She was known as “The Beautiful Cigar Girl,” but the 1841 murder of 20-year-old Mary Rogers remains one of the most baffling unsolved murders in New York City history.
Rogers was a clerk at the upscale John Anderson’s Tobacco Shop in downtown Manhattan. She was an incredibly beautiful girl, and famous writers such as Edgar Allen Poe, James Fenimore Cooper, and Washington Irving became her regular clients. The poet Fitz Green-Halleck was so impressed with him that he wrote a poem in Rogers’ honor. Many of the top newspaper editors and writers were also frequent clients of Anderson, some just to glimpse Rogers’ beauty.
On Sunday morning, July 25, 1841, at the Nassau Street boarding house owned by his mother, Rogers told one of the boarders, his fiancee, Daniel Payne, that he was going to visit his sister, Mrs. Downing, in the afternoon. That night, New York was hit by a severe storm and Rogers did not return to the boarding house. Due to the storm, both her mother and Payne realized that Rogers had spent the night at his sister’s house. The next day, however, Rogers’ sister told them that Rogers never showed up and did not expect him to visit. He and Roger’s ex-fiancee, Alfred Crommelin, searched the city, but found no sign of Rogers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t Rogers’ first disappearance. In October 1838, Rogers’ whereabouts were unknown for days. When he returned, he said he had visited a friend in Brooklyn, although he had not told his mother or employers about his intentions.
This time, the mother placed an ad in the New York Sun daily and asked if anyone knew where a 20-year-old young lady, last seen on the morning of the 25th, wearing a white dress, black shawl, and blue scarf was. , Leghorn hat, light-colored shoes and light-colored umbrella. No one responded to this posting.
On Wednesday, July 28, at Sybil’s Cave in Hoboken, New Jersey, three men saw something floating and bobbing on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. They jumped into a boat and quickly rowed to the area where the object was. When they got there, they found the body of a young woman. They were tired of hauling the body into the boat, but after several unsuccessful attempts they tied a rope under the dead woman’s chin and rowed towards shore.
When the coroner examined the body, he found a red mark in the shape of a male thumb on the right side of his neck, and several marks on the left side of his neck that indicated it was the size of a male finger. drowned and his body was thrown into the river. After reading newspaper accounts of the body found in the Hudson River, Crommelin traveled to Hoboken and identified the body as that of Mary Rogers.
Due to his popularity in the press, Rogers’ death was front-page news in every New York City newspaper. Journalists suspected her fiancé, Daniel Payne, who told police that Roger had visited his brother on the day of his disappearance and had spent the day commuting to several bars and restaurants. Payne took affidavits from witnesses to prove his innocence and said he was where Rogers said he really was the day he disappeared.
The mystery of Rogers’ death soon disappeared from the papers. New York City police, then a motley night watchman and day watch, uneducated and low-paid public with little incentive to solve crimes, have decided not to investigate further since the body was found in New Jersey. New Jersey police felt that Rogers was most likely killed in New York and that the murder investigation was not their problem.
Frederica Loss owned a tavern called Nick Moore’s House near Hoboken, New Jersey, not far from where Mary Rogers’ body was found. On August 25, 1841, his two sons, playing in the woods, found a variety of women’s clothing. MR Miss Loss immediately informed the police, including a handkerchief with her initials. This new discovery sparked an investigation by New Jersey police, as they have now determined that Rogers was indeed killed in New Jersey. However, nothing came of the investigation and it was soon over.
Over the years, several criminologists have tried to explain who killed Mary Rogers and why. Still, no credible evidence has emerged and no one has been charged with the crime. A year after Rogers’ death, Edgar Allen Poe was openly upset by the “Beautiful Cigar Girl” tragedy and wrote his famous novel, “The Mystery of Marie Roget.” The novel is set in Paris and replicated the events that took place in Rogers’ death. In the novel, Poe’s famous detective Austin Dupin concluded that the killer was a dark-skinned naval officer who had previously tried to escape from Marie (Rogers). she refused to marry him a second time.
Poe’s novel closely mirrored the most credible account of Mary Rogers’ death, put forward by writer Raymond Paul in the early 1970s. Paul’s theory was that it was the following Tuesday, not the Sunday that Daniel Payne killed Rogers, but disappeared because Payne had a solid alibi. She couldn’t have been dead for more than 24 hours, as Mary was still in mortis when her body was found. Rigor mortis begins a few hours after a person dies, but gradually dissipates after 24 hours.
From evidence compiled more than 130 years ago, Paul concluded that Payne had impregnated Roger, and on Sunday, July 25, 1841, took him to Hoboken to have an abortion. Rogers was recovering from an abortion at a Hoboken inn while his mother and ex-fiancé searched for Rogers. Payne then returned to Hoboken on Tuesday, July 27, to pick up Rogers and bring him back to New York. When Rogers told Payne that he had broken off their relationship, Paul concluded that Payne had drowned him and dumped his body into the Hudson River. Paul also deduced from the circumstances that Rogers’ brief disappearance in 1838 was for the same reason; have an abortion.
After Rogers’ death, Payne started drinking heavily. On October 7, 1841, Payne purchased poison laudanum after touring several New York bars. He took the ferry to Hoboken and went to Nick Moore’s House where he got really drunk. Soused, holding a bottle of brandy, staggered through the woods to where Rogers’ clothes were located. He wrote on a piece of paper: “To the world, I am right here. God forgive me for my wasted life.” He pocketed the note, drank my laudanum, and washed it down with brandy. Then he went to bed and died.
The newspapers and New York police thought that Rogers was murdered on a Sunday for which Payne had a firm alibi, that Payne committed suicide because the love of his life was killed. Yet the police investigation was so cursory, incomplete, and utterly inefficient that they never considered the fact that it was impossible that Rogers had been killed four days before he was found, because his body was still in a state of strict mortis.
While the murder of Mary Rogers was never officially solved, her death was not in vain. The utter incompetence of the New York City police force, combined with an angry New York City press and pressure from the public, forced the city to completely overhaul its policing procedures. Beginning in 1845, Watchmen and Roundsmen became obsolete as New York City finally formed a police force made up of men specially trained to prevent and investigate crimes.