Biography of Witch of Wall Street Hetty Green Part 2

About the famous scrooge Hetty Green, biography and history of the Witch of Wall Street.


The Witch of Wall Street: HETTY GREEN (1835-1916)

Hetty followed her own advice to extremes, particularly the admonition to thrift. As her biographers wrote, "In the spending of money she might have been compared to an athlete who never broke training." A classic miser, she hated to spend a nickel on anything if she could avoid it. When a druggist explained that a bottle of medicine cost 10 cent because the bottle cost 5 cent, Green went home to fetch her own bottle. She lived in the simplest hotels, traveled by the cheapest conveyances, ate at the dingiest restaurants, dressed in old clothes, and often washed her own garments in her hotel rooms. After reading the morning paper, she would send her son downtown to resell it.

Green's very wealth ruined her life. Aside from her fear of assassination, she fretted over the possibility of forgers' cleaning out her bank accounts, and she suspected almost everyone with whom she dealt of trying to take advantage of her because she was rich. Therefore, she often feigned poverty, had friends do her shopping, and buttonholed professional people (particularly lawyers) on the street for free advice. When her son was 14, he dislocated his kneecap in a sledding accident. Green first tried to nurse the boy herself, then donned pauper's clothing to present him to a doctor as a charity patient. The leg was eventually amputated--an operation one doctor said could have been avoided if the boy had been treated properly from the start.

Green's eccentricities made her a legend in her own time. She moved frequently from one cheap hotel to another (a practice that helped make it impossible for New York State to prove her a legal resident when her estate was settled), transacting her affairs from the vaults and spare desks of the banks in which she stored her money, papers, and even parts of her dismal wardrobe.

Hetty and her husband separated in 1885 after he committed the unpardonable sin of losing all his money and accumulating debts which she was expected to make good. Although she maintained there-after that he was absolutely useless and a burden to her, she never lost her affection for him. After his death in 1902 she wore only black--attire which contributed to her nickname, the Witch of Wall Street.

In 1916 Green was the houseguest of a friend whose extravagant spending she relentlessly criticized. Her host ignored her remarks, but the servants were outraged by her rudeness. One day the cook got drunk and told Green off. The verbal blast caused Hetty to have a stroke. She died a few months later. Most of her estimated $100 million estate was split between her children. Her son is reputed to have spent his share on such pleasures as private yachts, teenage girls, and diamond-studded chamber pots. He went through his inheritance at the rate of $3 million a year, making him as great a spender as his mother was a miser.

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