The Carey Document: On the Trail of a Salem Death Warrant

by Professor Bryan F. Le Beau Department of History, Creighton University
During the hysteria that swept Massachusetts in 1692, nineteen persons were found guilty of practicing witchcraft and hanged. One was pressed to death in an attempt to extract a plea, and others were sentenced to die but spared execution when the hysteria abated. When the trials ended, all but one or two of the death warrants disappeared. In 1989 the children of a recently deceased prominent Nebraska attorney and political figure, who had graduated from the Creighton University School of Law, gave the university what purports to be one such death warrant. What follows is what I discovered in the process of authenticating that document. For purposes of confidentiality, the name of the owner and of his home town have been changed. A condemned witch in Salem is led to the gallows

A condemned witch in Salem is led to the gallows

The condemned in Salem are led to the gallows.

The Carey Document

The Carey Document, as it shall hereafter be titled, appears to be a death warrant for one Martha Carey, dated Salem, Massachusetts, June 10, 1692. In brief, it reports that the Court of Oyer and Terminer, meeting in the Salem Village Meeting House, having heard the testimony of diverse people, found Carey guilty of the crime of "heresy mencionide." It charges her with having aided and abetted witches; caused aches and pains to her kin and kindred; killed some forty-five odd fowl and several swine in and about Danvers Village; put "the devil's curse upon the Parris maidens" and Goody Laurence, causing them much sickness and misery; eaten broken glass; set fire to (illegible)'s fodder stack in Antwerp Village; stuck pins into her (illegible); and "butt the wench Tituba of the friendly tribe of King Philip's people with an axe." The warrant notes that Carey refused to speak at the trial, and that she possessed a devil's teat on her left leg.

The warrant orders Sheriff George Corwin to confine Martha Carey in chains to the Salem jail until July 19, 1692, whereupon, "at the hour of high sun," she was to be executed. It concludes: "Thou shalt give her the black bonnet and safely conveigh [her] ... to Execution Hill in Salem and place her on the gallows." She was to be hanged by the neck until dead, "may God forgive her wicked soul."

The Salem Death Warrant

The warrant orders Sheriff George Corwin to confine Martha Carey in chains to the Salem jail until July 19, 1692, whereupon, "at the hour of high sun," she was to be executed. It concludes: "Thou shalt give her the black bonnet and safely conveigh [her] ... to Execution Hill in Salem and place her on the gallows." She was to be hanged by the neck until dead, "may God forgive her wicked soul."
The Salem Death Warrant

The Salem Death Warrant

(Click Icon for Enlargement)

The document bears what resembles an official seal and some fifteen signatures beneath the warrant plus another sixteen signatures, mostly illegible, on the reverse side. Among the former group appears Increase and Cotton Mather, Robert Calef, William Stoughton, Jonathan Corwin, Samuel Sewall, John Winthrop, and Governor William Phips, as well as the mark of Philip, presumably (noting the text) the Indian Chief, King Philip. Accompanying the names on the reverse side are two notes. In the first, dated June 10th, William Stoughton, Chief Justice of the Court of Oyer and Terminer, orders George Corwin to execute Martha Carey on July 19th. In the second, Corwin reports that it was done, as ordered.

Accompanying the Carey Document is what purports to be a museum access card from the Boston University Museum dated 1871. In it, curator William F. Warren notes that it is a very rare, original document — "valuable ... for educational purposes" — and that it had been "pronounced genuine" by the Massachusetts Historical Society. He adds that the document "bears the famous mark of Indian King Philip," of which only seven were known, as well as signatures of Mather, Stoughton, Winthrop, Sewall and others. According to the card, the document had been loaned to the museum by C. A. Powell of Meridian, Mississippi.

The Family's Account of the Carey Document

On June 28, 1981, Peter Smith wrote a letter to his daughter Catherine providing a history of the Carey Document.

Smith noted that he had been given the document by E. William Ward , a resident of Alfred, Nebraska, in the late 1930s. Ward was a contractor, good friend, and client. According to Smith, Ward told him that his paternal ancestors had lived in the Salem area for over 300 years, that they had been local history buffs, and that as the oldest son, his father had passed on to him William's grandfather's trunk, within which was the Carey Document. According to William Ward, his grandfather "always knew it was an original." Being the last of the Ward's, and due to their friendship, William gave it to Peter Smith.

Continuing in the letter, Smith reported that upon receipt of the Carey Document, having noted the Boston University certificate, he decided to seek proof of its authenticity. He contacted his congressman, A. L. Miller (deceased by 1981; correspondence lost), who encouraged Smith to send him the document. Miller, Smith recalled, took the document to the Library of Congress (to "the individual of the department that dealt with antique instruments"), and he (unnamed) reported, in Smith's words, that it "undoubtedly was an original and the only one known to be in existence." The individual asked Smith to donate the document to the Library of Congress for one of its exhibits, but Smith declined the request.1

In 1980, seeking authentication and an appraisal, Patrick Smith contacted Howard Gotlieb, Director of Special Collections at Boston University. Gotlieb suggested that Patrick seek an appraisal from Paul Richards of Templeton, Massachusetts. The familydoes not recall having done so, and Richards has no record of it. Instead, in 1981, Catherine Smith, rather than take the Carey Document to New York, showed it to Gotlieb, who, according to Catherine, pronounced it genuine, verifying the Cotton Mather signature but not conducting any other tests.

In 1989, upon his father's death, Patrick took the document to Sotheby's in Washington, D.C., apparently to have it auctioned off. Catherine reports that Sotheby's was unwilling to do so until they had authenticated the document, which would require running a test on a sample of the paper. Patrick refused permission for such a test, she continues, and there the matter rested until the document was given to Creighton.

Some Problems with the Family's Recollections

To begin with, Peter Smith's recollection of what William Ward told him has some problems. William Ward was born in Elk Creek, Virginia in 1888, and he had no ties to Salem, as his great-grandfather moved to Virginia in the early nineteenth century from Scotland. Though he lived briefly in Nebraska in 1911, Ward did not move permanently to the state until 1917. He lived in Kearney until about 1928 or 1929 and then moved to Alfred, where he opened his own construction company and built a number of locally important buildings.2 Peter Smith arrived in Alfred in 1930.

Second, William Ward was neither the oldest son in his family nor, in the 1930s, the sole surviving son. He had fourteen siblings, including three older and three younger brothers. In 1939 at least two of his younger brothers were still alive, and he had a son, Bud, and two daughters, to whom he might have passed the Carey Document, rather than give it to Smith. Though a young adult at the time and working for his father, Bud Ward recalls no mention of any witch document, something he finds odd given the importance his father and Smith are reported to have attached to it. No other member of the Ward family with whom I have spoken has any memory of the document.

Third, Sotheby's in Washington, D.C. has neither any recollection nor any record of having seen the document or communicated with Patrick Smith. Mary Jo Kline, of the New York branch, however, though not having any paperwork, recalls having seen something like the Carey Document, in 1981. Kline, with whom I spoke, said that she reported the document to Peter Drummey of the Massachusetts Historical Society and, together, they concluded that it was not authentic.

Kline questioned the Smiths' recollection that Sotheby's (DC) had required a paper sample for verification. Given current technology, such an invasionary procedure is not necessary. When questioned, Patrick did not actually recall the request, but Catherine insisted that that is what Patrick had told her, and that her son, Thomas, who accompanied Patrick to Washington, had confirmed the story. Further, Patrick and Catherine Osborn have insisted that they never visited Sotheby's in New York.

Fourth, Peter Drummey could find no record of the Massachusetts Historical Society having authenticated the Carey Document. He did suggest that if it were a forgery, it might date to the mid- to late- 19th century, perhaps to 1871, the date referred to on the authentication card. He explained that a number of fakes were produced at that time, especially employing the signature of Cotton Mather.

Fifth, Howard Gotlieb of Boston University had neither any other records, nor any recollection, of the Carey Document. Allowing that he may have met with Catherine Smith and had seen the document, Gotlieb insisted that he would have offered no verification of the document. He did allow that he might have said something to the effect that "it looks authentic," but nothing more definitive.

Sixth, in response to my inquiry, James H. Hutson, Chief of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, reported that he could find no record of the Carey Document; that the Library of Congress does not authenticate documents that are not part of its collection; and, based on a copy I sent him, that he doubted the Carey Document's authenticity.

And, finally, in either 1964 or 1965, an article on the Carey document appeared in the Sterling, Colorado newspaper. It reports that Kay Swaeby (Smith's former secretary), then taking a class at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, had shown the document to her professor, Clay Fechter. Fechter assumed it was an original, but, more important is the story that was presented in the article.

It seems that Swaeby told the professor and the reporter, presumably having gathered the information from Smith, that William Ward's family was from Virginia, and that although the document had been in the family for three generations, it was not known how they had come to own it. "Coincidental, and possibly of little relevance," the article continued, perhaps being Fechter's contribution to the article, "is the fact that a house built by John Ward in 1684 still stands in Salem." This does not square with Smith's account, in his letter to his daughter, but Smith made no attempt to reconcile the two. It does offer a plausible explanation for that part of the story which traces Ward's lineage to Salem. Swaeby had no recollection of the affair.3

Testing the Document

As previously noted, only one authentic death warrant from the Salem witch trials was known to have survived, thereby making such documents a perfect target for forgers. Bridget Bishop's death warrant belongs to Essex County, but it is currently on deposit at the Essex Institute. The Boston Public Library acquired a second warrant, for Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Susanna Martin, Elizabeth How, and Sara Wild, in 1939, coincidentally, but it appears to be authentic.

The Bishop and Nurse death warrants have much more in common with each other than either has with the Carey Document. This is not to say that the Carey Document is entirely different. It is sufficiently like the other two — most notably in its general format as a death warrant — to allow, at least at first glance, the possibility that it is an original. But its variations are substantial enough to lead me and all others that I have asked to study the document to conclude that it is not. Quite likely, its author had seen the Bishop death warrant — a copy of which appeared in Charles Upham's Salem Witchcraft in 1867 — and used it as a model.

Comparing the Carey Document to the two death warrants noted above, and when examined alone, as to its content and the composition of the paper and ink, it would appear that the Carey Document is a fake. Though one can never be absolutely certain in such cases, there are too many inconsistencies. Let me cite just a few of the more glaring examples.

First, though the names of some of the accused have no doubt been lost, it is unlikely that we would have no trace of someone who was accused, indicted, tried, convicted, and executed. It is true that those who kept trial records often took certain liberties with the spelling of names, but no match can be found for anyone on whom the records have survived, including Martha Corey, Martha Carrier, or Elizabeth Cary. Corey was tried in early September and executed on September 19th; Carrier was tried in early August and executed on August 19th; and Cary escaped trial on, or about, July 30th.

If the document were authentic, the final date of Carey's trial, the date upon which she would have been sentenced, would have been June 10th, 1692, and she would have been executed on July 19th. Surviving records do not indicate any trials on June 10th, though Bridget Bishop, who was tried on June 2nd, was hanged on that date. No further trials took place until June 28th, when five women were tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged on July 19th. Neither a Martha Carey nor anyone with a name even approximating hers was executed on that date.

Second, there is the reference to Danvers Village (also referred to as Antwerp, from which Danvers can be derived). According to Danvers Historian Richard Trask, this reference predates any known use of the name by over a half-century. Until 1752, the community was known as Salem Village, which is the name employed in all other existing witch trial documents, including the two death warrants noted above.4

Third, there are the references to Tituba and Indian King Philip. The document notes that Martha Carey did "butt the wench Tituba of the friendly tribe of King Philip's people with an axe." Though Tituba was commonly referred to as an Indian, and paired with John Indian, it is believed that she was from Barbados and not a member of Philip's tribe, the Wampanoags. That the mark of King Philip is affixed to the Carey Document, presumably attesting to that piece of evidence, is even more curious, because, by that time, he had been dead for some sixteen years!

And, finally, there is the matter of the several signatures affixed to the warrant. Why are there so many signatures, especially when, though well known, so few had any direct involvement with the Court of Oyer and Terminer? Both the Bishop and Nurse death warrants bear only one signature, that of Chief Justice William Stoughton.

As previously noted, a card accompanied the Carey Document reporting that it had been "pronounced genuine" by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1871. Printed on the card is the name Wm. F. Warren, LL. D. Curator. I pursued this with Kathryn Cominis, Boston University's Special Collection's Archivist. Cominis reported that a Boston University Museum once existed. She could not find an exact date for its founding, but neither could she find any archival reference to it in the 1870s. The university was incorporated and chartered in 1869, but the first classes were not held until the 1872/1873 academic year. The first president's reports and yearbooks appeared in 1874, and they made no reference to the museum. She guessed that it might have begun in the 20th century, perhaps in the 1930s.

A William F. Warren did assume Boston University's presidency in 1879. If the university had a museum prior to that date, Warren might have been its curator, but there is no evidence of this. Further, though the printed name on the card is Wm. F. Warren, the signature clearly reads W. E. Warren. The handwriting does not match that of President Warren, and there is no record of a W. E. Warren at Boston University.

The verification card indicates that at the time it was authenticated, or loaned to the Boston University Museum, the document was owned by a C. A. Powell of Meridian, Mississippi. Local historian Ann Stewart, of Meridian, found that Powells did live in the area as early as 1871, but that there is no record of a C. A. Powell in the 1870 census.

The physical evidence is equally discouraging to those who would believe that the Carey Document is authentic. Among the experts consulted in this area were Richard Trask, Archivist for the Danvers Archival Center; Michael Lee and Gary Albright, Conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts; and Marjorie Cohn, Curator, and Craigen Bowen, Conservator, of Harvard's Fogg Art Museum. Although they agree that, at first glance, the document at least has an antique air to it, upon closer analysis, it fails on a number of counts.

On the one hand all acknowledge that it is not possible to specifically date the paper. Moreover, tests for lignin (wood pulp) proved to be negative, thereby establishing that the document was prepared on rag-based paper. On the other hand, when compared with other documents known to be from the period, its paper is much thicker, the handwriting is clearly different (described by one person as too flowing, or scriptlike for the time); and the signatures are not a good match.

There are no water marks, which would have been common at the time, and the vertical frame lines are uncharacteristically clear. Frames used in the process of making rag based paper in the seventeenth century commonly left vertical lines with discernible shadows. Such shadows did not disappear until well into the 19th century, thereby leading some of the above mentioned experts to venture a guess that the Carey Document was prepared from paper dating to the mid- to late-19th century.

The water stains, soiling, and deckle edges — all of which suggest age and deterioration — are not convincing. They are too uniform to have occurred over the course of some 300 years. The paper has torn along the fold lines, but, as more than one person commented, the sections line up so well that they suggest an unnatural process of separation. All of those involved concluded that most of the signs of deterioration were added at one time.

The Harvard report explained that the pattern and character of the staining is "highly unusual." It allowed that "hard-edged brown staining" is common, but that such extreme staining should have affected (probably deteriorated) the paper and ink (iron gall ink is partially water soluble). It has not. The report points out that the position and severity of the stains would indicate that the staining occurred when the sheet was folded, and that, given the staining and separation, the document would have had to remain folded for considerable time, causing some mold growth. None is evident.

Iron gall ink was commonly employed in New England at the end of the seventeenth century. Those who visually inspected the Carey Document agreed that its ink does not match known iron gall samples. Iron gall ink, upon being applied is black, and, as it ages, it turns to various shades of brown. The ink on the document has a purple tone. Also, as the Harvard report points out, iron gall ink is very acidic and often causes significant deterioration of the paper to which it is applied. There are no signs of such deterioration on the Carey Document.

The Harvard Conservation Laboratory subjected a sample of ink from the Carey Document to Fourier-Transform Infrared Microscopy. It found the composition of the ink to closely resemble that of orange shellac, a hitherto unknown mixture.

A Fake among Fakes

Aspects of the preceding information might tempt one to conclude that the Carey Document was produced in 1871, or thereabouts. The Boston University Museum card suggests that date; Peter Drummey noted that it was a time of some considerable counterfeiting of such documents; the paper may well date to that period; and there is even that part of the Smith's story about the document having been in the Ward family for three generations, by the 1930s. Quite accidentally, however, I stumbled upon some information that would suggest another date of origin, namely the 1930s.

On October 12, 1932, Charles E. Tuttle, a dealer in rare books from Rutland, Vermont, wrote to Howard Corning, Secretary of the Essex Institute of Salem, Massachusetts, to inform him that someone in the Midwest had offered him what he had reason to believe was a rare and valuable document, namely, a death warrant for Elizabeth How. He enclosed a typewritten copy for Corning's perusal.5

Three days later, on October 15th, Corning responded: "The thing is a fake from beginning to end." He wrote that the institute had been offered several such death warrants, mostly from the South and Midwest, and that he did know whether they had been sent by people who had been "stuck" or by the forger himself, from different parts of the country. In a letter to Tuttle dated November 15th, Corning added that the forger knew enough to deal only with small dealers, and to keep out of the East (in this case meaning Northeast), where the forgery would be more easily detected.

Perhaps Tuttle was not convinced, because on October 22nd, he sent Corning the actual document with the comment: "You will note that it was formerly part of the loan exhibit in the South Carolina Historical Society's collection," by which its history could easily be verified. Subsequent letters would show that Tuttle was referring to a card, once again very similar to that which accompanied the Carey Document, attesting to its authenticity. In this case, it read:

"This document is very rare and valuable — only 22 executions in Massachusetts, only 3 bearing King Phillips mark; pronounced genuine by Massachusetts Historical Society and Rosenbach, New York and by this Society."

In a novel variation on the Carey Document, it added, "This is the only shameful delusion in early American history." The card purported to be from the South Carolina Historical Society in Columbia, South Carolina, and it was signed by J. A. Skaggs, Curator.6 According to the card, the document was loaned to the Historical Society by E. M. Bradley, of Houston, Texas.

Corning's prompt response, dated October 25th, was, once again, unequivocal. "The moment I saw it I knew it was just like all the others," he wrote. To begin with, he continued, the wording and writing were entirely different from the Bridget Bishop death warrant. The ink was no match, and the stains on the paper were obviously faked. Just to be certain, however, Corning showed it to the Massachusetts Historical Society and they pronounced it a forgery as well. On December 17, 1932, Corning wrote to Tuttle that the South Carolina Historical Society had informed him that they had no record of any J. A. Skaggs.7

In a letter to Frederick Melcher of The Publishers Weekly, Corning wrote that he had received several such death warrants, all quite similar, though employing different names for the condemned. The first he had seen, for Sarah Good, had come to him from Wisconsin in August 1932; one arrived later from the South, and several from the Midwest. Once again, he noted, the culprit dealt only with small dealers and inexperienced collectors. Further, he commonly used a hardluck story focused on a sick wife. A notice appeared, much in Corning's words, in the December 10th issue of The Publishers' Weekly.8

The passing of fake Salem death warrants, then, was not an isolated event. Frederick M. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books" columnist, reported that there had been such an increase in the appearance of fakes and forgeries of books and letters that Charles F. Heartman had written an article on the subject for The American Book Collector and that the New York Public Library had started a collection of such items.9

On November 12, 1932, The Boston Evening Transcript warned its readers that someone was "traversing the Southern and Western States endeavoring to sell some skillfully forged death warrant for female witches of Salem, Massachusetts." It added that the fakes were accompanied by verification cards supposedly issued by J. A. Skaggs, Curator of the South Carolina Historical Society. It was also reported that a person calling himself Bradley had been attempting to sell death warrants to librarians in the Midwest, using a story either of being ill or stranded on his way home to Texas, and on January 28th, notice appeared that the forger had struck in Quincy, Illinois.>10

"The Hardest Hardluck Story" Ever

In a letter to Howard Corning of the Essex Institute in December of 1932, A.B. MacDonald, who was a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter, told what at this point is the most complete story that we have of any one of the several related frauds.

One rainy Sunday morning in January, MacDonald wrote, a stranger came to his door. He was a tall, slim man, "with sunken cheeks and an expression of sorrow and weariness in his face." He had alighted from an old car and approached the house wearing a brown overcoat of some thin material that, in clinging to his body, only accentuated his lankiness. He clutched an old cloth cap and leaned wearily against the wall. He introduced himself as E. Newman Bradley, and added that he had been sent to MacDonald by another local amateur collector. He apologized for his appearance, explaining that he had neither washed nor eaten for fifteen hours, and said: "I have a story to tell you."11

Bradley began by telling MacDonald that he had been a captain in the United States air service during World War I. He pointed to a medal he had earned during the war, which he had proudly pinned to his flannel shirt, and produced an official looking paper telling of the brave deed, signed by General John J. Pershing and "some French general." He boasted that while assigned to Camp Custer, he had taught Charles Lindberg to fly, and, finally, he showed MacDonald his army discharge papers, which, also due to his valor, had been signed by General Pershing. Then, dropping his voice which, MacDonald wrote, was filled with sadness, and with tears flowing from his eyes, Bradley said: "Here is something that has broken my heart," and he handed MacDonald a telegram from Houston, Texas, addressed to Bradley at a hotel on Twelfth Street in Kansas City. It reported that his wife had just died.

Bradley explained that he had owned an antique shop in Houston (in support of which he produced a business card), but that when the Depression hit the business had failed. He sold off what he could, closed the shop, and sought other work. The only job he could find, however, was in Kansas City. His wife was too sick to accompany him, but he loaded a few rare books and documents into his car, to sell in case of an emergency, and drove to Kansas City, only to find that the job had been given to someone else. "Here I was, in a strange city, without money," Bradley continued, and while he looked for another job, after only a week, he received news of his wife's death.

So moved was MacDonald by the hardluck story that he was about to offer to help Bradley get back to Houston, when Bradley continued: "I have, out in the car, one of the rarest old documents you ever saw," the death warrant for Elizabeth How. This was, indeed, a coincidence, as only a week before, MacDonald had purchased an old copy of Cotton Mather's The Wonders of the Invisible World (1692), an account of several women accused of witchcraft in New England, among them, Elizabeth How.

Upon producing the document, Bradley explained that he had found it in an old Bible which was part of an estate he had purchased from a Mississippi plantation five years earlier. The document had been placed between two pieces of glass and bound with tape. (The Carey Document and others of the 1930s collection were similarly bound.) Producing the "museum card," Bradley added that he had exhibited the document in South Carolina, whereupon the curator, J. A. Skaggs, had given him the certificate attesting to its authenticity; that the Essex Institute had declared it genuine; that a "Mr. Rosenbach" (likely Abraham or Philip Rosenbach of New York City), "the greatest collector in the world," had offered him $1000 for the document; that the Essex Institute had declared it genuine; and that the Smithsonian Institute had offered to buy it for $500. He pointed out that there were only two other known autographs of King Philip and that Cotton Mather's signature, alone, was worth $500.

Bradley announced that he wanted to sell the document to get enough money to buy gas and oil to drive home. MacDonald suggested that Bradley send the warrant back East, where he could get $1000 for it, but Bradley responded that he could not wait. He offered it to MacDonald for $20. "Do me this favor, please," he begged, "and you may have whatever profit is in it for you."

MacDonald paid the $20, whereupon Bradley thanked him, with tears in his eyes, and hurried to the door. MacDonald followed him, laid his hand on his shoulder and confessed: "Old man, I feel ashamed of myself for giving you only $20 for this, but it is all I have today. If you will wait until tomorrow, when I can cash a check, I will give you $50 or $100." Bradley declined the offer, noting that he had been given what he asked, and rushed away. As he talked he was hurrying off the porch, MacDonald recalled, and "when he reached the walk he broke into a run, leaped into his car, waved a hand at me and away he went, turning the corner on two wheels and so, was out of sight."

Upon telling the story to his family, MacDonald's son immediately pointed to the inaccuracies in Bradley's story and proclaimed him an imposter. Lindberg, the son noted, for example, had not been in the war, and he had learned to fly in Kansas, where he was a stunt flyer. But MacDonald brushed off such points as merely an attempt on Bradley's part to impress him. The warrant was genuine, he was convinced, and he sent it off to Charles Tuttle to be valued.

According to MacDonald, Tuttle's initial letter in response was enthusiastic. He wrote that he too believed it was genuine, though he would look further into it, and that it might be worth $10,000 in normal times, perhaps half that in that year of the Great Depression. MacDonald was ecstatic. He promised his still doubtful wife — who had been mildly critical of the money he had spent on his collecting old books and documents — new dresses, diamonds and, even, a trip to Europe. Upon the urging of his daughter, he agreed, as well, to find Bradley and to split the profit with him.

Within days, however, MacDonald's euphoria began to dissipate. Another collector phoned to invite MacDonald to see something special he had acquired, which he described as "the biggest find ever turned up in Kansas City." It proved to be an exact duplicate of the document MacDonald had purchased. When stories were swapped, it was clear that both had been taken by the same man. The only saving grace for MacDonald was that his friend had spent $50, and that later MacDonald got to sell his copy to Charles Tuttle for $15, thereby accruing only a $5 loss. E. Newman Bradley, by the way, is not listed in any of the Houston city directories from 1928 through 1932, and he was never apprehended

The Forgeries Reappear

The story does not end in the 1930s. In his article on "fakes, forgeries, and frauds," Charles Heartman complained that some of those who had acquired fake documents, and had been told that they were fake, were nevertheless selling them to other unsuspecting people.12 That must have been the case with the Salem death warrants because beginning some thirty years later, and continuing down to the present, death warrants clearly dating to the 1930s episode have reappeared! Verified or not at the time, they had been packed away and forgotten, only to be rediscovered by subsequent generations.

Some Concluding Comments

Considerable evidence suggests that the Carey Document is one of several forgeries hawked in the South and Midwest in 1932 by an individual known to some as E. Newman Bradley. We may never know how William Ward came to own it, but, most likely, at some point in 1932 Bradley's and Ward's paths crossed, and Ward, too, fell prey to what A. B. MacDonald called "the hardest hardluck story" ever. Moreover, Ward and Bradley may have met in Nebraska.13

In the previously mentioned notice, which appeared in the January 21, 1933, issue of The Publishers' Weekly, David H. Randall wrote:

"A person calling himself 'Bradley' who has been canvassing the middle western libraries purporting to sell the original death warrant of a Salem witch, has been heard from, also, in Nebraska, where the librarian of the university detected the fraud.14"

Most likely the university was the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and the librarian, Gilbert Doane. Unfortunately, Doane has been dead for several years, and he left no record of this encounter. We may never know if the fraud detected involved the Carey Document, but E. Newman Bradley did try his luck in Nebraska.


1. Peter Smith, Alfred, Nebraska, to Catherine Smith, Alexandria, Virginia, June 28, 1981, in the possession of Catherine Smith. According to Smith family members, an article on the Carey Document appeared in the Alfred Telegraph soon after it came into Peter Smith's possession, but I have not been able to locate it, and Smith makes no reference to it in his letter.

2. William Ward remained in Alfred until his second wife died in 1951. Soon, thereafter, he remarried and moved to California where he died in 1967.

3. "Death Warrant Grim Reminder of Early Witchcraft." Peter Smith enclosed a copy of the article with his letter to Catherine Smith, noted above. Although as yet undated, it appeared in the Sterling, Colorado Journal Advocate in 1964 or 1965.

4. In 1752, Salem Village became the District of Danvers, and in 1757, the township of the same name. The English Privy Council disallowed the Massachusetts legislative action on the township of Danvers, but the veto was ignored. Danvers was officially incorporated in 1775.

Trask reports that it has never been determined how Danvers actually got its name, but it was not of local origin and was not used, even informally, prior to 1752. Most likely the name was taken from some patron family, perhaps at the request of a member of the Governor's Council in order to secure his vote for the district designation. One Danvers Osborn of England was appointed Governor of New York, but shortly after arriving in that colony in 1753, he committed suicide.

5. Except where noted, all of the following correspondence concerning the How death warrant and A. B. MacDonald is in the above mentioned: Witchcraft Collections; Box 2, Folder 1; "Forged Witchcraft Documents."

6. Actually, the South Carolina Historical Society is in Charleston; the South Carolina Historical Commission is in Columbia.

7. Incidentally, both the South Carolina Historical Society and Historical Commission were aware of the goings-on with the death warrants. On January 30, 1933, perhaps in response to Corning's letters, Historical Society Director Mabel Webber wrote to A. S. Sally, Historical Commission Secretary: "As you can see from the enclosed ... the fake seems to be still on the move." Mabel, Webber, Charleston, South Carolina, to A. S. Sally, Columbia, South Carolina, January 30, 1933, in the possession of the South Carolina Historical Society.

8. Frederick W. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly, December 10, 1932, 2200.

9. Frederick M. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly, December 24, 1932, 2340-2341; Charles F. Heartman, "Fakes, Forgeries and Frauds," The American Book Collector, November 1932, 267-268

10. "Prowlings," Boston Evening Transcript, November 12, 1932, 5; Frederick M. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly, January 14, 1933, 139; David H. Randall, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly, January 21, 1933, 243; Frederick M. Hopkins, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly:, January 28, 1933, 413.

11. The following account is taken from: A. B. MacDonald, "Texas Collector is Forced to Part with a Rare Document," The Kansas City Star, February 19, 1933, 3C.

12. Heartman, 265.

13. MacDonald, "Texas Collector," 3C.

14. David Randall, "Old and Rare Books," The Publishers' Weekly, January 21, 1933, 243.