The Ancient and Esoteric Order of the Jackalope

Laura Biggar cigarette card

Pleadings from Asbury Park

a fake marriage, a dead baby, and 21 absinthe frappes

The Ingenue

Laura Biggar always craved the spotlight.

Even as a child. She never missed a chance to show off, whether it was stealing the show during the school play, showing off her singing skills in church, or just throwing herself into a game of charades. So no one was surprised when she left Delaware City at age fifteen to join a touring theatrical company.

Soon, Laura was well-known ingenue performing in the touring company of Mr. W.A. Brady, appearing in shows like “Fortune’s Fool,” “Called Back,” “Snow Flake,” “Heart and Hand,” H. Rider Haggard’s “She,” “Hazel Kirke,” “An Irish Arab,” and “The Shatchen.” It didn’t hurt that Laura was a tall, statuesque blonde, something that never goes out of style. 

In 1886 she married fellow actor J.W. McConnell in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and gave birth to their only child, Willis, a year later.

Alas, you can’t be an ingenue forever. 

So as she entered her twenties, Laura turned to more daring and risqué roles. In 1890 she made a splash in Dion Boucicault’s “After Dark” as Eliza Medhurst, a woman driven to the verge of suicide, who is rescued at the last second by a mysterious hobo who turns out to be her own father. (It’s the sort of play where someone gets tied to railroad tracks, before that was a cliche.) 

The production wasn’t terribly well received, because the play offended the morals of theater critics. But even they had to agree, Laura’s performance was a standout.

“The best of the female impersonations is that of Eliza Medhurst, by Laura Biggar, who speaks with correctness and impressiveness and conveys to the character of the wronged and deserted wife a great deal of pathos. Her interpretation of two vocal solos in the last act is well done, although the propriety of it may be questioned.”

Wilkes-Barre Record, January 27, 1890

Another person who wasn’t a fan of the production was J.W. McConnell, mostly because his wife was canoodling with stage manager Stanislaus Strange. In Wisconsin, he caught Stan and Laura in bed together and flew into a jealous rage. He gave Strange a savage beating, quit the company, and not long after served Laura with divorce papers.

That was fine by her. Laura was already on to her next triumph: an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas, fils’ “The Clemenceau Case.” She starred as Iza Dobronowska, the beautiful daughter of a Russian countess whose lusts destroy her husband and her lover. It was an elaborate production, with 19 separate costume changes for Iza alone. But that’s not what brought in the crowds. 

No, they were there for the scene where Iza seductively poses in the nude for sculptor Constantin Ritz. To create the effect of nudity, Laura appeared on stage wearing nothing but flesh-colored tights. That’s what packed the house, even as theater critics derided the show as immoral and lambasted Laura’s performance as “as petty, paltry and unattractive a wanton as was ever made the axis of French dramatic nastiness.”

Drunk on success, Laura made the first of many boneheaded moves. She quit the W.A. Brady company in December to form her own management company. Needless to say, it didn’t pan out and she was reduced to taking smaller roles and performing in plays like “Ali Baba” which were more burlesque than vaudeville.

In 1892 she got a second chance when she was cast in a touring company of Charles R. Hoyt’s smash hit musical “A Trip to Chinatown” as Mrs. Guyer, a Chicago widow on the lookout for a second chance. Crowds loved the chemistry she had with co-star and love interest Burt Haverly, ex-minstrel show performer. Apparently the chemistry was just as strong offstage: in 1893, Haverly became the second Mr. Laura Biggar.

Buoyed by her comeback, Laura took more roles. She was Laura Skiddons, the Queen of Burlesque in Hoyt’s “A Black Sheep.” She was the title character in Lawrence Marston’s “Lady Lil.” And she was Lady Eastlake Chapel in “Passing Show,” where she had to share top billing with “Barney Fagin and his Pickaninnies.” None of those shows hit.

It didn’t matter. Audiences still loved her in “A Trip to Chinatown.” An enterprising Burt Haverly had acquired the rights to the show. Whenever Laura’s current project bombed, his company would stage a revival of “A Trip to Chinatown” and let the money roll in.

It was during one such production at Pittsburgh’s Duquene Theater when Laura Biggar first met Henry Martyn Bennett.

The Impresario

Henry M. Bennett hailed from a distinguished Vermont family. After graduating from college he’d tried to make his fortune any way he could — joining the 1849 California gold rush, running a circus in the midwest, opening a series of hotels in New York — and failed at each one.

In 1869 things began to turn around. He opened a fur store on Sixth Street in Pittsburgh, and soon he was making bank. He reinvested the profits into real estate, and expanded into bars, restaurants, and theaters. He eventually joined forces with three other theater owners in Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Boston to form theatrical juggernaut R.M. Gulick & Co. He still find time to indulge his true passion, breeding horses at a farm in Monmouth County, NJ, just outside of Farmingdale. By April 1897, Bennett was one of the wealthiest and most famous men in Pittsburgh. 

He was also terribly lonely. His wife had died early in the year, he was in ill health, and the old farm was starting to feel awfully empty.

Then, while sitting it his box at the Duquesne Theater, he Laura Biggar on stage, pouring her heart and soul into numbers like “Out for a Racket.” It stirred something inside of him. According to accounts, Bennett turned to his companion, chucked him on the shoulder, and declared, “I’m going to marry that girl.”

Bennett was 66. Biggar was 28.

He invited Laura out to dinner. Of course she said yes. What actress would pass up a chance to get face time with an impresario of Bennett’s stature? Dinner turned into drinks, and then maybe something more. He started following the production as it moved from town to town, lavishly entertaining its lovely star after every show.

It’s easy to see what Henry Bennett liked about Laura Biggar: she was young, vivacious and voluptuous.

It’s also easy to see what Biggar liked about Bennett: he was rich, charming, and co-owned a chain of theaters.

Poor Burt Haverly didn’t like it at all, but what could he do? Tell his wife to not sleep with a man who could make or break both of their careers? He bit his tongue, pretended to believe his wife’s claims that Bennett was a harmless old man, and thanked his lucky stars that it wasn’t worse.

Then it got worse.

In January 1898, Laura refused to perform in Wilmington, DE until she was repaid some $170 that she had loaned the company to get the show off the ground. Management hemmed and hawed, but ultimately promised her that if she took the stage they would have the money for her after the show. Then Haverly spoke up, asking to be repaid the money he had fronted for the show.

That put management in a bind. They could repay husband or wife, but not both. They made the only sensible decision. Haverly owned the rights to the show, so without him there was no show. They let Haverly take the stage and sent out Laura’s understudy. 

Laura quit and fled to New York, where she took up residence in a Manhattan apartment owned by Bennett. Haverly sued the impresario for alienation of affection, seeking damages of $10,000. The two parties eventually settled out of court, and Haverly and Biggar divorced.

With her ex-husband out of the way, Henry Bennett turned his attention to promoting Laura Biggar’s career. He landed her two plum roles almost immediately, in the daring “The Queen of Chinatown” and the naval farce “The White Squadron.” Both shows closed quickly after poor reviews which singled Laura out for extra criticism. 

She did not take it well. In August 1898, Laura she was rescued from the surf in Asbury Park. She was unconscious and it took several hours for her to come around. The press spun it as a swimming accident, but truth be told, it sounds like a suicide attempt.

With no career and no husband, Biggar turned her attention to the one thing she did have: Henry M. Bennett. 

(Technically, she also had her son Willis, but Laura Biggar was not exactly mother of the year. Willis had a tendency to wander off whenever he felt like it and Laura doesn’t seem to have cared.)

Henry M. Bennett was not a well man. He was suffering from blood poisoning, which ultimately led to the amputation of his leg in April 1901. After the operation, he needed round-the-clock supervision, regular doses of medicine, and mental stimulation to prevent him from becoming demented. One person was ideally suited to for all those roles: Laura Biggar.

As the Chicago Tribune put it, 

“Her audience consisted of one bedridden, querulous old man and she had to spend all day long and every day in seemingly futile efforts to entertain him and keep him from sinking into hopeless melancholia.”

Essentially, she’d become the Anna Nicole Smith of 1901. It was not quite the career she’d dreamed of as a girl.

The Imbroglio

Henry M. Bennett died on April 9, 1902 from blood poisoning and the lingering complications of his amputation the previous year.

Laura Biggar was the chief mourner at his funeral. Dressed in heavy black mourning clothes, she accompanied his casket on the long ride from Farmingdale to Asbury Park, weeping the whole way. She looked thin and tired, and upon returning to the farmhouse she fainted on the threshold. R.M. Gulick claimed her constant vigil over his late business partner had left her at the verge of nervous exhaustion.

She apparently felt a lot better a few weeks later when the will was read. She was still wearing mourning attire, but her full cheeks were rosy and her large blue eyes bright.

Bennett’s left the farm to his brother-in-law Ira Shattuck, with the exception of a few items that went to long-time employees. His former secretary, Peter J. McNulty, received some property and a gold watch. And Laura Biggar received:

  • A cool $1,000 in cash, to be paid within ten days of probate
  • An annuity worth $1,800, which would be inherited by her son Willis upon her death
  • All the furs, jewels, and art owned by the late Mrs. Bennett, estimated to be worth $300,000
  • A house at 119 East 83rd Street in Manhattan, estimated to be worth $40,000, and some property that had been mortgaged, estimated to be worth $200,000 once the mortgage was paid off

Bennett’s business interests and investments would continue under the management of R.M. Gulick & Co. for five years, at the end of which they would be sold off and the profits split 60/40 between Biggar and McNulty. Those interests were estimated by the papers to be worth approximately $2 million.

Laura Biggar was going to be a very wealthy woman.

Well, assuming the will stood up in court. 

Bennett’s niece and nephew were not satisfied with the paltry $5,000 payouts they were to receive. They noted that the current will, filed in January, had been drafted during their uncle’s recovery, a period where he could best be described as “feeble-minded and childish.” They claimed Biggar had exerted undue influence over the ailing magnate, and demanded that the courts recognize the will Bennett had filed the previous April, before his amputation, when he was of sound mind.

It was a gamble. Under the terms of the will, any beneficiary who tried to contest the will would forfeit their inheritance if they failed. But the Bennetts were all-in, and hired a small army of lawyers and detectives to prove their point.

Biggar took her case to the papers, playing the wronged woman. She claimed that in Bennett’s last days he was as helpless as a newborn child. He became paranoid, wouldn’t take food or medicine prepared by anyone else, and had to be spoon-fed. He suffered from insomnia, and forced Biggar to stay up with him reading or singing. She played the part to the hilt, making the regular frustrations of caregiving sound like emotional abuse at the hands of a demanding tyrant.

It was effective, but she also couldn’t resist making a few statements that seemed a bit… let’s say, staged.

“I shall never marry again. I married when I was so young that my first long dress was my wedding gown. I made my debut on the stage when but a child, I shall never return to the theatrical profession… The stock farm, my son, the horses, and the dogs are my little world now. The horses seem to know my voice and come to me when I call them, and I have my own pet horse, named Laura B., in honor of me. I am now getting the first real glimpse of sunshine I have had for four long years. It’s too bad that unfeeling people envy me this.”

When the Bennetts’ suit went to court in early July, Laura Biggar was nowhere to be found. In her place stood Dr. Charles C. Hendrick. 

Hendrick was a handsome graduate of Seton Hall who ran a sanitarium for the rich at Bergen Point, near Bayonne. In between patients he read the law, and had also become a successful lawyer. He’d been elected to the county board of health, but any further political aspirations he’d had were shot the foot in when he declared that it was good that President McKinley had been shot, and that he should have been shot long before.

Dr. Hendrick explained that the strain of the preceding weeks had been too much for Miss Biggar, and she’d retired to his sanitarium. She would be unavailable for the next several weeks. In the meantime, he would be her representative.

The session was inconclusive. Some of Bennett’s employees testified that he was not of sound mind when the will was drafted. Others testified that he had moments of lucidity, and the will accurately reflected his desires. Sensing that maybe their case wasn’t as strong as it seemed, the Bennetts tried to reach a settlement with the executors of the will, but Hendrick squashed that.

Then two bombshells landed.

On August 13, a casket was delivered to the the cemetery where Bennett was buried. Accompanying the casket was a note:

“Will you please have an opening made in the plot of Henry M. Bennett for the burial of this child? Signed, Laura Biggar.”

There was small silver nameplate on the casket: “Henry M. Bennett, Jr., died August 15, aged 15 days.”

Hendrick also produced affidavits from Laura attesting that she Bennett had been clandestinely married. The affidavits were rather pointedly signed by “Laura Biggar-Bennett.”

This was a game changer. If Bennett and Biggar had indeed been married and had a child, the will would be null and void because it made no allowance for him. That would cut Biggar out of the will entirely, because all the property would go to the child. But since the child was dead, the rights would revert to his surviving parent.

Hendrick and Biggar were making a play for all the marbles.

When those claims were examined in court in September, though, they started to seem awfully suspicious.

Former justice of the peace Samuel Stanton testified that he’d been roused from bed in the middle of the night to marry the couple on January 2, 1898. He’d filled out a marriage certificate, but instead of just taking it into work the next day he’d dropped it in the mail, and it was lost in the post. He produced a copy he had made, which was entered into the court record over the strenuous objections of the executors. It was signed by a witness, another tenant in his apartment building, who had since died.

The timing of the midnight marriage was strange, since in early January 1898 Laura had been away from New Jersey, performing in “A Night in Chinatown.” Plus, she was still married to Burt Haverly at the time.

Her affidavits also testified that the couple had a second marriage ceremony in Europe in the  early part of 1901, before the amputation of Bennett’s leg. But the timing didn’t work out there, either. Bennett had been so ill at that point that he’d had to cancel a trip to Canada. There was no way he would have been well enough to take a sea voyage.

Dr. John T. Connolly testified that he had gone to the Bergen Point sanitarium in July to deliver a baby.  He tentatively identified the mother as Mrs. Bennett but could not be sure. The baby was premature, and sickly, and died shortly thereafter under his care. But Connolly also testified that he kept no records of his visits to the sanitarium, and had never billed anyone for his services. Which sounds very unlike a doctor.

Hendrick seemed to realize that his gamble was not paying off. On September 26 he made a motion to withdraw Biggar’s claim and restore the original terms of the will. It was still a risky move. Remember, under the terms of the will anyone contesting it was disinherited.

But we’ll never know whether the motion would have been granted. As Hendrick made his motion, two deputy sheriffs burst into the courtroom waving warrants, and arrested Hendrick and Stanton for conspiracy to defraud. They were thrown in jail and detained under $5,000 bail.

Two more deputies were sent to Bergen Point to arrest Biggar, but found her room empty and in a state of disarray. She’d fled to Manhattan and was seeking refuge among her friends in the theater community. She found a new lawyer, the amazingly-named Samuel I. Frankenstein, who she used to feed her side of the story to the press. 

Biggar once cast Bennett as an egomaniacal monster who mistreated her, in an attempt to make herself sympathetic. She claimed there was a conspiracy to disinherit her, led by Peter J. McNulty, who had “hypnotized” Bennett during the drafting of his will. She pled poverty, claiming the legal proceedings had left her virtually penniless, since any monies she was entitled to under the will were held up until it went to probate.

She said she would abandon her claims, if the original bequest would be allowed to stand. When Frankenstein was asked how that work with the poison pill clause in the will, he claimed she was “not contesting it in the capacity of the Laura Biggar named in the will, but in that of the widow of Henry M. Bennett and the mother of his child.” That’s some mighty lawyerly hair-splitting there.

Laura also claimed to be entirely innocent of any conspiracy, but was unwilling to spend time in jail:

“I do not care to surrender myself until I am sure of being able to furnish bail. However, I have no intention of running away.”

Fortunately for her, someone did step up to offer bail: two-bit vaudeville agent Freeman Bernstein. Bernstein figured that after it was all over he could put Biggar back on stage and make a mint, whether she was guilty or innocent.

Of course, Bernstein didn’t have $5,000 to post bail for Biggar, but one of his clients did: the former heavyweight boxing champion of the world, James J. Corbett. “Gentleman Jim” had been a friend of Laura’s from her vaudeville days, when they were both under the management of W.A. Brady.

But even with her bail guaranteed, Laura was in no hurry to turn herself in. Frustrated by the delay, Bernstein and Corbett revoked their offer. Laura remained in hiding for an entire month, only turning herself in at the beginning of November as the authorities started to close in. Turns out, she’d been hiding in plain sight at 119 East 83rd Street, one of the properties she was supposed to receive according to the will.

She claimed that she’d been hoping to raise the $20,000 bail necessary to secure her own freedom as well as that of her co-conspirators, claiming that they would all hang together. Then friends managed to raise her individual $5,000 bail and she waltzed to freedom, leaving Hendrick and Stanton to rot in jail.

The case was set to go to trial on December 16th. To raise money and fill time, Biggar returned to vaudeville, appearing in a sketch rather distastefully named “A Strange Baby.” She had shows scheduled right up to the start of the trial.

The Inquisition

When trial started on December 16, Laura tried to plead as “Laura Bennett” but the judge denied her. She, Hendrick, and Stanton all pled not guilty.

The prosecution made a pretty damning case and laid out the plot in detail.

In April, Dr. Hendrick read notices about Henry Bennett’s death and Laura Biggar’s inheritance in the papers. Those accounts also mentioned her poor health and fragile emotional state, and he saw an opportunity. 

He wrote Biggar several letters offering to come out to the farm, take care of her health, and represent her interests in court. She ultimately relented, and when he finally made it to the farm she was instantly taken with the handsome young doctor/lawyer, and he with his pulchritudinous patient. She moved into the Bergen Point sanitarium and the two began a passionate affair, even though Hendrick was already married with one child and his wife was several months pregnant.

(The affair offended Hendricks’ brother James, an assistant at the sanitarium, who had him arrested in June and charged with immoral conduct. The charges were eventually dismissed.)

During the initial court proceedings, Biggar made an offhand comment that if she was not provided for she’d sue for a share of the estate as Bennett’s common law wife. The idea was meritless — the two hadn’t been together nearly long enough for her to qualify, and for part of that time she’d been legally married to someone else — but it gave Hendrick an idea.

On July 2 the conspiracy was hatched in a Long Branch hotel over room service, cigars, and 21 absinthe frappés. They would claim the whole estate by creating fraudulent evidence of the marriage and producing a fake heir.

Hendrick found Samuel Stanton, a retired justice of the peace who still had some blank marriage certificates lying around, and slipped him a bribe of $10,000  to backdate one for Biggar and Bennett. 

Then, he procured a dead baby — most likely the stillborn child of another patient at the sanitarium, though some accounts ghoulishly suggest it might have been Hendrick’s own stillborn child — and sent it to the cemetery to establish the existence of an heir.

There was only one problem: it was a really bad plan. There were so many holes in the story that it would never add up. And by dragging Stanton into the plot they’d guaranteed its failure.

Stanton wasn’t the first potential co-conspirator Hendrick had approached. He was the third. The authorities knew someone was trying to bribe a justice of the peace, so when the previously broke Stanton suddenly came into money he was immediately suspect. When Stanton then tried to bribe one of his former subordinates to slip the fake marriage certificate into the archives, the offended clerk went straight to the police, and they knew they had their man.

It wasn’t even a good fake marriage certificate. It had been used for someone else and then scraped clean. The witness who had co-signed turned out to not exist at all. And, most damningly, the form had the first two digits of the year pre-filled — 19__.

The marriage was supposed to have taken place in 1898.


The prosecution had other damning evidence.

  • Friends of Bennett’s, who testified that he never had any intention to remarry.
  • Scandalous love letters written from Hendrick to Biggar.
  • Correspondence written by Biggar after her “marriage” where she failed to use her married name. (That’s a bit sexist, though, and it’s not like Laura hadn’t kept using her maiden name after her previous two marriages.)
  • Testimony that Biggar had been having affairs with other actors during the period where she was supposed to have been married.

The defense was surprisingly weak, consisting largely of outright denials, backed up by hearsay from Biggar’s actor friends, casual acquaintances, and a former employees, all of whom assumed that Biggar and Bennett were married because of how they carried on.

For her part, Biggar seemed to hinge her defense on a “poor harried woman” act, aided by sorrowful sighs and melodramatic swoons at appropriate points during the trial.

On December 24 the jury took only a few hours to reach a verdict. Guilty. Wait, let me amend that. Dr. Hendrick and Stanton were found guilty, and sentenced to three years in jail.

Laura Biggar was found not guilty of all charges.

Apparently one juror was swayed by Biggar’s cheap theatrics and was convinced that she was an innocent dupe who had been “led into trouble” by Hendrick. He could not be swayed. Rather than return a hung jury or be stuck in the courthouse deliberating over Christmas, the other jurors agreed on a compromise: acquit Biggar, convict her accomplices. It was completely nonsensical, but what could you do?

She’d successfully used the sexist assumptions of the day to walk away scot-free.

While Hendrick and Stanton languished behind bars, Biggar went back on the road with a new sketch, “A Thief in the Night.” She promised she would raise bail for Hendrick while he appealed — but did not. Eventually, Hendrick’s mother had to raise the bail, and he repaid her by leaving home to join Biggar as a scene partner on the vaudeville circuit.

In November 1903 the New Jersey Supreme Court found that improper evidence had been admitted during the trial, and that there were problems with the jury instructions to boot. They ordered a retrial, which never happened.

Hendrick and Stanton were free men.

Well, Hendrick was. Stanton later got into a drunken brawl with a 7-year old girl and was thrown back into jail.

The Impecunious

Amazingly, the “not guilty” verdict meant that Laura was still eligible to inherit from the Bennett estate. 

Unfortunately, that estate was worth far less than the original $2 million estimates. It urns out the hospitality industry is a fickle beast, and stocks can go up as well as down. Who knew? 

But Laura would not accept that fact, and spent more than a decade locked in a protracted legal battle with the executors while her personal debts mounted. She couldn’t even pay her lawyers. She owed Samuel I. Frankenstein some $23,000 in legal fees, which he had to have garnished from her wages. 

Amusingly, in 1906 she was provisionally awarded some $400,000 by the courts, only to be immediately sued for $300,000 by Dr. Hendrick. He claimed he was owed for services rendered, legal and otherwise. In his court filings he made some familiar arguments, claiming Biggar was an emotional vampire who required his constant attention, leaving him in a fragile emotional state.

By 1916 the estate was finally settled. Alas, Laura had Jarndyce v. Jarndyced the whole thing, frittering most of the money she could have inherited away on legal and administrative costs. In the end, she received some property and her annuity, and not much else.

But Laura’s legal problems didn’t end there.

In 1903, Dr. Hendrick petitioned the court for a divorce from his wife, Agnes, claiming she had been unfaithful. Mrs. Hendrick, understandably offended, filed for divorce on the same grounds. She had months’ worth of newspaper clippings to back up her claims. To top it off, she sued Laura Biggar for alienating her husband’s affections, seeking $150,000 in damages.

In the middle of these bitter divorce proceedings, tragedy struck when the Hendricks’ son was mysteriously kidnapped, herded by strangers into an unmarked cab. It soon turned out he had been kidnapped by Dr. Hendrick, who whisked him away to a Vermont farm that Biggar had inherited by Bennett. When they were found out, Hendrick and Biggar dumped the boy in a Boston orphanage and fled to Montreal. He was eventually recovered by the police and sent back to his mother.

With shenanigans like that, Hendrick and Bigger were not exactly sympathetic defendants.

The courts found for Mrs. Hendrick, awarding her $75,000. At the time it was the largest ever award for alienation of affection. Biggar, of course, could not pay, even when the award was cut down to $50,000 by the judge, and even further to $30,000 on appeal. She was once again forced back to the stage until she could pay off the judgment.

Biggar and Hendrick were together for years, but did not marry until 1916, after the estate was finally settled. Hendrick died two years later of a heart attack, while scouting out property to build a new sanitarium. Laura lived on for another sixteen years, passing in 1935.

Laura Biggar wasn’t a very good criminal. Her plans were petty, poorly thought out, and badly implemented. Her schemes even wound up costing her money — Gulick and the other executors would have gladly paid her off, just to get her out of their hair, but she wouldn’t accept a penny less than the amount she thought she was owed. In the end, she only escaped justice because of her acting abilities, and because the casual sexism of the day meant one fool didn’t think she had the capability to be a monster.

At least in the process she gave us a rollicking story filled with sham marriages, dead babies, cheap theatrics, a drunken brawl with a 7-year old girl, fake kidnappings, and ridiculous schemes cooked up over 21 absinthe frappés.


(All corrections from the errata have been incorporated into this article, but not into the published audio.)


Playwright Dion Boucicault is best known for coining the phrase, “The camera never lies.” (“What Joy to the Troubled Heart!”).

Henry M. Bennett wasn’t the only Gilded Age to play farmer in northern New Jersey. Notorious glutton Diamond Jim Brady (“He Could Eat It All”) had a farm near Long Branch with impractical amenities like gold-plated milk buckets, as if he were Richie Rich or something.

Freeman Bernstein, who offered to pay Laura Biggar’s bail, was also the agent who booked Spiritualist scam artist Ann O’Delia Diss Debar (“Spirit Princess”) at Oscar Hammerstein’s Victoria Theater in 1909 and lost his shirt in the process. In later life, Bernstein also ran scams out of Hollywood’s Garden of Allah hotel (“The Garden of Oblivion”)/



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  • “Local news.” Decatur Daily Republican, 07 Feb 1889.
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  • “The stage.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 03 May 1892.
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  • “All a mistake.” Cincinnati Inquirer, 14 Dec 1892.
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  • “Laura Biggar.” The Atchison (KS) Daily Globe, 30 Aug 1895.
  • “No husband, no diamonds.” Wilmington (DE) Sun, 2 Jan 1898.
  • “Laura didn’t appear and the show went on without the star.” Wilmington (DE) Evening Journal, 3 Jan 1898.
  • “Burt Haverly going to sue because of his wife’s leaving him.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 08 Mar 1898.
  • “Amusement notes.” Mansfield News-Journal, 11 Apr 1901.
  • “Actress eluded deputy sheriff.” Muncie Star-Press, 20 Apr 1901
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  • “Actress heiress to a million.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 13 Apr 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar’s cash.” Boston Globe, 14 Apr 1902.
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  • “H.M. Bennet will is read to heirs.” Asbury Park Press, 15 Apr 1902.
  • “Henry M. Bennett dead.” Monmouth (NJ) Democrat, 17 Apr 1902.
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  • “Bennett Will is contested.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 22 Apr 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar’s attorneys ask for an administrator.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 25 Apr 1902.
  • “Mr. Hawkins put in charge.” Monmouth Inquirer, 25 Apr 1902.
  • “No content of Laura Biggar’s Fortune.” St. Paul (MN) Globe, 27 Apr 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar may compromise.” Asbury Park Journal, 9 May 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar fighting for Bennett millions.” Evening World, 19 Jun 1902.
  • “She didn’t go to Europe.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 22 Jun 1902.
  • “Bennett will contest.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 3 Jul 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar’s son disappeared.” Asbury Park Press, 14 Jul 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar wins a victory.” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 19 Jul 1902.
  • “No settlement reached.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 21 Jul 1902.
  • “Were Laura Biggar and Bennett wedded?” Asbury Park Press, 16 Aug 1902.
  • “Actress widow of millionaire?” Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 Aug 1902
  • “Laura Biggar claims she is legal widow.” Asbury Park Press, 18 Aug 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar may lose all.” Pittsburgh Press, 20 Aug 1902.
  • “Some sensations brewing in Laura Biggar’s suit.” Pittsburgh Press, 12 Sep 1902.
  • “Evidence favors wifehood claim.” Asbury Park Press, 19 Sep 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar’s fight for Bennett’s wealth.” Long Branch (NJ) Record, 19 Sep 1902.
  • “Biggar Lawsuit will be famous.” Asbury Park Press, 20 Sep 1902.
  • “To arrest Laura Biggar; her big suit collapses.” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 26 Sep 1902.
  • “Plot for million foiled; hunting for Miss Biggar.” New York Evening World, 26 Sep 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar has eluded arrest by detectives.” Pittsburgh Press, 27 Sep 1902
  • “Miss Laura Biggar here.” New York Tribune, 28 Sep 1902
  • “Confession now expected from Samuel Stanton.” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 29 Sep 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar to surrender.” New York Evening World, 30 Sep 1902.
  • “Took writ to secure cow that was Bennett’s.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 30 Sep 1902
  • “Miss Biggar still at large.” Asbury Park Press, Sep 30 1902.
  • “Corbett offers Miss Biggar bail.” Asbury Park Press, Oct 1 1902.
  • “Taking no steps to exhume body.” Asbury Park Press, Oct 3 1902.
  • “Fervent plea by Hendrick.” Pittsburgh Press, 7 Oct 1902.
  • “Miss Biggar may surrender today.” Asbury Park Press, 30 Oct 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar is a prisoner.” Pittsburgh Press, 4 Nov 1902.
  • “Forfeiture clause in wills declared odious.” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 7 Nov 1902.
  • “Bail for Laura Biggar.” New York Times, 7 Nov 1902.
  • “A Strange Baby.” Long Branch Record, 14 Nov 1902.
  • “Ex-Husband testified.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 18 Dec 1902.
  • “Witness for Laura Biggar tries to end life with knife.” New York Evening World, 18 Dec 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar says she married Bennett.” Asbury Park Press, 19 Dec 1902.
  • “Women fainted at Biggar Trial.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 Dec 1902.
  • “Mysterious woman gone.” Pittsburgh Press, 20 Dec 1902.
  • “Laura Biggar may be freed.” Pittsburgh Press, 24 Dec 1902.
  • “Jury at Freehold acquits Miss Biggar.” Asbury Park Press, 24 Dec 1902.
  • “Court asked to quash verdict.” Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 7 Jan 1903.
  • “Dr. Hendricks arrested.” Asbury Park Press, 9 Apr 1903.
  • “Stanton says $10,000 bribe was Offered him.” Patterson (NJ) Morning Call, 11 Apr 1903.
  • “Miss Laura Biggar reaps rich reward.” Philadelphia Inquirer, 15 May 1903.
  • “Laura Biggar is sued.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 6 Jun 1903.
  • “State v. Hendrick, et. al.” in Atlantic Reporter (Permanent Edition), Vol. 55. St Paul, MN: West Publishing, 1903.
  • “In Vermont.” Boston Globe, 10 Jan 1904.
  • “Makes sensational charge.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 28 Jan 1905.
  • “Hendrick brings suit against Laura Biggar.” Pittsburgh Press, 7 Aug 1906.
  • “Laura Biggar clever dodger.” Pittsburgh Press, 16 Oct 1906.
  • “Dr. Hendricks’ wife now sues Laura Biggar.” Pittsburgh Daily Post, 25 Jan 1907.
  • “Laura Biggar moves to hold up Bijou Deal.” Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jul 1907.
  • “Laura Biggar will sue for accounting.” Asbury Park Press, 01 Jul 1909.
  • “Demands $100,000 for husband’s lost love.” Asbury Park Press, 25 Jan 1910.
  • Hendrick v. Biggar, 66 Misc. 576 (1910).
  • “Creditors suing former actress.” Los Angeles Herald, 24 Dec 1910.
  • “Laura Biggar Begins her nineteenth suit.” Asbury Park Press, 15 May 1912.
  • “Hearing on Nov. 13 on Bennett will.” Asbury Park Press, 23 Sep 1913.
  • “Dr. Hendrick star in burlesque jail revolt.” Asbury Park Press, 1 Jun 1914.
  • Bennett v. Piatt, 96 A. 482 (N.J. Ch 1915), 85 N.J. Eq. 436.
  • “Laura Biggar loses long legal fight.” Pittsburgh Press, 23 Jun 1915.
  • “Laura Biggar weds Hendrick.” Brooklyn Times Union, 20 May 1916.
  • Shapiro, Walter. Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Führer. New York: Blue Rider Press, 2016.




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Artist. Lover. Social Media Unfluencer. Acknowledged authority on lucrative bogs. Dave "The Knave" White is all this and more. But most days he's a web developer, graphic designer, and cartoonist. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife, his two cats, and his crippling obsession with strange trivia.

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