They Both Reached for the Gun: Beulah Annan, Maurine Watkins, and the Trial That Became Chicago (Paperback)

They Both Reached for the Gun: Beulah Annan, Maurine Watkins, and the Trial That Became Chicago By Charles H. Cosgrove Cover Image
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Examining the case that inspired a pop culture phenomenon

In 1924 Beulah Annan was arrested and incarcerated for kill­ing her lover, Harry Kalsted. Six weeks later, a jury acquitted her of murder. Inspired by the sordid event, trial, and acquittal, Maurine Watkins, a reporter at the time, wrote the play Chicago, a Broadway hit that was adapted several times. Through a fresh retelling of the story of Annan and of Watkins’s play, Charles H. Cosgrove provides a critical examination of the crim­inal case and an exploration of the era’s social assump­tions that made the message of the play so plausible in its own time. His careful historical research challenges the received portrait of Annan as a killer who got away with murder and of Watkins as a savvy cub reporter and precocious playwright.
In They Both Reached for the Gun, Charles H. Cosgrove expertly combines meticulous research into inquest transcripts, police records, and interviews with Annan’s relatives with detailed analysis to shed new light on the participants, the trial, and the subsequent play and musical. Although no one will ever know what really happened in the south side apartment one hundred years ago, Cosgrove’s interrogation shows how sensationalized Watkins’s writing was. Her reporting on the Annan case perpetuated falsehoods about Annan’s so-called “confession,” and her play gave an inaccurate portrayal of Chicago’s criminal justice system. Despite Watkins’s insistence that her drama revealed the truth about its subjects without any exaggeration, her play depicted police, prosecutors, and judges as the only “good guys” in the story, ignoring those who lied, misled, and used brutal methods to obtain forced confessions.

About the Author

Charles H. Cosgrove is emeritus professor of early Christian literature at Garrett Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Fortune and Faith in Old Chicago: A Dual Biography of Mayor Augustus Garrett and Seminary Founder Eliza Clark Garrett, and Music at Social Meals in Greek and Roman Antiquity. A lifelong native of the Chicago area, he is an aficionado of the city’s history and makes occasional appearances in the area’s music venues as a jazz trombonist.  

Praise For…

“Cosgrove shines a dazzling spotlight on the historical distortions behind the musical Chicago and its source material. With authority and clarity, he argues there never was a Jazz Age Chicago where beautiful women routinely got away with murder. On trial here: the pushback against American women’s social progress.”—Marcia Biederman, author of The Disquieting Death of Emma Gill: Abortion, Death, and Concealment in Victorian New England

They Both Reached for the Gun is a fascinating exploration of the history behind Chicago, the musical based loosely on the 1924 conviction of Beulah Annan for her lover's murder. Through a careful reexamination of the case, the sensational press coverage, and the transformation of the actual events into entertainment, Cosgrove investigates the sometimes-unhealthy relationship between crime news and entertainment.”—Ann Durkin Keating, North Central College

“In a smooth and flowing style, Cosgrove’s rich insight into a troubled woman’s existence culminating in a questionable indictment and ‘trial-by-press’ presumption of guilt, provides readers with a sobering reassessment of the case, with a glimpse into the era and tabloid culture of the Roaring Twenties.”—Richard C. Lindberg, author of Tales of Forgotten Chicago

Product Details
ISBN: 9780809339389
ISBN-10: 0809339382
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Publication Date: June 7th, 2024
Pages: 240