Fair Play Alone Can Find Truth in Phagan Puzzle, Declares Old Reporter

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 8th, 1913

Average Atlantan Believes Frank is Guilty, but That Little Real Evidence Has Yet Pointed to Him as Slayer.

Stirring Defense by Wife and Attack on Solicitor Dorsey Are Two Striking Features of Week’s Progress in Case.


I have thought a good deal during the past week about a fine young newspaper man I used to know some fifteen years ago, and particularly of the last thing he said to me before he died.

He was a Georgian, too. We had been college mates and fraternity mates, and all that sort of thing.

After we graduated, he plunged into newspaper work, and I studied law. I practiced—to a limited extent—that honorable profession for some four years, but abandoned it eventually for newspaper work, and when I plunged in also, I asked him how about it.

This is what he said: “There is only one thing about it. Work fast, get your facts straight, beat ‘em if you can—but don’t go off half-cocked. Don’t get yourself where you have to take back things—but don’t be afraid to take ‘em back, if necessary—and be fair. The Golden Rule is, ‘BE FAIR!’ Unless you are fair, you will not respect yourself, and nobody else will respect you!”

Phagan Case Shows People Are Fair.

I find that most people ARE fair. I believe there is in the hearts of nine people in every ten one meets a desire to see his fellow-man get “a square deal.” And I believe it more nowadays than I ever believed it before, for the progress of the Phagan investigation has reaffirmed my faith in my fellow-man.

The Atlanta Georgian was the first newspaper to give pause to the riot of passion, misunderstanding, misinformation and rank prejudice primarily set in motion by the slaying of little Mary Phagan. Continue Reading →

Today is Mary Phagan’s Birthday; Mother Tells of Party She Planned


Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Sunday, June 1st, 1913

Parents Intended to Give Child Happy Surprise—Now They Will Strew Flowers on Her Grave in Marietta Churchyard.


This will be the saddest Sunday with Mary Phagan’s family since that fatal Sunday just five weeks ago when the little girl’s body was found hidden away in the basement of the National Pencil factory.

For to-day is Mary’s birthday, and it had been planned by her mother and stepfather, Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Coleman, that they would give her a party. If she had lived it would have been celebrated last night in her little home on Lindsay Street, where she had spent the past fifteen months of her life.

Instead of that, there is a shadow over the household, and she was spoken of with an ache in the throat and tears. Where last night would have been so happy for Mary, there was silence, and to-day the family expects to go to Marietta to weep above the little mound where she rests and lay flowers on the grave.

Was to Have Been a Surprise.

Mary’s birthday party, Mrs. Coleman said, was to have been a surprise, and as she told of it Saturday morning over the ironing-board—spoke of her other childish birthdays, the things Mary said and did, and all the tender little recollections of her a mother’s heart holds dear—her voice choked with sobs so that she could scarcely speak.

“It would have been the child’s first party,” she said simply. “The poor little thing never had had much in her life—she had to work so hard. It was Mr. Coleman’s idea. He thought it would be nice for her. He was like a father to her, anyway, and the only one she had ever known. Her own father died before she was born. Continue Reading →

100 Years Ago Today: The Trial of Leo Frank Begins


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.”

Continue Reading →

Third Man Brought into Phagan Mystery by Frank’s Evidence

Third Man Brought Into Phagan Mystery by Frank's Evidence

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Tuesday, May 6th, 1913

Lemmie Quinn, Foreman of the Department in Which the Little Girl Worked, Was in His Office Just a Few Minutes After She Received Her Pay on the Day of the Murder, He Tells the Coroner’s Jury at Inquest on Monday Afternoon.


Quinn Declares That Officers Accused Him of Being Bribed to Come to the Aid of Superintendent — Frank Is on Stand for Four Hours Answering Coroner’s Questions—Body of Mary Phagan Exhumed and Stomach Will Be Examined.

The Mary Phagan murder mystery assumed a new aspect yesterday afternoon, when Leo M. Frank, the suspected factory superintendent, introduced a third man in the baffling mystery, who the witness stated, called to see him after the girl had drawn her pay and departed.

Frank was testifying before the coroner’s inquest when he startled his audience with the declaration that he was visited by Lemmie Quinn, a pencil plant foreman, less than 10 minutes after the girl of the tragedy had entered the building Saturday.

Quinn immediately was summoned before Chief Lanford and Harry Scott, of the Pinkertons. He corroborated Frank’s story in detail. After being quizzed for an hour or more, he was permitted to return to his home at 31-B Pulliam street. Continue Reading →

Impostors Busy in Sleuth Roles in Phagan Case

Impostors Busy in Sleuth Roles in Phagan CaseAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Sunday, May 4th, 1913

Representing Themselves as Pinkertons, Two Men Are Interviewing Leading Witnesses in Mystery.


Men Working on Case Believe That Some Interests May Be Trying to Fix the Crime on Suspects.

What interests are promoting the planting of evidence in the Mary Phagan mystery?

This question confronted police headquarters yesterday. Further evidence of mysterious forces underhandedly at work on the baffling case was revealed when it became known that imposters, representing themselves to be Pinkerton detectives had been questioning leading witnesses.

This new disclosure, coupled with past discoveries of obviously “framed-up” evidence, has stirred the police and solicitor’s staff to action. Arrests are expected at any moment. If the bogus detectives are caught, Chief Lanford declared they will be thrown into prison, held without bond or communication, and put through a gruelling [sic] third degree.

Why Such Methods?

Although many theories have been advanced, the police are at a loss to fathom the cause of such methods. It has even been suggested that the real murderer is at liberty, and, in the effort to avert suspicion which might be cast upon himself, is endeavoring to weave the web tighter around the suspects already under arrest. Continue Reading →

State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

State Enters Phagan Case; Frank and Lee are Taken to Tower

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Thursday, May 1st, 1913

Watchman and Frank Go on Witness Stand This Afternoon—Dorsey, Dissatisfied, May Call Special Session of Grand Jury To-morrow.

Coroner Donohuoo [sic] late to-day issued a commitment against Leo M. Frank, superintendent at the National Pencil Company, and Newt Lee, night watchman, charging them with being suspected in connection with the death of Mary Phagan and remanding them to the custody of the sheriff. They were later taken to the Tower.

Arthur Mullinaux [sic], held since Sunday, was released.

Frank’s commitment read as follows:

To Jailor: Continue Reading →

Mary Phagan at Home Last Friday, Says Mother

Mary Phagan at Home Last Friday Says MotherAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Wednesday, April 30th, 1913

Mrs. W. J. Coleman, mother of Mary Phagan, says that the girl was at home during Friday and Friday night, and could not possibly have been the one seen at the Terminal station Friday morning by H. P. Sibley, gateman, and T. R. Malone, special officer.

Just as a young man with a ticket for Washington reached one of the gates to the tracks at the Terminal station, he was stopped Friday morning by a pretty girl, who pleaded with him not to leave her. The girl finally reached such a state of hysteria that the man turned away from the gate, and they left the station together.

Both the gateman and the special officer identified Mary Phagan was this girl. But Mrs. Coleman says that their identification is a complete mistake. Mary Phagan, she insists, was at home during the day and the night on Friday and could not possibly have been at the Terminal station. Continue Reading →

While Hundreds Sob Body of Mary Phagan Lowered into Grave

While Hundreds Sob Body of Mary Phagan Lowered into GraveAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Wednesday, April 30th, 1913

While relatives hysterically wept, while hundreds of friends, with wet eyes and bowed heads, mourned, while little circles of grim visage men talked in hushed voices of all that remained of little 14-year-old Mary Phagan, victim of Saturday night’s atrocious crime, was lowered into a grave at the city cemetery at Marietta yesterday morning.

“The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken, blessed be the name of the Lord,” said Rev. T. T. G. Linkous, pastor of the Christian church at East Point, as tears streamed down his cheeks. And the grave-diggers grasped their spades and filled the grave.

When the sad little funeral party arrived in Marietta with the casket shortly before 10 o’clock, there was a great crowd at the station to meet them. With solemn mien, hundreds of men and women, girls and boys, followed the train of carriages to the Second Baptist church. Continue Reading →

Pinkertons Hired to Assist Police Probe the Murder of Mary Phagan

John M. Gantt, former bookkeeper of the National Pencil company, and acquaintance of Mary Phagan, who is under arrest, and was put through a gruelling [sic] third degree last night at police station. He maintains his innocence.

John M. Gantt, former bookkeeper of the National Pencil company, and acquaintance of Mary Phagan, who is under arrest, and was put through a gruelling [sic] third degree last night at police station. He maintains his innocence.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Constitution

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

For Hours Detectives Labor With John M. Gant [sic], Former Employee of National Pencil Company and Alleged Admirer of Pretty Mary Phagan.


Told Them Gant Had Not Been Home When He Declared He Was in Bed. Now Admits Story Untrue. Gant Caught in Marietta, With Suit Case Filled With His Clothes.

Despite the fact that four suspects in the Mary Phagan case are held at police station, two white men and two negroes, the detective department is not satisfied, and the city is being scoured for evidence that will lead to the arrest of the guilty party.

Last night the Pinkerton detective department was engaged by Leo M. Frank, president of the National Pencil company, to aid the local officers in the search for the man responsible for the brutal murder, committed Sunday morning in the plant of his company on Forsyth street. Continue Reading →

Former Playmates Meet Girl’s Body at Marietta

Former Playmates Meet Girl's Body at Marietta

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

The little town of Marietta, Ga., where her baby eyes first opened upon the light of day scarcely fourteen years ago, will to-day witness the sorrowful funeral of Mary Phagan, the sweet young girl who was mysteriously murdered in the National Pencil Factory Saturday night and whose body was later found in the basement where it had been dragged by unknown hands.

The casket, accompanied by the girl’s stricken family—her mother and stepfather, her sister Ollie, 18 years old, and her three brothers, Ben, Charley and Josh, all young boys, left the Union Depot at 8:15 o’clock this morning. Reaching Marietta, it was met by throngs of Mary’s former playmates and friends bearing flowers to lay upon the young girl’s grave after they have looked for the last time upon her face. Continue Reading →

Pastor Prays for Justice at Girl’s Funeral

Pastor Prays for Justice at Girl's FuneralAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Mother and Aunt of Mary Phagan Swoon at Burial in Marietta This Morning.

A thousand persons saw a minister of God raise his hands to heaven to-day and heard him call for divine justice.

Before his closed eyes was a little casket, its pure whiteness hid by the banks and banks of beautiful flowers.

Within the casket lay the bruised and mutilated body of Mary Phagan, the innocent young victim of one of Atlanta’s blackest and most bestial crimes.

The spirit of the terrible tragedy filled the air. An aunt of the strangled girl suddenly screamed, fell over in her seat and was carried from the church in a swoon from which she did not fully recover for hours.

The stricken mother collapsed and it was feared that her condition might become critical.

The scene was in the Second Baptist Church at Marietta, where Mary Phagan had lived when she was a child of only three or four years. An immense crowd was at the station when the funeral train arrived at 10 o’clock. Many of them were young people who had played about with the strangled victim when she had lived there years before. Continue Reading →

‘I Feel as Though I Could Die,’ Sobs Mary Phagan’s Grief-Stricken Sister

'I Feel as Though I Could Die,' Sobs Mary Phagan's

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Tuesday, April 29th, 1913

Among all the hearts that are bowed down in sorrow over the murder of Mary Phagan, the 14-year-old factory child found dead in the National Pencil factory Saturday, there is none who feels the suffering and the anguish of the separation so keenly as her sister, Ollie, 18 years old, her companion since childhood.

For with her it is the suffering of youth, when the rose-veil of life has been lifted to show its tragic and terrible side in all its fullness for the first time. And it is all the more pitiful for her because it is the kind of suffering that brings to one that sense of despair and a later sadness that makes the whole world seem never quite the same again, no matter what happens. Something of its sweetness and joy has gone out to stay.

“Oh, I am so lonely without her,” the young girl told a Georgian reporter as the tears fell down her face unheeded. She was at her little home on Lindsay Street. “Mary and I were always together and we always told each other everything. We slept in the same bed at night; we had ever since we were little bit o’ kids; and we always talked after the lights went out. There wasn’t a thing that Mary wouldn’t tell me, and I would always advise her and tell her what I thought was right if little questions would come up between us. She was always such a good little thing, nobody could help loving her!” Continue Reading →

“I Could Trust Mary Anywhere,” Her Weeping Mother Says


Mary Phagan, 14-year-old daughter of Mrs. J. W. Coleman, 146 Lindsay Street, whose slain body was found in the basement of the National Pencil Factory, 37-39 South Forsyth Street. The girl left her home Saturday morning to go to the factory, where she had been employed, to draw wages due her. She was seen on the streets at midnight Saturday with a strange man. She was not seen alive thereafter.

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.


Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

“No Working Girl Is Safe,” She Sobs, Overcome by Her Sudden Sorrow.

Lying on the bed in her little home on Lindsay Street, prostrated with sorrow over the murder of her 14-year-old daughter, Mary Phagan, Mrs. W. J. Coleman sobbed out the pitiful story of how sweet and fresh her child had left home Saturday, and issued a warning to all Atlanta mothers to guard the welfare of their own daughters forced to work for a living.

“There are so many unscrupulous men in the world,” she cried. “It’s so dangerous for young girls working out. Their every step should be watched. Mothers should question them and ask them about their work and associates and surroundings. They should continually tell them what they ought to do, and how they ought to act under certain circumstances.”

Girl Liked Work.

She declared that she never would have permitted Mary to go out to work at the age she did—12 years—if it hadn’t been that there were five children in the family and it was absolutely necessary for all of them to earn something toward their support. That was before she married her present husband, Mr. Coleman.

“That was a year ago,” said Mrs. Coleman, “and then it wouldn’t have been necessary for Mary to work. But she had got into the habit of it and liked it, and I thought she could take care of herself as she always had.”

“Oh, the poor baby!” she sobbed. “I did talk to her! I did tell her what to do! I was always telling her! And she took my advice, I know, because she was always so sensible about everything. Besides, she never was a child to flirt or act silly. That’s why I know that when she went away with this man who killed her she was either overpowered or he threatened her.”

Mrs. Coleman said that girls ought to look out for themselves, too, and never permit any familiarity from men.

“When a girl is pretty,” she declared, “naturally she is attractive to men. Mary was pretty, too; and, besides that, she was always happy and in a good humor. She had never stayed out any night before in the two years she had been at work. I could trust her anywhere I knew because she was always so straightforward, and what I thought when she didn’t come home was that she had met up with her aunt from Marietta, who was in town, and had gone home with her and had no way to let me know.”

Too Young to Know.

She covered her face with her hands.

“And to think that at the time I was thinking that she was in the hands of a merciless brute! Oh, if only Mr. Coleman had happened along the street and found her! They tell me she was crying on a corner at 12 o’clock and this man she was with was cursing her when a policeman came up and asked her what was the matter. She just told him she had got dust in her eye. I guess the reason she didn’t say anything was because she was afraid the man would kill her, and, in fact, just didn’t know what to do. She was too young.”

But with everything, Mrs. Coleman said, it wasn’t possible for a mother to be with a child all the time or to stave off all harm that could come to her with advice.

“Even with the greatest care, it looks like things will happen anyway—we don’t know how or why,” she declared, weeping. “Oh, it’s terrible to think of a young girl coming to her death like that! And she had already started home when this man met her and made her come back to town with him!”

So Young and Bright.

“Often I watched Mary on the car when men would look at her,” Mrs. Coleman said, “but she never paid any attention to them. I think she must have made the man who killed her mad, and that’s why he did it.”

She said that when Mary left the house Saturday she had only intended to go to the pencil factory to draw the little salary that was coming to her—$1.60.

“If you could only have seen her,” she told the reporter. “She looked so beautiful and so young and so bright! She said she was only going to see the parade before she came home. And look now! I am so sorry for all other young girls working everywhere! To think that they’re all open to the same things, and there is nothing to protect them; it’s so hard on mothers; it’s so hard on everybody. But there doesn’t seem to be any help for it, and that’s the worst part of it all.”

* * *

Atlanta Georgian, April 28th 1913, “‘I Could Trust Mary Anywhere,’ Her Weeping Mother Says,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

Neighbors of Slain Girl Cry for Vengeance

Neighbors of Slain Girl Cry For VengeanceAnother in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Georgian

Monday, April 28th, 1913

Slaying of Mary Phagan Arouses Friends of Family to Threats of Violence.

“I wouldn’t have liked to be held responsible for the fate of the murderer of little Mary Phagan if the men in this neighborhood had got hold of him last night,” was the statement to-day of George W. Epps, 246 Fox Street, whose home adjoins that of Mrs. Coleman, mother of the slain girl.

By to-day the first hot wave of indignation that cried for the blood of the criminal had had time to subside, but the feeling still ran high in the neighborhood of the Coleman home.

The murder was the sole topic of conversation. Men who knew the family and others who had seen Mary go to her work in the morning congregated in excited groups on the street corners. At first they were not willing that the law should take its course. They feared that the murderer, if he were caught, might in some way escape the consequences of his crime. Continue Reading →