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Reformatory CP - December 1898

Corpun file 25763 at

Chicago Tribune, 4 December 1898, p.7

Use Paddle on the Bad Boys.

John Worthy School Officials Bring Unruly Lads to Time by Whipping.

Four Slaps the Limit.

Paul Dasso, Chief Wielder of the Leather, Pleased with its Results.

Shortall Thinks it Good.


Spanking has been adopted as the official method of punishment at the bridewell. While President John G. Shortall of the Chicago Humane society and others have been advocating that the whipping post be established in Illinois as a punishment for wife-beaters and the milder types of criminals, Superintendent Adolph Sturm of the bridewell has discovered that a broad leather paddle, applied at the right time and place, is far more effective in keeping discipline among his unruly boarders than either the dark cell or the old-fashioned whipping.

Superintendent Sturm had recourse to spanking when he discovered, not long ago, that the bad boys of the John Worthy Training School, at the bridewell, were taking the dark cells as a joke. Two boys who had broken the rules and had been shut in the dungeon for several days on bread and water were overheard referring to the cells as "de boles," and bragging about the length of time they had held out. Thereupon Superintendent Sturm and Principal R.M. Smith of the John Worthy School decided on the new way of punishing, reserving the dark cells and the bread and water for the smaller boys who were afraid of the dark, and for milder infractions of the rules.

Uses Wooden Paddle First.

Superintendent Sturm first whittled out a long flat paddle, something like a flapjack turner. It was polished to a velvety smoothness, and it was tried on the first unruly boy in place of shutting him in a dark cell. Instead of creating an uncomfortable sense of great heat, as Superintendent Sturm had intended, the wooden paddle caused welts of considerable size to appear. The first half dozen boys who were paddled stood up for several days afterwards, and Superintendent Sturm gave it up.

Then a leather paddle was tried. A 16-year-old boy, who refused to obey the rules was made to get on his hands and knees, and Assistant Superintendent Paul Dasso, who is the father of a boy himself, took a firm grip on the leather handle and brought it down on the bare skin of the culprit. A fearful yowl rose up, and after four applications, during which the adjacent bridewell yard rang with sorrowful howls, the offender begged to be let off. Beyond four red streaks and a sensation of having sat down on a hot cooking stove, which lasted for several minutes, the spanking left no physical effect, and all the bridewell officials declared the corrective treatment a success. Since then the leather paddle has been used on the most unruly boys at the John Worthy School, and spankings are almost a daily occurrence.

Every morning the bridewell boys who have been charged with some infraction of discipline are lined up in the guardhouse where there are two rows of dark cells. Assistant Superintendent Dasso or Chief Deputy E.S. Harvey, who has been at the bridewell twenty-five years, acts as judge, and the boys are given a chance to tell their side of the story. The punishment is then announced, and if Superintendent Sturm approves the finding it is inflicted. Some of the boys are reprimanded. The younger ones, who are afraid of the dark, are shut in the dark cells from one to four days, on bread and water -- the rest are spanked.

Assistant Superintendent Dasso or Chief Deputy Harvey does the spanking. The boys who have been reprimanded, or sentenced to the dark cells, are made to look on. During last week nobody was bad enough for spanking. But usually on Monday mornings as many as five boys are punished in this way.

Dasso Gives His Views.

Assistant Superintendent Dasso declares he has about lost faith in the dark cell as a punishment for everyone but boys. Instead of being frightened by the dark and solitude the boys are in the habit of shouting to each other through the doors. The wiser ones have learned to take the board that is given them to sleep on and thrust it between the bars of the cell door, so as to make a spring bed.

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Few of the bad boys have had to be spanked twice. Aside front the physical hurt the older boys find it too humiliating to risk punishment that way a second time, and discipline has been greatly improved, it is said, since whipping was instituted.

The resident physician at the bridewell, Dr. B.B. Marheineke, who has held the place eleven years, declares it is far more humane than the dark cell. He is positive no boy has ever suffered more than temporary discomfort from being spanked.

"There is the paddle," said Assistant Superintendent Dasso yesterday, as he took the leather down from the hook: "You can judge for yourself. We first tried the wooden paddle but it raised welts instead of warming them up. We also tried whipping the more unruly boys with rattan, but that was too harsh punishment. The leather paddle works to perfection. We don't make use of it any oftener than we have to, and either myself or Chief Deputy Harvey always does the punishing. The paddle is never used without both of us being present, and frequently Dr. Marheineke is here, too.

"We never have made any secret of the fact that we punished the boys this way. If any one thinks the boys are being abused he can come out some morning and look on. I don't believe there are many men in Chicago that weren't given a harder dressing down by their father than any punishment the boys are given here. I was one of ten children myself and I am none the worse for being whipped occasionally."

Dr. Marheineke, resident physician at the bridewell, said:

"I have been here eleven years and I believe spanking is the most humane way of punishing the boys that has been devised. I never have known of an instance where a boy was spanked hard enough to draw blood. The boys are rarely struck more than four times."

"Good Thing," Says Shortall.

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"I cannot believe that any one was ever treated brutally or inhumanely at the John Worthy School," said John G. Shortall. "It is too carefully conducted for that. I don't doubt that some of the boys deserved ten strokes where they received only four. I believe it far more humane than shutting them in a dungeon. It is a good thing.

"You can't appeal to the moral sense of some of the young rogues who are sent there. They haven't any. It only frightens them to lock them in a dark cell. There is no way to appeal to such boys but through their physical senses.

"But I do not approve of punishing the boys in that way before the others, even those who have been reprimanded. That is doing it with too much eclat. It is making too much of it. Let the boy take his punishment alone, and the others will be certain to find out about it. The culprit probably will make out the whipping to be a good deal worse than it was to the others, and it will have a better effect.

"That is why I advocate whipping. Whipping would either drive offenders away from the city or else cure them. I haven't any use for the sentimentality that is making criminals instead of correcting them."

Corpun file 22757 at


The New York Times, 5 December 1898

Chicago Bad Boys Spanked.

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Innovation in a Public Institution Which Works Well.

CHICAGO, Dec. 4. -- Unruly boys at the John Worthy School, in the Bridewell, are now spanked with a leather paddle by the Superintendent of the Bridewell. Formerly they were punished by incarcerating them in the dark cell, but this was not found to be effective. Now they are held by an assistant while the Superintendent paddles them into a state of obedience. Their conduct has improved greatly, and the new process is considered a success. It has been approved by the Bridewell physician and President Shortall of the Humane Society.

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