Collecting Delaware Books

Red Hannah - Delaware's Whipping Post

delaware whipping post drawing
Delaware whipping post
illustration in Caldwell book

The Book

People in distant states often offer me Delaware books by mail. Sometimes these offers are bargains, because there is little interest in the books in far away places. Just as often, prices are high.

One book that is usually overpriced is Red Hannah by Robert Graham Caldwell, 1947, a scholarly history of Delaware's whipping post. These out-of-state dealers feel the whipping post is so bizarre that everyone must want the book. Or perhaps they have read too many underground Victorian novels, in which whipping and sexual gratification are pervertedly related.

However, Red Hannah is a desirable book in any Delaware collection. It is superb history and uniquely Delaware. The whipping post was the cause of heated debate and much embarrassment to our citizens. Condemned as barbaric and made illegal as early as 1794 in Pennsylvania, Delaware stubbornly clung to this form of punishment until the last public whipping in 1952 and its final removal from the statutes in 1972.

Despite its lurid dust jacket, Red Hannah is a serious history. It gives a balanced description of the people and forces for and against corporal punishment. It also attempts to determine statistically whether the whipping post was an effective deterrent. The overall tone, however, is an indictment of the practice, which was still going on when the book was written.

(The whipping post was once painted red, hence the name "Red Hannah," said to have been used by African American prisoners.)

Dr. Robert Graham Caldwell was a professor of sociology at the University of Delaware, the University of Pennsylvania, and the College of William and Mary. While in Delaware, he was also Director of the Prisoners' Aid Society and a member of the Conference Planning Committee for the National Jail Association.

Check List

Caldwell wrote many articles on prison reform and history. He also published a number of books. Included among his publications are the following. (References to Reed & Reed, A Bibliography of Delaware through 1960 are shown as "R" followed by the entry number.)

1. The New Castle County Workhouse. Philadelphia, 1940. vi, 257 pp. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Pennsylvania. Also published as Delaware Notes v. 13. R 2797

2. Prisoners' Aid Society, Report of the Committee on Prison Records. [1941]. mimeographed. signed by RGC. R 2784.

3. Report on the Proposed Family Court for New Castle County. 1941. mimeographed. Reprinted as "The Case for the Family Court" in Delaware Notes 16:1-10 [1943]. R 2778

4. Penitentiary Movement in Delaware 1776-1829. [Newark, Del. University of Delaware], 1942. viii, 268 pp. mimeographed. R 2764

5. "Delaware's Penal Institutions" in Delaware Notes 15:25-40 [1942]. R 2777

6. "The Deterrent Influence of Corporal Punishment on Prisoners Who Have Been Whipped" in American Sociological Review 9:171-177 [1944]. R 2791

7. The Penitentiary Movement in Delaware 1776-1829. Wilmington, Del., Historical Society of Delaware, c1946. 251 pp. (An excellent history, treating all three counties in detail.)

8. Red Hannah. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1947. xi, 144 pp. 4 leaves of plates.

9. Red Hannah Tabular Supplement. Williamsburg, [1948?]. [29] pp. R 2763

10. "Penological Development in Delaware 1638-1945" in Delaware A History of the First State by H. Clay Reed, 1947.

11. Criminology. New York, Ronald Press Co. viii, 774 pp. (The Morris Library lists the date of a 2nd edition as [1965]. No copy of a first edition is indexed.)

12. Juvenile Delinquency. (with James A. Black). New York, Ronald Press Co., [1971]. viii, 354 pp.

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