Tag Archives: Crime and Justice

Pirates & Pirate Nests in the British Atlantic World


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ben_franklins_worldPirates are alive and well in our popular culture. Thanks to movies like Pirates of the Caribbean and television shows like Black Sails, we see pirates as peg-legged, eye-patch wearing, rum-drinking men.

But are these representations accurate? What do we really know about pirates?

In this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, Mark Hanna, an Associate Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego, and author of the award-winning book Pirate Nests and the Rise of the British Empire, 1570-1740, (UNC Press, 2015) helps us fill in the gaps in our knowledge to better understand who pirates were and why they lived the pirate’s life. You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/099

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The Double Life of Father Schmidt


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father hans schmidtOn September 5, 1913, Mary Bann, of Woodcliff, New Jersey, and a male companion, were walking near an abandoned dock near the New Jersey side of the Hudson River, when she spotted a bundle resting near the riverbank. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine, and fairly large in size. Though her companion wished to dissuade her from getting near it, Mary had a stubborn mind, thus she hiked down to the side of the river and grabbed the package. She untied the string, unfurled the brown paper and the newspaper under it, and was soon shocked by the sight: it was the upper torso of a young woman. Her companion quickly hurried to find a policeman. Continue reading

Dannemora Escapee Jack Williams: At First, Too Big to Succeed


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DannPicketWall1880The one-year anniversary of the infamous Dannemora prison break recently passed, so here’s the story of an inmate linked to a pair of unusual breakouts, excerpted from my book, Escape from Dannemora.

Despite media stories claiming early on that Richard Matt and David Sweat were the first-ever escapees from Clinton Prison, some in the past did it in even more spectacular fashion, and overall, hundreds managed to escape under various circumstances. Among them was Jack Williams, a participant in two Clinton exits involving unusual components featured in no other Dannemora escapes. Continue reading

The North Country Man Who Threatened A President


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P1JosephDoldoWhen presidential historians and scholars rate America’s greatest leaders, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is among the few who nearly always appear among the top five, along with Washington and Lincoln. While others certainly served admirably, those three achieved elevated status by facing stern tests of leadership during great crises in our history: the battle for independence, the fight to preserve the Union, and in FDR’s case, both the Great Depression and World War II.

It’s less well known that Roosevelt very nearly didn’t serve as President due to assassination attempts prior to his first inauguration. One of those stories brought ignominious headlines to the North Country over a period of several months.

Roosevelt first won the presidency in November 1932. The 20th Amendment was ratified on January 23, 1933, officially establishing January 20 as the new inauguration date for all future presidents, and making FDR the last President to be inaugurated on March 4. He very nearly didn’t survive the waiting period. Continue reading

Lt. Joseph Petrosino And The Italian Squad


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joseph petrosinoOn Tuesday, April 14, 1903, an Irish woman named Frances Connors leaned out of her window from the fifth floor tenement house at 743 East 11th Street on Avenue D, New York City, and discovered a man’s body stashed inside a wooden barrel.

The man, who sported a thick mustache speckled with gray hairs and a scar shaped like the letter ‘v’ on his left cheek, had been viciously stabbed, his neck almost severed from side to side. Inspectors on the scene had an inkling the man was one of the many Italian immigrants who had recently made their way into New York, and who perhaps had become involved with La Mala Vita, the bad life. Continue reading

Prisons And Prison Life in Early America


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ben_franklins_worldAmerican prisons are overcrowded. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world and nearly 2.5 million Americans are serving prison sentences.

Nearly all politicians agree that we need to reform the American prison system, but they disagree on how to do it.  Can gaining historical perspective on this present-day problem help us solve it?

in this episode of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast, we investigate early American prisons and prison life with Jen Manion, an Assistant Professor of History at Connecticut College and author of Liberty’s Prisoners: Carceral Culture in Early America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here: www.benfranklinsworld.com/080

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Some Interesting History Anniversaries in 2017


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New York State MapPlans are being developed for commemoration of at least three significant historical events next year – the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York State, the bicentennial of the Erie Canal, and the centennial of the United States’ entry into World War I. These are all exciting opportunities to call attention to New York’s history.

But the New York historical community might consider going even further with these three events. In fact, the historical community might consider making 2017 a special year for New York history.  Here are a few possibilities: Continue reading

1920s Chicago Swindler Leo Koretz


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The Historians LogoThis week on “The Historians” podcast hear Nova Scotia journalism professor Dean Jobb with the story of Chicago swindler Leo Koretz. Koretz fled from American prosecution in the 1920s and hid out in Nova Scotia. Jobb’s book on a man described as the Bernard Madoff of the 1920s is Empire of Deception (Algonquin Books, 2015). You can listen to the podcast here. Continue reading