Hot Best Seller

Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University

Availability: Ready to download

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 Hono 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.


Compare

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 Hono 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.

30 review for Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I suspect it was the idea of the publisher to position this as a true crime story. That was a mistake. I have already read a more narrowly focused book, a CSI-style take on the murder, by another Stanford professor who was forced to conclude that the murder was never solved perhaps, in part, by what this current author says:“rarely have I encountered more documents that have vanished and more collections and reports that have gone missing than in this research” There was definitely a coverup. I I suspect it was the idea of the publisher to position this as a true crime story. That was a mistake. I have already read a more narrowly focused book, a CSI-style take on the murder, by another Stanford professor who was forced to conclude that the murder was never solved perhaps, in part, by what this current author says:“rarely have I encountered more documents that have vanished and more collections and reports that have gone missing than in this research” There was definitely a coverup. I know Stanford well. As a child and youth, I could bike to campus very quickly and benefit from all that it had to offer including, today, ongoing use of its libraries. My wife was an executive in their investment office for 15 years. Stanford is very jealous of its reputation and often makes the mistake of engaging in coverups that usually blow up in their face. ===== Some early weirdness... "Jane Stanford considered herself an agent of her deceased husband and son. Ghosts ran the university. Jane Stanford told a newspaper reporter that she could not go on if her husband and son did not continue to visit her. “I never,” she said, “transact any business, or in fact do anything worthy of consideration without asking their advice. . . . What would I have done with all my business cares and worries, if I had been deprived of my two spiritual advisors?” How human beings are like horses.... "In 1907, Stanford President David Jordan published a small book, The Human Harvest, a product of two lectures, the first delivered in 1899. In it Jordan praised Leland Stanford and turned his most famous horse—Electioneer—into a parable that reflected Jordan’s vision of the world. That vision centered on eugenics, his belief in racial rankings, and the necessity to limit the reproduction of inferior humans and encourage the reproduction of superior men and women." ====== Jane Stanford and President Jordan almost destroyed the university through petty in-fighting. The irony is that the poisoning of Jane may have saved the University. Whether it was done to rescue the school, or as part of a personal vendetta, will likely never be known. David Jordan went to great lengths to disguise the cause of her death. Beyond this story, Stanford always struggled with its identity. When I was in high school, it rather insecurely called itself "The Harvard of the West" There's no question that it's the riches of Silicon Valley that made Stanford what it is today. This includes a distinct libertarian element and certain level of weakness for the Right, as was already shown years earlier with Herbert Hoover as President of the school. And also by hosting the on-campus institute named after him. -------- The author gets caught in the weeds a lot. Here is the excellent review from the WSJ to get the meat of it. https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog... ====== The author lays out his cards in his book’s final pages. Bertha Berner, Jane Stanford's live-in personal assistant, he concludes, killed Stanford—maybe because of the money that Stanford left her in her will, maybe because Berner feared that Stanford would find out about the kickbacks she got, maybe because she’d simply had enough. President David Jordan, too, had a plausible motive for murder—Stanford planned to fire him—but the author thinks that the bumbling administrator didn’t have it in him. Instead, the historian concludes, Jordan hid Berner’s crime to protect the university’s image, and his own. https://www.newyorker.com/books/under...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maine Colonial

    I received a free advance review copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. This nonfiction book is much more about the subtitle than the main title. Though I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 18 years, worked in Palo Alto for several years and knew many Stanford grads, I had no idea of most of the stories in this book about the founding and early years of the university. And a lot of the San Francisco history in the book was news to me, too. I sure never knew that Wyatt Earp, yes the Wyatt Ea I received a free advance review copy from the publisher, via Netgalley. This nonfiction book is much more about the subtitle than the main title. Though I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 18 years, worked in Palo Alto for several years and knew many Stanford grads, I had no idea of most of the stories in this book about the founding and early years of the university. And a lot of the San Francisco history in the book was news to me, too. I sure never knew that Wyatt Earp, yes the Wyatt Earp, was a bodyguard for the editor of the Examiner newspaper in the Gilded Age days when it was not unusual for editors, publishers and reporters to get plugged by the offended targets of their stories. Ah yes, the Gilded Age. It sounds so glamorous, doesn’t it? Well, of course all that gilt was the result of violence, financial shenanigans, and ruthless treatment of friends, family and foes. Definitely that was the case for Leland Stanford Sr., a railroad baron whose chicanery was the foundation of his wealth. When 15-year-old son, Leland Jr., died of typhoid while on a European trip with his parents, the Stanfords were heartbroken. That was especially true of the boy’s mother, Jane Stanford. She fell for all the spiritualism junk that was so popular at the time, mixing it with her own form of rigid Christian morality, eugenics, and political conservatism. The Stanfords elevated their dead son to godlike status and decided to establish a university in his memory. Odd choice, considering the pair of them were far from intellectuals and it doesn’t sound like Junior was any brain trust, either. But when you read about the Stanfords’ ideas about this university, it makes more sense. They established trusts and grants that were supposed to be the university’s endowment, but the instruments allowed them to claw funds back whenever they wanted. They insisted on memorials to Junior and to themselves on the grounds. They used land they owned that had little sales value. (Isn’t that an amazing thought considering what Palo Alto real estate goes for these days?) After Senior died, Jane became even more controlling, demanding professors be axed if they expressed ideas that didn’t fit her rigid opinions and whims. Stanford University lost its academic reputation, not to be recovered until many years after Jane Stanford’s death. Speaking of Jane Stanford’s death, the book does describe the most peculiar events surrounding two poisoning attempts on her life, the second one successful. The list of possible suspects is long, given her controlling, manipulative and mean-spirited personality, and it ranges from household servants, spectacularly incompetent and venal lawyers, various relatives, and many people associated with the university. To be honest, if I’d been around at the time, they’d have had to add me to the suspect list. This is a woman who likely wasn’t sincerely mourned by a single soul. This is a fascinating study of a lively time in the history of San Francisco and Stanford University, unfortunately marred by a sometimes very long-winded and repetitive narrative.

  3. 5 out of 5

    E W

    Get the popcorn and settle in. Appropriately given its origins in a railroad fortune, the story of Jane Stanford and the early years of Stanford University is a trainwreck from which you cannot look away. Who Killed Jane Stanford is part true crime/murder mystery, part Gilded Age conditional philanthropist biography, part academic satire, and part farce. It has everything—greed, grifters, and graft; scandal; crime and coverups; communing with the dead; reversals of fortune; blackmail; and astoun Get the popcorn and settle in. Appropriately given its origins in a railroad fortune, the story of Jane Stanford and the early years of Stanford University is a trainwreck from which you cannot look away. Who Killed Jane Stanford is part true crime/murder mystery, part Gilded Age conditional philanthropist biography, part academic satire, and part farce. It has everything—greed, grifters, and graft; scandal; crime and coverups; communing with the dead; reversals of fortune; blackmail; and astounding incompetence to name a few. The book arose from a Stanford class taught by historian and retired Stanford professor Richard White and brings to the fore the strange and unsolved murder of Stanford Founder Jane Stanford in 1905 through strychnine poisoning—following an earlier failed attempt on her life by the same means. (You will never look at Poland Spring Water or baking soda the same way again.) By the end, White puts forward a fully developed and credible theory of the murder’s identity and motives, but in some ways that is the least compelling part of the story. The more interesting aspect is the fact that Stanford University (aka Leland Stanford Jr. University) arose from such bizarre, haphazard, and anti-intellectual beginnings. It was a third-rate enterprise before it became, post WWII, the revered institution it is today. Founded by railroad tycoon (and California Governor and U.S. Senator) Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, as a memorial to their son Leland Jr., who died at age 15, the institution was established on the shakiest of foundations of financial and legal irregularities—wholly dependent on the Stanfords (and after Leland Sr.’s death, on Jane alone), highly contingent in its existence, and subject to her every whim, of which there were many (including an endowed chair in what was basically spiritualism). In some ways, Jane Stanford is a woman of remarkable leadership and accomplishment, in others, she is an imperious, capricious, and pitiable caricature. Profound grief was at the center of all of her actions, including initially populating the campus with monuments to herself and her family, ranging from a statue, to a chapel, and a much ridiculed arch that, in effect, became a ruin in the 1906 earthquake. Without knowing the origin story of the University, one would make very different assumptions about the gravitas, beneficence, vision, and respectability of the Stanford family. Their reputation has been as burnished by Stanford University as Carnegie’s has by his libraries. As White puts it, “The University made the Stanfords as much as the Stanfords made the University.” Such was Gilded Age philanthropy. The portrait of founding President David Starr Jordan (the Stanfords’ fourth choice for the job) is likewise mesmerizing. An accomplished opportunist, he likewise enjoyed for many decades a reputation disproportionate to reality, until his work as a eugenicist caught up with him in recent years. This is an informative, entertaining, and cleverly written book in which many chickens come home to roost. Highly recommend.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    "Who Killed Jane Stanford?" is Richard White's effort to transition a class on the Gilded Age origins of Stanford University into a true crime narrative. What's good: White has definitely landed on a great mystery to feature. The death of the Stanford University founder is a compelling question, and there are many excellent themes to address here. (The story of a university being founded, and the inter-faculty/faculty governance squabbles, alone is both fascinating and hilarious to anybody with "Who Killed Jane Stanford?" is Richard White's effort to transition a class on the Gilded Age origins of Stanford University into a true crime narrative. What's good: White has definitely landed on a great mystery to feature. The death of the Stanford University founder is a compelling question, and there are many excellent themes to address here. (The story of a university being founded, and the inter-faculty/faculty governance squabbles, alone is both fascinating and hilarious to anybody with a background in university life.) The author shows genuine interest in the figures here--they're clearly not metaphoric dolls being moved about for the pleasures of the true-crime audience. What's iffier: The book doesn't attempt to answer the central question until the Epilogue, and in so doing, makes for an impatient reader. A part of me wonders if a restructuring of the book would have made it stronger, or if maybe if the title alone is a problem--by starting off asking the identity of the murderer, the reader's attention is cued to focus exclusively on that, vs. the other elements in the title. With gratitude to the publisher and Edelweiss for an ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.

  5. 5 out of 5

    E A

    The STORY is fascinating—such great material and primary-source research—but the BOOK is poorly written. Wondering why nobody is pointing this out. The book reads like a series of disjointed lecture notes. While I’ll bet his classes were really interesting, this book is a wasted opportunity. White could have benefitted from a better editor (or a ghost writer).

  6. 4 out of 5

    Denise Wilbanks | This Is My Everybody

    BOOK REVIEW: Who Killed Jane Stanford? by Richard White 2022 Publication Date: May 17 ⭐️⭐️⭐️️ CONNECT WITH A BOOK | T.I.M.E. SIMPLE LIVING TIP Never underestimate the act of treating others with kindness... T.I.M.E. BOOK REVIEW: Focused on the murder of Jane Stanford, the originating primary benefactor and co-founder of Stanford University. The author, Richard White, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist for his previous books, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America and T BOOK REVIEW: Who Killed Jane Stanford? by Richard White 2022 Publication Date: May 17 ⭐️⭐️⭐️️ CONNECT WITH A BOOK | T.I.M.E. SIMPLE LIVING TIP Never underestimate the act of treating others with kindness... T.I.M.E. BOOK REVIEW: Focused on the murder of Jane Stanford, the originating primary benefactor and co-founder of Stanford University. The author, Richard White, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize Finalist for his previous books, Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America and The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650-1815... And also is a Professor Emeritus with Stanford University, which is at the center of this book. Things I loved about this book? The meticulous detail and objective investigation into the historical facts with a natural curiosity and healthy intuition with denoting "this does not add up" assessments. Perfect for readers who are looking for a book with a History Channel vibe and — at least to my experience — explores a relatively obscure historical crime that remains unsolved although the victim is of great consequence. One final note: I listened to this book via audiobook. In general, I find nonfiction books are a great match for audiobook "reading". But, in doing my research for preparing my review, I was able to view historical photographs that I hope are included within the print version of this book. The historical photographs were so compelling in connecting me with the characters of this story. So, in this circumstance, I do feel my experience of "reading" this story via audiobook would have been enhanced by having that visual connection as I was reading... Ultimately, we simply care more for the characters' experiences when we care about the characters themselves... ✨😎✨ Pages: 491 Genre: Nonfiction Sub-Genre: Historical Nonfiction Time Period: 1885 - 1905 | Gilded Age Location: San Francisco (California) | Honolulu (Hawaii) IF YOU LIKE THIS BOOK THEN TRY… Book: The Devil In The White City by Erik Larson TV Series: Unsolved Mysteries (Netflix) -------------------- All my book reviews can be seen at This Is My Everybody | Simple Living | Denise Wilbanks at thisismyeverybody.com/blog/what-book-... ♡ Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC. I voluntarily chose to review it and the opinions contained within are my own. // COME ON OVER & SAY HELLO!... Website: https://thisismyeverybody.com YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/ThisIsMyEve... Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/thisismyeve... Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/thisismyeve... Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/thisismyever... Twitter: https://twitter.com/t_everybody And let's be friends here on Goodreads too!... ✨😎✨

  7. 5 out of 5

    Star Gater

    This is a Nonfiction history book with an unsolved murder. The genre of true crime while correct is as misleading as the title. My first reaction when I saw the title and attempted to view the cover was "Not Lizzie Borden." (Mrs. Stanford's hair). This reads like history, and repeats over and over the same things. Lizzie used an axe; Mrs. Stanford's killer used strychnine. There were too many to count suspects, and that is where the book failed for me as true crime nonfiction and became a sour c This is a Nonfiction history book with an unsolved murder. The genre of true crime while correct is as misleading as the title. My first reaction when I saw the title and attempted to view the cover was "Not Lizzie Borden." (Mrs. Stanford's hair). This reads like history, and repeats over and over the same things. Lizzie used an axe; Mrs. Stanford's killer used strychnine. There were too many to count suspects, and that is where the book failed for me as true crime nonfiction and became a sour college class reminder. The author states several times the differences between historians and detectives, and how they perceive a scene. I believe that rationale applies to historians writing history versus a novel. This was incredibly dull. The author used some collegiate vocabulary that the narrator read well. I would have preferred more of a radio drama male voice. Even with the dry material my attention would not have struggled so much. The epilogue is the best part, and even that is too long. Three stars it's thorough and unlike Lizzie, Mrs. Stanford won't get a song.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    An unusual but nonetheless interesting true crime account of the mysterious death of the founder of Stanford University. What's unusual? It explores more the cover up of the crime than the crime itself, a clever and astute choice due to the fact that many primary documents have been destroyed (by the San Francisco earthquake in 1906) or are missing and what's left is questionable and unreliable. The founding of the prominent university's very humble (and unprestigious) beginnings, the biography An unusual but nonetheless interesting true crime account of the mysterious death of the founder of Stanford University. What's unusual? It explores more the cover up of the crime than the crime itself, a clever and astute choice due to the fact that many primary documents have been destroyed (by the San Francisco earthquake in 1906) or are missing and what's left is questionable and unreliable. The founding of the prominent university's very humble (and unprestigious) beginnings, the biography and history of Jane Stanford's life and spiritual beliefs, and the snapshot of Gilded Age San Francisco makes for an engaging read. Add in the author's emeritus status as a history professor at Stanford, his entertaining writing style, and this becomes a must-read for all true crime junkies.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sugarpuss O'Shea

    This book was a LOT: a lot of people; a lot of moving parts; a lot of institutional intrigues; a lot of tangents. So rather than trying to digest all of this abundant information, I decided to drown out the noise, and focus on the 2 women of this tale: Jane Stanford & Bertha Berner, Jane's companion and secretary. Jane & Bertha had a lot more in common than meets the eye. They both had to fight for her relevancy: Jane was an old women with money, who fought the men who controlled her University; This book was a LOT: a lot of people; a lot of moving parts; a lot of institutional intrigues; a lot of tangents. So rather than trying to digest all of this abundant information, I decided to drown out the noise, and focus on the 2 women of this tale: Jane Stanford & Bertha Berner, Jane's companion and secretary. Jane & Bertha had a lot more in common than meets the eye. They both had to fight for her relevancy: Jane was an old women with money, who fought the men who controlled her University; Bertha was a middle-aged woman (by Gilded Age standards), who fought for some semblance for control of her own life. Both women were controlled by the conventions of her time: Jane was deemed eccentric for how she chose to channel her grief; Bertha was deemed an old-maid because she chose career over mores. As a true crime story, this left me wanting, but to look at this as a study of women in the Gilded Age, I found it far more compelling.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I was fascinated by the subject and how the history got written. I kept reading to find out who did it, but I think the book would have benefited from more maps or drawings of names and linkages. I also didn’t love how he tended to rely on so many direct quotes from newspapers or texts. It made it a bit stilted and more like a textbook than a great story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Brown

    Fantastic, riveting read from one of the great scholars of American history. It is not an academic book at all, though certainly filled with fascinating history. It really is just a great crime story and mystery told with impeccable detail and masterful skill.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brendan Dowd

    When is a murder not a murder? When an entire university is at stake, apparently. In this highly readable true crime book by Richard White, we are introduced to the absolute insanity that is the founding and early years of Stanford University. Leland and Jane Stanford found the university in honor of their young son who passed too soon. After the death of Leland, Jane begins a tyranny over the university with increasing capriciousness that ultimately leads to her murder. White dives deep into the When is a murder not a murder? When an entire university is at stake, apparently. In this highly readable true crime book by Richard White, we are introduced to the absolute insanity that is the founding and early years of Stanford University. Leland and Jane Stanford found the university in honor of their young son who passed too soon. After the death of Leland, Jane begins a tyranny over the university with increasing capriciousness that ultimately leads to her murder. White dives deep into the surviving documentation to try and understand how what was very clearly a murder was ultimately deemed natural causes by some authorities. White writes a wonderful book which is easy to read and will appeal to anyone who loves true crime or even just the absurdity of early Stanford politics. (This book was provided in advance by W. W. Norton & Company and Netgalley. The full review is on HistoryNerdsUnited.com.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    In depth analysis of the demise of one of the founders of the august university of the same name. Exceptional research and prose. Highly recommend for readers in the Bay Area and insightful about a gilded age robber barron family, corrupt California at the turn of the 20th century, and, the most unusual beginnings of Stanford University

  14. 4 out of 5

    V. Briceland

    Richard White has produced a lushly-documented inquiry into the mysterious death of Jane Stanford—widow of a Gilded Age railroad magnate who founded Stanford University as a memorial to a dead child. Stanford, an incredibly unpleasant-sounding woman who controlled not only her considerable household but her university by her pursestrings, suffered an attempt on her life at home by a hefty dose of strychnine in her water bottle, in January of 1905. A month later, a larger dose of pure strychnine Richard White has produced a lushly-documented inquiry into the mysterious death of Jane Stanford—widow of a Gilded Age railroad magnate who founded Stanford University as a memorial to a dead child. Stanford, an incredibly unpleasant-sounding woman who controlled not only her considerable household but her university by her pursestrings, suffered an attempt on her life at home by a hefty dose of strychnine in her water bottle, in January of 1905. A month later, a larger dose of pure strychnine crystals in her bicarbonate of soda finished off the old woman during a trip to Hawaii. Despite his provocative title, White's narrative is less murder mystery than an evocation of an era; his chapters range from the seances in Stanford's parlors to the grumblings of the servant's quarters, from the discontents and power plays within a fractured university faculty to the seedy back alleys of San Francisco's Chinatown. He examines not only the months leading up to the two murder attempts and the many, many, many persons who might be motivated to take the widow's life, but ways in which the crimes were investigated and eventually covered up—thanks to a culture of privilege that railroaded authorities into delivering a verdict of death by natural causes at the inquest, despite every evidence to the contrary. (One of the prime suspects, for decades after, claimed the cause of death was really some badly-digested soggy gingerbread.) There's not a single sympathetic character to be found in this portrait of California in the early nineteen-hundreds. The Stanfords seem to have accumulated their fortune through grift and exploitation; Mrs. Stanford ruled the university by eroding the constitutional rights of its educators and students, fired faculty at whim, and was on the verge of deeding the whole kit and kaboodle to the Jesuits weeks before her death. Her servants seemed to operate on merchant kickbacks and sheer spleen. You might expect the trod-upon faculty and staff of Stanford to come off sympathetically, but the university is a hotbed of sex and spite. Whenever I thought I might have some anti-Stanford soul to cheer for, he would turn out to be either heavily into eugenics or a member of the Keep California White Society. Despite the rogue cast, however, Who Killed Jane Stanford? is compelling in its story of conspiracy and corruption, and its last-chapter pinpointing of the likely culprit seemed convincing. Convincing enough, anyway, to make me question any soggy gingerbread I might in the future encounter.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    ✨ Review ✨ Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White; Narrated by Christopher P. Brown I don't listen to / read a lot of true crime, but I was excited to find this one written by Richard White, a historian that always produces interesting explorations of the past. I was also hooked by my interest in the Bay Area, even if the Gilded Age isn't really my favorite time period. I really enjoyed listening to this book. White fr ✨ Review ✨ Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits and the Birth of a University by Richard White; Narrated by Christopher P. Brown I don't listen to / read a lot of true crime, but I was excited to find this one written by Richard White, a historian that always produces interesting explorations of the past. I was also hooked by my interest in the Bay Area, even if the Gilded Age isn't really my favorite time period. I really enjoyed listening to this book. White framed the story with the murder of Jane Stanford, and along the way provided deep contextualization of Stanford - the woman, the family, and the university. As he explored the history of her life, her death, and the investigations after her death, he revealed layers of scandal, Gilded Age corruption, racial and socioeconomic inequities, and so much more. I really appreciated how he "broke the fourth wall," and provided glimpses into the challenges of doing this research with sources that had gone missing (maliciously or likely some due to the 1906 earthquake), as well as the ways the sources frequently contradict each other. I enjoyed these reflections into the practice of this writing, and the differences between historians and detectives in the way they approach cases like these. It's a book that true crime lovers who also enjoy history would like reading, though it's not as flashy as some more modern true crime where all of the answers come together neatly. I learned a lot about Stanford, but also about the Bay Area in the Gilded Age. Thanks to W. W. Norton & Company, Tantor Audio, and #netgalley for advanced copies of this book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Casey Gale

    Who Killed Jane Stanford? By Richard White ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In San Francisco Gilded Age corruption and conspiracy surround the murder of Stanford University co-founder Jane Stanford. Jane and Leland Stanford founded Stanford University in 1885 to honor their teenage son who died suddenly. Years later in 1893 Leland dies and Jane Stanford continues her eccentric spiritualist ways for many years imposing her beliefs on the University and key educators. In 1905 she was murdered in Hawaii by strychnine poiso Who Killed Jane Stanford? By Richard White ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ In San Francisco Gilded Age corruption and conspiracy surround the murder of Stanford University co-founder Jane Stanford. Jane and Leland Stanford founded Stanford University in 1885 to honor their teenage son who died suddenly. Years later in 1893 Leland dies and Jane Stanford continues her eccentric spiritualist ways for many years imposing her beliefs on the University and key educators. In 1905 she was murdered in Hawaii by strychnine poisoning. The trustees at Stanford University and many associates look to create a story of a death by natural causes. With Janes large fortune necessary for the success of Stanford, her suspicious death cover-up penetrated the wealthy, powerful circles of San Francisco. No one pursued Jane Stanford’s killer. An exciting, extensively researched story of what really happened to Jane Stanford. Perusing documentary evidence author Richard White expertly dissects conflicting witness statements, political corruption and other evidence that tells the story of Janes death during the San Francisco Gilded Age. White finds many people who wanted Jane dead and one person who could make it happen. As one of my favorite Universities the history of Stanfords creation and the story of the killing of its founder was shocking non-fiction. Do you like non-fiction? This one is as good as any fiction bestselling thriller.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    3.5 stars I wanted to read this book because I thought was going to be a fascinating true crime story, but in fact the murder part was much smaller than I expected. It does frame the entire story, but so much more of this work focuses on the gilded age, and how those with money and/or power ruled over those who had little or neither. It was about deceit, controlling others, deep seeded corruption, and yes spirits all in relation to the San Francisco vicinity and the beginning of Stanford Universi 3.5 stars I wanted to read this book because I thought was going to be a fascinating true crime story, but in fact the murder part was much smaller than I expected. It does frame the entire story, but so much more of this work focuses on the gilded age, and how those with money and/or power ruled over those who had little or neither. It was about deceit, controlling others, deep seeded corruption, and yes spirits all in relation to the San Francisco vicinity and the beginning of Stanford University. It is clear that the author put a great deal of research into this book, and the amount of documents that have conveniently become missing is an interesting part of the story. Overall I found this audiobook a engrossing listen. At times it was difficult to keep all the players straight, as there were so many, and there were spots where it felt a bit long winded. The narrator started off a bit slow and drab, but once past the introduction section he conveyed the story in a way that felt appropriate to such a tale. I would definitely recommend it to other history/true crime listeners, but with the caveat that if you're looking for a book focused just on the crime this isn't it. This is a history that simply happens to include an unsolved or should I say covered up murder. **I received a copy of this title from NetGalley in exchange for the an honest review.**

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janalyn Prude

    Jane Stanford with egotistical, demanding, self-aggrandizing and murdered. From her permanent companion Bertha, to the Maid Elizabeth, Ying Sue the cook Ethan Steph at the University her and her husband started there were no shortage of suspects. From the first attempted murder in San Francisco Bertha and Elizabeth were suspects even an ex Butler was thought to may have wanted revenge, but she lived through that attempt it wouldn’t be until her trip to Hawaii whoever wanted her dead would be suc Jane Stanford with egotistical, demanding, self-aggrandizing and murdered. From her permanent companion Bertha, to the Maid Elizabeth, Ying Sue the cook Ethan Steph at the University her and her husband started there were no shortage of suspects. From the first attempted murder in San Francisco Bertha and Elizabeth were suspects even an ex Butler was thought to may have wanted revenge, but she lived through that attempt it wouldn’t be until her trip to Hawaii whoever wanted her dead would be successful. In her death investigation much like her life it was so micromanaged it was essentially bundled and who did it would never be found out. In this book by Richard White, he sets out to answer that question is has a lot of gossip, and fax and I totally enjoyed it. It’s not so much true crime as it is social commentary on a Victorian era murder. Although if you like true crime in investigation you’ll love this book. I was given this book by Netgali and I leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any grammar or punctuation errors as I am blind and dictate my review but all opinions are definitely my own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I really enjoy historical true crime, and this book didn’t disappoint. In order to tell the story of Jane Stanford’s death, the author first delves into Jane’s life - her marriage, the birth and death of her only child, the creation of Stanford University, and the privilege afforded a woman with loads of money. I thought it was well researched, and I found the information about the formation of Stanford University particularly interesting! It’s not a time period or an area I know much about. I a I really enjoy historical true crime, and this book didn’t disappoint. In order to tell the story of Jane Stanford’s death, the author first delves into Jane’s life - her marriage, the birth and death of her only child, the creation of Stanford University, and the privilege afforded a woman with loads of money. I thought it was well researched, and I found the information about the formation of Stanford University particularly interesting! It’s not a time period or an area I know much about. I also thought that the conclusion was well thought out, and a very viable one given that nobody will ever know who really did kill Mrs Stanford. I also really liked the narrator - he had an easy accent, and a nice style to his reading. Definitely a book worth getting into for anyone interested in historical true crime or the history of one of the most famous universities in the US.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Christine Piepmeier

    This true crime story tells about the mysterious death of Jane Stanford, widow to the founder of the college. She was mysteriously poisoned with strychnine in Hawaii. I found the organization of this book a bit challenging. A lot of info was presented early on that didn’t seem relevant. It wasn’t until the end that those chapters made more sense. Also this is still an unsolved murder so anyone looking for a nice, neat ending should not expect that here. However, I’ve never heard of this murder a This true crime story tells about the mysterious death of Jane Stanford, widow to the founder of the college. She was mysteriously poisoned with strychnine in Hawaii. I found the organization of this book a bit challenging. A lot of info was presented early on that didn’t seem relevant. It wasn’t until the end that those chapters made more sense. Also this is still an unsolved murder so anyone looking for a nice, neat ending should not expect that here. However, I’ve never heard of this murder and found it very interesting!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Maria-Anne

    This is an interesting book to listen to. Listening to this book was an education in itself and certainly an eye opener. The Narrator did a good job in presenting the story without making it sound boring. The author did and enormous amount of research to been able to present the facts which will be even news to Stanford alumina. To be honest Jane Stanford didn’t seem like a very nice person who used her money to control people in her employ and at the University. It also makes you realize that in This is an interesting book to listen to. Listening to this book was an education in itself and certainly an eye opener. The Narrator did a good job in presenting the story without making it sound boring. The author did and enormous amount of research to been able to present the facts which will be even news to Stanford alumina. To be honest Jane Stanford didn’t seem like a very nice person who used her money to control people in her employ and at the University. It also makes you realize that in the 100+ years the same kind of dealings is still going in businesses and politics.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    There is a lot here of interest to me. I live near Stanford, and who doesn't like a good gilded age tale of murder? But my complaint -- at least with the audio narration -- is that there is too much here, told too evenly with little "inflection" to guide the reader. It's like watching a movie of real life filmed on an iPhone with minimal editing. You're not sure what to focus on. There's definitely interesting content in here but I prefer for the author to curate it for me. There is a lot here of interest to me. I live near Stanford, and who doesn't like a good gilded age tale of murder? But my complaint -- at least with the audio narration -- is that there is too much here, told too evenly with little "inflection" to guide the reader. It's like watching a movie of real life filmed on an iPhone with minimal editing. You're not sure what to focus on. There's definitely interesting content in here but I prefer for the author to curate it for me.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mariaelena

    I struggled in the first 1/3, not because the story wasn't compelling but because there were so many moving pieces - institutional histories, gender and racial politics, background history, and complicated characters. However, White's best writing comes at the end, when he unites his historian training with detective work to come to an excellent conclusion. I appreciated how White described his research as talking to dead people — an apt way to think about history in general. I struggled in the first 1/3, not because the story wasn't compelling but because there were so many moving pieces - institutional histories, gender and racial politics, background history, and complicated characters. However, White's best writing comes at the end, when he unites his historian training with detective work to come to an excellent conclusion. I appreciated how White described his research as talking to dead people — an apt way to think about history in general.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte Mack

    Meticulously researched, the author gives much background Information about the founding of Stanford University, its founders Leland and Jane Stanford, and the corruption in California in the gilded age. This book would probably be much more interesting to a Stanford graduate than me but due to its "who dunnit" story line along with the amount of history revealed of the times and of the region, it can keep the readers interest. Meticulously researched, the author gives much background Information about the founding of Stanford University, its founders Leland and Jane Stanford, and the corruption in California in the gilded age. This book would probably be much more interesting to a Stanford graduate than me but due to its "who dunnit" story line along with the amount of history revealed of the times and of the region, it can keep the readers interest.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    This ARC was provided to me via Kindle, W. W. Norton & Company and by #NetGalley. Opinions expressed are completely my own. A step back in time, murder. intrigue, mystery a reminder as much times change they stay the same. A beautifully done work about a tragic story and a tale we all know too well.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Brice Culhane

    DNF at 184 pages. I'm just really bored and ready to b e done with this. It advertises itself like True Crime and while there are elements of that in here it is not. It is more a history of Jane Stanford and Stanford University as a whole. I think the problem with this book was the marketing- it is not what it claimed to be and as such it made it really difficult to get through. DNF at 184 pages. I'm just really bored and ready to b e done with this. It advertises itself like True Crime and while there are elements of that in here it is not. It is more a history of Jane Stanford and Stanford University as a whole. I think the problem with this book was the marketing- it is not what it claimed to be and as such it made it really difficult to get through.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Frances R. Kitt

    Fascinating A fascinating look at the true origins of Stanford University. It seems like the big lie currently being perpetrated by the corrupt and wealthy politicians is nothing new just history repeating itself.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Veronica Bale

    My book club is reading a number of mysteries this summer. This would have been a good true crime addition to that list. Jane Stanford's murder came up in a book we read last year and it's interesting to read a deeper dive into the subject. My book club is reading a number of mysteries this summer. This would have been a good true crime addition to that list. Jane Stanford's murder came up in a book we read last year and it's interesting to read a deeper dive into the subject.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Alicia Primer

    Rather dry retelling of the notoriously unsolved murder of an unpleasant rich woman, who happened to have co-founded Stanford University. The tragedy of her young son’s death was more interesting to me than the rest.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I did not enjoy this. I kept waiting for it to be over. The title is misleading and the author gets way too in the minutiae to the point you no longer care. I’m a history buff who lives in the Bay Area. This should have been a winner but I was just bored.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...