It was a hot but breezy day of summer. To say precisely, on a day exactly 107 years ago. June 25, 1906. A gathering of the elite on the rooftop of Madison Square Garden, in New York City, to watch the musical revue, Mam’zelle Champagne. Men in dapper suits and women in beaded ones topped with feathered hats, all around. An event of socialization with variable rhythm of sundry talks and clinking of glasses.
A man in his fifties, with a fashionable mustache, appeared there mesmerized by the show-girls. He was very generous in his applause, grinning and winking at the beautiful girls singing. He was none other than Stanford White, a born rich architect and designer. He was the man behind the designs and decorations of many a spectacular Fifth Avenue mansion. Stanford White was devoted and addicted to luxury and sensual pleasures. The wealth he enjoyed had properly supported him in getting intermediaries to get around the girls he had marked. His multi-story apartment on 24th Street, in Manhattan had its interior designed and intended for carrying out his lechery unleashed.
The song was ‘I could love a million girls. Immediately another young man in a black jacket, which he refused to remove even at the request of the hatcheck girl, appeared in front of him, took out the pistol and fired three shots at Stanford White, point blank. He fell dead with his face contorted.
There was an eerie silence at the outset for a moment, a raucous laughter followed by thunderous applause, as many of the audience took it as a part of the show. There were practical jokes like this in such gatherings, in New York, those days. No sooner was the frost off the floor than the turmoil started. An overwhelming feeling of fear and anxiety spread across like a dense cloud.
A stunning, copper curled woman in white eyelet dress, saw the pistol in her husband’s hand, shouted, ”Gosh! Harry, what have you done?” It was Evelyn Nesbit Thaw.
”It’s all right, darling! I’ve saved your life”, said Harry Thaw.
The killer had been identified as Harry K Thaw, a millionaire. His profligacy, by all means, had been a subject of talk quite often for the public. His family’s abundance of wealth could buy the silence of those who stood against him. He remembered that five years prior to that, White, 47, had seduced the 16 year old showgirl, Evelyn Nesbit. White wanted her rollicking naked on the red velvet swing which could not be pushed back into oblivion for many a girl came into his life, in his apartment on 24th Street. She was on her career growth after a long patch of hardship. Although the affair was long over by that time, the apparent stain to her reputation remained and Thaw was quite disturbed on that score. Revenge was a dish for him to be best served cold. He decided to carry it out that day, when he saw White sometime in the same morning at another restaurant.
There were two sensational trials. ‘The Trial of the Century’ became known to the public and piqued great curiosity. Eventually, Harry Thaw had been declared not guilty by reason of insanity, thanks to the various treatment he had undergone earlier. He was held in a mental asylum until 1924. Later he died of a heart-attack at the age of 76, in 1947. Nesbit died in a hospital in Santa Monica, California, on January 17, 1967, at the age of 82.
The films, The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) and Ragtime (1981) are based on the events connected with Evelyn Nesbit , Harry Thaw and Stanford White.