Nineteenth-Century American Murder Cases

These books, often known as "McDade" items after their bibliographer, consist of contemporary pamphlets dealing with murder cases occurring in the United States from colonial times through 1900. They are catalogued in Thomas McDade, The Annals of Murder, University of Oklahoma Press, 1961. In addition to being a work essential to collectors of early American crime, this work can be fairly said, on the grounds of its scholarship, comprehensiveness, utility, and engaging commentary, to be one of the finest bibliographies in American book collecting. (For an appreciation, see the memoir, "Thomas McDade and 'The Annals of Murder.'") Although the work is long out of print, we have a few copies available; see under McDade in "Murder" section.

The descriptions below include the McDade number assigned to the work in Annals of Murder, as well as, where appropriate, citations from Cohen's Bibliography of Early American Law and Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America. Due to the fragile nature of many of these works and the rough handling they often received in the hands of contemporary readers more concerned with absorbing their content than in protecting it, one cannot expect their condition as collectible books to measure up to that of modern literature, notwithstanding our attempt to describe their condition accurately. (The term "disbound" refers to a pamphlet that has been removed from a bound volume of collected pamphlets, usually with the original wrappers absent, though complete in other respects.)

[Mary Harris, def.] Official Report of the Trial of Mary Harris...for the Murder of Adoniram J. Burroughs...July 3, 1865. Prepared by James O. Clephane. Washington, DC: W.H. & O.H. Morrison, 1865. 181 pp. Printed wraps. Publisher's insert enclosed. McDade 445. Front cover frayed and stained, back cover largely gone; backstrip frayed. Minor staining on early leaves, o.w. clean and tight throughout. {2002} $200
Burroughs, brother of University of Chicago president, was a cad. His fiancée shot him after he attempted to compromise her and broke off the engagement to marry another. Mrs. Lincoln sent flowers to Ms. Harris in jail. McDade: "This is an interesting case."

[McFarland, Daniel, def.] The Richardson-McFarland Tragedy. Containing all the Letters and Other Interesting Facts and Documents Not Before Published. Being a Full and Impartial History of This Most Extraordinary Case. Philadelphia: Barclay & Co., 1870. 111 pp., illus. McDade 653. Rebound in brown wraps, absent covers. Paper brown and fragile; folding frontispiece parting at folds; some foredges frayed. {2023} $85
McFarland was a Civil War corespondent and popular author (The Secret Service, the Field, the Dungeon and the Escape) who became engaged to Daniel McFarland's ex-wife. McFarland, a drunken lout with paranoid tendencies, shot Richardson at his desk in the New York Tribune office.  Richardson married Mrs. McFarland on his deathbed in a ceremony conducted by Henry Ward Beecher. McFarland, a Fenian and Tammany henchman, was acquitted to great popular approval.

[Ward, Matthew F., def.] A Full and Authentic Report of the Testimony on the Trial of Matt. F. Ward, Certified to be Correct ... with the Speeches of Gov. Crittenden, Gov. Helm ... New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1854. 176 pp. Printed wraps. McDade 1042. Sabin 70981. Backstrip and covers frayed; rear cover detached; foxed. {2041} $175
Kentucky schoolboy Willie Ward was accused of lying by the school principal and punished with a strap. Willie brought his older brother Matthew to the school to seek redress for this humiliation, and in the confrontation that followed, Matthew shot and killed the principal. Ward's attorney argued that no Kentuckian should have to answer to a charge of murder for punishing someone responsible for his little brother's being "flogged as a common liar, in the presence of the whole school, with an instrument with which slaves are whipped!"

Selfridge, Thomas O. A Correct Statement of the Whole Preliminary Controversy Between Tho. O. Selfridge and Benj. Austin; Also a Brief Account of the Catastrophe in State Street, Boston, on the 4th August, 1806. Charlestown, Mass: Samuel Etheridge, 1807. 52 pp. McDade 860. Sabin 79010. Disbound; foxed; small void in margin of one leaf, unaffecting type. {2037} $50
Austin confronted Selfridge with a cane on a Boston street. The fear of such an attack, says Selfridge, had "induced me, contrary to my usual practice, through the day, to keep my pistols in my pockets"--a preparatory act that proved fatal to Austin. Selfridge's indictment for murder was reduced to manslaughter. A jury that included Paul Revere acquitted him, setting a longstanding precedent in the law of self-defense. In this exculpatory account, Selfridge protests that "unprincipled men, who ever keep a catlike watch for disastrous occurrences to turn to their own account, have, by base and factitious means, tinctured the cause with the spirit of party, and given to the question a political turn."