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15 August 2019

Edward Dolan (1880-1937) murdered

Associated Press version May 28 1937

In 1937, Edward Dolan (we have only her male name) was living with her husband, Kenneth Reese, a hospital orderly, at an apartment building on Ludlow Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side (in fact only three blocks away from where Marsha P Johnson would live 30 years later). The Building was known as ‘the house of all nations’ because of the variety of its tenants.

Neighbors reported that Dolan “sometimes went out dressed in the attire of a woman”, and when questioned claimed that he worked as a female impersonator, and “preferred to dress at home”.

In late May 1937, the neighbours complained about much noise and commotion in Dolan’s apartment, and some hours later Dolan was found dead, strangled.

  • “Female Impersonator Slain in New York,” Baltimore Sun, 28 May 1937, 4.
  • “Dancer Found Slain in His Apartment,” New York Times, 28 May 1937, 3.
  • James Polchin. Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall. Counterpoint, 2019:


Two unanswered questions:

1) Was Dolan a professional female impersonator? There is no statement about a bar or nightclub where she was appearing. Perhaps she felt that she needed an excuse to wear female clothes when the neighbors had noticed her. It was actually quite unusual for professional female impersonators to dress female outside work at that time. Artists in the 1950s are considered pioneers for doing so: Mrs Shufflewick, Ron Storme, the performers at Le Carrousel, Hotcha Hinton. We might also consider the police raid on New York's Black Parrot Tea Shoppe Hobo-Hemia 14 years earlier when Ruby Bernhammer (non-professional) and Rosebud (professional) were nabbed. Variety and the New York Times disagreed as to whether Rosebud was in mufti or in female dress.

2) WhoDunnit? Was it the husband Kenneth or a third party? I could find no record of any arrest in the case. Nor any mention of Kenneth - did he stay or flee?

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