No. 584
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
December 7, 2022

Copper.

August 20, 2012
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Not George Talkington, but there must have been a strong resemblance.Many people could be called “accident prone,” but, fortunately, few take it to the level of the subject of today’s post.  From the “Bath Chronicle,” November 21, 1833 (via Newspapers.com):George Talkington, once a celebrated horse-dealer at Uttoxeter, who died on the 8th of April, 1826, at Cheadle, Cheshire, in his eighty-third
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Strange Company - 12/7/2022
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Wishing you a happy and bountiful Thanksgiving Day! Lizzie is thankful for turkey and all the trimmings – and no mutton broth in sight!
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 11/22/2022
CAME NEAR LOSING HIS MONEYSan Francisco ChronicleMay 6, 1893(Click image to enlarge)  San Francisco Man Taken in by Denver Card Sharks "First time I ever got caught" (Soapy Smith) This post was originally supposed to be about a new "victim" (Charles Anderson) swindled by the soap gang that I recently uncovered during a search through newspaper archives, but in looking through my files I found
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 12/6/2022
On this date in 2002, Pakistani Mir Aimal Kansi, Kasi, or Qazi was executed by lethal injection in Virginia, U.S.A. “Real angry with the policy of the U.S. government in the Middle East, particularly toward the Palestinian people,”* Qazi on January 25, 1993 revenged himself on Central Intelligence Agency commuters queued for a left turn […]
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Executed Today - 11/14/2022
 When tried for the 1840 murder of Catherine Merry, Charles Cook pled innocent by reason of insanity. Despite a history of medical treatment for extreme melancholy, and strange behavior such as running through the streets of Schenectady, wearing nothing but a blanket, proclaiming himself to be the Savior of the world, the jury rejected his plea and found him guilty.Before his execution, Cook
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Murder By Gaslight - 12/3/2022
For years I’ve walked by the delightfully shabby Joe’s Tavern sign at the corner of Tenth Avenue and 25th Street. I’ve never seen the vintage vertical beauty lit up, unfortunately. Even stranger, I’ve never seen any sign of life inside 258 Tenth Avenue, which once housed what I imagine to have been an old-school neighborhood […]
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Ephemeral New York - 12/5/2022
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
A Terrible Punishment. | Steam Powered Reformation.

Copper.

Copper

Sunday night BBC America premiered Copper, a new crime drama with the unlikely setting of 1864 New York City. Copper follows police detective Kevin Corcoran’s pursuit of justice through the corrupt streets of the notorious Five Points neighborhood, and his attempts to remain a (relatively) clean cop in a dirty city. The show’s depiction of nineteenth century New York’s grit and violence is an apt reminder that, though the old west may have been wild, the east was hardly staid and civilized.[more]

Copper, in many ways, resembles the HBO’s series Deadwood, with its struggle for community in a lawless mining camp, but in New York the struggles are broader and more deeply rooted.  The city is an interlocking web of conflicts: immigrants versus native born, black versus white, rich versus poor, all mediated by crooked police and corrupt politicians. Like Deadwood, Copper’s New York is a dangerous place where moral certainty is a luxury that no one can afford.

More like a cowboy than a policeman, Corcoran moves through this atmosphere of vice and corruption, seeking justice for the weak. In the first episode he hunts for the man who raped and murdered a young girl, and Corcoran has personal mysteries to solve—finding those responsible for the death of his daughter and the disappearance of his wife. Assisting in this work is an African American physician, Matthew Freeman, who met Corcoran on a Civil War battlefield. Other wartime connections provide Corcoran with access to the city’s upper class and he moves with ease between uptown mansions and Five Points brothels without becoming corrupted by either.

Future episodes will determine whether Copper can effectively bring the cowboy ethos to an east coast urban setting, but the potential is there for kinds of rich character development and engaging plots that make for great storytelling. Copper promises to be a wild ride, with a new twist on historical crime fighting.

The premier episode will be airing all week on BBC America, with new episodes every Sunday night.