Barbara Hutton: The Heiress who spent $900 Million

In 1×06 “Rory’s Birthday Parties“, Emily and Lorelai go shopping for birthday gifts. Emily continues to suggest lavish gifts not suitable for her 16 year old granddaughter. This causes Lorelai to say “I’m shopping for Rory; you’re shopping for your imaginary granddaughter, Barbara Hutton.”

Barbara Hutton is best known as a frivolous heiress who lived extravagantly, married consistently, and ultimately died a pauper.

Barbara’s parents were both independently wealthy; her father, E.F. Hutton, started a successful brokerage firm, and her mother, Edna Woolworth, was the daughter of F.W. Woolworth.

Although known mockingly as “the poor little rich girl,” Hutton’s life was not without tragedy. Her mother committed suicide and the very young Barbara found her mother’s body. After Edna’s death, her father was too busy to care for her, and Barbara was shipped from relative to relative.

On her 21st birthday, Barbara inherited $50 million (approximately $900 million). Soon after, Barbara began the opulent lifestyle she became known for. Hutton had a particular affinity for expensive jewelry and amassed an impressive collection.

Barbara Hutton and the infamous Pacha ring

Hutton searched for love, marrying seven men including multiple members of European royalty. However, her most famous husband was Cary Grant; together they became known as Cash and Cary, but divorced after a few years of marriage. With the exception of Grant, all of Barbara’s husbands took advantage of her vast fortune and spent her money without regard.

Barbara experienced another tragedy when her only child, Lance Reventlow, died in a plane crash. When something, or someone couldn’t fill the void, Barbara turned to drugs and alcohol. With multiple divorces, and her growing dependency on narcotics Hutton’s seemingly endless fortune was dwindling.

In 1976, Barbara suffered a heart attack and died at the age of 66 with only $3,500 to her name.

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