Emilie Busbey Grigsby, 1879-1964: How to Not Marry a Millionaire

Think “Kept Women of the Gilded Age” and you will probably come up with the unfortunate Evelyn Nesbit  Well, everyone loves a murder story, don’t they?

Emilie Grigsby – name probably doesn’t ring a bell. Pity, really. Of the two lives, her’s is quite as scandalous and yet has a far happier ending.

Unlike Ms Nesbit, she came from something. Her great grandfather was James Fisher Robinson (Governor of Kentucky 1862-1863), her father Lewis Braxton Grigsby a colonel in the Union Army. By the end of the war, he had station but no money and was not very good at getting it. He died after his wife Susan gave birth to a son and daughter, leaving her to get by as best she could.

Staying home, proud but poor, was one solution. It wasn’t Susan’s.  She was more of a Scarlett O’Hara type.

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Charles Tyson Yerkes, 1837-1905: “Buy Up Old Junk, Fix It Up a Little, and Unload It Upon Other Fellows”

Or, how to make a fortune in public transportation.

Yerkes is one of the Robber Barons who tends to be forgotten amongst the Carnegies and Mellons and J.P. Morgans and Rockefellers of the Gilded Age. For one thing, he died nearly broke and the only hard asset legacy he left is the Yerkes Observatory – high tech in its age,  quaint now.

Forgotten or not, his life was the stuff of scandal, full of material worthy of a novel. Theodore Dreiser found Yerkes so irritating that he wrote three: The FinancierThe Titan, and The Stoic.

Well, who reads Dreiser much any more?  (Kind of surprising, given his taste for the rich and seamy.) Continue reading