Series 2, M. Watt Espy Papers, 1730-2008
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Documentation of Executions, 1730-2008, Undated

Component description

About this series

44.5 cubic ft.
Scope and Content:
This series comprises the bulk of Watt Espy’s primary and secondary research and is therefore the largest in the collection. Initially, approximately half of these documentation of execution records were arranged in an organized fashion alphabetically by state, or by federal, military, tribal or international categories and then alphabetically by an individual’s name. The others were not arranged in any discernable scheme with a significant amount of materials kept as unorganized loose documents in boxes. Espy marked some files as "not written up," but it was ultimately unclear how these differed from other records. After careful review, the archivists decided to combine all of the documentation of executions together, divided the records into five subseries for executions conducted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, federal executions, military executions, Native American tribal executions, and international executions, and subsequently arranged and inter-filed all the loose materials., This series consists of state Department of Corrections records, newspapers, published and unpublished state and county histories, proceedings of state and local courts, magazines, holdings of historical societies, libraries, museums, and archives, notes taken by Espy or others conducting research, lists of individuals executed by state or county, annotated photocopies of Espy’s index card files, and documentation of executions sent via correspondence. The amount of material varies greatly by individual. Individuals are referred to by last name or, in the absence of a surname, by their given name. In general, date ranges for this series are not inclusive. Although the folders include eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century dates of creation, please note many of these items are photocopies of originals that Espy utilized for his research., In addition, Espy frequently grouped together materials for individuals executed for the same crime or executed on the same day for different crimes. Therefore he often had only one set of records for two people executed for the same crime. The archivists filed these records under the name of the individual whose last name or given name was alphabetically first., The respective volumes of aggregated material suggest Espy focused heavily on U.S. state and federal executions, and not military, tribal or international ones. The state subseries is the largest of the five and documents executions in the United States by state or in the District of Columbia. It also includes executions in colonies or territories that later became states. The files are arranged alphabetically by state and then alphabetically by the last name of the individual executed when one or two people received the death penalty. Next are files containing references to multiple executions, three or more individuals executed on the same day or for conviction of the same crime; anonymous individuals executed, such as a “slave woman” or “pirate man;” city, county, state, or regional records and histories, and lists of individuals executed; and unconfirmed or possible executions. At the end of this subseries are files with lists or records of individuals executed from multiple states. For instance, a list of juveniles or innocents executed from more than one state or executions from other states listed in Maryland newspapers., The federal, military and Native American tribal subseries follow the same arrangement scheme. The files are organized alphabetically by the last name of the individual executed when one or two people received the death penalty. Following are files containing references to multiple executions, lists of individuals executed, and then unconfirmed executions., and The international subseries is arranged alphabetically by country and then by an individual’s last name. There are less than fifteen countries and one U.S. territory mentioned.
Arranged alphabetically within subseries.

Collection Context

Component inventory



Access to this record group is unrestricted.
Terms of Access:
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.