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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

In what you might call the 1914 version of a cage fight, Harry Cotter of Helena beat up his brother-in-law, Volney D. Williamson of Spokane, in the elevator of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York.

The two men were wealthy mine owners and former partners. Williamson was married to Cotter’s sister, but a divorce action was pending.

Cotter apparently was angry with Williamson over the divorce. Williamson had been in New York for two months, staying at the Waldorf-Astoria, when Cotter arrived. They ran into each other and exchanged “acrimonious conversation.”

Later, Cotter lurked in the hotel corridor and waited for Williamson to get into the elevator. Cotter popped in after him, right before the doors closed on the elevator cage.

Cotter, described as 36 and muscular, jammed Williamson, 50, up against the elevator wall, punched him in both eyes, blackening them, then proceeded to choke Williamson and smash him in the face. 

The elevator operator got the elevator cage back to the ground floor as quickly as possible, but Williamson was already “in bad shape.” Cotter ran out of the elevator and fled the hotel. 

New York police arrested Cotter, and he was arraigned for assault. Cotter said he did it because Williamson was making slanderous statements about his sister.

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