American Experience
The Red Swing



We went up another two flights of stairs, and came to the room at the top of the building. My first impression of the room was that extended in the very centre was a large velvet chair swinging on two ropes from the ceiling, and above this chair, closer to the ceiling, was hung a big open Japanese umbrella of paper.

"Let me give you a swing," said Stanford White. I got into the chair and he swung me higher and higher, till I almost touched the umbrella.

"I want to see your feet go through it," he said, swinging me more vigorously; and soon after I accomplished what he desired, for my feet went crashing through the paper cover of the umbrella. It was amusing. I enjoyed it thoroughly. I did not realise that childish fun could have any serious significance. I did not realise that this prepossessing and kindly man could have any other object in view than to amuse me.

After a while he looked at his watch.

"I should like to stay here all day," he said with a smile, "keeping you amused; but unfortunately I am a very busy man."

He glanced round at my companion.

"I want to see you for a moment," he said, and went out with her. In a little time she came back to me. She told me that she had to go to a dentist and that we should go for a little ride in an automobile round Central Park and afterwards I might go with her. It was Mr. White's suggestion that I should do this. He thought that my teeth should be seen to, and since he was a dentist with experience I welcomed the suggestion.

I told mother all about the party and the subsequent visit to the dentist; there was nothing to hide and nothing in the afternoon's experience which seemed in any way out of place, and mother apparently took the same view.

Evelyn Nesbit, The Story of My Life, 1914


It was a gay, happy affair, that first luncheon party; with champagne, delicious food and ideal surroundings. After lunch we ascended to the next floor and entered a marvelous studio where I saw, for the first time, the famous Red Velvet Swing!

That gorgeous swing, with its red velvet ropes around which trailed green smilax, was set in the high ceiling at one end of the studio. Imagine my delight when Stanford White proposed:

"Let's put this kid in the swing first."

What fun it was to be tossed higher and higher until my feet pierced a huge Japanese paper parasol attached to a string! Edna held the string; she pulled it every time I swung nearer the ceiling, a fresh section of the parasol coming within range of my feet and being pierced. I laughed so much my sides ached. It was fun.

The oft-mentioned Mirror Room was on this floor, too, but I did not see it that day.

About four o'clock the party broke up. At the last moment Stanford White asked me to visit his dentist; Edna, he said, would take me. He had noticed that a front tooth of mine needed professional attention. "My dentist will fix the tooth. It's your only defect... it spoils your smile," he said.

Another hansom cab awaited us and we took our departure. Edna ordered the driver to go through the park and thence to the office of the dentist. For a while the dentist worked on Edna's teeth, but she said nothing regarding mine. She spoke little, on the whole, and seemed in a bad humor.

It was dark when I got home. Naturally, my mother, anxious to know where I had lunched, whom I had met and all about the party, made me tell her the whole story. She was puzzled about many things, especially the scene of the party. She did not understand -- neither did I, for that matter -- why Edna's "society friend" should have such a gorgeous establishment in the heart of the business district. We were far too unsophisticated to find answers to our own questions. To us, essentially small towners, New York was full of surprises, of new experiences. When I told Mamma how Stanford White had suggested my going to his dentist, she thought his interest in me very queer. We were both completely puzzled.

Evelyn Nesbit, Prodigal Days, 1934

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1 -- Artist's Model In New York 2 -- Meeting Stanford White 3 -- The Red Swing 4 -- Confession To Thaw 5 -- The Murder 6 -- The Call To Testify 7 -- Aftermath