The American Murder Ballad

I love American roots music. A lot of music can fall into this category – blues, bluegrass, folk, soul, jazz, and country can all qualify – but today I want to write specifically about murder ballads. Murder ballads are uniquely American. There are, of course, songs about murder in every culture, but Americans truly made […]

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The Arsenic Eaters

Arsenic was not uncommon at the turn of the century. It was a common means of pest control – often as rat poison. In humans, arsenic poisoning produces symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain, and death. In a 1927 Scientific Monthly article, Professor Norman Harrar described arsenic this way: “One of the poisons known […]

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The Notorious George Seymour

Over the weekend, I purchased an old mugshot, dated January 1900. I had no idea who George Seymour was when I bought it and found, to my surprise, he was once one of the most famous criminals in the country. If we begin with his arrest in Pittsburg in January 1900, we can assume this was […]

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