1865 Manhattan New York County (Manhattan) New York, USA
1947 City of Paris Īle-de-France, France
Alice Gordon Troth Drexel was Matriarch of the Drexel Family, prominent art collector, a famed 'society climber' and an extremely wealthy heiress. Alice was the daughter of William Penn Troth and the former Clara Sharpless Townsend of Philadelphia and she was accustomed to all the gaiety and glittering entertainments her social class demanded. She married John R Drexel SR, son of Anthony Drexel who founded Drexel University, on April 27 1886. His wedding gift to her was $1 million in cash and boatloads of jewels. They had a son, John R II, and soon she went about spending the Drexel fortune. First came a large limestone palace on Fifth Avenue, built by Horace Trumbauer at a cost of $500,000. Then came a modest cottage in Newport, called Cliff Lawn, which was later given to John Jr. Then, a massive tudor mansion called Fairholme, built right down the street from Cliff Lawn. Following all of this was an endless supply of Jewels, clothes, antiques, paintings, yachts and parties. She was an active worker in the social service department of the Volunteer Hospital. In 1915 she took special interest in a bizarre case of a tall, athletic-looking boy who was admitted to the hospital with a case of amnesia. After a week with no progress and the doctors having exhausted their ideas, Alice Drexel suggested that circulars be mailed to towns and cities throughout New England containing his description. A widow in New Haven, Connecticut had reported her son, Ralph Towne missing. A few hours after the New Haven police department received the description, the 20-year old boy's uncle, George Chaffee, showed up at the hospital. After half an hour Ralph had regained his memory. He had apparently fallen from his motorcycle and somehow ended up on a train to New York. Alice Drexel's world of luxurious steam yachts, dinner parties on 62nd Street and balls in Newport would come crashing down around her on June 5, 1919 when she received word from New Rochelle that her daughter, Alice, had eloped. At 5:30 in the afternoon the 27-year old had married Captain William Barrett, of the Army Air Service, who had recently returned from fighting in France. Captain Barrett had been wounded several times in his eighteen months overseas. The bride's mother was shaken. She did not know this Captain Barrett and it would get worse when she discovered that the 32-year old was recently divorced and not wealthy (although he told the press he "had enough to keep the wolf from the door"). Alice had to get away, so she and John fled to Paris, where they purchased a beautiful french townhouse. Soon, for sale signs popped up on both their homes. Then, their two Rolls Royce limousines, antique grand piano and famed art collection were packed away and shipped to Paris, followed closely behind by their yacht, which carried Alice's jewelry and clothing and John's financial and private papers, along with most of their servant's who had worked for them in New York City and Newport. The Drexels were moving to Paris, permanently. Once in Paris, the Drexels quickly expanded their growing art collection. So much, that they bought the townhouse next door and filled it with their overflowing collection. Then, Alice decided she wanted a garden to house the 40,000 flower beds she had purchased at auction. To solve the problem, they purchased the home behind them and demolished it, allowing for a large garden. When John died in 1939, he left most of his $65 million spilt between John Jr and Alice. Alice grew extremely close to her grandson John R Drexel III and spent many summers in Newport with him. When World War II started, though, she was unable to see most of her family. To vent her loneliness, she started spending vast amounts of money on shopping. A typical day for her would be waking up, get dressed, have breakfast, change clothes, go shopping, spend $50,000, got out to lunch, spend another $15,000, go to a Parisian spa, go home, change for dinner, have dinner at a prominent hotel, spend $1,000 on dinner, go home, spend another $1,000 on way home, change clothes again, go for a drive, spend another $3,000, go back home, then go to bed. She was constantly ordering new furniture and antiques, and was always redoing her townhouse. She almost daily ordered new clothes and had all of her food shipped from New York City. He yearly expenses included $13,000 in taxes for her townhouses, $20,000 for servant's salaries, $50,000 for food and $2 million in personal expenses. When she died in 1947, she left everything to her grandson. This included all of her money (in cash, $7 million), jewels, gems, paintings, silverware, gold, furs, clothes, personal affects, furniture, rugs, chairs, vases, artwork, statuary, sculptures, glassware, antiques, masterpieces, documents, personal papers, stock, interest, Paris property, New York property, Newport property, Philadelphia property and a large trust.