One summer in the early 1920’s, Ms. Lorelei Lee, a resident of Manhattan who had grown up in Little Rock, Ark., made a trip to Europe. This diversion was sponsored by her gentleman friend, Mr. Gus Eisman, known as the Button King of Chicago. During the journey, Ms. Lee kept a diary, which, fortuitously preserved by Anita Loos, was published in 1925 as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. It became an American classic.
On Nov. 11, 1841, a 63-year-old woman named Catherine McAuley was dying of tuberculosis in a commodious house on Baggot Street in southeast Dublin. Some years earlier, after she had come into a considerable fortune, she had had this building constructed for what she called “works of mercy.”