No. 543
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
October 18, 2021

Driven by Delusion

Henry Goodwin entered the office of his partner, Albert Swan, pulled out a revolver and shot him.
November 14, 2011
...
...

The "Memoirs" of Sir John Reresby (1634-1689) contain a reference to a minor witch trial which somehow morphed into one of the oddest "ghost" sightings on record: Leaving the public affairs for a while, at this untoward pass, I would venture to take notice of a private occurrence which made some noise at York. The assizes being there held on the 7th of March, 1686-7, an old woman was
More...
Strange Company - 10/18/2021
`
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately engaged as a carrier of wine, because he and his brother, with the help of […]
More...
Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Sometimes a painting has so much rich detail, it just knocks you out. That was my reaction to this magnificent scene of the Third Avenue Railroad Depot between 65th and 66th Streets, painted two years after the depot opened in 1857. Amazingly, the painter of this “precise representation” of the depot, William H. Schenck, was […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 10/18/2021
[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
More...
Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
A very anxious and excited man arrived at the jail in Ann Arbor, Michigan, around midnight, October 22, 1871. He told the jailer he was unwell and wanted to sleep in the jail that night. The jailor decided it was in everyone’s best interest to give him what he wanted. As he locked the cell door, the man burst out crying but would not say why. The following morning the jailor released him. The man
More...
Murder By Gaslight - 10/16/2021
First response from the Sourdough Associationto Jefferson R. Smith from Clara JohnsonJeff Smith collection(Click image to enlarge)     lease try to attend and thus forward the spirit of the Sourdough." Soapy Smith's son contacts the Sourdough Reunion, 1951      Seventy years ago, at some date previous to February 15, 1951, Soapy Smith's son, sixty-five year old Jefferson Randolph Smith III
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 9/17/2021
“The Wickedest Man in New York.” | The Cardiff Giant

Driven by Delusion

Delusions

Lawrence, Mass., August 29, 1885 - Inventor Henry Goodwin visited the Lawrence, Massachusetts, office of his business partner, Albert Swan. The two men spoke quietly for about half an hour, then Goodwin pulled out a revolver and shot Swan in the head, killing him. A crowd of people rushed to the office to see what had happened and Goodwin calmly told them “I have shot him, I meant to do it.” 

With the same calm determination, Goodwin went to the Lawrence police station and turned himself in. When asked why he had killed Swan, Goodwin replied, “I told him a year ago that unless he came to some settlement with me about our matters, I would have his heart’s blood. He has robbed me of my papers and my patents, and when I have undertaken to sell them I could not give a good title. He has robbed me of $40,000. I did it, I meant to do it, and I am here to take the consequences.”

The patents in question were for telephone switches; Henry Goodwin was a gifted inventor in the nascent field of telephony. He had turned to his boyhood friend, and successful businessman, Albert Swan, for help in securing patents for his new inventions. They successfully patented one of his switches but the patent for his greatest invention, a switchboard that could route hundreds of calls through a central location, was lost to the Molecular Telephone Company of New York because Swan did not finish the paperwork on time. As it turned out, Albert Swan had a business interest in the Molecular Telephone Company.

On his attorney’s advice, Henry Goodwin pled temporary insanity. Even before the patent deal, Goodwin had a history of irrational fear that his ideas were being stolen. He left two lucrative contracts in South America because in each case, he believed his employers were stealing his proprietary work. The same thing happened in the Midwest of the United States and by the time he returned to Lawrence his reputation prevented him from working anywhere.

But the jury did not buy it. The bad blood between Goodwin and Swan was well known in Lawrence. Goodwin had admitted to the murder and had admitted to warning Swan a year earlier. That sounded like premeditation and Henry Goodwin was sentenced to life in prison.

Details on this case and about two dozen other historical Massachusetts murders can be found in Murder & Mayhem in Essex County.