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William Calcraft (1800–1879) was the most famous English hangman of the 19th century. One of the most prolific British executioners of all time, it is estimated that he carried out 450 executions during his 45-year career. A cobbler by trade, Calcraft was initially recruited to flog juvenile offenders after meeting the City of London's hangman, John Foxton, while selling meat pies near Newgate Prison. He succeeded Foxton, but his controversial use of the short-drop method of hanging, in which the victims were strangled rather than had their vertebrae broken by the fall when the trapdoor on the gallows was released, caused some to consider him incompetent. Many took several minutes to die, and to hasten their deaths Calcraft sometimes pulled on their legs, or even climbed on their shoulders in an attempt to break their necks. Calcraft's antics may have been intended to entertain the crowds of more than 30,000 that sometimes attended his executions before a change in the law in 1868 meant that executions could only take place in prisons. Among his victims were Marie and Frederick Manning, the first husband and wife to be hanged together since 1700. (Full article...)
The human history of Chincoteague, an island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, begins with Native Americans gathering shellfish there. By one popular tale, chincoteague meant "Beautiful land across the water" in their tongue. European settlers began to use the island in the 17th century. It had few residents, and was used primarily for grazing livestock – probably the origin of the feralChincoteague ponies, which used to roam in the wild. The local fishing and seafood resources began to be systematically exploited in the early 19th century, and oysters became a major industry after the Civil War. Chincoteague's relative isolation ended in 1876 when the railroad arrived at Franklin City, across Chincoteague Bay, and a steamboat service was introduced; a causeway completed in 1922 allowed automobiles to reach the island. The Chincoteague Fire Department was established in 1925 and took over the traditional pony penning to raise funds. The annual carnival, pony swim (pictured), and subsequent auction now attract tens of thousands of visitors. The island, which was publicized by the 1947 book Misty of Chincoteague that became a 1961 film, is a major tourist destination in the area. (Full article...)