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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • FRENCH BICYCLE GODDESS, c. 1898

Femme Fatale: 1914

Femme Fatale: 1914

A tip of the Shorpy hat to the first person who can put a name to this well-known face from 1914. (And now for the caption: "August 5, 1914. New York. Evelyn Thaw arriving from Southampton on White Star liner Olympic." The former teen beauty Evelyn Nesbit, shown here at age 29, achieved notoriety in 1906 when her lover Stanford White, the noted architect, was killed by her husband, Harry Thaw.) Glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection. View full size.

 

Ragtime

When I read "Ragtime" I recognized that the fiction incorporated factual history but I had no knowledge of this case. The Thaw character seemed like an eccentric sadist (the real Thaw was all that and more) who used a razor strop, not a dog whip, on his wife.

Our system of equal justice under the law causes me to contemplate the peculiar coincidence that the rich often seem to get away with murder but in Mr. Thaw's case the finding of insanity seemed to hit the mark. The mistake belonged to those who declared him cured or recovered:

As for the picture, the woman looks stylish and gracious and, though society would deny it, in their eyes she was guilty of being exposed as an adulteress by her husband's recklessness.

(My guess would have been Alice Roosevelt Longworth.)

Fading beauty

Paula Uruburu wrote AMERICAN EVE, the biography of Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. She states that by 1914 Nesbit had a cocaine habit, which would account for the bags under her eyes. Uruburu also states that Nesbit's 'boyish figure' was apparent even when she was younger (though it doesn't seem to be apparent in the Kasebier photo from 1900).

Fading, Edwardian style

By 1914, Mrs. Thaw was no longer considered beautiful. In a where-is-she-now story prompted by her husband's escape from a mental asylum, Mildred Van Allen wrote in March 1914 that Evelyn's eyes were wonderful but her cheeks were more flat than contoured, and she now had the figure of a 15-year-old. ("Only the man who delights in the unusual" would consider her a beauty.) But Evelyn loved that it allowed her to pass unrecognized, even on Broadway.

That's why...

...I love Shorpy! I had never heard of this case before, have just read up on it, amazing story. Thankyou Dave, very educational!

Wait For Me

I'm away from my computer for a mere 12 hours and you sneak one past me. Had I have have been aware of the post I could have really have given it some serious thought, but would have never come up with Evelyn Nesbit. Eleanor Roosevelt, who I always admired, never looked as good as the woman in this picture.

Sadness or Sophistication?

Her expression here is virtually unreadable. Do I see sadness and resignation, knowing that her husband murdered her lover, and knowing her ultimate fate? Or instead is her expression one of a knowing sophisticate, just arrived from the most sophisticated part of the world? She's quite lovely if already fading. Lines are lightly etched about her eyes and her mouth is a bemused horizontal. Deadly beautiful.

Candid Camera

I agree. Her stunning natural beauty is far more apparent here than in her studio portraits. Sure, she's beautiful in those, but they're posed and superficial. This is real, impromptu, and with little makeup. It shows her natural beauty. It also shows what 13 years will do for a 16 year old girl. The 29 year old woman is far, far more beautiful.

Less is More

Interesting, I've seen dozens of photos of Evelyn Nesbit, and I could never see what she had that drove men wild until this candid shot. Her beauty is so unassuming and charming here.

Just look at the expression of the fellow in the middle. You can see that he's enchanted by her, and he's probably the most hard-bitten photojournalist in NYC.

And the answer is ...

August 5, 1914. New York. Evelyn Thaw arriving from Southampton on White Star liner Olympic.

The former teen beauty Evelyn Nesbit, shown above at age 29, achieved notoriety in 1906 when her lover Stanford White, the noted architect, was killed by her husband, Harry Thaw. Below: Evelyn at age 16 in 1901.

Second from left

Looks just like my ex. Strange.

Could this be...

...Miss Julia Sanderson, the actress and singer?

Lillian Gish

She would have been 21 in this picture.

Evelyn Nesbit Thaw

Aww, someone beat me to it.

Jessie Wilson Sayre?

The more attractive of the president's daughters (and the one without a Wikipedia page). She would have turned 27 in 1914.

Eleanor Roosevelt

There is some resemblance to early pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt. However Mrs. Roosevelt had a child in 1914 (Franklin D. Jr.), so it isn't too likely.

Looks like

Evelyn Nesbit

My guess

Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor.

ESVM

I was hoping it might be Edna St. Vincent Millay but, alas.

Promise Her Anything

Coco Chanel?

Rose Fitzgerald

Soon to be Kennedy? It doesn't look a lot like her, but they got married in 1914.

Teen Aviatrix

Amelia was born in 1897 so this is her as a teenager.

Notorious Beauty

Evelyn Nesbit Thaw?

Irene Castle

Could it be?

Lucky Lady

Maybe Anne Lindburgh? Before she was married? Huh?

M C S

Margaret Chase Smith

Clueless

I would have said Amelia too, but not very confidently. Even though I am without a clue I have enjoyed your challenges lately.

Frances Perkins

She was somewhat famous then.

Team Coco

Is it Coco Chanel?

Blanche Sweet

Is that silent movie star Blanche Sweet?

Irene Castle

Not sure, but that's my best guess.

Other Roosevelt

She looks too pretty to be her, but could it be Eleanor Roosevelt?

El

Eleanor Roosevelt

Mary Pickford??

Mary Pickford??

Aaargh

Stop guessing Mary Pickford...it looks nothing like Mary Pickford...

Signed, Grumpy silent film fan

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt would be about the right age, no?

Mary Pickford

At first I was thinking Theda Bara, but it was hard to find an old photo of her without tons and tons of makeup. So I guess both; call her Theda Pickford.

One Thing

Is for sure : It ain't Marlo Thomas.

My guess

It sure looks like Amelia Earhart to me.

Evelyn

Could it be Evelyn Nesbitt?

Margaret Wilson

She took over in 1914 as first lady when her mother died. She looks frumpier in other pics on the internet. But maybe?

Looks Like a Movie Star

Could be a young Mary Pickford.

I was going to vote for Amelia Earhart.

But someone beat me to it. Amelia would have been 17, so it's possible.... Given her background (per Wikipedia), a photograph of her in 1914 would be a bit surprising.

Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge

The Lady in question looks a little bit like Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge. However She could also be Alice Roosevelt Longworth.

Could it be ...

Dorothy Parker?

A.R.L.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth?

Amelia

Looks a little like Amelia Earhart, but probably too young in 1914.

The It girl

Is that Clara Bow?

[Clara Bow was 9 years old in 1914. Next! - Dave]

 
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