In December 1832 a farmer found the body of a young, pregnant woman hanging near a haystack outside a New England mill town. When news spread that Methodist preacher Ephraim Avery was accused of murdering Sarah Maria Cornell, a factory worker, the case gave the public everything they found irresistible: sexually charged violence, adultery, the hypocrisy of a church leader, secrecy and mystery, and suspicions of insanity. On Thursday February 8, 2024 at 5:30pm the Newport Historical Society will host author Bruce Dorsey to discuss this incident during the talk Murder in a Mill Town.
Dorsey will share the story of how a local crime quickly turned into a national scandal that became America’s first “trial of the century”, and he will expose the troublesome workings of criminal justice in the young democracy along with the rise of a sensational popular culture.
Bruce Dorsey is Professor of History at Swarthmore College and writes about the history of gender, sexuality, religion, social movements, and popular culture in the United States. In addition to Murder in a Mill Town, he is the author of two books: Reforming Men and Women: Gender in the Antebellum City (Cornell University Press, 2002) and Crosscurrents in American Culture, co-edited with Woody Register (Houghton Mifflin, 2009). Dorsey received his PhD from Brown University.
Murder in a Mill Town takes place at the NHS Resource Center, 82 Touro Street, Newport, RI. Admission costs $20 per person, $15 Newport Historical Society members along with active-duty military. A combo admission ticket plus the book Murder in a Mill Town costs $55 or $43 for NHS members. Doors open at 5pm and the talk starts at 5:30pm; a cocktail reception with a book signing concludes the program.
Tickets should be purchased in advance from the website of the Newport Historical Society