Madame Restell, The Female Abortionist

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The Residence of Madame Restell, The Female Abortionist

On the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifty-second Street, during the Seventies, there stood a dignified residence that commanded unusual attention. "Upon' most any day that was inviting to the outdoors, a grim-visage, but elegantly dressed woman might be seen making her way down the high front stoop with a stride that was firm, for all advancing years and a bearing that flaunted a callous defiance.

 At the walk waited a glittering equipage and a prancing pair of horses ready to join fashionable Gotham on wheels. A liveried coachman held open the door of the carriage to bow his mistress into the interior. No sooner had he resumed his seat and the reins and started the afternoon drive, with the first roll of the wheels, around the corner there came scurrying a band of unkempt street urchins, who only turned on their heels sufficiently long to chorus in derision:

" 'Yah! Your house is built on babies' skulls! ' "

For a way these ill-mannered boys would chase after the carriage the while they kept up their offensive yelling. There was no change of expression in that grim-visage countenance, even while the carriage occupant was within hearing of her tormentors. There was something about the woman that suggested she was utterly adamant to public regard as her shocking vocation would make her seem, and she was an abortionist of most unenviable reputation. So, when finally she came to the end of her hardened existence, and with an estate officially inventoried at over $1,000,000, it came as amazing news that "she merely added one more life, that of her own, to the many she had taken, by committing suicide in the bathtub in her palatial home."

Madame Restell, (Mrs. Ann Lohman)

Madame Restell, or Mrs. Ann Lohman, with whose life and death this chapter deals, carried to her grave secrets that would have wrecked the peace of many a respected household, and that would have affected the names of many of the powerful and widely known of New York and even throughout the entire country. Madame Killer, the Abortionist, as she was long known, was
one of the most noted birth control practitioners, so to put it, in all the land for many years. While she saved many fine reputations from disgrace through her handiwork, she made her own name one of the most hated. Anthony Comstock is generally credited with having driven Madame Restell to do away with herself in 1878. The National Police Gazette, however, which was harrying her with vigor almost as soon as Comstock was permitted his first glimpse of this immoral sphere, puts quite a different motive back of this sensational suicide case. One year after Anthony Comstock opened eyes on a world that he was to find such an offending one, the Gazette of February 21, 1846, printed the following torrid editorial:

An Inflammatory Editorial by the Gazette on Madame Restell

RESTELL, THE FEMALE ABORTIONIST_____The exposures which we have recently made of this base woman's practices, have excited the profound attention of the community; and moved by the deep necessity of providing a punishment adequate to her horrid and unnatural crimes, an association is already in the process of formation, whose intention it is to petition the legislature to make abortion a State Prison offense; and also to take such measures as may lead to the punishment of its practices, and the prevention of any future murders at hand.

It is well known that Madame Restell keeps a large number of apartments in her Golgotha in Greenwich Street for the accommodation of females in accouchement, and the number that avail themselves of such facilities in a city where licentiousness stalks abroad at midday may be guessed at, but not counted. It is well known that females frequently die in ordinary childbirth. How many, then, who enter her halls of death may be supposed to expire under her execrable butchery? Females are daily, nay, hourly, missing from our midst who never return. Where do they go? What becomes of them? Does funeral bell ever peal a note for their passage? Does funeral train ever leave her door? Do friends ever gather round the melancholy grave? No! An obscure hole in the earth; a consignment to the savage skill of the dissecting knife, or a splash in the cold wave, with the scream of the night blast for a requiem, is the only death service bestowed upon her victims. Witness this, ye shores of Hudson! Witness this, Hoboken beach!

We do not wish to speak in parables. There is a mystery yet to be cleared up which sent a thrill of horror and a sensation of profound excitement through the length and breadth of the land! We speak of the unfortunate Mary Rogers. Experience and futile effort have proved that we have heretofore followed a wrong trail. The wretched girl was last seen in the direction of Madame Restell's house. The dreadfully lacerated body at Weehawken Bluff bore the marks of no ordinary violation. The hat found near the spot, the day after the location of the body, was dry though it had rained the night before! These are strange but strong facts, and when taken in consideration with the other fact that the recently convicted Madame Costello kept an abortion house in Hoboken at that very time, and was acting as an agent of Restell, it challenges our minds for the most horrible suspicions. Such are these abortionists! Such their deeds, and such their dens of crime!

We now ask again, if a community professing to be civilized will any longer tolerate this wholesale murder under their very eyes? Will a city possessing courts and a police, wink at such an atrocious violation of the laws, and if it will, and the demon murderess Restell be too rich to be within the power of the law, will the community, in the last resort, suffer her to go on unrebuked by some sudden application of popular vengeance? We are not now demanding justice upon the perpetrates of a single crime, but upon one who might be drowned in the blood of her victims, did each but yield a drop, whose epitaph should be a curse, and whose tomb a pyramid of skulls.

Was The Restell Woman in Some Way Connected With The Death Of Mary Rogers?

This was inflammatory stuff to be printed in a paper of the already considerable circulation owned by the Gazette. But before setting forth what followed the publication of this editorial, which sounds as though it might have been phrased by a William Jennings Bryan, it would be well first to give some attention to the inference that the Restell woman may be have been in some way connected with the death of Mary Rogers, "the beautiful cigar girl," a case that goes down in the history of crime as one of the greatest of the unsolved death mysteries.

Mary Cecilia Rogers

1)July 25, 1842 ....Sunday

Less than four years previous to the appearance of the above editorial the city of New York knew no other topic of conversation than the assassination of Mary Rogers, whose beauty back of the cigar counter of John Anderson, well-known snuff manufacturer, played havoc with many masculine hearts and made her the bright attraction of the store at 319 Broadway. She lived with her mother, who kept a boarding-house at 126 Nassau Street. Sunday morning, July 25, 1842, she knocked at the door of one of the young lodgers, Daniel Payn, to whom she was engaged to be married. She told Payn she was going to the house of her aunt and requested that he call for her that evening if she had not returned home by supper-time. She never crossed the threshold in life again. The following Wednesday her murdered body was found on the shore of Weehawken Heights.

2) None more Tantalizing Than The Case of Mary Rogers .

"The annals of crime are gorged with mysteries. The red band of murder has set its mark on many of its pages, but left no other sign of its identity. Of all the episodes enshrouded in this somber vagueness, there is none more tantalizing then the case of Mary Cecilia Rogers." Thus wrote the Gazette in review of the mystery when it was again brought to attention through the death of John Anderson, Mary's employer. This was in 1881.

3) A Corpse Found Buried In New Jersey

The corpse that was buried over in New Jersey after a primitive inquest was not immediately known, according to most versions, to be that of the beautiful cigar girl. But, shortly after, a New York newspaper demanded that the remains be dug up, and the disinterred body was laid out in the dead-house in City Hall Park, New York, and though decomposition had already set in, portions of the attire were positively identified and all doubt was removed that the corpse was that of Mary Rogers.

4) The Search For The Murderer.

The search for the murderer was next in order. Newspapers started an untiring pursuit of the mystery and the unsatisfactory results worked the public mind to fever-heat. Meetings were held and public and private subscriptions made as rewards for the unveiling of the death secret. Various suspected persons were arrested, yet, as the Gazette, long years after, commented: "In this case murder will not out. The murderer of Mary Rogers never was and never will be definitely known. His crime is buried forever in the grave in which its victim long ago moldered to dust, so thoroughly forgotten that to-day no one knows where she is buried."

Of the various suspects there was none on whom the crime was ever fastened, and few death mysteries have ever been kept so long alive. No sooner had interest commenced to flag than something happened to give it a fresh start. Some boys roaming close to where the body had been found discovered in a thicket a white petticoat, parasol, silk scarf, gloves and a handkerchief on which, for all the discoloration and rot of mildew, the initials of Mary Rogers worked in silk thread were still legible.

5) Mary Rogers Last Seen in the Company Of A Young Man

Mary Rogers did not go to the home of the relative toward which she was supposed to have been headed the Sunday she left her abode. She was last seen in New York in the company of an unknown young man in the vicinity of Barclay Street not far from the Restell dwelling on Greenwich Street, but she was presumably walking toward the Hoboken ferry. Her companion was
supposed to have been a young naval officer, who was among her legion of admirers. But somehow his identity remained ever somewhat vague, for all his undoubted importance in this puzzling tragedy.

6) Mary Roger's Betrothed, Overwhelmed With Melancholy, Ends Life

Some months later, and to further add to the mystery, young Payn, who had her betrothed, contributed no small share. After the death of Mary he had taken to dissipation and seemed obsessed by a settled melancholy. He drank hard and deep and one day he staggered out of a saloon and was seen no more until his dead body was found in the thicket where the relics of his dead sweetheart had been found. There was an empty laudanum bottle by his side and in his pocket a letter which read:

"Here I am on the very spot. God forgive me for my misspent life."

7)Two Other Incidents That Helped To Sustain Interest On the Mary Rogers Case

a.) And then came two other incidents shortly after and almost at the same time that further helped to sustain interest. Edgar Allan Poe, who had written an amazing mystery story, "The Gold Bug," which in the year 1843 had won the $100. prize offered by The Dollar Newspaper of Philadelphia, wrote a short story which purported to be the solution of the murder, and  which was entitled, "The Mystery of Marie Roget." In this Poe paraphrased the events of the Mary Rogers tragedy, only giving the actors different names and locating the crime in Paris instead of New York. His theory was that there had been an indiscreet intimacy with her mysterious sailor lover which had resulted in her pregnancy, and finally her murder.

It is in order to insert here, there is a standing Gazette tradition that Poe, some time between 1846 and 1849, the year of his death, had been temporarily on the staff of this journal. How much actual foundation there is to this tradition remains a question. The same year that the National Police Gazette came into existence, the firm of Wiley & Putnam, 161 Broadway, brought out the first edition of a book, "Tales by Edgar A. Poe." It included "The Gold Bug," yet the book did not enjoy much in the way of success, though its author was, too late for his satisfaction, to be accepted as a genius. 

More attention was attracted to the author by his poem, "The Raven," which saw print in 1845, the year the Gazette came into existence. That year Poe was for a time the assistant editor of the Broadway Journal, a weekly paper published in New York, but he did not prosper in the connection. In fact, the closing years of Poe's life were such a discouraging struggle for existence that it is easily possible that he may have been pressed to do some hackwork for such a successful weekly as was then the young and robust Gazette. If such was the case, Poe never attached his name to any scrivening that he may have been driven to do for Messrs. Wilkes & Camp.

b.) Coming back to the other happening that livened interest in the Rogers case, the very month in which the Poe story of the crime was published, over in Weehawken a woman was fatally wounded through the accidental discharge of a gun. The woman was Mrs. Loss, who kept an inn, which was close to the scene where the body of the beautiful cigar girl had been found. Mrs. Loss was the mother of the children who had made the discovery of the Rogers girl's handkerchief and other belongings. She made a deathbed confession that would lead to the assumption that the objects found in the thicket had been specially planted there by herself. According to the dying words of Mrs. Loss, Mary Rogers had come to breathe her last through the performance of a criminal operation. Why no special credence was placed in this confession is something of an enigma, but such seems to have been the case. Yet, it obviously came nearer to the truth than any of the various surmises that were offered instead. It was probably the basis for the Gazette charge that the Rogers girl was a victim of the abortionist, Restell.

Madame Restell

Just where Madame Restell was involved in the case, as the Gazette hinted, is something beyond answer. The result of the Gazette article, however, is a matter of record. From the issue of February 28, 1846, we cull the following:

1)Restell's Charnel House

Great excitement existed in the vicinity of the house occupied by this wretch, in Greenwich Street, on Monday last, owing to the circulation of a handbill, calling a public assemblage, to induce her to leave the vicinity and abandon her horrible profession. We take the following from the "Morning News,"

"Almost A Mob.............The residence of Madame Restell in Greenwich Street, was beset yesterday afternoon by a vast concourse of people of all classes, many of them, doubtless, drawn thither by curiosity, or a vague idea that something extraordinary was about to be enacted in reference to the notorious woman, and not a few who apparently came with the intention of being actors in some scene of violence and popular outbreak. There were very many of our most respectable citizens noticed among the mass, a result unlooked for, and certainly ominous of a deep and abiding feeling of abhorrence and detestation among the better classes, for the practices of this miserable female, which may yet prove of fearful import to her, and to those who countenance and support her in the vile and unholy occupation, the known existence of which, in defiance of all laws, and outraging every sense of decency and morality, has been suffered so long to rest, as a foul plague-spot upon our city.

We learn that in anticipation of some energetic demonstration in the course of the day, Madame Restell early left her house and secretly repaired to the dwelling of some unknown friend, seeking a shelter, in her fears, in a hiding-place far from the scene of her iniquitous practices.

Meanwhile, though the Chief of Police, aided by a strong body of officers were upon the ground of the disturbance, it seemed as though for some hours the neighborhood was slumbering upon a volcano, which a mere breath would inflame into swift and terrible action. Curses loud and deep upon Restell and her co-adjuters were rife amid the crowd, and cries of "Haul her out!" Where is Mary Applegate's child?" "Where's the thousand children murdered in this house?" "Throw her into the dock!" "Hanging is too good for the monster!" "Who murdered Mary Rogers?" and other inflammatory exclamations of a like nature were continually uprising from the excited multitude. Through the whole vicinity, the windows on both sides of the streets were upraised and filled with anxious faces intensely watching the movements of the mass below; and there were not wanting those among the inmates of the neighboring houses, and those inmates too, females of respectability and refinement, who joined in the universal cry for vengeance and retribution.

 It did indeed seem as though the strong feeling of popular indignation was about to be manifested in an outbreak of serious character, and that the unhappy object of their dislike was about to realize that there is in this land a power above all law, whose mandates would, when the arm of justice became paralyzed and insufficient, and was daringly sneered at by those who depend upon their ill-earned wealth and certain peculiar influences for immunity from the just reward of crime, be suddenly executed in violence and confusion. Owing, however, to the prompt exertions of the energetic Chief of Police, under whose directions one or two arrests were made of the most active spirits among the assembled mass, the threatened disturbance was finally put down, and at this time (late in the evening) order and quiet are restored to the neighborhood.

2)Madame Restell Convinced to Immediately Close Her Unlawful Business.

We do not envy the feelings of the wretched woman during the existence of the threatened outbreak, for although at some distance from the scene, yet, she very well knew what was going forward, being made acquainted at short intervals with the position of affairs. We trust from the expression of yesterday, Madame Restell is now convinced of the necessity of
immediately closing her unlawful business; otherwise there seems to be a most fearful certainty that the end is not yet.

3)The Mary Applegate Affair

It was the affair of Mary Applegate that brought about this storm of public indignation and which culminated in the Applegate woman being brought before Mayor William F. Havemeyer, in whose presence she made a sworn statement of the following facts:

A) Mary Applegate Delivers Her Baby at Madame Restell's House

That she was a seamstress residing in Philadelphia, in which city she had been seduced by Augustus Edwards, who had a connection with the offices of the Reading Railroad. That she had been placed in the home of Madame Restell by Edwards, and after a stay there she had been delivered of a living child. That Mrs. Restell took her child from her (Mary Applegate)
on the pretense that it was to be sent out to a nurse, and that she (Mary Applegate) had never had sight of her child again. Mrs. Restell had subsequently denied any knowledge of the deponent and insisted that no female had been delivered of a child for several months past in her house. Later Mrs. Restell claimed that she was unable to locate the nurse to whom she had delivered the Applegate infant.

B) Mary Applegate Describes Her Stay at The Restell House on Greenwich Street.

In a subsequent affidavit Mary Applegate described some of the things that had come to her attention while an inmate of the Restell house on Greenwich Street. She stated that there were so many women present during her stay that several were placed in the same room and even occupied the same bed "when they were sick." She met there a widow from Albany who was being supported by a married man from the same city, who was president of one of the banks. Another from Philadelphia was having her expenses defrayed by "one of our Congressmen." Another was the daughter of a New York family "in the first circles" who had been brought to the care of Mrs. Restell by her own mother, who had been heard to say she "would rather submit to anything else, than the disgrace."

C) Because Madame Restell had Strong Influences In High Places, She Continued Her Business.

In spite of the furor that was thus aroused, and that the Gazette finally accused Mary Applegate of having accepted a substitute infant in the one that was subsequently restored to her, Madame Restell somehow escaped the meshes of the law for all the exposure and indignation that was aimed her way, and she continued in her peculiar business for more than a quarter of a century longer. There can be no doubt that she had strong influences in high places. When the Gazette was finally forced to admit that Madame Killer was plainly beyond the pale of the law, Messrs. Wilkes & Camp printed her picture and gave expression to their feelings in no uncertain terms.

D) In Exchange For Gold, Corrupt Officials Grant Madame Restell Immunity

The public knows the character of Madame Restell, but none know it so well as the corrupt minions in official place who have for years tampered with her crimes and secretly received her gold in exchange for an immunity in wholesale bloodshed. For years she has triumphed over the law, defied public indignation, and laughed at the denunciations of the press. Others of her mystery, understrappers and retailers in the work of death, have felt the pinch of power, but she has gone scot-free of any check, and proclaims to the world her readiness to stifle human life at so much per deed. The law has swept every rival from her path, and she remains mistress paramount in a scheme of practical destruction. In the heart of this metropolis she holds her bloody empire. In this city, so vain of its good name, she sits in a spacious den, tricked out in gorgeous finery for the superficial eye, but crowded in its extensive labyrinths with misguided frailty, and teeming with the groans and misery of death.

E) What Becomes of The Victims of This Abominate Butchery?

What becomes of the children thus delivered we can readily imagine from the numerous infants, alive and dead, which are sprinkled about our city on stoops and in areas in the course of every week; but there arises at this point a more fearful inquiry: What becomes of the groaning mother if she perchance expire under this execrable butchery? Alas, we have no longer even the consolation of a doubt. The question has been answered in the developments of a public trial....the carcass is thrust uncleansed into a sack, lugged to some secret death-house, and there tumbled out for a medical orgy and the mutilations of the dissecting-knife. Thus perishes all trace of the murders of the abortionist. The refuse bones that are scattered on a dung-heap, or the skull that grins from the top of a doctor's cabinet, afford no trace of the blooming cheeks and rounded form of the once beautiful victim of these chartered murderers.

We are not led to these remarks with the view of spurring the authorities to bring this woman to justice. That hope is past. Our intention is not to arouse public indignation to her course,  for already her name is never mentioned without a curse; but we would warn the misguided females who invoke her aid in the hope to hide their shame, that they had rather consign themselves to the mercy of a fiend and desperately seek their death.

5) What prompted Madame Restell To Commit Suicide?

For all of which Madame Restell continued in business and waxed prosperous until finally she committed suicide. What prompted her to put an end to her life? The Gazette asks and answers the query. The answer purports to be secret revelations secured by Richard K. Fox from a detective who had been in the Restell employ while she was doing battle with Anthony Comstock, and who kept her apprised of the doings of her enemy, all of which was published in the Gazette shortly after the Restell suicide.

According to this account, she professed, with apparent good reason, that she had very little to fear as to the result of her trial on the Comstock charges. It was fear, we are led to believe, of a "more serious" charge which impelled her suicide. What was this "more serious" accusation? The implication is, that the answer lay in the fear that certain facts surrounding the death of her second husband, "Dr." Charles R. Lohman, seemed about to be brought to light.

6) Mrs. Restell and Husband Had Excessive Greed For Money

Originally, it is explained, Mrs. Restell during her first years in this country following her arrival from England, was actively engaged in dressmaking. She is believed to have already taken up the pursuit that brought her so much money when she contracted the marriage with Lohman. Lohman was in the business of manufacturing quack medicines. Their marriage did not turn out a happy one and they were separated at various times. The two had one fault in common, which was the source of continual disputes, namely, an inordinate greed for money. Though each had acquired money fast, they clung to it as though its possession was all that life was worth living for, and their quarrels over their money affairs, together with a radical incompatibility of temper, had them generally on bad terms except during occasional spells of reconciliation.

7) Mr. Lohman Builds The Restell House

Lohman, when real estate was very low uptown, had purchased the lots fronting on the east side of Fifth Avenue, between Fifty-second and Fifty-third Streets, and just one block away from where the spires of St. Patrick's Cathedral were to raise their architectural beauty. With the rise in real estate Lohman sold the upper portion of the property, but kept the 125 feet front where the Restell residence and the Osborne flats were subsequently erected. When he built the Restell house he had to raise the sum of $27,000. and executed a mortgage for that amount to the Mutual Life Insurance Company. Mrs. Restell, while on bad terms with her husband, succeeded in buying up the mortgage without his knowledge. For the erection of the Osborne flats she advanced $147,000. in cash to her husband. The two mortgages aggregating a total of $174,000. on properties then valued at $600,000.

8) Lohman Makes Will In Wife's Favor, Then Suddenly Dies.

During one of their periodical reconciliations, when Mrs. Restell's harsh temper toward her husband was softened, he executed a will in her favor, which also included title to a valuable store which he owned in Chambers Street. Soon after, on January 5, 1876, Lohman died.

9) The Gazette Tells A Curious Story Concerning The Death-Bed Scene

The "doctor" did not seem particularly ill when he took to his bed. While he had not been feeling right for some time, no grave apprehension was felt concerning his condition. Lohman raised himself in bed and said to a young man who had been visiting him every day: "Hand me the medicine-bottle from the bureau, will you?" The visitor looked around and seeing no bottle, replied: "What bottle? There is none here." "Why, it was there a few minutes ago," the invalid exclaimed. "Who could have taken it?" In a fit of angry impatience he rang the service bell. His wife appeared in answer to the summons, holding a medicine-bottle in her hand, and looking, so the eye-witness stated, strangely excited. "What the devil did you take my medicine for?" Lohman asked impetuously. "Well, I thought the bottle was getting empty," she replied, "and I had better replenish it." He was by no means reconciled with the explanation: "It was more than half full, when I had it before and didn't need renewing." "Well, I thought it did," was the reply, and with that she deposited the bottle, which was now nearly full, on the bureau. That very night Lohman died.

No clergyman was called in before the removal of the body, which omission could, of course, be attributed to the general isolation of the Restell household from all religious associations. At a very early hour, when the neighborhood was still and but few people were astir in Fifth Avenue and the neighboring street, the coffin was quickly carried through the rear entrance and taken to Tarrytown, where the remains were interred.

10) Was There Foul Play in The Death Of Charles R. Lohman?

At the time of her committal Madame Restell seemed strangely distressed, though strong legal advice gave it as the opinion that she would have little difficulty beating the Comstock charges, since the confession he was supposed to have obtained from Restell was had by trickery. But there was also a strong hint of an investigation to ascertain the possibility of there having been foul play in the death of Charles R. Lohman. Grounds for the belief came to light that Lohman had blood relations in Prussia who would have some claim on his estate. There was talk of exhuming his body.

Madame Restell thought much less of the sacrifice of life than she did of money.

Website: The History
Article Name: Madame Restell, The Female Abortionist
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Sins of New York As "Exposed" by the Police Gazette By Edward Van Every Publisher: Frederick A. Stokes Company--New York Copyright: 1930 3 Printings October 15, October 23 and October 30.
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