Ann Carson – 1823

By | November 12, 2016

One of the most beautiful women in Pennsylvania


The Walnut Street prison where Ann Carson was incarcerated


Ann Carson (née Baker) was considered one of the most beautiful women in Pennsylvania during the early 19th century. In June 1801, two months before her 16th birthday, she married John Carson, a retired navy captain, twice her age. In 1810 his wanderlust returned and John Carson became the captain of a ship bound for China.

Ann Carson rented a room in her house to Lieutenant Richard Smith of the 23rd Infantry and the pair became friendly. After two years, with no word from her husband, Ann assumed that he had been lost at sea and the friendship with Smith became a sexual affair, culminating in their marriage in 1812. Three years later, John Carson turned up and went to the Smith home to reclaim his wife. Ann was urged to return to her first husband but she had grown very fond of her second, younger husband. Things came to a head on 20 January 1816 during an argument in the parlour of the Smith home at Second and Dock streets. Smith shot and killed John Carson. Smith was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by hanging. Ann was acquitted of murder but jailed as an accessory.

Freed on a technicality, she asked newspaper editor John Binns to ask his friend, Pennsylvania Governor Simon Snyder, to pardon Smith but he refused. Carson then decided to kidnap Binns and hold him prisoner until the governor relented. But the men she hired to do this were unable to get close to Binns and the plan was abandoned.

Ann Carson then made a plan to kidnap first Binns’s son and then the governor’s son. But both plans were thwarted and she fled. While she was on the run, Smith was hanged. She returned to Philadelphia where she became involved in counterfeiting. She hired a gang and they intended to launder a large number of counterfeit notes through Girard’s bank but the forgeries were detected and the gang arrested. They went on trial on 2 July 1823 and were jailed.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA




Ann Carson was sent to the Walnut Street Prison in Philadelphia where she contracted typhoid fever while nursing other prisoners. She died on 27 April 1824, aged 38.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *