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July 11, 1907: A baffling gender switch

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Crime Updated: December 28, 2012 - 11:46 PM
 
Here’s a century-old mystery that remains unsolved – unless you count the fanciful and self-serving explanation that appeared in the Minneapolis Tribune over the next two days.
 

BAFFLING MYSTERY
CAUSES COMMOTION


UGLY MAN TRANSFORMED INTO HANDSOME WOMAN.

 
“Was It a Dream?” Asks Hack Driver, Sorely Puzzled.
 
ANOTHER PAWN ENTERS INTO GAME IN SHAPE OF STRANGER WHO DISAPPEARS.
 
The “Mystery of the Hack, or, How Bold is Ann,” is the appropriate title of a strange story dealing with the experiences of two most unusual individuals in Minneapolis early Tuesday evening.
 
Who they were, where they were going, what crime they had committed, how long they have been crazy and what became of them are questions that remain unanswered.
 
It was several minutes after 7 o’clock when a very ordinary appearing man approached Wilman Franzo, a hack driver at the West hotel, and asked to be driven rapidly to the Milwaukee depot. The next train out was the Pioneer Limited and the cabbie couldn’t see just why he should tire his horses when there was plenty of time to catch the train. Nevertheless, he hustled along, and arriving at the station, jumped down and opened the door of his vehicle, and was astonished to see a smartly dressed young woman step out.
 
SMILES SWEETLY.
 
 
  The Milwaukee Road Depot in Minneapolis in about 1901: Which "toilet room" did the passenger slip into, men's or women's? (Photo courtesy of the Hennepin County Library's Minneapolis Collection)
She was the sole occupant of the cab. She gave the hackman a sweet smile and a $1 bill, and then disappeared into the depot toilet room. So astonished and bewildered was the hackman that he lighted a match to be sure that the man he had seen enter was not hiding under the seat. Nothing of an unusual nature was found inside the vehicle.
 
Greatly mystified, he slowly returned to his stand at the hotel, still positive, however, that it was a man whom he had picked up and as he had made no other stop, his deduction was that Mr. Plainlooking Man had changed himself into Miss Charming Woman.
 
At the hotel he was still further perturbed to learn that Carriage Agent George W. Shipton had just been approached by a peculiar looking black whiskered, nervous individual who wanted to know if a certain woman had taken a hack. He then proceeded to describe the woman whom the hack driver had left at the Milwaukee depot.
 
She was good looking; had auburn hair; her gown was well tailored, of a fluffy leather colored material. She wore long gloves and a sailor hat with green parrot colored feathers, which was draped with an automobile veil.
 
MAN HURRIES AWAY.
 
The man who inquired about her, upon receiving an unfavorable reply from the carriage agent, approached Chief Clerk Conry, who, of course, was likewise unable to give the desired information. The man then wanted to know what time the next train left on the Minneapolis and St. Louis road, and being told that it left at 3 o’clock made a hurried exit, and was not again seen.
 
Whether or not the uncanny passenger whom he handed into his hack carried a grip or not, the hackman is unable to say. He is under the impression that there was a grip, but he does not remember having handled it. If there was no grip, how the man disguised himself as a woman added to the already complicated episode.
 
Whether the person in the hack and the man, who later called, were partners in crime no one can say. One Sherlock Holmes, more brave than the rest, has it figured out that the person who got into the hack was really and man and that he changed his clothing on the way to the depot to escape detection while on board the train. The second man is thought to have missed his appointment with his pal, thus accounting for his nervous haste.
 
At any rate, the mystery remains as baffling as ever, and the more the hackman thinks about it the more troubled are his dreams.
 
The next day, with no fact-based explanation in reach, the Tribune identified the cab passenger as the fictional newspaper heroine “Fluffy Ruffles,” an attractive and well-attired young woman who couldn’t hold a job because she was such a distraction to men.
 
 
  Miss Ruffles, the creation of Carolyn Wells and Wallace Morgan, inspired a line of paper dolls and a Broadway musical.

Hack Mystery Is
Solved; it Was
Fluffy Ruffles?

 
The strange young woman who shocked a hackman by stepping from his vehicle at the Milwaukee depot Tuesday evening, when the driver believed he had a man, was probably Fluffy Ruffles, the stunning young woman whose marvelous feats have been watched with absorbing interest by readers of The Tribune.
 
Of course, there is no proof that it was really Fluffy, but it is known that the young woman contemplated taking a run out in the country for a breath of fresh air, and with her magical accomplishments she could easily have deceived the hackman.
 
If, however, it was not Miss Ruffles, the mystery is as deep as ever, for nothing more has been heard of the principals in the strange episode.
 
On July 13, the Tribune took the joke a step further, quoting the indefatigable Miss Ruffles in a story that listed the uncanny likenesses between the comic strip character and the gender-switching passenger.
 

DID IT WITH MY SMILE
 

REALLY NO CAB MYSTERY – FLUFFY RUFFLES ADMITS.
 
Deductions of Amateur Sleuths Are Spoiled When Pretty Sunday Tribune Heroine Blushes When Asked Point Blank if She Is the “Guilty Party.”
 
Fluffy Ruffles admits having taken the ride and the mystery of the hack is cleared.
 
 
  Miss Ruffles opened a chocolate shop in an episode that filled an entire page of the Tribune on July 21, 1907. Click on the image to see the full page, which probably appeared in color in the newspaper.
Minneapolis evening newspaper of Wednesday told how a man got into a vehicle at the West hotel corner and when what was apparently the same person got out at the Milwaukee depot, it was a pretty young woman.
 
To add to the tangle an excited individual rushed up to the carriage agent shortly after the hack had gone and wanted to know if a young woman had been there and then described the young woman who got out at the station.
 
Since then there has been frantic efforts by “near” detectives and other amateur sleuths to solve the problem, but only The Tribune has made the proper deductions.
 
First – It was reasoned that whoever did the transformation stunt must have been an unusually clever woman.
 
Notation number one, in favor of Fluffy.
 
Second – The strange passenger smiled sweetly and gave the driver a dollar bill, with one corner missing.
 
Fluffy always smiles, and to know the money if she ever sees it again cuts the corners off her bills.
 
Third – The individual who chartered the cab was possessed of a rare power, pleasing, it is true, but none the less effective, by which she made the open-mouthed hack driver imagine she was a man. Fluffy Ruffles again.
 
Fourth – The excited man who inquired after the young woman had a milk pan which he wished converted to a Paris hat. It was easy to deduct that he was after The Tribune’s heroine, Fluffy Ruffles.
 
When point blank accused of the little escapades yesterday, Fluffy blushed prettily. “I did it with my little smile,” was all that she would say.
 

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