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Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Horsewhipped For His Love of a ‘Typewriter’

Philandering Henry Truesdale Morgan was a man for whom the people at the Springfield Union and the Pittsfield Sun in Massaschusetts had little sympathy. Indeed, the Union’s and the Sun’s reporters positively relished covering the story when, on the afternoon of Saturday, July 11, 1891, Morgan was horsewhipped in his New York Life Insurance Company office at 317 Main Street, Springfield, by one George William Pratt, the then 17-year-old brother of Morgan’s ‘typewriter’, Alice Richmond Pratt, just 19 and 18 years Morgan’s junior.

Under the headline “The Checkered Career of Henry T. Morgan: Horsewhipped by his Typewriter’s Brother – His Springfield Doings”, the Sun said, “The affairs of Henry T. Morgan have formed a general topic of conversation during the past week. It isn’t by any means the first time that Morgan has come in for unpleasant notoriety, for his career of the past few years has been sprinkled with incidents of a more or less scandalous nature. The recent revelations concerning him, however, have caused a vast amount of gossip and have not surprised at least a few people who knew of his goings on in Springfield since he left this city [Pittsfield].”

The newspaper went on to say that Morgan had been, until a few years previously, “a respected Pittsfield merchant”. He was doing good business in the clothing trade. “He had married an estimable young woman of Norwich, Connecticut, and they were well liked in Pittsfield”. The “estimable young woman” was Sarah Adams Osgood (1855-1926), who married Morgan in Norwich on September 27, 1876, she at the age of 21 and he 23 by a fortnight. Their son, William Osgood Morgan, was born on January 19, 1879. He lived until 1966.

“Recently,” the Sun went on in 1891, “Morgan gained a name for paying undue attention to various women. Nothing of this sort was made public concerning him until his intimacy with a certain milliner in one of the large dry goods stores became so notorious as to find its way into print. Mrs Morgan proved herself to be one of the most trustful, devoted wives man ever made. In the face of the disgusting notoriety which her husband had gained for himself she still refused to believe the stories of his infidelity. For a time it looked as if Morgan had resolved to lead a straighter life.” The unfortunate milliner “whose name had been so disagreeably associated with his” was practically driven out of town.

But Morgan’s “good resolutions, if he had any, did not amount to a great deal, for in a year more or less, more stories of his amorous affairs began to circulate. One of his numerous intimacies was common talk about town.” His clothing business failed and he went into insurance work. Then fresh rumours emerged of his “affections for another woman, a young typewriter in his Springfield office”. To add indignation to outrage, Morgan then filed for divorce from Sarah, citing “extreme cruelty”.

Outrage turned to a whipping, when Alice Pratt’s younger brother George read a stash of correspondence between Alice and Morgan. George turned up at Morgan’s office, saying Morgan was “paying undesirable attentions” to his sister. George, the Sun said, was “old enough to see how things were going”. George first ordered Alice to leave, then instructed Morgan to make her leave. Rebuffed on both fronts, George left and returned soon after, armed with a rawhide whip. Again his requests were denied, so he produced the whip from a pocket and said to Morgan, “Then, take this.” The Sun said George had done “the proper thing in administering a thrashing to the man who has lowered his sister’s name into the dust.” Six days after the whipping Morgan was sacked by the New York Life Insurance Company, owing it $200.

The Boston Globe reported that in efforts to keep Alice away from Morgan’s evil grip, her family had tried to have her installed in a Episcopal seminary in Peekskill, New York, then at the Boston Conservatory of Music. But each time she returned to Morgan’s employ. The Globe headlined its story of the whipping: “Used a Rawhide. Springfield Lad Struck Agent Morgan. Young Pratt was All Prepared to Chastise. Found His Pretty Sister In Agent’s Office. Mandate to Go Home Was Not Obeyed. Perusal of Love Missives Was Cause of His Indignation.”

Close to the first anniversary of his whipping, on June 23, 1892, Morgan married Alice. They settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, and had two sons, Henry Truesdale Morgan II (1903-1967) and Crossett Morgan (1909-1983). In 1910 members of both the Morgan (Henry’s mother Mareietta) and Pratt (Alice’s cousin Cora Crossett) families were living cosily together with Alice and Henry and their offspring under the one roof, the bitterness of 1891 all but forgotten. Alice, born on September 19, 1871, in Springfield, Massachusetts, died in 1919, aged 48. Morgan, born at Chatham Center, Columbia, New York, September 10, 1853, died on January 30, 1923, aged 69. By 1910 George Pratt, born in Springfield on November 8, 1873, had gone to live in Oakland, California, and was still alive in the 1930s. Sarah, Morgan’s first wife, remarried in Norwich on February 21, 1894, to William Wirt Gamwell (1850-1913), and had a son by him in 1898, to join two stepchildren. She died on October 23, 1926, aged 71.    

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