Murder on the
By Melissa Ann Madden
In the breezy heat of summer, June 25, 1906, a group of wealthy revelers gathered on the roof of the old
(the gilded building that was actually located at Madison Square Garden Madison Square) to watch the premiere of a mediocre musical review. The women wore elaborate, beaded dresses and feathered hats. The men, dressed in dapper suits and many sporting sculptured facial hair, smoked cigars. The good-humored crowd paid some attention to the chorus girls and singers, but also actively socialized. Thus, the performers struggled to be heard above the din of voices and clinking glasses.
One man, a jovial fifty-something redhead with a fashionable moustache, appeared mesmerized by the showgirls. He sat near the front of the stage by himself, which was unusual for this highly social man. The man applauded wildly, grinning and winking at the virginal-looking girls who sang a lively song about dueling.
Meanwhile, another, younger man moved through the crowd towards the older man. This handsome, glowering figure drew a slight amount of attention by wearing a black overcoat in the heat of summer. Earlier in the evening the hatcheck girl had made numerous attempts to check the coat, but the man had steadfastly refused.
Still, the crowd paid little attention to the eccentrically dressed man, assuming he sought out friends. Most recognized him, if they did not know him personally. A couple of people noticed him approach the older man's table, only to fall back for a few moments and stare. As a performer broke into a song called "I Could Love A Million Girls," the younger man finally strode over to table of the older man.
From beneath the overcoat, the young man produced a pistol and fired three close range shots directly into the face of the older man. The victim's elbow, suddenly inert, slid off the table, which overturned with a thump and a clatter. The body slumped to the floor.
At first, there was awkward silence. Then, there came a bit of terse laughter — as many assumed the spectacle to be part of the show. Elaborate practical jokes were commonplace among
society. As the mangled and bloody face, blackened with powder burns, became visible, the screams began. New York
The killer, showing little emotion, removed the rest of the bullets from his pistol. As he moved towards the exit, he held the gun aloft to indicate he had ceased shooting, but this gesture did no good. Panic ensued, and people raced for the doors. The theatre manager pleaded for calm and absurdly bade the show to go on, but the orchestra petered out after a half-hearted attempt to play. The terrified chorus girls could not sing. Someone threw a white tablecloth over the victim, still flopped across the floor next to his overturned table. When blood soaked through the sheet, the man hastily added a second cloth.
Meanwhile, the killer found his confused party of friends standing by the elevators. A stunning, copper-curled woman in a white eyelet dress saw the pistol, still held aloft in her husband's hand.
"Good God, Harry! What have you done?" asked Evelyn Nesbit Thaw.
"All right dearie," replied Harry Thaw of
calmly, "I have probably saved your life." Pittsburgh
The man lying dead in the rooftop theatre was Stanford White —
's leading architect, designer and arbiter of taste. He had founded elite clubs, made spectacular donations to charity and promoted America 's best institutions. Even if he had not died in such a scandalous manner, White's death would have made national, if not worldwide, headlines. New York City
The Gilded Age was an era known for its splendid excesses, and the most acute gaps between rich and poor in history. White, who was fortunate to be born among the former, built many of the most famous buildings of the day. He designed and decorated spectacular
Fifth Avenue mansions for the Astors, the Vanderbilts and other high society families. Whether a family wanted to live simply or opulently, White built more masterpieces all along the eastern seaboard. The projects went over budget, but the charming and forceful White always managed to convince the families that they were obliged to excess.
Not limited to private homes, White built or enhanced many of the great public edifices of his time. He illustrated how hefty donations could be used for the glory of God and church patrons by creating ornate interior pieces for Saint Bartholomew's and the Church of the Ascension, among others. He built the most famous private clubs of his day: The Century, The Player's Club, The Lambs and The Brooks. He designed the Washington Square Arch, one of only two of his structures that still remain in
. New York City
Ironically, White's most famous and triumphant work became the scene of his own murder —
. The acuteness of this irony was lost on all but those who knew White best. That is, people who knew that this pillar of society, husband and father, led a double life. At the ornate building with its spectacular tower apartment and rooftop gardens, White's two worlds met. Madison Square Garden
White's family knew he kept a loft apartment at the Garden. Often obsessed with work, he needed a large, private space to create his designs. Indeed, White often sketched, took photographs and drafted in the extravagant tower apartment. What White's family, including wife Bessie, did not know or chose not to see, was White's other use for his apartment.
elite White's reputation as a libertine and voluptuary was legendary. Specifically, White had a particular affection for very young ladies and had been known to keep company with many of Broadway's freshest showgirls. He often threw lavish parties for the girls and his friends. At one such gathering, a young innocent named Susie Johnson burst forth from a pie dressed only in a perfunctory bit of chiffon. Other times, White threw more intimate affairs at his tower apartment. New York
Inside the apartment, he had installed a red velvet swing. Many girls, it had been rumored, had delighted in playing on that swing. Always generous, White usually supported his young protégées. He bought them presents, saw to it their teeth were fixed, bought dance and singing lessons and sometimes paid their rent.
Naturally, White attended the theatre regularly. In 1901, the hit Broadway show Florodora featured a chorus of six young girls. These famous girls were dressed prettily and danced simply.
The male chorus sang:
"Tell me, pretty maiden,
Are there any more at home like you?"
The girls replied:
"There are few, kind, sir,
But simple girls and proper, too."
Among the Florodora sextet, White spied a sixteen-year old, copper-curled innocent — fresh from
. Her name was Evelyn Nesbit. Pittsburgh
The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing
For Evelyn Nesbit, her stint in Florodora's chorus was a dream come true. The Florodora sextet's fame was comparable to today's supermodels. Talent was secondary to beauty, and rich and powerful men wanted to be seen with them. The papers followed the girls' social lives, and many of the sextet made marriages far above their station. For the first time in many years, Evelyn's future looked bright.
She had been born to moderate prosperity — her father was a lawyer. However, Mr. Winfield Scott Nesbit died when Evelyn was eight, and his family was thrown into terrible poverty. Debts mounted, and the furniture was sold. Mrs. Nesbit attempted to run several boarding houses but eventually resorted to taking in washing and sewing to make ends meet.
Evelyn & Howard Nesbit
She moved the family, including Evelyn and her younger brother Howard, from place to place in desperation and despair. Howard and Evelyn's educations ceased early. Evelyn often found her mother weeping uncontrollably as bills piled up. When he was twelve, Howard attempted to work as a cash boy but failed due to his weak constitution. The family often went without food. Meanwhile, Evelyn constructed a fantasy world for herself. She read dime novels and magazines that told stories of princesses, fairies and knights in shining armor.
As Evelyn reached puberty, she knew she was beautiful. Although she was more slender than fashion dictated, she had a luxurious head of copper hair, delicate features and smooth olive skin. Headstrong and wilful, she resolved that her beauty would be hers and her family's means of escape from their dour existence. A friend of the family introduced her to a well-known
artist named John Storm. She began modeling for him on a regular basis. Soon, Storm passed Evelyn's name along to other artists, and her virginal picture began to appear in books and magazines. Mrs. Nesbit objected to modeling as it was a bohemian profession, but she hardly objected to the money Evelyn earned. Philadelphia
Soon, the fifteen-year-old Evelyn had the financial upper hand and insisted the family move to
so she could pursue her career. Mrs. Nesbit complained that this course would be Evelyn's ruin, but they went anyway. New York
, Evelyn immediately found work as an artist's model, but she soon discovered the real money lay in posing for fashion photographers. So, she left the artist studios for the fashion pages of Sunday World and Sunday American. She knew that this kind of work might lead to a career on the stage. Only fifteen, she was aware that modeling careers were short, and she needed to expand her horizons. When a theatrical magazine published her photo, the offers came. New York
Within days, Evelyn had joined the chorus of Florodora, and her mother's objections to the bohemian lifestyle became soft and infrequent.
Harry Thaw of
"I am Harry Thaw of
This was the proud, trademark introduction of Henry Kendall Thaw, the man who would marry Evelyn and murder White. Like Thaw, Evelyn also hailed from
, but might as well have been from the moon, so separate was her world from Thaw's Pittsburgh
The heir to a multi-million dollar mine and railroad fortune — mansions, servants, ponies, luxurious coaches and private schools shaped his existence. The Prince of
, Thaw had routinely jabbed his silver spoon at whomever and whatever had gotten in his way. From birth, his history was one of temper tantrums, public fits and violent outbursts. Pittsburgh
His formidable mother, known to everyone as Mother Thaw, claimed that her son's difficulties began in the womb and grew worse with age. By age three, despite a frail appearance, her little boy could scream until he got his way. His early teachers described him as "unintelligible" and a troublemaker. By adolescence, the boy's fits became paranoid and strange. He sometimes crawled under his desk and in a trancelike state, refused to come out. As a teenager, Thaw went from school to school. At each one, he seemed unhappier and less successful.
Being who he was, Harry had no trouble gaining admission to the
to study law. The University appealed to him because he could live in his family's palatial mansion instead of a stifling dormitory. Thaw's ailing father noticed that Thaw spent little or no time studying. University of Pittsburgh
Soon, William Thaw passed away. A wise man, he had locked his unstable son's fortune into a trust fund with an allowance of $200 per month for life. However, Mother Thaw thought this sum overly harsh for her boy. Soon, she raised Thaw's allowance to a more comfortable $80,000 per year.
Thaw left the
University of Pittsburgh for the prestigious . At this time, a fortune and a place on the social register could still gain a young man admission. Thaw later bragged that he had studied "poker" at Harvard. His other activities included drinking binges, attending cockfights and romancing young women. His short career there ended after he chased a cab driver through the streets of Harvard University with a shotgun. Harvard's President Elliot, unimpressed with Thaw's assertion that the shotgun had been unloaded, expelled him. Cambridge
In the years following his expulsion, Thaw lived a wealthy, privileged and raucous existence. His public fits continued, and he became particularly well known for overturning the tables of fine restaurants. He often traveled to
Europe where he socialized with Lady Churchill and Baron Rothschild. He frequently found himself in , as well, where he claimed to be "studying." New York
One subject that interested him was the theater, and he regularly attended Broadway shows. He squired chorus girls about town, despite dark rumors that suggested his penchant for dog whips. A huge fan of Florodora, Thaw took a keen interest in the beautiful Pennsylvania-born chorine who had become the beneficiary of Stanford White's charity.
Stanny and Evelyn
When White first saw Evelyn in the chorus of Florodora, he was entranced. He knew another member of the chorus, Edna Goodrich, and arranged for her and Evelyn to meet him in the tower apartment for lunch. Mrs. Nesbit balked, but Edna's mother (also a chorus "girl") convinced her that White was a gentleman and could be very good for her daughter's career.
Edna and Evelyn dined with White and another man at the tower. After the meal, White gave the girls a tour of the studio, which contained multiple rooms and floors. To Evelyn, the place seemed like a fairy world. In White's spectacular studio, she saw opulent tapestries, antique furniture imported from
Europe, valuable paintings and gorgeous lighting. On the second floor, there was a huge room filled with White's sketches, drawings and paintings. The plush red velvet swing hung in the center of that room.
White invited Evelyn to swing. She hopped upon the seat and swung as high as she could, laughing brightly. White had placed a paper Japanese parasol within reach of the swinger's feet. Evelyn delighted in punching holes in the fan.
Soon, she was exhausted with joy. White made charming conversation and offered to pay his dentist to fix Evelyn's teeth. He sent her home with the dentist's card and a promise to invite her again soon.
Evelyn raved to her mother about White. He was the most charming, magnetic, smartest man she'd ever known. She couldn't wait to lunch with him again. The second lunch happened shortly thereafter, and again Evelyn had a splendid time.
Except, Mrs. Nesbit avoided taking Evelyn to the dentist. Evelyn pouted and repeated the fact that White thought her bad tooth ruined her smile. White pressed to meet the mother and plead his case. Finally, Mrs. Nesbit visited White at his office, and to Evelyn's pleasure, returned from the meeting convinced of White's good intentions.
Evelyn went to the dentist. A week later, Mrs. Nesbit, Evelyn and Howard moved from their small rooms to the luxurious Audubon Hotel. Shortly thereafter, White arranged for Howard to attend
Chester Military Academy outside of . Philadelphia
When Mrs. Nesbit planned a trip to
to visit her new fiancé, Mr. Holman, she left her daughter in White's care. White's car picked up Evelyn after the evening's performance and brought her to the tower apartment. She had never been there at night, much less un-chaperoned. Evelyn, feeling very grown-up, had several glasses of champagne during their intimate dinner. White amused her with stories of people's odd decorating requests. Evelyn gossiped about her cast mates. Pittsburgh
After the meal, White served her more champagne. He brought her to the bedroom and asked her to try on a silky yellow kimono. She put on the garment and enjoyed the exotic vision of herself in the bedroom's gilded mirrors. She noticed that White trembled whenever he got close to her. Lying there, she began to feel groggy and lost consciousness.
Hours later, Evelyn awoke to find pain between her legs. She saw the evidence of White's violation on her thighs, and she gasped with fright.
"Now you belong to me!" declared White with gentle triumph. He caressed and kissed her.
In the ensuing years, Evelyn told different versions of the story from this point forward. In some cases, she screamed in terror and anguish at her ruin. She claimed to hate him but believed no decent man would have her. So, she remained his mistress. In other versions, her cries were of delight at becoming a woman at the hands of such a magnificent man. Given her youth, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
Evelyn's diaries indicate she bore White a certain amount of affection, but there is little doubt he took advantage of her. He was in his late forties, a married man and treated Evelyn with fatherly affection and indulgence. She was only sixteen, had grown up in miserable poverty and had missed the love and support of her dead father.
During the time Evelyn spent as White's mistress, other men paid her attention. A young John Barrymore wooed her and proposed marriage, but the man who would become most significant to Evelyn was, of course, Henry K. Thaw.
Evelyn had heard rumors about Thaw from the other chorus girls of Florodora and been warned that he was trouble and she should avoid him. She did so.
However, in early 1902, an anonymous admirer began sending Evelyn elaborate flower arrangements and gifts — which she accepted. The admirer called himself "Mr. Monroe."
Eventually, a friend of Evelyn's invited her to a posh restaurant for an after hours party. Although Evelyn thought it odd, she went. There, she met Harry K. Thaw of
, who revealed himself as the mysterious "Mr. Monroe." Pittsburgh
Evelyn stayed and made polite conversation, but things grew odder when Thaw pressed her for information about her relationship with White.
Before either man had met Evelyn, Thaw hated White, who he blamed for a humiliating snub by some chorus girls.
Thaw asked, "Why does your mother permit you to know that beast?" referring to White.
Evelyn kept her cool and politely took her leave.
Despite her attempts to avoid him, Thaw remained on the fringes of her life — loitering about the theatre and occasionally showing up at her hotel room.
At this time, Evelyn was still deeply involved with White, and he vehemently warned her against seeing Thaw. Evelyn dutifully obeyed, and when White spent time away with his family, she kept company with the young John Barrymore. How she eventually found herself with Thaw is a complicated story.
The relationship with Barrymore put Evelyn in an awkward "condition." Although Barrymore proposed, White intervened and installed the still-teenaged Evelyn in The Demille School for girls in
. Mrs. Demille, the headmistress and mother of film pioneer Cecil B., treated her kindly and saw that she was taught literature, music and French. Seven months into her stay, Evelyn was stricken with "appendicitis." New Jersey
During her ordeal, Thaw came calling. He lavished her with gifts and praise. Mrs. Demille encouraged the relationship, despite Evelyn having told Mrs. Demille that Thaw "almost scares me to death."
Yet, Thaw had managed to charm not only Mrs. Demille, but Evelyn's mother as well. When Evelyn's "attack" had begun, Mrs. Nesbit had informed both White and Thaw of the situation. Thaw arranged Mrs. Nesbit's transportation to
, and they were both present as Evelyn went under the ether. New Jersey
When she awoke, White had arrived and agreed to move Evelyn to a
sanatorium. Both White and Thaw visited her regularly, but never at the same time. The two rivals always seemed to miss each other. New York City
Evelyn and Harry
Upon her return to
, Evelyn found her relationship with White had changed. Certainly, he was still attentive, but she was a no-longer-innocent eighteen and White's interest was waning. New York City
Thaw's affections, on the other hand, remained ardent. During her stay in the sanatorium, he saw to it that her every wish was granted. Evelyn had gourmet food, flowers and presents in abundance. Thaw even presented Evelyn's nurse with a gift from Tiffany's. As she recovered, Thaw suggested they take a trip to
to speed her recovery. Afterwards, they would tour Paris Europe.
Mrs. Nesbit balked at the idea of cutting themselves off from White. Evelyn, however, disagreed. She probably saw the writing on the wall, or she hoped that time apart from White would heat up his interest.
In any case, Thaw, Mrs. Nesbit and Evelyn journeyed to
. Unbeknownst to Thaw, Mrs. Nesbit carried a $500 letter of credit from White. Ever the gentleman, he had given the draft as a parting gift — for "emergencies." On the trip, Thaw spent lavishly on Evelyn and her mother. They wore new couture clothes each day and dined in the finest restaurants each night. Evelyn's hands, arms and neck sparkled with jewels. Paris
Thaw proposed, but Evelyn demurred. She claimed she wished to devote her life to the stage. A frustrated and confused Thaw persisted. For weeks and weeks, he persisted.
Finally, he asked her "Are you a good girl? Pure?"
Evidently, he believed her "appendicitis" to be appendicitis.
Evelyn tried to avoid the question, but he pressed her for an answer. He gripped her violently and shouted at her. Afraid he would wake her sleeping mother, Evelyn promised to tell the truth.
"Was it Stanford White?" asked Thaw.
True to her word, Evelyn told Thaw the vivid, sordid details of her visits to the tower apartment. She spoke of the red velvet swing and the drugged champagne. In this version, her screams were of terror and despair.
Evelyn dramatically claimed that in her ruined state, she could not marry Thaw. How could he live with the fact that White had deflowered his wife? How could such a splendid man as Thaw live with that humiliation? His family would disown him, and she could not live with that on her conscience. She cared for him too much.
"The beast!" swore Thaw as he wept.
Over the next weeks Thaw's rage grew, but so did his ardor. Over and over, he demanded Evelyn recount the tale of ruin. She did so — each time with enhanced detail.
Eventually, Thaw, Evelyn and Mrs. Nesbit traveled to
where Thaw discovered that Mrs. Nesbit had bought some lingerie for herself and Evelyn with White's money. This led to a terrible falling out between the two, and Thaw packed Mrs. Nesbit off back to London on the first ship that sailed. New York
The chaperone he promised to find for himself and Evelyn never appeared. Evelyn found hypodermic needles that belonged to Thaw — who shot up both cocaine and morphine. His fits and tantrums became more frequent and violent. He and Evelyn traveled to
and stayed together in an isolated castle. Although she thought of escape, Evelyn had no money and nowhere to go. Germany
From the beginning, Evelyn felt trapped in Schloss Katzenstein — even though the little castle made her feel like a princess from one of the stories she had read as a girl. During a thunderstorm, a naked Thaw came to her bed. She struggled, but he only became more forceful and soon produced a dog whip.
He beat her savagely, despite her desperate sobs and pathetic pleas for mercy.
Then, to Evelyn's confusion and terror, the rage disappeared.
"I suppose you hate me now," said the remorseful Thaw.
She told him that she hated and detested him, but she did not escape. They traveled through
Europe for weeks. Finally, Evelyn convinced Thaw to allow her return to . New York
A Reluctant Marriage
Evelyn arrived back to her hotel, where the rooms White gave her were waiting. Soon, the fatherly "Stanny" came to call. He took Evelyn in his arms and she wept. Gradually, she told the horrible story of her trip to
Europe and Thaw's abuse.
White became enraged and even arranged for Evelyn to give a deposition to a well-known lawyer, Abe Hummel, regarding her experiences with Thaw. White claimed that Hummel could protect her from him.
Yet, Evelyn's "meetings" with White became few and far between. He treated her with respect and affection, but he no longer trembled whenever he was near her. She heard stories of his attachment to other chorus girls. Then, she failed to receive an invitation to White's famous Christmas party.
Meanwhile, Thaw overwhelmed Evelyn with more flowers, gifts and love notes. At first she resisted, but as the memory of the beating faded, Evelyn's feelings softened. Thaw got down on his knees and begged.
Evelyn returned to him. More trips through
Europe followed. More gifts. More jewels. Then, in 1905, Evelyn fell victim to a rare medical anomaly. She had a second attack of "appendicitis." After a long recuperation, Evelyn left the hospital and found herself an apartment. She aimed to separate herself from Thaw, but he came around again and again.
Then, Mrs. William Thaw of
came to call upon Evelyn. She was blunt. Her son loved Evelyn, and it was her wish that they be married. Evelyn brought up Thaw's eccentricities, but Mother Thaw dismissed them. She believed that settling down would cure her son's behavior. Pittsburgh
So, Evelyn returned to her hometown and became the wife of Harry K. Thaw. She lived in the grand house with Mother Thaw and her husband. Evelyn's new mother-in-law did her best to introduce Evelyn to
society, but even the powerful Mother Thaw could not overcome Evelyn's reputation. Evelyn rarely received invitations anywhere and had no companionship her own age. Thaw sometimes paid ardent attention to Evelyn. Other times, he disappeared for days. By all accounts, she was bored and lonely, but resigned to her fate. Pittsburgh
In the summer of 1906, she and Thaw decided to travel to
Europe again. Before departing, however, they planned a two-week trip to . On that trip, they attended the opening of a musical called Mamzelle New York City — where they would encounter the man Thaw called "The Beast." Champagne
The Trial of the Century
Even though the twentieth century had only begun, newspapers dubbed Henry K. Thaw's murder trial "The Trial of the Century." Muckrakers dug up all sorts of stories about White's lascivious behavior with young women. Competing papers found young girls that insisted White was a perfect gentleman. The famous moralist Anthony Comstock firmly sided with Thaw, saying that
would be better off with more men like Thaw. President Roosevelt followed the case carefully. America
In one shocking twist, Evelyn's own mother — now Mrs. Charles Holman, announced her intention to clear White's good name. She released a statement deriding Thaw and praising White to the heavens. She claimed Evelyn was "head-strong, self-willed and beautiful and that led to all her trouble." Mother Thaw dispatched a lawyer to see the Holmans, and quite suddenly Evelyn's mother was too sick to testify for the prosecution.
Meanwhile, the press relentlessly swarmed around Evelyn. She told them she was confident her husband would be vindicated. She rarely left her hotel except for her daily visits to her husband's jail cell. Privately, Mother Thaw had agreed to pay her daughter-in-law a million dollars to stand by her son and (rumor had it) divorce him quietly when the trouble was finished.
Thaw was kept in the legendary
jail, known as "The Tombs." Although denied bail, he bribed himself into relative comfort. He had his meals delivered from Delmonico's and surrounded himself with comforts like linens, pillows and Tiffany lamps. He chatted amicably with the guards and smoked cigars with them. New York
Thaw In Jail
Six months after the murder, Thaw's trial began. Mother Thaw hired a number of fine and expensive attorney's for her son. The nationally known criminal defense attorney Mr. Delphin Delmas led the team. His strategy was clear from the start. Thaw pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The District Attorney, Mr. William Travers Jerome, saw it as a clear case of premeditated murder.
He called White's nineteen-year-old son as his first witness. Lawrence Grant White had dined with his father the night of the murder before meeting some friends at a different theatre. At midnight, the police knocked on his townhouse door and informed him his father was dead. The young man rode to the family Long Island Estate to tell his mother. At the trial,
testified that his father had been in excellent spirits that night. Lawrence
More witnesses followed. Walter Paxton, The Madison Square Garden engineer, testified to the conversation Thaw had with Evelyn at the elevators. The doctor who treated White at the scene identified Thaw as the killer.
Then, the prosecution rested, and the defense began their long-winded case. First, a parade of doctors and friends testified to Thaw's irrational behavior. More witnesses dragged the victim's reputation through the mud. All of this was a warm-up to the star attraction: the testimony of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw.
She had attended the trial each day, dressed in the conservative style favored by the Thaw family. At her side was May Mackenzie, a close theater friend whose flamboyant dress contrasted with Evelyn's and irritated the defense. Miss Mackenzie's presence reminded the jury of the disreputable circles in which the younger Mrs. Thaw moved. Evelyn, who obeyed Mother Thaw and her lawyers on every other point, insisted she could not cope without the presence of her friend.
Finally, Delmas called Evelyn to the stand. The circus atmosphere reached its peak during the days she testified. A huge crowd gathered outside the courtroom, and newspapermen clamored to record every detail of the days' events. Many noted that in her conservative clothing, Evelyn did not look a day over sixteen.
Delmas questioned Evelyn gently about her relationship with White. She told of his initial kindness and how White had gained the trust of her mother. She described in detail her lunchtime visits and romps on the velvet swing.
Then, Evelyn spoke of her ruin. She told the courtroom about the drugged champagne and yellow kimono. She described her tears and screams in the same vivid detail that she'd employed in the
hotel room with Thaw. The courtroom hushed in shame, and even some jurors displayed visible outrage. Paris
Delmas cleverly emphasized that Thaw had heard the same story, in the same awful detail. Evelyn told of her husband's tears and sobs when she had related her tale. Yet, despite the ruin, Thaw loved her enough to marry her.
Thaw's face displayed anguish and love throughout the testimony — as if he was reliving the pain all over again. Cynics whispered that Thaw had learned some tricks of the trade from his actress wife.
After a brief interval, the prosecution cross-examined Evelyn. Jerome did his best to bring to light Evelyn's unsavory past. His questions implied that Evelyn knew well what the married White's intentions were. He called into question whether the champagne had been drugged at all. She appeared nervous and scandalized by his inquires.
"Did you love Stanford White?" he asked.
"No," Evelyn replied.
"You hated him."
He pressed her harder. Why, then, did Evelyn continue to meet White? Evelyn tearfully claimed to have resisted his caresses, but she and her family depended on his support. In addition, White had forcefully insisted on seeing her. Jerome brought up the deposition Evelyn had made against Thaw, but Evelyn claimed she'd made the deposition under duress.
Jerome's attempt to portray Evelyn as a promiscuous liar backfired. Public sympathy remained with the young woman who pleaded for her husband.
The jury, however, returned without a verdict. Five jurors insisted Thaw was not guilty by reason of insanity. Seven believed him guilty of first-degree murder.
Nine months later, a second jury found Thaw not guilty by reason of insanity. The judge directed that he be incarcerated at an asylum in Matteawan. Thaw rode to the asylum on a private train car, packed with friends. They enjoyed whiskey, champagne and a fine meal, and crowds cheered Thaw's arrival. Evelyn did not join him for the journey.
After a few unsuccessful attempts to win release or a transfer to a private facility, Thaw escaped from Matteawan to
. An outraged Jerome saw to it that Thaw was returned to the states and jailed. Alas, Jerome's pursuit was little more than a gesture. Thaw had reached folk hero status, and the courts eventually found him sane and set him free. Canada
Many agreed with Jerome that his release was a gross miscarriage of justice. In strict legal terms, he was guilty. Thaw was aware of what he was doing and that it was illegal and wrong. However, there is also little doubt he suffered from severe mental illness his entire life. Had Thaw been born a century later, he likely would have benefited from medicine and psychiatric care that would have controlled his rages. At the very least, the murder would have been prevented.
Thaw's first act after being declared sane was to file for divorce from Evelyn. He continued to live a rowdy life full of his trademark fits of rage and tantrums until he died in 1947 at the age of seventy-six.
Evelyn, who'd given birth to a child during Thaw's confinement, never got her million-dollar payment from Mother Thaw. She named the child Russell Thaw, but her husband vehemently denied paternity. The financially strapped Evelyn returned to Vaudeville and Broadway. Despite a second and nearly as short marriage to Jack Clifford, she was always booked as Mrs. Harry K. Thaw. Her later years were marred by alcoholism, drug addiction and a transitory lifestyle. Thaw occasionally took pity on her and offered monetary support, but the kindness never lasted. Evelyn's life was a constant struggle.
Those who met her during her lucid periods described her as beautiful, charming and possessing talent as a visual artist. Evelyn herself spoke of "Stanny" as the lucky one for having died young. She lived to see a young actress named Joan Collins portray her in a
Hollywood movie called "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing" and died in 1966 at age eighty-one. Less than a decade after her death, the novelist E.L. Doctorow used Evelyn's story as a symbol of the dawning century in his masterpiece Ragtime.
However, the real tragedy of White's murder has been often overlooked. In her book The Architect of Desire: Beauty and Danger in the Stanford White Family, Suzannah Lessard, White's great granddaughter describes the lasting effect White's murder had on his family. In addition to losing a beloved husband and father, the publicity of the murder brought to light truths about White that humiliated his Victorian family and caused his name to be spoken in hushed whispers and vehement denials fifty years after his death. Lessard, a relative born forty years after White's death, recounts wincing in "pride and shame" when she heard the name Stanford White spoken aloud. The ghosts of scandal, violence and sexual impropriety still haunt the memory of a brilliant architect and generous father whose faults should be by now forgiven, if not forgotten.
9.XI.1853 – 25.VI.1906
Was an American architect and partner in the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, the frontrunner among Beaux-Arts firms. He designed a long series of houses for the rich and the very rich, and various public, institutional, and religious buildings, some of which can be found to this day in places like Sea Gate,
Brooklyn. His design principles embodied the "American Renaissance".
In 1906, White was murdered by millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw over White's affair with Thaw's wife, actress Evelyn Nesbit, leading to a trial which was dubbed at the time "The Trial of the Century"
Stanford White was the son of Shakespearean scholar Richard Grant White and Alexina Black Mease (1830–1921). His architectural career began as the principal assistant to Henry Hobson Richardson, the greatest American architect of the day, creator of a style recognized today as "Richardsonian Romanesque". In 1878, White embarked for a year and a half in Europe, and when he returned to
in September 1879, he joined Charles Follen McKim and William Rutherford Mead to form McKim, Mead and White. New York
White designed the second Madison Square Garden (1890; demolished in 1925), The Cable Building—the Broadway cable car power station (611 Broadway, 1892), Madison Square Presbyterian Church, the New York Herald Building (1894; demolished), the First Bowery Savings Bank, at the Bowery and Grand Street, 1894, Washington Square Arch (1889), Judson Memorial Church on Washington Square, and the Century Club, all in New York City. He helped develop Tesla's
(his last design). White designed the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Wardenclyffe Tower Baltimore, Maryland (1887), now . He also built Cocke, Rouss, and Old Cabell Halls at the Lovely Lane United Methodist Church University of Virginia and rebuilt The Rotunda ( ) in 1898 after it burned down three years earlier (his re-creation was later reverted back to Thomas Jefferson's original design for the United States Bicentennial in 1976). He also designed the Blair Mansion at 7711 Eastern Ave. in Silver Spring Md (1880) now being used as a restaurant. He was also responsible for designing the Boston Public Library and the Boston Hotel Buckminster, both still standing today. University of Virginia
American Academy In Rome
McKim, Mead and White also designed the
American Academy in , which crowns the Gianicolo hill, and looks across the city to the Villa Medici and the Borghese gardens. An imposing edifice, the Rome is built in the style of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the north and south wings of which McKim, Mead, and White designed in 1911. American Academy
In the division of projects within the firm, the social and gregarious White landed the majority of commissions for private houses. His fluent draftsmanship was highly convincing to clients who might not get much visceral understanding from a floorplan, and his intuition and facility caught the mood. White's
Long Island houses have survived well, despite the loss of Harbor Hill in 1947, originally set on 688 acres (2.78 km2) in Roslyn. White's Long Island houses are of three types, depending on their locations: Gold Coast chateaux, neo-Colonial structures, especially those in the neighborhood of his own house at "Box Hill" in Smithtown, New York (White's wife was a Smith), and the South Fork houses from Southampton to Montauk Point. He also designed the Kate Annette Wetherill Estate in 1895.
Among his Newport, Rhode Island, "cottages", Rosecliff (for Mrs. Hermann Oelrichs, 1898-1902) adapted Mansart's Grand Trianon, but provided this house built for receptions, dinners and dances with fluent spatial planning and well-contrived dramatic internal views en filade.
In his "informal" shingled cottages, there were usually double corridors for separate circulation, (illustration, right) so that a guest never bumped into a laundress with a basket of bed linens. Bedrooms were characteristically separated from hallways by a dressing-room foyer lined with closets, so that an inner door and an outer door give superb privacy (still the mark of a really good hotel). White lived the same life as his clients, not quite so lavishly perhaps, and he knew how the house had to perform: like a first-rate hotel, theater foyer, or a theater set with appropriate historical references. White was an apt designer, who was ready to do a cover for Scribner's Magazine or design a pedestal for his friend Augustus Saint-Gaudens' sculpture. He extended the limits of architectural services to include interior decoration, dealing in art and antiques, and even planning and designing parties. He collected paintings, pottery, and tapestries. If White could not procure the right antiques for his interiors, he would sketch neo-Georgian standing electroliers or a Renaissance library table. Outgoing and social, he possessed a large circle of friends and acquaintances, many of whom became clients. White had a major influence in the "Shingle Style" of the 1880s, on Neo-Colonial style, and the
cottages for which he is celebrated. Newport
He designed and decorated
Fifth Avenue mansions for the Astors, the Vanderbilts (in 1905), and other high society families. His Washington Square Arch still stands in Washington Square Park, and so do many of his clubs, which were focal points of society: the Century, Metropolitan, Players, Lambs, Colony and Harmonie clubs. His clubhouse for the Atlantic Yacht Club, built in 1894 overlooking New York , burned down in 1934. Sons of society families also resided in White's St. Anthony Hall Chapter House at Gravesend Bay (now occupied by college offices). Williams College
During the suggestive chorus song, "I Could Love a Million Girls," at the premiere performance of the musical revue Mam'zelle Champagne at the Madison Square Roof Garden (on the roof of a building that he had designed 15 years previously), White was shot point blank in the face and killed by Harry Kendall Thaw. Thaw was the jealous millionaire husband of Evelyn Nesbit, a popular actress and artist's model, with who White had had a sexual relationship when she was 16 (to his 47). The initial reaction was one of good cheer as elaborate party tricks amongst the upper echelon of New York Society were common at the time. However, when it became apparent that White was dead, hysteria ensued. William Randolph Hearst's newspapers sensationalized the murder, and it became known as the Trial of the Century. Years later, White's son, Lawrence Grant White would write bitterly, "On the night of June 25th, 1906, while attending a performance at
, Stanford White was shot from behind [by] a crazed profligate whose great wealth was used to besmirch his victim's memory during the series of notorious trials that ensued." White was buried in Madison Square Garden . St. James, New York
25.XII.1884 – 17.I.1967
Was an American artists' model and chorus girl, noted for her entanglement in the murder of her ex-lover, architect Stanford White, by her first husband, Harry Kendall Thaw.
She was born Florence Evelyn Nesbit on December 25, 1884 in Tarentum, a small village near
. She was of Scots-Irish ancestry. As a child, Florence Evelyn was strikingly beautiful, but quiet and somewhat shy. She had a younger brother, Howard. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Nesbit family moved to
around 1893, when Evelyn was still a schoolgirl. Her father, a struggling lawyer named Winfield Scott Nesbit, died that year, leaving behind substantial debts; his wife and two children were nearly destitute. For years Evelyn and her mother and younger brother lived in near-poverty, but by the time she reached adolescence her startling beauty came to the attention of several local artists, including John Storm, and she was able to find employment as an artists' model. Pittsburgh
In 1901, when Nesbit was sixteen, she and her mother moved into a tiny room at
249 W. 22nd Street in . Her mother had difficulty in finding work and after several weeks, Evelyn persuaded her to let her model again. Using a letter of introduction from a New York City Philadelphia artist, Evelyn met and posed for James Carroll Beckwith, who introduced her to other artists. Soon she began modeling for artists Frederick S. Church, Herbert Morgan, Gertrude Käsebier, Carl Blenner and photographer Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. New York
Eventually, Evelyn became one of the most in-demand artists' models in
. She was seductively beautiful with long, wavy red hair and a slender, shapely figure. Charles Dana Gibson, one of the most popular artists in the country at the time, rendered a pen-and-ink profile of Evelyn with her red hair arranged in the form of a question mark. The work, titled "The Eternal Question", remains one of Gibson's best known works and Evelyn entered the ranks of the famous turn-of-the-century "Gibson Girls." New York
THE DIVINE EVELYN
Photographic fashion modeling, which was becoming more popular in daily newspapers, proved to be even more lucrative for Evelyn. Photographer Joel Feder would pay her $5 for a half-day shoot or $10 for a full day shoot. Evelyn soon made more than enough money to support her family.
As a chorus girl on Broadway in 1901, Nesbit was introduced to acclaimed architect Stanford White by Edna Goodrich, who was a member along with Nesbit in the company performing Florodora at the Casino Theatre. White - a notorious womanizer known as "Stanny" by his close friends and relatives - was then forty-seven years of age to her 16.
White had a loft apartment on
West Twenty-fourth Street above FAO Schwarz with its walkup doorway situated next to the toy store's back delivery entrance. In her memoir Prodigal Days, Nesbit described her introduction to White at the apartment, decorated with heavy red velvet curtains and fine paintings, where White and a man named Reginald Ronalds poured her a glass of champagne and led her upstairs to a studio outfitted with a red velvet swing. While nothing untoward occurred on that first visit, the swing would later become notorious as accounts of its use were aired in the course of a murder trial, and some sources incorrectly state the activities that formed the basis for the 1955 film The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing took place at the "Tower Room" at the old Madison Square Garden, where White kept an office. Nesbit states specifically that the swing and its related activities took place at the apartment on West Twenty-fourth Street. Although White reportedly derived sexual pleasure by pushing young women in the swing, naked or nearly so, as Nesbit later testified in court, she claimed her own later nude escapades with White were simply for his "aesthetic" delight.
Evelyn Nesbit & Joan Collins On The Set Of The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing
Stanford White had endeared himself to Nesbit's mother by making arrangements for her son to be admitted to the
Chester Military Academy near , and she placed so much trust in the architect that when she arranged an out-of-town trip, Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit saw her off at the train station, where she left her daughter in his care. Philadelphia
Several nights after her mother left for
, Nesbit was summoned to the apartment by White, where the two shared dinner and several glasses of champagne before she was given a tour that ended in the "Mirror Room." On the same upper floor as the studio featuring the velvet swing, the ten-by-ten room held a green velvet-covered couch and walls and ceilings covered with mirrors. Later, after more champagne, the two returned downstairs and Nesbit tried on a yellow satin kimono before she "passed out." She recounted that she awoke in bed, nearly naked with White lying beside her, and that she "entered that room a virgin," but did not come out as one. Pittsburgh
Later, Nesbit related this story to millionaire Harry Thaw after he repeatedly hounded her to know why she refused to marry him. She later did, but at the end of her life, Nesbit claimed that the charismatic "Stanny" was the only man she had ever loved.
As White moved on to other young, virginal women, Nesbit was courted by the young John Barrymore, beginning in 1901. The two met when Barrymore caught a performance of The Florodora Girls and sent flowers backstage. Barrymore, who was from a well known theatrical family, was then 19 and seeking a career in cartooning. He was considered too poor by her mother to be a suitable match for the seventeen year-old Nesbit. Her mother and White were enraged when they found out about the relationship. However, Nesbit was finally smitten with someone her own age and often returned to Barrymore's apartment after hours. White, still a strong influence in her life, arranged to send her away to a boarding school in Wayne, New Jersey (run by the mother of film director Cecil B. DeMille) in part to extricate her from John Barrymore. Barrymore in the meantime proposed marriage to Nesbit, in the presence of Mrs Nesbit and White, but Evelyn turned down his offer.
Stanford White and John Barrymore were subsequently supplanted in Nesbit's life by Harry Kendall Thaw (1871–1947) of
, the son of a coal and railroad baron. Prior to her relationship with Thaw, Nesbit dated a well known polo player named James "Monty" Waterbury (1875–1920) and the young magazine publisher Robert J. Collier. Thaw was extremely possessive of Nesbit (he reportedly carried a pistol), and obsessive about the details of her relationship with White (whom he referred to as "The Beast"). Thaw was a cocaine addict and allegedly a sadist who subjected women — including Nesbit — and the occasional adolescent boy to severe whippings. However, following a trip to Pittsburgh Europe, Nesbit finally accepted Thaw's repeated marriage proposal. They were wed on April 4, 1905, when Nesbit was twenty.
Nesbit had one child, Russell William Thaw, who was born in
Berlin on October 25, 1910 (he died in 1984 at ). A noted pilot in World War II, as a child he appeared in Santa Barbara, California films with his mother. The identity of his father, however, remains in doubt. While Thaw swore he was not the child's father (he was conceived and born during Thaw's confinement), Nesbit always insisted that he was. Hollywood
Evelyn & Russell
On June 25, 1906, Nesbit and Thaw saw White at the restaurant Café Martin and ran into him again later that night in the audience of the
's roof theatre at a performance of Mam'zelle Champagne, written by Edgar Allan Woolf. During the song "I Could Love A Million Girls", Thaw fired three shots at close range into White's face, killing him instantly and reportedly exclaiming, "You'll never go out with that woman again." In his book The Murder of Stanford White, Gerald Langford quoted Thaw as saying "You ruined my life," or "You ruined my wife," and the New York Times account the following day stated "Another witness said the word was "wife" instead of "life"" in response to the arresting officer's report otherwise." Madison Square Garden
Harry Thaw was tried twice for the murder of Stanford White. At the first, the jury was deadlocked; at the second (in which Nesbit testified in his behalf), Thaw pleaded temporary insanity. Thaw's mother (usually referred to as "Mother Thaw") promised Nesbit that if she would testify that White had raped her and that Thaw had only tried to avenge her honor, she would receive a quiet divorce and a one million dollar divorce settlement. Nesbit got the divorce, but never saw a cent of the million. Immediately following Thaw's acquittal, she was cut off financially by Thaw's mother.
Thaw was incarcerated at the
Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Beacon, , but enjoyed almost total freedom. Still, he tried to escape a couple of times to New York . In 1913, he strolled out of the asylum and was driven over the Canadian border into Canada . He was extradited back to the Sherbrooke, Quebec , but in 1915 was released from custody after being judged sane. U.S.
In the years following the second trial, Nesbit's career as a vaudeville performer, silent film actress and cafe manager was only modestly successful, her life marred by suicide attempts. In 1914, she appeared in Threads of Destiny produced at the Betzwood studios of film producer Siegmund Lubin. In 1916, after her divorce from Thaw, she married her dancing partner, Jack Clifford (1880–1956, born Virgil James Montani). He left her in 1918, and she divorced him in 1933.
In 1926 Nesbit gave an interview to the New York Times, stating that she and Thaw had reconciled, but nothing came of the renewed relationship. Nesbit published two memoirs, The Story Of My Life (1914), and Prodigal Days (1934).
She lived quietly for several years in
. She overcame suicide attempts, alcoholism, and an addiction to morphine, and in her later years taught classes in ceramics. She was a technical adviser on the 1955 movie The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing. She died in a nursing home in Northfield, New Jersey on January 17, 1967, at the age of 82. Nesbit is buried in Santa Monica, California Holy Cross Cemetery in . Culver City, California
Harry Kendall Thaw
12.II.1871 – 22.II.1947
Harry Kendall Thaw, son of
Pittsburgh coal and railroad baron William Thaw and his wife Mary Copley and brother of South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club member Benjamin Thaw, is best known for the murder of architect Stanford White at in 1906 and the sensational trial that followed. Madison Square Garden
He was born on February 12, 1871, and he had a sister, Alice Cornelia Thaw who would later marry Geoffrey Gordon Whitney.
Violent and paranoid almost since birth (his mother claimed his problems had started in the womb), Harry spent his childhood bouncing from private school to private school in Pittsburgh, never doing well and described by teachers as unintelligent and a troublemaker. Still, as the son of William Thaw, he was granted admission to the
, where he was to study law, though he apparently did little studying. After a few years he used his name and social status to transfer to University of Pittsburgh . Harvard University
Thaw later bragged that he had studied poker at Harvard. He also went on long drinking binges, attended cockfights, and spent much of his time romancing young women. He was expelled after being picked up for chasing a cab driver through the streets of
with a shotgun, though he claimed it was unloaded. Cambridge
Thaw has been credited with the invention of the speedball, an injected combination of morphine and/or heroin along with cocaine sometime between 1896 and 1906. He was also reported by newspapers at the time of his trial to have once consumed an entire bottle of laudanum in a single sitting and carry a special silver case full of syringes and other parts of a large "outfit" of injecting equipment.
After his expulsion, Thaw bounced around between
Pennsylvania and , injecting himself with both morphine and cocaine and frequenting Broadway shows, which he described as "studying." In fact, Thaw made a habit of studying chorus girls, and this hobby first brought him into contact with noted architect Stanford White. White, who had a similar hobby, had made some disparaging remarks about Thaw to a group of chorus girls Thaw was engaged in wooing, and Thaw blamed their subsequent snub on White's influence. White soon became a focus of Thaw's disjointed rage, and so when Thaw learned that White had begun paying special attention to Evelyn Nesbit, a chorus girl from the show Florodora, Thaw arranged to meet her at a party. New York
White warned Nesbit of Thaw, and Nesbit for a while avoided him. But a bout of presumed appendicitis put Nesbit in the hospital and provided Thaw with an opening. Harry came in bearing gifts and praise, managing to impress both Nesbit's mother and the headmistress at the boarding school she attended. Later, under Stanford White's orders, she was moved to a sanatorium in upstate
, where both White and Thaw visited often, though never at the same time. New York
White's attention soon waned, but Thaw remained an ardent admirer of Nesbit, and after her release from the sanatorium, Thaw invited her and her mother to visit
with him. In Paris Europe, Thaw spent vast sums of money on Evelyn and her mother, and eventually proposed marriage to Evelyn, who demurred. Thaw, however, was not to be swayed, and for several weeks continued to press Evelyn for her hand.
Finally, under duress, Evelyn admitted to Thaw that Stanford White had indeed taken her virginity, and she claimed that she was unworthy to be Thaw's wife. This enraged Thaw, but did not dissuade his desire for her hand in marriage. He soon packed Mrs. Nesbit off to
and took Evelyn to an isolated German castle, where he forced himself on Evelyn and beat her repeatedly with a dog whip. Perhaps out of fear, Evelyn nonetheless stayed with Thaw, eventually convincing him to let her return to New York . New York
Mrs. Harry K. Thaw
Thaw remained enraptured with Evelyn, and over the course of several years he managed to wear her down. Then his mother arrived at Evelyn's doorstep and announced that she wished for Evelyn to marry her son. Settling down, she said, would help curb Harry's "eccentricities." Evelyn at last gave in and returned to
Thaw ultimately killed Stanford White. After the first murder trial, Thaw moved back to
and immediately divorced Evelyn. Evelyn had given birth during Thaw's incarceration, and she claimed the child, Russell Thaw, was Harry's. Harry vehemently denied this. Throughout his life he continued to occasionally offer money to Evelyn, but it was never much and she never outlived her reputation as Mrs. Harry K. Thaw. Pittsburgh
In the spring of 1906, Harry and Evelyn decided to travel to Europe and
. On June 25, while in New York , Evelyn and Harry saw Stanford White while dining at the Cafe Martin. After learning that White was to attend the premiere of Mam'zelle Champagne, a show the Thaws were also planning to attend, Harry took Evelyn back to their hotel and disappeared, returning just in time to pick up Evelyn and head to the show — curiously dressed in a black overcoat, though it was a hot evening. At the rooftop New York theatre of Madison Square Garden, the hat check girl repeatedly tried to relieve Harry of his heavy coat, but he refused. He wandered through the crowd during the show, approaching White's table several times, only to back away on each occasion. During the finale, "I Could Love A Million Girls", Thaw fired three shots at close range into Stanford White's face, killing him.
The crowd initially suspected the shooting might be part of the show, as elaborate practical jokes were popular in high society at the time. Soon, however, it became apparent that Stanford White was dead. Thaw, holding the gun aloft, walked through the crowd and met Evelyn at the elevator. When she asked what he'd done, Thaw said that he had "probably saved your life."
There were two trials, the first lasting from January-April 1907 and the second in January 1908. At the first, the jury was deadlocked: at the second, where he pled insanity, Evelyn testified. Thaw's mother told Evelyn that if she would testify that Stanford White abused her and that Harry only tried to protect her, she'd receive a divorce from Harry Thaw and one million dollars in compensation. She did just that, and performed in court wonderfully: he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Evelyn got the divorce, but not the money. Thaw testified that he had had a "brainstorm", meaning a moment of temporary insanity. Thaw was incarcerated at the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Fishkill, New York, enjoying nearly complete freedom. In 1913 he walked out of the asylum and was driven over the border to
. He was extradited back to the Sherbrooke, Quebec , where he had become something of a folk hero. In 1915, a jury judged him sane, and he was released. United States
For his part, Thaw continued to live as he had always lived. The year after his release, he was accused of sexually assaulting and horsewhipping Fred B. Gump, Jr., a teen-aged boy. He was again adjudicated insane, and sent to an asylum where he spent seven years, being released in 1924.
In 1924, he purchased a historic home known as Kenilworth in Clearbrook, a farming community in
Frederick County, . While living at Virginia Kenilworth, Thaw ingratiated himself with the locals, joined the Rouss Fire Company, and even marched in a few local parades in his fireman's uniform. He was regarded as an eccentric by the citizens of Clearbrook but does not seem to have run into a great deal of additional legal trouble.
In the late '20s, Thaw went into the film production business, based on
Long Island. At first, he attempted to make short comedies and stories about fake spiritualists. In 1927, he contracted with John S. Lopez and detective-story author, Arthur B. Reeve, for a batch of scenarios continuing the fake spiritualism theme. This resulted in a lawsuit when the scenarios weren't paid for; Thaw had switched emphasis, attempting to film a story of his own life, so claimed he owed nothing. The suit eventually resulted in a $7000 judgment for Lopez in 1935. In 1944 he sold the Kenilworth home and moved to . Florida
Thaw died of a heart attack in
on February 22, 1947 at the age of 76. He left $10,000, less than 1% of his fortune, to Evelyn Nesbit in his will. He was buried in Miami, Florida Allegheny Cemetery in . Pittsburgh
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