Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790–1920: One of the Best Databases of 2016

Library Journal recently released their “Best Databases of 2016” list naming Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790–1920 among this year’s “cream of the crop.” Cheryl LaGuardia’s review in Library Journal from earlier this year details what makes this resource one of the best, Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790–1920, offers rich resources for scholars of history, … Read more

3 Historical Cocktails for your Throwback Summer Gathering

Posted May 27, 2016

By Tara Blair and Bethany Dotson

Mixologist, an expression used for a person skilled at making cocktails, was first coined after Jerry Thomas in the early 1860’s, when the term saloonist was also being exercised. The science behind the art was quite similar to that of current mixologists: relying not only on expert drink crafting abilities, but on an out-going, uplifting personality as well.

With the BBQ season quickly approaching, we took a deeper look into Gale’s Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790-1920 to revise some nineteenth-century cocktails (and see what policemen at the turn of the century were drinking – spoilers: not coffee).

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Criminalizing Sexual and Gender Deviance

Posted on May 10, 2016

By: Jen Manion

The changing meanings and usages of terms related to gender and sexuality can be charted in the American Antiquarian Society Collection on Literature, Reports, and True Crime in Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790-1920, which features a diverse range of true crime tales, dime store novels, formal state reports, and longer accounts, factual and fictitious. The term “gay” appears in over one thousand monographs over a one-hundred-year period from 1820–1930, peaking in the 1860s with 318 documents describing spirits, songs, companions, groups, conventions, deportment, and art. The term “unsex” appears a scant nine times. One such usage appeared in a trial testimony implicating a woman as an accessory to a crime for which her husband was charged:

But if you dare to raise your arm, to unsex yourself and engage in a conspiracy against the nation’s life and the nation’s honor, to make a widow of one of your own sex, to strike down the father and husband in the presence of his wife and child, I call upon this honest jury of my countrymen to spurn that spirit of mawkish sentimentality.[i]

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A Captivating Crime Story: the Brighton Railway Murder

Posted on May 4, 2016

By: Daniel Pullian

The compartment was much bespattered with blood’: the Brighton Railway Murder

Barely a week went by in the nineteenth-century press without a sensational crime story appearing. Whether it was the gory prospect of blood and dismembered bodies, or simply the thrill of a classic ‘whodunit’, there can be little doubt that crime reporting made compelling copy. This was certainly the case with the ‘Brighton Railway Murder’ which took place in the summer of 1881. From beginning to end, the case captivated the imagination of the British people, eager to discover who had murdered wealthy tradesman Frederick Gold, and what would become of the culprit. A search of Gale Artemis: Primary Sources highlights the case’s notoriety, giving me the perfect opportunity to trace its development.    

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Part One: Race & Gender in the Carceral State

Posted on May 2, 2016

By: Jen Manion

Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790-1920 is a trove of material for scholars and students interested in the history of gender, gender expression, and sexuality. Criminal accounts provide an illustrative window into the culture of the time by highlighting the lives, actions, and motives of those who crossed the line of so-called acceptable behavior. Women’s participation in illicit activities such as theft, robbery, assault, or murder were generally sensationalized in both trial and newspaper records, giving such accounts a sexual tinge no matter how seemingly mundane. The range of source material—from newspaper accounts to trial manuscripts to organizational records to sensational dime novels—allows readers to approach a singular topic from different perspectives. Historians can examine the treatment of people along lines of race, class, and gender, or chart changes in such regulations over time.

 

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Billings, Hammatt, and Gridley James Fox Bryant. View of the New Jail for Suffolk County, in the State of Massachusetts, Erecting by the City of Boston upon Charles & North Grove Sts: 1848 Josiah Quincy Jr. Mayor: G.J.F. Bryant Architect; H. Billings Del. [1848]. MS Nineteenth Century Crime: Literature, Reports, and True Crime from the American Antiquarian Society 152081. American Antiquarian Society. Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture 1790-1920.

 

 

Scholars are increasingly viewing the carceral state as an extensive network of institutions—from policing authorities, holding pens, and county jails to almshouses, hospitals, asylums, and houses of refuge—with deep roots throughout the country. There are many important inquiries in this area for historians of gender and sexuality working at the intersection of race and slavery. One story points to the unusual acquittal of an enslaved man for murder. Titled “Trial of a Slaver for Murder,” the article describes a slave named Richard who killed an enslaved woman named Maria under the orders of his mistress. The court ruled, “Whenever a slave, in the presence and command of his owners, committed an unlawful act, as murder or other crime, he was the mere instrument of his owner’s cruelty, and having no will of his own, could not be amenable to the punishment of the law.” This short account invites far more questions than it answers and is a starting point for exploration of criminal justice in slave holding Charleston, especially given the concluding sentence of the article: “The mistress is, therefore to be tried for killing Maria.”[i]

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Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture: “Enthralling” and “Remarkable” Primary Sources

Searching for “extraordinary” materials to enhance understandings of the evolution of criminal justice and penal reform? Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture 1790-1920 features “easy to use navigation” paired with 2.1 million pages of materials supporting the study of nineteenth-century criminal history, law, literature, and justice, to enhance law and society knowledge during a pivotal era of social change. Only Crime, Punishment, and Popular Culture, 1790-1920 helps users explore the links between fact and fiction by integrating legal and historical documents with literature, an emerging crime-fiction genre, newspaper reports, and more.

Read a review posted by Cheryl LaGuardia of Library Journal, April, 2016

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