As a sixteen year old girl, model, actress and Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit was debauched by prominent New York architect, Stanford White. On June 25, 1906, White paid for taking Evelyn's virginity when her new husband, the wild Pittsburgh millionaire Harry K. Thaw, tooks White's life on the rooftop garden of Madison Square Garden.
"The agony of Evelyn in the years of her girlhood formed the prelude to a long continuous drama of sorrow, the murk and gloom of which was never illuminated by a ray of sunshine until what occurred on the roof of Madison Square Garden and Stanford White fell dead."
"After ten years during which a crew of moneyed libertines had made life almost as unsafe for virgins as did the Minotaur, a revolver made New York safer for other girls. They are safe."
Harry Kendall Thaw
The 1906 murder of Stanford White by Harry K. Thaw quickly became known as "The Crime of the Century" and Evelyn Nesbit became known as "The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing." The shocking story and the lurid details which emerged from Thaw's trial became a modern morality tale which informed the consciousnesses of early Twentieth Century America. Nesbit, Thaw and White enacted an archetypical tragedy of sex and violent death on a dark, urban stage. The story is a disturbing marriage of the breaking of ancient taboos and the anxiety of life in an ultimately unknowable city; a tale of innocence lost in a myriad of ways.
These events made a strong imprint on the American mind. The word brainstorm originated as a description of Harry Thaw's wild state of mind at the time of the murder. Stanford White, the once respectable victim, became a laughingstock, and his coy invitation to "Come up and see my etchings," became a commonly repeated joke. And Evelyn Nesbit became famous for, among other things, "posing on a bear skin rug."