In a recent installment of No Such Thing As A Fish, one of my favourite podcasts, my attention was drawn to this case, which involved an elaborate scheme to claim the inheritance of fabled swashbuckler (and onetime Plymouth mayor) Francis Drake, which was supposed to be held back surreptitiously by the British government.
To cut a long story short, Oscar Hartzell, the organizer of the grand claim was charged with racketeering and swindle along with seven of his cronies, and after a long trial locked up in a mental institution (see this rather amusing article from the Jan 24, 1937 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, only one of the many that were written about this case that got international attention.
This quaint little story reminded me of that other famous case of a treasure left behind by a legendary pirate and claimed by his supposed inheritors. Red Rackham’s Treasure was first published in Le Soir in 1942, some five years after the whole Drake kerfuffle. The scene with the inheritors has no bearing on the rest of the story, and only provides a droll action scene with Haddock and the Thompson twins, so why include it in the story if not to remind readers of a well-documented case of a few years earlier? Naturally, there’s no way of proving that Hergé actually knew of the Hartzell claim, but it would be a nice story in itself if he did. If only because Hartzell convincingly looked like a Hergé characer.
Incidentally, the Rackham claims involved a party able of dealing a swifter type of justice than the court. Blistering barnacles, I think we all could do with a Haddock in our lives at times…
(imagery from Hergé’s Red Rackham’s Treasure, Methuen 1959 edition. Tintin © Hergé / Moulinsart 2021 – All rights reserved)