I found this Milwaukee Sentinel item from 1873 in the Milwaukee Public Library’s card catalog index of the former Hearst newspaper. The story is headlined, “The Boy Who Peppered the Nostrils of 2,000 People.” Some excerpts:
The spirit of malicious mischief which has given to respite to the tortured spirit of George Russ found an aperture for wholesale exit in the numerously attended party at the Harris Works on Friday night. …
On Friday afternoon George purchased a quarter of a pound of cayenne pepper and placed it safely in his outside pocket. That night he attended the party. … Cautiously he entered the crowded room, threading his way here and there, meandering to the right, to the left, forwards, backwards, and as he progressed in his travels the quarter of a pound of cayenne pepper which he had bought in the afternoon, spread itself in serpentine shapes upon the floor of the room./CONTINUES
Then George withdrew to a retired corner and enjoyed the sneezing and the excited remarks of his two thousand victims.
He went home happy that night and doubtless would have been so still had not Marshal Crotzenberg pulled him from under the sidewalk on North Main street last Saturday afternoon and taken him to jail. This morning he was brought to the presence of Justice Smith to answer to a criminal charge, and the upshot of the affair is that he is sentenced to forty days in jail and a fine of $14.00. The sentence is a severe one, but the offense, given perhaps more in a spirit of mischief than malice, was of an aggravated nature, and George must furnish the example for scores of other boys who are ripe for just such fun.