Little Bits of History

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Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2013
Harry K. Thaw

Harry K. Thaw

June 25, 1906: Towards the end of the premiere production of Mam’zelle Champagne at Madison Square Garden, a bizarre murder takes place. Harry K. Thaw was a disturbed man. He was the son of a wealthy coal and railroad baron who was born paranoid and violent, according to his mother. He spent his young life being kicked out of one school after another. After not completing his education, he moved to New York City where he began to use morphine and cocaine.

Evelyn Nesbit was a young model and chorus girl. Her father died, leaving the family in poverty. The beautiful child became the sole support of her remaining family by age 16 when she moved with her mother to NYC. She was part of the Floradora Chorus and a coworker introduced her to married, 47-year-old playboy, Stanford White. Her mother, aware of White’s reputation, nevertheless encouraged the relationship. Evelyn lost her virginity to White who then became disinterested in her. She went on to dating a young John Barrymore. After two pregnancies, she was still childless and now became involved with Harry Thaw.

Thaw and Nesbit had a tumultuous relationship. Thaw was a sadistic man, known for brutally whipping his “dates” as part of foreplay. He and Nesbit went on a European tour and Nesbit finally accepted Thaw’s marriage proposal. Nesbit had confessed to her fiancé about her deflowering by the rogue, White. Thaw was an extremely jealous and possessive man and the knowledge burned within him.

After a chance meeting and knowing that White would attend the same show as the Thaws, Harry prepared himself. He shot White in the face at point blank range three times. Before the trial, Thaw’s mother offered Evelyn both a divorce and $1,000,000 if she would testify that White had abused her and Thaw was merely defending her. She did so and was granted a divorce but never received any money. Thaw was found not guilty by reason of insanity and confined in an asylum. He walked away and left for Canada. He was returned to the States and re-incarcerated after a second trial.

“In jealousy there is more self-love than love.” – François, Duc de La Rochefoucauld

“If malice or envy were tangible and had a shape, it would be the shape of a boomerang.” – Charley Reese

“Jealousy in romance is like salt in food. A little can enhance the savor, but too much can spoil the pleasure and, under certain circumstances, can be life-threatening.” – Maya Angelou

“The jealous bring down the curse they fear upon their own heads.” – Dorothy Dix

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: Harry Thaw’s lawyers tried to get their client released in 1909. However, a witness testified that Thaw was a threat to society. Susan Merrill had rented two different apartments to Thaw between 1902 and 1905. She was more than just a landlady, but also a madam in a deluxe Manhattan brothel and Thaw had used aliases for the leases. However, he brought women to the apartments and brutalized and terrorized them there. A “jeweled whip” was brought into the court but the women were paid by Thaw’s lawyers and did not testify. The 1913 escape was probably planned and carried out under the supervision of Thaw’s mother who helped her son throughout her life. Out of prison in 1916, Thaw kidnapped, beat, and sexually assaulted 19-year-old Frederick Gump. He was back in the insane asylum for this assault until released again in 1924.

Also on this day: Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
Last Stand – In 1876, Custer was defeated at Little Bighorn.
Lady Doctor Elena – In 1678, Elena earned the first PhD awarded to a woman.

3 Responses

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  1. S. Hubbell said, on June 27, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Poor Harry. Nowadays he would (most likely) be labeled a paranoid schizophrenic, but back then he was “deranged” and “disturbed.” And even though his own mother testified to his sadistic and bizarre nature, she helped him escape the consequences of his actions throughout his life. Not every monster looks like one, but when you see pictures of Harry . . . he really DOES look nuts.

    Thanks for this blog – as a history and trivia buff, I’m very glad to have run across it!

    • Bobby Dias said, on June 27, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      If possible, I wonder if Harry would think YOU look nuts? Even your clothes may have looked bizarre to him. Your accents or lack of them would probably be very strange to him. You tend to cast his character out- me, one time on my half hour of The Tonight Show 50+ years ago, I imitated to the studio audience of 6,000 the way Pope John XXIII giggled on the phone. The audience loved it and him for giggling like that. The next day Pope John called and said: “Thank you for showing them that I am human”.Now, to this day newspeople look towards the popes as a human being, looking for the good in them. S. Hubbell- try it, you may like it.

      • Sherry said, on June 26, 2014 at 3:40 am

        Shut up, Bobby Dias. Don’t you dare school me. You’re the biggest fraud around! Aside from which your post makes NO sense . . . but that’s hardly unusual given the nature of your delusions.

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