Harry Thaw’s murder of Stanford White is so well known, I rarely see anything I’m not already familiar with related to that famous 1906 shooting at Madison Square Gardens.

So I was surprised when I came across Harry Thaw’s mugshot the other day. I’d never seen it. Around the turn of the century, male and female criminals were often photographed with and without their hats on.

Thaw’s mugshot published in the New York Tribune

 

Once I knew it existed, I went looking for a better quality copy. I didn’t find one, but I did learn that Thaw later wrote a bizarre book called The Traitor about his life that was published in 1926.

Harry K. Thaw’s strange book

 

It included a collage of pictures titled “Evelyn’s Moods”:

From oddbooks.co.uk

 

Finally, I came across a picture of Harry and Evelyn, long after their marriage ended, looking rather picturesque.

Harry and Evelyn, probably late 1930s or early 1940s, from LA Times 

 

Just a short post for today, but there’s lots of Evelyn Nesbit related posts on Old Spirituals, if you’re interested!

Evelyn Nesbit: A Star is Born

Evelyn Nesbit: The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

Stanford White, Old Sins, and Madison Square Garden

Evelyn Nesbit’s Broken Wings

Charles Dana Gibson and his Gibson Girls

This is a bit outside our normal timeframe, but I hope you like this little story.

In April 1937, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart William Blodgett, were still new to Oakland, California. The couple had moved to California from Saint Paul, Minnesota, with their 5 year old son, William Grinnell Blodgett II. One day, the boy was at a local park with two neighbor children, when he was kidnapped.

Leroy Gardener, 5, and Joan Gardener, 8, told police that a smiling, hatless young man of about 23 had approached them in the park early in the afternoon. He wore a gray suit and white shoes, and he suggested a race to the corner store for candy, the children said. During the race, the children became separated. Leroy said he saw William and the young man get into a brown roadster with a light tan top, Captain James Ritchie, sheriff’s investigator, reported.

It was not until an hour later when the boy’s father went to the park in search of his son that anyone knew about the kidnapping.  Mr. Blodgett appeared to be perplexed by the whole situation. He didn’t know anyone who would want to kidnap his son, and he wasn’t in financial circumstances to pay a large ransom.

Five hours later, just before dark, William walked into a gas station about 5 miles away from home.  An explanatory note pinned to his clothing read:

“I was going to hold this boy for ransom, but I decided to go straight. Please get him to his parents in Berkeley. I am in great need, but would rather starve than make his parents suffer. If they want to contact me, let them address me as Chuck in Wednesday’s Oakland Tribune.”

William Grinnell Blodgett

 

A grave, quiet child, William, was reportedly unimpressed by his adventure.

When his anxious mother asked how he was, he replied, “I’m hungry.”

His mother produced a piece of pie. A news photographer asked the boy to pick up the pie for a “picnic picture.”

“No,” said the child, “I don’t pick up my pie. I’d like a spoon, please.” After finishing his pie, William went to bed.

I’m a little torn about this behavior from William. On the one hand, it’s pretty funny he put the news photographer in his place. On the other hand, this child is so imperturbable, it’s unsettling. What 5-year-old gets kidnapped, dropped off at a strange gas station, and returns home to face a bevy of police and reporters, but has nothing to say, beyond a polite request for a spoon?

I’m guessing “Chuck” the kidnapper was never found. I looked at the Oakland Tribune for the following day, and there was one obscure reference that might be connected.

The newspapers didn’t relay anything William told them about the encounter, and I couldn’t find any follow up to this story. I’ve learned not to say, “That’s the last we’ll ever hear of this story!” because that makes it almost inevitable it will resurface later, but the important thing is, everything turned out well for William.

All’s well that ends well

Did you miss part of the story? Links to Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

You’ve read all the facts I could find about the murder of Dr. Allen S. King and the trial of Leo Olivier, the 15-year-old boy who killed him. This post has no new facts, just my own thoughts about the story.

We know there is a lot of missing information but based on what we do know, I have questions about the veracity of Hazel Olivier’s story, which was the foundation of everything that happened. Her family, the newspapers, and law enforcement appeared to take it on faith that she was being honest. She may have been, but it’s not the only possibility.

Hazel’s story doesn’t sound right. In a small town like Morgan City, if she was having an affair with the doctor, someone would have known it, but no one did until she returned from New Orleans and announced it herself. Her trip to New Orleans is off, too. Hazel didn’t have a lot of money, she was in a strange city, and abortion was illegal; how would she even know where to go to procure an abortion? When she returned home, she wanted to go to Sacred Heart to talk to her priest, but it wasn’t clear if she wanted to confess or if she was seeking guidance. Either way, it’s unusual she would have invited a friend.

I wondered if perhaps Hazel was infatuated with Dr. King and he had rejected her, so she invented the story to get even with him. The signs that were festooned all over town the day after Dr. King returned were a clear attempt to humiliate him. But would an indignant friend or family member, who would likely want to keep the story as quiet as possible, really paper the town with this announcement? Only someone who wanted everyone to know the story about Hazel and Dr. King would do this. Someone like a rejected paramour.

A week passed after the embarrassing poster incident with no other news. Then, per their account, Hazel spoke to her brother about it, and he murdered the doctor the next day. Leo seemed like a level-headed boy. Could Hazel have deliberately incited him to take action?

The other thing that bothered me about the case was that the defense’s case was so absurd. I felt like they weren’t even trying. Leo was a likeable kid and my guess is that his sister manipulated him into murdering the doctor. Given his age and record, together with possible/probable manipulation by an adult, he probably should not have been held entirely responsible.

But the defense’s case was so obviously false as to be insulting to everyone who heard it.

First, how is it even possible Leo did not find out about his sister’s story about the doctor until the night before the murder? The entire town was gossiping about Hazel’s story for weeks. Even if that escaped him, didn’t Leo wonder about all those posters all over town? I believe that Hazel had a conversation with him the night before he killed Dr. King, but it’s difficult to believe he knew nothing about it before then.

Second, the defense was clearly betting that the jury would actually judge Leo on the unwritten law defense. The plea of self-defense was only a formality, but… they ought to have found a better formality. Leo took a revolver to the doctor’s office, knocked on the door, and immediately shot him without saying a word. How could it possibly be self-defense?

The defense said the doctor was lying in wait with his brass knuckles. If Dr. King was smart enough to get through medical school, he’d know better than to bring brass knuckles to a gunfight.

Please share any thoughts or opinions you have in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!