Edward Beale McLean

Edward B. McLean

Edward & Evalyn McLean, 1912.
Born 1889
Washington, D.C., United States
Died July 28, 1941
Towson, Maryland,
United States
Cause of death Heart attack
Residence Friendship Estate, Washington, D.C.
Occupation Newspaper publisher, Racehorse owner
Known for Hope Diamond
Political party Republican
Board member of Washington Post
Spouse Evalyn Walsh
Children 1) Vinson Walsh (1909-1919)
2) John Roll II (1916-1975)
3) Edward Beale Jr. (b. 1918)
4) Evalyn Washington (1921-1946)
Parents John Roll McLean &
Emily Truxtun Beale

Edward Beale "Ned" McLean (1889 - July 28, 1941) was the publisher and owner of the Washington Post newspaper from 1916 until 1933.

Edward 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 Adams.[1]

In 1908 Edward McLean married Evalyn Walsh, the only surviving child and sole heiress of mining millionaire Thomas Walsh.[2] 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. The McLeans lived lavishly and had a large part in Washington society. They were close friends of Senator and President Warren G. Harding. [3]


Thoroughbred horse racing

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 Thoroughbred racehorses and hired trainer Eugene Leigh to condition them for racing.[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 of 1931 and in December the estate was sold to Patrick J. Hurley and his wife.[9]

Hope Diamond ownership and subsequent family misfortunes

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 vale". 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 that the "Wealthy Purchasers of Famous Stone to Retain It Despite Sinister Reputation."[11]

Misfortunes of McLean children

The bad luck the diamond was supposed to bring to any owner was not evident for eight years, when the first of the four children born to the McLeans died. While crossing Wisconsin Ave. in front of the suburban Washington, D.C. home of his parents, nine-year-old Vinson Walsh McLean (born December 18, 1909) was struck by a car and killed on May 18, 1919.[12]

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 R. Reynolds of North Carolina.[13] Less than five years later, she was found dead by her mother.[14] A coroner's inquest determined the cause of death to be an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.[15] Evalyn and Robert Reynolds had a daughter, Mamie Spears Reynolds. She married Italian racecar driver Luigi Chinetti in 1963 and divorced two years later.[16]

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 during enemy fire whilst serving in Vietnam.[17] McLean Jr. and Gloria divorced in January 1948. In October of that year he married Manuela "Mollie" Hudson, the former Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt. In August 1949, ex-wife Gloria McLean married actor James Stewart. McLean Jr. and Hudson-Vanderbilt separated in the 1960s and formally divorced in 1973, after which Edward married a fourth time to Patricia Dewey.[18]

Divorce, mental illness, and death

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.[19] 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[20] 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.[21]

Edward McLean died of a heart attack at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson, Maryland in 1941.[22]

Lindbergh kidnapping fraud

During the divorce proceedings, Evalyn McLean was the victim of fraud associated with the Lindbergh kidnapping, perpetrated by con-man Gaston Means. Means duped her into giving him $100,000, to be used to secure the release of the kidnapped son of Charles Lindbergh.[23] He was eventually charged with fraud and imprisoned.[24][25]


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