Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

American Beauty: Scandal of a Century

This is the tale of a scandal that was so gripping, even President Roosevelt was obsessed with every detail.


Evelyn Nesbit was born to an upper-middle class family in Pennsylvania. Her father, a lawyer, died in 1893, leaving large debts and virtually no money.

Evelyn, her mom, and her little brother lived in poverty. As a child, Evelyn would often catch her mother sobbing alone in the kitchen, clutching bills she had absolutely no way of paying. Desperate to escape her wretched homelife, Evelyn used to read fairytales and wished with all her heart she could be a princess.


When Evelyn was 14, she turned heads everywhere she went. The copper-haired girl was drop-dead gorgeous. She was eventually offered a job modeling for artists in Philadelphia. She was delighted to find it paid her family's bills.


When she was 15, Evelyn and her family moved to New York City. Jobs were shoved in her face. Everyone wanted a piece of her. She instantly became a famous fashion model. She became such a huge celebrity, her face actually inspired the iconic "Gibson Girl" illustrations. Young girls idolized her and powerful men wanted to meet her.


One of those powerful men was Stanford White, the most famous architect in New York. He designed Madison Square Garden, the Washington Arch, and Tiffany's. He was in his mid-40s.


Despite being a married man with adult children, Stanford had a weakness for young girls. He treated the sweet, naive Evelyn innocently at first. He bought her presents, befriended her mom, and paid for her dental work. The 16-year-old saw him as a father-figure, so when he invited her up to his apartment one evening, she didn't hesitate to say yes.


Once inside the apartment, Evelyn was mesmerized by what she saw. There was a plush, red velvet swing in the middle of his living room! She squealed with delight as he pushed her in it. And then he offered her champagne! Her mother never let her drink! After an hour or so, she began to feel woozy. Stanford forced himself on her and raped her. Afterwards, she sobbed, ashamed at her foolishness for trusting him.



A couple years later, Evelyn found herself pursued by a cocky playboy named Harry Thaw. The lazy bachelor lived off his parents' millions, had no job, and joked to friends that he majored in "poker" while at Harvard. He thought Evelyn was super hot and wanted to marry her.



After resisting his sleazy advances for two years, Evelyn gave up and married him. She figured since she wasn't a virgin anymore, this was pretty much her only chance to bag a decent husband. Evelyn entered the union with no secrets, however, and told Harry how Stanford had deflowered her two years before. Needless to say, Harry was outraged.


A year after they were married, the couple went to a play at Madison Square Garden. Harry spied Stanford in the crowd and freaked out. He went up to the middle-aged man and shot him three times, screaming he was getting revenge for Evelyn's sake. Horrified audience members trampled to the nearest exits.


Harry was hailed as a hero by the American public, rather than a homicidal maniac. People admired the husband who stood up for his wife. They cheered him on during his trial, which was splashed all over the newspapers. It was all everyone could talk about.


For his deadly crime, Evelyn's husband was put in a mental institution for nearly a decade. When he got out, he immediately divorced Evelyn, because there was pretty much nothing left between the two. She received no settlement.


On her own, Evelyn struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction, and moved around a lot to make ends meet. Her numerous suicide attempts were never successful. She tried her hand at acting and dancing. When she got older, she opened an unspectacular nightclub and then taught ceramic art. Sometimes Harry would help her with money out of pity, but it was never enough.


She died in 1967 at the age of 82.

30 comments:

Shybiker said...

What a sad story. And people with such sad lives. Wealth and fame doesn't buy happiness.

You told this well.

Meri said...

wow I did not see that coming! beauty and celebrity seem to make people go mad- how sad that is. What a beauty she was!

TheRitzyFlapper said...

wow that so sad.... its so sad that she almost gave up on her self-worth after being raped...... she should have been proud to survive the ordeal and come out alive, not feel ashamed for something that was out of her control, such a beautiful example of a lady, its so sad that she struggled for so many years of her life, but she is an inspiring person, she didn't let her misfortune in her life stop her from becoming a success later on in life. :)
lovely post sweetie :) and thank you ever so much for your lovely comments :)

The Grande Dame said...

She really was so beautiful, and suffered from such terrible treatment from everyone around her. You didn't mention the rape and beatings she suffered from Mr Thaw as well? Horrible creep.

I recently read this book, it is really fascinating and paints her mother in quite a pathetic light as a frivolous ditz who sponges off her daughter like there's no tomorrow.

http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=7463616622&searchurl=sts%3Dt%26tn%3Damerican%2Beve%26x%3D0%26y%3D0

Have you read it?

Thanks for your comments on my leopard tops! :) x

Sherin said...

How tragic! Such a shame to hear how she had such a rough life!

The Dainty Dolls House said...

How sad...what a beautiful woman..I love her! To suffer all that. Really sad. I enjoyed learning this..marvelous!! Happy Monday peach!! xx

Lemanie said...

Unbelievable! I've gone to Madison Square Gardens a thousand times and been through that arch a thousand more. What an incredible story. Poor Evelyn. You find the greatest stories....

Lemanie's Randomness Blog

PAPS said...

What a sad story.
www.thoughtsofpaps.com

A BRIT GREEK said...

Cor, I so did not see that coming, such a tragic story and she was a real beauty.

Girl I do wonder where on earth you find the inspo for your posts! I always walk away learning a little something or usually laughing my head off!

Yeah, Miroslava has a stonking amount of bling and far too much fashion for her own good - she's a beauty too.

x.o.x.o

Oh to Be a Muse said...

Another great story. I don't know where you find these people and their interesting stories. I can never look at MSG the same.

SG Angela said...

ah... that is very sad.

Giovanna said...

Interesting post! Crazy story!

xx
Giovanna
www.oliveandanarrow.com

Rachel Jensen {Da Paura ♥} said...

Wow, this is such a sad story! So intriguing though, and she was so beautiful!!

x
Rachel

Alex said...

How do you find this stuff?! Amazing story.

Arielle-HumblePieVintage said...

You are one of my favorite bloggers. These posts are so cool and interesting. I always read them aloud to my boyfriend. Wow, the guy who designed Tiffany's!? What a crazy story.

BonBon Rose Girls Kristin said...

Have you ever thought about writing historical biographies?

socialitedreams said...

you have the best posts, hands down, of any blog that I read. these are so FASCINATING...what a waste of beauty and access for her.

Blond Duck said...

That's so sad!

yiqin; said...

:( oh no

fabulousjunk said...

awwwww... :( on the positive side you tell really amazing stories

becks
http://fabulous-junk.blogspot.com

kitchen curtains said...

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Tanvi said...

Sad story ... It is so hard to know whether we are making a right or a wrong choice early on ... Time tell us!

Loved your narration! :)

∞ © tanvii.com ∞

Betina said...

Oh wow, how tragic. The choices we make in life really defines us, and worse, dooms us.


XX,
Betina
Travel à la Mode

thoughtsappear said...

I knew a little bit about Evelyn because a small part of her story is in the musical Ragtime. Thanks for fleshing it out for me!

Gayatri said...

Ohhh boy! Like you said on your facebook page, "Being a hot girl sucks!"

bridechic said...

Great story but tragic!

oxoxoxo from San FRancisco
Amy
http://bridechic.blogspot.com

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