Stagger Lee

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1896 - 1900

1895, December. White lawyer Nathaniel Dryden defends Shelton. Dryden was the first lawyer in the state of Missouri to gain conviction of a white man for the murder of a black man. 300 angry black people hiss and curse Shelton and Dryden as they enter the courthouse.

1896. Election year in what will be considered by historians to be one of the most dramatic campaigns in American history. St. Louis is the 4th largest city in the country. Both political parties are seeking the black vote. William Lyons was an organizer for the Republicans. Lee Shelton was an organizer for the Democrats. The black vote had gone to the Republicans since the end of the Civil War but times are changing.

1896, January 3. Lee Shelton held on a $4,000 bond – equivalent to $100,000 today.

1896, February 12. Grand Jury indicts Lee Shelton on a charge of first-degree murder.

1896, June 25. Lee Shelton is released on a $3,000 bond paid by pawnbroker, Morris H. Smit. Does the money come from political connections?

1896, July 15. Lee Shelton's trial starts. Dryden argues self-defense.

1896, July 18. The jury is unable to agree on a verdict. Seven vote for murder in the second degree, two for manslaughter, and three for acquittal.

1897 – 1918. Ragtime’s period of peak popularity.

1897, August 21. The earliest known reference to the song appears in the Kansas City Leavenworth Herald.

It is understood that Prof. Charlie Lee, the piano thumper, will play 'Stack-a-Lee' in variations at the K. C. Negro Press association.

1897, August 26. Nathaniel Dryden, a morphine addict, dies after a drinking binge.

1897, October 7. The second trial takes place in the court of Judge James E. Withrow. The jury takes two hours to return a guilty verdict. Shelton begins a 25 year sentence in the Jefferson penitentiary.

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