Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

Blood & Ivy: The 1849 Murder That Scandalized Harvard

by Paul Collins


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“Well-researched and beautifully written.…Collins knows how to build suspense.” —San Francisco Chronicle

On November 23rd of 1849, in the heart of Boston, one of the city’s richest men simply vanished. Dr. George Parkman, a Brahmin who owned much of Boston’s West End, was last seen that afternoon visiting his alma mater, Harvard Medical School. Police scoured city tenements and the harbor, and leads put the elusive Dr. Parkman at sea or hiding in Manhattan. But one Harvard janitor held a much darker suspicion: that their ruthless benefactor had never left the Medical School building alive.

His shocking discoveries in a chemistry professor’s laboratory engulfed America in one of its most infamous trials: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. John White Webster. A baffling case of red herrings, grave robbery, and dismemberment, it became a landmark case in the use of medical forensics and the meaning of reasonable doubt. Paul Collins brings nineteenth-century Boston back to life in vivid detail, weaving together newspaper accounts, letters, journals, court transcripts, and memoirs from this groundbreaking case.

Rich in characters and evocative in atmosphere, Blood & Ivy explores the fatal entanglement of new science and old money in one of America’s greatest murder mysteries.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393357325
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/16/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 198,391
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Paul Collins is the author of nine books of nonfiction. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and chair of the English Department at Portland State University.

Table of Contents

A Note on the Text xv

Prologue xvii

I Scenes of the Crime

1 The Way into Harvard 3

2 On Pins and Crowbars 11

3 The Skeleton Box 20

4 The Great World Goes Clanging On 30

II The Victim

5 A Bad Business 41

6 A Gentleman Unknown 50

7 The Yellow Envelope 59

8 Some Aberration of Mind 67

III The Suspect

9 Thanksgiving by the Fire 81

10 The Final Reward 88

11 Wickedness Takes Eleven 96

12 "I Shal Be Kiled" 104

IV The Accused

13 Pistols Drawn 115

14 A Ruined Man 122

15 Old Grimes is Dead 131

16 A Lifetime of Uprightness 142

V The Trial

17 In the Dead House 155

18 Good Men and True 168

19 The Catalog of Bones 180

20 Mesmeric Revelation 192

VI The Verdict

21 Twelve Men in Massachusetts 209

22 Law Manufactured for the Occasion 224

23 A Man in Error 235

24 Closing Hours 247

Epilogue 259

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 273

Sources 325

Illustration Credits 337

Index 339

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