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Sylvia Merrill

The Upper 1% Lives Well

(March 1945)

From Labor Action, Vol. IX No. 12, 19 March 1945, p. 4.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Children, at the tender age of ten, unless they live in a Southern textile mill town, don’t generally go to work. For that matter, children at that age don’t generally have more money than you can count on the fingers of your hands – but the child of this story was not named Helen Smith, but Gloria Laura Morgan Vanderbilt, who was forced to begin life at that tender age with $3,806,762.

As a child, her custody was disputed by her mother and her aunt and the court granted her a mere $34,500 a year for her living expenses while the case was pending. This she spent in part as follows:




for ginger ale and soda water
for medical treatment of a cat
for a movie projector (so that she would not
run the risk of catching cold in a theater)
for toys
for a single dress
for a month’s rent of a summer house
for a French teacher (as much as it took for
care of a sick cat)
for one hat
for dental and medical care
for servants’ hire
for detectives’ hire
for legal expenses

If you followed the newspaper stories that appeared in the next eleven years, or until the time when she was twenty-one, you were told of many facts about Gloria’s troubled existence – but never did any story so much as hint at the fact that she had to go to work.

It may be hard to believe, but Gloria didn’t even have to clip the coupons. When people are the inheritors of that much money they even hire coupon clippers. They are called “legal advisors” who watch the investments of these poor idle rich. They receive handsome fees for their labors. Gloria, as we know from the pictures of her at the various famous night spots, was even able to manage a good meal and a drink on her frugal budget. She was even able to get married. All that time, the bonds, which formed the major part of her investments, just stayed there as nice and calm as you please and collected dust.

At twenty-one she was able to handle her own money. They figured it all up, deducted expenses and found – $4,295,628. The original investment had grown by $488,866.

Oh, for a Rich Uncle!

In case anyone is mystified as to how this little girl was able to save this much money when almost everyone who isn’t in Gloria’s class has been spending the last eleven years either keeping the wolf from the door or keeping one step ahead of rising prices – let alone extensive saving – be assured it doesn’t take a Houdini to master this trick. It requires no rabbits; no mirrors, no sleight-of-hand. All it requires is a rich grandfather to start the ball rolling.

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Last updated: 17 April 2016