This New York City Socialite Vanished After Shopping On Fifth Avenue In 1910, And Her Unsolved Disappearance Is The Oldest Missing Persons Case In The U.S.

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After Dorothy Arnold, a New York socialite, vanished right around Christmas in 1910, no one ever saw her again. To this day, her mysterious disappearance is still unsolved, making it the oldest missing persons case in the United States. The missing socialite made headlines across the country and spawned numerous conspiracy theories.

Some speculated that her boyfriend had her murdered after she turned down his marriage proposal. Others believed that she died due to a botched abortion. Or maybe her family had already located her and was keeping her in hiding.

Dorothy Arnold was born in 1885 to Mary Parks Arnold and Francis R. Arnold. She was the second of four children and an heiress to a perfume empire. Her uncle, Rufus W. Peckham, was also a U.S. Supreme Court justice. They were considered one of the wealthiest families in New York City.

Arnold pursued a career in writing after graduating from Bryn Mawr University in Pennsylvania. She wrote several short stories from her mansion in the Upper East Side but didn’t have any luck with getting them published. In the fall of 1910, she asked her father for permission to get an apartment in Greenwich Village, which was the go-to area for artists. However, her father was not supportive.

Aside from writing, Arnold spent time attending various social gatherings and was known as a “society girl.” On the day she disappeared—December 12, 1910—the 25-year-old had been shopping for an evening dress at a department store on Fifth Avenue.

Along the way, she made a couple of detours, according to the police. Before heading to the department store, she stopped at Park and Tilford on 59th Street to buy some candy.

Then, she went to Brentano’s bookstore to purchase a book titled An Engaged Girl’s Sketches. As she was leaving the shop, she ran into a friend and told her in passing that she would return home through Central Park.

When night fell and Arnold still hadn’t returned, her family became worried. They began asking family and friends if they knew where she was. However, when one friend called back, inquiring if their daughter had been found, the family lied and said yes.

They didn’t report their daughter’s disappearance until six weeks later because they didn’t want to bring media attention and shame to the Arnold name. Before making an official report to the police, the family hired private investigators.

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