20 Early 20th Century Portraits of a Young Evelyn Nesbit, America’s First Supermodel

Evelyn Nesbit (born Florence Evelyn Nesbit; December 25, 1884 or 1885 – January 17, 1967) was an American artists’ model, chorus girl, and actress. She is best known for her years as a young woman in New York City, particularly her involvement in a deadly love triangle between railroad scion Harry Kendall Thaw and architect Stanford White, which resulted in White’s murder by Thaw in 1906.

In her day, Nesbit was a famous fashion model, being frequently photographed for mass circulation newspapers, magazine advertisements, souvenir items, and calendars. When in her early teens, she had begun working as an artist’s model in Philadelphia. Nesbit continued after her family moved to New York, posing for legitimate artists including James Carroll Beckwith, Frederick S. Church, and notably Charles Dana Gibson, who idealized her as a “Gibson Girl”. She was an artists’ and fashion model when both fashion photography (as an advertising medium) and the pin-up (as an art genre) were beginning to expand.

Nesbit entered theater, first as a chorus line dancer. She was offered a contract as a featured star, and attracted attention from a variety of wealthy men, including Stanford White, nearly three times her age. In 1905, Nesbit married Harry Thaw, a multi-millionaire with a history of mental instability and abusive behavior. The next year, on June 25, 1906, Thaw shot and killed White at the rooftop theatre of Madison Square Garden.

The press called the resulting court case the “Trial of the Century”, and coverage of these well-known figures was sensational. Nesbit testified that White had befriended her and her mother, but had sexually assaulted her when she was unconscious. Thaw was said to have killed White in retaliation, based on his own obsession with Nesbit.

Nesbit visited Thaw while he was confined to mental asylums. She toured Europe with a dance troupe, and her son, Russell Thaw, was born there. Later she took the boy with her to Hollywood, where she appeared as an actress in numerous silent films. Russell also acted in some of these. Nesbit wrote two memoirs about her life, published in 1914 and 1934. Her son later became a pilot, working as a test pilot for the Douglas Aircraft Company after World War II.

Nesbit died in a nursing home in Santa Monica, California, on January 17, 1967, at the age of 82. She had been a resident there for more than a year. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California. (Wikipedia)

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