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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | The Crime of the Century

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?

11 Responses to The Crime of the Century

  1. salarsenッ says:

    I agree. That is a fascinating story. But good’ole Stanford just doesn’t look like the womanizer kind of dude. *shiver* lol

  2. Linda G. says:

    How intriguing! And it just goes to show you–never trust a superlative. 😉

  3. What a fun thing diversion from your story… it’s nice to take a break and read something interesting and unexpected!! Great story!

  4. That poor woman. Or maybe it was better for her that her husband was locked up. That doesn’t sound like a guy anyone should be married to. Seriously.

  5. Marva Dasef says:

    I got a yeast starter on my murder mystery about a girl, age 8-9, who murdered a younger boy. I wanted to do a book about this child (literally) killer, but it wandered off into something else. Still, fascinating reading.

  6. I just have to add that everytime I look at Stanford’s walrus mustache, I break out into giggles/shudders.

    Wouldn’t it tickle?
    Wouldn’t it be kind of like kissing a pair of rats?

  7. Sun Singer says:

    I remember getting sidetracked by that whole crime story myself while–yes, you guessed it–researching something else. Fascinating story.


  8. JEM says:

    DUDE, I am researching Madison Square Garden II for my current project and read about THE SAME THING. White was the architect for that building as well, and was killed in the apartment he made for himself there (as you said in the post). This was like deja vu all over again. I need to get on board your research train, because all of this research is KILLING me.

  9. *waves from your new cyberstalker* Between this and Dear Teen Me I’m looking forward to getting to know you better. 😉

  10. Malcolm and JEM — quite a coincidence, running into the same murder while researching (probably) very different projects! I guess it really was a big thing.

    The 20th century was bookmarked by celebrity murders, I guess: This one and the Simpson case at the other end.

  11. Lenny Lee* says:

    hi miss dianne! yikes! it looks like a bird flew up that guys nose and just the wings are sticking out. ha ha. that was a pretty cool story. wow that guy that did the killing sure was strange. but he dresses pretty good and i could like to have that neat hat. ack! ha ha.
    …hugs from lenny