“Lydia Sherman”


"Lydia Sherman is plagued with rats, Lydia has no faith in cats, So Lydia buys some arsenic, And then her husband he gets sick, And then her husband, he does die...." Her children follow, and eventually Lydia ends up in prison.


I would love to see a contemporary newspaper account of this trial.

Burt doesn't claim this as a traditional song; it was in a notebook of her mother's, probably from a contemporary publication.

It should perhaps be noted that fatal overdoses of arsenic are not always the result of deliberate poisoning. John Emsley, _Nature's Building Blocks_, article on arsenic (pp. 40-46) notes various common uses of arsenic, including pigments and even a commercial remedy, "Dr. Fowler's Solution." Also, it is possible to build up arsenic tolerance, so if Lydia were tolerant, she might have accidentally poisoned her family while surviving herself. - RBW

Historical references

  • May 1864 - Death of Edward Struck, first husband of Lydia Sherman (she eventually had three)
  • August 1864 - Deaths of George and Ann Eliza, Lydia's children
  • May 16, 1878 - Lydia Sherman dies in prison in Wethersfield, Connecticut


  1. Burt, p. 5, "Lydia Sherman" (1 text)
  2. BI, Burt005


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1958 (Burt)
Found in: US