Monday, November 15, 2010
The Crime of the Century
I love it when I’m researching a project and I discover a fascinating side story that has nothing to do with my WIP, yet pulls me off track for hours, just reading about it.
While reading about Tesla’s experiments on Long Island at Wardenclyffe Tower, I came across a reference to the architect who built the tower, Stanford White. I didn’t recognize the name, but apparently he was an extremely famous and talented architect who was murdered a few years later in what was called The Crime of the Century.
The Crime of the Century? In 1906, the media had already decided that no other crime in the next 94 years could be as important? As a matter of fact, I thought The Crime of the Century (of the 20th century, that is) was the Lindbergh kidnapping.
As it turns out, the media has dubbed countless crimes the most important one of the century – from The Great Brinks Robbery to the Jonestown Massacre. But Stanford White’s murder was the first.
White was shot in the head and killed on the Madison Square Roof Garden by millionaire Harry K. Thaw in front of dozens of witnesses. The motive? Five years earlier, Stanford White (a known womanizer) had carried on an affair with Thaw’s 22-year old wife, Evelyn Nesbitt. The affair occurred before Evelyn, a famous model and chorus girl, had even met her future husband, but Thaw was so violently jealous that he apparently felt the need to kill the man who’d been his wife’s first lover.
Thaw was tried twice for the crime. The jury was deadlocked the first time, and he was acquitted by reason of temporary insanity the second time – although he was subsequently incarcerated in a hospital for the “criminally insane.” His trial (1907-1908) was dubbed – what else? – The Trial of the Century. (Move over OJ Simpson.)
What does this have to do with my current WIP? Absolutely nothing. But it was a fascinating little side trip. And it does make me wonder … what was The Crime of the Century in the 1800’s? And how many of them were there?