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Apr. 27, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 11

Notebook

From Princeton's vault

A young millionaire’s scrapbook

By W. Barksdale Maynard ’88
Published in the April 27, 2011, issue


Ricardo Barros
Ricardo Barros

What: In the Gilded Age, the University became a playground for the wealthy. Few were richer than C. Ledyard Blair 1890, whose scrapbook recalls much ostentatious fun.  

Ledyard Blair’s railroad-tycoon grandfather, John Insley Blair, paid for Blair Hall. While still a senior in college, young Blair helped found an investment firm to ­promote financier Jay Gould’s empire. After graduating, he enjoyed a 38-room New Jersey mansion called “Blairsden” and a 254-foot yacht. His alumnus dad gave him $7 million one Christmas.  

The silk orange-and-black flag commemorates the 21st birthday party of Blair’s classmate, Henry Martyn Alexander. Alexander’s father headed the largest life insurance company in the world (today’s AXA Equitable), and the family name lives on in Alexander Hall.  

Blair filled his scrapbook with mementos of the high life, including a cranky summons from Nassau Hall when he repeatedly skipped class to visit the Long Island Jockey Club. As manager of the Glee Club (the place-card, above, shows him singing), Blair visited Georgia, where Sam Myers 1881 gave him Confederate money.  

Where: Blair Family Papers, Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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CURRENT ISSUE: Apr. 27, 2011