Town Square

Post a New Topic

A real-life Gilded Age whodunit

Original post made on May 19, 2022

Evidence suggests Stanford University co-founder Jane Stanford died of poisoning in 1905. Author and historian Richard White looks at the long list of suspects in her murder -- and how the university may have covered it up.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 18, 2022, 6:20 PM

Comments (13)

Posted by Bette Langford
a resident of Stanford
on May 19, 2022 at 7:48 am

Bette Langford is a registered user.

Though the factual account of this mystery is filled with intrigue, the case will never be proven one way or the other because all of the suspected players are deceased and the motives subject to speculation.

Conspiracy theories always make for interesting reading and/or conversation but most of the time they are inconclusive unless one was an actual witness to the occurrence.

This is essentially a historically-based 'who-dunnit' novel and perhaps best reserved 'for entertainment purposes only' (or a possible movie starting Helen Mirren in the key role).


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2022 at 7:59 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Wait, wait, this says she wasn't a nice person to work for. Hurry, Hurry, we had better change the name of JLS Middle School!


Fascinating story, I hope they do make our school children read this!


Posted by Mildred Lapham
a resident of Woodside
on May 19, 2022 at 9:11 am

Mildred Lapham is a registered user.

How would such a case be handled today?

Would there be additional forensic investigations including a full-scale interrogation of all the suspected parties?

Since MLS' death was deemed a murder and there were no arrests made, this sounds like either a cover-up or investigative incompetence on the part of the police.

And while the book might make for an interesting read, do we really care what happened in a Honolulu hotel over 100 years ago?

Life goes on and today, Stanford University is a thriving educational institution that has far exceeded the original visions and master plans of the various old-timers mentioned in the book.

These people are now immaterial and historical footnotes.


Posted by Jason Layne
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 19, 2022 at 10:13 am

Jason Layne is a registered user.

"Would there be additional forensic investigations including a full-scale interrogation of all the suspected parties?"

^ Forensic science was not very advanced in those days and with the possible exception of the fictional detective Poirot, the majority of police investigators were not very competent during the late 19th and early 20th century.

It is obvious that Jane Stanford had some enemies and the solving of this alleged murder should not have been that difficult unless it was a conspiracy and all of the complicit parties took a vow of silence.

At this stage of the game, it is just water under the bridge and few people care.

Let the woman rest in peace.


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 19, 2022 at 6:16 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

It seems the anti history brigade are out in full force today, even with mysterious history in their own backdoor.

The trouble with ignoring history is not only that it is likely to be repeated, but that our ideas of right and wrong just might get murky.

If we don't study history and analyze motivation, actions, and beliefs, we will be left assuming that people never thought differently. Yes people were greedy and power hungry and did murder in the past so not that much has changed. But not all historical mysteries are as easily understood unless we are able to enter the cultural norms of the time.


Posted by Ramona Fernando
a resident of Professorville
on May 19, 2022 at 10:32 pm

Ramona Fernando is a registered user.

There is another, earlier book about the murder of Jane Stanford called Poisoned Palms, a paperback with a vivid pink cover. I purchased it Hawaii 15 years ago, and it reads like a surreal great beach read. I thought I would recommend it to save money by getting an engaging $5 paperback, but on Amazon it is selling for $54! Luckily, I bought 3 copies, but I must have given two of them away. Fascinating subject!


Posted by Aaron Levine
a resident of Stanford
on May 20, 2022 at 10:06 am

Aaron Levine is a registered user.

A personal diary or journal kept by Ms. Stanford would have shed far more light into the matter rather than pure speculation by historians who did not live during the period of this incident.

"The trouble with ignoring history is not only that it is likely to be repeated, but that our ideas of right and wrong just might get murky."

Ideas of 'right and wrong' are always murky.

And as for history being repeated, the chances are extremely slim that the widow of Leland Stanford Sr. will get poisoned again.


Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on May 20, 2022 at 5:11 pm

Rose is a registered user.

I heard Mr. White speak about his book and he was unnecessarily negative about Stanford, even and including up to this day. He seems to have a huge chip on his shoulder, or maybe that's how you sell books. Regardless, listening to him made me sick.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 20, 2022 at 5:57 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Why so vehement? No one ever said she was a well-balanced woman and/or that Stanford University officials have a track record in openness.


Posted by Cassandra Peterson
a resident of Barron Park
on May 22, 2022 at 9:24 am

Cassandra Peterson is a registered user.

Mr. White's account is just speculation and not be be taken seriously as chances are the perpetrators and alleged complicity plot will never be fully verified or confirmed.

Mr. Wright's book is a 'for entertainment purposes only' type of reading...similar to James Michener's highly detailed historical fiction.


Posted by Burke Longley
a resident of Los Altos
on May 22, 2022 at 1:16 pm

Burke Longley is a registered user.

"If we don't study history and analyze motivation, actions, and beliefs, we will be left assuming that people never thought differently."

Nothing has changed since Day 1 of mankind's existence.

Greed, lust, narcissism, and empowerment have transcended centuries, decades, and ancestry.

Some attribute this to human nature.

History is a broken record.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 22, 2022 at 1:34 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Actually James Michener's books were an easy way to get the history of most of the places he wrote about wrapped in popularized format/


Posted by Erica Decker
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 23, 2022 at 9:02 am

Erica Decker is a registered user.

"James Michener's books were an easy way to get the history of most of the places he wrote about wrapped in popularized format/"

• it's even easier to simply skip reading the elongated Michener novels and just watch the movie adaptations instead.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Palo Alto Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Lucky Palo Alto voters – maybe two tax increases to approve in November
By Diana Diamond | 20 comments | 2,983 views

Westfield Valley Fair’s Rabbit Rabbit Tea boba stand expands to an ice cream shop at Stanford Shopping Center
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,700 views

 

Register today to support local nonprofits

The 38th annual Moonlight Run and Walk is Friday evening, September 9. Proceeds go to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund, benefiting local nonprofits that serve families and children in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Join us under the light of the full Harvest Moon on a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon. Complete your race in person or virtually to support local nonprofits.

Register Now!