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Mahogany Hall Portrait
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Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

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Evelyn Nesbit, born Florence Evelyn Nesbit (Tarentum, Pennsylvania, 25 Dec 1884 - 17 January 1967, Santa Monica, California) Model , dancer and actress American.

Nicknamed "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing", is known to have been a part in the murder of former lover, the architect Stanford White, who was killed by her first husband, the millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw. From this event, one of the most celebrated cases in New York of the early twentieth century, they have found the film The red velvet swing and ragtime.

Evelyn Nesbit was one of the models of the artist Charles Dana Gibson, one of the inspirations of the Gibson Girl and the inspiration for the main character of the novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Born on Christmas Day 1884 in Pennsylvania, in Tarentum, a small town near Pittsburgh, Florence Evelyn Nesbit was of Scots-Irish ancestry. Even as a child was surprisingly beautiful, but also shy and quiet. She had a younger brother, Howard. The Nesbit family moved, around 1893, to Pittsburgh, when Evelyn was still in school. Her father, the lawyer, Winfield Scott Nesbit, died that year, leaving many debts and the family destitute. For years the Nesbits lived to the poverty line, but when Evelyn became a teenager, her beauty attracted the attention of numerous local artists who wanted her as a model.

#In 1901, when he was sixteen, Evelyn moved to New York with her mother, to live in a small room at 249 W. 22nd Street. But, faced with the difficulties that came to meet in finding a job, Evelyn was able to convince her mother that the solution might be to put down again, this time for the New York artists. Through a letter of introduction, she met the painter James Carroll Beckwith for whom she began working immediately. She was also a model for Frederick S. Church, Herbert Morgan, Gertrude Kasebier, Carl Blennerand, and photographer, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. Evelyn became one of the favorite models by New York artists, she was also the inspiration of Charles Dana Gibson, one of the most popular artists of the country that made an ink sketch in profile of the girl, arranging her red hair as if a question mark. The work, titled "The Eternal Question", remains one of the best known works of Gibson and the model entered the ranks of the famous Gibson Girl.

Chorus girl on Broadway -- In 1901 Evelyn was presented to Stanford White, one of the best known architects of New York, actress Edna Goodrich, who was with her ​​in the cast of the musical "Floradora". White was known to the environment as a great womanizer, familiarly called Stanny: Evelyn at the time he was 16, he 47. White had an apartment in a loft on West 24th Street where you came passing by the entrance of service a toy store. Evelyn Nesbit in her memoirs that she made the first visit to establishment, decorated with red velvet curtains and paintings on the walls: White and another man, Reginald Ronalds, they poured a glass of champagne, and then steered to the upper floor where there was hanging a red velvet swing.

That first time nothing happened of remark. The swing, however, was challenged several times during the murder trial in which Evelyn was then involved: the place where he stood was mistakenly identified by many for the office that White had the old Madison Square Garden. Nesbit, however, it clearly states that the swing and activities related to her took place in the building of the West Twenty-fourth Street. The architect liked to see young women nude or semi-nude swinging on the swing. According to Evelyn, sexual pleasure derived from all pleasure "aesthetic" that man drew.

Evelyn's mother, meanwhile, had been conquered by White with a promise to bring the male child Howard, to the Military Academy of Philadelphia. Such was the confidence reposed in the architect that the woman who gave him without hesitation Evelyn when going on a trip to Pittsburgh. A few nights later, Evelyn went in the apartment of White: only two of them were at dinner. After the meal and after several glasses of champagne, the girl was taken to another room, with a big green velvet sofa and walls covered with mirrors. When she came back down, she wore a kimono of yellow satin. Then he lost consciousness. When he awoke, according to her memories, she was practically naked with White lying next to her in bed. "Entrance virgin, I came out that I was no more".


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The Tired Bitterfly
[Evelyn Nesbit photographed in 1901, Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr.]

Later, Evelyn would have told this story to Harry Thaw and explain the reasons for his refusal to request marriage. In the last years of his life, Evelyn Nesbit confessed as the charismatic Stanny was the only man she had ever loved.

White soon passed to the conquest of other beauties virginal. Evelyn, meanwhile, met John Barrymore. The actor had begun to court her after seeing her in Floradora: had sent flowers and had become one of her assiduous admirers. Evelyn had finally found a lover of her age and spent many hours with him in his apartment. John, who belonged to a distinguished family of theater people, the Barrymore, however, Miss Nesbit would not be considered an interesting party, considered too poor for this beautiful daughter of seventeen. The mother, in fact, when she discovered their relationship, went on a rampage as he did the rest, also White. The architect, however, that he still had a great influence on the girl, found a way to separate the pair: Evelyn, for financial reasons, had never been able to have an education nor adequate studies in a stately condition, she could attend a boarding school for young ladies in Wayne, New Jersey, a college run by the mother of Cecil B. DeMille. The young Nesbit refused the marriage proposal of Barrymore, he had said in the presence of Mrs. Nesbit and White.

Stanford White and John Barrymore were later supplanted by Harry Kendall Thaw (1871-1947), the son of a coal and railroad baron of Pittsburgh. Before this affair with Thaw, Evelyn had an affair with James "Monty" Waterbury (1875-1920), a known polo player, and with the young publisher Robert J. Collier . Thaw was extremely possessive towards Evelyn as well as haunted by White (referred to by calling the beast, the beast) and the relationships he had had with the girl.

Despite repeated refusals to his request for marriage to Evelyn, at the time he was twenty, she agreed to marry him after a trip to Europe they had made together. The wedding was held on April 4, 1905; cocaine and, most likely, sadistic, Thaw's wife inflicted physical and psychological torture, coming to whip.

Evelyn had a son, Russell William Thaw , who was born in Berlin on October 25, 1910. The boy later became a brave pilot in World War II . As a child appeared alongside his mother as an actor in movies.

The murder of Stanford White -- June 25, 1906, Nesbit and Thaw saw White at the restaurant Cafe Martin. That evening, on the terrace of Madison Square Garden, where it featured the musical comedy Mam'zelle Champagne, Thaw saw again at a table near the hated architect. Contested the gun he always carried around, he fired three shots at him, killing him instantly. The audience in the hall witnessed involuntary homicide, reported that Thaw had exclaimed: You'll never go out with That Woman again ("You can not go out with that woman"). In his book The Murder of Stanford White, Gerald Langford wrote that Thaw might have said: You ruined my life or You ruined my wife (the two conflicting versions arise from the English original, where life (life) can be confused with wife (wife).

Thaw underwent two trials for the murder of White. In the first, the jury came in and was unable to agree on the verdict. In the second trial, Thaw persuaded the mother of Evelyn to testify in his favor in exchange for a divorce and a million dollars, the young wife would have to tell the court that she had been the mistress of the architect. He justified the behavior of Thaw that would act to avenge his honor. Following the testimony of Evelyn, Thaw avoided the death sentence and he was declared insane: sentenced to psychiatric prison, he served a sentence which left many freedoms (in detention, was seen leaving several times to go to the company). Nevertheless, he tried to escape a couple of times in Canada. In 1913, he was also extradited and brought to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Beacon where he was obliged to remain.

In 1917, subjected to medical examination, he was declared sane and released. Evelyn had a divorce, but never saw a penny of the million dollars that was promised. In return, she was always challenged the paternity of the child, which she declared to be Thaw even if it was conceived while the man was incarcerated.

The years following the second trial were marked by several suicide attempts. Her stage career had been destroyed. The occasion was offered to work in film. In 1916, after her divorce from Thaw, she married her partner, the dancer Jack Clifford (1880-1956), born Virgil James Montani. Two years later, he left her. They divorced in 1931.

In 1926, Evelyn Nesbit gave an interview to the New York Times which stated that she and Thaw had reconciled. But nothing came to support this assertion. Nesbit published two memoirs, The Story Of My Life (1914) and Prodigal Days (1934).

Overcome the problems of alcoholism, addiction to morphine and suicide attempts, she lived her last years in peace in Northfield, New Jersey. She became a teacher of ceramics ​​a consultant for the 1955 film "The Red Velvet Swing", a fictional biography that reconstructed for the screen the terrible events that had marked her life. In 1947, upon the death of Thaw, she received a bequest of ten thousand dollars.

She died aged 82 on January 17, 1967 in Santa Monica, California. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City.



Webmaster Note: Text from Italian; which I must stuggle to translate, kindly forgive grammatical errors.

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