The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

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The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime that Scandalized a City and Sparked the Tabloid Wars

Author: Paul Collins
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 270
Cover Price: $ 26.00

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On Long Island, a farmer finds a duck pond turned red with blood. On the Lower East Side, two boys playing at a pier discover a floating human torso wrapped tightly in oilcloth. Blueberry pickers near Harlem stumble upon neatly severed limbs in an overgrown ditch. Clues to a horrifying crime are turning up all over New York, but the police are baffled: There are no witnesses, no motives, no suspects.

The grisly finds that began on the afternoon of June 26, 1897, plunged detectives headlong into the era's most baffling murder mystery. Seized upon by battling media moguls Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, the case became a publicity circus. Reenactments of the murder were staged in Times Square, armed reporters lurked in the streets of Hell's Kitchen in pursuit of suspects, and an unlikely trio, a hard luck cop, a cub reporter, and an eccentric professor, all raced to solve the crime.

What emerged was a sensational love triangle and an even more sensational trial: an unprecedented capital case hinging on circumstantial evidence around a victim whom the police couldn't identify with certainty, and who the defense claimed wasn't even dead. This book is a tale of America during the Gilded Age and a colorful re creation of the tabloid wars that have dominated media to this day

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Background Information

Long Island, a product of the last Ice Age, is largely rural in the east but part of America's largest city in the west. Harlem, which drew its name from Haarlem in the Netherlands, became the largest community of black Americans in the early 20th century. Joseph Pulitzer, who immigrated from Hungary and built a newspaper empire, established through a bequest the journalism awards which still today bear his name. William Randolph Hearst parlayed a family fortune built on silver mining into a media empire that spanned newspapers, magazines, movies, and more. Manhattan Borough is essentially the Island of Manhattan, site of New Amsterdam and the commercial center of New York City. While none of the business leaders of the Gilded Age led unblemished lives, names like Rockefeller and Carnegie are removed for philanthropy while others are recalled as robber barons. Tabloid journalism refers to newspaper reporting of low quality catering to the desire of the public for sensational stories.