Diamond Jim Brady
|James B. Brady|
Diamond Jim Brady c. 1900
|Born||James Buchanan Brady
August 12, 1856
New York City, New York
|Died||April 13, 1917
Atlantic City, New Jersey
|Cause of death||Myocardial infarction|
|Body discovered||Shelburne Hotel|
|Resting place||Holy Cross Cemetery
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." In the book "Fenton And Fowler's Best, Worst, and Most Unusual" (1976) Brady was listed in the chapter "Food" as having the "Best Appetite". For breakfast he would eat "vast quantities of hominy, eggs, cornbread, muffins, flapjacks, chops, fried potatoes, beefsteak, washing it all down with a gallon of fresh orange juice." A mid-morning snack would consist of "two or three dozen clams or Lynnhaven oysters." Luncheon would consist of "shellfish...two or three deviled crabs, a brace of boiled lobsters, a joint of beef, and an enormous salad." He would also include a dessert of "several pieces of homemade pie" and more orange juice. Brady would take afternoon tea, which consisted of a "another platter of seafood, accompanied by two or three bottles of lemon soda." Dinner was the main meal of the day, taken at Rector's Restaurant. It usually comprised "two or three dozens oysters, six crabs, and two bowls of green turtle soup. Then in sumptuous procession came six or seven lobsters, two canvasback ducks, a double portion of terrapin, sirloin steak, vegetables, and for dessert a platter of French pastries." Brady would even include two pounds of chocolate candy to finish off the meal.
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:
Biographer Harry Paul Jeffers wrote, "On election night (1896), Brady won about $180,000 (equivalent to approximately $5,102,640 in 2015 dollars) by making crooked bets on the William McKinley-William Jennings Bryan presidential election." He also enriched himself to the tune of $1.25 million (equivalent to approximately $35,435,000 in 2015 dollars) 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 generous person (Ricky to Fred: "Mr. Hickox? He makes you look like Diamond Jim Brady!").
Brady was mentioned in the Jerry Herman musical Hello, Dolly!, in the song "Elegance." The lyrics refer to many wealthy, upper-class figures from the 19th century, including Brady.
Brady's appetite is immortalized at Lawry's Prime Rib Restaurants with a 16 ounce, two-inch-thick prime rib.
Brady was the protagonist of the fictional film Bonjour, Diamond Jim that was featured in the 2012 film Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie
Brady was mentioned in Caleb Carr's novel "The Angel of Darkness", follow up novel to "The Alienist", where he is introduced as one of the patrons of the Canfield Casino.
A story about Brady is told in Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Jailbird", in which Brady, while dining at the famous Hotel Arapahoe, eats four dozen oysters, four lobsters, four chickens, four squabs, four T-bone steaks, four pork chops, and four lamb chops - on a bet.
In his 1969 novel "The Delta Factor", Mickey Spillane made a reference to Brady, describing a casino in a fictional, corrupt Latin American country: "There was a Diamond Jim Brady atmosphere and you could almost hear the money rustle in the thick wallets of the patrons."
Brady was mentioned in "The Odd Couple" (1968) by Oscar Madison (Walter Matthau) to sarcastically describe Felix Ungar (Jack Lemmon) for ordering only a hot tea in the diner.
Brady was mentioned in "The Wonder Years" (1989) in "The Cost of Living" (Season 4, Episode 4) when narrator Kevin Arnold (Daniel Stern) refers to wealthy student Mark Kovinsky (Justin Whalin) as "Diamond Jim Kovinsky".
In the Family Guy episode "No Meals on Wheels", Peter refers to a customer in his restaurant as Diamond Jim Brady for asking if the restaurant accepts Discover Card.
- Jeffers, H. Paul (August 17, 2001). Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age. Wiley. p. 368. ISBN 978-0471391029.
- "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.
- "Pressed Steel Car Company". Builders of Wooden Railway Cars. Mid-Continent Railway Museum. April 17, 2006.
- Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–2014. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved February 27, 2014.
- Kamp, David (December 30, 2008). "Whether True or False, a Real Stretch". New York Times.
- James T. Ehler (1917-04-13). "Diamond Jim Brady". Foodreference.com. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- Burke, John (1972). Duet In Diamonds the Flamboyant Saga Of Lillian Russell and Diamond Jim Brady in America's Gilded Age. G. P. Putnam's Sons. p. 286. ISBN 978-0399109065.
- Frail, T.A. (December 7, 2009). "Top 10 Real-Life Grinches". Smithsonian.com.
- "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.
- "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)
- "James "Diamond Jim" Brady". Railroad Business Magnate. Find a Grave. January 1, 2001. Retrieved May 26, 2013.
- Gilding the Gilded Age: Interior Decoration Tastes & Trends in New York City A collaboration between The Frick Collection and The William Randolph Hearst Archive at LIU Post.