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January 18: The Murder of Nathan Adler, a Peddler

January 18, 2016

copy_of_gov_washington_hunt_1850-1852On this date in 1851, sentencing took place for two of three brothers convicted of the robbery and murder, two years earlier, of Nathan Adler, a Jewish peddler from Syracuse, New York. John Baham was sentenced to death, as his brother Albert had been, while a third brother, Alfred, who had agreed to a guilty plea for manslaughter, was sentenced to five years. John Baham’s sentence would be commuted to life imprisonment by Governor George Washington Hunt (shown in the photo at left) after Baham confessed to the crime following the hanging of his brother, and he was pardoned and released after only eight years in prison. The trial riveted public attention after Adler’s body was discovered, “about sixteen miles south of Auburn, shockingly mangled by blows apparently with a heavy bludgeon,” according to the Daily Advertiser of Auburn. “We learn that the deceased was an industrious man, of good character and habits, about thirty-five years old, and belonging to a company of peddlers, consisting of himself and his two bothers, each trading on different routes and meeting together monthly.... Vigilant searches were instituted by the police, assisted by the people of the neighborhood who turned out in large numbers, producing great excitement, and many articles which were identified to have been in Adler’s possession were found. The bulk of the goods, however, remain undiscovered...” The murderous brothers had flaunted their new-found possessions quite stupidly -- “various rings, pencils and similar articles had been by them presented to young ladies in the neighborhood” -- leading to their arrest.

“They were borne down by such an overwhelming mass of testimony, and of circumstances, almost amounting to positive proof of their guilt, that the Juries in each case had no other alternative than to convict. Their doom is an awful one, but the Law must be maintained, and its stern and inexorable Decrees carried out. It is a dreadful business, in every respect – the execution of two young men, just arriving at manhood, is a shocking spectacle; but their Guilt has been conclusively established, and they must suffer the penalties of the violated Law.” —Daily Advertiser