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Death in a Hansom Cab


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Writer Kerry Segrave explores the corrupting influence of the media on a falsely accused woman in a 1904 murder trial.


This is the story about two lovers riding in a hansom cab in New York City on June 4 1904. A single shot rang out and Caesar Young was dead. Nan Patterson soon came to be charged with murder in the first degree. Three trials followed; all mistrials. But the trials of the 21-year-old woman weren’t about establishing the “facts” around Young’s death as they were about persecuting a young woman. Editorials appeared pointing out that Nan deserved to be punished, regardless of the Young death, because in their view she needed to be punished for “moral lapses”. She committed adultery and she was a home wrecker, a charge not leveled at Young.
The story is about appalling media coverage that alternated between publishing smear pieces about the young woman, and making up tales about interviews with Nan that had not happened. It is about a poor quality prosecution that consisted mainly of lies and fanciful, bizarre theories about the death of Young. It is about the state refusing to grant bail and to set speedy trial dates. The story of Nan Patterson is the story of the persecution of a young woman under the guise of prosecution.

In 1904 Nan Patterson became one of the most hated women in New York City for a crime she likely didn’t commit. On June 4, 1904, Caesar Young -Patterson’s lover- was shot while the two rode through New York in a hansom cab. As Young was planning to leave New York for Europe with his wife the same day, and to leave Nan forever, all eyes were immediately upon the young woman unlucky enough to be in the cab with her lover.

In the new book Death in a Hansom Cab, writer Kerry Sergrave explores the actual court trial and the unofficial trial Nan Patterson suffered in the media.  Nan Patterson was a 21 year-old actress known just barely for an off-shoot play of a popular name. As a divorcee who was in a relationship with a married man, Sergrave posits that Patterson was at a severe disadvantage from the start of her trial, even with no real evidence of her guilt. Though Young’s past was checkered at best, all guilt and blame was immediately placed on Patterson’s shoulders. 

Death in a Hansom Cab explores the newspaper editorials, actual facts of the case, as well as the real story of Nan Patterson and her life. It focuses on showing how media slander impacted the murder trial, including supposed eye-witnesses who had many differing stories. It seems clear from page one how Segrave feels about the trial, and after reading through the many ways Patterson was slandered in the press and accused of almost everything under the sun, it is difficult not to feel the same way. 

Segrave’s writing is highly impassioned as she points out injustice after injustice, such as bail amounts that changed frequently, stories in the press that painted Nan Patterson as a femme fatale, and false information seemingly pulled from no where and published in the local papers and then repeated nationally. For readers who are fascinated with true crime and how people are often tried in the media before having a chance at a day in court, Death in a Hansom Cab is an excellent read.

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This is the story about two lovers riding in a hansom cab in New York City on June 4 1904. A single shot rang out and Caesar Young was dead. Nan Patterson soon came to be charged with murder in the first degree. Three trials followed; all mistrials. But the trials of the 21-year-old woman weren’t about establishing the “facts” around Young’s death as they were about persecuting a young woman. Editorials appeared pointing out that Nan deserved to be punished, regardless of the Young death, because in their view she needed to be punished for “moral lapses”. She committed adultery and she was a home wrecker, a charge not leveled at Young.
The story is about appalling media coverage that alternated between publishing smear pieces about the young woman, and making up tales about interviews with Nan that had not happened. It is about a poor quality prosecution that consisted mainly of lies and fanciful, bizarre theories about the death of Young. It is about the state refusing to grant bail and to set speedy trial dates. The story of Nan Patterson is the story of the persecution of a young woman under the guise of prosecution.

Chapter 1. The Death and the Incarceration.

On Saturday morning June 10, 1904, at some time between 8:00 AM and 9:00 AM a hansom cab was traveling along West Broadway in New York City. Motorized taxis were just beginning to make their appearance in various parts of the world but this one, as the vast majority were, was horse-drawn by a single animal. The driver was located outside of the cab itself, on a raised seat behind the cab. The roof of the cab provided some shelter for the passengers from the elements and that meant that the driver could not see what was going on in the cab. Three passengers could sometimes be squeezed into the cab but it usually carried just one or two. The roof contained a small trap door opening (just called a “trap,”) which could be opened by either the passenger or the driver. The trap was used to easily allow money to pass back and forth and for the flow of verbal instructions, which otherwise might be muffled or unheard if the trap was closed. In this particular hansom on this particular morning the vehicle carried two passengers. One of them was Frank Thomas Young a bookmaker who was about 40 years old, and married. The other was Ann Elizabeth Patterson who was also married, but separated. She went by the name of Nan Patterson, was 21 years old, and had enjoyed a brief theatrical career although without gaining much notice or attention. During her brief time on the stage she used the name of Nan Randolph. The couple were lovers and had been so, off and on, over the previous couple of years. The hansom cab was heading toward the New York pier where Young (known by the nickname “Caesar”) was scheduled to meet his wife and from where the pair were slated to catch an ocean liner for a trip to Europe that would keep the couple out of America for at least a few months. Young’s family, not just his wife but also his siblings and in-laws had all worked on Caesar to badger and cajole him to take the trip abroad and hopefully, at least from their point of view, put an end to the relationship. Thus, during that cab ride the couple must have been conflicted. At about the point where the cab met the cross street of Franklin Avenue, a shot rang out. The driver saw nothing, unsurprisingly. There were no witnesses to the event – excluding the various liars who would pop up over the following weeks and months and swear they had seen the whole thing. Unfortunately, the media often treated such people as serious witnesses. It should have been a straightforward case for the police; two people in a space unpopulated by others, one gun, one shot fired. How many situations were possible? But it was not a simple matter for the police. What followed was a poor investigation, a poor prosecution, multiple trials conducted in the media and by the media, with the explicit and/or implicit help of the authorities. It was also a sexist investigation and a prosecution operated by the patriarchy with its gloves off. The result was the arrest, indictment and trial of Patterson on a murder charge, despite the fact there was no evidence whatsoever; there was nothing but a sexist desperation on the part of an incompetent and vindictive district attorney’s office. Nan was tried three times and three times there was a mistrial.

Caesar Young was mentioned in brief items in the newspapers as early as 1897. At the start of that year a brief article appeared showing how the horsemen at New Orleans were faring financially. Eleven stables were listed, being those stables whose horses had won no less than $1,000 during the previous week. Top grosser was Avondale stable at $3,693 while Caesar Young was listed at number 10 out of the 11, with a gross of $1,397. Later in that year it was reported that racing men were beginning to arrive in San Francisco for the winter season at the Ingleside track. One of those who had just arrived was Caesar Young, bringing with him about 12 horses.

From then on Young appeared to spend most, if not all, of his professional life as a horseman in California, centered on Oakland. In May 1901 a scandal was reported to be brewing in the Butchers’ Board of Trade over the action of the committee in charge of the racing in Oakland on butchers’ day in allotting the betting privilege to bookmaker Caesar Young for a sum that was just one-half of that offered separately by both Harry Corbett and George Rose. Apparently the practice of formal bids for the betting concession was dropped and the concession awarded directly to Young by the chair of that committee, one John H. McMenomy.

A full page of noted gambling figures in the San Francisco area appeared in a San Francisco newspaper. That page featured caricature drawings of 13 of those men. Caesar Young was then well known enough in San Francisco racing circles that he was one of the men who who was deemed worthy of meriting a caricature likeness.

At the very end of 1903 another racing scandal was said to have been in the air in the San Francisco area horse racing circles. This time the board of racing stewards was reportedly investigating a complaint laid by a former jockey and then seconded by a valet for another jockey. The charge laid in those complaints was that Young had instructed the second jockey to deliberately lose a race.

The only news item linking Young and Patterson before that fateful June 4 1904 appeared in a San Francisco paper on March 2 1904. What was described as a “sensation” in racing circles the day before was the reported disappearance of Young, who had been missing from his usual spot at the track on the two previous days and, noted the reporter; “Coupled with his disappearance is a story of his infatuation for a pretty member of the original Floradora sextet, who seemed to have completely turned his head.” Having missed being at the track on the Monday and Tuesday, he last sighting was on the Sunday when he was spotted in a restaurant with Randolph, but missing since then (the paper published its item on Wednesday). According to the article the Randolph woman “has been the central figure in several escapades,” both in this city and Los Angeles.”

The couple had gone to Los Angeles for a few days and the whole affair was brought to a head during that time with Mrs. Young suddenly turning up, accompanied by a few relatives. It was then that Mrs. Young began to lay out plans, aided by her relatives, to take Caesar out of America to Europe to try and end the affair. It was during that time the was groundwork was laid for the tragedy that would ensue on June 4. Even in that brief item the media was getting its “facts” about Nan wrong and beginning its program of character assassination. Nan was never a member of the original Floradora stage production, but a member of one of the traveling companies formed up to take advantage of the success that the original production enjoyed in New York City. Her “escapades” were greatly exaggerated by the press or, more often, simply invented.

Nan Patterson also received a few mentions in print prior to June 4 1904. A brief note that appeared on September 15 1901 listed the names of the principals engaged to present the play Floradora through the west; that is, one of the road companies was being formed at this time. Nine of the principals were listed as well as a list of the six names of the women who would sing the sextet, one of which was Nan Randolph (Patterson). The sextet in Floradora was a sort of glorified chorus, with more work to do in the production.

Another mention of Nan came in March 1903 when she was staying in a San Francisco hotel. According to the article she put too much trust in a hotel bellboy by the name of John Carrage. In the hotel she gave Carrage $200 to buy her a train ticket and while the bellboy left with her money he never returned to the hotel. Said a reporter; Nan Randolph “a young lady well known in Los Angeles” was a victim of “misplaced confidence in the honesty of a bellboy.” Randolph had arrived in San Francisco a few days earlier on her way to New York City and was staying at the Victoria Hotel on Geary Street while she made arrangements for her trip. Two days after her arrival she gave Carrage $200 to get the ticket (with sleeper accommodation) and to also pay some small bills that she had incurred around town. He never came back. When she checked with the railroad she discovered that no ticket had been purchased in her name. Carrage had been employed at the hotel for just three days at the time he disappeared with Nan’s money. Patterson purchased a ticket herself and left San Francisco a day later.

While her performances in Floradora do no seem to have garnered any critical reviews or notices she had enough fame that her divorce made the newspapers. Ann Elizabeth Martin (Nan’s married name) was granted a divorce on April 30, 1903 in San Francisco by Judge Graham, from Leon Gaines Martin on the grounds of desertion and failure to provide. She had met Martin in 1898, when she was just 16 years old, in Baltimore and married him in that city. in November 1898. For some months, reportedly, they lived happily and then according to “Mrs. Martin’s testimony” her husband started drinking and gambling. Them he grew neglectful, despite her protests and failed “to keep her supplied with means of support.” It was then she determined to utilize her vocal powers and fine presence as a means of obtaining the sustenance her wealthy husband denied her.” It would later be revealed that Caesar Young had urged her to get a divorce and that he paid the costs involved. In this account after her separation from Martin she secured a position as one of the members of the sextet in the Floradora company organized by Edna Wallace Hopper, that was in July 1901. Nan stayed with that company and toured in the west until that group disbanded, perhaps in 1902. She then came to San Francisco and took up residence with her sister Julia Patterson, with whom she had been living for the previous year, long enough to give the local divorce courts jurisdiction “over her matrimonial difficulties.” That meant Nan took up residence in San Francisco no later than April 1902.

There were a number of mentions in various papers about a Floradora company that toured the west during the appropriate period and it was probably the company Patterson was affiliated with, although it was not certain, as no names were mentioned. The company played in Salt Lake City for three days in September 1901; it played in Paducah Kentucky on January 21 1902; and the play made its first appearance in Savannah Georgia in the middle of February 1902 and garnered good reviews at that city.

Nan’s fame as an actor, albeit brief and lacking much public notice, arose from her part in Floradora, an Edwardian musical comedy. It opened in London England in 1899 and after a long and successful run there it debuted on Broadway in New York City in 1900, and enjoyed a long and successful run there. The book was written by Jimmy Davis (under the alias Owen Hall). It was so popular that Broadway revivals were held in 1902, 1905 and 1920. A good portion of its success was attributed to the Floradora Girls (the sextet), who were once described as a “sextette of tall, gorgeous damsels, clad in pink walking costumes, black picture hats and carrying frilly parasols.” Fairly rigid physical standards were imposed and the chosen girls had to be 5’ 4” tall and weigh 130 pounds. [A walking costume was simply what the average female of the time wore when she went walking to the store or out to visit friends. All people of the time wore hats and the first decade of the 1900s would become well known for the gigantic hats that females adopted, or had foisted upon them by fashion, and those hats became known as “picture” hats. The sextet were little more than chorus girls elevated slightly as they had more to do in the production; that is, songs]. Those girls were subject to much popular adoration and had many male admirers. The six original sextet members of the original Broadway production [not Nan’s] were said to have all married well financially.

Several years later, in 1907, an article appeared that claimed a new type of show girl emerged because of Floradora. Prior to Floradora the chorus girl wore the same kind of fleshings [flesh-colored tights] that had been in vogue since the days when The Black Crook first shocked the country. That later production debuted in 1866 in New York City and featured a chorus of 70 females attired in skimpy costumes and skin-colored tights. That introduced sex appeal into stage productions, through the chorus girl, and things changed little until Floradora arrived. According to the 1907 piece a metamorphosis took place; “The show girl was lifted to a pedestal such as she had never occupied before. Diamonds, automobiles flowers, Wall Street winnings and millionaire husbands were proffered to her.” What Hall did was to declare that beauty unadorned was not necessarily beauty most adored so he began giving the chorus girl some clothes. In place of the traditional tights the chorus girls were given expensive gowns and hats. He also gave them a song and a huge fan base developed. That original New York City production spawned as many as half a dozen touring road companies [one of which contained Nan as a member].

Morally speaking, the chorus girls, and actresses in general, were held low esteem. Back in the time of The Black Crook females were infrequently seen at live productions, at least those meant for the masses. Audience members were mostly male and were raucous and rowdy, smoking and drinking in the seats and generally running riot. Females appeared on the stage, as main performers in acts, in secondary roles in acts and, always, as chorus girls. The few females in the audiences were mostly prostitutes, literally, who worked the male crowd for business. Females generally avoided being audience members in such uninviting surroundings. Over time the theatre owners improved the standards, physically cleaned up their venues, and so forth, mainly in order to attract that half of the population that hardly ever attended – women. Perhaps attracted by the low reputation of stage females a new character showed up – the theatre sexual harasser – or, as he was called in that era, the stage door Johnny. An article that appeared in 1895 noted that several theatre managers in New York City had decided to put a stop to the gathering of stage door Johnnies about their stage doors after performances and had engaged men to “attend to the matter. Men with clubs.” These Johnnies hung around outside the stage doors after shows in order to harass emerging female players from the production to annoy them, to harass them, and to attempt to pick them up. One description of them was that; “they speak with no good motive. They are not gentlemen and they are cowards.” After the Young death a friend of Nan’s mentioned that Patterson often stayed extra late after a show finished specifically to avoid that unpleasant stage door crowd.

One of the best known Broadway impresarios in American history was Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. He published an article in 1921 declaring that the stage door Johnnies had disappeared from the scene. In writing about them he also remarked on the reputation of chorus girls saying people; “take it for granted that chorus girls are a fast set, never happy unless they are flying off on some giddy joy ride to a gay cafe where champagne is secretly uncorked and a general wild orgy ensues.” Ziegfeld also noted that chorus girls of the time were mostly decoration and paid poorly. They tried to survive on little money and at the same time advance themselves professionally and thus, he thought, who could blame them for accepting meal offers from the Johnnies, and so forth. Around 1900 he said a typical chorus girl was paid about $22 a week and was compelled to purchase the shoes, stockings and tights used in the production. Then she had to clothe herself and pay room and board and all her other expenses out of a net pay of perhaps $17 to $18 a week. The impresario noted a belief that was held, in 1921 and earlier, about the chorus girl, namely; “A large class of people still cling to the belief that any girl – no matter how well behaved she may be or how sterling a character she may appear – must be shunned if she has been in a chorus.”

An article that appeared in print in 1904 had the headline; “Can a moral, upright chorus girl succeed?” That article came about, it was said, as the result of a large number of letters received by a newspaper on the subject. And, concluded the piece, about those queried on the issue; “All were unanimous in saying that a young woman who tries to lead a moral upright life cannot succeed as a chorus girl.” It was images such as the above that Nan carried with her, perhaps unbeknownst to her, as she tangled with America’s so-called justice system and as she dealt with a rigid patriarchal order that came down with force on all women and with extra force on all women it defined as morally deficient. Thus Nan would be viewed and portrayed in the media as little more than a home-wrecking “loose” woman. When it came to women and the justice system the first order of business for the patriarchy was always, and remained, blame the woman herself.

And then it was June 4 1904, a little after 9:00 AM. Frank (Caesar) Young was dead; Nan Patterson was beside herself with grief; and Mrs. Young was standing on a pier in New York City beside an ocean liner waiting to board for the couple’s trip to Europe, and wondering why Caesar had not arrived at the pier. Officials were on their way there to deliver the tragic news. The police were confused and would remain so for the duration. Forensics conducted an abysmal investigation which, of course, fed the police confusion, and an inept ,misogynistic district attorney stood by, waiting to add his bumbling to the growing pile.

Many reports of the death of Young appeared in the press on that June 4th day, with the earliest ones declaring the death to have been the result of suicide; that is, Caesar shot himself to death due to the coming breakup of his affair with Patterson, even if that separation only lasted the few months the Youngs planned to spend in Europe. Many of those early accounts were littered with errors. One newspaper from Salem Oregon declared that Frank Young, a “well-known bookman shot and killed himself in a cab this morning while proceeding up Broadway with Mrs. Nan Patterson. It was thought he was heavily hit financially in the book recently. The account declared that Nan was a member of the original Floradora sextet and that she was being held by the police. According to this account Patterson “hysterically” told the authorities that Young had told her nothing of the trip abroad until that very morning and that just before he fired the shot he told her he would be gone several months and might never see her again.

Another account that rushed into print with the death as a suicide described Caesar as “the best known horseman and bookmaker who ever operated in California and for the last few summers he had had control of the betting at the race meetings in Oregon and Washington…” Young and his wife were said to have lived in a fine residence in Claremont, a suburb of Oakland. A few months earlier the racing people at Oakland were surprised one day at the sudden disappearance of Young. A few days later he was reported to be in Los Angeles and had gone from San Francisco with a “chorus girl.” Calling a woman a “chorus girl” was a slur on her morals and it placed the recipient of such an insult at a level not much above that of prostitute. Herein “Mrs. Patterson” was also incorrectly described as a member of the original Floradora sextet, and that she was being held by the police. Many early accounts referred to Nan as “Mrs. Patterson, even though she had been divorced over a year before the death of Young. And, if her married name was to be used it should have been Mrs. Martin. The use of an erroneous married name to describe her likely was done by the press to reinforce the idea of adultery and the “improper” morality of the woman involved. Since she had reverted to her birth name after the divorce the appropriate address in the press would have been Miss Nan Patterson, but that way the immediate inference of adultery was not obvious. Men in San Francisco who knew Young refused to believe he killed himself on account of any loses at the races, stated a reporter; “They think heavy drinking and domestic troubles due to escapades with various women caused his suicide.” This journalist went on to speculate that it was known that the woman he took with him to Los Angeles [March 1904] followed him to New York City [May 1904] “and word from the east some time ago says that he was badly worried by her presence there. Another story is that he was madly in love with the woman and dreaded a separation.”

When the case was reported in another newspaper as a suicide the journalist noted that; “the shrieks of a female occupant of the [hansom] rig aroused the police. Young died within minutes of being shot and the screams of the woman with him alerted the police. “Mrs.” Patterson was described herein as a “former actress” and that she was being held by the police as a witness owing to the “conflicting evidence,” on $5,000 bail.

When a paper from Topeka Kansas covered the event it also stated unequivocally that death was the result of a suicide. The first police office on the scene found Caesar bleeding from a wound in the chest. The man’s head was in the woman’s lap and she was screaming hysterically. Nan was said to have told the officer that Young had told her he was going to Europe and he might or might not see her in the future. Then, said Patterson, Young drew a revolver and shot himself. Patterson and the cab driver were then taken to the police station. Young was described herein as an Englishman by birth who was brought to the United States around 1890 by the old Manhattan Club, as a representative amateur athlete of England. Several years later Caesar moved on and began to buy race horses.

Later in the day, on June 4, accounts of the tragedy became more mixed as to the cause of Young’s death. One account noted in its headline; “Horseman killed riding in a hack,” while a subhead was more slanted, and proclaimed; “Death of Frank T. Young is charged to Miss Nan Patterson an actress.” At least her name was published correctly.

A lengthy account in a Salt Lake City Utah newspaper called the event, in its headline; “A case of suicide or murder?” Caesar was called a bookmaker, horse owner and stockholder in Pacific Coast race tracks. He was shot and killed in a hansom cab on his way to the White Star Line pier to join his wife and sail to Europe. At first the death was reported as suicide but various circumstances caused the police to later change their views. With Young in the cab was “Mrs.” Nan Patterson “formerly an actress whose stage name was Nan Randolph and who was said to be a member of the original Floradora sextet.” She told police Young shot himself after announcing to her he was going to Europe to be probably gone for several months. The police told the coroner, however, the revolver was in the man’s pocket and that he did not believe Young could have put it there after shooting himself. Patterson was taken to a police station where she “collapsed.” At the station Young’s business partner, a man named John D. Millin stopped in. He stated that Young never carried a revolver and that he did not believe death was due to a self-inflicted wound. Millin said that Young, who came here from England 10 to 15 years ago, a poor man, was worth, at the time of his death, more than $500,000. When Millin and Patterson came in sight of each other in the station he tried to assault Nan, but was held back by police officers. When she was with the coroner, Patterson told him she was a niece of the cashier of a leading New York bank. She said she heard a muffled report right after Young told her he was going to leave her. She said she did not see any pistol and that she thought he shot himself with the pistol in his coat pocket. At least that was what the account stated that Nan told the coroner. Bail for Patterson was first fixed at $1,000 while she was being held as a witness. But then later on that same day, June 4, it was increased to $5,000, by the coroner at the request of the police officials.

The most comprehensive account of that first day came from a New York City publication. “Mrs. Nan Patterson” was described as a niece of Charles Patterson, cashier of the Fourth National Bank. At Hudson Street Hospital where Young was taken, although dead, letters were found, it was claimed, in his pocket, according to police, from Patterson “and written in a threatening manner.” [There were no such letters]. According to this piece Nan was held without bail and sent to the Tombs municipal jail (formally known as the Manhattan Detention Complex). Young and Patterson had started that fateful cab ride at around 8:00 AM on the Saturday morning. The two engaged the hansom operated by Fred Michaels at Columbus Circle and told Michaels to drive them to the pier, where Young was slated to sail on the White Star liner Germanic. At the time Nan was living at the St. Paul Hotel, very near Columbus Circle. Michaels was said herein to have told the police that nothing of importance occurred on the way downtown until arriving at Franklin Street and West Broadway, where he was compelled to stop to let a string of teams pass. Allegedly he heard Young say to Patterson; “Well, Nan, I’ve got to go away for two or three months. I may not see you again. In fact, I don’t think I will ever see you again. It’s better that I should not.” In the next instance the cabman said he heard a pistol shot and knew that either the man or the woman had been shot. A nearby policeman had his attention drawn to the commotion and discovered the man’s body lying across the woman’s lap and a revolver in the pocket of the man. The “conversation” between the two reported earlier in the paragraph never took place. It was completely false. Michaels, as he later testified heard nothing at all, except for a gunshot. When Young’s body was searched it was reported that it contained $1,820 in cash and a considerable amount of diamond jewelry. His wife had the tickets to Europe with staterooms on the Germanic reserved in the name of Mr. and Mrs. Caesar Young. Waiting at the pier with Mrs. Young was John Millin and William Luce (a brother-in-law of Caesar). They were all on the White Star Line pier when news of the shooting was taken to them “by reporters.” Mrs. Young returned to her hotel after hearing the news while Millin rushed to the police station and tried to attack Nan, charging her with killing Young.

In her statement to the coroner Patterson said that her sister Julia with whom she lived at the St. Paul Hotel (Julia was Mrs. J. Morgan Smith and Nan lived with Mr. and Mrs. J. Morgan Smith at that hotel) received a telephone message from Caesar at 7:30 AM that morning. Young told Julia to have Nan meet him at Columbus Circle at 8:00 AM. Nan got there at 8:05 to find Young waiting. During the cab ride heading to the pier the pair stopped once or twice to enter a bar for a drink. Young told Nan he was going to meet his wife at the pier and she was to get out of the cab a few blocks before the cab arrived there. During the ride he told her he was sorry but he did not think that after that day he would be able to ever see her again. As they were talking she heard a pistol shot that was muffled and as she turned Caesar fell over in her lap. Nan continued her statement by stated she first met Young three years earlier on her way to California. She had met him frequently since then and admitted she had been “intimate” with him. They came together on the train from California to New York City five weeks earlier as far as Chicago. Young then took one train to New York City while Patterson took another train to Washington D.C., to visit her family for a few days before continuing on to New York. Said Nan; “I loved him dearly and he told me he loved me. I believe he killed himself because he was made despondent through his love for me.” She admitted taking the gun from his pocket and then putting it back. Millin, in his statement smeared Nan with more false facts. He said; “I knew this woman in California. She was in love with an actor in a Ben Hur company when she was with the Floradora company. He became insane over her and committed suicide in her presence. Another lover of hers on the coast killed himself. All of Young’s friends had been trying to get him to give up this woman. He would go away and she would follow him. Young told me that she secured much money from him.” Millin added that he was with Young until 1:00 AM on the morning of June 4. He was in good humor and said he was going to Europe to get away from Patterson and that his object in going to Europe was that he she could hardly follow him there. Everything Millin was credited with saying was false but all of such material likely helped to blacken Nan’s reputation and standing in public and tilt the scales of “justice” against her. Later in the morning of June 4 Caesar Young awoke in the residence of Luce, where he and his wife had been staying since their arrival in New York City, a month or so earlier. He told his wife that he was going out to get shaved. She replied that she would meet him at the pier. Captain Langan of the New York Police Department declared he had been informed that some “valuable letters” had been found in the dead man’s pockets that will “go far toward proving that he did not commit suicide.” However, he admitted the police did not then “have custody of those letters.” Perhaps, because those letters did not exist.

At that point the first day of the tragedy, June 4, came to any end. Nan Patterson was incarcerated in the Tombs and, unbeknownst to her, would not see freedom for almost a full year. In theory she could have been released by posting bail. However, the state had no intention of ever allowing bail. Reports about the case on the second day, June 5, were similar to that of the first day. Some of those reports actually were datelined the 4th. There was more false and/or exaggerated news and there was more smearing of Nan Patterson. It was trial by the press as a case that had initially been viewed as suicide was rapidly pushed forward to the point where, eventually, Patterson would be indicted for murder in the first degree. It should have been a relatively simple case for the police and other officials. Two people were alone in a small and closed space. A weapon was fired once and one of those people died. There were no witnesses and nothing was heard from the cab except for the single shot, and that was heard only by the hansom driver. The question that remained was whether or not the sole living person who was in the hansom when the shot was fired had a felonious involvement in the death. It should have been easy; it was not.

Two accounts that appeared on June 5, one in a Richmond Virginia newspaper and one from a St. Paul Minnesota paper both featured Millin’s remarks about Nan Patterson, all of which were highly negative. Yet no rebuttal was sought from people such as Nan’s sister Julia (Mrs. J. Morgan Smith) or anybody else who might have been more neutral. Both mentioned Millin’s remarks to Nan that she had killed his partner. But none of these accounts sought any information from the cab driver Michaels, except the comments noted above. By this time that coat and shirt of Young had been examined in the coroner’s office and, said an account; “There was no trace of powder marks and no bullet hold in the coat pocket in which the pistol was found.” The autopsy had also been performed by this time and it was said that the examining physician declared he was unable to say whether the wound was self-inflicted or not. Some of Young’s friends, other than Millin, said the Europe trip had as its object the breaking off of his relationship with Nan. This was uncorroborated with independent witnesses and had the impact of inferring a motive to Nan to shoot Caesar, as the spurned mistress. Later evidence showed that Young was not keen to end the relationship, although various people around him, and not just Mrs. Young, were the anxious ones trying to sever the connection. One of these headlines declared, neutrally; “Caesar Young is killed in a cab,” while the other bluntly asserted; “Murdered in a hansom.”

While Millin had been in the police station where Nan was being questioned and held, and in the coroner’s office [located in the same building] on June 4 and where he had screamed out his accusations against Nan he also tried, on at least two separate occasions, to physically attack Patterson. It had also been determined that the bullet that killed Young entered the body high up on the left side; it had a downward trajectory, passed through the left lung and lodged in the fourth vertebrae.

A St. Louis newspaper had more neutral subheads for its piece; “mysteriously shot to death,” and “killed in cab with actress.” Doctor O’Hanlon was the medical man who performed the autopsy and while the physician had said he was unable to say whether the wound was self-inflicted or not, this account declared it was “the sort of wound that a man would be unlikely to inflict on himself.” Following that autopsy Coroner Brown, who had first set bail at $1,000, and than moved it to $5,000, decided to hold her without bail. According to this account Young came to the United States from England 13 years earlier, 1891, at the solicitation of some of the old Manhattan Athletic Club members at a time when track and field contests between various athletic clubs were popular events with the individual clubs striving mightily to best the rival clubs. Back then, in 1891, William Young was the most famous sprinter in England and it was to him that the invitation to come to America was extended. However, he was in Australia at the time and his young brother, Frank Young, came in his stead. Said a reporter; “He proved his mettle in many famous cross-county matches and all the while lived lavishly at the Manhattan clubhouse. When the club was in financial difficulties Young found himself in the street. He got work at $10 a week with the Western Union Telegraph Company as manager of messengers.” He looked for a better position and found one with James Mahoney, “the poolroom king.” Mahoney soon placed his new employee in charge of his uptown betting rooms when it became apparent to Mahoney that Young was good at establishing odds. Later, Young left the poolroom business and became a horse owner. A few years later he drifted west where he became wealthy, with the aid of his wife who handled all the family financial matters such as investments and buying real estate.

Another New York City newspaper observed that the police were “inclined to believe Young was murdered.” This account noted that Patterson was well known in local theatrical circles and had been with two Floradora companies for some time. While she had only been with one Floradora company this account at least correctly the false reports that she had been with the original sextet with the original New York City company, which went on to achieve fame and to give birth to the various touring road companies that were set up in the wake of that success.

A lengthy piece with more detail appeared on June 5 in the New York Tribune. It noted that Nan met Caesar three years earlier in California, then later in Chicago and then came to New York with him five weeks previous. In this account there was no mention of any letters of a threatening nature written by Patterson and found on Young’s body. Again, that was because no such letters existed. According to this report Young came to America in 1890 to represent the Manhattan Club in its bitter foot race rivalry with other institutions such as the New York Athletic Club and the Boston Athletic Club. It was in that period that Young got his sobriquet “Caesar,” supposedly from the close resemblance of his profile to that of Julius Caesar. While he was said to have arrived in America without a cent, over the following 14 years he amassed a fortune of from $500,000 to $600,000, owned a ranch in Sacramento California, a horse breeding farm in Sacramento, real estate in New York City, and an interest in a race track. In 1890 when the Manhattan Athletic Club and the New York Athletic Club were locked in a fight for road race supremacy, representatives from the former went to England to recruit some of the famous athletes there. Finding William Young to be in Australia they settled for recruiting his brother Frank. He proved his worth winning many of the long distance and cross-country runs in which he was entered. But when the Manhattan Athletic Club folded Young found himself penniless. [While it fell into receivership and was dissolved in 1893 a new Manhattan Athletic Club emerged a year or so later]. During his time with the Manhattan Athletic Club Young met Margaret Becker, the daughter of well-to-do parents; she became Mrs. Young. From there he branched out into bookmaking and started to follow the racing circuit – going on to New Orleans. Soon thereafter he went on to California. Mrs. Young was said to have handled all the money and invested heavily in New York City apartment houses.

This account also featured more material from hansom driver Michaels, who verified that he was unaware of anything going on in his cab until he heard the shot. He explained that he picked up the couple at 8:00 AM with the destination being the pier; “Before I got there I heard a shot and pulled up. I did not hear a quarrel during any part of the drive. I heard the woman tell the policeman that the man said to her, before the shooting, that he was going away for some time, and might see her again or might not see her...Then, she said, a shot was fired. I also heard the woman tell the policeman that she and the dead man had been lovers for three years and it was a source of jealousy to Mrs. Young.” Readers were also informed that New York Police Department officer Junior was the first policeman on the scene and that he saw the man’s body lying across the woman’s lap; that he saw no gun, but later found one in the man’s right hand coat pocket. Neither Michaels nor Junior saw anybody else anywhere near the site of the shooting; a fact conveniently ignored later when “witness” after “witness” after “witness” came forward to declare they had been onsite and had seen everything. In fact Michaels, the most likely candidate to have any knowledge of the event, was completely ignored by the press and, after this day, was not heard from again until he testified during the trials. When Nan spoke to Coroner Brown she also stated that Young had been despondent but that he had no money worries.

When the shot was fired Nan was sitting on the left side of the cab with Young beside her on the right. Powder marks and a bullet hole were evident in the shoulder of the coat and shirt. Following the various conversations Brown had he held a meeting with Assistant District Attorneys Appleton and Gans wherein it was declared that if the $5,000 bail that had been fixed by the Coroner should be offered they would take steps to have the amount raised so that Patterson would not be released. Nan, by then, had as lawyers Abraham Levy and Philip Waldheimer.

A different New York City newspaper, the Sun, told its readers that Margaret Young was said to have letters threatening her husband’s life. This was a slight variation on previous accounts that those letters were found on Young’s body. However, it was all nonsense as such letters did not exist, anywhere. Yet such false information was reported to have been the basis for an increase in Nan’s bail. After Coroner Nicholas T. Brown heard the particulars of the case and “of the existence of certain letters” he caused her bail to be raised from $1,000 to $5,000, all based on the rumor of the existence of such letters. No one had actually seen them. That trip to Europe was said, herein, to last from several months up to a year. On the pier, awaiting the arrival of Caesar, were Margaret Young, Mrs. and Mrs. William Luce and Young’s business partner John D. Millin. While the Youngs were in New York they stayed at the home of Luce, who was a brother-in-law to Caesar. Mrs. Luce was a sister to Margaret. All of the couple’s baggage, consisting of several trunks had been loaded aboard the White Star Line’s Germanic and the best stateroom on the ship had been reserved. Sailing time was 9:30 AM.

Mrs. Smith, at the St. Paul Hotel, received the call from Caesar at 7:30 AM. He told her to tell Nan to meet him as quickly as possible. Nan, then in bed, got up, dressed quickly, and left the apartment. She met him just before 8:00AM. First stop was a saloon where Young had a whiskey. Then he had the cab stop while he went into a hat shop and bought a straw hat. Another stop was made at a bar for more drinks. When the cab, traveling about West Broadway, reached the intersection of Franklin Street Young told Patterson that they must part and that the separation might be for a few months or might be forever. Just after that remark, said Nan, she heard a muffled shot. In this account Nan met Young in California two to three years earlier and the pair quickly became intimate, at a time when Nan was with one of the western Floradora road companies. Soon Mrs. Young head abut the affair. Then Margaret heard a rumor, earlier in 1904, that Caesar and Patterson were about to elope. Millin and Mrs. Young watched the pair and tailed them to a railway station in Los Angeles one night and found the couple with their tickets already purchased and about to leave for Washington D.C. The elopement was stopped when Millin decked Caesar with his fist. Nan went east and continued writing to Caesar. In the meantime Young left San Francisco on April 5, with Margaret. They stopped at Chicago. Mrs. Young went on to New York City alone while Caesar stayed over in Chicago for a day, claiming he wanted to collect a debt. Young met Nan in Chicago and went on the Washington with her. This story is also not accurate but some elements of it were accurate; it was not wholly manufactured. A description of Patterson offered by this article went as follows; “She is merely an apple-faced colorless sort of person, with features which would be described as common...the general suggestion of her face is coarseness and heaviness...Her history is pretty much without interest.” It was an odd description of a woman who, in other accounts of the time, was depicted as an evil, yet potent vamp, able to cause men [other than Young] to commit suicide after they had failed to capture and retain her charms.

An illustration that accompanied a June 5 article published in the San Francisco Call both smeared Patterson and was the first to come out with the idea that she would be charged with murder for it carried a headline stating that the “wrecker of the bookmaker’s home will be charged with his murder.” It was typical of the era that in such an “illicit” relationship as the one between Young and Patterson it was the female who was blamed for everything. It was just as accurate, and more sensible, to say that Young “wrecker” his home through his outside sexual activities. One earlier article implied that he had done so many times before Nan. In this piece it was said that Margaret Young “is a beautiful and talented woman...” That she knew of her husband’s infatuation for Nan and it was to destroy that infatuation that she had persuaded him to go to Europe. With respect to that infatuation, wrote a journalist; “He seemed to be unable to withstand her blandishments...At times his infatuation became so intense that he was crazed. Twice he was taken care of by his friends until his wife could reach him. Mrs. Young seemed to have an influence upon him when she was with him that was even greater than that exerted by Nan Patterson. So it may be that he shot himself while temporarily insane, as a few of his friends believe.” He was said to never have carried a gun, according to his friends and they wondered why he should do so at the start of a foreign trip. His wife looked after his clothing and she said he had no gun that Saturday morning when he left home. According to what little forensic examination had taken place no stains or powder marks were found on Nan’s hands while stains (believed to be powder, pending tests to be made) were found on Young’s hands.

A separate piece that appeared the same day in the Call continued the smear campaign against Patterson. The reporter asserted that both Nan and Young were well known in Los Angeles and that she appeared in that city about one year earlier and give it out that she was one of the members of the Floradora chorus but had tired on the stage. She was accompanied by a man whose name has been “forgotten” because she dropped him as soon as she saw richer pickings in the horsemen and racing crowd. Patterson then took up with Millin but quickly dropped him when she realized Young was the money man of the pair. Then she spent as much time as she could with Young and appeared to wield “amazing influence” over Caesar. He paid for her apartments, clothing, bought her expensive presents and so forth. Those of the sporting fraternity in Los Angeles who knew both people, said the journalist; “blame her for Young’s downfall...” That downfall involved excessive drinking, neglecting his business and so forth. When Young went north to San Francisco Nan went also and she could “seemingly dominate” Young. Friends of Caesar refrained from offering him advice, with respect to his mistress, because they feared his displeasure. None of this material about Patterson was credited to anybody, not even the usual and ubiquitous “anonymous source.” Young was a massive drinker before he met Patterson. The caricature sketches of the 13 well-known San Francisco track men mentioned earlier shows Caesar, almost 18 months before his death with what could clearly be interpreted as a red drinker’s nose.

About the author

Cultural historian Kerry Segrave is the author of dozens of books on such diverse topics as drive-in theaters, lie detectors, jukeboxes, smoking, shoplifting and ticket-scalping. He lives in British Columbia. view profile

Published on April 24, 2020

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70000 words

Genre: True Crime

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