The Civil War in Missouri

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Broadside for the Steam Packet Eagle, Advertising an Excursion to Witness the Executions of Four Convicted Murderers

1841
MHM Archives

This broadside advertises an excursion to witness the executions of four African American men—Madison Henderson, Alfred Warrick, James Seward, and Charles Brown—who had been convicted of murder, arson, and burglary and were sentenced to death. They were hanged on July 9, 1841. The broadside assures potential customers that the steamboat would be furnished to the comfort of the passengers and that all would be able to witness the executions without difficulty. While an unsettling leisure activity by contemporary standards, viewing of public executions was not uncommon in this period. About 20,000 people, or 75 percent of St. Louis’s population at the time, are believed to have witnessed the hangings.St. Louis publisher Adam B. Chambers sold a pamphlet featuring articles about the crimes, biographies and confessions of the convicted, and an artist’s rendition of each man. The stories that elicited the greatest response from readers were not about the crimes for which the men were convicted, but the accounts of Brown, who assisted slaves in their escape north as an agent of the Ohio Abolitionist Society, and of Henderson, the only enslaved man among the four, who engaged in slave-stealing operations with his master, often reselling them for a profit. This frightened slave owners a great deal, and resulted in more stringent slave regulations and expanded enforcement efforts. To conclude an event representative of the rising tension surrounding issues of race and slavery in Missouri, the severed heads of the four executed criminals were hung in the front window of Corse’s Drug Store to further deter African American resistance.