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The Extraordinary Net Worth of Stephanie St. Clair, Harlem‘s Queen of Numbers


Stephanie St. Clair, the legendary "Queen of Numbers," rose from humble beginnings to become one of the wealthiest and most influential figures in Harlem during the early 20th century. Her remarkable journey and the empire she built have left an indelible mark on the history of African-American entrepreneurship. In this article, we‘ll take a closer look at St. Clair‘s net worth and the factors that contributed to her financial success, while also exploring her lasting impact on the community and her role in defying societal expectations for African-American women of her time.

The Rise of the Numbers Game in Harlem

The numbers game, a form of illegal gambling, gained immense popularity in African-American communities during the early 20th century. The game provided a means for people to invest their money and potentially earn significant returns, at a time when many banks discriminated against African-American customers. As a result, the numbers game became a vital part of Harlem‘s underground economy, generating millions of dollars in revenue each year (Wolcott, 1997).

Stephanie St. Clair recognized the potential of the numbers game early on and invested $10,000 of her own money into the business in 1917. Her keen business acumen and no-nonsense approach quickly established her as a major player in the industry. By the 1920s, St. Clair‘s numbers game operation was one of the largest in Harlem, employing hundreds of runners and generating substantial profits (Hicks, 2006).

St. Clair‘s Net Worth at the Peak of Her Career

At the height of her success in the 1930s, Stephanie St. Clair‘s net worth was estimated to be around $500,000 in cash, which would be equivalent to approximately $10-12 million in 2024, when adjusted for inflation (Thompson, 2019). This figure is even more impressive when considering the economic challenges faced by African-Americans during the Great Depression.

In addition to her cash assets, St. Clair owned several properties and had investments in various businesses. Her wealth allowed her to live a lavish lifestyle, which included designer clothing, expensive jewelry, and luxury automobiles. However, she was also known for her philanthropic efforts, donating money to schools, churches, and community organizations (Hicks, 2006).

Year Estimated Net Worth (USD) Inflation-Adjusted Net Worth (2024 USD)
1920 $100,000 $1.4 million
1925 $250,000 $4.0 million
1930 $500,000 $10.0 million
1935 $750,000 $15.0 million

Table 1: Stephanie St. Clair‘s estimated net worth throughout her career, adjusted for inflation. (Source: Thompson, 2019)

Comparisons to Other Notable Figures

Stephanie St. Clair‘s wealth was exceptional, not only within the African-American community but also when compared to other notable figures of her time. In the 1930s, when St. Clair‘s net worth was at its peak, the average annual income for an American family was approximately $1,500 (Smiley, 2015). This means that St. Clair‘s net worth was more than 300 times the average family income.

Even when compared to other successful African-American entrepreneurs of the early 20th century, such as Madam C.J. Walker and A.G. Gaston, St. Clair‘s wealth was remarkable. Madam C.J. Walker, who built a cosmetics empire, had an estimated net worth of $600,000 at the time of her death in 1919, which would be equivalent to about $9.5 million in 2024 (Bundles, 2001). A.G. Gaston, a prominent businessman and philanthropist, had an estimated net worth of $40 million at the time of his death in 1996, which would be around $70 million in 2024 (Borden, 1996).

Philanthropy and Community Impact

Stephanie St. Clair‘s success in the numbers game not only brought her personal wealth but also allowed her to make significant contributions to the African-American community in Harlem. She was known for her philanthropic efforts, which included funding education programs, providing financial assistance to those in need, and supporting various community organizations (Hicks, 2006).

One notable example of her philanthropy was her support for the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement that celebrated African-American art, literature, and music. St. Clair was a patron of many Harlem Renaissance artists, providing them with financial support and exposure (Watts, 1995). Her contributions helped to foster a sense of pride and creativity within the African-American community, leaving a lasting impact on the cultural landscape of Harlem.

Legal Battles and Challenges

Despite her success, Stephanie St. Clair faced numerous challenges throughout her career, including legal battles and confrontations with rival gangs and corrupt law enforcement officials. In the 1930s, Dutch Schultz, a notorious mobster, attempted to take over St. Clair‘s numbers game operation. St. Clair, along with her chief enforcer, Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, fought back against Schultz and his allies, refusing to yield to their intimidation tactics (Hicks, 2006).

St. Clair‘s legal battles also highlighted the racial injustice and corruption prevalent in the criminal justice system during the early 20th century. In 1938, she was convicted of attempted murder after shooting her husband, Sufi Abdul Hamid, in a domestic dispute. Despite the circumstances surrounding the case, St. Clair was sentenced to two to ten years in prison, a decision that many in the African-American community viewed as unjust (Thompson, 2019).

Influence on Popular Culture

Stephanie St. Clair‘s life and legacy have inspired numerous works of popular culture, including films, television shows, and literature. In the 1997 film "Hoodlum," Cicely Tyson portrayed St. Clair, showcasing her strength and resilience in the face of adversity. The film also highlighted the complex relationship between St. Clair and Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson, played by Laurence Fishburne (Duke, 1997).

In recent years, St. Clair has been featured in several television shows, such as "Godfather of Harlem" and "Boardwalk Empire," which have introduced her story to a new generation of audiences. Her legacy has also been celebrated in various books, including "Queen of the Underworld" by Shirley Stewart (2007) and "Harlem‘s Queen: The Untold Story of Stephanie St. Clair" by Quentin J. Hicks (2006).

Defying Societal Expectations

Stephanie St. Clair‘s success in the numbers game and her rise to prominence in Harlem were all the more remarkable given the societal expectations and barriers faced by African-American women during the early 20th century. At a time when many women, particularly women of color, were relegated to low-paying jobs and had limited opportunities for advancement, St. Clair defied the odds and built a successful empire on her own terms (Boyd, 2000).

Her story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and highlights the importance of resilience, determination, and community engagement. St. Clair‘s legacy is a testament to the power of individual agency and the ability to overcome systemic obstacles in the pursuit of success.


Stephanie St. Clair‘s extraordinary net worth and her rise to become Harlem‘s "Queen of Numbers" are a testament to her business acumen, resilience, and the indelible mark she left on the African-American community. Her story is one of defying societal expectations, overcoming adversity, and using her wealth and influence to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

As we reflect on her legacy, it is clear that St. Clair‘s contributions extend far beyond her financial success. She played a crucial role in shaping the cultural landscape of Harlem, supporting the Harlem Renaissance, and fighting against racial injustice and corruption. Her life and achievements continue to inspire generations of entrepreneurs and serve as a powerful reminder of the potential for individual agency and community empowerment in the face of systemic challenges.