Diamond Jim Brady

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James B. Brady (nickname - Diamond Jim)
James "Diamond Jim" Brady
Diamond Jim Brady c. 1900
James Buchanan Brady

(1856-08-12)August 12, 1856
New York City, United States
DiedApril 13, 1917(1917-04-13) (aged 60)
Body discoveredShelburne Hotel
Resting placeHoly Cross Cemetery
40°38′49″N 73°56′17″W / 40.64694°N 73.93806°W / 40.64694; -73.93806 (James "Diamond Jim" Brady burial site)
Other names
  • "Diamond Jim"
  • "Diamond Jim Brady"
  • American businessman
  • Financier
  • Philanthropist
  • Railroad business magnate
Years active39
Known for
  • Penchant for diamonds, precious stones, and jewelry
  • Voracious appetite
  • John Brady
  • Mary A. Lucas

James Buchanan Brady (August 12, 1856 – April 13, 1917), also known as Diamond Jim Brady, was an American businessman, financier and philanthropist of the Gilded Age.[1]

Early life and family[edit]

Brady was born in New York City to an Irish immigrant family,[2] he was born “into humble circumstances on the far lower West Side of Manhattan, the son of a saloon owner.”[3]


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.[4] In 1899 he became Sales Agent for the Pressed Steel Car Company.[5]


Known for his penchant for jewels, especially diamonds, he collected precious stones and jewelry in excess of US$2 million (equivalent to approximately $60,232,000 in 2018 dollars).[6]

Brady's enormous appetite was as legendary as his wealth, though modern experts believe it was greatly exaggerated,[7] 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".[8] 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 "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 biographer Harry Paul Jeffers, "On election night (1896), Brady won about $180,000 (equivalent to approximately $5,420,880 in 2018 dollars)[6] by making crooked bets on the William McKinleyWilliam Jennings Bryan presidential election." He also enriched himself to the tune of $1.25 million (equivalent to approximately $37,645,000 in 2018 dollars)[6] through a shady stock deal involving the Reading Railroad.[9]

He was known for being the first person in New York City to own an automobile (in 1895).[citation needed]

Thoroughbred racing[edit]

Jim Brady owned and raced a significant stable of Thoroughbred horses which were trained by Matthew Allen.[10] Among his top horses, Gold Heels was the Champion Older Male Horse of 1902 and Accountant was the American Co-Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse of 1906.[11][12] In his obituary, the Daily Racing Form noted that his activities in racing helped make him a national figure.[13]

Personal life[edit]

"Diamond Jim" is known for his longtime relationship with actress and singer Lillian Russell.[14] It is said they would rendezvous at his home at 7 West 46th Street in Manhattan,[3] it is said that her eating habits were a perfect match for his own.[1]

Brady donated a significant sum in 1912 to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he had once been treated;[15] the hospital created the James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute in his honor.

Brady had never married, and after his death, his estate was distributed to many institutions, most notably New York Hospital. Now known as NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, the Department of Urology still maintains the James Buchanan Brady Foundation.


Brady died in his sleep on April 13, 1917, of a heart attack;[15] when his body was examined, doctors discovered that his stomach was six times the size of that of an average person.[1]


Brady was the inspiration for a 1935 film written by Preston Sturges entitled Diamond Jim[citation needed] and might have inspired a character called "Big Jim" in the Bob Dylan song, "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts".[citation needed]

In the 1940 film, Lillian Russell, Diamond Jim Brady is portrayed by Edward Arnold.

Brady is mentioned in an episode of I Love Lucy titled "The Business Manager" (season 4, episode 1) - (Ricky to Fred: "Mr. Hickox? He makes you look like Diamond Jim Brady!").[16]

Brady was the protagonist of the fictional film Bonjour, Diamond Jim that was featured in the film Tim and Eric's Billion Dollar Movie (2012).[citation needed]

A story about Brady is told in Kurt Vonnegut's novel Jailbird in which Brady, on a bet while dining at the Hotel Arapahoe, eats four dozen oysters, four lobsters, four chickens, four squabs, four T-bone steaks, four pork chops, and four lamb chops.[citation needed]

The Season 5 episode "Lillian Russell" / "The Lagoon" of Fantasy Island involves a woman becoming Lillian Russell and being caught between the affections of Brady and another man.[citation needed]

Brady inspired Monty Python's Flying Circus to create the fictional character Mr. Creosote who appears in the troupe's sketch comedy film The Meaning of Life (1983).[citation needed]

The actor Howard Keel was cast as Brady in a 1963 episode of the syndicated television anthology series, Death Valley Days, hosted by Stanley Andrews. In the storyline, while traveling by train in Texas, Brady accepts a nearly impossible wager that he can sell $100,000 worth of barbed wire to area ranchers who oppose such fencing - and can do so without leaving the train.[17]

Brady is featured in Caleb Carr's The Angel of Darkness near the end of a chapter; as the main characters arrive in Saratoga Springs, the narrator Stevie sees Brady dining with his paramour Lillian Russell, and notes that while neither Brady's manners nor language is all that pleasant, neither are Miss Russell's.

In the 1964 movie, What a Way to Go!, the character, Louisa May Foster (Shirley MacLaine) said to herself on a flight on Rod Anderson Jr.'s (Robert Mitchum) jet that "he wasn't the Diamond Jim Brady of the Jet set. He was cold, arrogant, sure of himself. Another object lesson on what money and power can do to a human being."

The Famous Beverly Hills Restaurant, Lawry's The Prime Rib has a special cut of Prime Rib called the "DIAMOND JIM BRADY CUT[18]", an extra-thick portion, rib bone in.


  1. ^ a b c Jeffers, H. Paul (August 17, 2001). Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age. Wiley. p. 368. ISBN 978-0471391029.
  2. ^ Diamond Jim Brady: Prince of the Gilded Age
  3. ^ a b "7 West 46th Street, Part 2: Diamond Jim Brady/Lillian Russell Love Nest?". Gotham Lost and Found. Retrieved 5 March 2019.
  4. ^ "M. M. & M." Time. 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.
  5. ^ "Pressed Steel Car Company". Builders of Wooden Railway Cars. Mid-Continent Railway Museum. April 17, 2006.
  6. ^ a b c Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Retrieved January 2, 2019.
  7. ^ Kamp, David (December 30, 2008). "Whether True or False, a Real Stretch". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Ehler, James T. (n.d.). "Diamond Jim Brady". FoodReference.com. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  9. ^ Frail, T.A. (December 7, 2009). "Top 10 Real-Life Grinches". Smithsonian.com.
  10. ^ "Otogo Sold to Brady". Daily Racing Form at University of Kentucky Archives. 1907-11-28. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  11. ^ ""Diamond Jim" Brady Visits Chicago". Daily Racing Form at University of Kentucky Archives. 1906-10-25. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  12. ^ "Twenty Years Ago Today". Daily Racing Form at University of Kentucky Archives. 1923-01-09. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  13. ^ ""Diamond Jim" Brady Dead". Daily Racing Form at University of Kentucky Archives. 1917-04-14. Retrieved 2018-11-21.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ a b "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". The 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.
  16. ^ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0609345/?ref_=ttep_ep1
  17. ^ "Diamond Jim Brady on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 8, 2018.
  18. ^ "Lawry's Dinner Menu" (PDF).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]