Baby Doe Tabor was not always a Tabor. She was born and baptized Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt to Irish Catholic parents in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1854. Her years in the frontier boomtown of Oshkosh gave her the beginnings of a dream she would live to see come true.
Colorado socialite Elizabeth Tabor had golden hair, blue eyes, porcelain skin, and a sense of style that rivaled that of any woman in Leadville. She arrived married to a struggling miner but dressed like she was the belle of the ball. She paraded down the main street of town wearing a sapphire-blue costume with dyed-to-match shoes. Her stunning style caught the attention not only of neighbors and storekeepers, but also millionaire Horace Tabor.
Horace and Elizabeth scandalized the community by falling in love, divorcing their spouses, and marrying one another. Horace showered his new bride with jewels and the finest outfits from Boston and Paris. She wore one-of-a-kind outfits to opening nights at the opera house he had built for her.
All eyes were on the young Mrs. Tabor as Horace escorted his young bridge into the theatre. Her dresses were made of Damasse silk, complete with a flowing train made of brocaded satin. The material around the arms was fringed with amber beads. The look was topped off with an ermine opera cloak and muff. Pictures of the Tabors appeared in the most-red newspapers, and soon women from San Francisco to New York copied the outfit. The only part of the costume admirers were unable to reproduce to their satisfaction was Mrs. Tabor’s $90,000 diamond necklace.
Despite wealth that allowed her to live a lifestyle that was beyond lavish, Elizabeth died penniless and alone in Leadville, Colorado. She froze to death while living in a mine shack of the famous Matchless Mine, which in its heyday produced $10,000 worth of silver ore per day.
Elizabeth and Horace Tabor are the subject of an American opera titled, “The Ballad of Baby Doe”.
How the West Was Worn, by Chris Enss