The unfortunate end of the author of The Italian science of double-entry book-keeping: simplified, arranged and methodized who, after long intervals of horrible sanity, became insane.


Killer Colt : murder, disgrace, and the making of an American legend Harold Schechter New York : Ballantine Books, c 2010 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. 381 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [361]-371) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Colt Residence, Hartford, Conn.

Colt Residence, Hartford, Conn.

In September 1841, a grisly discovery is made aboard a merchant ship docked in lower Manhattan: Deep in the cargo hold, bound with rope and covered with savage head wounds, lies a man’s naked corpse. While a murderer has taken pains to conceal his victim’s identity, it takes little time to determine that the dead man is Samuel Adams, proprietor of a local printing firm. And in less time still, witnesses and a bloody trail of clues lead investigators to the doorstep of the enigmatic John Colt.

Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe

The scion of a prosperous Connecticut family, Colt has defied his parents’ efforts to mold him into a gentleman – preferring to flout authority and pursue excitement. Ironically, it is the ordered science of accountancy that for a time lends him respectability. But now John Colt’s ghastly crime and the subsequent sensational murder trial bring infamy to his surname – even after it becomes synonymous with his visionary younger brother’s groundbreaking invention.

James Gordon Bennett, Esq., half-length portrait, standing, facing right.

James Gordon Bennett, Esq., half-length portrait, standing, facing right.

The embodiment of American success, Sam Colt has risen from poor huckster to industrious inventor. His greatest achievement, the revolver, will bring him untold millions even as it transforms America. In John’s hour of need, Sam rushes to his brother’s side – perhaps because of the secret they share.

P.T. Barnum

P.T. Barnum

In New York, a city awash with treacherous schemers, lurid dime-museum curiosities, and the tawdry excesses of penny-press journalism, the Colt-Adams affair inspires tabloid headlines of startling and gruesome hyperbole, which in turn drive legions of thrill-seekers to John Colt’s trial. The dramatic legal proceedings will fire the imagination of pioneering crime writer Edgar Allan Poe and fuel the outrage of pioneering yellow journalist Walt Whitman.

A dramatic prison scene, intended to contrast the clemency of New York's Whig governor William H. Seward with the vindictiveness of the Democrat-controlled New York City prison administration. In the interior of the Halls of Justice, popularly known as "the Tombs," a grim jailer stands blocking the approach of a Catholic priest toward a small cell, saying "You can't Enter." The priest, holding a crucifix and rosary beads, presents a paper marked "Admit the Bearer. W H Seward" and replies, "Here is my authority from Govr. Seward for admission. I shall now see the wretched man." Meanwhile, in his cell, the "wretched man"--actually, convicted murderer John Caldwell Colt--kneels in prayer, a Bible beside him. He implores, "Must I die without seeing my Priest? How cruel to prevent me from making My peace with my God!" The print may be based on an actual incident. Interestingly, though, in the closing months of his administration Seward refused to pardon Colt, despite considerable political pressure to do so. Colt cheated the hangman by taking his own life on the day of his scheduled execution.

A dramatic prison scene, intended to contrast the clemency of New York’s Whig governor William H. Seward with the vindictiveness of the Democrat-controlled New York City prison administration. In the interior of the Halls of Justice, popularly known as “the Tombs,” a grim jailer stands blocking the approach of a Catholic priest toward a small cell, saying “You can’t Enter.” The priest, holding a crucifix and rosary beads, presents a paper marked “Admit the Bearer. W H Seward” and replies, “Here is my authority from Govr. Seward for admission. I shall now see the wretched man.” Meanwhile, in his cell, the “wretched man”–actually, convicted murderer John Caldwell Colt–kneels in prayer, a Bible beside him. He implores, “Must I die without seeing my Priest? How cruel to prevent me from making My peace with my God!” The print may be based on an actual incident. Interestingly, though, in the closing months of his administration Seward refused to pardon Colt, despite considerable political pressure to do so. Colt cheated the hangman by taking his own life on the day of his scheduled execution.

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