Object of the Month

The Parkman Murder

"$3,000 Reward! Dr. George Parkman. . . ."
Broadside, 26 November 1849.

Printed and distributed on November 26, 1849, this broadside asked Bostonians for tips regarding the whereabouts of Dr. George Parkman, a prominent local businessman and benefactor of Harvard Medical School. Parkman had disappeared three days previous, and despite the 2,800 copies of this flyer spread about the city, no one reported having seen him. Finally, on November 30, Ephraim Littlefield, the janitor at the medical school, discovered human remains in the lavatory below the laboratory of Dr. John White Webster. Other members of the school's faculty identified the bones and false teeth as Parkman's (thus providing one of the earliest uses of forensic evidence in a trial), and authorities arrested Webster, who owed Parkman a great deal of money. A trial and conviction ensued, and Webster was hanged in 1850.


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