No. 465
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
March 31, 2020

Copper.

August 20, 2012
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Theodore Dreiser‘s classic novel An American Tragedy was inspired by an infamous 1906 murder whose author, Chester Gillette, was electrocuted at Auburn Prison on this date in 1908. It was a crime tailor-made for the burgeoning mass media, popular and pretty 20-year-old Grace Brown gone to work at the Cortland, N.Y. Gillette Skirt Factory where […]
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Executed Today - 3/30/2020

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When New York’s first cholera epidemic hit in 1832 and killed 3,515 people (out of a population of 250,000), the poor took the blame. “Many city officials implicated the residents of the poorest neighborhoods for contracting cholera, blaming their weak character, instead of viewing the epidemic as a public health problem,” stated Anne Garner, in […]
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Ephemeral New York - 3/29/2020

Felix B. Mulgrew 7/30/1854 - 5/30/1915 Karen Hendricks collection (Click image to enlarge) ELIX B. MULGREW friend or victim of Soapy Smith's? Karen Hendricks is the great-great-granddaughter of Felix B. Mulgrew. Mulgrew was a newspaper man, entrepreneur, Klondiker, and had some running correspondence with his friend, Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith. Through Karen we learn
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/30/2020
Beginning on January 1st, W&W will begin featuring fascinating short clippings from the Fall River papers and other newspapers from …

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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 12/29/2019
Elizabeth Ragan As Arthur Ragan lay dying of a stomach ailment, in Piqua, Ohio, on April 3, 1855, his wife, Elizabeth took the physician aside and told him she believed her husband had poisoned himself. She said she thought the cream of tartar he had been taking for his stomach was actually arsenic. Mr. Ragan died that day, and a post-mortem examination proved his wife correct, he had
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Murder By Gaslight - 3/28/2020

Accounts of haunted dwellings tend to be pretty bog-standard stuff. Spectral figures drifting over the lawn, mysterious rappings at night. Murder victims unable to find peace, or villains with guilty consciences that won’t allow them to rest. To be honest, when you’ve read enough of them, real-life ghost stories can get pretty dull. For that reason, when you come across one that combines
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Strange Company - 3/30/2020
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
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Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
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.