Friday, August 21, 2015

Harry Thaw in Sutton August, 1915

I had a little fun with this item in the 100-years ago section of my column in The Clay County News in the August 19, 2015 issue this week.

The Harry Thaw item in the August 20, 1915 issue of The Sutton News - front page, middle.

I include a photo with each of my columns and after over 6 years and 300 columns, my inventory of usable photos is nearly drained. So this 1915 Atlantic City photo of an accused murder recently released from prison is "appropriate" only after a certain amount of research, time and effort.

If I can find a connection between Sutton and this picture, think of what else might be in store for the unsuspecting readers of The Clay County News.

Mr. Harry K. Thaw, second from left with his bodyguards in the Atlantic City surf on July 17, 1915 the day after he was released from prison on $35,000 bail and four weeks before he was spotted on the library corner in downtown Sutton – the county’s tiny connection to a bizarre New York scandal 100 years ago.

Below is my account of this item in that paper from 100 years ago. Yes, I really did use up this much space in the local weekly newspaper to tell this story.

This week’s photo was found on the website and deviates sharply from our usual pattern. Let’s have some fun.

The Sutton News reported 100 years ago that on Friday evening, August 13th locals noticed a car on the corner by the Sutton library. The group was heading west toward Denver and were uncertain which road to take out of town.

The locals thought they recognized one of the occupants and C. J. Bauer and Art Kelly worked an introduction to Mr. Harry K. Thaw. The article reads as though all readers would know who Mr. Thaw was. I didn’t.

After a bit of research we learn that Mr. Thaw was a wealthy Pittsburgh fellow who’d killed well-known architect (Madison Square Garden, etc.) Stanford White in the Madison Square Garden Theater in 1906 after a long feud centered on Thaw’s wife who had been seduced at age 16 by Mr. White – or deflowered as described in some articles and likely savagely raped as some accounts indicated.

The young lady was Evelyn Nesbit, chorus girl, model, actress and early Gibson Girl. There were a couple of murder trials, insanity pleas, a prison escape and a serious mess for several years. Thaw had just been released from prison the day before our photo was taken with his “sanity” still in question. His appearance in Sutton was just four weeks after the photo was taken.

Miss Nesbit appeared in several early movies from 1907 through 1922. The story of the White/Nesbit/Thaw love triangle was told in a 1955 movie called “The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing” starring Ray Milland, Joan Collins and Farley Granger – good enough (or crummy enough) for a 6.4 rating at and available for rent for $2.99 at Amazon Prime.

The final paragraph of the Sutton News article read, “One of the party made the remark that we of the middle west had never expected to see Mr. That “so far out.” Mr. Thaw said that he certainly was glad to be “out”, which we can readily believe, judging by the efforts he made to get ‘out’”

Thus prompting our effort to find even more of “the rest of the story”, which you will find on the Sutton Museum blog along with a few more photos captured from several pertinent websites including

It’s unlikely Evelyn was with Harry that night in Sutton – there had been bickering about the amount she was to be paid to testify favorably at his trials and they divorced in 1915.

A search for “Harry Kendall Thaw” will lead you to a fun diversion or to a serious distraction if you happen to be trying to write a newspaper column at the time. Harry Thaw died in 1947.

So, did you know about Harry Kendall Thaw? I thought not. And here is the rest of the story:

or at least links to it...

First and foremost, as in any 21st Century research effort, there is the Wikipedia entry:       The Wikipedia Story

And then there is the story as told on wikipedia knockoffs as in this case,

Do I have your attention?

Every story needs a woman. In this case, quite a story, good enough for the BBC.

BBC: Evelyn Nesbit: the First Supermodel

And the Smithsonian:

Smithsonian channel bit on Stanford White's commissioned photo shoot of Evelyn.

Would you like a few more pictures? Here's the Google outcome of a "Stanford White and Evelyn Nesbit and Harry Thaw":

More Pictures, some more pictures and then some more pictures

Stanford White's great, granddaughter wrote this book about the architect. The book discussion piece from C-SPAN makes the book enticing on many levels - the White/Nesbit/Thaw story itself, Stanford White as THE architect for the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, the impact on a family of their patriarch killed under such scandalous circumstances, etc., etc.

Discussion of Stanford White biography - 37 minutes

So this is what happens when one takes a little item in a Sutton, Nebraska newspaper from 100 years ago and starts to unravel the story in the item. Was this "Sutton related"? Only if you want it to be, then sure. So many stories, so little time.

Yes, Harry K. Thaw was spotted in Sutton on August 13, 1915.


P.S. After cogitating on this topic a couple of days, the identity of those in Harry Thaw's "party" intrigued. 

Mr. Thaw was very rich. They were traveling in a 1915 vintage vehicle. Mr. Thaw was very famous and had just been released from prison where he'd been sent, sane or no, for a heinous crime. Mr. Thaw had been photographed (see above) just a few weeks earlier with three bodyguards. Mr. and Mrs. Thaw were at least estranged and their 1915 divorce either recently happened or was soon to happen.

So, with whom would the man have been traveling half way across the country?

Probably not his wife. The vehicle was likely an automobile with a capacity of four, five or six. Who would Mr. Thaw have accompany him on a cross country trip?

It would seem that if Mr. Thaw saw fit to have three bodyguards on the day after his release from prison as the caption to the photo above states, then that crew was likely in his employment for some time. This was a wealthy man who did have an entourage with him in Sutton on August 13th and was photographed with an entourage in Atlantic City on July 17th.

So can't we reasonably posit that the four men photographed in Atlantic City on July 17th were, in fact, the "party" spotted in a vehicle on the library corner in Sutton on the night of August 13th.

I'll place that likelihood at well over 50%, more in the neighborhood of 75 to 90%.

Jerry - August 23, 2015

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Nebraska Roads - 1915

This account of the state of roads in Nebraska and to the east as far as Chicago appeared in the August 6, 1915 issue of The Sutton News.

The road referred to here is "O.L.D." or Omaha - Lincoln - Denver. Later iterations of that road became the D.L.D. which alternatively stood for Denver - Lincoln - Des Moines or Denver - Lincoln - Detroit.

Mr. Roper was the president of the O.L.D. road association. He paints an interesting picture of road conditions in the very early day of general vehicular travel. Apparently the early hard-surfaced roads did not hold up well to use and weather leading to his remarkable conclusion.

Early Account of Spring Ranch and the Little Blue River

This account of a visit to early Clay County appeared in the August 6, 1915 issue of The Sutton News. It is by a fellow named Clarence F. Warner and was originally published by an Ohio Newspaper.

Some local fellow did not see a great future for the Spring Ranch community...

A second installment of this article appeared the next week - August 13, 1915:

and a third installment on August 20, 1915