence for any stolen goods that came his way. As far as his many wives are concerned, my own assumption was that, as he accumulated more and more money, he’d simply traded each one in for a younger model. Now you’ve got me wondering if it was the wives who dumped him rather than the other way round.

November 30. Martin Hill adds:
“My uncovering of these details stems from my family interest in a Jewish burial ground at Queen's Elm in the Fulham Road. I have spent some years transcribing the inscriptions of the gravestones there and identifying the individuals and their families.
“I am currently preparing a talk for the Jewish Genealogical Society of GB (of which I am Secretary) to set out some of the interesting stories which I have uncovered. It looks as though Nathan Woolf Jacobson will take up most of the allotted time. I have now added to my draft script a reference to the purchase of the site in 1863 and the protracted legal case after Nathan's death (with suitable acknowledgements to your piece). I had already covered the 1880 case.
“I followed the case because of the inscription on Nathan’s second wife's gravestone, her Isaacs family being connected with my own. It is worth noting that Isaac Jacobson was Nathan’s step-father and that his birth name was most likely Nathan Woolf. It would appear from papers relating to his brother Michael Woolf, transported to Australia in 1838, that his mother, Eve Jacobson, set her children up in the Oxford Street jeweller businesses . She refers in a petition to the Home Secretary to having done so for Michael when he was 13.
“I wonder why Nathan’s third and fourth wives married him given his history, but perhaps they felt sorry for the children or thought he was misunderstood. Given that the marriages were probably all conducted by the Chief Rabbi (who tried to conduct all Jewish weddings at the time) one assumes that he would need to have been satisfied that both parties were fit and proper persons. Nathan died in Hastings and his death was registered by the boarding house keeper - perhaps Annie had sent him packing and then found he had not registered the birth of any of their children.”

[You can find a video recording of Martin’s JGSGB Zoom talk here. The Jacobson material runs from 20:20 to 33:50, and adds evidence of wife-beating to the list of Nathan’s crimes. “The more you uncover, the nastier he appears to be,” Martin concludes.]


November 20, 2020. Amanda Lee Braton of Denver, Colorado writes:
“I have been reading through your website, starting with the Cross Bones story, and enjoying it all a great deal. After reading the Pearl Bryan story, I saw that folklore indicated her sister Mabel Stanley had possibly committed suicide. I was interested and looked for her through genealogical sites.
“I have many ancestors in the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky area, and although they're not related to her, I did discover that Mabel (named Mary or Mary B. on all the records) actually ended up moving to Colorado by 1900, living a full life in Denver and dying there at age 74. This is where I live, oddly enough. I drove past Crown Hill Cemetery today, which is where she and her husband are buried. Mary/Mabel was born in 1864 and died 12 February 1939. Her husband John Stanley died in 1921. They had one daughter, Auta, named for another of her deceased sisters, who never married and who was also buried at Crown Hill.
“The census records show that Mary/Mabel and her family lived in Kansas from at least 1885 to March of 1895. [Newspaper accounts from the time show Mabel & her husband back in Greencastle and running a shop there by February 1896 – Ed.] John Stanley is listed as a grocery salesman on every census, and Mabel is listed with no occupation.”

Paul Slade replies: Thanks very much for making contact. I’m really glad you’ve found so much on the site to enjoy. I always love it when readers reach out with new information on the people I’ve written about. When I begin a project like the Pearl Bryan piece, the people involved are no more than dusty references in the written record to me, but the the more I discover about them the more flesh is added to their bones and the more real they become. Readers’ letters are a fascinating continuation of that process.


Perhaps you’d care to inspect my testimonials?

On Black Swan Blues (Kindle edition)
“Incredible research for an important lost story. […] As a Black performing arts historian, I found this read to be spellbinding and critical on so many levels.” – blackbrownbeige,

On Andy Capp.
“A great write-up on Reg Smythe and the secret history of Andy Capp.” – Zia’od,

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