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1930s & Earlier / Evelyn Nesbit Scandal 1906
Evelyn Nesbit was a beautiful teenage model at the turn of the twentieth century. She supported herself and her widowed mother by posing for various artists and photographers. Her good looks won her a job as a Broadway chorus girl. This photo of her was taken in 1901 when Evelyn was 16. That same year she caught the eye of renowned architect and womanizer Stanford White--who was 47. White was married, but he often 'befriended' attractive teenage girls. Because of White's wealth and prestige, Evelyn's mother encouraged the relationship. White often 'entertained' young female friends in his lavish tower apartment at Madison Square Garden (which he designed). In the apartment were numerous strategically positioned mirrors and a red velvet swing. White apparently derived much pleasure watching his nubile young ladies cavort on it. According to Nesbit, White took advantage of her one night in the apartment after getting her to pose for suggestive photos in a yellow silk kimono and plying her with champagne. After deflowering Nesbit, White lost interest in her. Nesbit later became involved with Harry Thaw, the son of a Pittsburgh coal and railroad tycoon. Thaw himself was a possessive, sexual sadist who often beat Evelyn. Nevertheless, the two were married in 1905. Thaw became obsessed with Evelyn's stories about White. On June 25, 1906, Evelyn and Harry had two chance encounters with White. The first was at a cafe. The second was at a theatrical performance at Madison Square Garden's roof theatre. Thaw, who always carried a pistol, fired three shots into White's face at close range, killing him instantly. He is said to have shouted, 'You ruined my wife!' Thaw was tried twice for White's murder. The first trial ended with a deadlocked jury. At the second trial Thaw pled temporary insanity. Thaw's mother encouraged Evelyn to testify that White had raped her and Harry shot White to avenge her honor. Evelyn was supposed to get a quickie divorce and $1 million from the Thaw family. The divorce was granted, but Evelyn never got a penny. She was a minor celebrity for a few years and vanished into obscurity. She died in 1967 at the age of 82. Thaw was institutionalized until 1915 and died in 1947. Late in her life Nesbit claimed that Stanford White was the only man she ever truly loved. The story of the scandal was made into a 1955 movie starring Joan Collins titled The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing.