Playboy James Hazen Hyde Threw New York City’s Grandest Ball. It Became His Downfall.

They came in the finest ensembles their pocketbooks and seamstresses could muster. The ladies wore elaborate silk gowns adorned with bustles and ruffles and rosettes. The men donned the breeches, vests, and handsomely cut jackets that characterized posh hunting attire and military uniforms of the day. There were many powdered wigs.

The guests enjoyed an elaborate feast—Consommé é Voltaire, Faisand Piqué Louis XV, Salade Madame de Pompadour, and bonbons—in the garden of Versailles before dancing the night away against the backdrop of rose bushes and hedges of heather.

These elite ladies and gentlemen would have been delighted if you assumed they were guests of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI at a Versailles ball. But this was not an 18th century soirée. In fact, they were costumed to gain entry to the finest ball that New York society had ever seen. The host on the night of Jan. 31, 1905, at the “it” restaurant in the city was James Hazen Hyde, the 28-year-old bachelor and socialite who had inherited his father’s billion-dollar life insurance company five years earlier.

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