December 2023


Most alert readers (ARs) are undoubtedly familiar with the term “Trial of the Century”, which has been used to describe hundreds of legal proceedings over the years, few of which attained more notoriety than the trial of Harry Kendall Thaw in 1907 for the murder of the renowned architect Stanford White. As some especially alert ARs may already know, this particular Trial of the Century in fact consisted of two separate trials, the first of which ended in a mistrial because of a hung jury; and the second of which resulted in a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

There was no disputing that Thaw had shot White on June 26, 1906 in a fit of rage over White’s earlier affair with Thaw’s wife, the former Evelyn Nesbit. The initial seduction had involved the use of “date rape drugs” and took place when White was 48 and Nesbit was 16. Their relationship continued another six months. Four years later Thaw married Nesbitt, who was his junior by 14 years. He was still seething over what had transpired between White and her prior to their marriage.

One of the journalists covering the trial was Mark Twain, who knew White and reported that he was known for “eagerly and diligently and ravenously and remorselessly hunting young girls to their destruction.” Twain went on to write that Nesbit’s detailed testimony about what White had done to her included “atrocious particulars that might well be said to be unprintable.”

Among the dozens of famous buildings designed by Stanford White in his 52- year life were the original Madison Square Garden, the Boston Public Library and the Players and Lambs Clubs in New York. The membership of these two clubs still consists primarily of actors and others involved in the world of theatre. They are often associated with The Friars Club, which is perhaps best known for its ribald roasts. The playwright George S. Kaufman once explained the difference among the three organizations with the quip, “The Players are gentlemen trying to be actors; the Lambs are actors trying to be gentlemen; and the Friars are neither trying to be both.

It was at The Lambs Club where the Actors’ Strike of 1919 was settled, a bit of historical trivia that might be of interest to some ARs 104 years later, when we saw strikes not only by actors and screenwriters but also by auto workers. Among the millions of Americans affected by this latter strike were more than 18,000 automobile dealers, including an AR named Tim McGinley in Highland, Illinois.

Tim McGinley driving for Team Schlafly

I had the pleasure of meeting Tim at a Highland Chamber of Commerce event at his dealership on Shamrock Boulevard two years ago, right before we opened Schlafly Highland Square. I have since learned that he not only sells cars; he also races them and has been doing so since 1981. One of the cars he races is a 1960 Austin Healey Sprite, which is the oldest continuously raced sports car in the St. Louis Region of the Sports Car Club of America. I was recently pleased to learn that Tim always takes Schlafly beers to SCCA events and has now put his name on his distinctive vehicle. While we can’t afford to sponsor a Formula One driver, we’re honored to have Tim driving for Team Schlafly in Vintage races.

As I’ve noted in this space before, Highland was where David Schlafly’s and my great grandfather August first settled in the United States in 1854, making him a contemporary of Stanford White and of Cass Gilbert, another renowned architect, who worked in White’s office before striking out on his own. Gilbert’s more famous works include The United States Supreme Court building in Washington and The Woolworth Building in New York. In St. Louis his most famous designs are of The St. Louis Art Museum, where I serve on the Board of Trustees, and The St. Louis Public Library, which is just a few blocks east of The Schlafly Tap Room on Olive Street; and where I’ve served on the Board of Directors under six mayors.

The St. Louis Public Library, like Stanford White’s Boston Public Library, is an architectural gem that contains the wisdom of the ages and the foundation for the future. Not surprisingly, some items in both collections are controversial. More disturbing than the contents of some of our collections, however, are the voices of those who want to rid libraries of works of which they disapprove. It would be ironic if a building designed by Stanford White couldn’t house a transcript of his killer’s trial; and sad if we couldn’t have our spirits lifted by a volume of Friars’ Club jokes, however crude they might be.





Tom Schlafly
Chairman – The Saint Louis Brewery