In his 1918 obituary in The New York Times, Joseph De Lamar was described as “a man of mystery,” and very rich, in fact, one of the richest men in the United States. He was divorced and lived with his only child, Alice, along with nine servants, in a Beaux-Arts mansion at Madison Avenue and 37th Street.

Joesph De Lamar was born in Holland around 1843. He left home as a boy and worked on a ship until the 1860s. This is how he got the name, “Captain.”

De Lamar settled on Martha’s Vineyard and started a marine salvage business, which became very profitable. Seeking even greater wealth, he went West in the 1870s as part of the Gold Rush. He made his gigantic fortune in just a few years.

Eager to climb the social ladder, De Lamar came to New York in the early 1890s and soon married Nellie Sands, the daughter of an apothecary.

According to The Boston Daily Globe, “for two seasons the De Lamars spent money like water at Newport,” but made no social progress. The same newspaper called him a “grim eccentric” in 1919. Their only child, Alice, was born in 1895, and the De Lamars soon divorced.


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