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"Do not laugh at her shame and downfall"


Ellen Jewett


Ellen Jewett

"The 1836 murder of Ellen Jewett, very beautiful prostitute in a house of ill fame in New York, was one of the sensations of the times. [Richard] Robinson, a nineteen-year-old youth and sweetheart of the girl, was identified as her companion of the evening. Miss Jewett had been struck with a hatchet, and an attempt had been made to burn the premises. Robinson was acquitted in the face of a seemingly strong case. The trial was a field day for the newspapers, and James Gordon Bennett [publisher of the New York Herald] himself had a peep at the famous bordello and wrote an account of his visit." (McDade)

"Many believed [Robinson] was accused to cover the tracks of the brothel's more wealthy and famous patrons." (Srebnick)

Robinson, Jewett's alleged murderer, went by the alias "Frank Rivers." He was "both championed and reviled as a representative of the new promiscuous male youth culture of the city. Supported at court by young men who donned what came to be called 'Frank Rivers' caps, he was in turn reviled by the respectable classes who saw Robinson as a representative of the new 'sporting' urban males whose sexual style and flamboyant attitude flew in the face of conventional society." (Srebnick)

The illustration is from: A sketch of the life of Miss Ellen Jewett, who was murdered in the city of New York, on Saturday evening April 9, 1836. (Boston: Printed for the Publisher, 1836), in the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays.


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