Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Stanford White Murder

The Girl on the Red Velvet Swing

For Evelyn Nesbit, her stint in Florodoras chorus was a dream come true. The Florodora sextets fame was comparable to todays supermodels. Talent was secondary to beauty, and rich and powerful men wanted to be seen with them. The papers followed the girls social lives, and many of the sextet made marriages far above their station. For the first time in many years, Evelyns future looked bright.

She had been born to moderate prosperity her father was a lawyer. However, Mr. Winfield Scott Nesbit died when Evelyn was eight, and his family was thrown into terrible poverty. Debts mounted, and the furniture was sold. Mrs. Nesbit attempted to run several boarding houses but eventually resorted to taking in washing and sewing to make ends meet.

She moved the family, including Evelyn and her younger brother Howard, from place to place in desperation and despair. Howard and Evelyns educations ceased early. Evelyn often found her mother weeping uncontrollably as bills piled up. When he was twelve, Howard attempted to work as a cash boy but failed due to his weak constitution. The family often went without food. Meanwhile, Evelyn constructed a fantasy world for herself. She read dime novels and magazines that told stories of princesses, fairies and knights in shining armor.

As Evelyn reached puberty, she knew she was beautiful. Although she was more slender than fashion dictated, she had a luxurious head of copper hair, delicate features and smooth olive skin. Headstrong and wilful, she resolved that her beauty would be hers and her familys means of escape from their dour existence. A friend of the family introduced her to a well-known Philadelphia artist named John Storm. She began modeling for him on a regular basis. Soon, Storm passed Evelyns name along to other artists, and her virginal picture began to appear in books and magazines. Mrs. Nesbit objected to modeling as it was a bohemian profession, but she hardly objected to the money Evelyn earned.

Soon, the fifteen-year-old Evelyn had the financial upper hand and insisted the family move to New York so she could pursue her career. Mrs. Nesbit complained that this course would be Evelyns ruin, but they went anyway.

Evelyn Nesbitt, 1900
Evelyn Nesbitt, 1900
Once in New York, Evelyn immediately found work as an artists model, but she soon discovered the real money lay in posing for fashion photographers. So, she left the artist studios for the fashion pages of Sunday World and Sunday American. She knew that this kind of work might lead to a career on the stage. Only fifteen, she was aware that modeling careers were short, and she needed to expand her horizons. When a theatrical magazine published her photo, the offers came.

Within days, Evelyn had joined the chorus of Florodora, and her mothers objections to the bohemian lifestyle became soft and infrequent.



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