Gruesome hangings fascinate females

Public hangings drew big crowds in the eighteenth century, as seen in this sketch of the hangings of Samuel Lount and Peter Mathews in Toronto, 1838, for their roles in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. J.Ross Robertson, Landmarks of Toronto. Toronto:1894, p. 236.


Law and order 1822-1967

Women as well as men flocked to watch public hangings in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. That much is clear from photos and drawings of crowds of spectators, although the men seem to somewhat outnumber the women. None appeared more fascinated by the gruesome sight of death than the eager women who pressed in close for a detailed look at the death features of a pair of men hanged in Cayuga, Ontario. The women were admonished by the Brantford Expositor, in this item republished in the Toronto Leader, May 26, 1855.

Stand back there boys, and give the ladies a chance to see. Where and by whom, think you, was this gallant, this considerate request made? Was it at a Charitable Show Bazaar or Floral Exhibition? Not a bit of it. T’was when Blowes and King, from the scaffold in the grove at Cayuga, dropped from time into eternity. When the murderer’s cap that covered the Blowes’ face was torn from crown to chin, exhibiting in all its horrible distortion the countenance of a strangled human being.

“Stand back and give the ladies a chance to see,” shouted a constable from the scaffold, and he waved his stick, his badge of office, to render more expressive the words. “Make way for the ladies.”

The crowd divided and the ladies, with eager eyes and hasty steps, approached the dead men. The hangman, black and ugly, steeled in heart and damnable as his vocation is, shuddered at the spectacle and drew himself away in loathing.

The ladies looked upon the bodies of the murderers, gazed upon the big veins well nigh bursting with blood, the tense muscles of the face, the protruding eyes staring in all their horror out beyond the lids. The ladies feasted on the loathsome sight, and departed gratified. The ladies will speak of what they saw at Cayuga for many a day to come, and think nothing in their conduct unwomanly, bad, unfeeling or degrading.

Had we many of such mothers, daughters, sisters, we had many Kings and Blowes. Shame upon them. Thanks be to God, in Haldimand [county] there are few like them, though the few must make the many blush with shame. They have cast a stigma on the very name of woman; and every woman of feeling, tenderness, delicacy and refinement, cannot but mourn over their sisters’ insensibility and shamelessness.

By all means advocate the policy of capital punishment. The Cayuga exhibition illustrates its wisdom, and establishes its effect.

Unfamiliar Canadian history stories 010

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