No. 643
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
February 23, 2024

The “Prisoners’ March.”

Pennsylvania - Scene in the Schuylkill County Prison at Pottsville - The "Prisoners' March" for exercise in the corridor.
September 17, 2013
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 "The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan MandijnWelcome to this week's Link Dump!  As you can see, the Strange Company Art Department is busy with the illustrations for next week's posts.The working lads of Whitechapel, circa 1900.A human leg has been found on the New York subways, and I'm betting that's not the worst thing you'd find there.A brief history of condensed milk.The
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Strange Company - 2/23/2024
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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
Entering the Wall Street IRT subway station on Lower Broadway at Trinity Church can feel like going into a time warp. That’s because of the cast iron hoods that cover the stairwell as you descend underground. Decorated in a leaf pattern, the curved hoods date back to the station’s 1905 opening. The hoods mesh well […]
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Ephemeral New York - 2/19/2024
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
A postmortem examination revealed that Katie Dugan was four months pregnant when her body was found beaten and slashed in an empty field in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1892. A two-year investigation led police to believe that Albert Stout, Katie’s former employer, was her killer and the father of her unborn child. But Stout was a prominent, well-connected businessman, and despite evidence that he
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Murder By Gaslight - 2/17/2024
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
Her Last Ascent. | The Last Dip of the Season.

The “Prisoners’ March.”

Prisoners March Pennsylvania—Scene in the Schuylkill County Prison at Pottsville—The “Prisoners’ March” for exercise in the corridor.

The Schuylkill County Prison at Pottsville is one of the largest and most important in the State of Pennsylvania. Special interest has attached to it of late years from the fact that many of the notorious Mollie Maquire murderers have been either executed within its walls, or are now serving out sentences there. The building is 285 feet wide by 296 feet deep, the prison proper being in the shape of an L. The front wing is 165 feet long, and the side wing 213 feet, making the total length of 378 feet by a width of 52 feet. A corridor extends through the middle on each side of which is a two-story row of cells, 114 in number. The corridor is fifteen feet wide and is covered by a brick arch, in which there are ten large skylights. On each side of the prison is a space of ground, surrounded by a wall thirty high, and here the prisoners are exercised daily, except in the Winter, when, on account of the severity of the weather, the corridor is used. The prisoners are all kept regularly at work, and the goods which they manufacture reduced the net cost of the institution to the county last year from $22,619 to $7,860. The warden is Joseph Dolan, who is assisted by two keepers, and they have an average number of 65 persons under their charge, although the total sometimes runs up as high as 125. The scene presented in the corridor, when the prisoners are gathered for their daily round of exercise, is a very interesting one, as our illustration shows. A couple of jolly Africans, whose misdeeds have debarred them from airing their musical accomplishments in the outside world, head the procession and sound the keynote with their banjos, while some of the older and more trusted prisoners see that order is preserved. Discipline is well enforced, while the harmless recreation thus afforded proves an excellent thing for the convicts.


Reprinted from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper 10 Mar 1883.