Bag of Bones: The Sensational Grave Robbery of the Merchant Prince of Manhattan

Bag of Bones: The Sensational Grave Robbery of the Merchant Prince of Manhattan

by J. North Conway


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In 1878, two years after the death of multi-millionaire A. T. Stewart, his body was stolen from St. Mark’s Churchyard. The ghoulish crime, the bumbling chase for the culprits, the years-long ransom negotiations, and the demise of the Stewart retail empire fed a media frenzy. When his widow eventually exchanged $20,000 for a burlap bag of bones on a country road, not everyone was convinced that “The Merchant Prince of Manhattan” was really home.

A. T. Stewart had been a pioneer of the department store business, a man who rose from the flood of Irish immigration to a place alongside names like Astor, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller. Treated as the black sheep of New York’s affluent Gilded Age society, the Stewarts relied heavily on their friend and confidante, the conniving Judge Henry Hilton, for entrée into elite social circles. As author J. North Conway details the futile tactics used by police to identify the grave robbers, he also unveils the villainy of Judge Hilton, who not only interfered in the case repeatedly but also dismantled a once-great business empire piece by piece . . . all the while profiting quite nicely. By the end of this fascinating slice of history, one is left to wonder who displayed the greater evil: the grave robbers or Judge Henry Hilton.

Completing J. North Conway’s widely acclaimed trilogy of Gilded Age New York City Crime—following King of Heists and The Big PolicemanBag of Bones combines the era’s affluence, decadence, and corruption with a gruesome deed fit for the tabloids of today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780762778126
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 05/01/2012
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

J. North Conway is the author of nine non-fiction books, including, The Big Policeman and King of Heists (both from Lyons Press); The Cape Cod Canal: Breaking Through The Bared and Bended Arm; and American Literacy: Fifty Books That Define Our Culture and Ourselves. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth. 

Table of Contents

Introduction x

Bones of Contention

1 Counter Culture 1

2 The Cast Iron Palace 18

3 Caveat Emptor 41

4 A Problem with Hotels 59

5 The Ghouls Strike 83

6 The Best Detective Talent 99

7 The Search Continues 114

8 Vreeland and Burke 130

9 Keeping Up with the Joneses 145

10 The Mysterious Package 165

11 The Cypress Hills Cemetery Incident 177

12 Going Out of Business 190

13 Bag of Bones 201

14 Memorial to the Merchant Prince 213

15 Expiration Date 228

Acknowledgments 243

Chapter Sources 244

Bibliography 262

Index 278

About the Author 290

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