function imageUrl() { return 'http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-J9R7LVZX_I0/UtG_zMr11iI/AAAAAAAACK0/4xwpgN9kL3E/s1600/Murder-told-in-Pictures.jpg'; }

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Murderous 1850s.

Reports of sensational murders had proven so successful at selling newspapers in earlier decades, that by the 1850s murder had become a front page staple of American newspapers. Murder stories, unfolded in the daily papers as if they were serialized mysteries, and readers could not get enough.


An Unfortunate Organization -1850

Phrenology, the theory that a person’s character is determined by the size and shape of his head, was quite popular in America during the 1850s. A phrenological analysis of Reuben Dunbar in 1851 found him to be excessive in Destructiveness, Combativeness, Aqusitiveness, Secretiveness and Firmness, while being deficient in Self-esteem and Philoprogenitiveness. He had “an unfortunate organization” in which his moral faculties were not sufficiently large to balance his animal propensities. While the phrenologist professed scientific objectivity in the analysis of Dunbar’s head, she may have been somewhat influenced the fact that, at the time, Reuben Dunbar was charged with murdering his two young stepbrothers to protect his inheritance.

The North Carolina Tragedy. -1852

The Reverend George Washington Carawan, prominent and powerful North Carolina Baptist minister was a man of violent temper and strong animal passions, more apt to inspire terror than piety in those around him. The sorrows he begat in his relationships would follow him to the courtroom for the last savage act in Carawan’s tragedy.

Arthur Spring Jr. vs. Arthur Spring Sr. -1853

On the morning of March 11, 1853, the bodies of Mrs. Honora Shaw and her sister Mrs. Ellen Lynch were found brutally stabbed and beaten in the front room of their home on Federal Street in Philadelphia. Circumstantial evidence pointed to Arthur Spring, a frequent guest of Mrs. Shaw’s, as the murderer. But the most damning evidence against Spring was the testimony of his nineteen-year-old son, Arthur Jr. who directly accused his father of the murders. Arthur Spring vehemently denied the charge and countered by pinning the murders on his son.

The Veiled Murderess -1853

In 1854, a woman calling herself Henrietta Robinson stood trial in Troy, New York, for poisoning a neighbor and his sister-in-law. Despite the judge’s admonitions, she sat through the trial with her face covered by a black veil, hiding her appearance from the throngs of spectators who had come to watch. Everything about the defendant was a mystery—her motive for murder, her behavior before and after the crime, and even her true identity. It was well known that “Henrietta Robinson” was an assumed name, but who she really was has never been determined.

The Killing of Bill The Butcher -1855

Bill “The Butcher” Poole was a champion New York City pugilist in 1855—before the Marquess of Queensbury rules—when kicking, biting and eye-gouging were acceptable tactics and “fight to the death” was more than a metaphor.  It was also a time when a challenge was likely to be issued out of pure hatred for your opponent.  When John Morrissey, the Irish enforcer for Tammany Hall challenged Bill Poole of the the anti-immigrant “Know Nothing” Party it promised to be the ultimate grudge match. But when the fighters turned to knives and guns, all pretext of sport was gone.  It would be Bill “The Butcher” Poole’s last fight.

The Bond Street Tragedy -1857

The townhouse at 31 Bond Street was, to all appearance, a model of staid middleclass Manhattan decorum. In 1857 it was a boardinghouse run by Mrs. Emma Cunningham with the dental office of Dr. Harvey Burdell on the second floor. But after Dr. 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.

The Manheim Tragedy -1857

On a sunny December morning in 1857, Mrs. Anna Garber and Mrs. Elizabeth Ream were raped and murdered in Mrs. Garber’s home in Manheim, Pennsylvania. Evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Alexander Anderson and Henry Richards, two African American workmen seen in the neighborhood. Though there was little doubt as to who committed the murders, a question still remained: would they be tried by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania or would the case would be handled by "Judge Lynch."

Dan Sickles's Temporary Insanity -1859

Dan Sickles, congressman from New York, was married to the most beautiful woman in Washington but his other interests, including his mistresses, often kept him away from home. Feeling lonely and abandoned, his lovely young wife, Teresa, found comfort in the arms of Philip Barton Key. When Sickles learned of their affair, he armed himself and confronted Key on the street. Blinded by rage he shot and killed his wife’s lover. Was it premeditated murder or temporary insanity?

A Balance of Probabilities. -1859

The morning of December 11, 1859, eleven-year-old Priscilla Budge carried a cup of tea to her mother’s bedroom. There she found her mother dead, lying on the bed with her throat cut. Mrs. Budge was known to be mentally unstable and her husband, the Reverend Henry Budge, immediately declared that his wife’s death must have been suicide. The coroner’s jury agreed and Mrs. Budge was soon buried—a quick conclusion to an unpleasant event. But as it turned out, it was not the conclusion, just the opening argument of a debate that would go on for years.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

"Yes, I Shot to Kill."

Little Murders

Commerce on the busy intersection  of Twenty-Fourth and J Streets, in Omaha, Nebraska, was interrupted, the evening of October 16, by the crack of three pistol shots. A young woman fired once in the air, trying to get the attention of the man who had just walked away from her. When he continued walking without turning around, she aimed at his back and fired again. Then she pointed the revolver at her own head and fired a third shot. Two bodies fell to the pavement.

Both were still alive and were quickly taken to Presbyterian Hospital. The man was Henry J. Reiser, a well-known, single, man-about-town, connected to the Armour meat packing company. The shot had severed his spinal cord, and he was not expected to live. The woman was Mrs. Eloise Rutiger, a prominent Omaha social leader, whose husband was also associated with Armour. The bullet had only grazed her head, and she was in no danger.

“Is he dead yet?” Mrs. Rudiger asked when she came to in the hospital, “Yes, I shot to kill. It was for my husband to do, but he would not, so I did it myself. The wretch has given me enough cause, and I hope I have accomplished what I undertook.”

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Maniac at Des Moines.

Little Murders
(From Jackson Citizen, July 17, 1883)

The Maniac at Des Moines.

The fight with a maniac at a Des Moines (Iowa) hotel, briefly chronicled previously, was as follows: At noon Sunday a man who apparently alighted from the Rock Island train going west registered his name at the Morgan House, near the station as Henry Seage, of Swans, N. Y. He paid for his room and went thither at once. About 4:30 o’clock a boarder heard the cry of murder, and called the landlord. The latter hurried to Seager’s room, and found the door barricaded with the bed. Seager fired a shot at the landlord, and he fled. Other shots were fired, one of which carried off the door plate, and following in quick succession until thirteen had been fired through the door and wall, several of which scarred the wall across the narrow hall. Seager then demolished the furniture of his room, and did the same in several adjoining rooms, and threw his money, a considerable amount, into the gathering crowd below. He then had a collision with a boarder named Joseph Holmes, in a room at the end of the hall, but breaking away from Holmes he escaped to the roof of the wing to the building, Holmes followed, and while trying to grab seager he was felled by a blow from a bottle in the hands of the maniac, a bad gash being inflicted on the head.

By this time five policemen had reached the roof. A shot was fired, whether by Holmes or Seager is not certain, but it took effect in one of Seager’s legs, and he partly fell. In staggering, Seager fired again, aiming at the center of his forehead. He was then overpowered and taken to the city hospital, where he wounds were dressed. Seager’s skull was crushed by the ball aimed at his forehead, and the bullet that entered his thigh is thought by doctors to have entered his body. They consider his case fatal. He seems to be a mechanic or laborer. His luggage consisted of a pair of shoes, and inside his hat band was written the name of Mary Frew.



Saturday, March 4, 2017

Murder Among the Whyos, Part 2.

Daniel M. Lyons (burglar),
Dan Driscoll and Dan Lyons were the successful leaders of New York City’s Whyo gang in the early 1880s. After Driscoll’s arrest for murder in 1886, Dan Lyons became the sole leader, but his reign did not last long. Confusion surrounds the cause of Lyons’ downfall in 1887—most modern accounts say he was executed for murdering a popular amateur athlete, but in fact, he was shot to death by an angry saloonkeeper. Either way, murder led to the demise of the Whyos.