Lot 129 of 395:
ALs about a notorious sex scandal & murder in PA, 1831  

Click image to enlarge
Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$1,140
$1,500 - $2,000

Autograph Letter Signed - 1831 Notorious Sex Scandal Murder in Pennsylvania

McIlvaine, Joseph M.



September 22, 1831


3 pp. + stampless address leaf.

To Jacob Hays, High Constable of New York: “You probably saw Mr. Blany yesterday and learned from him that Mrs. Chapman had left home for New York. I have since ascertained that in all probability her departure was a [final?] one to avoid the consequences of the storm which was rapidly gathering in her neighborhood. She must however be still in New York as she depends for friends upon the proceeds of [? quantity] of Books which she took with her to dispose of at the Booksellers great Trade Sale now going on in New York. By going to the Sale room, and enquiring for….Carey or Hart or any other of the Philadelphia Book Sellers attending the sale, I am confident you will learn where she may be found. She has consulted most of these gentlemen as to the sale of her Books, and will probably seek their aid in New York… She must be arrested together with her daughter Mary, about 14 years old, as soon as found. We have discovered that Mina had connexion frequently with this daughter in the mother’s house and with her knowledge which explains fully a passage in Mr. Chapman’s famous letter. A Coroner’s inquest was held yesterday and Chapman’s body taken up. All appearances indicate the truth of our suspicion. The stomach of Chapman was brought to town last night in a perfect state of preservation and has been delivered to a skillful Chemist for analysis of its contents…Meanwhile Drs. Mitchell and Hopkinson the examining physicians have called to say that the appearances of poison about the stomach are so decided that no time shd. be lost in arresting Mrs. C. whether poison be detected by analysis or not. You will oblige me Sir by following up this matter with your usual vigor and if Mrs. Chapman has left New York by coming here to be arrested, wherever she may be. I have reason to believe the Daughter will turn out a very important witness on the question of character and that her removal at this time has not been without an object. She must not escape us. The Coroner’s inquest has not found a verdict, but have adjourned to give time for an accurate examination of the stomach. Please… say how you may have succeeded in tracing Mrs. C….”  In May 1831, a handsome 22 year-old Cuban exile, Carolino Espos y Mina, finding himself alone and penniless in a small town in Pennsylvania, was charitably given shelter at the home of Dr. William Chapman, a scientist and author, his wife Lucretia, who directed a pioneering boarding school for girls, and their five children. Mina told the Chapmans a fanciful tale about his background, claiming to be the son of the rich Spanish Governor of California – he was actually a con man and thief exiled from his homeland after murdering a bank guard in a failed robbery. Mina soon began openly sleeping with 43 year-old Lucretia; after he bought some arsenic powder,  Dr. Chapman took sick and died. Nine days after the funeral, Mina and Lucretia were secretly married. When Mina robbed and deserted his new wife, she belatedly discovered that he was an imposter. After a Philadelphia newspaper printed a story accusing Mina of murdering Dr. Chapman, he was arrested in Boston by Philadelphia Police Constable Blayney – named in this letter; meanwhile, Lucretia, with her 14 year-old daughter, who had also been seduced by Mina, fled her home for New York.  This letter was written at that point, when Philadelphia magistrate McIlvaine, assured by doctors who performed an autopsy on Chapman’s exhumed body that he had indeed been poisoned, ordered Lucretia’s arrest. She was soon taken into custody; both she and Mina were charged with murder. In separate trials that drew national attention to lurid testimony of sex scandals, Lucretia, with an expensive defense counsel, was acquitted. Mina, represented by two court-appointed lawyers, was found guilty of first degree murder and executed by hanging. Lucretia, socially outcast, travelled to Ohio in the hope of becoming an actress and died in obscurity ten years later. One of the first sensational crimes and trials to “rock America”, the Chapman murder was detailed in a 2004 book by Linda Wolfe who used mostly printed sources and a small group of original papers held by a Pennsylvania Historical Society. This letter was unknown to her. Partial transcript available on request.

Lot Amendments

Very fragile, originally separated at all folds, repaired with archival tape; good.

Item number:
Shipping info:
We have a full service shipping department to ensure proper packing and safe delivery of purchases at reasonable cost. We are specialists at packing and shipping books and works on paper.   All lots purchased by the same client are combined for shipping in order to keep the cost as economical as possible.  Our preferred method for domestic shipments is UPS Ground but we can also ship via FedEx or USPS.  For international orders we select the most appropriate carrier depending on the value and weight of the items purchased.  We are happy to accommodate special arrangements by request.

Invoices are sent out the day following the auction and include a $10 handling fee plus actual shipping and insurance charges.

Shipping estimates can be obtained directly from the lot details page for each item or by contacting Megan Hipsley prior to the auction.



Terms and conditions


All accepted bids are contracts and are considered final and non withdrawable.


A buyer's premium of 20% will be applied to all purchases.


The person posting the bids online has to be the person who has registered for the auction.