By the nineteenth century sermons were, for the most part, gone from murder pamphlets but the pamphlets still served to demonstrate the wages of sin to the God fearing. They had also grown in size; by midcentury the average pamphlet was twenty-four pages long, while pamphlets for some sensational murders could be more than fifty pages long. They almost always included the condemned man’s confession (or statement if he was still professing innocence.) They might also include the background of the crime and those involved, and a summary of the trial or trials that convicted the killer. If the execution had already taken place, a description of that event might also be included.
The pamphlets were usually illustrated with an artist’s rendering of the killer and his or her victim, and could include illustrations depicting the crime itself or the killer’s execution.
|LaPage, French Monster|
Even the portraits of the murderers are not to be trusted. The picture of Kate Stoddard on the cover of The Goodrich Horror! or Kate Stoddard’s Full Confession in 1873 was used again in 1884 on An Innocent Woman Hanged, as a portrait of Roxalana Druse.
|Kate Stoddard, 1873||Roxalana Druse, 1884|
|The Mysterious Murder of Pearl Bryan|
Murder pamphlets disappeared in the twentieth century as full-fledged books on murder and true crime became a staple of American popular literature.
McDade, Thomas M.. The annals of murder; a bibliography of books and pamphlets on American murders from colonial times to 1900.. [1st ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1961.
NYS Historical Assoc. - Murder Pamphlets Exhibit
The Making of Modern Law (MOML): Legal Treatises 1800-1926
Dying Speeches & Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides Collected by the Harvard Law Library