Connecticut housekeeper Lydia Sherman was the most infamous serial killer in Victorian America. She married her first employer and killed him with arsenic. Inspired perhaps by her state’s burgeoning insurance industry, Lydia insured and poisoned five of their seven children. In 1868 she became the housekeeper of a wealthy man whom she soon married. After the honeymoon, husband number two died. In 1870 one Horatio Sherman hired Lydia as a baby nurse. She poisoned his two children and then laced his nightcap with arsenic. The deaths of three husbands and seven children finally made a local Connecticut doctor suspicious; the bodies were disinterred. In 1872 Lydia was sentenced to life in prison because women could not be executed at the time. (The only exception had been Mary Surratt, hanged in 1865.) In this carte de visite, Sherman poses coolly at Cowell's Studio, New Haven, Connecticut, circa 1870.


  • Title: Lydia Sherman (1824-1878)
  • Creator: Daniel T. Cowell
  • Location: New Haven, Connecticut
  • Physical Dimensions: Carte-de-visite (albumen), 4" x 2 1/2"
  • Provenance: The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation
  • Subject Keywords: Murderess
  • Type: Photograph
  • Publisher: Cowell's
  • Date: ca. 1870

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