Elizabeth Holstein #19thcentury #pennsylvania

SUMMARY: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holstein, age 23, died on November 16, 1882 after an abortion perpetrated in Philadelphia by dentist George Buchanan.

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Lizzie's Life

Elizabeth "Lizzie" Holstein, age 23, originally worked as a house servant in Wilmington, Delaware before moving to Philadelphia. In June of 1882, she and her beau, Willard Kauffman, traveled to her family's home in Milton, Delaware, to ask for her parents' permission to marry. She returned to Philadelphia, where she continued a job as a family servant until October 30, when she moved in with her aunt, Mrs. Maggie Rust, on Moyamensing Avenue.

Lizzie Takes Ill

Lizzie returned briefly to her employer's home on November 7 to retrieve some of her clothing. At the time she was suffering with a fever and chills. She corresponded with her parents about her illness, and they traveled to Philadelphia to be with her. Lizzie's condition seemed to be improving with her, and she went around the city sightseeing with her parents on a Friday and Saturday. They were preparing for a third trip on Sunday, but Lizzie had relapsed and the trip was cancelled.

Lizzie's condition steadily deteriorated over Monday. On Tuesday evening she spoke to her aunt and confessed that she was ailing from the effects of an abortion. Lizzie's aunt reported that Lizzie had taken up her set of artificial teeth and said, "Aunt, the man who made these is the cause of all my suffering." Mrs. Rusk asked Elizabeth to be more specific, and she replied, "George Buchanan, at Fifth and Pine Streets." Lizzie said that the abortion in question had been perpetrated the night of October 7. Kauffman had given her the money to pay for it.

Deathbed Statement

Dr. Samuel D. Marshall, who had attended to Lizzie in her final sickness, said that she'd made a deathbed statement in which she identified "the cause of her suffering" as "Dr. Buchanan, of Fifth and Pine streets." (George Buchanan's dental office was at 501 Pine Street.) Dr. Marshall thought that Lizzie was referring to John Buchanan, an evidently well-known local criminal who had been convicted of some crime having to do with issuing bogus diplomas. John Buchanon was George Buchanan's father.

Dr. Marshall said to Lizzie, "Why, I understand that he is in prison." But it was established that the elder Buchanan was indeed out of prison at the time. Lizzie clarified to Dr. Marshall that the man who had done her abortion was "the man who made my teeth last June. He's a big man."

Lizzie's Death

In spite of all that Dr. Marshall could do, Lizzie died on November 16 from cumulative blood loss. Lizzie's parents knew nothing about the pregnancy or the abortion until after her death.

The Investigation

Dr. Marshall notified the coroner's office. The police came to the house and got Lizzie's false teeth, which they brought to George Buchanan. He identified them as his work, whereupon he was arrested.

During the investigation, the younger Buchanan said that he didn't remember taking impressions for Lizzie's teeth and in fact did not recollect her at all. He had been at home, he said, between 5 and 6 p.m. on the evening of October 7, the day Lizzie said she'd gone to his office for the abortion. However, his father, who had been in prison for charges the local reader was presumed to be familiar with, was also spending time at the dental office at that time as well, doing work for his son including taking dental impressions.

A man named Alfred Urian, who had been in some way entangled with the elder Buchanan's shenanigans, testified that he had been the one who had made Lizzie's false teeth. The younger Buchanan, he said, had not been at his dental office the night Lizzie said the abortion had been done.

The elder Buchanan was a larger man than his son, which led to some conjecture as to whether he or his son had been the man Lizzie had described to Dr. Marshall. Later, when the younger Buchanan was put on trial, character witnesses were brought forward to testify that even though the elder Buchanan was "a notorious man," his son was not known to have a besmirched character.

I have been unable to establish if the elder Buchanan had been out of prison at the time Lizzie's false teeth had been made.

Buchanan Convicted

George Buchanan was convicted in Lizzie's death, but was quickly granted a new trial. I have been unable to determine if the trial actually took place and, if so, what the outcome was.

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