A Disposition to Be Rich: How a Small-Town Pastor's Son Ruined an American President, Brought on a Wall Street Crash, and Made Himself the Best-Hated Man in the United States

By Geoffrey C. Ward

Ferdinand Ward used to be the best swindler of the Gilded Age. via his unapologetic villainy, he bankrupted Ulysses S. furnish and ran roughshod over the complete international of finance. Now, his compelling, behind-the-scenes tale is told—told by way of his great-grandson, award-winning historian Geoffrey C. Ward.

Ward was once the Bernie Madoff of his day, a intended genius at making significant funds quick on Wall highway who grew to become out to were operating an enormous pyramid scheme—one that finally collapsed in a single of the best monetary scandals in American historical past. The son of a Protestant missionary and small-town pastor with secrets and techniques of his personal to maintain, Ward got here to manhattan at twenty-one and in lower than a decade, armed with allure, power, and a complete loss of moral sense, made himself the enterprise accomplice of the previous president of the U.S. and was once extensively hailed because the “Young Napoleon of Finance.” truthfully, he became out to be an entire fraud, his whole existence marked by way of dishonesty, cowardice, and contempt for something yet his personal interests.

Drawing from millions of relations files by no means earlier than tested, Geoffrey C. Ward lines his great-grandfather’s quick upward thrust to riches and popularity and his much more dizzying fall from grace. There are mistresses and mansions alongside the best way; quickly horses and crooked bankers and corrupt big apple officers; court docket confrontations and 6 years in Sing Sing; and Ferdinand’s determined scheme to kidnap his personal son to get his fingers at the property his overdue spouse had left the boy. here's a nice tale a few vintage American con artist, instructed with boundless appeal and dry wit through one in all our best historians.

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14 in the summertime of 1881, Rev. Ward traveled west back to go to Will and Kate. (Ferd had paid for his educate tickets and in addition prepared for a next voyage to England. ) Leadville used to be nonetheless a wide-open boomtown. Ferdinand can’t were happy with the downtown on line casino which featured a stained-glass window and known as itself “the Little Church at the nook. ” He should have deplored the large, jostling crowds of miners who nonetheless elbowed their manner out and in of the saloons and playing rooms at the Sabbath. And he couldn’t support caring that each time his son went out after darkish, he nonetheless carried a pistol in his pocket. however the mountains have been attractive, the elements “perfect,” and there has been a good-looking redbrick Presbyterian church simply down the road. (Will had helped fund it and attended companies there each Sunday. ) The outdated guy was once astonished via the development that have been made in lower than 3 years: the inhabitants had grown from fewer than fifteen hundred to just about 16 thousand. there have been now twenty-eight miles of streets; a few thirty mines and fourteen smelters operating day and evening; 13 colleges, six church buildings, and 3 hospitals; gaslights and water pipes and phones; and a put up workplace with fourteen full-time clerks, which, Ferdinand was once advised, “did a bigger company than the other among St. Louis and San Francisco. ”15 In a letter to his daughter he couldn't include his satisfaction within the half his elder son used to be enjoying in all of it. W & [Kate] … & their associates so much agreeable @ W’s pleasant domestic on Capitol Hill, the pleasantest situation “by all odds” during this “camp. ” … As to William I w’d say this that if ever a relations had reason to be happy with a Son & Brother we have now of William. Take him “all in all” I by no means knew his stronger. He unites in a unprecedented measure of intelligence, courtesy, simplicity, firm & immovable precept. Meet him on the street, on horse or afoot & you w’d pass judgement on from his costume that he used to be an afternoon laborer and but for authority in mines &c he's on the head. a typical having a look guy stated to me the previous day “all of W. S. ’s (as all kind W) relations will be good pleased with him,” including this: “His excellences are (1) he's a similar to all—high & low & (2) he can [not] be acquired. …” In a protracted dialog with Gov Tabor‡ he advised me that [the night famous person] was once the easiest controlled mine in camp & Wm the 1st guy for personality & effect in Leadville. ”16 ultimately, William could deal with or proportion possession of alternative mines: in Leadville, the Morning famous person and the Kennebec and his father-in-law’s Little great; in Adelaide urban, the bad Mining corporation; in Independence, the Farwell Consolidated Mining corporation; and, in Gunnison, the Ward Consolidated corporation, the Adams Prospecting corporation, and the Sterling Mining corporation. in the end, Mary Hallock Foote wrote, “persons who obtained wealthy in Leadville moved to Denver. ” The William Wards did so, too, in December 1881. William outfitted himself a massive, good-looking condominium at 1280 provide highway, simply blocks from the country capitol, within the center of the city’s most trendy local.

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