ASK MR. KNOW IT ALL: First riots cast pall over American history
October 06, 2013 1:50 AM

Question: Many years ago, I read a short paragraph about America’s first riot. I recall two things, which I hope are correct: America was a young nation at the time, and doctors were involved.

I would like to look it up, but I don’t have enough information to do a search. Can you help? — M.U.R., Minot, N.D.

Answer: Many historians consider the Doctors’ Mob of April 1788 America’s first riot.

During this era, grave robbing by “resurrectionists” was common practice.

The stolen cadavers were sold to hospitals or medical schools for study, a practice that was appalling to the citizens of New York City.

On April 13, a mob descended on the old New York Hospital in lower Manhattan and destroyed the lab. During the night, the mob searched the city for doctors. On day two, the rioters moved north to Columbia College where Alexander Hamilton and John Jay were assaulted.

The lab at the college was destroyed. Gov. George Clinton ordered the militia to open fire, killing eight with many more being seriously wounded.

Doctors who remained in Manhattan treated the wounded, and the rioters disbanded the following morning.

DID YOU KNOW? On Dec. 16, 2005, both Sarah Jessica Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick had movies open on the same day. His movie was “The Producers,” and hers was “The Family Stone.”

Question: I own several books written by James Michener and Larry McMurtry that mention a man by the name Charles Goodnight.

Was he a real person? Can you tell me a little about him? — W.M.L., Long Beach, Calif.

Answer: Charles Goodnight was born in Illinois in 1836. When he was 10 years old, he and his family moved to Texas. He became a cowboy at age 20.

He later joined the local militia, the Texas Rangers and the Confederate Army. He went on to become a cattle rancher of renown who was often referred to as the “father of the Texas Panhandle.”

Goodnight dabbled in newspapers, banking and establishing the Goodnight College. He died in 1929 at age 93.

Larry McMurtry based parts of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Lonesome Dove,” on Charles Goodnight.

There are statues in Goodnight’s honor in the Texas panhandle and at Texas A&M University.

Question: Where did the phrase “What am I, chopped liver?” originate? — V.T., Owasso, Mich.

Answer: The phrase is used to express frustration or anger at being ignored. There are several explanations; the one that I like most is that chopped liver was traditionally served as a side dish rather than a main course. Not everyone appreciated eating chopped liver, and it was often overlooked.

Send your questions to Mr. Know-It-All at or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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