Millionaire Gourmet: Diamond Jim Brady Part 1

About Diamond Jim Brady, a millionaire and United States eating champion with an insatiable appetite for the good life and food.

"Diamond Jim" BRADY (1856-1917).

Millionaire and gourmand.

James Buchanan "Diamond Jim" Brady, Gilded Age personality and the all-time U.S. eating champion, was born of Irish working-class parents in New York's Lower West Side. As a boy he got a job as a baggage-handler at a local railroad station and after a few years won the chance to represent a major railroad-equipment firm as a salesman. Jim's selling ability was extraordinary, and by putting together a succession of multimillion-dollar railroad deals, he amassed a substantial fortune. Jim went on to use his wealth for a record-breaking display of public vulgarity that has never been challenged.

At 1st Jim's passion for fine clothes and expensive jewelry was merely a sound business in vestment for an ambitious young salesman. "If you're going to make money, you have to look like money," he declared. Accordingly, he acquired a wardrobe of 200 custom-made suites and some 50 glossy silk hats. He further adorned himself with a collection of personal evening jewelry with a net worth conservatively estimated at $2 million. For a single set of shirt studs, vest studs, and cuff links, Jim paid $87,315. His diamond rings were the biggest even seen in New York, and among his 30-odd celebrated timepieces was a single watch that was appraised at $17,500 after his death. Brady was never embarrassed, no matter how gaudy his display of glitter and gilt, and he gloried in his nickname "Diamond Jim." "Them as has 'em wears 'em," he told the world.

Brady lavished diamonds on his personal accessories as well as his wardrobe: He was fond of taking the air in Central Park on one of his 12 gold-plated bicycles with diamonds and rubies embedded in the handlebars. To one of the women in his life, the buxom, 200-lb. singer-actress Lillian Russell, Brady presented a special gilt bicycle with mother-of-pearl handlebars and emeralds and sapphires mounted on the spokes of each wheel. Miss Russell made use of this famous machine every Sunday, when she appeared for photographers in her white serge cycling suite topped with a Tyrolean hat.

But despite his occasional interest in the fair sex, the reigning passion of Diamond Jim's life was always food. It was in this area that Brady's achievements reached truly heroic proportions, and that he made his most lasting contribution to American history and folklore.

A typical day would begin with a hearty breakfast of hominy, eggs, corn bread, muffins, flapjacks, chops, fried potatoes, a beefsteak, and a full gallon of orange juice. (This "golden nectar" was Jim's favorite beverage--in all his eating escapades he never touched a drop of liquor.)

At 11:30 in the morning, Diamond Jim customarily enjoyed a before-lunch snack: 2 to 3 dozen clams and oysters.

He lunched at 12:30, consuming additional clams and oysters, a brace of boiled lobsters, 3 deviled crabs, a joint of beef, and several kinds of pie.

Afternoon tea included a platter of seafood washed down with another Brady favorite--lemon soda.

After that, Jim saved his appetite until evening and what was always the major meal of his day. Dinner was often taken at Charles Rector's--an exclusive Broadway establishment where the proprietor boasted that Brady was the "best 25 customers" he had.

Dinner generally began with 2 to 3 dozen Lynnhaven oysters--selected especially for Brady by Maryland dealers. Crabs followed--6 of them--and then at least 2 bowls full of green turtle soup.

So much for appetizers. Jim's main courses included: 6 or 7 lobsters, 2 whole canvasback ducks, 2 portions of terrapin (turtle meat), a sirloin steak, vegetables, and an entire platter of pastries for dessert. Additional beakers of orange juice further tested Jim's capacity. As an afterdinner treat, he customarily downed a 2-lb. box of candy.

Small wonder that crowds used to gather around the Brady table to cheer him on his progress and to make bets on whether or not he'd drop dead before dessert.

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