Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in
The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
With his powerful voice and ringing high notes, Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was one of the century's greatest opera stars. Audiences at New York's Metropolitan Opera adored him after he made his debut there in 1903. Women in Central Park, however, weren't so enamored, charging Caruso with an early version of sexual harassment. An excerpt from The Post of Nov. 24, 1906:
New York, Nov. 23. --
Enrico Caruso, the Metropolitan Opera House tenor, was found guilty by Magistrate Baker, in the Yorkville Police Court, to-day on the charge of having annoyed women in the Central Park Zoo, and was fined $10. He will either refuse to hand over the money or pay under protest and appeal from the decision to the Court of General Sessions. ...
Caruso's counsel made this statement to-night:
"We will appeal from the decision. If the fine had been only 6 cents, it would have made no difference. The magistrate should have dismissed the case, on the plain, uncontroverted evidence. ..."
Neither Caruso nor any of his counsel was in the courtroom when the magistrate's finding was announced at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Caruso received the news in his apartments in the Savoy Hotel. ... He refused to see the newspaper men, but sent out this statement:
"I am naturally pained and surprised by the verdict. After the evidence was produced in full I had taken it for granted that I would be discharged instantly and honorably. I have no doubt that the verdict will be reversed on the appeal." ...
All the testimony in the case was in by noon to-day, and it was not evident until after the decision had been rendered why the magistrate had asked for a delay before making public his decision. He wanted to visit personally the monkey house in the Central Park Zoo, and test with his own eyes the value of the testimony given by witnesses. ...
Every seat in the Yorkville Police Court was occupied to-day when the court opened for the hearing. In the street nearly 1,000 people struggled unsuccessfully to pass the police line established to hold back the crowds. Inside there was a great bouquet of roses sent to the singer and bearing a card on which was written: "Take it easy, whatever you do. From your friends and the people who know you."
Hannah Graham, the complaining witness, did not appear to press the charge against Caruso. ...
Deputy Commissioner Mathot, in his closing argument, savagely attacked Caruso, saying he came from the scum of Naples, and declaring him to be a man of misfit morals, unworthy of being received in any home and unfit to associate with persons in decent society. The real reason Hannah Graham did not want to appear as a witness was not because she feared that she would be unable to substantiate the charge, but that she did not want to face such a host of perverts as would have gathered -- "such persons as now fill this courtroom," said the deputy commissioner. His eyes swept through the room, and the court officer was forced to rap repeatedly before order was restored.
Mr. Mathot said that Caruso had never denied the real charge against him -- that he had annoyed two young girls and had thrust upon them the most hateful indignities.
"I am here," said Mr. Mathot, "on behalf of women, our wives, and daughters, to ask you if these perverts shall be permitted to use our public highways and the parks for their performance."