Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon
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When J. P. Morgan called a meeting of New York's financial leaders after the stock market crash of 1907, Hetty Green was the only woman in the room. The Guinness Book of World Records memorialized her as the World's Greatest Miser, and, indeed, this unlikely robber baron -- who parlayed a comfortable inheritance into a fortune that was worth about 1.6 billion in today's dollars -- was frugal to a fault. But in an age when women weren't even allowed to vote, never mind concern themselves with interest rates, she lived by her own rules. In Hetty, Charles Slack reexamines her life and legacy, giving us, at long last, a splendidly "nuanced portrait" (Newsweek) of one of the greatest -- and most eccentric -- financiers in American history.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
won’t do to apologize for her now. But her life eludes simple classification, and “miser” is a particularly unsatisfying term, for it implies a soul that is withered, dull, and desiccated—almost devoid of life. Hetty Green was none of these things. She was full of life, her personality if anything outsized. She was a pioneer, a trail-blazer, a woman not just of wealth but of substance. She was witty and, in her younger years, beautiful. And she never backed down from an adversary, no matter how
or early thirties when the war broke out. Their greatest feats lay years ahead of them. In the decades to come, they would transform the landscape and the American (and the world’s) way of living to such an extent that their names still are synonymous with capitalism. They would build steel mills and railroads and mass production factories. The financiers among them would lend money and arrange multimillion-dollar deals on a scale never seen or even imagined before. It is hardly an exaggeration
unaccustomed luxury, but a necessary one, considering the size of the bundle—to the offices of the Chemical National Bank. Hetty would never forget the many indignities done to her through the Cisco fiasco. She held a grudge against Lewis May and, in particular, against Collis P. Huntington, the railroad magnate. She patiently planned her revenge on May, waiting almost two years to the day from the time of the Cisco failure, when May had at last sorted out the finances and was preparing to pay
“Three hundred dollars,” the attendant said. Hetty may have reached for a chair for support as the calculations whirled in her head: Three hundred dollars … how many months’ rent in Hoboken or Brooklyn? How many rides on the ferry? She considered for a moment. Then she lifted the skirt of her dress, reached into a pocket, and produced a wad of bills. She counted out six $50 bills and handed them to the surprised attendant. “I’ll pay for this now,” she said. Minutes later she was being whisked
in 1923 talked his sister into joining him in a $500,000 donation to the college. They agreed to give $50,000 each per year for five years, toward the construction of an administration building. The building, with a tower rising 185 feet high from Norumbega Hill, was constructed of brick and Indiana limestone; it was and remains the most prominent building on campus. It also bears the distinction of being the only edifice or monument to Hetty Green. It is called Hetty H. R. Green Hall. For all