Who Killed Jane Stanford?

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Manage episode 332548536 series 116698
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Penetrating the fog of the coverup surrounding the murder of Stanford University's cofounder, historian Richard White deftly sifts through the evidence and reconstructs the full story. In 1885 Jane Stanford and her husband, Leland Stanford, co-founded Stanford University in memory of their deceased son. After Leland's death in 1893, Jane steered the university and its policies into eccentricity and controversy for more than a decade. When she died in 1905, her vast fortune was still the university’s lifeline.

To foreclose challenges to her bequests, Stanford's president and his allies insisted it was death by natural causes. But it was a murder, by strychnine poisoning, and the culprit walked. Against a backdrop of San Francisco’s machine politics, corrupt policing, tong wars, and heated newspaper rivalries, White’s search for the murderer will draw you into Stanford’s imperious household and the tumultuous politics at the university. And he reveals that, although several suspects had both motive and opportunity, only one had the means.


George Hammond


A Humanities Member-led Forum program. Forums at the Club are organized and run by volunteer programmers who are members of The Commonwealth Club, and they cover a diverse range of topics. Learn more about our Forums.

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.


Richard White

Margaret Byrne Professor Emeritus, Stanford University; Author, Who Killed Jane Stanford?: A Gilded Age Tale of Murder, Deceit, Spirits, and the Birth of a University

In Conversation With George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently hosting all of our live programming via YouTube live stream. This program was recorded via video conference on June 16th, 2022 by the Commonwealth Club of California.

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