New Audio Book: The American Mercury on Leo Frank – Introduction

ONE OF THE GREATEST triumphs of historical writing in the last decade was the American Mercury’s centenary series on the 1913 trial and conviction of Jewish sex killer Leo Frank. Now the entire series is being produced as an audio book for our readers, beginning today with the first installment.

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100 Reasons Leo Frank Is Guilty

Leo Frank smiles for the camera just one day after the body of Mary Phagan was discovered, Suspicion at that time was directed to his employee, the African-American night watchman Newt Lee.

Leo Frank smiles for the camera just one day after the body of Mary Phagan was discovered, Suspicion at that time was directed to his employee, the African-American night watchman Newt Lee.

Proving That Anti-Semitism Had Nothing to Do With His Conviction — and Proving That His Defenders Have Used Frauds and Hoaxes for 100 Years

by Bradford L. Huie
originally published at The American Mercury

MARY PHAGAN was just thirteen years old. She was a sweatshop laborer for Atlanta, Georgia’s National Pencil Company. A little over 100 years ago — Saturday, April 26, 1913 — little Mary was looking forward to the festivities of Confederate Memorial Day. She dressed gaily and planned to attend the parade. She had just come to collect her $1.20 pay from National Pencil Company superintendent Leo M. Frank at his office when she was attacked by an assailant who struck her down, ripped her undergarments, likely attempted to sexually abuse her, and then strangled her to death. Her body was dumped in the factory basement.

Leo Frank, who was the head of Atlanta’s B’nai B’rith, a Jewish fraternal order, was eventually convicted of the murder and sentenced to hang. After a concerted and lavishly financed campaign by the American Jewish community, Frank’s death sentence was commuted to life in prison by an outgoing governor. But he was snatched from his prison cell and hung by a lynching party consisting, in large part, of leading citizens outraged by the commutation order — and none of the lynchers were ever prosecuted or even indicted for their crime. One result of Frank’s trial and death was the founding of the still-powerful Anti-Defamation League.

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The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments, Solicitor Dorsey

Hugh-Dorsey-340x264Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE AMERICAN MERCURY now presents the final closing arguments by Solicitor Hugh Dorsey (pictured) in the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan — a powerful summary of the case and a persuasive argument that played a large part in the decision of the jury to find Frank guilty of the crime. It is also riveting reading for modern readers, who have been told — quite falsely — that the case against Frank was a weak one, and told, equally falsely, that “anti-Semitism” was a major motive for the arrest, trial, and conviction of Frank.

Here we present it for the first time on any popular periodical’s Web site. Not until the Mercury began its efforts have these or the other arguments in this case and relevant contemporary articles been presented on a popular Web site in correctly formatted, easy-to-read type with OCR errors removed.  (For background on this case, read our introductory article, our coverage of Week One,  Week Two, Week Three and Week Four of the trial, and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.)

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THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR THE STATE.

Mr. Dorsey:

Gentlemen of the Jury: This case is not only, as His Honor has told you, important, but it is extraordinary. It is extraordinary as a crime — a most heinous crime, a crime of a demoniac, a crime that has demanded vigorous, earnest and conscientious effort on the part of your detectives, and which demands honest, earnest, conscientious consideration on your part. It is extraordinary because of the prominence, learning, ability, standing of counsel pitted against me. It is extraordinary because of the defendant — it is extraordinary in the manner in which the gentlemen argue it, in the methods they have pursued in its management. Continue Reading →

The Leo Frank Trial: Closing Arguments of Hooper, Arnold, and Rosser

Leo-Frank-and-attorneys-340x264

Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

The American Mercury continues its centenary coverage of the trial of Leo Frank for the slaying of Mary Phagan with the closing arguments presented by the prosecution and defense.

by Bradford L. Huie

IT’S A LONG READ — but an essential one for everyone who wants to consider himself well-informed on the Leo Frank case: the closing arguments from indefatigable Fulton County Prosecutor Hugh Dorsey and his assistant Frank Hooper, and from Leo Frank’s brilliantly skilled defense attorneys Reuben Arnold and Luther Rosser. Continue Reading →

100 Years Ago Today: Leo Frank Takes the Stand

Leo-Frank-on-the-Witness-StandOriginally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

In a few days the Mercury will present Week Three of the trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan. Today, on the 100th anniversary of Leo Frank taking the stand in his own defense, we present a digest of opinion and contemporary sources on his statement.

AT THE CLIMAX of the Leo Frank trial, an admission was made by the defendant that amounted to a confession during trial. How many times in the annals of US legal history has this happened? Something very unusual happened during the month-long People v. Leo M. Frank murder trial, held within Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Courthouse in the Summer of 1913. I’m going to show you evidence that Mr. Leo Max Frank inadvertently revealed the solution to the Mary Phagan murder mystery.

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

In addition to being an executive of Atlanta’s National Pencil Company, Leo Frank was also a B’nai B’rith official — president of the 500-member Gate City Lodge in 1912 — and even after his conviction and incarceration Frank was elected lodge president again in 1913. As a direct result of the Leo Frank conviction, the B’nai B’rith founded their well-known and politically powerful “Anti-Defamation League,” or ADL. Continue Reading →

Leo Frank Trial: Week Four

Leo-Frank-closeup-340x264Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

Join The American Mercury as we recount the events of the final week of the trial of Leo Frank (pictured) for the slaying of Mary Phagan.

by Bradford L. Huie

ON THE HEELS of Leo Frank’s astounding unsworn statement to the court, the defense called a number of women who stated that they had never experienced any improper sexual advances on the part of Frank. But the prosecution rebutted that testimony with several rather persuasive female witnesses of its own. These rebuttal witnesses also addressed Frank’s claims that he was so unfamiliar with Mary Phagan that he did not even know her by name. (For background on this case, read our introductory article, our coverage of Week One,  Week Two, and Week Three of the trial, and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.)

Here are the witnesses’ statements, direct from the Brief of Evidence, interspersed with my commentary. The emphasis and paragraphing (for clarity) is mine. The defense recommenced with a large contingent of Frank’s friends, business associates, and employees who would say that Leo Frank was of good character and had not, to their knowledge, made any improper sexual approaches to the girls and women who worked under him: Continue Reading →

The Leo Frank Trial: Week Three

Leo-Frank-suit-portrait_crop-340x264Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

The trial of Leo Frank (pictured) for the murder of Mary Phagan ended its third week 100 years ago today. Join us as we break through the myths surrounding the case and investigate what really happened.

by Bradford L. Huie

AS THE THIRD WEEK of the trial dawned, the prosecution had just made its case that National Pencil Company Superintendent Leo Max Frank had murdered 13-year-old laborer Mary Phagan — and a powerful case it was. Now it was the defense’s turn — and the defense team was a formidable one, the best that money could buy in 1913 Atlanta, led by Reuben Arnold and Luther Rosser. And many would argue that the city’s well-known promoter and attorney Thomas B. Felder was also secretly working for Frank and his friends, along with the two biggest detective agencies in the United States, the Burns agency — sub rosa, under the direction of Felder — and the Pinkertons — openly, cooperating with the police, and under the direction of the National Pencil Company. (For background on this case, read our introductory article, our coverage of Week One and Week Two of the trial, and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.)

As the defense began its parade of witnesses, few suspected that the defendant himself, Leo Frank, would soon take the stand and make an admission so astonishing that it strained belief. Continue Reading →

The Leo Frank Trial: Week Two

jim-conley-340x264Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

The trial of Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan ended its second week 100 years ago today. Join us as we delve into the original documents of the time and learn what the jurors learned.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE EVIDENCE that National Pencil Company Superintendent Leo Frank had murdered 13-year-old child laborer Mary Phagan was mounting up as the second week of Frank’s trial began in Atlanta, and passions were high on both sides as star witness Jim Conley (pictured) took the stand.

The attempt to frame the innocent black  night watchman, Newt Lee, had failed, despite 1) the “death notes” left near the body implicating him, 2) the bloody shirt planted in his trash barrel, and 3) the forged time card supposedly showing that he had left his post for several hours the night the murder was discovered. Although no one of significance suspected Lee at this point, the defense would still try to attack the medical testimony that placed the murder near midday on April 26, and would introduce Lee’s second alleged time card, provided by Frank, purporting to show that Lee had many hours unaccounted for on the night of the 26th and the early morning hours of the 27th of April.

Newt Lee’s testimony of Frank’s peculiar behavior that afternoon and evening was compelling. Another African-American was about to become pivotal in this case: factory sweeper Jim Conley would testify that he had helped Frank by keeping watch while Frank “chatted” with Mary alone in his office, and by assisting Frank in moving her body to the basement after she was accidentally killed. Conley was about to become central to the defense’s case, too — they would allege that Conley was the real killer. (For background on this case, read our introductory article, our coverage of Week One of the trial, and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.) Continue Reading →

The Leo Frank Trial: Week One

Newt-lee-custody1-340x264

Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

100 years ago today the trial of the 20th century ended its first week, shedding brilliant light on the greatest murder mystery of all time: the murder of Mary Phagan. And you are there.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE MOST IMPORTANT testimony in the first week of the trial of National Pencil Company superintendent Leo Frank for the murder of Mary Phagan was that of the night watchman, Newt Lee (pictured, right, in custody), who had discovered 13-year-old Mary’s body in the basement of the pencil factory during his nightly rounds in the early morning darkness of April 27, 1913. Here at the Mercury we are following the events of this history-making trial as they unfolded exactly 100 years ago. We are fortunate indeed that Lee’s entire testimony has survived as part of the Leo Frank Trial Brief of Evidence, certified as accurate by both the defense and the prosecution during the appeal process. (For background on this case, read our introductory article and my exclusive summary of the evidence against Frank.) Continue Reading →

100 Years Ago Today: The Trial of Leo Frank Begins

Leo-Frank-Atlanta-Georgian-courtroom-sketch-340x264

Originally published by the American Mercury on the 100th anniversary of the Leo Frank trial.

Take a journey through time with the American Mercury, and experience the trial of Leo Frank (pictured, in courtroom sketch) for the murder of Mary Phagan just as it happened as revealed in contemporary accounts. The Mercury will be covering this historic trial in capsule form from now until August 26, the 100th anniversary of the rendering of the verdict.

by Bradford L. Huie

THE JEWISH ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE (ADL) — in great contrast to the American Mercury and other independent media — has given hardly any publicity to the 100th anniversary of the murder of Mary Phagan and the arrest and trial of Leo Frank, despite the fact that these events eventually led to the foundation of the ADL. Probably the League is saving its PR blitz for 1915, not only because that is centenary of Leo Frank’s death by lynching (an event possibly of much greater interest to the League’s wealthy donors than the death of Mary Phagan, a mere Gentile factory girl), but also because encouraging the public to read about Frank’s trial might not be good for the ADL — it might well lead to doubts about the received narrative, which posits an obviously innocent Frank persecuted by anti-Semitic Southerners looking for a Jewish scapegoat.

For readers not familiar with the case, a good place to start is Scott Aaron’s summary of the crime, from his The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank, which states in part:

“ON SATURDAY morning at 11:30, April 26, 1913 Mary Phagan ate a poor girl’s lunch of bread and boiled cabbage and said goodbye to her mother for the last time. Dressed for parade-watching (for this was Confederate Memorial Day) in a lavender dress, ribbon-bedecked hat, and parasol, she left her home in hardscrabble working-class Bellwood at 11:45, and caught the streetcar for downtown Atlanta.

“Before the festivities, though, she stopped to see Superintendent Leo M. Frank at the National Pencil Company and pick up from him her $1.20 pay for the one day she had worked there during the previous week….

“Almost no one knew it at the time, but by one o’clock one young life was already over. For her there would never again be parades, or music, or kisses, or flowers, or children, or love. Mary Phagan never left the National Pencil Company alive. Abused, beaten, and strangled by a rough cord pulled so tightly that it had embedded itself deeply in her girlish neck and made her tongue protrude more than an inch from her mouth, Mary Phagan lay dead, dumped in the dirt and shavings of the pencil company basement, her once-bright eyes now sightless and still as she lay before the gaping maw of the furnace where the factory trash was burned.”

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