Evalyn Walsh McLean
Evalyn Walsh McLean
Portrait of Evalyn Walsh McLean (1914), wearing the Hope Diamond
|Born||August 1, 1886|
Denver, Colorado, US
|Died||April 26, 1947 (aged 60)|
Washington, D.C., US
|Resting place||Rock Creek Cemetery|
|Known for||Last private owner of the Hope Diamond|
|Spouse(s)||Edward Beale McLean|
Carrie Bell Reed Walsh
|Relatives||Robert Rice Reynolds (son-in-law)|
Evalyn Walsh McLean (August 1, 1886 – April 26, 1947) was an American mining heiress and socialite who was famous for being the last private owner of the 45-carat (9.0 g) Hope Diamond (which was bought in 1911 for $180,000 from Pierre Cartier), as well as another famous diamond, the 94-carat (18.8 g) Star of the East. She also authored the memoir Father Struck It Rich together with Boyden Sparkes.
Evalyn was born on August 1, 1886 in Denver, Colorado, the only daughter of Carrie Bell Reed, a former schoolteacher, and Thomas Walsh, an Irish immigrant miner and prospector turned multimillionaire. She had one sibling, a brother, Vinson Walsh (1888–1905), who died in a car accident in Newport, Rhode Island when he was 17 years old.
The Hope Diamond
On January 28, 1911, in a deal made in the offices of The Washington Post, McLean's husband purchased the Hope Diamond for $189,000 (equivalent to $4,840,000 in 2018) from Pierre Cartier of Cartier Jewelers in New York. The Hope Diamond was associated with a curse, and McLean's first son was killed in a car accident. Her husband Ned ran off with another woman and eventually died in a sanitarium. Their family newspaper, The Washington Post, went bankrupt. Eventually McLean's daughter died of a drug overdose, and one of her grandsons died in the Vietnam War. McLean never believed the curse had anything to do with her misfortunes, as millions of other humans on the planet had suffered far greater tragedies without having owned a supposed 'cursed diamond', suggesting that misfortune was a product of chance rather than supernatural interference.
- Vinson Walsh McLean (1909–1919), who died aged 9 after being hit by an automobile
- Edward Beale McLean Jr. (1918-1987), who married Gloria Hatrick McLean, later the wife of actor Jimmy Stewart
- John Randolph "Jock" McLean II
- Evalyn Washington McLean, who married United States Senator Robert Rice Reynolds (1884–1963).
The site of the McLean home, Friendship — a sprawling country mansion built for her father-in-law by John Russell Pope and which was located on Tenleytown Road, N.W. — is now a condominium complex known as McLean Gardens. The original house was demolished in the 1940s though some of the property's garden features remain intact, as does the Georgian-style ballroom. A later residence, also known as Friendship, is located at the corner of R Street, N.W. and Wisconsin Avenue, and remains a private home. Her childhood home, a grandiose Second Empire-style mansion at 2020 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., is now the Indonesian embassy.
McLean was a victim of Gaston Means, a former BOI agent, murder suspect, and grifter, who claimed he had set a deal to free the Lindbergh baby for a ransom of over US$100,000, which Evalyn McLean advanced him. Means disappeared with the money, only to resurface months later in California, and ask McLean for additional funds. Suspicious of Means' activities, she helped lead police to him; he was also wanted for other various crimes and civil actions. This ultimately led to his conviction and imprisonment on larceny charges.
Edward McLean eventually died in a mental institution in 1941.
Death and estate
On April 26, 1947, Evalyn Walsh McLean, aged 60, died of pneumonia, and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington D.C., in the Walsh family tomb, alongside her daughter. The Reverend Edmund Walsh, S.J. vice president of Georgetown University read her funeral service, which was attended by family, and close friends including United States Supreme Court Justice Frank Murphy.
Upon her death, the principal of her estate and her jewelry, including the Hope Diamond, were left to her seven grandchildren, to be managed by four trustees until the five oldest grandchildren passed their twenty-fifth birthdays. The trustees were:
- Frank Murphy, United States Supreme Court Justice
- Thurman Arnold, former Assistant Attorney General
- Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen, American bishop and later archbishop of the Catholic Church
- The Reverend Edmund Walsh, S.J. vice president of Georgetown University
Her sons, however, received the proceeds of the Walsh Trust, which was established by her father Thomas Walsh, who had died in 1910. She gave her son-in-law, the former United States Senator Robert Rice Reynolds, lifetime use of the McLean home, Friendship. If the home was sold by the Trustees, he was to receive the proceeds of the sale for his own use.
In popular culture
Her highly promoted trip to the Russian SFSR is mentioned in the Cole Porter song, "Anything Goes" in the lines "When Mrs Ned McLean (God bless her) / Can get Russian reds to "yes" her, / Then I suppose / Anything goes."
- Staff (February 26, 1932). "MRS. T. F. WALSH, SOCIAL LEADER, DIES Widow of Former Miner Who Won Fortune in Colorado Is Stricken in Washington. ONCE HOSTESS TO ROYALTY Honored by Albert, King of the Belgians, for Her Work for His People in the World War". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- Columbia, David Patrick (March 9, 2016). "A Life of Style". New York Social Diary. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
- "Treasures of the World - Hope Diamond".
- Staff (May 19, 1919). "M'LEAN HEIR KILLED BY AN AUTOMOBILE Nine-Year-Old Who Would Inherit $100,000,000 Struck in Road Near His Home". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Obituary (1997-07-03). "James Stewart, the Hesitant Hero, Dies at 89". New York Times. Retrieved 2015-09-09.
- Staff (May 1, 1947). "' Unlucky' M'Lean Hope Diamond Left in Trust for Grandchildren Gem Will Be Worn No More for at Least 20 Years — Sons Inherit Walsh Estate — Reynolds Gets Life Use of 'Friendship'". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Staff (April 28, 1947). "HOSTESS MAGNIFICENT". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Staff (April 30, 1947). "MRS. M'LEAN BURIED BESIDE HER DAUGHTER". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Canden Schwantes (11 March 2014). Wild Women of Washington, D.C.: A History of Disorderly Conduct from the Ladies of the District. The History Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-62619-367-3.
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