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Cemetery Mixtape

Alice Getty and the Musical Skull

Every year, thousands of people walk past the landmark Getty tomb in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery to admire the architecture. Designed by Louis Sullivan, it’s perhaps the most perfect example of Sullivan’s style. Almost no one who sees it realizes that inside lie the remains of one of the most fascinating women in Chicago history – Alice Getty could have starred in adventure serials. The daughter of lumber baron Henry Getty, after her mother died in the 1880s, Alice, now in her early 20s, began to travel the world, collecting art and curios. She became a noted composer in her 20s…

Son of a Dickens

Today we travel to Moline, IL’s Riverside Cemetery to find the unlikely burial place of Francis Jeffrey Dickens, third son of Charles Dickens – and check out some other Dickens family graves (all of which are more about Charles than the person buried there). Perhaps the most famous thing about Francis is that he once asked for 15 pounds, a horse and a rifle to set up as a gentleman farmer overseas. Charles wrote back that he’d be robbed of the money, he’d be thrown off the horse, and that he’d shoot his head off. We read the letter in…

The Man Who Shot Andrew Jackson

iTunes Spotify In 1806, Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickinson fought a duel near the KY-TN border. Dickinson was killed, but the story goes that Jackson took a bullet to the chest and carried it around for the rest of his life. But did he really? A look at primary sources suggests that it may have just been one of those “tough guy” stories people liked to tell about Jackson. Dickinson’s grave space was lost for nearly a century before it was located on former farmland in 2010; what remained of him (a single finger bone) was reburied at Nashville’s City…

Season 2 Coming Soon!

A new season of Cemetery Mixtape is now being recorded for Winter 2019-2020! It was held up because Adam was asked to work on a new “Who’s Who” book for Graceland Cemetery, and the massive amount of research made it hard to work on any other projects. But some incredible stories have been found, some unmarked graves are now being marked, and, though we may not do songs for every episode this year, some new songs have been written, with titles like “Honor (Wrestling Entrance Theme),” and “Thanks For the Freedom, Ya Filthy Animal.” Keep watching!

Elizabeth Keckley and Jefferson Davis’s Dress

Here’s one that, until very recently, would have had be called “Cemetery Mixtape: Unmarked.” Elizabeth Keckley (or Keckly) was born a slave, bought her freedom as an adult, and became a modiste (dressmaker) for Mary Todd Lincoln throughout her years in the White House, eventually becoming a confidante of both Mrs. Lincoln and the President. Her whole life story is wonderfully told in her 1868 autobiography, Behind the Scenes. While her time with the Lincolns and the book have made her a relatively well-known historical figure, it’s not as well remembered that, before coming to work for the Lincolns, she…

The Bones of Button Gwinnett

For this month’s podcast, we take a deep dive RIGHT into the grave of Button Gwinnett. Button Gwinnett was one of America’s least illustrious founding fathers. Though his very brief political career put him in the right place at the right time to sign the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he lived less than a year beyond the signing before challenging Lachran McIntosh to a duel. Lachran won. No record of Button’s burial survives, but there’s no reason to doubt he would have been interred at Christ Church Cemetery, the only graveyard active in Savannah, Georgia at the time. His exact burial…

Bring me the Head of George Frederick Cooke

By some accounts, George Frederick Cooke was the greatest tragedian actor of the late 18th and early 19th century; his portrayal of Shakespeare’s Richard III was second to none. Whether he was Scottish, Irish or British was debated in his time; his epitaph reads “Three kingdoms claim his birth / both hemispheres proclaim his worth.” But all who knew him had a few things to say that weren’t quite so complimentary – his biographer, William Dunlap wrote in his diary that Cooke was “a coward, a braggart, a hypocrite, a backbiter, fearing death… yet rushing on to meet him with the…

Frederick Douglass (and the Garfield Grave Robbers)

Now on Spotify! Several years back, I took a trip to Cleveland just to see the tomb of President Garfield after hearing a news story that someone had broken into the crypt and stolen several commemorative spoons. This, I had to see for myself! It’s a fantastic tomb, with a tower you can climb, and relief sculptures all around, including one of Garfield on his deathbed, surrounded by doctors getting ready to poke him in the liver! In the course of setting up the episode, I noticed that Garfield appointed Frederick Douglass as the Recorder of Deeds for Washington D.C.,…

Joseph Wicher, Killed By Jesse James

In the Pinkerton Detective Agency lot at Graceland, most of the graves are worn down and illegible.   Which is probably why it took me so long to find out that a victim of Jesse James is buried there!  Joseph W. Wicher, killed by the James Gang in 1874, is buried beneath the grave on the left below, in a section that looks appropriately like something from the “Wild West” . You can almost make out the name: What’s remarkable about the lot is, though it certainly served as good advertising for the agency just by existed, we know very,…