Friday, January 1, 2010

Portraits of Hangmen

The Newgate Museum. From The Great Gun, reprinted in The Northern Star, May 3, 1845.

“It is reported hat the premier hangman intends to cater to the taste of a large portion of the public by establishing a Museum of Horrors in a suite of apartments in Newgate. Such an institution would no doubt rival every other of a similar description in the metropolis. It is his intention to petition Parliament to protect his emoluments, so far as to bring the wax likenesses under sort of a copyright act. The principal room in the exhibition will be styled “The Gallows Chamber,” at the upper end of which will be a perfect model of the gallows apparatus, extending the entire length of the chamber, on which the figures of the great hanged will be suspended by the identical ropes that were used in the actual suspensory ceremony. “The Manuscript Room” will contain the autographs of all celebrated murderers, with an immense collection of “last dying speeches,” framed in black. A band of music, the performers in deep mourning, will perform “The Dead March in Saul,” and a variety of similar pieces, during the exhibition. The hair of many of the heads, set in galvanic rings, will be arranged in glass cases, with the lowest prices marked. “The Deadly Weapon Room” will contain a great variety of instruments of destruction used by the most notorious British and foreign homicides. The pistols and bludgeons will be formed into fanciful devices, similar to the arms in the Tower. Upon the payment of an extra shilling any lady or gentleman may have the extreme gratification of having their heads tapped with any favourite bludgeon in the collection. Considering the present taste, there is little doubt that Calcraft’s Museum will become the most attractive exhibition in the metropolis.”

Top: The Autobiography of Jack Ketch by Thomas Kibble Hervey, London: Edward Churton 1835. Illustration by Kenny Meadows.

Below: The Life of William Calcraft the Hangman, by Anon. London:George Purkess 30 nos., 1871.

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