The north side of Portland, Oregon, in the late 1800s was the scene of a violent, raucous waterfront, where illicit cargoes from Asia were offloaded, drunken sailors “shanghaied,” the brothels were always busy, and dark opium dens offered escape from the burdens of life. The profits from all these vices—including the smuggling of illegal immigrants from China—flowed to the elegant south side of town.

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Diamond necklaces, rings, and other expensive baubles were an irresistible attraction to the light-fingered burglars who preyed on the wealthy winter visitors to Miami Beach in its early days. One particularly light-fingered jewel thief became the arch-villain of this elegant resort scene. Even after his arrest and imprisonment, the enormous hauls of jewels lifted by this sly criminal kept his legend alive. Continue reading

Who dreamt up the stunt of going over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Through the 1800s, countless daredevils and would-be heroes attempted all sorts of stunts at the Falls and in the rapids below. But the first to go over the Falls—and survive—did not fit the usual mold of a thrill-seeking daredevil. She was a 63-year-old music teacher named Annie Edson Taylor, who quickly became a national celebrity. Continue reading