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What happened to American Socialite Dorothy Arnold?

Updated on September 30, 2012
Photograph of Dorthy Arnold.
Photograph of Dorthy Arnold.

The tale surrounding American socialite Dorothy Arnold is a strange one as she suddenly disappeared without a trace in New York City one evening in 1910. What happened to this woman? Even to this day, nobody has ever found any evidence to indicate she was killed or simply ran away from her previous life.

Arnold was born in 1844 to a wealthy perfume importer by the name of Francis Arnold. She eventually attended Bryn Mawr College and attempted to become a writer, however, those efforts failed. She simply lived off her parents wealth and was a well-known socialite in New York.


Dorothy left her parents home on December 12, 1910 in the morning hours. She decided to go out to purchase a dress for a party. She was last seen at the Brentano's bookstore on 26th Street. People she encountered that day described her as being lively and cheerful. Before visiting the book store she went to Park & Tilford's, where she purchased one pound of candy. After visiting the stores, it is assumed Dorthy went through Central Park. This was the last place she was ever seen. She never returned to her parent's home that night.

The family thought that letting the word get out that their daughter had disappeared could be socially embarrassing as a month prior she had George Griscom, Jr. At first they did not call police and instead contacted a detective to try to track down their daughter. After this failed, they waited until six weeks after she disappeared to make contact with police.


One rumor spread that Dorothy ended up in a hospital with amnesia. However, nobody was ever able to locate a women who fit her description at hospitals in the area. Other theories include she could have had a botched abortion, which led to her death, or she committed suicide. The most common theory of the whole incident is that she was banished to Switzerland after her family found out she was pregnant out of wedlock, which would ruin the social reputation of the family.

Over the years, her father spend over $100,000 trying to locate his daughter, but every lead ended up turning out to be false. He eventually died in 1922. At the time of his death, he simply believed his daughter to be dead, though he had no idea what the circumstances surrounding her death would have been.


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