Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2019 Issue

The Murder of Richard Jennings

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Recently I bought a copy of “An Account of the Murder of Richard Jennings; Together with the Confessions of Teed & Dunning.”  It details the story of a murder and later the execution of two men in Orange County, New York in 1819.  The pamphlet is interesting and substantially improved when a recent book, The Murder of Richard Jennings by Michael J. Worden is read concurrently.  It adds details to what is a somewhat sketchy story.

 

As is to be expected Thomas McDade’s bibliography of books and pamphlets on American Murders before 1900 “The Annals of Murder” captures the publishing history of the crime.

 

He lists several works, An account of the murder of Richard Jennings;… as well as Report of the trials of the murderers of Jennings,…

 

The story goes this way.  A gentleman in his seventies married to a younger woman who apparently grew tired of him and his imperfect ways, encouraged several men to end his life.  It was a pathetic crime, lubricated with liquor and promises of ready money.   The only thing lacking was a plan which led to the body being easily discovered and the murderers apprehended.

 

In this story of naves the hero is a black man who is involved in the murder but who later testifies against his white accomplices.  For his testimony he goes free and two of the white men are hung.  Another, with connections, is freed.  And the woman who encouraged the murder, she is released as she only encouraged the crime, she did not do it herself.  And of course, she was of the fairer sex.

 

The facts of the case seem confirmed in the early accounts if we can rely on the various concurrent accounts but they all seem mired in exaggeration and hyperbole.  At a glance, the problem seems to be the benefit to sales achieved when the details become lurid.  One can almost sense the proofs in galley form being criticized for “nobody is going to read this” and “we can sell another thousand copies if there is a little more drama.”  So the accounts have been dramatized.  Among the details publicized, it was said in one account that 15,000 people attended the hangings.  The county, Orange, had a population of 41,213 in 1820 but the roads were poor and forms of transport limited.  Neither were there accommodations for those who travelled a distance.  The largest city in the county was Newburgh, 20 miles away, and it’s population 5,812 in 1820.  And then there is the question:  who wants to watch two hangings?

 

That of course is not to say the contemporary pamphlet is not collectible.  It is but I’d put it in the historical fiction category.

 

I also have a first person account of the trial and sentencing of a slave to be burned at the stake  in Ulster County in 1730 and it’s far more real with many of the jurors and bystanders who signed the verdict, also voting to burn the slave alive.  The accounts of the 1819 murder seem almost poetic by comparison.

 

Most interesting, the two men who would die for their crime, in their published statements seem unconcerned that others, who were apparently more guilty, will live on while they will come morning, swing.  Somewhere in the story telling the truth and the story go off in different directions but it’s still something interesting to own.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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