In 1878, two years after the death of multi-millionaire A. T. Stewart, his body was stolen from St. Mark’s Churchyard. The ghoulish cr
In 1878, two years after the death of multi-millionaire A. T. Stewart, his body was stolen from St. Mark’s Churchyard. The ghoulish crime, the bumbling chase for the culprits, the years-long ransom negotiations, and the demise of the Stewart retail empire fed a media frenzy. When his widow eventually exchanged $20,000 for a burlap bag of bones on a country road, not everyone was convinced that “The Merchant Prince of Manhattan” was really home.
A. T. Stewart had been a pioneer of the department store business, a man who rose from the flood of Irish immigration to a place alongside names like Astor, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller. Treated as the black sheep of New York’s affluent Gilded Age society, the Stewarts relied heavily on their friend and confidante, the conniving Judge Henry Hilton, for entrée into elite social circles. As author J. North Conway details the futile tactics used by police to identify the grave robbers, he also unveils the villainy of Judge Hilton, who not only interfered in the case repeatedly but also dismantled a once-great business empire piece by piece . . . all the while profiting quite nicely. By the end of this fascinating slice of history, one is left to wonder who displayed the greater evil: the grave robbers or Judge
Completing J. North Conway’s widely acclaimed trilogy of Gilded Age New York City Crime—following King of Heists and The Big Policeman—Bag of Bones combines the era’s affluence, decadence, and corruption with a gruesome deed fit for the tabloids of today.