• Tue, Jul 17 2012

Shelved Dolls: Evelyn Nesbit – The Victorian Courtney Stodden?

She was angry at Stanford? She was experiencing Stockholm Syndrome? She was in it for the money? Was it because her mother really liked Harry? I truly do not know.

If it was the money, she was sorely disappointed. The Thaw family had millions, but, following their marriage, Thaw was determined to live like a stoic. He also became increasingly paranoid, saying that Stanford had men following him around trying to kill him.

This is almost certainly not true. Stanford had resumed his life as usual, and was doing fun things like going out to musicals held on rooftops.

Bad idea, Stanford.

Harry Thaw and Evelyn attended the opening of Mazelle Champagne, a musical at which Stanford White was also present. Harry refused to remove his coat, despite it being a hot evening in June. That’s because he had a gun underneath it. Around 11:00, Harry walked over to where Stanford was sitting and shot him three times in the face.

And so, to the strains of a song called “I Could Love A Million Girls” Harry Thaw killed Stanford White.

And people laughed. Everyone assumed it was a practical joke. The rivalry between Harry and Stanford was well known, and, considering the song, that actually would have been a hilarious practical joke. I mean, a really dark, inside kind of joke, but still.

Well, it wasn’t a practical joke. As soon as that became apparent, someone tried to throw a tablecloth over White’s body. The blood seeped through almost immediately. Someone tossed on a second tablecloth. Everyone in attendance soon realized what had transpired and fled, horrified. Harry stood there screaming, “I did it because he ruined my wife! He had it coming to him! He took advantage of the girl and then deserted her!”

As the police arrived, Evelyn said to her husband, “Look at the fix you are in.” “It’s all right dear,” Harry replied, “I have probably saved your life.”

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  • Lana Kane

    Excellent post. A great read. Evelyns story is quite remarkable and stuff like this happened at that time…..but Courtney?? Wow. Her mom is an epic failure and Courtney is not really beautiful as a person inside or out….plus its not Victorian America. It’s 2012 where women CAN become doctors and lawyers!

  • Starofthemag

    “But how, exactly, did the work for Evelyn herself?”

    Great writing but you missed this at the bottom of page 1.
    It should read “…did that work for…”

    This message is brought to you in part by Efforts in Homework Avoidance, which is also the title of everything in my life today.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Thank you, team. If I had 40 Million dollars, I would hire a damn copyeditor.

  • Ashley Cardiff

    BY JOVE! NOTHING COULD HAVE MADE ME READY FOR THAT MUSTACHE!

  • Larissa

    I LOVE this series. If you made it into a book, i’d buy it for damn sure. Just sayin!

    • Amy

      Agreed!

  • Nikki

    WOW! Awesome post! I’m not sure how this may relate to Courtney’s future, hopefully a better one than poor Evelyn’s. Only time will tell…

  • Ewa

    Great read, and – let me repeat – a very interesting series.

  • Alison

    I want more Shelved Dolls! The women you chose and the stories you tell are just so fascinating. Quit doing everything else and just write about interesting/tragic women from days gone by…I’ll be thrilled.

  • Marissa

    Wow. She kinda looks like Margaret Schroeder from Boardwalk Empire.

  • Alle C

    I LOVE THIS STORY SO MUCH, and this is such a fantastic article. Well done! Mustaches off to you!

  • Ellen W.

    I didn’t know about the chorus girls!! I mean, I knew Thaw was odd and not that nice but I had NO IDEA about how horrible he was.

    Team Evelyn indeed.

  • Anna

    Great post, but I wish the whole Courtney Stodden thing was left out. I mean that’s ridiculous. Courtney Stodden isn’t one of the “great beauties” out there . Comparing the two is just irritating.

  • Chelsea

    That is one beautiful woman!!! I need to see that movie about her life, especially since they involved her in the production.

    OH and that small cabin would be a bit over $46,000 today. Still not a lot of money in terms of a home for a family.

  • Cheryl (carol, cristal) Tunt

    This was a great article and an excellent read. I really just wanted to know more and more. On a psychological level, it was fascinating to read about this poor girl obviously suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and PTSD (after the rape and again after the beatings) and that she overcome all of this in the end… I want to see more interesting, historical articles like this!

  • Kj

    “A disguised Napoleon revealing himself to a near-sighted veteran on Elba could not have made the revelation with greater aplomb.”

    Is this meant to be the turn of the century version of an alliterative tweet? I knew they had higher standards then, but …seriously

  • andrea

    holy cow these staples ads are irritating.

  • xoxoxoBruce

    The newspaper you show says he was shot in the back, not in the face. But good story all in all. Kudos.

    • Jennifer Wright

      That’s actually quite interesting – many of the newspapers reported the story inaccurately because they were, understandably rushing to turn it in before their competition. I think that headline might be a symptom of that. Most of the biographies (listed at the end) agree that Stanford was shot in the face, though the complete NY Times report from the period says that he was shot in the temple (http://www.nytimes.com/specials/ragtime/white.html) which seems closer to face than “back of head” but I suppose it’s fair to say simple that he was certainly shot in the head.

  • michael curtis

    “She’s often regarded as something of the Courtney Stodden of the Victorian age…”

    WTF?? Since when?

  • Liana

    Great read Jennifer! Did she have any children and did she find any more love after all this?

  • andyarnette

    Evelyn said she was about 8 when her father died.
    I had to look-up Courtney Stodden to see who she was. In no way could anyone make that comparison. Evelyn never even wore lipstick, except on stage? She new nothing of sex, never posed without her mother and never did anything to compromise her image…she had no desire to ever marry but was bullied into it. Oh and she was asleep in the famous ‘Butterfly photo’ so hardly posing?