Posts Tagged ‘1820s New York City’

A public execution in the East Village, 1824

March 15, 2010

In the early 19th century, the East Village of today had a country feel. The city had just adopted the street grid, and large portions of Peter Stuyvesant’s Bouwerie (in the sketch below) had yet to be parceled out and developed.

 Which made it the perfect site for a public execution in April 1824. Second Avenue and 13th Street is considered the actual corner where a man was hanged in front of 50,000 spectators.

The story is simple: John Johnson ran a boarding house at 65 Front Street. In 1823, he invited a sailor named James Murray to stay at his home. 

Murray had money on him—which Johnson wanted. So in the middle of the night, he bludgeoned Murray in his bed and tossed his body in a nearby alley.

Eventually Johnson confessed to the murder. After a quick trial, he was sentenced to die. On April 2nd, he was brought to an open field near where the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary is today and hanged.