Mobsters in America – The Mysterious Murder of Mary Rogers – The Beautiful Cigarette
She was known as “The Beautiful Cigar Girl,” but the 1841 murder of 20-year-old Mary Rogers remains one of the most baffling unsolved murders in New York City history.
Rogers was a clerk at the upscale John Anderson’s tobacco store in midtown Manhattan. She was an incredibly beautiful girl, and famous writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, and Washington Irving became her regulars. The poet Fitz Green-Halleck was so enamored of her that he wrote a poem in honor of Rogers. Many of the leading newspaper editors and writers were also frequent customers of Anderson’s, some just to catch a glimpse of Rogers’s beauty.
On Sunday morning, July 25, 1841, at a Nassau Street boarding house owned by his mother, Rogers told one of the guests, his fiancé Daniel Payne, that he was going out in the afternoon to visit his sister, Mrs. Below. That night, New York was hit by a severe thunderstorm, and Rogers did not return to the boarding house. Both his mother and Payne thought that because of the storm, Rogers was going to spend the night at his sister’s house. However, the next day, Rogers’ sister told them that Rogers had never shown up, nor did he expect her to visit him. Along with Roger’s ex-fiancée, Alfred Crommelin, they searched the town, but were unable to find any trace of Rogers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time Rogers had gone missing. In October 1838, Rogers’ whereabouts were unknown for several days. When he returned, he said that he had visited a friend in Brooklyn, although he had not told his mother or his employers of his intentions.
This time, the mother placed an ad in the New York Sun asking if anyone knew the whereabouts of a 20-year-old girl, last seen on the morning of the 25th, who was wearing a white dress, black shawl, and blue scarf. , Leghorn hat, light shoes and light umbrella. No one responded to that ad.
On Wednesday, July 28, at Sybil’s Cave in Hoboken, New Jersey, three men saw something bobbing and bobbing on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. They got into a rowboat and rowed quickly to the area where the object was located. When they got there, they found the body of a young woman. They got tired of lifting her body into the rowboat, but after a few failed attempts, they tied a rope under the dead woman’s chin and rowed to shore.
When the coroner examined the body, he found a red mark, in the shape of a man’s thumb, on the right side of the neck, and several marks on the left side of the neck, the size of a man’s finger, indicating that there had been strangled and her body thrown into the river. Crommelin, after reading newspaper accounts of the body found in the Hudson River, traveled to Hoboken and identified the body as that of Mary Rogers.
Due to his popularity with the press, Rogers’ death became front page news in every New York City newspaper. Members of the press suspected her fiancé, Daniel Payne, who told police that on the day of Roger’s disappearance, she had visited his brother and had spent the day going to and from various bars and restaurants. . To prove his innocence, Payne submitted affidavits from witnesses, saying that he was where he said he was the day Rogers disappeared.
The mystery of Rogers’ death soon disappeared from the newspapers. The New York City police, then consisting of ragtag Night Watchers and Day Prowlers, who were untrained, underpaid commoners with little incentive to solve crimes, decided not to investigate further as the body was found in New Jersey. The New Jersey police felt that Rogers had likely been murdered in New York City and that the murder investigation was not their problem.
Frederica Loss owned a tavern called Nick Moore’s House near Hoboken, New Jersey, not far from where Mary Rogers’ body had been found. On August 25, 1841, two of her children, who were playing in the woods, found several pieces of women’s clothing. , including a handkerchief with the initials MR Mrs. The loss immediately notified the police. This new discovery prompted an investigation by the New Jersey police, as they now decided that Rogers had been murdered in New Jersey. But nothing came of the investigation and it was soon over.
Over the years, various criminologists have tried to explain who killed Mary Rogers and why. However, credible evidence never materialized and no one was charged with the crime. A year after Rogers’ death, Edgar Allen Poe, obviously saddened by the tragedy of “The Beautiful Cigarette Girl,” wrote his famous novel “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” The novel was set in Paris and duplicated the events that had occurred at Rogers’ death. In the novel, Poe’s famed detective Austin Dupin concluded that the murderer was a dark-skinned naval officer, who had previously attempted to elope with Marie (Rogers), explaining his first disappearance in 1838. He then killed her in 1841. , when she refused to marry him a second time.
Poe’s novel accurately reflected the most credible explanation for the death of Mary Rogers, proposed by author Raymond Paul in the early 1970s. Paul’s theory was that Daniel Payne murdered Rogers, but not the Sunday he disappeared, for which Payne had a solid alibi, but the following Tuesday. Because Mary’s body was still in rigor mortis when she was found, she could not have been dead for more than 24 hours. Rigor mortis begins a few hours after the death of a person, but after 24 hours, it gradually dissipates.
Paul concluded, from evidence compiled more than 130 years earlier, that Payne had impregnated Roger, and on Sunday, July 25, 1841, he took her to Hoboken for an abortion. While his mother and his ex-fiancée searched for Rogers, Rogers was recovering from the miscarriage at a Hoboken inn. Payne then returned to Hoboken on Tuesday, July 27, to pick up Rogers and drive her back to New York City. When Rogers told Payne that she was breaking up with her, Paul concluded that Payne strangled her and dumped her body in the Hudson River. Paul also deduced from the circumstances that Rogers’ brief disappearance in 1838 was due to the same reason; have an abortion.
After Rogers’ death, Payne began to drink heavily. On October 7, 1841, Payne, after bar-hopping in New York, purchased laudanum poison. He took the ferry to Hoboken and went to Nick Moore’s house, where he got properly drunk. Intoxicated, he staggered, clutching a bottle of brandy, to the spot in the woods where Rogers’s clothing had been found. He wrote on a piece of paper: “To the world, here I am in the same place. May God forgive me for my wasted life.” He pocketed the note, drank the laudanum, and washed it down with the brandy. He then he lay down and died.
The New York City newspapers and police, thinking that Rogers had been murdered on a Sunday for which Payne had an unerring alibi, thought that Payne had committed suicide because the love of his life had been murdered. However, the police investigation had been so cursory, incomplete and totally inefficient that they never considered the fact that it was impossible for Rogers to have been murdered four days before she was found, because her body was still in a state of rigor mortis.
Although the murder of Mary Rogers has never been officially solved, her death was not in vain. The utter incompetence of the New York City police force, combined with pressure from the outraged press and New York City population, forced the city to completely revamp its policing procedures. Beginning in 1845, the Watchmen and Roundsmen became obsolete, as New York City finally created a police force, made up of men specifically trained to prevent and investigate crime.