The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America

The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America

by Geoffrey O'Brien
3.4 12

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Overview

The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America by Geoffrey O'Brien

In the tradition of The Devil in the White City comes a spell-binding tale of madness and murder in a nineteenth century American dynasty

On June 3, 1873, a portly, fashionably dressed, middle-aged man calls the Sturtevant House and asks to see the tenant on the second floor. The bellman goes up and presents the visitor's card to the guest in room 267, returns promptly, and escorts the visitor upstairs. Before the bellman even reaches the lobby, four shots are fired in rapid succession.

Eighteen-year-old Frank Walworth descends the staircase and approaches the hotel clerk. He calmly inquires the location of the nearest police precinct and adds, "I have killed my father in my room, and I am going to surrender myself to the police."

So begins the fall of the Walworths, a Saratoga family that rose to prominence as part of the splendor of New York's aristocracy. In a single generation that appearance of stability and firm moral direction would be altered beyond recognition, replaced by the greed, corruption, and madness that had been festering in the family for decades.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429989626
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 07/20/2010
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 395,021
File size: 476 KB

About the Author

Geoffrey O'Brien is a poet, editor, and cultural historian. He is editor in chief for the Library of America. His other nonfiction books include Hardboiled America, Dreamtime, The Times Square Story, Red Sky Café, and Sonata for Jukebox. He lives in New York City.


Geoffrey O'Brien is a poet, editor, and cultural historian. He is editor in chief for the Library of America. His nonfiction books include Hardboiled America, Dreamtime, The Times Square Story, Red Sky Café, and Sonata for Jukebox. He lives in New York City.

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Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I could not put this book down! The historical background of the Walworth family is beyond interesting. The archival research would have taken me years to tackle; however, I much preferred snuggling up with this finished gem. Now I'm planning a Saratoga trip!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Fall of the House of Walworth" is as brilliantly written as highbrow literature, but it offers all the fun and ease of reading a popular crime novel. This is a book that's hard to put down and I was swept away by the history of this most dysfunctional family. I wish I'd saved it for a long sea cruise. I recommend it without hesitation.
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lit-in-the-last-frontier More than 1 year ago
Not generally a fan of either society tales nor crime stories, there was something that appealed to me about this nonfiction story of a distinguished Saratoga, New York family brought down by the crime of parricide and an inherited strain of epilepsy that struck their family in an age when such an illness was labeled as “lunacy” instead of seen for the illness it truly is. The Walworth family produced generations of vaunted war heros, politicians, judges, lawyers, doctors, and other venerated members of society, and when problems arose within their ranks they were kept closely guarded and dealt with amongst themselves. Centering around the generation during and immediately after the Civil War, this work of nonfiction tells of the various ways they either distinguished themselves or gained notoriety. In particular, the book tells the story of Frank Walworth, son of the novelist Mansfield Tracy Walworth, who kills his father, due to years of letters sent to himself and his mother, threatening to kill the Walworth children and mother. Over the years a young Frank had also watched his mother suffer much abuse at the hands of his deranged father. The book gives a good deal of backstory of the family for a couple of generations, setting a stage of privilege and influence, and follows through the deaths of the main generation with whom the book deals. Overall, I found the book to be well written. In the beginning I felt that it jumped around in time a little too much and this made it a bit confusing; I am sure the author used it as a device to create interest in the story, but I would have preferred a more linear approach. Once he settled into a more chronological telling things settled into a much smoother tale. He quotes extensively from contemporary sources but does not footnote, using instead page-noted endnotes at the end of the book which need not be read unless the reader desires to read the entire source. This book contains a lot of historical elements, as the family was involved in a good many events in American history, from the War of 1812, to the Spanish American War, to the Civil War, to friendship with Mary Todd Lincoln, to founding the Daughters of the American Revolution. A lot of court cases, such as the taking down of Boss Tweed’s ring happened simultaneously to the Walworth trial, and so are discussed in this book. However, there is no mystery involved, as the reader knows right from the beginning who the guilty party is. What you do not know is what Frank’s punishment is going to be, especially given that New York, just the day before he shot his father, had passed a new law giving the jury the option of second degree murder. Previously the only choices had been hanging or exoneration. Another element of American history at this time was the great cataclysm occurring among the religious faithful. There were many revivalis
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