Crime

Strange and Terrible Deaths in the 1800s

There were many strange and terrible deaths in the 1800s and among them is a story from 1879 about a poor woman roasted alive in her carriage. It all began when Mrs. Honora Lacy left her home in Chester County. She was traveling to Wilmington, Delaware to buy a large quantity of cotton, straw, and……...

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John Webster: Harvard Lecturer and Convicted Murderer

John Webster was born on 20 May 1793 and was from a well-connected family where his grandfather achieved success as a merchant. Indulged as a child and pampered in his youth, he enjoyed the best education and graduated from Harvard College. However, for all his advantages he learned nothing about money or how to be……...

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Mary Rogers: A Sensational 1841 Murder

Mary Rogers was a noted American beauty whose body was found in the Hudson River in 1841. Her death was cloaked in mystery and much publicized by the press. There were some people who believed she committed suicide, others who thought she was an object of gang violence, and those who claimed she was victim……...

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Soapy Smith and His Frontier Scams

Con artist Jefferson Randolph Smith II, aka Soapy Smith, gained notoriety with his “prize soap racket.” Under a gasoline flare he would sell bars of soap at night. However, to increase sales, he hid $5.00, $10.00, and $50.00 bills in some of the soap packages as prospective customers watched. Like other con men, the soap……...

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Justice John Byles: Some of His Interesting Court Cases

Justice John Byles studied law in Britain in the 1820s and 30s and became a member of the Inner Temple, a professional body that provides legal training, selection, and regulation of its members. The Inner Temple was also one of the four inns of the court and to be called to practice as a barrister……...

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Canada Bill: William Jones Confidence Artist

Chances are you even if you’ve heard of Wild Bill Hickok or Buffalo Bill, you haven’t heard of Canada Bill. He wasn’t famous like either of those Bills rather he was infamous because he was considered king of the confidence artists in the 1800s. Canada Bill operated in Canada and the U.S. and was described……...

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Catherine Wilson: British Poisoner and Serial Killer

Catherine Wilson was a nineteenth-century nurse who poisoned her victims after encouraging them to change their wills in her favor. Although she was only convicted of one murder, it was generally thought at the time that she killed at least six other victims. Moreover, the sentencing judge, Justice John Barnard Byles, alleged that her counsel……...

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Lightfoot Brothers: The 1840 Murder of Nevell Norway

The Lightfoot brothers (23-year-old James and 36-year-old William) were both born in the Parish of St. Breock to John Lightfoot and Elizabeth Penaligon. As adults, James and William worked long hours. James maintained that he and William were working in Pencarrow Wood when a man suggested they could “enrich” themselves in a much easier way……...

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Tarring and Feathering Attacks in America

Although the phrase tarring and feathering appears to have originated just prior to the American Revolution, the practice was much older having first happened in Europe. One of the earliest reports of it occurring was in 1189 during the time of the English King Richard the Lion-Hearted. Laws and regulations had been drawn up in……...

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The Green Goods Scam of the 19th Century

The green goods scam was a fraudulent scheme that involved persuading victims to turn over thousands of dollars in genuine bills that would then be returned to the victims double their value in counterfeit bills. The scam was run by a gang of sharpers, called “green goods men.” They make millions of dollars using denominations……...

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