There were many distinguished visitors who came to enjoy the tranquil setting Alice and William Miner created during the heyday of Heart’s Delight Farm in Chazy. Many of these visitors signed guest books with eloquent messages. One such visitor was James Buchanan Brady. Perhaps you will know him better by his nickname, Diamond Jim.
Diamond Jim Brady was a salesman extraordinaire. He started out as a poor Irish boy in New York City working as a bellboy. Perhaps utilizing his charm and tenacity he secured a job in the railroad business, eventually selling railroad equipment, including Miner equipment. Fortune Magazine called him the “greatest capital goods salesman in American history” fifty years after his 1917 death. Clearly he was a great salesman, and a savvy investor in the stock market, relatively rapidly becoming a very wealthy man, estimated at one time to be worth at least twelve million dollars!
His penchant for jewels is what gained him the nickname Diamond Jim. One of his signature pieces of jewelry was a large ring with the image of a horse surrounded by diamonds. He also prided himself in dressing well and believed that one need look good to be successful, “If you’re going to make money, you’ve got to look like money…” was an oft-quoted Brady axiom.
He was literally a larger-than-life figure in the Gilded Age. There are so many legends surrounding Diamond Jim that it is clear he really caught the public’s imagination. He was called a gourmand for his incredible appetite. The legends about the volume of food he would eat at a sitting are truly amazing, and perhaps not totally accurate. Another story about Diamond Jim illustrates how he whole-heartedly embraced the new “safety” bicycles popular in New York City by ordering a dozen gold plated bicycles with diamond-encrusted handlebars for himself, his friends, and his longtime confidant, actress and singer Lillian Russell.
Diamond Jim loved to bet on the horses, and was a regular at Saratoga, New York raceways. Perhaps it was his trips to Saratoga that eventually brought him north to visit his friend William Miner at Heart’s Delight Farm in Chazy. Legend has it that William played a little trick on Diamond Jim by hiding a canteen of orange juice (Jim’s favorite drink), along with a few fancy glasses in the crook of a tree, which they “found” as Will led Jim on a hike about the farm on a very warm day. Will lured Jim into a chat about how nice it might be to have something cold to drink… when Diamond Jim concurred, Will reached around the tree and poured him a glass of orange juice!
William Miner and Diamond Jim both traveled the railroads for endless days selling railroad gear. William sold his own inventions, and Jim sold for others as well as for William. They became good friends along the way. Perhaps they crossed paths at the World’s Colombian Exposition in 1893, where Diamond Jim and Lillian Russell turned heads with the sheer amount of corn they consumed! Diamond Jim was a very generous man, showering gifts on friends and donating a large sum to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he had once been treated. There are even a few wonderful objects in the collection at The Alice that Jim gave to his friend Will.
In the Miner Room on the third floor are displayed two matching American silver-overlay green glass decanters with stoppers. Made by the Gorham Manufacturing Company around 1895, the silver overlay is a scrolled Art Nouveau design with a monogrammed “WHM”. With matching monograms, the other pieces consist of a four-piece set of men’s hairbrushes made of silver. They are not the overly ornate gifts of legend, just handsome pieces suitable for a less showy person like William Miner. Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall during Diamond Jim’s visit to Heart’s Delight Farm? Oh, the meals they served, and the enjoyment they squeezed out of life!