No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 29, 2024

Copper.

August 20, 2012
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Via Newspapers.comPhantom stagecoaches are always fun (especially when they generate manic headlines.)  The “San Bernardino News,” December 7, 1914:Have you seen the phantom coach that dashes madly, silently, down the steep, rugged mountain trail near Pilot Rock? It is a weird story, this. It deals with the apparently supernatural. Possibly it isn't that at all, maybe it is simply some
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Strange Company - 2/28/2024
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HE DUEL IN ELLEN'S HONOR. Soapy Smith’s grandmotherOn Wednesday, August 9, 1820, an argument between 17-year-old, James Bowe Boisseau (1802-1820) and Robert C. Adams (unknown-1820) vying for the attention of 18-year-old Ellen Stimpson Peniston (1802-1860), took a terrible turn. The happy party in her honor took a tragic turn when the competition for Ellen’s affections ended in a deadly duel,
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/10/2024
There’s nothing wrong with the MTA’s usual subway signage: the directions are clear, the design is simple. But when a contemporary sign happens to be stuck underneath original signage made with decorative tile and an unusual typeface—as it is inside the Sixth Avenue F and M station at 14th Street—the old-school sign wins hands-down. Subway.org […]
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Ephemeral New York - 2/26/2024
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
 Alice Hoyle last saw her sister, Lillie, the night of September 1, 1887, in the room they shared in Webster, Massachusetts. Lillie left to use the outhouse, and Alice fell asleep. Lillie never returned. The next morning, Alice went out, thinking Lillie had already left for work. That is the story Alice told the police— as the investigation progressed, she would change it several times.Read
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Murder By Gaslight - 2/24/2024
Included in yesterday’s trip to Fall River was a stop at Miss Lizzie’s Coffee shop and a visit to the cellar to see the scene of the tragic demise of the second Mrs. Lawdwick Borden and two of the three little children in 1848. I have been writing about this sad tale since 2010 and had made a previous trip to the cellar some years ago but was unable to get to the spot where the incident occured to get a clear photograph.  The tale of Eliza Borden is a very sad, but not uncommon story of post partum depression with a heartrending end. You feel this as you stand in the dark space behind the chimney where Eliza ended her life with a straight razor after dropping 6 month old Holder and his 3 year old sister Eliza Ann into the cellar cistern. Over the years I have found other similar cases, often involving wells and cisterns, and drownings of children followed by suicides of the mothers. These photos show the chimney, cistern pipe, back wall, dirt and brick floor, original floorboards forming the cellar ceiling and what appears to be an original door. To be in the place where this happened is a sobering experience. My thanks to Joe Pereira for allowing us to see and record the place where this sad occurrence unfolded in 1848. R.I.P. Holder, Eliza and Eliza Ann Borden. Visit our Articles section above for more on this story. The coffee shop has won its suit to retain its name and has plans to expand into the shop next door and extend its menu in the near future.
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
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.