31-year-old John Dunning seemed to have it all, a dedicated wife named Mary Elizabeth, a beautiful healthy baby girl and a highly respected well-paying job as a journalist with the Associated Press. There was only one problem: John had a severe case of the dreaded wandering eye. Despite having already said his vows, John was anything but a one-woman man.
While riding his bike near San Francisco’s infamous Golden Gate Bridge one afternoon in September of 1895, John came across a woman sitting on a park bench and struck up a flirty conversation.
The woman was 41-year-old Cordelia Botkin, the daughter of a slave owner turned farmer from Stockton, California. Recently separated from her husband of 13 years Welcome Botkin, Cordelia had left both him and their son Beverly for a new life as a single woman in San Francisco.
Only days following their initial meeting in the park, John and Cordelia began a ravenous sexual affair. Cordelia wasn’t exactly a sight for sore eyes but she did have something else which caught John’s eye: money.