Diamond Jim Brady
Life and career 
Born in New York City to a modest household, Brady worked his way up from bellhop and courier. After gaining employment in the New York Central Railroad system, he became the chief assistant to the general manager by the age of 21. At 23, Brady parlayed his knowledge of the rail transport industry and its officials to become a highly successful salesman for Manning, Maxwell and Moore, a railroad supply company. In 1899 he became Sales Agent for the Pressed Steel Car Company.
Brady's enormous appetite was as legendary as his wealth, though modern experts believe it was greatly exaggerated. It was not unusual, according to the legend, for Brady to eat enough food for ten people at a sitting. George Rector, owner of a favorite restaurant, described Brady as "the best 25 customers I ever had."
A gregarious man, Brady was a mainstay of Broadway nightlife. He often dined with popular society. After further investments in the stock market, Brady accumulated wealth estimated at $12 million, though not always by ethical means. According to one anecdote:
"On election night (1896), biographer Harry Paul Jeffers writes, Brady won about $180,000 (about $4.7 million today) by making crooked bets on the William McKinley-William Jennings Bryan presidential election." He also enriched himself to the tune of $1.25 million (about $33 million today) through a shady stock deal involving the Reading Railroad.
Brady donated a significant sum in 1912 to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he had once been treated. The hospital created the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute in his honor.
Brady died in his sleep on April 13, 1917, of a heart attack.
Brady had never married, and after his death his estate was distributed to many institutions, most notably New York Hospital. When his body was examined, doctors discovered that his stomach was six times the size of that of an average person.
Brady was the inspiration for a 1935 film written by Preston Sturges entitled Diamond Jim and might have inspired a character called "Big Jim" in the Bob Dylan song, "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts."
Brady is mentioned in an episode of I Love Lucy (S04E01), to describe a very frugal person.
Brady's appetite is immortalized at Lawry's Prime Rib Restaurants with a 16 ounce, two-inch-thick prime rib.
- "M. M. & M.". Time magazine. January 24, 1938. Retrieved 2008-12-19. "The Brady fable got its pith from Charles A. Moore, founder of Manning, Maxwell & Moore, who took Brady on as a cub salesman in 1879 when the company was only a jobber for railroad supplies, sent Diamond Jim out on the road with instructions to spend all the money necessary to make customers like him. Diamond Jim stuck to this tenet through the panic of the middle nineties with such success that spending money to make money has been the Manning, Maxwell & Moore system ever since."
- Diamond Jim Brady
- Jeffers, p.4
- "Top 10 Real Life Grinches". Smithsonian Magazine.
- "Diamond Jim Brady Dies While Asleep. Bulk of Fortune of from $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 May Go to Johns Hopkins Hospital. Jewels for Metropolitan Museum. A Keen Man of Business. $200,000 for Johns Hopkins.". New York Times. April 14, 1917. Retrieved 2008-12-19. "James Buchanan Brady of New York died this morning from a heart attack at the age of 61. He literally slept into death, for his constant attendant had no warning of the fatal stroke."
- Jeffers, p.306
- "Lawry's: The Prime Rib".
- Jeffers, Harry Paul. Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age, New York: Wiley, 2001.
- Further reading
- White, John H., Jr. (Spring 1986). "America's most noteworthy railroaders". Railroad History 154: pp. 9–15. ISSN 0090-7847. OCLC 1785797.
- "Whether True or False, A Real Stretch" New York Times (December 20, 2008)