Crime and Punishment
Capital punishment was in favor in 1892. There were 107 legal executions in 1892. Surprisingly the number was down from 123 in 1891. Georgia executed the most (14) people. The executions were heavily skewed towards the South with 78 executions in that region. Just over half (57) the executions were of Caucasians. Forty four percent of the legal executions (47) were of African Americans and other people of color. Additionally two Indians and one Chinese person were executed. These figures show that non-Whites were executed at a substantially higher rate than Caucasians. Women represented four percent of the executions.
As disturbing as the figures from the legal executions were, the statistics for lynching tell a true horror story. There were 236 acknowledge executions which were extra-legal. Lynchings were most prevalent in the South and Western Territories. The states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee each lynched more than twenty people. Roughly 200 of the lynchings occurred in the South. Judge Lynch was far more sparing of Caucasians, killing only 80. An astounding 156 (66%) African Americans were included in the butcher's bill. Additionally one Indian was a victim. If one delves into the statistics there are even more disturbing revelations. Four Italians are identified, the only national group with this dubious distinction. The reasons for the lynchings give us a look as to how lawless the nation was at this time. Caucasians were the only group which had members lynched for livestock theft (total 21). As one might expect murder loomed large as a cause give for lynching. What might surprise the reader is that 53 lynchings were involved rape. Of these only 10 percent were Caucasians and the remainder were African Americans. Eight lynchings were of African Americans for "race prejudice", in other words being Black around the wrong people. The racism of the time is further evidenced by African Americans being lynched for robbery (13), insulting someone (5), arson (6), rioting (3), being a desperado (4), and even for defending themselves (1). The Indian victim of lynching was for a rape. One Caucasian was lynched by Indians for reasons unknown.
As might be expected the categories of murders in the 19th Century are somewhat different than today. The Tribune lists 6,791 murders (not including all those lynchings already noted). The paper does not track the methods of murder, but does go into the perceived causes of homicide. Our ancestors were a quarrelsome lot as 2,932 murders were quarrels with jealousy (513) and outrages (28) adding to that general category. There were over 700 murders due to alcohol and 111 due to insanity. Policing in this violent era was tough, as reflected in 240 deaths for resisting arrest. Social unrest created six deaths in riots and 32 in strikes. Infanticide resulted in 314 murders. A most unusual pair of statistics is 376 murders by highwaymen and 148 highwaymen killed in turn.
Goodbye Cruel World
According to the Tribune roughly 3,890 suicides occurred in 1892, increasing 1891's total by roughly 500 souls. It is of interest that the paper tallied not only the means of suicide, but the assumed reasons behind the act. The top reason was despondency, accounting for roughly a third of the suicides. Other reasons tracked were disappointed love, domestic infelicity, insanity, drinking, ill health, and business losses. About a third (1,300) of the suicides were accomplished with firearms. Poison was the second-most frequent form of suicide (1,010). The list (in order of preference) goes on to include hanging, cutting their own throats, drowning, throwing oneself in front of a train, jumping from windows, self-immolation, starvation, and dynamite. Single case suicide techniques included freezing, placing the head under a triphammer, and banging the head against a wall.
What list of horrid events would be complete without a compendium of natural and man-made disasters? Drowning was the most frequent (3,174) form of accidental death. Wind (tornadoes etc.) killed 448 while lightning wiped out another 368 souls. Fires killed 1,775 people. Explosions killed another 700 while mining accidents killed 515. Railroads were a major cause of death, killing an astounding 4,428 people. Maritime and riverine accidents accounted for 3,346 deaths, not including the deaths of fishermen and whalers at sea.