The Murder of Truly Shattuck’s lover, Harry Poole, 1894
Story by Thomas Duke, 1910
“Celebrated Criminal Cases of America”
Part I: San Francisco Cases
During the month of November, 1892, Miss Truly Shattuck was employed in a store called the “Vienna Bazaar,” at 1132 Market Street. She was a girl of striking appearance and had admirers galore, but her favorite seemed to be a young man named Harry Poole, who, on the death of his grandfather, Mr. Gerlack, expected to inherit $100,000.00.
In 1893, Truly secured an engagement as a chorus girl in the Tivoli Opera House. She and Poole gradually became more intimate and on June 4, 1894, Mrs. Jane Shattuck, the mother of Truly, addressed a note to Poole, in which she requested him to declare his intentions toward Truly. This note resulted in a bitter quarrel between Poole and Mrs. Shattuck.
On Sunday morning, July 7, 1894, Truly Shattuck returned to her home at 413 Stevenson Street. She admitted to her mother that she had spent the night with Harry Poole, but attempted to pacify her by saying that they were to be married on the following Monday.
Mrs. Shattuck then ordered Truly to write a note to Poole, which the mother dictated as follows :
“Dear Harry :—For God’s sake come down at once for Mama is dying and wants to see you. My darling, if you love me, come quickly, or you may not see her alive.
“P. S.—Harry, you can afford to forgive her, and for love of heaven come quickly.”
This note was sent by a messenger and Poole called immediately. He found Mrs. Shattuck propped up on pillows in her bed. She told Poole that he and Truly had done wrong. Poole began stroking her left hand, which was outside of the bed covers, and admitted that the accusation was true, but stated that on the following day he would make amends for the evil he had done by making Truly his wife.
Truly left the room at this moment, and the next instant a pistol shot rang out. She rushed back to the room and found Poole lying on the floor dying, with a bullet hole in his temple, while Mrs. Shattuck had a revolver in her right hand which she had previously concealed in the bed. She was hysterical and declared she had killed Poole because he had taken her “baby girl.”
She was tried before Judge E. A. Belcher, and was found guilty of murder. On June 4, 1894, she was sentenced to life imprisonment.
Her defense was insanity and a new trial was subsequently granted by the Supreme Court, with the result that on December 15, 1895, she was acquitted.
Truly took advantage of the notoriety she gained following this tragedy and procured an engagement as a singer on the vaudeville stage. Her beautiful face and figure, and fairly good voice, made her quite an attraction both in America and Europe, but a critic has recently referred to her as “Truly Shattuck, with a voice truly shattered.”
Truly Shattuck Bio
Truly Shattuck (July 27, 1875 – December 6, 1954) was a soubrette star of vaudeville, music halls and Broadway whose career began in tragedy and ended in relative obscurity.
Truly Shattuck was born at San Miguel, San Luis Obispo County, California in an adobe house adjoining the historic Mission San Miguel Arcángel. Her birth name was said to be Clarice Etrulia de Burchards (or Burcharde) which has proven difficult to verify through public records. Shattuck was the surname of her stepfather, who like her birth father, nothing here is known. Truly’s mother was Jane Shattuck.
In 1893 Jane Shattuck murdered Harry Poole, her daughter’s boyfriend, after he refused to commit to marriage after the couple spent the night together. Shattuck’s mother was originally convicted of first degree murder, but was later released after winning a temporary insanity appeal. At the time Shattuck was a chorus girl at the Tivoli Opera House in San Francisco and as a result of the national exposure generated by Poole’s murder, her career began to take seed.
Truly Shattuck made her first New York vaudeville appearance at Tony Pastor’s theater in 1896. Her first major role came the following year playing Mephisto in “Very Little Faust and Much Marguerite“, staged at Hammerstein’s Olympia Theatre. Shattuck went on to tour for a number of seasons as a lead performer in several traveling burlesque and vaudeville companies. When John Philip Sousa’s marches were the rage in the 1890s, Truly caused a bit of controversy by putting words to his music and singing them at music halls such as Koster & Bial’s in New York. Shattuck spent the last year or so of the 19th century in Germany performing at Berlin and Dresden before supporting Edna May in the 1900 London production of An American Beauty.
In 1904 she went from vaudeville to Broadway to play Celestine in the musical An English Daisy, at the Casino Theatre and later that year in George M. Cohan’s Little Johnny Jones at the Liberty Theatre. In 1906 she played Mrs. Franklin-Jones-Berrymore in the musical farce The Governor’s Son staged at the Aerial Gardens (now the New Amsterdam Roof). She created the role of Violette in Parisian Model at the Broadway Theatre in 1906 and the following year she played Adelaide Forster (the lady) in the George Broadhurst play The Lady from Lane’s staged at the Lyric Theatre and Casino Theatre. Her last Broadway roles came in 1910 as Trixie Stole in Judy Forgot at the Broadway Theatre and as Alma in “Alma, Where Do You Live?” with Weber and Fields.
She was the first to sing Ernest R. Ball’s 1913 song Love Me, and the World Is Mine and the following year began an extensive European tour performing at music halls in St. Petersburg, Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, Hamburg, Frankfort and London. Throughout her early career she was a frequent performer with Weber and Fields in shows like Hip! Hip! Hooray! as Vera Shapeleigh at Joe Weber’s Theatre in November, 1907.
In 1910 Shattuck declared bankruptcy in a New York court with nearly $2,800 liabilities and no assets. It was reported in the press at the time that her extravagant lifestyle, expensive cars, clothes and a yacht, caused her downfall. Her husband, Stephen A. Douglas, claimed that she went through a half-million dollars in four years. The two wed in 1899, and according to the press spent very little time together over their marriage. Douglas, who was salesman, was granted a divorce in 1914 some four years after he filed on the grounds of desertion.
On October 13, 1911, she was rushed to Johns Hopkins Hospital suffering from a brain abscess. She had been in Baltimore performing at the Academy of Music in Alma, Where Do You Live? and would be absent from the stage for nearly two years. She returned to vaudeville in 1913 with a new partner, Thomas A. Wise, a comedian who played in The Lady From Lane’s. In 1919 she received positive reviews with Emma O’Neil in their vaudeville skit Punctuating Life’s Manuscript.
Shattuck turned to Hollywood in 1915 and over the next twelve years would appear in some sixteen silent films. Her first known movie was The Iron Strain, in which she played Mrs. Van Ness. Her last was in 1927 as Mrs. P. Belmont-Fox in Rubber Heels. At the time of the taking of the 1920 US census, Shattuck was recorded as a house guest of Rudolph K Hynicka and his young wife Dorothy at their Los Angeles residence. Hyincka was a journalist who rose to control virtually every political appointments in Cincinnati over some two decades.
After her vaudeville and film career closed, Shattuck was reduced to working as a waitress and later as a seamstress, but was unable to hold on to either job for very long. In September 1929, after several months of unemployment, Shattuck was arrested in Chicago for trying to shoplift a $16.50 green dress. She later pleaded guilty, but was released after the department store dropped the charges. One paper quoted her saying, “A woman must dress if she wants to work.” A year later it was reported that she had been appointed personal secretary to a Mrs. A. L. Erlanger.
In 1930, Dr. Henry J. Shireson, a cosmetic surgeon, lost his medical license after one of his patients had to have her legs amputated after he attempted to correct her bow-legs (genu varum). It came out in the investigation that a decade earlier he had performed weight loss surgeries on Shattuck, Sophie Tucker and several other celebrities of the day.
Shattuck was among the more than two hundred mourners who attended Fatty Arbuckle’s funeral in New York in July 1933.
During the remainder of her life, Shattuck would periodically return to the stage and on occasion perform in radio productions. In 1935, Hollywood reporter Alan McElwain listed her among a group of once-popular performers working at the time for $7.50 a-day as a movie bit player.
Shattuck died at the age 79 after an extended illness at the Motion Picture Country Home on Mulholland Drive in Woodland Hills, California.
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The Speed Girl (1921)
Beauty’s Worth (1922)
The Hottentot (1922)
Rubber Heels (1927)