James Lick: Eccentric mogul
Anton Chekhov once said, "money, like vodka, turns a person into an eccentric." Chekhov’s remark fits James Lick like a tailor-made glove. He was eccentric, sporting old, scruffy clothes, ill-fitting hats, sleeping on a flat board set atop four kegs of nails; meanwhile the newspapers hailed him as the richest man in California. But eccentricity can spark remarkable achievements. In Lick's case, it brought about the construction of a world-class astronomical observatory containing the world's largest telescope--quite a legacy for a man who turned his South American piano-making operation into a real estate fortune. Born in 1796 in Stumpsville (now Fredericksburg), Pennsylvania, James was the youngest of seven children. After attending local schools until he was 13, he apprenticed with his father, a stern but capable cabinet maker, honing his skills as a carpenter and craftsman.