In 1914, 20-year-old Pennsylvania native Olive Thomas was working in a Harlem department store when she entered a beauty contest run by a popular photographer.
Her next move: joining the Ziegfeld Follies. Thomas performed as part of the racy Midnight Frolic, an after-hours show on the roof of 42nd Street’s New Amsterdam Theatre.
Thomas hit the silent-film circuit, married the brother of actress Mary Pickford, and then died on vacation in France in 1920 after accidentally ingesting medicine containing mercury.
She’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Supposedly her ghost haunts the New Amsterdam Theater.