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American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White: The Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century Hardcover – May 1, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594489939
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594489938
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,542 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Uruburu, an associate professor of English at Hofstra who has consulted for the History Channel, examines the notorious life of model and chorus girl Evelyn Nesbit (1885?–1967), whose rise to stardom was as spectacular as her subsequent fall. Born in rural Pennsylvania, Florence Evelyn Nesbit was an exceedingly pretty infant who by 15 had achieved success as an actress and model in New York City, where her blend of sultry sexuality and unspoiled purity attracted the eye of famed architect and playboy Stanford White. But Pittsburgh heir and sexual sadist Harry K. Thaw wanted Nesbit for himself and vowed to expose White's immoral conduct with underage girls. Thaw went on to brutally rape and beat Nesbit, yet she agreed to marry him. Still consumed with jealousy, Thaw shot White to death in 1906, leading to a headline-grabbing trial. Uruburu's depiction of Nesbit's early life and career is richly detailed, but the book loses steam near the end and barely addresses Nesbit's post-trial tailspin into alcoholism. Still, readers will appreciate the parallels between Nesbit's It Girl status and our own celebrity-obsessed culture. Photos. (May 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Americans have always been intrigued by sex and scandal. Even in seemingly more innocent eras, sexually fueled transgressions and crimes had the power to transfix the public. Uruburu recounts the salacious details of an early-twentieth-century crime that both shocked and gripped the collective public consciousness. A superstar by turn-of-the-century standards, Evelyn Nesbit, model, actress, and advertising creation, represented an idealized version of American womanhood. When her unbalanced millionaire husband shot and killed her lover, renowned New York architect and man-about-town Stanford White, the stage was set for a virtual media circus. All the decadent details revealed at the trial were devoured by a public just as hungry to see young, beautiful, and successful women crash and burn as they are today. Uruburu draws some valid comparisons between then and now in this tell-all biography of one of the first in a long line of tarnished “It Girls.” --Margaret Flanagan

More About the Author

Dr. Paula Uruburu is a Professor of English at Hofstra University in New York where she also teaches courses in film and womens' studies. Her latest book, AMERICAN EVE (2008 Riverhead Press, Penguin) is a biography of the first "It" girl and celebrity, Evelyn Nesbit, who was the catalyst for the 20th century's first "crime of the century" - the murder of famed architect Stanford White by Nesbit's demented millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw in Madison Square Garden in 1906. She has been a researcher/consultant/talking head for A & E's Biography, PBS's American Experience, History Detectives, the History Channel, and the Smithsonian Channel.

Her areas of expertise include the Gilded Age, the Gothic and Grotesque in art and literature, popular American culture, and the history of photography and film. Of Basque-Irish descent, her roots are in Brooklyn, Bilbao, and Massapequa (which Jerry Seinfeld says its Native American for "by the mall.") She lives in a haunted house on the south shore of Long Island and likes the fact that her last name is a palindrome.

Customer Reviews

Perhaps the best thing about the book is the style of writing.
Brad Hodges
Nesbit's life and the 1906 murder of Stanford White still fascinate, and this is one of the best books on the subject.
Libris
What Uruburu does, and does well, is give voice to Nesbit's side of the story.
Allan Dart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

94 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Brad Hodges on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In the first years of the 20th century, one of the most famous women in America was a teenager, Evelyn Nesbit, a model for artists and photographers and New York showgirl. She was ubiquitous in advertisements and magazines, and had a kind of innocent beauty that also possessed a measure of sophistication. She was courted by many stage-door millionaires, but it was Stanford White, renowned architect, who made her his mistress. Later she would marry an unbalanced millionaire, Harry K. Thaw of Pittsburgh, who would learn that White spoiled his child-bride and during the summer of 1906, in the rooftop theater of Madison Square Garden, a building White designed, Thaw would murder White and cast Nesbit as the focal point of the first American trial that would become a media circus.

Nesbit's story, and the tale of murder and insanity that accompanies it, is brilliantly told in Paula Uruburu's book American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, The Birth of the "It" Girl, and the Crime of the Century. While the appelation It Girl is incorrect (that was Clara Bow some twenty years later), Nesbit was certainly the first model to gain national attention. Her humble upbringing from a Pittsburgh suburb to full-time model at age 14 is layed out in scrupulous detail, as is her seduction by White and courtship with the mad Harry. What Uruburu seems most keen on doing here is setting the record straight--Nesbit was vilified by many in the press at the time of the murder and trial. As Uruburu points out, she was more sinned against than sinning, a girl who was neglected by her mother and allowed to be exploited by the rapacious men of the age.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Allan Dart on May 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Paula Uruburu's AMERICAN EVE: EVELYN NESBIT, STANFORD WHITE, THE BIRTH OF THE "IT" GIRL AND THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY is a first-rate, spirited and entertaining chronicle involving sex, celebrity, murder, media frenzy and a dead hippo.

Uruburu's exhilarating tale begins in NYC during the final hours of 1899--an "Eden" where Nesbit, the titular Eve and "Little Sphinx," rises from poverty and obscurity to become the preeminent model and pin-up girl of the day. Part Ophelia, part Salome, the inscrutable Nesbit (also an actress and Gibson girl) captures the fancy of famed architect Stanford White, the "Pharaoh of Fifth Avenue" whose contributions to the "priapic city" included the gilded bronze weathervane of a scandalously nude Diana--appropriately, the goddess of the hunt and chastity--that sat atop the second Madison Square Garden (which White designed).

Notorious for plucking ripe "tomatoes" from the stage to add to his Garden, the married, lustful and predatory "Great White" (who was three times Nesbit's age) fawns over Nesbit, wooing her with money, charm and a red velvet swing. Although Nesbit was only 16, White initiates the fall of this Eve during a night of lights, mirrors, a canopied bed and too much champagne. Awakening in "an abbreviated pink undergarment" and with a nude White next to her, Nesbit is told by the architect, "Don't cry kittens. It's all over. Now you belong to me."

Not quite. Enter Mad Harry--Harry K. Thaw of Pittsburgh--with a carnivorous appetite and penchant for forbidden fruit as well. The heir-apparent to a $40 million coke and railroad fortune, Thaw was a puritanical vigilante with a history of mental illness and a hatred for White.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Libris on May 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I've been waiting eons for this book to be published, and it was 10 years in the making.

Uruburu's look at the life and tragedy of Evelyn Nesbit is a fascinating page-turner that finally places Nesbit in her correct time period. Although she looks modern, she was a girl trapped and exploited by the standards of her time. Her beauty lifted her into the high life of 1900s New York City, but it also led her down a tragic path of madness and murder.

Although the previous reviewer is correct that the term "It Girl" didn't come into play until Clara Bow in the 1920s, author Uruburu states that Nesbit was the "It Girl" of the turn of the last century, and I agree. Nesbit's life and the 1906 murder of Stanford White still fascinate, and this is one of the best books on the subject.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By M. Hallman on July 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The author made a serious mistake when she chose to open many chapters with epigraphs selected from Evelyn Nesbit's two autobiographies. Given Ms. Nesbit's lack of much formal education, one wonders if both books weren't ghostwritten, but if they really are her own words, then she missed her calling-- whoever wrote the quoted material was keenly observant, had some interesting things to say, and said them well. Would that one could say the same of the author of this book-- an associate professor of English should know better than to use the phrase, "sufficient enough", and that's just one example of the awkward writing found throughout that more than once made me want to hurl the book across the room. I stuck with it, hoping it would get better. It didn't. Ms. Nesbit deserves a better book, one that doesn't contain such overblown passages as, "Evelyn Nesbit, image of an age, its sins, its soullessness..." (that fragment, quoted here in its entirety, constitutes an entire paragraph on page 11), and one that doesn't race through the last 56 years of her life in 16 pages. One would like to know how an intelligent woman who lived into her eighties managed to cope for decades with the weight of the notoriety she attained when barely out of her teens. Don't look for the answer in this book.
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