New York Times: Death of Nicolai de Raylan, June 26, 1907

She "drank, smoked and was well-known to chorus girls"

by Jonathan Ned Katz. Copyright (c) by Jonathan Ned Katz. All rights reserved.

Two short summaries of the life and death of "Nicholai [or "Nicholas"] de Ray/an" each add details about this Lesbian transvestite. The first account is by Havelock Ellis.

In Chicago in 1906 much attention was attracted to the case of "Nicholai de Raylan," confidential secretary to the Russian Consul, who at death (of tuberculosis) at the age of 33 was found to be a woman. She was born in Russia and was in many respects very feminine, small and slight in build, but was regarded as a man, and even as very "manly," by both men and women who knew her intimately. She was always very neat in dress, fastidious in regard to shirts and ties, and wore a long-waisted coat to disguise the lines of her figure. She was married twice in America, being divorced by the first wife, after a union lasting ten years, on the ground of cruelty and misconduct with chorus girls. The second wife, a chorus girl who had been previously married arid had a child, was devoted to her "husband." Both wives were firmly convinced that their husband was a man and ridiculed the idea that "he" could be a woman. I am informed that De Raylan wore a very elaborately constructed artificial penis. In her will she made careful arrangements to prevent detection of sex after death, but these were frustrated, as she died in a hospital."(1)

In 1958, Dr. Eugene de Savitsch, in a book on homosexuality and "transsexualism," still speaks of homosexuals as those whose

body may be essentially that of the male but the sexual impulse predominantly that of the female, and vice versa.
A startling example of that kind has been reported…in the case of a woman who led the life of a man. The individual, known under the name of Nicholas de Raylan and former secretary of Baron von Schlippenbach, the Russian Consul in Chicago, declared himself to be the son of a Russian admiral. He had been twice married, but at his death on December 18th, 1906, in Phoenix, Arizona, was declared to be a woman. Investigation resolved the mystery into the following tangled contradictions: Declaration of the hospital physicians at Phoenix, Arizona, that de Raylan was a woman; declaration of his first wife, and of his second wife, that he was a man; records of the Superior Court, which show that the first Mrs. De Raylan was given a divorce on the ground of infidelity; records of the War Department, which show that he enlisted as a soldier during the Spanish-American War; testimony of friends and neighbours that he led a gay life, drank, smoked and was well known to chorus girls.
He was well educated, and was evidently a graduate of one of the Russian universities.
For two years he suffered from tuberculosis and went to Phoenix where he hoped to recover his health. No news was received of him until telegrams were sent out announcing his death, coupled with the declaration that he was a woman who had lived all her life as a man, married, fought as a soldier and worked in the office of the Russian Consul. De Raylan's first wife, who secured a divorce for infidelity, said the trouble was his fondness for chorus girls. His second wife, a member of the chorus, wept on learning of de Raylan's death, declaring that talk of his being a woman was nonsense'. The post-mortem examination showed a female with an imperforate hymen, undoubtedly a virgin, with uterus, tubes, ovaries and vagina present and in the normal position. An imitation penis and testicles made of chamois skin and stuffed with down were suspended in the right place by means of a band around the waist.
One of the most incredible parts of the story is the Spanish-American War episode. We can only presume that the examination of recruits was a bit more sketchy then than it is nowadays. It is still more incredible that the individual was apparently a well-integrated personality who led a useful life until the last two years, when tuberculosis put an end to his unique career.
It was suggested by the experts that there might have been some glandular deficiency, but this was very difficult to establish because the autopsy technique in Phoenix, Arizona, in .I 906, was probably not much more thorough than' was the examination of recruits. The essential facts, however, are there, confirmed by the legal and medical authorities."(2)



  1. Havelock Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sex, 4 vols. (N.Y.: Random House, 1936), vol. 2, part 2,Sexual Inversion, "3rd ed." (1915), p. 248.
  2. Eugene de Savitsch, Homosexuality, Transvestism, and Change of Sex (Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 1958), p. 6-7. Savitsch cites his source as H. H. Young, Genital Abnormalities, Hermaphroditism and Related Adrenal Diseases (Baltimore Md.: Williams and Wilkins, 1937), but I find no mention of Nicholas de Raylan in this book. The problem of the reliability of these early reports of Lesbian transvestism is raised by the following case cited by Havelock Ellis: "In New York in 1905 a retired sailor, 'Captain John Weed,' who had commanded transatlantic vessels for many years, was admitted to a Home for old sailors and shortly after became ill and despondent, and cut his throat. It was then found that 'Captain Weed' was really a woman. I am informed that the old sailor's despondency and suicide were due to enforced separation from a female companion" (Ellis [1936], p. 202). The New YorkDaily Tribune in three December issues of 1905 carries news items concerning the death of a textile merchant named John Weed, said to have been caused by "a broken heart" after a dispute with a brother and co-partner, H. Frank Weed, who had the month before committed suicide. There is absolutely no indication in any of these printed news reports that either of the Weed brothers might have been a woman in disguise, and the details of John Weed's life do not match the details of the life of the "Captain John Weed" cited by Ellis. It is possible that Ellis's informant had access to information about an individual whose name and history somehow became confused with that of the John Weed who died in December, 1905 (New York Daily Tribune, Dec. 21, 1905, p. 12, col. 3; Dec, 22, 1905, p. 14, col. I; Dec. 30, 1905, p. 7, col. 5)• Ellis's case of "Captain john Weed" illustrates the importance of substantiating evidence. Another case of 1905 cited by Havelock Ellis follows: "Ellen Glenn, alias Ellis Glenn, a notorious swindler, who came prominently before the public in Chicago during 1905, was another 'man-woman,' of large and masculine type. She preferred to dress as a man and had many love escapades with women. 'She can fiddle as. well as anyone in the State,' said a man who knew her, 'can box like a pugilist, and can dance and play cards'" (Ellis [1936], p. 242). Unfortunately, Ellis cites no sources, and no further information has been found on Ellen Glenn.