Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing

Evidently there were many "Trials of the Century". In 1906, this was possibly the first. A tawdry series of events that circled around a dancer named Evelyn Nesbit..."A Woman Whose Beauty Spelled Death and Ruin." Florence Evelyn Nesbit was a much photographed actress and model in the early Twentieth Century and an inspiration for the Gibson Girl. Her beauty and magnetism bewitched men and women alike, her picture was in the paper everyday, especially when she was the star witness at the trial of her husband. Her husband had shot her former lover, her lover was the architect Stanford White. Her crazed husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, shot Stanford White on the roof of Madison Square Garden, a building which White had designed. William Randolph Hearst's papers had a field day. Evelyn Nesbit had come from a poor family in Pittsburgh. She earned money as an artist's model and she knew she could be especially successful in the medium of photography. Nesbit moved with her family to New York to find better work. Only sixteen, she could not protect herself from older wealthy men like Stanford White, whom she began an affair with after he had drugged her champagne. Stanford White kept a red velvet swing in his apartment for his mistresses, a detail that Nesbit recounted on the witness stand. In the interest of security and support she entered into a bad marriage with Thaw that ended after he was committed for the murder of White. The details of the trial were so "unseemly" that they supposedly "ruined" Evelyn Nesbit. But after the trial she continued to work and she went on to work in Hollywood in Silent films. She died at 82, spending her later years teaching pottery in California.

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