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The Horrid Murder of Captain Carson
Catalog#: Holiday 2003
Artist: Richard Smith, Philadelphia 
Category: Needlework
SubType: Samplers
Origin: America-USA
Era: 19th Century
The Horrid Murder of Captain Carson. Willfully committed by Richard Smith late of the U.S. army Philadelphia, ca. 1816-17

Ann Carson was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Pennsylvania during the early 19th Century. She was also one of the most notorious.

She married her husband John in 1808 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A retired navy captain, he was twice his bride's age.

After several years of marriage, he signed on as captain of a ship bound for China. After four years with no word from her husband, she assumed he was lost at sea and started to have an affair with a man who rented a room in her house.

Mrs. Carson married this boarder only to have the sea captain return home in the autumn of 1815 to find his wife in the arms of Lieutenant Richard Smith of the 23rd Infantry.

Friends urged her to renounce this second marriage, but she refused stating her enduring love for the dashing lieutenant. Things got heated a few months later and in January 1816, Smith shot the sea captain during an argument in the parlour of Carson's home at Second and Dock streets. Smith was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Ann Carson Smith was acquitted.

Desperate, she sought out John Binns, who was a newspaper editor of the Democratic Press and a close friend of Pennsylvania Governor Simon Snyder. She wanted Binns to ask his friend the governor to pardon Smith. He refused and published an editorial criticising any attempt to change the verdict.

Furious, she hired some underworld thugs to kidnap Binns and hold him hostage until the governor pardoned her lover. However, Binns always travelled with a group of associates and they were unable to snatch him. Thwarted, they came up with the idea of grabbing Binns' son who was named after Governor Snyder. Binns found out about the new plot and kept his son at home under armed guards.

Undaunted, Ann Carson then decided to kidnap the governor's son, Antes, instead. She told Smith about their new plan while he was in prison. He told his cousin who turned out to be a friend of Binns. Binns immediately told the governor. Snyder left his private home in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania with an armed guard around his son and went to the State Capitol where he had arrest warrants sworn out for Ann and her gang.

In the meantime, Carson and thugs 'Lige' Brown and Henry Way set out from Philadelphia to Selinsgrove, passing through Harrisburg where the governor was waiting for them to pass to spring his trap. During their trip, Henry Way tried to rob a teamster but was overpowered and captured. Undaunted, Carson and Brown continued on their mission.

Upon their arrival in a tavern near Perry County, they began asking directions to the governor's home and the age of his youngest son. Trailed by militia since they passed through Harrisburg, they were captured in the tavern and returned to Harrisburg where they were locked up.

While she was incarcerated, her lover was hanged.

During this period of imprisonment, she contrived to escape, making an impression of a prison key in a bar of soap she sent out with her laundry. The key was found and she served her full prison term even though many historians feel she would have been soon paroled.

Upon her release, she returned to Philadelphia where she became involved in counterfeiting.

She was arrested again and sentenced to the Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia where she contracted typhoid fever while nursing other prisoners. She died on 24 April, 1824.


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