(Nov. 10, 1862-Mar. 24, 1944). Nellie Palmer Simmons Meier was an internationally known palmist—dubbed the “Palmist to the Stars”—with a long roster of famous clients, including reformers, politicians, artists, musicians, actors, writers, scientists, and business leaders.

Nellie Simmons Meier sits with her cat in the drawing room of her house, “Tuckaway,” ca. 1915 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

Meier was born in New York to Daniel Simmons and Catherine “Katie” Clinton Austin and had one sister. The Simmons family moved to Indiana while Meier was still an infant, and she attended primary school in Indianapolis at Benjamin Harrison School and May Wright Sewall’s Girls Classical School. She first began reading palms in her youth and nurtured this skill to stand out from other girls.

Though Meier gained fame during the height of spiritualism, she rejected the idea that a person’s fortune could be determined through palm reading. She instead practiced and promoted “scientific palmistry,” which involved studying the relationship between certain character traits and the shape of the hand and palm lines. During a palm reading session, Meier took an ink impression of and analyzed a client’s hand (their handshake, handshape, palms, and fingers) to learn their character traits and compile an overall character reading. For a 20-minute session, she charged $5, which she donated to charity.

Actor Leslie Howard having his palm read by Nellie Simmons Meier, ca. 1935 Credit: The Indiana Album: Tuckaway House Collection View Source

Meier married George Phillip Meier (Sept. 16, 1864-Sept. 18, 1932), a tailor who would later become a nationally known designer of women’s apparel, on Valentine’s Day in 1899. Together, the palm reader and tailor began their rise to become one of Indianapolis’ premier socialite couples. In 1910, the Meiers purchased a home at 3128 N. Pennsylvania Street, dubbed “Tuckaway House,” which they renovated to accommodate their increasingly social lifestyle.

As art patrons, the Meiers made their new home into a popular salon, attracting both nationally and internationally known writers, artists, actors, dancers, and musicians. In addition to being an art patron, Meier was involved in a dozen different arts, culture, and humanitarian clubs and organizations.

After her husband died in 1932, Nellie continued to read palms, travel, and give lectures. She published multiple books in the 1930s, including her most famous, Lions’ Paws: the Story of Famous Hands (1937). The book featured a diverse collection of handprints from some of her most famous clients, including composer and pianist George Gershwin, animation film producer Walt Disney, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich of Russia, pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart, and birth control activist Margaret Sanger. Nellie also read the palms of President Franklin Roosevelt, who called her “the most interesting woman to visit the White House in years.” At his request, she donated the original autographed palm prints, photographs, and character sketches of 135 individuals for whom she read palms to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.  

By the time Nellie died, she had read over 20,000 palms. 

Revised May 2023

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