Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday Search Challenge (12/7/11): Who was she and how much did she get??

Regular readers of SearchResearch know that we are sober, quiet, and interested in the deeper uses of online research.  One typically doesn't find much that's salacious here.  

But for today's Search Challenge we'll make an exception.  This search is about gossip and somewhat tawdry rumors that we want to run down.  The reason this is interesting to readers today is that it involves Mark Twain and a bit of 19th century scandal mongering. 

As you probably know, Mark Twain suffered from a bit of a financial setback in the middle of his life.  This led to his regular touring shows where he would lecture and generally wax wise about the state of the world.  
Today's search challenge is this: 

Background:  Mark Twain lost much of his money by investing heavily in the development of a very complex device.  The developer was a bit of a scoundrel who not only lost Twain's investment, but was caught up in a series of accusations and counter-accusations with a noted woman.  

Question:  Who was the developer; who was the woman, and ultimately, how much did the developer pay to her to resolve the accusations?  

Image from USPTO of the invention that led to financial setbacks for Twain.  


  1. James W. Paige developed the typesetting machine displayed above. He was sued in 1892 by actress Jessie Hall, who went by the stage name Dorothy Lewis, for an unfulfilled promise to marry. It appears that they settled the case in February 1893 for no exchange of money.

  2. Developer: James W. Paige
    Woman: Mrs. Jessie Hall/Dorothea Lewis
    How much was she paid to resolve the accusations: 0 though she sued for $950,000 for breach of promise of marriage

    searched for "mark twain financial problems" - found that he lost most of his money investing in the 'Paige Compositor'. searched for its inventor 'James W. Paige' and found article on the court battle between him and Mrs. Jessie Hall at

  3. 1. Searched [mark twain bad investments bankruptcy]

    Which yielded:

    2. Of the failed invntioned mentioned, the picture looks like some kind of type setter so 2nd search adding "colotype" to terms in first seach yielded a promising source (which I noticed after scrolling through 3 pages of results the below looks promising and gave the name of the inventor "Paige"

    3. Searching for [Twain Paige] gives

    as a first result and at the bottom of this article is the interesting link to

    4. "James Paige and the Jilted Actress"

    Yielding the woman's name as Jessie Hall

    5. Sadly can't find how much the settlement was for...

  4. Do we email you the answer or post it here?

  5. Developer: James W. Paige (Patent number: 157694)
    Woman: Mrs. Jessie Hall (a former actress, whose stage name Dorothea Lewis)
    How much paid the developer: Mrs. Jessie Hall asked for $950,000 but both the attorneys for Paige and Hall signed a document dismissing the case without cost.

    This time I had a big advantage: once being a patent information specialist, I immediately recognized a typesetter in the patent application drawing.

    A search on Mark Twain typesetter brought me very fast to the Wikipedia page on the “Paige Compositor”:
    More information (includes rare photos):

    A second search [James W. Paige accusations] came up with “James W. Paige and the Jessie Hall lawsuits”: and

  6. The developer was James W. Paige, who invented the Paige Compositor. The lady was Ms. Jesse Hall, who accused Paige of promising to marry her if she left the stage.

    The lawsuit against James W. Paige was Case #S-140309 filed in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois. On February 17, 1893, both the attorneys for Paige and Hall signed a document dismissing the case without cost.

    Interesting case.

  7. KC -- well, as you can see... people are posting their answers here.

    For posters -- it's really interesting if you tell us HOW you found the answer AND how long it took you.

    But--nice job by all.

    Did you find this easy, or difficult?

  8. Google: Mark twain financial problems -> first hit, wikipedia, mentions the James W. Paige thing.
    Google: James W. Paige lawsuit. First hit leads to Jesse Hall.

    There was no difficulty at all...

  9. First Google Query
    mark twain financial problems

    Leads to Mark Twain's wikipedia page.Which links to the "Paige typesetting machine."
    So the developer is "James W. Paige"

    Next Google Query is "James W. Paige" the third search result is

    So the name of the women is "Jessie Hall", and the link above ends with

    "The lawsuit against James W. Paige was Case #S-140309 filed in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois. On February 17, 1893, both the attorneys for Paige and Hall signed a document dismissing the case without cost"
    So apparently the scoundrel did not have to pay anything.

    Here is one of the problems with text based searches. There is no way for me to determine if Jessica Hall is the only women who was suing Paige

  10. This one seemed straighforward. It took me less than 10 minutes.

    The process I went through ...

    Google search: mark twain developer financial loss

    Selected result: Wikipedia – Mark Twain – financial troubles
    Found the name of the invention and the person developing it “James W. Paige”

    Google search: james w paige
    Selected result: “James W. Paige and the Jilted Actress, or"Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire?"
    In 1892 a series of newspaper articles reported a scandalous affair between inventor James W. Paige and Mrs. Jessie Hall.

    Provided the name of the noted woman, and the summary at the end of the articles indicates that, although Mrs. Hall (stage name Dorothy Lewis) was suing for $950,000, the case was dismissed without cost in 1893

  11. If you google "Mark Twain investor", the second result is a Motley Fool article about "the investment". Google Paige compositor scandal and you quickly find more info on it, including a Twain Quotes page that has just about everything you need to know, including Mrs Hall's name and the info on the lawsuit amounts.

  12. The developer was James W. Paige, the woman was Jessie Hall, and the payment/settlement was $0.

    This took me about 5-10 minutes. I searched [mark twain failed investment] and visited the Paige Compositor's Wikipedia entry to get the developer's name. I then searched "James W. Paige" and got the rest of the information from this link, which others have cited:

    I just ran across your page today for the first time and am loving it!

  13. Easy, two searches:

    1) google: "what complex machine did mark twain invest in"
    1a) Visual skim of first result for inventor
    2) google: "james W Paige woman"
    2a) Skip to bottom of first result read in reverse for result

    Total time: approx 3 minutes

  14. Although Jessie Hall sued James Paige for $950,000 the case was dismissed without cost eight months later.

    I first googled "mark twain bad investment woman" but didn't have much obvious 'winners,' although I was able to identify the bad investment, so I refined my search criteria to "mark twain typesetting machine."

    This enabled me to identify James W. Paige and from there it was pretty easy - searching for james w paige counter suit turned up as the first result.

    Mission accomplished!

  15. Took about 2.5 minutes.

    Googled "mark twain investments"

    Result: Motley Fool... describing the investment (identified the "Paige Compositor")

    Googled "Paige Compositor" (ID James W. Paige via Wikipedia)

    Googled "James W. Paige accused"


  16. Used mark twain investment scandal for search term, came up with

    That gave me the Paige typesetter: "The adventurous style reflected in the house's design and decor is repeated in Clemens's business dealings. His technological fascination with the Paige typesetter has often been cited as the ill-fated investment that bankrupted him."

    so, searched on "who invented Paige Typesetter" and that led me straight to
    Title of article -> Mark Twain, James. W. Paige and the Paige Typesetter
    gave me the man's name. So now for the woman...

    searched on "wiki james w page" which gave me
    but that was a dead end

    so just "james w paige" -- also a dead end, plus other modifiers such as woman, scandal, investments. Finally "james w paige lawsuit" (inferred from the question on how much did she pay in damages) led me to:
    which gave me Jessie Hall, and ultimately no money paid. -> "The lawsuit against James W. Paige was Case #S-140309 filed in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois. On February 17, 1893, both the attorneys for Paige and Hall signed a document dismissing the case without cost."

    About 15 minutes, moderate complexity (mostly in thinking up good search terms to get more info on Paige besides inventer of the typesetter).

    So... James W. Paige, Jessie Hall, and $0.

    NOTE: I used, not google.

  17. Developer:James W Paige
    Woman: Jessie Hall
    Settlement Total: $0

    Searched for "Mark Twains Lost Fortune" which brought up
    Then searched for Mark Twain Typesetting Machine
    to find this
    At the bottom of the page is a link to Paige and the jilted actress, which tells the story.

    It took me about 20 mins, mostly because I didn't see the settlement amount at the bottom of the jilted actress page until after I had searched and came back to that page.

  18. The lawsuit against James W. Paige was Case #S-140309 filed in the Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois. On February 17, 1893, both the attorneys for Paige and Hall signed a document dismissing the case without cost.

  19. Easy - 20 minutes
    Searched "Mark Twain, lost money"
    Found references to typesetting machine.
    Searched "Mark Twain, typesetting machine"
    Scanned ""
    Followed to ""

  20. The inventor was J. W. Paige, the actress Mrs. Jessie Hall (aka Dorothy Lewis), and it doesn't seem that Mrs. Hall got a penny in the lawsuit. I figured this out in about 15 minutes, though I had a false start. I'd never tried Google's "begin a search with an image" trick, so I thought I'd give that a try, but Google just found other line drawings, many of them political cartoons. Not useful. When that didn't work, I looked more closely at the image and decided that it looked like something having to do with typesetting. A Google search on the words "twain" and "typesetting" brought me to this page: This told the story of the Paige Compositor in general, but didn't get to the really juicy stuff. But wait! There was a link at the bottom of the page called "James W. Paige and the Jilted Actress," which took me to an account of Mrs. Hall and the lawsuit. This included the case number and the fact that it was "dismissed ... without cost."

  21. I googled [Mark Twain]
    Found the Wikipedia link.
    Chose [Financial Troubles]
    Selected [Paige Typesetting Machine]
    - Found the first answer: James W. Paige (Red link, dead path)
    Then highlighted [James W. Paige] right clicked and 'search Google for []'
    Third result "James W. Paige and the Jessie Hall lawsuits"
    - Found second answer: Jessie Hall, aka Dorothy Lewis
    Scanned first headline. Ended up reading the entire page b/c the story sucked me in!
    - Found third answer: $0. Court case was dismissed without cost.
    16 minutes in total, (5-8 minutes reading the full Jilted Actress page).

    Intermediate difficulty :)

  22. Is it wrong to use wikipedia as a starting point? There's a section on 'Financial Troubles' which gives most of the above information and makes it easy to search for the rest and get a wider point of reference

  23. Searched "Mark Twain investment"
    Found references to James W Paige
    Searched "James W Paige"
    Scanned ""
    Finding the reference on the page indicating the case was dismissed was the biggest challenge.