Walnut Street Prison

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“The Walnut Street Prison. This edifice was erected in 1774, and taken down in 1836. The beautiful new Athenaeum occupies a portion of the ground on Sixth Street, and the remainder is covered by elegant dwellings. It is a singular fact that the architect who constructed it was the first person incarcerated in it. He was a Whig, and, having incurred the displeasure of the British, he was locked up in that prison. The Public Ledger of June 26th, 1837, gives an account of an armorial drawing, representing, in bold relief, a cuirass, casque, gorget, and Roman battle-ax, with radiating spears, which was made upon an arch of one of the second story cells, by Marshall, an English engraver, who was confined there for many years for counterfeiting the notes of the United States Bank. He was the son of the notorious ‘Bag and Hatchet Woman,’ of St. Giles’s, London, who followed the British army in its Continental campaigns, and gathered spoils from the slain and wounded on the field of battle. Those who were dead, were readily plundered, and the wounded as readily dispatched. This woman and son were master-spirits in the purlieus of St. Giles’s, among robbers and counterfeiters. The gang were at length betrayed, and the parent and child fled to this country, bringing with them considerable wealth in money and jewels. They lived in splendid style in Philadelphia, riding in a gorgeous cream-colored phaeton, drawn by richly-caparisoned horses, driven tandem. Their means were soon exhausted, when the son married, and commenced business as an engraver. He counterfeited notes of the United States Bank, was detected, and in 1803 was sentenced to eighteen years’ confinement and hard labor in the Walnut Street Prison, then the State Penitentiary. While he was in prison, his mother, who had wondered away from Philadelphia in poverty and destitution, was executed in another state for a foul murder and arson."—Lossing, 1851


Benson J. Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851)II:307


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