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Saturday, May 21, 2016

“The Irish Giant”

Ned O’Baldwin was a heavyweight contender in the bareknuckle era of the 1860s and 1870s when a bout would continue until one man was knocked unconscious or the police arrived to shut the whole show down. Aptly dubbed “The Irish Giant,” O’Baldwin was 6’ 5”, weighed 200 lbs., and hailed from Lismore, Ireland. O’Baldwin is considered by some to be the greatest heavyweight boxer prior to John L. Sullivan, but outside the ring he was known for a violent temper which often landed him in court. He was once jailed for armed robbery after threatening to bludgeon a stakeholder.

Even for a championship contender, prizefighting as a source of income was less than reliable, so O’Baldwin partnered with a man named Michael Finnell to open a liquor store and saloon at 45 West Street in New York City. Apparently, the liquor business was not reliable either and on September 27, 1875, the partners met in the store for a vigorous business discussion. Only two men were present so it impossible to know exactly what transpired, but it was alleged that O’Baldwin was ready to sell out and leave the business and Finnell was not agreeable to this plan. The argument escalated, turned violent, and two shots were fired, attracting attention to the store.

Those who came to see what had happened found the Irish Giant on the floor, bleeding to death with a gunshot wound to the abdomen and another to the chest. The shooter was nowhere to be found. They quickly carried O’Baldwin to the hospital where he died the following day.

Those in the sporting community greatly mourned the big man’s death, but the New York press was not shedding any tears. Some editorials implied that Finnell’s action may have actually benefitted the community. The New York Herald was appalled by this advocacy of vigilante justice and, without wasting any sympathy on the dead boxer, wrote:

All large cities abound with people whose death might, in one point of view, be deemed a public benefit. If the haunts of thieves and burglars, or the streets or parts of streets given to lewd uses which make them the peril and often the ruin of young men, were blasted by lightning or engulfed by an earthquake, the moral atmosphere would, no doubt, be purified, but it by no means follows that the destruction of the vicious classes by human agency would be for the public advantage.

When the news of O’Baldwin’s death reached Finnell, he realized he either had to leave the city or turn himself in. He contacted a lawyer, and went to the police station claiming that he had acted in self-defense—not a bad plea given O’Baldwin’s size and reputed temper.  Michael Finnell was tried for first-degree murder the following February and was found not guilty for the murder of the Irish Giant.

"Equal Justice to the High and the Low." New York Herald 2 Oct 1875.
Boxing Forum 24: Ned O'Baldwin, the Irish Giant.
"Ned O'Baldwin's Murderer "Not Guilty"." Daily Critic 19 Feb 1876.
"New York." Boston Journal 28 Sep 1875.
"The Slayer of O'Baldwin." New York Herald 1 Oct 1875.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

Little Murders
(From Trenton State Gazette, Trenton, New Jersey, May 2, 1871)

Two Murderers Murder Each Other.

One of the most remarkable personal rencontres ever recorded in the annals of this city occurred on Tuesday last, resulting in the instant death of the notorious William E. Rose, and the equally notorious Jesse Robinson. Rose shot Robinson fatally through the body and then ran. The dead man (as it were) pursued, without heeding the icy hand of death upon his vitals or the dread eternity, upon whose very brink he reeled, and, with his last agonies of exertion, emptied his revolver at his enemy, inflicting wounds which proved instantly fatal, after which he himself almost instantly expired. Since the event this community breathes freer, as many citizens of Jefferson were considerably apprehensive of violence from one or the other of these men. Several suits brought against them in the name of the state of Texas will abate on account of their death. The findings in the case of Robinson were disapproved by General Reynolds and he was set at liberty. The findings in the case of Rose were either not acted on by General Reynolds or else President Grant dodged the responsibility of ordering the execution of the sentence. - Jefferson (Texas) Radical, April 8.

"Two Murderers Murder Each Other." Trenton State Gazette, 2 May 1871.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Strangulation is the most intimate form of murder, the killer takes the life of his victim with his bare hands. Perhaps this is why it is used so often to dispatch loved ones and family members.

Here, in chronological order, is the Murder by Gaslight strangers hall of fame:

Sarah Cornell was found hanging in a barn in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Was it murder or suicide?     
Mary Runkle's “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of four family members and the suspicion that she was responsible.

An Unfortunate Organization. - 1845
A phrenologist determined that Reuben Dunbar had “an unfortunate organization” in which his moral faculties were not sufficiently large to balance his animal propensities. The diagnosis may have been influence by the fact that Dunbar had been convicted of strangling his two young stepbrothers.
After Dr. Harvey Burdell was found in his office strangled and stabbed fifteen times, 31 Bond Street was shown for what it was—a hotbed of greed, lust, intrigue and depravity.
“Little Mary Mohrman,” as she was known by all, was described as “one of those sunny-haired, bright-eyed, sylvan-like children, whose innocence, one would think, could soften the hardest soul.” This sentiment would be tested and proven horribly false.
When a drifter came to town and committed murder, he was likely to get away without capture and was prone to kill again. But every now and then a wandering killer was caught and his whole bloody itinerary made public. Such was the case of the Northwood Murderer.
A feud within Cincinnati’s German community would lead to the brutal murder and illegal cremation of Herman Schilling.
Sarah Meservey was strangled to death in her home in Tenant’s Harbor, Maine. Was Nathan Hart falsely accused?     
When George Wheeler's mistress planned marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one.

A web of circumstantial evidence around James Titus as the man who raped and murdered Tillie Smith. The public story soon became the official story, but there is a good possibility that none of it was true.
A series of violent home invasions on Long Island in 1883 left two people dead and four more seriously injured. The  community was thrown into a state of confusion with at least a dozen false arrests, two perjured eye-witnesses, a false confession, lynch mobs, a jail break, and for a time, two independent and equally valid lines of inquiry that could not be reconciled.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Boy Murderer.

11-year-old John Wesley Elkins (who went by Wesley) got out of bed around 2 a.m. on July 24, 1889, went outside the family’s Iowa farmhouse and down to the road to make sure no one coming. On his way back to the house he stopped at the corncrib a picked up a club—a heavy piece of a wooden flail—and brought it back to his bedroom. Wesley took down an old muzzle-loading rifle that was hanging on the kitchen wall, loaded the rifle, then went into the room where his father, stepmother, and infant half-sister were sleeping. He put the barrel of the gun near his father’s head and pulled the trigger. Knowing he did not have time to reload the rifle, Wesley went to his room and got the club. Then as his stepmother was leaning over his father, trying to understand what had happened, he beat her to death with the club.

Wesley took the infant, splattered with blood, out of the room, and cleaned and dressed her. Then he hitched up the buggy and started for his grandfather’s house, stopping on the way to tell the neighbors that an assassin had murdered his parents; he had taken the baby and fled for their lives.
The neighbor went to the Elkins’s house where they found the bodies of 45-year-old Mr. Elkins and his 25-year-old wife. Mr. Elkin’s head had been blown to pieces, and Mrs. Elkin’s head was beaten to a jelly. They sent for the police where were immediately skeptical of the Wesley’s story.

Wesley Elkins, around the time of the murder
Under questioning in Mason City, Iowa, Wesley quickly broke down and told the police the whole story. His reasons, however, did not seem to fit the severity of the crime. Wesley had been unhappy at having to care for his half-sister so often and wanted to set out on his own.  He had run away from home several times but each time was brought back. He thought his only way out was killing his parents. Wesley was slight of stature—four feet eight inches tall, weighing 73 pounds—and had never caused trouble. He was intelligent and well-spoken as he calmly told his story. Some believed Wesley incapable of such a deed and thought he was covering for someone else.

John Wesley Elkins was indicted for first-degree murder. At his trial the following January,
Wesley Elkins, after his release.
Wesley pleaded guilty and told his story once again. Judge Hoyt sentenced him to life at hard labor in Anamosa State Penitentiary.

Wesley was believed to be the youngest person to date to be sent to prison in America, and his life sentenced prompted heated arguments. Some felt that no 11-year-old boy belonged in prison regardless of the crime, others felt that Wesley should be sent to the gallows.

Wesley Elkins used his time wisely while at Anamosa. He worked at the prison library and at the chapel and became proficient with the written and spoken word. In 1902, twelve years into Wesley’s sentence, after bitter debate Governor Cummins issued him parole papers. Wesley left the prison a free man.

Following his release, Wesley led a full life. He first settled in St. Paul, Minnesota where he worked on the railroad. Then in 1922, he married a Hawaiian woman in Honolulu. Eventually, he became a farmer in San Bernardino, California, where he resided until his death in 1961.

"A Boy Murderer." Evening Star 27 Jul 1889.
"A Brilliant Beginning." National Police Gazette 9 Nov 1889.
"A Young Fiends' Confession.." New York Herald 20 Oct 1889.
"Double Murder by a Boy." New York Herald 27 Jul 1889.
"Murdered his Father and Mother." Daily Illinois State Register 27 Jul 1889.
Anamosa State Penitentiary: The Strange Case of Wesley Elkins.
"To Prison For Life." Kalamazoo Gazette 23 Jan 1890.
"Wesley Elkins." Wheeling Register 13 Jan 1890.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Compelled to Die.

Little Murders
In the autumn of 1889, Mrs. Nathaniel Strang, of Moserville, Michigan, began to exhibit signs of insanity. The extent of her condition came to light on November 18 when she tried to kill herself and her eighteen-year-old daughter Maud with aconite, a poisonous herb, because she feared that murderers were after them. A doctor was called in time to save both women.

In spite of this incident, Nathaniel left his wife and daughter alone again two days later. This time, Mrs. Strang poured two tumblers of Paris green, a compound used to kill rats and insects. She drank one herself, then pointing a revolver at Maud’s head, forced her to drink the other.

When Nathaniel returned home, Mrs. Strang told him what she had done. Nathaniel quickly summoned the doctor once again, but it was too late, the poison had already begun working. Mrs. Strang died in agony at midnight. Maud, who had watched her mother’s horrible death, begged the physician to save her life, but there was nothing he could do. She died an hour later.


"A Horrible Suicide." New Haven Register 21 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Crime." New Castle Weekly News 27 Nov 1889.
"A Mother's Terrible Deed." Michigan Argus 29 Nov 1889.
"Compelled to Die." National Police Gazette 7 Dec 1889.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Butler Fratricide.

The Murder of Henry Butler - Portrait of his Killer.
On October 6, 1879, Henry Butler went to visit his younger brother, Robert, at the King farm outside of Bradford, Pennsylvania, where Robert boarded. The brothers exchanged warm greetings, they had not seen each other in four years. They made plans to visit a third brother in Hornellsville, New York, then all three would go together to see their father. But first, they would have a night on the town.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

James E. Eldredge.

James E. Eldredge
James E. Eldredge left his home in Canton, New York in the spring of 1856. He returned six months later with a new name and a duplicitous personality to match. All those around him soon learned to distrust anything the young man said—all except his fiancĂ©, Sarah Jane Gould. She remained trusting to the end, when Eldredge poisoned Sarah Jane to pursue her younger sister.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

A Heathenish Murder.

Little Murders
(From New Haven Register, New Haven, Connecticut, September 4, 1879)

A Heathenish Murder. 

A case of “voudooism” and murder is reported from the very heart of New England. On Sunday last, Freddy, the two-and-a-half-years-old son of J. W. Smith of Springfield, Mass., died of arsenical poisoning. The person who committed the murder and who has been arrested or the crime is a mulatto woman of 25 years of age, named Julia or Lizzie Shepard. She claims to have come to Springfield from Madison, Connecticut and she has for some weeks been employed as a domestic in Springfield. The facts in the case regarding the alleged poisoning are as follows: The Shepard woman, coming to this city three weeks ago in search of a friend named Smith, went to J. W. Smith’s and, though finding it the wrong family, was permitted to remain, being of respectable address. The child Freddy was much thrown in with her, as Mrs. Smith was sick and he seemed to be constantly “ailing,” vomiting much accompanied with violent contraction of the leg and arm muscles. These attacks were especially noticeable after the child had taken milk, which the woman often gave him. Miss Shepard would express great solicitation for the child, but after a time the boy conceived such a dislike for her as to scream whenever she approached him. She also said that he was too handsome to live, and would die at a certain time. The family were naturally alarmed, and secured prescriptions from two physicians, and the boy appeared to mend. But on Sunday afternoon the child suddenly died after violent spasms, and the Shepard woman left. A chemical analysis showed evident traces of arsenic, and there seems to be no doubt that the child died of the effects of that poison. After the woman’s arrest, a bottle containing arsenic was found in her trunk. What lends additional force to the charge against her is, that a robust six-year-old boy in another family, where she went on Tuesday, was the same night attacked with symptoms similar to the Smith boy’s though he recovered the next morning. A pudding she carefully prepared for the family on that day is preserved for the chemist. Miss Shepard had also washed and ironed all of her clothes, intending, she said, to leave town soon for Troy. She is an unusually smart, attractive and neat-appearing woman, and is withal rather stylish, and she protests her innocence of the cause of her imprisonment. The father of this second child says he caught her face suddenly off its guard Tuesday, and found her regarding him in a manner that he describes as devilish in the extreme; and he suspects that the pudding was for his benefit. No motive can be imagined for the crime, except that the murderess wanted to be considered a Voudoo prophetess, a character both dreaded and revered among the more ignorant colored people of the South, and that to achieve the religious honor she predicted the death of the Smith child and, to clinch the fact of her gift of prophecy, used the arsenic to secure its death. That such a horrible a crime for so shameful a motive could be committed at all seems almost incredible, but there are many well authenticated cases of similar affairs among the barbarous blacks of Africa, as well as among the southern negroes. It is to be hoped that the case will be thoroughly sifted to the bottom and, if guilt is shown, that a speedy hanging affair may occur at Springfield. The ordinary hates, malice, rivalries and lusts of men and women are plentiful enough causes of murder without counting so fanciful a reason for murder as the desire to gain the character of a prophetess. The Freeman murder at Pocasset was a religious affair. This Springfield murder seems to be a heathenish affair although the motives are not altogether dissimilar. Trifling with human life in all such cases should be punished with the highest penalty of the law.

"A Heathenish Murder" New Haven Register, 9 Sep 1879.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Love and Arsenic.

Little Murders

Elizabeth Ragan
As Arthur Ragan lay dying of a stomach ailment, in Piqua, Ohio, on April 3, 1855, his wife, Elizabeth took the physician aside and told him she believed her husband had poisoned himself. She said she thought the cream of tartar he had been taking for his stomach was actually arsenic. Mr. Ragan died that day, and a post-mortem examination proved his wife correct, he had died of arsenic poisoning. However, there were reasons to believe that Arthur Ragan had not committed suicide, and suspicion fell on Elizabeth as his murderer.

After Ragan’s death the postmaster of Colesville, Ohio, came forward with a highly incriminating letter. The previous December, the letter had, by mistake, been given to a man named Murray. When Murray read it and realized it was not for him, he returned it to the post office. The letter had been intended for James Mowrey, and the postmaster made sure it was delivered correctly, but the contents had been so disturbing that he first made a copy which he turned over to the police:

Saturday, March 19, 2016

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know.”

Little Murders
On Wednesday evening, October 1, 1888, Brundage H. Welton, a well-known insurance man, was standing in Wilcox Brother’s cigar store in Bainbridge, New York, when a young man came into the store, walked up to Welton and punched him in the side.

“Don’t punch a fellow that way; you hurt,” Welton said to him.

“But you’re stabbed, don’t you know,” the other man said, grinning. He punched him again and said “Look and see.”

Welton unbuttoned his coat and was horrified to see a great quantity of blood flowing from stab wounds in his side.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cup of Affliction.

If Mary Runkle was to be believed, she lived a life of sorrow, made all the worse by false accusations. Her “cup of affliction,” was filled with tragic deaths of three of her children and the suspicion that she was responsible. When her husband John died as well, under questionable circumstances, she lost the benefit of doubt and was forced to pay the price.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Caught in Bad Company.

Little Murders

Luke Dimick was a successful livery stable keeper in Rock Island, Illinois, and the son of a wealthy Chicago real estate man. To all appearance, Luke seemed like an ideal husband, but he had one fault that his wife could not abide— a fondness for ladies of the night.

The night of July 27, 1889, Mrs. Dimick took her revolver and followed Luke to a Rock Island bawdy house, where she caught him in flagrante delicto with one of the prostitutes. In the scuffle that followed, Mrs. Dimick fired the pistol, hitting her husband. Luke Dimick died two days later and his wife was charged with manslaughter. Luke’s father, O. J. Dimick, took his daughter-in-law’s side and paid a $5,000 bond for her release.

The case went to trial the following October. Mrs. Dimick claimed that she had not intended to kill her husband, she meant to shoot the woman he was with, and Luke interfered. The women of the bawdy house disagreed, saying Mrs. Dimick had deliberately shot her husband. The jury took Mrs. Dimick’s word and found her not guilty.

"Among Our Neighbors." Decatur Daily Despatch 14 Sep 1889.
"Court Cullings." Rock Island Daily Argus 28 Sep 1889.
"He Was Caught in Very Bad Company." The Decatur Herald 29 Jul 1889.
"Held for Murder." Decatur Daily Despatch 30 Jul 1889.
"In a Bawdy House." National Police Gazette 5 Oct 1889.
"Telegraphic Brevities." Daily Illinois State Journal 14 Oct 1889.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Murderous Missouri.

The “Show Me State” has been the scene of quite a few sensational murders, including three that inspired memorable songs.

Love and Law. - 1874

The tragic love affair between Charles Kring and Dora Broemser ended in one maddened instant—he asked her to leave her husband, she refused, he shot her dead. The prosecution of Charles Kring for the crime of murder lasted eight years, included six trials and required a ruling by the United States Supreme Court..

The Talbotts. - 1880

When Dr. Perry Talbott was shot by an unknown assassin on September 18, 1880, in his dying breath he blamed his political enemies. The Nodaway county authorities, however, believed the killer was someone closer to home.

The Graham Tragedy. - 1885

Evangelist, temperance leader, author and publisher Emma Molloy opened her home to the lost and lonely the way others took in stray cats. Her charity led to a murder, a lynching, and a scandal for her entire family..

The St. Louis Trunk Tragedy. - 1885

Found inside a trunk left at the Southern Hotel in St. Louis, was the decomposing body of a man wearing only a pair of white drawers. Apparently one of the two young Englishmen sharing the room had murdered the other.  Though the death had been made to look like a political assassination, it was in fact the tragic ending of a “peculiar relationship.”

The Knoxville Girl.- 1892

William Simmons murdered his sweetheart, Mary Lula Noel, and left her strangled and battered body floating in Elk River. The brutal murder was memorialized by an equally brutal folk ballad, "The Knoxville girl."

The Meeks Family Murder. - 1894

6-year-old Nellie Meeks was the only survivor of a vengeful attack that killed her parents and two sisters.

That Bad Man Staggolee. - 1895

The story of Stagolee has been sung by troubadours for more than a hundred years. When Stack Lee Shelton shot Billy Lyons, in a fight over a Stetson hat, in Bill Curtis's Saloon, on Christmas night 1895, the legend was born.

"He Done Her Wrong." - 1899

The afternoon of October 6, 1899, Frankie Baker shot her lover for cheating on her. By that evening a St. Louis songwriter had composed a ballad about the murder which became an American classic.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kiss of Death.

Little Murders

Frank Sharon, a young barber in Fall River, Massachusetts had some difficulty with his wife in December 1881, which resulted in his arrest. After his release, he went home and entered the room where his wife, and mother of his three children, lay sleeping. He leaned over and kissed her three times, then drew a pistol and shot her in the side of her neck. She died almost instantly.

Sharon went straight downtown and turned himself in to the police. He said something crossed his mind and told him to kill his wife. At his arraignment in January, Sharon pled not guilty to the charge of murder. He was probably planning to plead insanity, but it does not appear that the case ever went to trial.

"Brutal Case of Wife Murder." Philadelphia Inquirer 8 Dec 1881.

"Kiss of Death." National Police Gazette 24 Dec 1881.

"Local Intelligence." Springfield Republican 23 Jan 1882.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Little Conestoga Creek.

The discovery of the murdered body of Mrs. Mary Dellinger led to the very public airing of her family’s dirty laundry. Calvin Dellinger was a philanderer, an abusive husband, and a sadistic father, but was he a killer as well?

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A Mystery in Pittsburgh.

Little Murders

Police Lieutenant Snyder, walking down Frankstown Avenue in Pittsburgh’s East End, around one a.m. on January 8, 1889, heard a gunshot from the house of Albert Davis, a well-known African American restaurant owner. The Lieutenant forced his way inside and found Davis lying dead at the bottom of a staircase. A revolver lay on a table next to several empty beer bottles. Standing near the body in their nightclothes were Carrie Palmer and Mollie White, both African American. Mollie White, a girl no older than 14, said she had been awakened by the shot and saw Davis fall down the stairs, but knew nothing of the circumstances leading up to his death. Carrie Palmer refused to give any information.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Jack the Ripper in St. Louis.

(From Salt Lake Tribune , January 10, 1889)

The Whitechapel Murderer.

St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 8.—A thorough scare exists in the worst haunts of vice in St. Louis to-night over a letter received today by chief of Police Huebler. The writer claims to be the genuine author of the horrible murder atrocities committed in Whitechapel, London. The letter is dated in St. Louis and is as follows:

     Chief Huebler and the City Police:-- Gents:--
I want you to have fare warning. I am for business, coming Frida from N. York and have canvassed Clark Avenue and some other places and have spotted four victims already. My knives are in good order and I will send you the lungs of every other woman I kill. You need not look for me. You can’t find; I don’t hide, have been all over town and talked to all your detectives. I can fool this town easier than London. I will operate in three streets, Spruce, Clark Avenue, and Thirteenth Streets. The word of God must be obeyed and sin must be abolished. My nerves are strong and true as ever. I have seen you once, now you have warning enuff. Tell them to repent soon. Ha. Ha. Look for blood in ten days. They call me
Jack the Ripper

Whether this correspondent is ”Jack the Ripper,” or a crank, he has succeeded in alarming the localities mentioned and Chief Huebler has promised the score or more wayward women who have appealed to him that extra police precautions will be taken in the threatened district.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A New Jersey Mystery.

Little Murders
The body of Francisco Avidois was found lying among the cat-tails in the meadows outside East Newark, New Jersey, on September 8, 1889. His throat had been cut to the bone, and he had been shot three times by a .32 caliber revolver, twice through the heart and once through the upper chest. Avidoir, between 55 and 60 years of age, was a bootblack in Newark, his shoeshine kit lay near the body. He was an Italian immigrant who had been living in New York City but fled two months earlier after stabbing his son-in-law for paying too much attention to Avidoir’s young wife.

Avidois had not been killed where the body was found. There was no sign of a struggle, and no trace of blood on the ground, though the neck wound would have bled profusely. The pistol had been fired at such close range that the shots left powder marks on the body. However, the shirt was not marked. Holes on the shirt corresponded to the bullet wounds, but they appeared to have been punched out of the cloth, and the shirt had no blood stains. Apparently, the shirt had been changed after death.

A money pocket stitched on the inside of the shirt had been torn open implying that robbery had been the motive, but it was hard to imagine such a violent killing over a bootblack’s earnings. The motive and circumstances of the murder remained a mystery, but the Boston Herald had suspicions: “…it might have been a murder ordered by one of the murderous Italian societies, the Maffia, for instance.”

"Another New Jersey Mystery." National Police Gazette 28 Sep 1889.
"Found Murdered." Jersey Journal 9 Sep 1889.
"Mysterious Murder." Boston Herald 9 Sep 1889.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Illicit Infatuation.

On the surface, George and Fanny Crozier were a well-bred, churchgoing couple in a happy and stable marriage. But not too far beneath the surface, George’s “illicit infatuation” with 18-year-old Minerva Dutcher, had long been the subject of rumor in the small town of Benton, New York. With Fanny Crozier’s sudden death in the summer of 1875, George’s desires became public knowledge, and small-town gossip turned to damning evidence against him.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Murderous Chicago.

Referring to an 1889 book entitled The Crime of the Century or, The Assassination of Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin, noted crime writer Edmund Pearson remarked, “…anyone with the faintest knowledge of Chicago will remember that that city has a Crime of the Century every four or five years.” With that in mind, this small list of big Chicago crimes is presented in full awareness that it merely scratches the surface.

A Shrewd Rascal.

Samuel Smith and his wife Emma appeared happy and affectionate, but they hid a turmoil, not revealed until Emma was found dead in their apartment, her head blown apart by a shotgun blast.

Clan-na-Gael and the Murder of Dr. Cronin.

When Dr. Patrick Henry Cronin accused the leaders of Clan-na-Gael, of embezzling funds, he was denounced as a traitor and a British spy, and ultimately assassinated.

H. H. Holmes - "I was born with the devil in me."

Dr. Henry Howard Holmes was probably America’s most prodigious serial killer. He perfected his skills in his self-styled “murder castle” during Chicago’s Columbian Exposition.

Louise Luetgert - The Sausage Vat Murder.

Adolph Luetgert, “Sausage King” of Chicago, was constantly fighting with his wife Louise. Did he solve his domestic problems by dissolving her in body in one of his sausage vats?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Elmira Tragedy.

Little Murders

Two boys playing near a bridge at Carr’s Corners outside of Elmira, New York on Sunday, January 6, 1884 found the body of a young woman frozen in the snow under the bridge. The coroner determined that the woman had been murdered, causing a sensation in the small town of Elmira, on New York State’s Southern Tier.

The unidentified woman had been seen in several Elmira beer shops the previous Friday afternoon, accompanied by a young German man. She had displayed a large roll of bank notes and was wearing some distinctive jewelry—a gold watch on a slender gold chain, large old-fashioned gold bracelets, a large ring, earrings with long pendants, and a gold breastpin. Neither the money nor any of the jewelry were found on the body.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Shot His Father.

Little Murders
(From National Police Gazette, January 29, 1888)

Shot His Father.

William Howell, of Ashland, Ky., 17 years old, shot and killed his father, John Howell, on Saturday. John Howell served a term of years in the penitentiary, and returned home last August. Since then he has frequently beaten his wife and daughters. Thursday night he drove his entire family from home, and threatened their lives. Saturday morning his son procured a warrant for his arrest for abusing his family, and requiring him to give bond to keep peace. After the trial Howell returned home, swearing vengeance on his son, who met him at the door and shot him.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Notorious Mrs. Clem.

The sensational murders of successful businessman, Jacob Young and his wife in Indianapolis, in 1868, exposed a web of financial fraud involving some of the most influential men in the city. Circumstantial evidence soon pointed to Mrs. Nancy E. Clem, mastermind of the fraudulent scheme, as the perpetrator of the murders. The notorious Mrs. Clem, however, proved remarkably hard to convict. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Murder of a School Mate by Two Girls.

Little Murders
(From Sun,  Baltimore, Maryland, December 25, 1879)
Murder of a School Mate by Two Girls.

Cincinnati, Dec. 24. –A dispatch to the Enquirer, from Hogerstown, Ind., states that a murder, which occurred near a country schoolhouse between Centreville and Williamsburg, two weeks since, had just come to light. Two school-girls, about fifteen years old, daughters of wealthy parents, were expelled from the school for bad treatment of a school-mate of the same age, named Miss Kates. While the latter was on her way home, after school, they assaulted her—one knocking her down with a base ball bat and the other jumping on her and breaking four of her ribs—Miss Kates managed to crawl home, and died soon after communicating the facts to her mother. According to reports the parents of the assailants went to the murdered girl’s mother and persuaded her by a bribe of $3,000 to keep the affair secret. The facts, however, leaked out through school children who witnessed the assault, and have created much excitement.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Hawkins Matricide.

Little Murders

Islip was a quiet little town on the southern shore of Long Island, populated by the families of seafaring men and summer visitors from New York, escaping the noise and bustle of the city. The town had no saloons and had did not have enough crime to justify building a jail. So the discovery, in October 1887, of woman’s body, shot and beaten, off the Brentwood road in the woods just outside of Islip, threw the town into a state of high excitement.

The body might have been missed completely, but it was wrapped in a bright red shawl. The wagon driver who spotted it got down to take a look and found a middle-aged woman, shot three times in the head, her face bruised and disfigured beyond recognition.

From her clothing, she was identified as Mrs. Cynthiana Hawkins, widow of Captain Fredrick Hawkins, who had made a fortune as a sea captain and later in the lumber business. Her maiden name was Clock, one of the most prominent families in Long Island society. Her brothers immediately initiated an investigation of her murder. Robbery was ruled out as a motive; she had not been assaulted, it looked more like a revenge killing.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Murdered in Court.

Little Murders

A bitter rivalry between two Ashland, Ohio newspapers turned bloody in a Cleveland courtroom on October 30, 1887. The details of the lawsuit have been overshadowed by subsequent events in the courtroom, but C. D. Mason, the editor of the Ashland Gazette, was the plaintiff in a suit to recover $52.50 from Elias Lutz on a note transferred to him from his brother James Mason. Representing Mr. Lutz was attorney W. H. Reynolds, who was also the editor of the Ashland Times. In a separate case, the Mason brothers were suing Reynolds for libel over an article in his paper characterizing the note transaction as a swindle.

The tension in the room was palpable when James Mason took the witness stand. As he spoke, W. H. Reynolds made irritating remarks regarding his testimony. D. C. Mason soon had enough of Reynolds’s comments; he stood up and struck Reynolds with a chair. Reynolds, who was lame, stood up as well, and supporting himself on a chair, began to strike D. C. Mason with his cane. James Mason came to his brother’s defense from the witness stand, by pulling out his .38 caliber revolver and firing two fatal shots into W. H. Reynolds. Spectators who were supporting Reynolds called for the lynching of James Mason, but cooler heads prevailed and with some difficulty, both Mason brothers were protected.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Recent Acquisitions.

Here are some murder related cartes de visite I recently acquired. They were produced at the time of the murders and sold as souvenirs.

Jennie Cramer
Poisoned in Connecticut, 1881.
Jim Fisk
Shot in New York City, 1872
Josie Mansfield
Jim Fisk's mistress
& cause of his downfall.

Josie Langmaid
Beaten and Decapitated in
New Hampshire, 1875
Moses Sargent
Private Detective
active in the Langmaid Case
& Other N. H. murders.