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On June 25, 1906, architect Stanford White is shot and killed by the jealous husband of his lover. White was the son of the essayist, critic, and Shakespearean scholar Richard Grant White. He was one of the most popular and prolific architects in the country.
White excelled at designing graceful structures set off by exquisite Italian Renaissance ornamentation. Among his more important commissions in New York City were the Madison Square Garden (1891), the Washington Memorial Arch (1891), the New York Herald Building (1892), and the Madison Square Presbyterian Church (1906). White was a versatile artist who designed jewelry, furniture, and a wide range of interior decorations. An enthusiastic and extroverted man, he was noted for his lavish lifestyle. He was shot to death on June 25, 1906 at Madison Square Garden by Henry Kendall (“Harry”) Thaw, the jealous husband of showgirl Evelyn Nesbit, with whom White was having an affair. Thaw was the son of coal and railroad tycoon William Thaw. Nesbit was immortalized in the 1955 movie “The Girl in the Velvet Swing” starring Joan Collins and Ray Milland. Nesbit also served as the technical advisor on the film.
Harry Thaw was tried three timesfor the murder of Stanford White. Due to the unusual amount of publicity the case had garnered, it was ordered that the jury members be sequestered. This was the first time in the history of American justice system that such a restriction was ordered. After forty-seven hours, the twelve jurors emerged deadlocked. Seven had voted guilty, and five deemed Henry Kendall Thaw not guilty. Thaw was outraged that the trial had not vindicated the murder; that the jurors had not recognized it was the act of one chivalrous man defending innocent womanhood. He went into fits of physical flailing and crying when he considered the very real possibility that he would be labeled a madman and imprisoned in an asylum. At the second trial Thaw had pleaded temporary insanity and was found not guilty by reason of insanity, and sentenced to incarceration for life at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Fishkill, New York. His wealth allowed him to arrange accommodations for his comfort and be granted privileges not given to the general population. On July 16, 1915 a jury in his thids trial found Thaw not guilty, no longer insane, and set him free.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Murder & Mayhem 52 Crimes that Shocked Early California 1849-1949. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following link: