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

Tantor Audio. May 2022. 11:28 hrs. ISBN 9798765025901. $24.99. CRIME
Christopher P. Brown delivers this fascinating Gilded Age true-crime story in an academic but conversational lecture style well suited for historian White’s (emeritus, Stanford; California Exposures) latest work, especially since the award-winning historian often writes in the first person. Stanford campus tours for prospective students convey the university’s origin story of its founders, railroad magnate Leland Stanford and his wife Jane, as grieving parents who founded Stanford to memorialize their deceased son. However, White says the truth involves “a dubious and insecure fortune, laundered into a monument to the founding family, and a school rejuvenated through the blood of one of its founders.” White and his students combed through university archives for clues to Jane’s death, ruled at the 1905 inquest as strychnine poisoning, and sought reasons why university administrators adamantly insisted that her death was from natural causes. Brown’s smooth delivery and excellent pacing glides listeners through the often-bizarre events of Jane’s final years, as well as the interesting background details about how robber baron Leland secured his fortune and the incredible levels of corruption at the university and San Francisco government and business sectors.
VERDICT A must-listen for history buffs and true crime fans.
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