Who killed Jane Stanford? : a gilded age tale of murder, deceit, spirits and the birth of a university / Richard White.

White, Richard, 1947- [Browse]
First edition.
New York, NY : W.W. Norton & Company, [2022]
xviii, 362 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


Library of Congress genre(s)
Summary note
"A premier historian penetrates the fog of corruption and cover-up still surrounding the murder of a Stanford University founder to establish who did it, how, and why. In 1885 Jane and Leland Stanford cofounded a university to honor their recently deceased young son. After her husband's death in 1893, Jane Stanford, a devoted spiritualist who expected the university to inculcate her values, steered Stanford into eccentricity and public controversy for more than a decade. In 1905 she was murdered in Hawaii, a victim, according to the Honolulu coroner's jury, of strychnine poisoning. With her vast fortune the university's lifeline, the Stanford president and his allies quickly sought to foreclose challenges to her bequests by constructing a story of death by natural causes. The cover-up gained traction in the murky labyrinths of power, wealth, and corruption of Gilded Age San Francisco. The murderer walked. Deftly sifting the scattered evidence and conflicting stories of suspects and witnesses, Richard White gives us the first full account of Jane Stanford's murder and its cover-up. Against a backdrop of the city's machine politics, rogue policing, tong wars, and heated newspaper rivalries, White's search for the murderer draws us into Jane Stanford's imperious household and the academic enmities of the university. Although Stanford officials claimed that no one could have wanted to murder Jane, we meet several people who had the motives and the opportunity to do so. One of these, we discover, also had the means"-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references (pages 303-349) and index.
  • Poland spring water. The first poisoning ; Strychnine ; Watching the detectives ; Ah wing and wong toy wong ; The way to San Jose
  • Founding a university. Bertha Berner writes a life ; Leland Stanford Jr. ; Ghosts and money ; Leland Stanford Junior University ; David Starr Jordan ; Independence ; Surrogates
  • Quarrels. Follow the money ; Comings and goings ; Edward Ross ; The Ross affair ; Ross strikes back ; "He told it nice"
  • A system of absolutism. The despot ; The breach ; The surrogate son
  • Travels toward a poisoning. My man Beverly ; Thomas Welton Stanford ; Homecoming ; Downstairs ; The walls close in ; Resurrections and suicides
  • Death comes for Mrs. Stanford. Moana hotel ; When she met death, she called it by name ; George Crothers comes home
  • The investigation begins. The high sheriff ; The case in San Francisco ; The medicine bottle
  • The investigation. Suspects ; Jordan and Hopkins cross the Pacific ; The coroner's jury
  • The cover-up. Past is prologue ; Everyone was lying ; Jules Callundan and Harry Reynolds ; Reframing the investigation ; Jordan and Waterhouse ; A melodramatic detective story
  • Jane Stanford comes home. Tay Won and chief of police Wittman ; Death of an investigation ; The funeral ; Covering up the cover-up ; Almost an act of just retribution
  • Epilogue: who killed her?.
  • 9781324004332 ((cloth))
  • 1324004339 ((cloth))
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