No. 556
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
January 22, 2022

Copper.

August 20, 2012
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Soapy Smith leading the packArtifact #96-Front Page, Part 1National PopulistMarch 24, 1894Jeff Smith collection(Click image to enlarge)  amblers, Thugs, Murders and Rogues."The alliance of the gamblers and bunco men with the old Fire and Police Board is not a pleasant thing to contemplate. It has come to a pretty pass if the interests of the city and the lives and property of citizens can't
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 1/21/2022

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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 engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020

 "The Witches' Cove," Follower of Jan MandijnWinter has been here for one month now.And this is the current mood here at Strange Company HQ.A professor has an interesting side job.A board game from 4,000 years ago.Exploring the possibility that John Keats was a grave-robber.This week in Russian Weird looks at a vampire Baroness and her cursed tomb.In which we are confronted with way too much
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Strange Company - 1/21/2022
The Nicholsons of San Francisco owned some farmland near Watsonville in Monterey County, California. In 1873, Mrs. Sarah Nicholson spent all of her time there, working the farm while her husband traveled back and forth from San Francisco, where he had a carriage business.Two years earlier, they bought the land from Matt Tarpey, a wealthy landowner and a big man in Monterey County politics. Tarpey
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Murder By Gaslight - 1/22/2022

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.