Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

True Tales of Murder in 19th Century America

 A murderous atmosphere pervaded nineteenth century America unlike anything seen before or since. Lurid murder stories dominated newspaper headlines, and as if responding to the need for sensational copy, Americans everywhere began to see murder as a solution to their problems. The Bloody Century retells their stories; some still famous, some long buried, all endlessly fascinating. The Bloody Century is a collection of true stories of ordinary Americans, driven by desperation, greed, jealousy or an irrational bloodlust, to take the life of someone around them. The book includes facts, motives, circumstances and outcomes, narrating fifty of the most intriguing murder cases of nineteenth century America. Richly illustrated with scenes and portraits originally published at the time of the murders, and including songs and poems written to commemorate the crimes, The Bloody Century invokes a fitting atmosphere for Victorian homicide.

Available on Amazon: 

 A Bloody Bit From THE BLOODY CENTURY Book...


Emma Cunningham, a 33-year-old widow coming upon hard times, seduced and had an affair with a wealthy dentist, Dr. Harvey Burdell (who, in spite of his successful banking and real estate investments, was also known to service the dental needs of prostitutes working in his Bond Street neighborhood and to take his fee in trade).  Soon enough he was found dead in his office and generally a bloody mess.  His corpse was examined and it was determined that the doctor had been strangled with a garrote and stabbed fifteen times with a long slender knife.

After the murder Emma promptly produced a letter stating that she had been married to Dr. Burdell, and that his estate was therefore entirely hers.  Witnesses and a trail of clues led the police to quickly arrest Emma for Burdell's murder.  She was put on trial, which was a sensation that lasted only 3 days –– and thanks to her attorney bashing Burdell's reputation with prostitutes, among other unsavory practices, Emma was acquitted of his murder.
She then had the gal to insist she was pregnant with Burdell's child, to regain her upper hand on claiming his estate.  She even went as far as to secure a living baby and fake labor and giving birth to the child.  This is where everything went straight to hell for her –– the police were already suspect and were waiting to pounce on the fraudulent Emma and her accomplice physician when the doctor appeared with the new (and illegally procured) infant.
Hahahaha!  Good try, Emma Cunningham!

For a detailed account of this wild murder tale visit: 
Greed, jealousy, revenge, obsession – the motives of America’s gas-lit murders are universal and timeless. Yet their stories are tightly bound to a particular place and time; uniquely American, uniquely 19th Century.

The goal of Murder by Gaslight is to bring them all together, the great and the small, to retell their tales, to point the way for those seeking more detail, and most importantly, to provide a forum to share facts and opinions. So here they are, America’s Victorian murders – sometimes gruesome, often shocking, always fascinating. Welcome to Murder by Gaslight.




Robert Wilhelm is the author of Wicked Victorian Boston (History Press, 2017), The Bloody Century: True Tales of Murder in 19th Century America (Night Stick Press, 2014) and Murder and Mayhem in Essex County (History Press, 2011), a history of capital crimes in Essex County, Massachusetts from the 1600s to the turn of the twentieth century. He blogs about historical true crime at Murder by Gaslight ( and The National Night Stick ( Robert lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. 
Check It Out On AMAZON:
 Check It Out On AMAZON:

Please Visit Texas POEtrope
Always Great Things!


No comments:

Post a Comment