Philadelphia. Oct. 5 (1899) -- The most horrible method of suicide yet devised was hit upon by Peter J. Smith, of No. 822 South Twentieth street, who made a determined effort to end his life in Fairmount Park. Saturating his hair and clothing with kerosene, the man deliberately set fire to himself and in a moment was a mass of living flame. When discovered the struggled desperately against every attempt to extinguish the fire, but he was finally overpowered and sent to German Hospital, where the physicians have no hope of his recovery.
Smith is a thimble maker and was employed by Simons Brothers, No. 616 Chestnut street, at the same time keeping a small cigar store at his home. He started out for work at the usual time in the morning, but, purchasing a can of oil, he went to the north concourse, near Belmont avenue, where he made the horrible attempt at suicide. A small boy on a bicycle called the attention of J.F. Boyd, who was gathering papers and rubbish at the park, to what seemed to be a dog on fire at the top of the hill. Boyd ran over to the spot, thinking as he aproached that a shaggy coated dog had been set fire to, but he was horror stricken when he saw that the object was a man and ablaze from head to foot.
Smith fought desperately against every attempt to extinguish the flames, and Boyd summoned a passing milkman, who hurried to the scene with a rubber blanket. With Boyd's assistance, he suceeded, after a har struggle, in getting this about the burning man. Smith was then thrown to the ground, and the flames soon smothered.
At the hospital the physicians succeeded in getting from him a statement that he was tired of living and that he had poured about a gallon of oil over himself, saturating his cloting with the fluid, and then applied a match. "The whole world," he said,"has been a trouble to me. I had sins to answer for, and though I might as well end it all now than wait longer and have more trouble."From Smith's neighbors it was learned that he was subject to fits of melancholia and that at times he acted like a demented man. It was said by them that his condition was thought to be due to excessive smoking.
--Davenport (IA) Daily Leader, 5 Oct 1899, page 1.