The last two posts have been about Evelyn Nesbit, and although there’s at least one more to go, I want to take a slight detour and talk about the Gibson Girls!

Gibson Girls flock together by the sea
Gibson Girls flock together by the sea

The Gibson Girls are the invention of Charles Dana Gibson, an American illustrator.

Charles Dana Gibson
Charles Dana Gibson

His illustrations appeared in the 1890s, and by the turn of the century, they were instantly recognizable icons and household names. And quite possibly the first pin-ups to ever exist!

A Gibson Girl
A Gibson Girl

 

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Florence Evelyn Nesbit was born on Christmas day in 1884, to Winfield and Evelyn Nesbit. At the time, the couple resided in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. Evelyn was their first child, and two years later a son followed, whom they named Howard.

Winfield Scott Nesbit was a likable, unsuccessful man. He was educated and made a living as an attorney. He was fond of his daughter: he encouraged her love of books,  and paid for music and dancing lessons. Her mother was less educated and intelligent, though probably not a bad sort. During Evelyn’s early years, her life was devoted to being a housewife and mother.

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Two years after the family moved to Pittsburgh, when Evelyn was 11 years old, her father died suddenly. In departing the earth, he left his family nothing but debt to remember him by. After losing their home, there were a miserable few years where they seem to have lived entirely on the charity of the family and some friends. Evelyn and Howard often stayed with relatives when their mother could not make ends meet.

After an unsuccessful stint running a boarding house, Mrs. Nesbit relocated to Philadelphia, in hopes of finding work as a seamstress. Again unsuccessful in plying her trade, Mrs. Nesbit managed to land a job at a department store. Though she worked long hours almost daily, she sent for 14-year-old Evelyn and her brother. They obtained jobs at the store too.

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It was here that a momentous event took place in Evelyn’s life: a female artist asked her to pose, and paid her a dollar to sit for five hours. The artist must have been happy with the result: she introduced Evelyn to her friends and fellow artists. Soon, Evelyn was modeling for all of them.

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