American Detective Fiction    Prior to July 1891

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  Published in
Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine, August 1862

This story was later included in the collection Leaves from the Note-Book of a New York Detective: The Private Record of J. B. Edited by John B. Williams, M.D. (New York: Dick and Fitzgerald, 1865. 19-25). The stories in this volume were purportedly written by the fictional character James Brampton.

This story was reprinted as
“A Detective Story” in The Indiana [PA] Progress November 2, 1876.

An earlier, longer original appeared in The Family Journal some time before April, 1860 and this was reprinted in The Memphis Daily Appeal April 22, 1860 as “The Tell-Tale Signature.” That version is much embellished and credits authorship to John B. Williams, M.D. It opens:

“One day while cozily sipping a cup of tea, and talking over our courting days with my wife, a loud ring at the bell informed me that a visitor wished to see me. The servant girl ushered into the apartment a young lady of remarkable beauty, who stated that she wished to see me in particular on very important business. My wife, (God bless her) who is by no means of a jealous disposition, discreetly withdrew and we were left alone.

To see “The Tell-Tale Signature” as it appears in The Memphis Daily Appeal,click here to be sent to the Chronicling America site hosted by The Library of Conngress.

The Club Foot

by a New York Detective

  private business. My wife, who is in no wise of a jealous disposition, discreetly withdrew, and the party wishing to see me was immediately ushered into the parlor. I rose as she entered, and handed her a chair.

My visitor was a very handsome young girl of about eighteen years of age. She was dressed with great taste, and evidently belonged to the upper ranks of life. She appeared somewhat embarrassed, as if she were at a loss how to begin the conversation.

“Have I the pleasure of speaking to James Brampton?” she said, at last.

“That is my name,” I replied.

“You are a private detective officer, are you not?”

“I am, madam.”

“O, sir,” said she, “I am in great trouble, . . .


Find the full text here.






    ONE cold January night I was seated cosily by my fireside, enjoying a cup of tea which my wife knows so well how to make, when a violent ring at the front door bell disturbed the reverie in which I was indulging, and made my wife spill the sugar she was in the act of putting into my cup.

“I do hope, James,” said my wife, “that this is no one to take you out tonight.”

“I hope so too,” I returned, “but if it should be, I must obey, business must be attended to, my dear.”

“But it is snowing so fast, and you work so hard.”

“Everybody, my dear, has to work hard to obtain a livelihood,” I returned, philosophically.

Our conversation was interrupted by the entrance of our servant girl, who stated that a young lady wished to see me on important




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