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The Body in the Reservoir

Murder and Sensationalism in the South

Michael Ayers Trotti

Publication Year: 2008

Centered on a series of dramatic murders in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Richmond, Virginia, ###The Body in the Reservoir# uses these gripping stories of crime to explore the evolution of sensationalism in southern culture. In Richmond, as across the nation, the embrace of modernity was accompanied by the prodigious growth of mass culture and its accelerating interest in lurid stories of crime and bloodshed. But while others have emphasized the importance of the penny press and yellow journalism on the shifting nature of the media and cultural responses to violence, Michael Trotti reveals a more gradual and nuanced story of change. In addition, Richmond's racial makeup (one-third to one-half of the population was African American) allows Trotti to challenge assumptions about how black and white media reported the sensational; the surprising discrepancies offer insight into just how differently these two communities experienced American justice. An engaging look at the connections between culture and violence, this book gets to the heart--or perhaps the shadowy underbelly--of the sensational as the South became modern. Trotti explores murder cases and media and community responses to them as a way of understanding the evolution of sensationalism in the south from the colonial era to the age of ragtime. As the country began to embrace modernity at the turn of the century, the growth of mass culture facilitated (and was facilitated by) people's interest in lurid stories of crime and bloodshed. Trotti argues that this trend was especially evident in the south. He looks at cases based in Richmond, a mid-sized city with a high population density and a range of industries. Richmond also allows Trotti to make comparisons between the sensationalism of the white press and public and how the black community framed crime sensations and justice more generally. He demonstrates what got sensationalized, and how, as well as how the nature of the sensationalism changed over the decades. Centered on a series of dramatic murders in 19th- and early 20th-century Richmond, Virginia, ###The Body in the Reservoir# uses these gripping stories of crime to explore the evolution of sensationalism in southern culture. In Richmond, as across the nation, the embrace of modernity was accompanied by the prodigious growth of mass culture and its accelerating interest in lurid stories of crime and bloodshed. An engaging look at the connections between culture and violence, this book gets to the heart--or perhaps the shadowy underbelly--of the sensational as the South became modern. Centered on a series of dramatic murders in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Richmond, Virginia, ###The Body in the Reservoir# uses these gripping stories of crime to explore the evolution of sensationalism in southern culture. In Richmond, as across the nation, the embrace of modernity was accompanied by the prodigious growth of mass culture and its accelerating interest in lurid stories of crime and bloodshed. But while others have emphasized the importance of the penny press and yellow journalism on the shifting nature of the media and cultural responses to violence, Michael Trotti reveals a more gradual and nuanced story of change. In addition, Richmond's racial makeup (one-third to one-half of the population was African American) allows Trotti to challenge assumptions about how black and white media reported the sensational; the surprising discrepancies offer insight into just how differently these two communities experienced American justice. An engaging look at the connections between culture and violence, this book gets to the heart--or perhaps the shadowy underbelly--of the sensational as the South became modern.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5

Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

I have received scholarly, technical, financial, professional, and even emotional assistance at every turn in the road of this project. As much as it is my work, this book is also the product of the ferment I found among my colleagues in Chapel Hill and my colleagues in the Chapterhouse Beer and History writing group in Ithaca. ...

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Introduction — Discovering the Body

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pp. 1-12

From his nearby office, the keeper of the old reservoir walked briskly to its southeastern stairs, mounting the twenty-foot embankment that stood like a fort at the western edge of Richmond, Virginia. As on every other morning, Lysander Rose made a circuit of the reservoir from the top of the levee surrounding this artificial lake. ...

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1. The Origins of Virginia Crime Sensationalism

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pp. 13-42

On 18 July 1766, “Dikephilos” (lover of justice) wrote a “candid narration” to the Virginia Gazette, which he hoped would “open the eyes of some well meaning men” to the murder of Robert Routlidge by John Chiswell in a Prince Edward County tavern the month before. The letter described how the two erstwhile friends exchanged insults while their acquaintances tried to separate them. ...

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2. Sensational Crime Comes of Age: The Cluverius Case of 1885

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pp. 43-78

Awakening this “feverish, abnormal feeling” in Richmond in the spring of 1885 was the discovery of Lillian Madison’s body in the reservoir. Days later, Thomas Cluverius sat in jail, facing a capital charge for her murder. But the case against Cluverius rested upon circumstantial evidence, and many questioned whether he would be convicted. ...

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3. The Disenchantment of Sensational Murder

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pp. 79-110

It was a very hot evening on 18 July 1911, when Henry Clay Beattie Jr., his wife Louise, and their infant son visited Louise’s aunt and uncle just to the south of Richmond. After dinner, the couple left their five-week-old baby in the care of their relatives and went for a cooling drive west on Midlothian Turnpike into the country. ...

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4. African American Sensations: Jim Crow Justice and the Richmond Planet

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pp. 111-144

On 14 June 1895, an aging white farmer, Edward Pollard, returned from his fields to find the body of his wife, Lucy, outside their home in Lunenburg County, Virginia, southwest of Richmond. She had been hewn repeatedly with an ax, and more than eight hundred dollars was missing from the Pollard home. ...

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5. Images of Murder: The Visual Revolution of the Halftone

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pp. 145-180

The murder of Lillian Madison in 1885 spawned dozens of engravings in the regional press and drew crowds to the courtrooms, jail, and police station. Everyone was interested in discovering what a criminal like Thomas Cluverius looked like. This included police officers: ...

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6. The Public Suspense Is Over

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pp. 181-206

Well before the 1886 Christmas holidays, the Richmond Dispatch and other papers again carried daily front-page articles about Thomas Cluverius. In June of 1885, the local hustings court had convicted the prisoner of Lillian Madison’s murder, and in recent months, the Virginia Supreme Court rendered a four-to-one decision against his appeal. ...

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Epilogue — Mass Culture’s Search for Disorder

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pp. 207-216

After the discovery of Lillian Madison’s body in the Richmond reservoir in March of 1885, thousands came to look at the yet-unidentified corpse as it lay in the nearby almshouse. A few days later, she was laid to rest in Oakwood cemetery, her unmarked grave strewn with flowers and an occasional poem, which local newspapers obligingly reprinted. ...

Notes

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pp. 217-294

Index

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pp. 295-301


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604374
E-ISBN-10: 146960437X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807831786
Print-ISBN-10: 0807831786

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 16 illus.
Publication Year: 2008