LOCAL HISTORIC PROFILE: Evelyn Nesbit, Model, actress, face of the ‘trial of the century’

Illustration by Sabina Mollot

By Sabina Mollot

Evelyn Nesbit (1884-1967) was a highly sought after artists’ and photographers’ model at a time when fashion photography was in its infancy, and was also an actress who lived in Flatiron, after she and her family came to New York in the year 1900.

However, what Nesbit ended up becoming the most famous for was not her talent or beauty but for being the face of the “trial of the century” as it was called at the time in 1906, when her unhinged millionaire husband, Harry Thaw, fatally shot Stanford White, a well-known architect. White had seduced and, Nesbit stated in court, sexually assaulted her when she was only 16 and unconscious, after drinking champagne, at his home. Still, the two ended up having a year-long relationship.

White was a well-known playboy, and Thaw, who had a reputation for violence, never went to prison for killing him. Instead he was sent to an institution after being found insane in his second trial after the jury was deadlocked in the first. Nesbit would then become known in headlines as a lethal beauty, “the girl on the red velvet swing,” because of a swing that she would play on in a mirrored room at White’s apartment on 24th Street.

Continue reading