Russell William Thaw

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Russell William Thaw
Evelyn Nesbit and son by Arnold Genthe, 1913.jpg
Thaw, age 3, with his mother
Born (1910-10-25)October 25, 1910
Berlin, Germany
Died May 6, 1984(1984-05-06) (aged 73)
Santa Barbara, California
Spouse(s) Katherine Emily Roberts (m. 1936–41)
Parent(s) Harry Kendall Thaw
Evelyn Nesbit

Russell William Thaw (October 25, 1910 – May 6, 1984) was a pioneering aviator and veteran of World War II.

Early years[edit]

Born in Berlin, Germany, Thaw was the only child of actress and model Evelyn Nesbit. Legally, he was the son of his mother's first husband Harry Kendall Thaw. Thaw had murdered architect Stanford White, Nesbit's former lover, at Madison Square Garden in 1906.

He was treated indifferently by Harry Kendall Thaw, who never accepted Russell as his son. Russell was born four years after Thaw was incarcerated in the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Thaw's mother, who initially testified that Russell was Harry's son, eventually gave up trying to prove Russell's paternity. Nesbit said of the matter, "A working girl could not fight the Thaw millions."[1] Nesbit's grandchildren, however, refer to Thaw as their grandfather.[2]

As a child, Thaw co-starred with his mother in at least five films: Threads of Destiny (1918), Redemption (1917), Her Mistake (1918), The Woman Who Gave (1918), I Want to Forget (1918), and The Hidden Woman (1922).

Career as a pilot[edit]

Thaw participated in two of the cross-country Bendix trophy races, which were instituted in 1931 and held annually to promote and encourage the achievements of U.S. aviation. Flying the Gee Bee "Model R-2" - P&W Wasp, he withdrew from the 1933 race. Flying the Northrop Gamma - Wright Cyclone, he came in third in the 1935 race from Los Angeles to Cleveland, ahead of Amelia Earhart in fifth place.

On December 10, 1935 he crashed in Atlanta, Georgia while on his way to rescue the polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth after leaving from Caldwell, New Jersey.[3]

He also served as a private pilot to the Guggenheim family.

Personal life[edit]

On July 17, 1936, he married Katherine Emily Roberts, a Beverly Hills debutante and a graduate of Radcliffe College.[4] After their wedding, they moved to White Plains, New York. They separated on March 15, 1939. Katherine Thaw sued her husband for cruelty and "refusal to live with her".[5] Their divorce was finalized on July 8, 1941, with Katherine Thaw stating that her husband had separated from her because he said he could not support them both.[6][7]

Thaw married again and had three children: sons Michael William Thaw, Russell Hall Thaw, and a daughter, Theresa Nesbit Thaw.[citation needed]

In his later years, he served as the postmaster of a small town in Connecticut.


Thaw died in Santa Barbara, California on May 6, 1984.


  1. ^ Burnett, Claudine (2009). Murderous Intent?: Long Beach, CA: 1880's-1920. AuthorHouse. p. 149. ISBN 1-438-94044-0. 
  2. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (2005-12-11). "Girl in Red Velvet Swing Longed to Flee Her Past". Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Thaw Crashes at Atlanta". New York Times. December 10, 1935. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  4. ^ "Married". 27 July 1936. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  5. ^ "Wife Sues Son of Thaw.". New York Times. December 13, 1939. Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  6. ^ "Divorce Won by Mrs. Thaw. Son of Pittsburgh Millionaire Refused to Live With Her, She Says". Los Angeles Times. July 9, 1941. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 
  7. ^ "Mrs. Russell Thaw Wins Divorce". United Press in New York Times. July 9, 1941. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 

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