One of the Strangest Deaths in New York’s History

Girls Chase A Boy to Give Him Birthday Kisses… and He Dies

Woodlawn Cemetery Is The Final Resting Place of George Spencer Millet Who Had One Of The Strangest Deaths In New York’s History

Woodlawn cemetery 1909 Gravestone of George Spencer Millet died while evading girls kisses on his birthday at Metropolitan Life Building

There is a book called Woodlawn Remembers: Cemetery of American History by Edward F. Bergman (North County Books, 1988.)  The book is mostly comprised of beautiful full page color and black & white photographs of monuments, tombstones and mausoleums with one page of text describing each person profiled.  The cemetery is located in the northern part of the Bronx and is on my shortlist of unusual places I recommend to visit in New York.

The book is fascinating to be sure. It covers many of the interesting and important historical figures at Woodlawn. But one story not mentioned, is the life and death of George Spencer Millet (misspelled as George Millitt by The New York Times in the story at the end of this article) who is interred at the cemetery.

Millet’s story is briefly recounted in Permanent New Yorkers A Biographical Guide To The Cemeteries of New York by Judi Culbertson and Tom Randall (Chelsea Green 1987.) This book contains photographs too, but has more detailed biographies than Woodlawn RemembersPermanent New Yorkers also covers the entire New York area, not just focusing on the two most famous New York City cemeteries, Woodlawn and Greenwood. I highly recommend both of these out-of-print books.

It was February 15, 1909 and Millet must have been a very good looking boy, because when the girls he worked with at The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company found out that it was his 15th birthday, they all insisted on giving him a kiss.

Unfortunately while trying to avoid this avid throng of young women, Millet accidentally fell on a knife ink eraser and died.

One of Millet’s pursuers, Gertrude Robbins, a stenographer, was arrested. Robbins was released soon after it was confirmed that Millet’s death was an accident. The coroner exonerated her officially two weeks later.

Here below is the story from the February 16, 1909 New York Times, the tombstone, and the February 16, 1909 story from The Evening Sun (click on each to enlarge), proving that truth is stranger than fiction.

Woodlawn cemetery 1909 Gravestone of George Spencer Millet died while evading girls kisses on his birthday at Metropolitan Life Building details of death

2 thoughts on “One of the Strangest Deaths in New York’s History

  1. Margaret lisciandrello

    just received the death certificate for my great uncle who died in NYC 1909. It states he died in a public school due to a fall. The fall caused his skull to fracture.
    Any idea how I could find more information?

    1. B.P.


      If an autopsy was done which is very possible, the New York City Medical Examiner has an ME report. See #11 in the FAQ to obtain an autopsy report.

      If you give me his name, date of death, & age I might be able to come up with something.

      Also if you search the archives of the local newspapers of the time you might find a story about the death. Realize the newspapers frequently misspelled names and don’t give up because you don’t find anything on your first attempt.


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