During the heyday of the California Gold Rush San Francisco it wasn’t uncommon for ships to set sail with a number of young men shanghaied from the saloons.
Miss Piggott was a ferocious old harridan who operated a saloon and boarding house in the raw and raucous City by the Bay during the 1860s and 1870s. She also acted a bartender and bouncer. Her weapon of choice was a wooden mallet that doubled as a bung starter, used to knock the bung out of the whiskey barrels.
On the side she procured young men for ships crews that were shorthanded. Her hired man would prowl the streets looking for healthy young men and entice them to visit Miss Piggott’s place where she’d set up the drinks. Slowly the man would be nudged along the bar until he was standing atop a trap door where she give him the
“Miss Piggott Special” a concoction of equal parts of brandy, whiskey and gin laced with liberal amounts of laudanum or opium.
While the victim was shivering under the impact she would lean over and whack him on the head with her mallet. Then she’d pull a lever and he’d drop into the basement. When the young man awoke he was on board a sailing vessel bound for foreign with no clear idea how he got there.
Miss Piggott’s regular customers knew the exact location of the trap door and steered clear of it as it was an unwritten law that any man who stood on it was fair game.
Next time you’re visiting the City by the Bay stop in and have a few at the San Francisco Dungeon there the legend of Miss Piggott lives on. Just be careful where you put your feet.