“The Wages Of Sin Is Death”


Amidst the pages of these ancient newspapers, filled with their ads for miracle cure medicines and news of the Great War, one can sometimes locate a news article to accompany some old crime scene photos. And that is what has happened here. The original photo captions from the NYPD called this an “ax murder”. Which it is.

The year was 1916 and the month was January. The news articles offer up some facts but leave the reader with many unanswered questions: Was Nathan Pullman deranged? Was he a control freak, a heavy drinker, a philanderer? Had his wife left him due to other abuse? We don’t know. His wife was killed in bed – was she recovering from an illness? This was an older couple, so had her rheumatism been acting up? She did suffer from “bouts of apoplexy”, as one article stated.

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The daughter was also violently killed. Had she taken the side of her mother? Had this feud long been brewing? For she must have known the true side of her father – who, after the crime thoughtlessly declared in his note that we “not worry about these two…”. And the daughter, Gertrude, is undoubtedly well-dressed with her fancy dress of the era, coupled with probably a complicated set of petticoats beneath, and what is likely her fur coat, which seems to be hastily hung on the coat rack at the far wall. She had been arrested recently though for shoplifting. Was she there in haste to finally confront the old man, once and for all? Had the mother traveled from Chicago to New York to get away from him?

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And $5,000 was a princely sum in 1916. Why had he brought such a bankroll? To win back his wife? We will never know. And his “wages of sin…” comment does not inform us whether it is his sin or someone else’s.

During this era, gas was the primary utility for light and sometimes heat. Dangerous yes, but electricity was still more so, and there were a lot of accidental electrocutions back then. The metal tubes seen dangling strangely from ceilings in these old photos were the gas jets, there to light up a room. The cost of a light bulb during this time was a few bucks – expensive – and they did not last very long. Gas was the best option. Bathtubs too were a luxury with most people bathing out of a washtub, and very seldom. Ladies wore loud perfume, and men – the same, and cologne of the era would today remind one of “Old Spice”, strong and yet able to just barely mask the funk.

It turns out that the husband killed the wife first, as police believed and then retrieved his daughter back to the apartment and killed her next with the ax, surprising her and putting a big hole in her hat with the maniacal weapon. This family appeared to be a miserable lot.

The address given, points to a building in Staten Island, not the Bronx, so I could not pinpoint and obtain a street view. RIP, ladies.

 

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