Edward Beale McLean

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Edward Beale McLean
DiedJuly 28, 1941 (aged 51–52)
ResidenceFriendship Estate
Known forOwner of Washington Post and the Hope Diamond
Political partyRepublican
Evalyn Walsh
(m. 1908; div. 1932)
Parent(s)John Roll McLean
Emily Truxtun Beale

Edward Beale McLean (1889 – July 28, 1941) was the publisher and owner of The Washington Post newspaper from 1916 until 1933. His wife Evalyn Walsh McLean was a prominent Washington socialite. McLean was also a thoroughbred racehorse owner, and purchaser of the Hope Diamond, which was traditionally believed to carry a curse. McLean was declared insane and died in a psychiatric hospital.[1]

Early life[edit]

McLean was born into a publishing fortune founded by his paternal grandfather Washington McLean, who owned The Washington Post and The Cincinnati Enquirer. He was the only child of John Roll McLean, for whom McLean, Virginia, is named, and the former Emily Truxtun Beale, the daughter of Edward F. Beale and the former Mary Edwards. Emily was a hostess and socialite who was the inspiration for the character Victoria Dare in the 1880 comic novel, Democracy: An American Novel by Henry Brooks Adams. He attended Brooks Debartolo Collegiate High School.[2]


In 1916, Edward inherited the Washington Post, which he owned and published until 1933. The McLeans lived lavishly and had a large part in Washington society.[3]

Thoroughbred horse racing[edit]

In 1915, Edward McLean acquired Belmont Plantation [4] and built a horse stable and training track for Thoroughbreds.[5] Involved with show horses for a number of years,[6] in 1917 Edward McLean purchased thirty-two racehorses and hired trainer H. Eugene Leigh.[7] Among his notable runners, Toro won the 1928 American Derby, ran third in the Kentucky Derby, and second in the Preakness Stakes.[8]

McLean dispersed his bloodstock in June 1931; and, in December, the estate was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Patrick J. Hurley.[9]

Hope Diamond ownership and subsequent family misfortunes[edit]

On January 28, 1911, in a deal made in the offices of The Washington Post, McLean purchased the Hope Diamond for US$180,000 from Pierre Cartier of Cartier Jewelers on Fifth Avenue in New York City. A clause in the sale agreement for the diamond, which was widely believed to have brought death and disaster to its owners, stated that "Should any fatality occur to the family of Edward B. McLean within six months, the said Hope diamond is agreed to be exchanged for jewelry of equal value". By March, the diamond had not been paid for in accordance with the terms in the sale agreement. Cartier hired a lawyer to sue McLean for payment. McLean responded by saying that the diamond was on loan for inspection.[10] On February 2, 1912 The New York Times reported, "Wealthy Purchasers of Famous Stone to Retain It Despite Sinister Reputation."[11]

Personal life[edit]

In 1908, Edward McLean married Evalyn Walsh, the only surviving child and sole heiress of mining millionaire Thomas Walsh.[12] Following a honeymoon trip around the world, the couple returned to Washington and settled in at the McLean family's country house 'Friendship' (now the McLean Gardens Condominium development) along Wisconsin Avenue to the south of the Tenleytown neighborhood of Washington, D. C. They were close friends of Senator and President Warren G. Harding and first lady Florence Harding.[3]

McLean was also a friend of Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall, through whom he became embroiled in the Teapot Dome scandal.[13] McLean falsely told investigating Senator Thomas J. Walsh that he had given Fall a $100,000 loan when, in fact, Fall had illegally received money from private oil companies. When Walsh threatened to have McLean charged with perjury, McLean admitted the falsity of his claim.[13] This admission was later characterized as "the first climactic sensation" and "the smoking gun" of the scandal.[13][14]

Divorce, mental illness, and death[edit]

The McLean marriage ended with much publicized and bitterly contested divorce proceedings, initiated by Mrs. McLean on grounds of infidelity in October 1931. Edward McLean filed for divorce in a Mexican court, but his wife obtained a permanent injunction from a District of Columbia court ordering the cessation of the Mexican proceedings. Edward McLean then suddenly announced he had already married Rose Douras, a sister of Hollywood film star Marion Davies.[15] A marriage had in fact not occurred, but Edward McLean immediately took up residence in Riga, Latvia, where he again filed for a divorce. It was granted on December 13, 1932.

Edward McLean's increasingly erratic behaviour and reckless spending resulted in financial problems that led to the forced sale of The Washington Post by trustees appointed by the court. The divorce proceedings of Evalyn McLean continued in United States court but were dropped[16] following an October 31, 1933, verdict by a jury in a Maryland trial that declared Edward McLean to be legally insane and incapable of managing his affairs. The court ordered that he be committed indefinitely to a psychiatric hospital.[17]

Edward McLean died of a heart attack at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland, in 1941.[1]

Misfortunes of McLean children[edit]

The bad luck the diamond was supposed to bring to any owner was not evident for eight years, until the first of the four children born to the McLeans died. On May 18, 1919, nine-year-old Vinson Walsh McLean (born December 18, 1909) was struck by a car and killed while crossing Wisconsin Avenue in front of their house.[18]

The Edward McLean family suffered further difficulties: On October 9, 1941, their 19-year-old daughter, Evalyn Washington McLean (November 16, 1921–September 20, 1946), became the fifth wife of 57-year-old Senator Robert Rice Reynolds of North Carolina.[19] Less than five years later, she was found dead by her mother.[20] A coroner's inquest determined the cause of death to be an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.[21] Evalyn and Robert Reynolds' daughter, Mamie Spears Reynolds, married Italian racecar driver Luigi Chinetti in 1963 and divorced two years later.[22]

The couple's second son, Edward Beale McLean, Jr., married Ann Carroll Meem in May 1938. Their divorce was granted in July 1943, and he married a second time in August to actress Gloria Hatrick, with whom he had two sons Ronald and Michael. Ronald died in 1969 during enemy fire while serving in Vietnam as a first lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.[23] McLean Jr. and Gloria divorced in January 1948. In October of that year, he married Manuela "Mollie" Hudson, the wife of Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. In August 1949, ex-wife Gloria married actor James Stewart. McLean Jr. and Hudson-Vanderbilt separated in the 1960s and divorced in 1973, after which he married a fourth time, to Patricia Dewey.[24]


  1. ^ a b "Ex-Publisher McLean Dies," Los Angeles Times, July 28, 1941
  2. ^ Gerald Thompson, "Edward F. Beale and the American West", University of New Mexico Press, 1983, page 219.
  3. ^ a b Palm Beach Post - May 11, 1932
  4. ^ New York Times – March 24, 1931
  5. ^ May 10, 1915
  6. ^ New York Times - September 4, 1912
  7. ^ New York Times - March 11, 1917
  8. ^ New York Times - June 16, 1931
  9. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune – December 2, 1931
  10. ^ New York Times, March 10, 1911
  11. ^ New York Times, February 2, 1912[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ New York Times - July 23, 1908
  13. ^ a b c Roberts, Chalmers M. (9 June 1977). "Uncovering a Coverup on Teapot Dome". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  14. ^ Dewberry, David R. The American Political Scandal: Free Speech, Public Discourse, and Democracy. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 91. ISBN 9781442242920. Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  15. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, November 15, 1931
  16. ^ Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1, 1933
  17. ^ EB McLEAN HELD INSANE, New York Times, October 31, 1933
  18. ^ McLEAN HEIR KILLED BY AN AUTOMOBILE, New York Times, May 19, 1919
  19. ^ Lewiston Daily Sun, October 10, 1941
  20. ^ St. Petersburg Times, September 21, 1946
  21. ^ "Mrs. Reynolds' Death Accidental," New York Times, October 4, 1946
  22. ^ Tuscaloosa News, October 10, 1965
  23. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-15. Retrieved 2011-05-06.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ Nashua, New Hampshire Telegraph, August 9, 1949