April 26, 1913 – Mary Phagan

On April 26, 1913, Mary Phagan went to the National Pencil Company factory in Atlanta to collect her pay. Phagan, 13, had been laid off a few days prior due to a shortage of materials and was there to collect her wages. Phagan’s body was found the next day around 3 a.m. by a man who had gone to the bathroom in the factory’s basement. Her dress had been pushed up around her waist, and a portion of her petticoat was wrapped around her neck, as was a 7-foot cord that was buried deep into her flesh, indicating she’d been strangled. Phagan’s face was dirty and scratched with bruising around her head.

Police found the sliding door at the rear of the basement had been tampered with, rendering its lock useless. There were bloody fingerprints on the door and a piece of pipe had been used as a crowbar. Two notes were found by Phagan’s head. One read: “He said he wood love me land down play as the night witch did it, but that long tall Black negro did boy his self.” The other said: “mam that negro hire down here did this i went to make water and he push me down that hole a long tall negro black that hoo it wase long sleam tall negro i write while play with me.” They reportedly were written to pin the crime on the night watchman, one of several suspects.

Police eventually arrested factory superintendent Leo Frank for the murder. Phagan worked across from his office and janitor James Conley implied Frank killed Phagan during a sexual encounter. Conley admitted he wrote the notes and was Frank’s accomplice. Conely was state’s main witness against Frank, who was convicted of murder on Aug. 25, 1913, and sentenced to death. In 1915, a judge commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment. This enraged the people of Georgia and on Aug. 16, a lynch mob kidnapped Frank from Milledgeville State Penitentiary and drove him 175 miles to a spot next to Frey’s Gin outside Marietta where they hung him, facing the direction of Phagan’s house. In 1986, the state of Georgia pardoned Frank, stating it failed to protect him and allow him to appeal his conviction.

1 Response

  1. In response to the post, I would like to share a case-study that relates to the mentioned incident.

    In 2015, I came across a similar case that involved a young woman named Sarah who worked at a local manufacturing company. Sarah, like Mary Phagan, went to collect her pay at the factory one evening. However, she never returned home.

    Sarah’s disappearance sparked a nationwide search, and her family and friends were desperate for answers. The police launched an investigation into the matter

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