Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Jun 25 (1906) Millionaire Harry Thaw Murders Architect Stanford White: "It's the Crime of the Century! Crime of the Century!!!"

Illustration shows a playing card for the Queen of Hearts with the face of a woman, possibly Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, who is holding in her hands a man wearing a tuxedo and top hat.

On this day in 1906, the Pittsburg millionaire, original "playboy" and sociopath Harry K. Thaw put three bullets into his nemesis Stanford White in front of 1,000 theater-goers atop Madison Square Garden in New York City. Stanford White was a prominent architect who designed many New York landmarks, including the Bowery Savings Bank. Stanford was also a former lover of Thaw's wife, the actress and model Evelyn Nesbit.

The Thaw family was famous for buying people's silence when Harry misbehaved. Even though Harry confessed to the crime immediately after the shooting, his ability to pay-off witnesses (including his wife) resulted in a hung jury. His trial was called the "trial of the century."

The story has inspired many fictional accounts, including E.L. Doctorow's novel Ragtime. In the musical Ragtime (based on the book), the character Evelyn Nesbit sings about her experience.

Listen to it here.

Excerpted lyrics below.

The Crime of the Century from the musical Ragtime
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

[JUDGE]
And now, testifying for the defense, Miss Evelyn Nesbit.

[EVELYN]
Whee!

[CHORUS GIRLS]
La la la la 
La la la la la

[EVELYN]
Whee! 

[CHORUS GIRLS]
La la la la 
La la la la la

[EVELYN]
Your honor,
I was once the lady friend of Stanford White.

[CHORUS GIRLS]
He's the famous architect!

[EVELYN]
Yes, that's right.
He put me on a velvet swing,
And made me wear... well... hardly anything!
Ruined at the age of fifteen,
Your honor!
Then I went a married Mr. Harry Thaw...

[EVELYN & CHORUS GIRLS]
Eccentric millionaire.

[CHORUS GIRLS]
Oh! Oh!

[EVELYN]
Harry's a jealous man.

[CHORUS GIRLS]
Bang! Bang!

[EVELYN]
That was the end of Stan.

[CHORUS GIRLS]
Boo hoo!

[EVELYN]
Your honor, be fair!
My Harry went crazy, I swear!

[CHORUS GIRLS]
La la
La la la

[ALL, EVELYN]
Now it's the 
Crime of the Century!
Crime of the Century!
Giving the world a thrill!


Further Reading
Front Page of the New York Tribune, June 26, 1906
History of Harry Thaw and Evelyn Nesbit from the Library of Congress
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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.