Death of Mary Rogers Reflects the State of New York

Rogers’ death showed the nature of the city in those times. It was a mysterious death; many speculations rose during the investigation process. Rogers was an urban woman and her story opened up the culture of America

Mary Rogers–Cigar Girl

where many women were making their living due to increased urbanization.  During nineteenth century, women were considered to be a part of homes only though as the panic times knocked the door, women also started earning their own living.  Moreover her death gave new definition to the press as well as the Legislature system that made them to reform their laws.

The death of Mary Rogers depicted the state of the city during mid-nineteenth century; a gateway to the urban culture in antebellum America. Rogers was also known as ‘Beautiful Cigar Girl’. Rogers’ beauty was the sole reason of her many admirers belonging to the fraternity of journalism and politicians. She worked at the Cigar Shop as in those times most beautiful girls were usually hired to attract the customers. During the summer of 1841, she got disappeared from her boarding house and three days later found dead at the Hudson River.  It was a mysterious death because the investigation was not fruitful and many suspicions were raised.

In the past two and a half centuries, New York has witnessed several tragedies and social changes that affected the behavior of people which in turn lead to murders. One such mysterious murder was of Mary Rogers known as Cigar Girl; she disappeared in the summer of 1841 from New York City boardinghouse run by her mother Phebe. Three days later, her bruised and waterlogged body was found at the Hudson River near the shore of New Jersey. Her death created the hype in the early 19th century; change was witnessed not only in the field of media and literature even the laws were reformed.



Mary Rogers

Maria Rogers born in 1820; came to New York in the panic year 1837 from Connecticut after which she took job in 1838 in one of the famous Cigar owned by John Anderson known as Anderson’s Tobacco Emporium.  Cigar girls were chosen for their beauty and Rogers was considered one of amazingly beautiful lady; soon her charm worked on the young men as we ll. She used to sell cigars and tobacco where her customers included famous personalities like Edgar Allen Poe, James Fenimore Cooper and Washington Irving as well.  Rogers’ popularity with the press was one of the reasons that stirred the media.

Rogers Death and Media

The death of Mary Rogers gave new life to the circulation of penny press in 1840; a tabloid that turned the news into sensational event.  Many newspapers and reporters gave theories that surrounded Roger’s death. The way of reporting homicide completely changed and every clue was taken into consideration.  Moreover, the newspapers raised many stories regarding her death which included abortion, gang rape and even suicide. The press also signified the fear of increased lawlessness in the city as well as the need of reformed police groups because police made no headway in her case; media also highlighted tightening control of abortions; although this case was never resolved instead the newspapers increased their readership among working-women and men.

Society in Mid 19TH Century in the light of Rogers Death

In the 19th century, the society was not liberal to the idea of independent women; however the increase of commerce, print and industry in the city changed the role of urban women.  Rogers’s case is the window to an urban culture; it was the depiction of the emerging urban women who took advantage of the economic opportunity in those times whereas her death raised the voice for the mid-nineteenth century concerns over sexual license, law and order situation, abortions and changing role of women.

Crime increases with the widespread increase in the urbanization during mid-nineteenth century. The investigation process of Roger’s death showed inefficiency of the police due to which reformed New York police department was established as well as the city was divided into three districts having their own courts, magistrates and clerks. There were two legislation that also passed as a result of her death; one was New York Police Reform Act that upgraded the policing system and second was the New York State Act that criminalized the abortion.

The death of Mary Rogers was a sensational event for the penny press as well as for the New York City. Her death gave the popular journalism and the crime reports the central space in the urban press.  The investigative reporting was introduced and the growing industry of press and printing gave rise to detective stories, graphic illustration and series novels.

Besides creating sensationalism by the press, Mary roger’s death phenomena also showed the culture of urban commercialism due to introduction of more working women in a society. Moving from an individual towards society as a whole the concept of new female identity became a combination of public visibility and social isolation. Women lived alone without protection because of their jobs for which the society was not prepared yet.

Moreover, independency of women also increases vulnerability to male desire and lack of social order during nineteenth century; Rogers’ Death was an open eye to the fear of lawlessness prevailing during those times which needed a tighter control and it happened after her death where the police system and abortion became the points of legislature system.


Her death is an enigma; the case never got solved and many stories generated because there was not much information regarding Mary. However her death stirred the New York City and it also tells about the cultural aspect of the society during those times.

Rogers’ death was a reflection of the society towards women during mid-nineteenth century; the society was in changing phase in terms of economic growth as well as role of women. Furthermore, new notion of female autonomy leads to urban commercialism.  These independent women needed protection which was not given by the police; therefore Rogers’ death became a touchstone to tighten the laws in order to protect the women.

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