Getty Greene - The Wall Street Witch

According to statistics, the rich are the most greedy people. For example, in the US, every fourth millionaire prefers to buy shoes for less than $ 100. As for suits, every tenth owner of a large fortune strives to keep within $ 200. Half of them fundamentally do not wear watches that cost more than $ 250, and only every third millionaire drives a car less than three years old. It will seem to you that these are just cute quirks of rich people, but sometimes it comes to clinical cases!

Henrietta Howland Robinson was born November 21, 1835 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her parents - father Edward Mott Robinson and mother Abby Howland - belonged to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), owned a huge whaling industry and also made huge profits from trade.

From the age of two, Getty was brought up in the house of her grandfather, Gideon Howland. Under the influence of him and her father, and probably also due to the fact that her mother was constantly ill, she became interested in business and began reading financial newspapers at the age of 6. When Getty turned 13, she became a family accountant. At 15, she went to school in Boston.

Her formal education was limited to a harsh religious school for Quaker children in Cape Cod and a few years in Boston for girls from privileged families. The main teacher of life for her was her father, an example of a businessman. And although his tyrannical nature led to the fact that Abby and her daughter moved to live in her sister's house, Getty, ignoring Aunt Sylvia's hairpin about her father, continued to be his “tail”. Over the years, "ponytail" has become a pretty girl, considered the richest Bedford bride. At first, the suitors were not long in coming, but soon their number diminished. Not even the wary look of Getty Robinson, who saw in them (and not without reason) only hunters for someone else's wealth, was puzzling, but her poor, orphan-like clothes and washed dress, old shoes with worn out heels and even unpaired socks that were lowered to the ankles.

And rumors about her incredible frugality also cooled the groom's ardor. The Getty's rare home receptions were a constant topic of urban gossip. She was said to have extinguished sperm whale spermacet wax candles (an expensive branded product) before the last guest left and sold their unburned remains the next day. Used table napkins if they are not visibly stained. Getty sprinkled it with water, ironed it with an iron and put it back in motion. Once, her father allowed her to go to New York for the winter for her first steps in the world, entrusting the care of a relative there and providing a thousand dollars to buy proper clothes. Soon, the daughter returned home in the same dress in which she left. His father's question was followed by a joyful answer: "I invested money in bank shares." And Getty clutched the precious package to her chest.

Meanwhile, the peak in whaling revenues had been passed. Oil products from Russia and Romania begin to fill the market, and after them kerosene lamps light up in American homes instead of candles. Nothing already detained Edward Robinson in Bedford. In 1860, at the age of fifty, his wife, who had never been in excellent health, died. And he moves to New York along with his millionth fortune and the intention to expand it (please take into account that then the dollar "weighed" 20 times more than it is now - ed.). Getty is by his side, ready to get in the way of remarrying at any moment. From time to time, she does not forget to visit Aunt Sylvia to remind the fading old maid of her loving niece.

Once she was introduced to a middle-aged gentleman named Henry Green. Behind him was an uncommon, adventurous life. He came from a wealthy Vermont family whose ancestors date back to the first wave of English pilgrims. There were congressmen and judges in the family of American Greens, and his own uncle was the mayor of Boston. Edward himself, who spoke several languages, including Chinese, traveled half the world. For eighteen years he stayed in the Philippines, where he made a considerable fortune in the trade in silk, tea, tobacco and hashish. Getting to know him for Getty happened at a difficult time for her. In June 1865, her father died, making her the sole heir to his millions. No sooner had the difficult feeling of bitterness from the loss of a close soul, mixed with a feeling of financial comfort, subsided, than a month later a message came about the death of my aunt.

At the funeral, Sylvin stood next to Getty and supported her Edward Green. And this support came in handy during the reading of the will, and 6o Getty reeled upon hearing it. In recent years she was convinced that if not all of aunt's inheritance (more than two million), then at least the lion's share of it would go to her, the only surviving Howland. What a shock it was when at the very end of the list next to her name sounded "65 thousand dollars as an annual income from the formed commercial fund." All the main hereditary capital, divided into small parts, was irretrievably gone in the form of gifts to third-rate relatives, poor city widows, orphans and just acquaintances. The blow was strong, but not overwhelming: a short time later, Getty began a trial that became the longest and loudest inheritance case in the history of the country.

As proof of her rights, she presented an earlier will, written in her own hand, but containing at the end the original (as she claimed) Sylvia's signature. It is clear that in it all the inheritance was transferred to the niece without withdrawal and also contained an alarming clause, according to which another expression of will was not allowed without the consent of the main heiress. Both parties were represented by outstanding lawyers, and famous graphologists were involved in the case, who examined the authenticity of the signature on the controversial document using the latest scientific methods.

In July 1867, in the midst of a legal battle, Henrietta Robinson, 32, and Edward Green, 44, were married. The priest, who sealed their union with traditional pious words, did not even suspect that in the bride's purse there was a prenuptial agreement, according to which the groom forever renounces any property of the bride. And soon the newlyweds left America for eight years, heading to London, leaving half a dozen lawyers to continue the fight.

This marriage and departure was preceded by a preliminary conclusion of forensic experts on the forgery of the testator's signature, executed with virtuoso imitation. So virtuoso that the tracing of each letter, to the last line, completely coincided with the control sample. The air smelled of prosecution for falsifying evidence and perjury. The numerous recipients of the inheritance, the defendants in the case, regarded both the wedding and the departure as a deliberate way of escape. Perhaps this was so, but the process lasted for several more years, and only in 1871 it ended with a Solomon decision: to refuse the claim, to pay the applicant 660 thousand, which was the profit from the testamentary fund, which "ran" over six years of litigation.

The news of the end of the case came to London when the Greens were doing quite well. Edward invested vigorously his own million, heading the boards of three London 6banks. All expenses were paid from the money of the spouse, and therefore Getty did not mind that the most luxurious metropolitan hotel was chosen as the family residence, where Mark Twain and billionaire Andrew Carnegie stayed. Here their two children were born: the first-born Ned and the daughter, named by Sylvia as a sign to the enemies of her family attachment to the memory of the unfortunate aunt. Taking care of the kids, Getty did not forget about earthly passions: clever speculation on the difference in the price of American "greenies" and pounds sterling noticeably replenished her already heavy "piggy bank". The London period became the most prosperous in her hectic life. In 1875, the four Greens returned to the United States. There were several reasons: a major financial panic that had broken out two years earlier on the stock exchanges of world capitals; lawyers made it known that the statute of limitations for perjury cases had expired; and last but not least - just run-of-the-mill nostalgia. The family settled in New York, this time occupying the cheapest room in the cheapest hotel. Edward, being, unlike his wife, a risky financial gambler, began to hastily invest his capital in the shares of many companies, and at first he succeeded. Just a decade later, after a series of ill-considered steps, the once successful Far Eastern merchant declared himself bankrupt. Could Getty pay off his debts? Of course, yes. But she didn't lift a finger. After all, they agreed before the crown: "money apart", right?

Her very name was already inseparable from Wall Street. The sophisticated stock exchange brokers did not lose sight of her colorful figure, knowing. that the shares bought by Henrietta Green will jump in value tomorrow. Before purchasing them, she carefully studied all the ins and outs of the firms. and only knowing about them no less than the owners, I bought. Its main interests for a long time remained two: the rapidly growing network of railways and urban real estate. The geography of these acquisitions covered the entire country. Wherever she did not acquire land: New York, Kansas, Chicago, San Francisco. ... ... After her death, it turns out that Mrs. Green owned more than eight thousand plots and houses built on them in a dozen states. There was another fierce passion, in the realization of which Getty achieved filigree art - usury. Where are the literary Gobsecs in Balzac's France or the old women-usurers in Petersburg of Dostoevsky! Lively and full-blooded their junior overseas "colleague" could teach them a higher school of craftsmanship. Her method was invulnerable and honest in its own way: never to scare away debtors with a high return rate, even during periods of severe stock market crises. Then the prudent lender will always win. In an interview, she succinctly formulated her financial credo: “You should always buy cheap, sell dear, combining this rule with three simple things - discernment, perseverance and thrift”. As for the first two, it was a holy truth, but Getty's sly word "thrift" covered up her legendary stinginess, thanks to which she became the heroine not so much of financial news as of a scandalous chronicle. The owner of hundreds of houses, she never had her own in her life, preferring third-rate hotels, later - small apartments, often without expensive hot water. Such, for example, the extravagant occupation of a millionaire was noticed: she did the laundry in a tub in her room, then tied wet objects and threw them through the window onto the lawn. Then she went down the stairs and laid out the laundry on the grass to dry. If she hired a washerwoman, she insisted that she did not wash the whole skirt, but only the bottom of the hem that touched the floor and sidewalk. What to show the children in action her favorite motto "to save a cent is to earn it", she always took them with her to the store for a weekly purchase, leaving Ned and Sylvia in an incredible embarrassment each time. Both sellers and buyers hated her in unison. Getty could tirelessly bargain over prices, and in search of yesterday's bread for a long time handing over the products with their hands, then still unprotected by individual packaging.

After reading the stock market newspapers, she sent her son to sell them again. If it was not given, it found use for them: in winter weather, the cut pages were placed under the street clothes of family members, creating the illusion of warmth and the reality of saving on seasonal equipment. When the pharmacist told her at the pharmacy that the medicine was worth five cents, and the bottle was the same, Getty invariably went home and returned with her own "dishes." She extended her persistent hostility to two categories of professionals: doctors and tax inspectors, doing everything possible to minimize communication with the former and exclude it altogether with the latter.

Once stinginess turned into misfortune that ruined his son's life. In a snowy winter, rare for New York, eleven-year-old Ned was bought a sled. The happy boy, usually notorious, rolled down the hill like a whirlwind and ... the sledge turned over, fell, a severe leg injury. Putting on her son and herself the most dilapidated clothing possible, Getty went in search of a doctor. She believed that a beggarly appearance would soften the hearts of the hated money-grubbing healers and they would provide help for free. It wasn't like that. The press, or rather its own popularity, let down: doctors recognized her and angrily refused such volunteering. Getty decided that home remedies would work as well. The pains only intensified over the years. The neglected disease soon led the young man to amputation of his leg above the knee. Was she a mother monster? No, perhaps. Getty Greene was monstrously stingy.

By the early 80s, her marriage had virtually fallen apart. Until the death of Edward in 1902, in complete lack of money, the couple lived apart, no one saw them together, and many New Yorkers even believed that Getty had long been a widow. Ned, who was vowed not to marry for the next twenty years, was sent by her to Chicago and then to Texas, centers of her financial interests. The mother, having put him a salary of several dollars a day (her own income was 5 million a year), demanded vigilant activity and accountability from her son. Crutches and a cork prosthesis were not taken into account. Getty herself lived only with a silent daughter, short-sighted and clumsy. The reason for the awkwardness was not shyness, but a natural defect in the foot, but after the incident with her brother, Sylvia did not dare to think about the help of medicine. She meekly followed her mother from one apartment to another, which she changed in successful attempts to hide from the vigilance of the Tax Office. In those days, US tax legislation was confusing and controversial, with significant differences from state to state. How could the millionaire not take advantage of this for whom the very thought of giving the state something “just like that” was unbearable? By the way, all her long life she did not perform a single act of charity. Since New York City had some of the highest tax rates in the country, Getty chose the Hoboken area in neighboring New Jersey for a nomadic life. The 16th Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Congress in 1913, which established a uniform and strict procedure for levying income taxes, came as a heavy surprise to her. When parliamentarians discussed this amendment under the dome of the Capitol, the name of Mrs. Green was repeatedly sounded as an example of a defaulter, selfishly using the imperfection of the law.

The aging Getty was never left by the fear of assassination and she came to rare acquaintances with her own food and even an alcohol burner for boiling eggs. Having received a license to carry a weapon, she never parted with it. She began her morning by shoving money, a bag of dry oatmeal and a revolver into her secret pockets, going to the ferry across the Hudson, and then on foot to the National Bank, where you, the reader, met her at the beginning of the essay. She preferred not to use public transport. The cars that appeared, like any luxury goods, were rejected, saying: "It was enough for Jesus Christ to move the donkey." It was at the moment of her morning passage "to the service" that the photographer's lens captured the unusual appearance of this woman: a black deaf cloak, a hat with a widow's veil, an evil old woman's face and a sharp, by no means senile gait. Either this repulsive appearance, or the constant rumors about strange, extraordinary actions led to the appearance of her newspaper nickname "the Wall Street witch." Although in a different scenario of external and behavioral signs, she could well be called a "queen".

Every afternoon at noon, Getty got up from the table and went to the neighboring office of a friend of the 6th broker. Here in the morning her porridge was heated in a pot on a radiator, which, in her own words, "gave strength in constant battles with the wolves of Wall Street." True, the forces were already running out. And then the over-aged Sylvia got married "inappropriately". Her husband was the aristocrat Matthew Astor Wilkes, a poor descendant of the famous wealthy Astors. The difference in the age of the newlyweds was thirty years, and the mother-in-law, whose son-in-law was almost the same age, called him behind the backs of nothing but "old gout." And again, like forty years ago, at the wedding ceremony, Getty held a purse with a fresh document in her hands. This time it was the groom's just-signed agreement to relinquish the bride's property.

Seven years later, in 1916, Getty died of a heart attack. She was 81 years old. Two children inherited her fortune equal to a dizzying sum of one hundred million dollars (more than 2 billion in today's money - ed.). Ned quickly squandered his share, escaping from under his mother's press. Childless Sylvia devoted herself to generous charity, not forgetting the probably merciful testament of her provincial great-aunt and namesake at the same time.

In all editions of the Guinness Book of Records, which carefully fixes the "most-most", in the section "Wealth" you can still see a photograph of Henrietta Green with the caption: "the world's greatest curmudgeon."