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Tag Archives: New York

Early American Criminals: Francis Burdett Personel and the Liberty Pole

Constable Mr. Van Gelder was just about to abandon his search. He had recently been sent to New Haven, CT to find Francis Personel by New York City mayor Whitehead Hicks, who had learned that Personel was possibly hiding out in that city. But what Van Gelder did not know was that at the same […]

Prisons and Punishments: The Crank Mill

The punishment of forcing convicts to step on a treadmill–a large, long rotating cylinder with steps attached along the outside–failed to take hold in America, even though England used it successfully for years in its prisons. Proponents of the punishment argued that the treadmill turned prisoners into productive citizens by making them work and provide […]

Prisons and Punishments: The Failure of the Treadmill in America

In 1822, when the American press began to circulate articles praising the use of a new invention in England that would instill fear in convicted felons and turn them into productive citizens, politicians, prison officials, and the press in America took notice. The invention was a treadmill, a large, long cylinder equipped with steps that […]

Crime Poems: “That Notorious Cheat”

Crime Poems: “That Notorious Cheat” In June 1761, Jeremiah Dexter of Walpole, MA was caught trying to pass counterfeit dollars of his own making. As punishment, Dexter was forced on September 10 to stand in the pillory for one hour and pay a fine of 20 pounds. Among the crowd who showed up that day […]

Early American Criminals: Rachel Wall’s Fall From Grace

Rachel Wall knew exactly what to say and how to say it in her Life, Last Words and Dying CONFESSION, where she eloquently appealed to God and her “dear Savior and Redeemer JESUS CHRIST, who is able to save all those that, by faith, come unto him, not refusing even the chief of sinners.” After […]

Early American Criminals: William Fly’s Revenge

To this vile Crue you may the PIRATE add Who puts to Sea the Merchant to invade, And reaps the Profit of another’s Trade. He sculks behind some Rock, or swiftly flies From Creek to Creek, rich Vessels to surprise. By this ungodly Course the Robber gains, And lays up so much Wealth, that he […]

Early American Criminals: Owen Syllavan’s Bunker

After one week, hunger finally drove Owen Syllavan out of his hiding place in the Connecticut woods and forced him to seek refuge with an acquaintance. Syllavan cut open a plank in the floor of his friend’s house, dug a large cavity that went under the hearth of the fireplace, and rigged a vent so […]

Early American Criminals: Joseph Andrews in the News

As soon as Joseph Andrews read the newspaper article in the St. Christopher’s Gazette, which reproduced the deposition William Harris gave to the authorities, he knew he had to leave the Caribbean island of St. Eustatia immediately. The decision was a wise one, because as soon as Governor John De Windt read the same story […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: booly-dog

booly-dog – a police officer. From bulldog, via bouledogue (French). Note: This cartoon by Thomas Nast–which depicts a bulldog dressed in the uniform of a police officer–was inspired by charges of corruption and graft in the New York City Police Department by Rev. Charles Parkhurst in 1892. Parkhurst accused police officials of accepting money for […]

In the Media: An Interview with the Author/Publisher of The National Night Stick

Robert Wilhelm, the author and publisher of the excellent Murder by Gaslight blog has just launched a new website called The National Night Stick. Readers of crime on the Web have come to expect engaging tales of 19th-century murder and mayhem on Murder by Gaslight, and The National Night Stick promises to follow in this […]