I learned of the story of William Sharon and Sarah Althea Hill from the book you see here.
I sort and price books for the Chico Friends of the Library’s weekly book sale, and that’s how I came across the book. Just another donation, coming in the back door. Judging by the cover (which is what you are never supposed to do), I thought the book was a novel.
It’s a typical ’60’s book cover: beautiful scheming woman in the foreground and a prosperous-looking gentleman eyeing her in the background. He looks more like Gov. Leland Stanford than ex-Senator William Sharon, who sported a mustache, but not a beard, but what the hey, you get the idea.
I set it on the shelf, thinking I might get around to it someday.
When I looked inside the book, I found that it is a detailed account of an actual historical event. The court cases generated by the scandal titillated the newspaper reading public of the day as it dragged on for years. Parts of it went all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
The author of the book, Robert H. Kroninger (1923-2015), was himself an attorney and a judge of the California Superior Court. His account is meticulous and comprehensive, but at the same time it is lively and full of interest. As the author says in his introduction, the case involved:
Civil suits ranging from divorce to libel to slander; criminal prosecutions ranging from adultery, perjury, and larceny, to murder; and all this accompanied by myriad contempt of court citations and habeas corpus writs. These actions plagued both state and federal courts for nearly ten years. They were responsible for at least 14 appeals to California’s highest court and nine proceedings in the federal circuit court. Three times they found their way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
I do not plan to recount the entire tangled tale, but I will give you an outline of the story and pick out some of the more sensational aspects (of which there were many).