Evalyn Walsh McLean

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Portrait of Evalyn Walsh McLean (1914), wearing the Hope Diamond

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 (nowadays is equal to $4,000,000) from Pierre Cartier) [1] as well as another famous diamond, the 94-carat (18.8 g) Star of the East. She also was the author, with Boyden Sparkes, of a memoir, Father Struck It Rich.

She was the only daughter of Thomas Walsh, an Irish immigrant miner and prospector turned multimillionaire, and his wife, Carrie Bell Reed, a former schoolteacher.

In 1908, she married Edward Beale McLean, the heir to The Washington Post and The Cincinnati Enquirer publishing fortune. They had four children: Vinson Walsh McLean, Edward Beale McLean Jr, John Roll McLean II, and Evalyn Washington McLean. Edward McLean eventually died in a mental institution.

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."[2]

Evalyn McLean was also a friend and confidante to Alice Roosevelt Longworth and Florence Harding, the wife of Warren G. Harding, the 29th President of the United States.

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.

The Hope Diamond was associated with a curse, and her 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 and eventually her daughter died of an overdose, and one of her grandsons died in the Vietnam war. Evalyn never believed the curse had anything to do with her misfortunes.

Evalyn Walsh McLean died at 60 of pneumonia, and was buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington D.C., in the Walsh family tomb.


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