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Tag Archives: Prisons and Jails

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 […]

Prisons and Punishments: Inventive Ways to Cut Prison Costs

Cutting government budgets is on the minds of almost everyone nowadays. All levels of government seem to have empty coffers and are looking for new ways to save money in the midst of persistent societal needs. This situation is prompting many state governments to reexamine how they punish their criminals and to look for creative […]

Places and Events: Old Jails in Maine

I had to duck my head as I passed through the low doorway that led into the dungeon of the Old Gaol in York, ME. The sole electric lamp trying to replicate what the lighting would have been like in the jail cell in the 1700s and the musty smell resulting from a lack of […]

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: Joseph Quasson’s Repentance

When Native American, Joseph Quasson, learned that he would spend eight or nine months in prison before he could face trial for murder, he secretly believed that he could properly repent in a quarter of the time. After all, he had once regularly attended church when he was young. But as the time for his […]

Early American Criminals: The Conversion of Esther Rodgers

The night before the special event, Esther Rodgers exclaimed to the group of people who had gathered in her cell, “Oh! I have had the joyfullest day to day that ever I had in my whole life. I bless God that ever I came into this Prison.” Rodgers’s exclamation is remarkable. She had little exposure […]

Crime Poems: Competing Accounts of Moses Paul and the First Native American Publication

When Mrs. Clark refused to let Moses Paul, a Native American, “have a dram” at Clark’s Tavern in Bethany, CT on a Saturday night, he was incensed. He became so disorderly, in fact, that he was forcibly removed from the tavern, but not before he vowed to exact revenge. Not long after the disturbance, Moses […]

Early American Criminals: Daniel Wilson: Horse Thief, Burglar, and Rapist

Daniel Wilson was confident he could escape from prison one more time. He was being held in the Providence jail after committing a rape back in December 1773 in Smithfield, RI. He had escaped from the jail twice before, although both times he was caught and returned. But he vowed to himself on this early […]

Early American Criminals: Samuel Bellamy’s Treasure

It was love at first sight for Samuel Bellamy and Mary Hallett. According to local lore, when the two met on a spring evening in 1715 in a tavern in Eastham, MA on Cape Cod, they began to talk about marriage. But when Hallett’s wealthy parents put a stop to the plan when they learned […]

The American Malefactor’s Dictionary: bower

bower – a prison. Sources Farmer, John S. and W. E. Henley. A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English. Abridged from Slang and Its Analogues. London: George Routledge and Sons, 1912. Matsell, George W. Vocabulum: Or, the Rogue’s Lexicon.. New York: George W. Matsell, 1859. Partridge, Eric. A Dictionary of the Underworld. New York: Bonanza […]