Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough – 1911

By | November 12, 2016

“I could have won against two bullets, but not against six”



David Graham Phillips in 1908 (the victim)

David Graham Phillips was born on 31 October 1867 in Madison, Indiana. After a career as a journalist, in 1901 he became a successful novelist with the publication of The Great God Success. His regimented attitude to work would have put modern writers to shame. Each day he worked at his desk until the early hours and then rose late. He wrote 6,000 words a day. He once said, “If I were to die tomorrow, I would be six years ahead of the game.” Mr Phillips lived with his sister, Carolyn Frevert, in the National Arts Club on the south side of Gramercy Park in New York.

On 23 January 1911 he got up late as usual and got dressed in the affected style of a dandy, topped off with a black alpine hat. He set off for his club, the Princeton, to collect his post. He walked eastward on 21st Street when a man stood in front of him with a .32 calibre automatic pistol. The man fired six times and Mr Phillips slumped onto the railings outside the club, where florist John Jacoby caught him before he hit the ground.

The attacker cried out, “There you are! I guess that does for you” before pointing the gun at his own head, saying “I’ll finish the job now” and killing himself. Newton James and Frank Davis, two members of the Princeton Club, and Mr Jacoby carried Mr Phillips inside where they put him on a sofa in the foyer. The novelist was taken to Bellevue Hospital. Examination revealed that one of the bullets had punctured a lung, another had missed the vital organs but the rest had hit the left forearm, both thighs and the right hip. An operation removed the bullet that remained in his body and doctors declared the prognosis good.


21st Street, New York City, USA


Monday 23 January 1911


After the operation Mr Phillips told his sister that he had received anonymous threatening letters and telephone calls. One sent just before the shooting read, “This is your last day.” The novelist’s condition worsened on 24 January and he suffered internal haemorrhages in his stomach and lung.

Just before he lapsed into a coma, he said, “I could have won against two bullets, but not against six.” He died at 11.10pm. In the killer’s pocket was an envelope which identified him as 31 year-old Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, a paranoid, deranged music teacher and socialist, who had moved into the Rand School of Social Science on East19th Street on 2 November 1910. It was thought that Goldsborough had taken grave offence at Margaret Severence, a character in one of the novelist’s books The Fashionable Adventures Of Joshua Craig, and assumed it was a character assassination of his sister. However, Goldsborough’s family blamed the murder and suicide on a bad case of the flu.


Goldsborough’s younger brother had been committed to a lunatic asylum in Washington not long before the murder.

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