Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Disappearance of Mary

By James McNeill Whistler, Miss Lillian Woakes. 1890-1891.

In late July 1891, Elam W. Smith and family were in the Louisville Courier-Journal, in a story describing the sensational disappearance of not yet 17 year-old daughter Mary L. Smith. The article was published on Wednesday 22 July, referring to her disappearance the previous Sunday. According to the story, Elam and wife Delana had gone out for the evening, and when they returned, Mary was missing. Neighbors reported seeing her with "a handsome woman, dressed in black, with silk cords around her dress." Mary told one of them she was going to "Minnie's house" for a short time.

The next day, the parents frantically searched throughout the neighborhood. A saloon-keeper said he saw the woman come to the Smith house and thought she lived at 840 Grayson Street in Louisville. Elam called the police and they searched various "houses of ill-repute" in Louisville on Tuesday 21st but were unable to find her.

Louisville Courier-Journal. 22 Jul 1891.
What happens next will have to wait for the next post.
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The painting of Miss Lillian Woakes by James Abbott McNeill Whistler is featured at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC. I took the kids there yesterday as they were off from school for the start of Spring Break. I am pairing the painting with this post as it was made around the same time period and featured a young woman who could have been about the same age as Mary. Whistler made the painting of a daughter of a wealthy patron in London, not in Louisville.

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