In 1901, Evelyn Nesbit, the pinup girl and penniless young actress, dined with Stanford White, the legendary architect whose works defined the New York landscape, at his 24th St. apartment. Evelyn drank champagne and was dazzled by a tour of White's decadent rooms, which included a sumptuous velvet couch swing on which Evelyn played. Evelyn was given more champagne, and lost consciousness. She woke, nearly naked, in bed next to White. White was forty-seven years old. Evelyn Nesbit was just sixteen.
Four years later, tarnished by the air of impropriety that in those days surrounded a lowly career in the theater, Evelyn would marry Harry Thaw, a playboy millionaire rumored to be mentally unstable, and in whom she confided the story of her encounter with Stanford White. One night in 1906, a vengeful Thaw shot and killed White before hundreds of theatergoers during a performance at Madison Square Garden—a venue designed by none other than White himself.
The city—and the nation that looked to it—erupted with news of the murder and ensuing trial, then the most sensational scandal in history: one so sordid that President Teddy Roosevelt himself would try and stop the press from covering it. But the murder of Stanford White stood for far more than tabloid scandal. Evelyn's shocking testimony would propel her to an uneasy stardom, an uncertain fortune, and send the case before the Supreme Court.
Filled with the glamour, jealousy, and danger of the Gilded Age, The Girl on the Velvet Swing is an immersive, richly detailed look at an America dominated by men of outsize fortunes, and at the women whose lives depended on them.
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