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Cool Things - Penitentiary Table

Inlaid table made by prisoner This elaborately inlaid table was made by a prisoner and received by the Kansas governor.

Inlay on this table top indicates the work of a skilled craftsman. The table was presented to William Stanley during his term as Governor of Kansas (1899-1903). Made by an inmate at the State Penitentiary at Lansing, the table is inscribed on the underside:

"William Payne Harvey, El Dorado, Kansas"

Records indicate that William Harvey and Carl Arnold were received at the prison on November 14, 1894, for the crime of murder in the first degree. The two had killed the mayor of Kinsley, Kansas, on October 22, 1894. The Kinsley Graphic indicated Harvey and Arnold stopped Mayor John Marsh on his way home for the evening with the intention of robbing him. Marsh resisted and one man shot him in the arm. The second assailant shot Marsh in the small of the back. He died the next afternoon.

Harvey was 19 years old, a native of Butler County, and had been living in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Both Harvey and Arnold admitted their role in the murder and received life terms, justice being incredibly swift by present-day standards given their arrival at Lansing less than a month after the crime. Accounts show that the people of Edwards County wanted to see the men hang, but Governor Edmund Morrill refused to order the execution.

Close-up of penitentiary tableIn 1907 the writing ability of Carl Arnold caught the attention of  Governor Edward Hoch, who commuted the sentence of both Arnold and Harvey to 18 years. Harvey also received the commutation as Hoch felt he could not show favor to Arnold alone. With time off for good behavior, the men were released in May 1909. It is not known what happened to either man following his release.

Other inlaid tables were made at Lansing during this era. The most notable one now resides in the Kansas Secretary of State's office. Little is known about who made that table, except that it arrived at the Capitol in 1899, suggesting that Harvey also may have crafted it.

This table is in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Penitentiary Table

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1999

Date Modified: March 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.