New Notes From Recently Uncovered Articles About

The Greater New York Detective Agency


You may recall the name J.E. McKenna, whose stamp appears on each report of the Greater New York Detective Agency operatives. I have found out that McKenna was, as I surmised, the head of that agency and that his first name was John.

I have also learned that he and his operatives played a role in the often-told story of Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White and Harry Thaw. The story has been popularized in the "The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing" and in the book and movie "Ragtime." (An excellent documentary about the case, "The Murder of the Century," has been shown on PBS.) Most people know the gist of the story: The obsessively jealous Harry Thaw, Nesbit's husband, accused the famous architect of gross improprieties with his wife (before they were married, when she was White's model). Thaw shot White to death at the dining theater on the the Madison Square Roof Garden.

We now know that Harry Thaw hired the Greater New York Agency to trail White. They spied on him for at least sixteen months - from March 5, 1905, right up to the time he was killed, June 25, 1906 - trying to catch him in an uncompromising situation with a woman or young girl. McKenna, on the stand at the trial, reported that his operatives encountered nothing in all that time that would damage White's character. Accepting as truth that which has frequently been reported about White and his orgiastic indulgences, this claim comes as a surprise. Of course, there may have been a good reason why such damning evidence could not be found...

GNY Detectives Get Trailed Themselves

Here is the kicker: Stanford White had hired detectives to shadow the detectives who were shadowing him! P.L. Bergoff, manager of the Vigilant Detective Bureau, relates the story in the "New York World." (I saw it in "The Washington Post" of July 2, 1906.) In February, 1906, Bergoff became aware that White was being shadowed by the Greater New York Agency. He approached White and told him about it. After some convincing, the architect saw that the Bergoff was correct - he was indeed being followed. He hired Bergoff and his operatives to shadow the shadows. This trailing went on from February to June - right up to the time White was killed.