Tag Archives: Chester Gillette

James E. Barcus, “More Light on Dreiser’s Chester Gillette/Clyde Griffiths Family”

 

 

 

James E. Barcus, ‘More Light on Dreiser’s Chester Gillette-Clyde Griffiths Family’ – English Language Notes, Sept 2000

 

 

James E. Barcus, ‘More Light on Dreiser’s Chester Gillette-Clyde Griffiths Family’ – English Laguage Notes, Sept 2000

 

 

Posted here (PDF document and Word document transcription, above) is the following article:

 

“More Light on Dreiser’s Chester Gillette/Clyde Griffiths Family”

by James E. Barcus

English Language Notes, 38:1 (2000): 68-73

 

 

Chester Gillette was the prototype of Clyde Griffiths, the main character in Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   June 2020

the first newspaper accounts of the Gillette murder case

 

 

 

‘Gillette Says the Boat Upset’ – Syrcause Herald 7-14-1906

 

 

‘Mystery in Girl’s Death’ – NY Times 7-14-1906

 

 

‘Girl Murder Victim’ – Washington Post 7-14-1906

 

 

‘Gillette Accused of Miss Brown’s Murder’ – NY Times 7-15-1906

 

 

‘Lake Murder Arrest’ – NY Tribune 7-15-1906

 

 

‘Gillette a Prisoner’ – Washington Post 7-15-1906

 

 

 

‘Accused of Killing Girl’ – Chicago Tribune 7-15-1906

 

 

‘Flaws in Gillette’s Story’ – NY Times 7-16-1906

 

 

‘Lured to Her Death’ – Washington Post 7-16-1906

 

 

‘Accused of Murder of Grace Brown’ – Hartford Courant 7-16-1906

 

 

 

‘Is It a Murder’ (Gillete’s arrest) – Malone (NY) Farmer – 7-18-1906

 

Grace Brown murdered (gives DOB) – (Lowville) Journal & Republican 7-19-1906

 

 

‘Sister Sobs with Gillette’ – Washington Post 7-27-1906

 

 

Followers of this site may be interested in reading some of the earliest accounts of the Gillette murder case that were published in newspapers in July 1906. The case provided the factual underpinning for Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.
The newspaper accounts — posted here (above) as downloadable PDF files — are as follows:

 
GILLETTE SAYS THE BOAT UPSET
Syracuse Herald
July 14, 1906

 

 

MYSTERY IN GIRL’S DEATH.
New York Times
July 14, 1906

 

 

GIRL MURDER VICTIM
Washington Post.
July 14, 1906

 
GILLETTE ACCUSED OF MISS BROWN’S MURDER
New York Times
July 15, 1906

 

 

LAKE MURDER ARREST
New York Tribune
July 15, 1906

 
GILLETTE A PRISONER
Washington Post.
July 15, 1906

 
ACCUSED OF KILLING GIRL
Chicago Tribune
July 15, 1906

 

 

FLAWS IN GILLETTE’S STORY.
New York Times.
July 16, 1906
LURED TO HER DEATH
Washington Post
July 16, 1906

 

 

ACCUSED OF THE MURDER OF GRACE BROWN
Hartford Courant
July 16, 1906

 

 

IS IT A MURDER?
Malone (NY) Farmer
July 18, 1906
TRAGEDY AT BIG MOOSE
Journal and Republican (Lowville, NY)
July 19, 1906
SISTER SOBS WITH GILLETTE
Washington Post.
July 27, 1906

 

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   June 2020

Ruth Reynolds, “Justice and the Two American Tragedies”

 

 

 

 

first page 7-7-1935

 

 

 

firt page 9-18-1966

 

 

Ruth Reynolds, ‘Justice and the Two American Tragedies’ – Daily News (NY) 7-7-1935

 

 

Ruth Reynolds, ‘Echo of An American Tragedy’ – Daily News (NY) 9-18-1966

 

 

 

Posted here (downloadable Word documents above) is a groundbreaking article on the Gillette case:

 

Justice and the Two American Tragedies

Attempt to Forget Life Task of Many Who Were Involved

by Ruth Reynolds

Daily News (New York)

Sunday, July 7, 1935

pp. 42-47

And also a follow up article by the same author:

Echo of ‘An American Tragedy’

by Ruth Reynolds

Daily News (New York)

Sunday, September 18, 1966

pp. 134-135

 

 

The first article, which appeared in the New York Daily News Sunday magazine in 1935, has never been reprinted and is, for all practical purposes, unavailable. I found a copy on microfilm in the New York Public Library, and transcribed the entire article. It is a very well written and researched account of the Gillette case. There are some minor inaccuracies, but the article contains information available nowhere else. This is particularly true of Chester Gillette’s family and what became of them. Reynolds interviewed surviving family members for the story.
Ruth Reynolds (1904-1971 was a staff writer for the New York Daily News. She won acclaim for her series of “justice” stories on noted criminal cases.

 

 

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Ms. Reynolds’s 1935 article also covered the Robert Edward murder case, which Dreiser covered. On the Edwards case, see:

 

Theodore Dreiser, “I Find the Real American Tragedy.” Mystery Magazine 11 (April-May 1935): 22-24, 83-86. Reprinted: Resources for American Literary Study 2 (Spring 1972): 40-55.

 

Salzman, Jack. Introduction to “‘I Find the Real American Tragedy’ by Theodore Dreiser.” Resources for American Literature Study 2 (Spring 1972): 3-4.

 

Famous novel might have inspired local murder

by William C. Kashatus

The Citizens’ Voice

Wilkes-Barre (PA)

August 2, 2009

pg. C1

https://www.citizensvoice.com/arts-living/famous-novel-might-have-inspired-local-murder-1.155509

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   May 2020

Grace Brown and Chester Gillette (photo)

 

 

 

Grace Brown and Chester Gillette - Altanta Const 7-21-1935 pg 6

Grace Brown and Chester Gillette – The Atlanta Constitution, Sunday Magazine, April 21, 1935, pg. 6

 

 

— posted by Roger W. Smith

   September 2019

“Gillette sees his parents”

 

‘Gillette Sees His Parents’ – NY Times 3-1-1908

 

 

Posted here (above) as a downloadable PDF file is a New York Times article about a visit Chester Gillette’s parents made to the prison in Auburn, NY where he would be executed a month later. Gillette had just lost an appeal of his conviction.

 

“Gillette sees his parents,” New York Times, March 1, 1908

 

 

“Gillette Faces Jury”

 

‘Gillette Faces Jury’ (father testifies) – Wash Post 11-20-1906

 

 

“Gillette Faces Jury,” The Washington Post, November 20, 1906

This article was very well reported and written. It conveys what the public must have thought of the Gillette case at the opening of the trial and the attitudes and emotions of those affected, from Grace Brown’s father to Chester Gillette himself.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   September 2017

“The Ballad of Grace Brown and Chester Gillette”

 

 

'The Ballad of Grace Brown and Chester Gillette'.jpg

 

 

Chester Gillette’s uncle

 

 

Craig Brandon is the author of Murder in the Adirondacks, the definitive book about the Chester Gillette murder case. This case, which resulted in Gillette’s execution in Auburn State Prison in New York in 1908, provided the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.

Chester Ellsworth Gillette (1883-1908) was arrested on July 14, 1906 at the Arrowhead Hotel in Inlet, New York, an Adirondack outpost, for the murder of Grace Mae Brown (1886-1906).

Brandon gives lectures about the case, about which he is recognized as the foremost authority. In one such lecture, I recall that Brandon spoke of an uncle from Chicago who, learning of Gillette’s arrest from the newspapers, tried to contact either his nephew or the authorities. (I can’t recall which was the case.) Brandon expressed befuddlement over this and implied that the so called uncle was not in fact Chester Gillette’s uncle.

There indeed was such an uncle and his name was Josiah Rice. He was an uncle of Chester Gillette on Chester’s mother’s side.

Attached (see below) is the death certificate of one Josiah Rice. The details are as follows:

Josiah Rice

residence: 5400 N. Ashland Avenue, Chicago

died in Edgewater Hospital [Chicago] on April 8, 1939

widower; husband of Matilda Rice

his date of birth: February 5, 1855

his age: 84 years 1 month 23 days

his place of birth: Oxford, Massachusetts

father’s name: Leonard Rice (born Oxford, Massachusetts)

mother’s maiden name: Matilda Coyne (born Rock Island, Illinois)

Now, some facts about Chester Gillette’s mother:

Her maiden name was Louisa Maria Rice;

She was born in Millbury, Worcester County, Massachusetts on May 12, 1859;

Her parents were Leonard Rice and Dulcena (or Dulcimer) S. (Gale) Rice;

Leonard Rice and Dulcena Gale were married in Millbury on April 25, 1855.

So, it is apparent that Josiah Rice was the son of Leonard Rice by a first wife of Leonard — namely, Matilda (Coyne) Rice — and it would seem to be a certainty that Matilda died giving birth to Josiah.

Therefore, it is conclusive that Chester Gillette’s mother, Louisa (Rice) Gillette was the half-sister of Josiah Rice of Chicago. So, it would be quite natural and proper for Josiah Rice to call himself Chester Gillette’s uncle and to inquire after Chester upon learning of his arrest from newspapers.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

     July 2016

 

 

 

Josiah Rice death cert.jpg

 

 

newspaper illustrations of the Chester Gillette trial

 

 

Chester Gillette (1883-1908) was the prototype of the character Clyde Griffiths in Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.

Grace Brown (1886-1906), Chester Gillette’s murder victim, was the prototype for the character Roberta Alden in the novel.

The murder occurred on July 11, 1906 on Big Moose Lake in Herkimer County in the Adirondack region of Upstate New York.

The trial of Chester Gillette took place in Herkimer, NY from November 12, 1906 through December 4, 1906.

Gillette was convicted of first degree murder and was executed at Auburn (NY) State Prison on March 31, 1908

Photographs from the trial were rare.

Posted here (below) are illustrations (mostly sketches done by courtroom artists) from newspaper accounts of the trial.

Dreiser followed the events of the trial very closely – almost exactly – in An American Tragedy.

 

 

— Roger W. Smith

   October 2016

 

 

 

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Chester Gillette - NY World 7-18-1906 pg 4

The World (New York), July 18, 1906

 

 

 

Gillette-Brown illustration - NY World 7-22-1906 pg. 1W

The World (New York), July 22, 1906

 

 

 

 

 

 

the marriage of Chester Gillette’s parents

 

 

Craig Brandon’s Murder in the Adirondacks is considered the definitive book about the Chester Gillette murder case, upon which Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy was based. It is indeed an authoritative source, but there are some gaps and factual errors.

For instance: Franklin Gillette and Louisa (Rice) Gillette were the parents of Chester Gillette (1883-1908), who was convicted of and executed for the murder of Grace Brown. Chester Gillette was the prototype of the character Clyde Griffiths in Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

Brandon states, in Murder in the Adirondacks: ‘An American Tragedy’ Revisited (Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc., 1986), pg. 15, re Gillette’s parents:

Sometime after 1880, Frank Gillette met his future bride, Louisa Maria Rice, a native of Millbury, Massachusetts. … The circumstances of the couple’s meeting, courtship and marriage have not been recorded, but the ceremony probably took place sometime in the summer of 1882. Soon after the marriage they moved to Wickes [Montana], a mining town just south of Clancy. …

This paragraph has been deleted from a revised and expanded version of the book: Murder in the Adirondacks: An American Tragedy Revisited; Fully Revised and Expanded Edition (Utica, NY: North Country Books, Inc., 2016). Brandon merely states (pg. 15) that Chester Gillette was born on August 8, 1883 “less than a year” after his father, Frank Gillette had married Louise Rice.

There is a record of the marriage of Chester Gillette’s parents. It indicates that Franklin Gillette and Louisa Rice were married on October 21, 1883 in Jefferson County, Montana Territory, shortly after their first child, Chester Gillette, was born.

The witnesses to the marriage were Franklin Gillette’s brothers Rembrandt Gillette (1848-1893) and Ellsworth Gillette (1861-1896).

Frank and Louisa’s first child, Chester Ellsworth Gillette, was born on August 9, 1883 in Wickes, Jefferson County, Montana.

 

 

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transcription of marriage certificate (see copy below):

marriage record

Franklin Gillette and Louise

October 21, 1883

County of Jefferson; Territory of Montana

recorded Nov. 19, 1883

Territory of Montana / County of Jefferson

This is to certify that I a minister of the Gospel did join in lawful wedlock Franklin Gillette and Louise Rice on the 21st day of October 1883 in the presence of Carrie Gillette and Rembrandt Gillette witnesses / W W Van Onsdele (?) / Recorded Nov the 19th 1883 at 7 o’clock am / Joseph (?) D. Taylor; County Recorder.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     July 2016

 

 

Franklin Gillette-Louisa Rice marriage certificate.jpg