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Book Nook: The Notorious Mrs. Clem - Murder and Money in the Gilded Age, by Wendy Gamber


Wendy Gamber is a professor of history at Indiana University. She was spending a lot of time poring over Indiana newspaper archives from the mid to late 19th century and she kept seeing a particular name being cited in numerous articles. A woman named Mrs. Clem was the subject of extensive newspaper coverage in the Indianapolis region for a number of years. Gamber was struck by the frequency of those mentions and she decided to investigate further.

She discovered a story that made newspaper headlines across the country for over a decade. Nancy Clem, a seemingly harmless Indianapolis housewife had been accused of being a participant in a particularly lurid double murder which took place just outside Indianapolis in 1868. Over the course of five trials the actions of Mrs. Clem, the Notorious Mrs. Clem of the headlines, were scrutinized and dissected.

One of the murder victims had been engaged in a Ponzi scheme. On the day he was killed he had been carrying a large quantity of cash with him. That money had vanished and it was reported that on that same day Mrs. Clem had concealed an equally large quantity of money. Testimony was presented that seemed to exonerate the accused. But there were also many indications that Mrs. Clem might have been a party to the crimes.

That's the fascinating thing about this true crime story because we'll never really know if Nancy Clem actually was involved in those gruesome murders. Wendy Gamber's forays into the Nancy Clem archives offers readers a fascinating look at greed, courtroom dramas, legal maneuvering, and the media coverage during what were considered to be simpler times.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by six local library systems in southwest Ohio:  the Greene County Public LibraryWashington-Centerville Public Library, MidPointe Library SystemClark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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