Local History and Genealogy

Grandma’s Clickbait

scary doll eyes

One of the great services libraries offer to their communities is to act as a storehouse of local and personal histories. Filed between numerous photos, post cards, prays and poetry are often found newspaper clipping on anything that happened to catch the scrapbooker’s eye. This can range from a story about a cute baby with “the large, doll-like eyes” to a triple homicide committed by a jilted lover. People like to think that the world has become more weird and dangerous since the early 20th century even when that is not the case, but our perception of it has changed from the constant barrage of news available to us. Now 24/7 hours a day you can hear about a new murder or crime committed somewhere, which can mess with our perception of how dangerous the world actually is. Nevertheless, as they say in journalism, if it bleeds, it leads. It is these stories that people, regardless of the era, are compelled to see and remember. That included your great-grandmother.

The following examples of local intrigue and scandal were found in the course of my work with Plainfield Public Library to digitize scrapbooks and local documents. These examples come from the very thick scrapbook of Lavina Birkett Harvey Irwin, which was graciously donated by her great-granddaughter.

  1. Slays 3, Sent to Prison 27 Hours Later 

Unfortunately she did not save the picture. My favorite part is that he claimed “he had no knowledge of the crime and that “everything went black,” when he drank a glass of milk into which “some one had put something.” This should be a lesson to all of us about avoiding strange milk, it’s a killer.

  1. Woman Accused of Poisoning Seven Dies in Prison, November 22, 1936

img077 section 1 lavina harvey irwin scrapbook misc joliet sunday herald news november 22 1936

img077 section 2 lavina harvey irwin scrapbook misc joliet sunday herald news november 22 1936

While not an actual listing of the murders, it’s still very morbid. You would think the third husband would have been suspicious about what happened to the last two. Maybe she put it in the milk?

  1. Mountain Bride at 11, November 22, 1936 

mountain bride

I’m pretty sure children are less than 20 years old.

  1. Employees and Customer Are Forced into Strong Room, Second Robbery July 5th 1930

page 41 from lavina harvey irwin newspaper scrapbook 1925-1940

Here we have a classic Depression era bank robbery with hostages and a gunfight with police. You wouldn’t expect a crime like this in a small town like Plainfield, let alone two.

While these scraps have not yet been posted to Plainfield’s local history section, they will be added in the future. You can find more scrapbook and document scans at:





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