New National Library of Medicine Website Spotlights Murder Pamphlets
A new website, "Most Horrible & Shocking Murders: Murder pamphlets in the collection of the National Library of Medicine," has been launched by the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library. The site features a selection of murder pamphlets from the late 1600s to the late 1800s-from a treasure trove of several hundred owned by the Library.
Ever since the invention of movable type in the mid-1400s, public appetite for tales of shocking murders-"true crime"-has been one of the most durable facts of the market for printed material. For more than five centuries, murder pamphlets have been hawked on street corners, town squares, taverns, coffeehouses, news stands, and bookshops.
These pamphlets have been a rich source for historians of medicine, crime novelists, and cultural historians, who mine them for evidence to illuminate the history of class, gender, race, the law, the city, crime, religion and other topics. The murder pamphlets in the NLM's collection address cases connected to forensic medicine, especially cases in which doctors were accused of committing-or were the victims of-murder.
The website (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/murderpamphlets/index.html), based on a 2008 exhibition at the NLM, is curated by Michael Sappol, PhD, historian in the NLM's History of Medicine Division.
This pamphlet tells the story of the 1881 discovery of the body of Jennie Cramer, a 20-year-old society girl, by fishermen along the Connecticut shore. While it was initially believed she had committed suicide by drowning, an autopsy showed there was no water in her lungs, and that she had been raped and poisoned. The author of the pamphlet tells about the arrest of the accused, the three-month trial, and the jury's verdict.
This pamphlet suggests a scenario of how Priscilla Budge, wife of the Reverend Henry Budge, might have been murdered. Reverend Budge is shown placing his hand over the mouth of his wife lying in bed, and slitting her throat from the left side. The case was tried at the Oneida, New York, Circuit Court, in August and September, 1861, and the judge's charge in the civil action was tried at the Herkimer Circuit in October and November, 1861.