George Lippard's 'The Killers'

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George Lippard’s 1850 novel The Killers is an interesting exploration of 19th Century Philadelphia that traverses the physical space of the city as its narrative develops. The culture of violence and gang warfare that inspired the novel disrupts some of the historical narratives of Philadelphia as a city of tolerance and brotherly love and creates an alternative history for the city. By tracing the events of the story over a map of the city, we begin to see not only how Lippard is grounding his narrative in reality, but how the very breadth of space that is covered creates the sense of pacing and urgency that makes it such a gripping story. Specific places would have invoked different feelings in a contemporary audience than a modern one, yet by viewing the places on a map modern audiences can also begin to understand these sentiments. The isolation of Elijah becomes more poignant as we see how far the Eastern Penitentiary lies from the rest of the action, while the cluster of spaces in Moyamensing demonstrates the claustrophobia and feelings of entrapment that dominate the scenes of the riot itself. For all of Lippard’s sensationalism, his story is based in fact, and by placing the events in a historical and physical context it becomes easier to recognize Lippard’s story as representative of the grim reality that existed for many in the 19th Century. Also underlying Lippard’s local story of Philadelphia life is the larger story of 19th Century American expansion. The references to Cuba and the slave trade suggest Lippard was thinking about these spatial movements and thus a map is a way of both locating his central narrative and reinforcing to an audience the importance of space, movement and territory.


This map collates places mentioned in both The Killers and an alternative version of the story the Life and Adventures of Charles Anderson Chester. For places not given an exact location in the text, historical research has been used to supplement the available information and give an approximation of the locations that Lippard was envisioning. All references to the text are taken from the University of Philadelphia 2014 edition of the story.