Imagine the drama of the moment: in a courtroom, Edward Perkins battled against the city of Beacon, New York, desperate to win on behalf of his poor family. The charge? They had been cold-heartedly evicted from their apartment by city officials, and for several chilly, rainy June days, he had searched for new housing. Meanwhile, Edward’s wife and son suffered and his daughter fell ill, presumably from the terrible living conditions. The damages sought (in 1915) were $15,000 from the city, along with $30,000 from the police chief who had deposited all the family’s belongings on the sidewalk. The $45,000 total was equal to $1.1 million in 2014.
The squalor his family had endured was graphically described in court: “Heaps of refuse on the floor, chicken heads, pieces of bones, decayed meats, swarms of flies, and a terrific odor. In another room, live chickens were kept.” There was no bathroom. Indoor residue and an outdoor pile revealed that the slop bucket had been routinely dumped from a window.
When Edward’s testimony ended, the court called Mrs. Perkins to the stand, and that’s when it happened: simultaneously, two women stood. It was the stuff of future movies, but this was reality. Confusion reigned, and Perkins’ wife of several years, the mother of his two children, appeared bewildered. » Continue Reading.