Diamonds are a (very large) guy's best friend

By Mike Hare

Diamond_Jim_Brady.jpgHis eduction was minimal, and his manners unrefined, but in the 1890's Diamond Jim Brady was one of the richest and best-known men in the country. And he and Lillian Russell were a big part of the Saratoga scene.

James Buchanan Brady started out selling railroad equipment. How good a salesman was he? By his 40th birthday, he'd made $10 million. What did he do with it? He bought diamonds. LOTS of diamonds. More than 20,000 diamonds. Brady wore diamond collar buttons, diamond cuff links, diamond belt buckles, diamond neck-tie pins, diamond watch chains, diamond shirt studs and, yes, diamond underwear buttons. His attire earned him the name Diamond Jim.

Diamond Jim wasn't just a flashy guy -- he was a very large flashy guy. His stomach was said to be six times the regular size. He was known to start his dinner with 70 oysters, eat 12 egg souffles or consume as much as 2 pounds of candy at dessert. But Brady didn't smoke or drink alcohol. Freshly-squeezed orange juice was his drink of choice. Friends saw him drink as much as four gallons during a meal.

Diamond Jim's girth didn't prevent him from attracting the ladies. From Broadway in New York City to Broadway in Saratoga Springs, some of the most beautiful were seen on his arm. One of his best known companions was Lillian Russell, who became a star in New York City before she turned 20.

But Diamond Jim's reputation as a ladies man may have been a bit overblown. A friend of his, Berry Wall, hinted that most of Diamond Jim's lady friends never got a look at his flashy underwear. In a memoir, Wall wrote, "The idea that he was on intimate and tender terms with any of much exaggerated. He was much too fat for that."

Mike Hare is the author of Saratoga Lives and a Spa City tour guide.


I love the Grandpa Munster hair. Hey wait, Al Lewis/Grandpa Munster ran for NY Governor back in like '98. And this site is all about the capital of NY. Well well well, I see there might be a connection. Someone please hand me my magnifying glass so I can investigate this further.

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