- Historic Sites
The Dentist And The Empress
The mob was at the palace gates; her husband was already a prisoner; the servants were stealing imperial treasures before her eyes; Empress Eugénie turned to the one man in France she could trust—Dr. Thomas W. Evans of Lancaster, Pa.
June/july 1980 | Volume 31, Issue 4
Dr. Evans attended the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876, and returned to America again in 1897 with the body of his wife who died that June in Paris. Her remains were placed in the imposing Evans mausoleum in Woodlands Cemetery, topped by the tallest monument (then and now) in that place of interment. Being childless and now without a legatee, the doctor, like other wealthy and lonely potential donors, derived considerable solace from encouraging the hopes of possible recipients of his fortune of four to five million (gold) dollars. He had been a generous supporter of many philanthropic endeavors in Paris and was known to appreciate the lifetime opportunities that France had afforded him. There were expectations that he would leave his estate to the city of Paris. Or, again, perhaps to the city of Philadelphia. He visited around—Princeton and Chicago, thought about a girls’ school in Cincinnati, a charitable institution in Minnesota. But when Dr. Evans died in 1913, the will provided for a Museum and Dental School in Philadelphia. To avoid duplication and unnecessary competition, the executors of the Evans estate agreed to an affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania, which resulted in outstanding facilities, a strong dental library, and a handsome new building in the Collegiate Gothic Style.
The Empress Eugénie, who was then eighty-three years old and lived on the Côte d’Azur, was invited to attend the laying of the cornerstone of the Evans building, but declined with a graceful reference to Dr. Evans: “I am reminded of his sincerity, the proof of which he gave me in the darkest hours of my life.” Seven years later the last Empress of the French, who had touched the heights and the depths, and said she had already died three times, followed Thomas W. Evans—hedonist, egotist, humanitarian, unofficial envoy to royalty, dentist, staunch American and friend—in the death of the body if not of the spirit.