News & Tall Tales. 1800s.
October 11, 1867, Elevator
A Millionaire in the Ranks:
Elias Howe, Jr., Inventor of Sewing Machines
By James Parton.
No army, I suppose, ever contained such a variety of characters and condition as that of the United States during the late war. There were men in it of almost every race and color; men of every rank from French princes lineally descended from Henry IV. to the plantation slave; men of every degree of moral worth and unworthiness from the patriot hero giving his life for his country, to the plundering "bounty jumper," who has since found a suitable home in a State's prison. Among other characters, the strangest, perhaps, was a private soldier who obtained an income of two hundred thousand dollars a year. Upon the staffs of major-generals and at the head of regiments there were several millionaires and and sons of millionaires; but the gentleman of who we speak, Elias Howe, Jr., the inventor of the sewing machine served in the ranks of the 17th Connecticut, and refused every offer of a commission, alleging as a reason that he was ignorant of military affairs and could render no effective service to his country except as a private. Having had occasion recently to gather information regarding the origin and progress of the sewing machine, I heard the story of Mr. Howe's enlistment and service from the officers of his regiment.
He enlisted in July 1862 -- the second year of the war. The army was still on the James, protected by the gunboats of the Navy. A new levy of troops was ordered . . . it occurred to some gentlemen of Bridgeport, Connecticut to raise a county regiment, the several companies of which should be composed of friends and neighbors . . . The public anxiety as well as the patriotism of the people of Bridgeport caused this to be one of the largest and most earnest ever held in the town. Mr. Howe attended it, and sat up on the platform as one of the Vice-Presidents . . . Money was liberally subscribed for the expenses of the proposed regiment -- Messrs. Wheeler & Wilson heading the list with five thousand dollars, and Elias Howe following with one thousand. The whole sum raised was $25,000 . . .
When the time came for inviting men to enlist, Mr. Howe -- to the astonishment of his friends, for he had never before addressed a public meeting -- rose to his feet and spoke somewhat as follows:
"At such a time as this every man is called upon to do what he can for his country. I don't know what I can do unless it is to enlist and serve as private in the Union army. I want no position. In fact, I know nothing of military matters; but I am willing to learn and to do what I can with a musket. At any rate I mean to go. I have in my hand a piece of paper for the names of those who wish to enlist to night, and my name is at the head of it."
With these words, he laid the paper upon the chairman's table. The excitement produced by this announcement can neither be imagined nor described. Mr. Howe was known to every one present as being one of the wealthiest men in the State, whose residence at Iranistan was as pleasant and attractive a scene as could anywhere be found; and to exchange this for the privations of a camp seemed to the audience, as it was, a most remarkable evidence of patriotic principle. Cheer upon cheer relieved the feelings of the excited multitude.
The next incident that occurred was one in which the comic and pathetic were blended. The coachman who had driven Mr. Howe's carriage that evening, attracted by the continual cheers within the hall, had hired a boy to hold his horses, and had entered the building to witness the proceedings. He was a warm hearted Irishman, named Michael Cahill, past the age of military service as defined by law. Upon hearing his employer's speech, he rushed forward, and clambering upon platform, cried out: "Put down my name, too! I can't bear to have the old man go alone."
So down went the name of Michael Cahill, coachman next to that of Elias Howe.
June 21, 1891, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
. . . Lucre has smiled on the explorers In the field of electrical science. No scientific body in the country has as many millionaires as the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. At the top of the list is Alexander Graham Bell, whose profits on the telephone are represented by eight figures. Next comes Edison with a seven-figure fortune. Brush of electric-light fame, and Elihu Thomson, whose financial future is perhaps brighter than any of the others just now are more than millionaires. Frank J. Sprague was a Junior officer In the United Slates Navy six years ago. Be is now living in the mansion which was built for the Grants. His company sold out to the Edison Company for $1,000,000, and half of it went to the inventor. Franklin L. Pope of New York and a score of others have independent fortunes. Most of these men were telegraph operators, and most of them began their experimenting and study without a dollar.
St. Louis Globe Democrat, St. Louis, Missouri
March 13, 1892, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
Battalions of Rich Men From All Over the Country -- Women With Large Fortunes
Correspondent of The Morning Call
Charles R. Morris
How Andrew Carnegie,
John D. Rockefeller,
J. P. Morgan
Invented the American Supereconomy
From one of the best-posted men in the financial world I learn that the increase in the commercial capital of the country during the past ten years is ten thousand million dollars. In 1880, it will be remembered, the census reports showed a total of something over forty thousand millions as the amount of capital invested in business in the United States. It was the President of one of the leading commercial agencies who told me only a day or two ago that he believed that sum had been increased to fifty thousand millions. It will be interesting therefore to ascertain just what proportion of this amount is in the possession of the millionaires of the country.
To give a complete list of these would be impossible, but an approximate estimate shows that there are 150 men in this country who have on an average over $20,000,000 each. One estimate made recently was that seventy men In this country owned on an average $37,500,000 each. In this estimate, however, no attempt was made to get at the great wealth of the varied industries of the country. The vast wealth concentrated in the hands of the individual owners of the cloth-mills of New England and of its boot and shoe industries was not taken into account, and yet there are fully thirty men in that section whose several fortunes range from five to forty million dollars. No attempt was made to get at the vast wealth concentrated in the hands of the very few men who control the coal output of the great Pennsylvania mining regions. Yet it is a fact that the 194,062 acres of coal, iron and timber land owned by the Philadelphia and Reading Iron and Coal Company is really the possession of three men who may be said to control the coal output of the country.
NEVER BEFORE RECKONED
No attempt has ever been made to get into a list of this kind the vast wealth controlled by a few men in the whisky trust. The brewers of the country have always been omitted from these large lists, and yet such men as Adolphus Busch of St. Louis and Mr. Pabst of Milwaukee are by their own admissions worth from eight to ten million dollars each. In this statement to which I refer no attempt was made to get at the great wealth owned by individuals in the dry-goods business of the country, and yet I have before me a statement from the City Assessor of St. Louis in which the wealth of John T. Davis of that city is alone placed at $25,000,000. Here is a list of dry-goods houses controlled by men worth from three to thirty millions:
Marshall Field of Chicago; Deering, Milliken A Co., Faulkner, Page & Co., Fleitmann & Co., William Iselin & Co., E. S. Jaffray & Co., A. D. Juillard & Co., W. H. Langley & Co., James MeCreery & Co., Murdock's Nephews, C. B. Rouss, Slavert, Zigomala & Co., Charkes F. Tay & Son, James Talcott, Tefft, Weller & Co., Jacob Wendell & Co., all of New York; Murphy, Grant & Co., Levi. Strauss & Co, both of San Francisco; Marsh, Smith & Marsh of Atlanta; Partridge & Natcher and James H. Walker & Co., of Chicago; Richards Williams & Co. of New Orleans: Bliss, Fabyan & Co., J. L. Bremer & Co., Fred Butterfield & Co., Case, Dudley, Batelle, Converse, Stanton & Cullen, Harding, Whitman & Co., C. F. Hovey & Co., Jordan, Marsh & Co., Parker, Wilder A Co., all of Boston.
When, furthermore the vast fortunes of the individuals in the mining regions of Michigan and Wisconsin, in the flour district of Minnesota, in the bullion section of San Francisco, in the mining region of the Northwest, in the iron interests, in the grain interests, in the packing interests, in the insurance interests and in the newspaper properties of the country, are added to the inventory it will be evident that 150 men of the country control twenty millions each, or a total of three thousand millions, and that there are 1000 firms 1n the United States having an invested capital of from fifteen to twenty thousand millions, or well over a quarter of the amount estimated as the capital of the business interests of the country.
Take for example Kansas City. There are in that town of 130,000 inhabitants seventeen individuals, the wealth of each of whom is estimated at $1,500,000 or over, with an aggregate of $50,000,00. I have no figures on hand to show the total capital invested in St. Louis, but the list of its citizens who are worth ever $2,000,000 shows that a large proportion of that total is in the possession of thirty-four men, whose fortunes range from $25,000,000 down to $2,000,000.
A list of Denver's rich men was sent me recently and vouched for as correct at the time it was first compiled, early last year. It is likely there have been some changes since then. The list numbers thirty-five, and includes several having fortunes of $3,000,000, and the rest reckon their wealth at from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 each.
Although I have no complete similar list from other cities I have the tax returns from many of them which show in every instance as large a concentration of wealth. Judging from these tax returns I have a list of forty names, of Boston property owners whose fortunes probably range above $5,000,000 and as high as $40,000,000 in several instances. The largest individual taxpayer In Boston during 1891 was Frederick L. Ames, worth $40,000,000, who turned into the city coffers $74,983.86 as against $64,027.53 in 1890 and $42,172.67 in 1889. J. Montgomery Sears, who is presumed by many to be a wealthier man than Mr. Ames, increased his taxes from $80,960 in 1889 to $54,122.78 in 1891.
A similar list could be made up for almost every large city in the country, with the possible exception of Brooklyn. In that city of over 800,000 inhabitants the business agencies give the names of but five corporations in which the capital invested is over $1,000,000. There are a number of very rich men in Brooklyn, including John T. Martin, with his estate of $10,000,000, and J. S. T. Stranahan with $4,000,000. Besides these are numerous millionaires who have been counted in the New York list, as their business interests all center there.
The Philadelphia list would include President McLeod's associates in the direction of the Pennsylvania Railroad, who control $300,000,000 and while it may be true that there are as many stockholders on the books of the Pennsylvania Company as it has employes the corporation is well in the control of a very few men.
A LIST OF MILLIONAIRES
|The Kings of Wall Street|
The most interesting fact developed in the investigation of the millions controlled by individuals In New York is the revelation that Russell Sage is today a richer man than Jay Gould. Talking with a gentleman who has had on occasion to consult both men on this matter, I was given the information that within the past two years the wealth of Mr. Sage has increased enormously, and that it might be safe to say that many of his largest investments have netted him as high as 20 per cent. "I would bet anything," said the gentleman, that Russell Sage is worth $90,000,000, and that Mr. Gould would have nothing left should he lose $80,000,000."
In a list at my command the name of Hetty Green appears with the usual forty millions. While I believe that it is a fair estimate, I have it from several reliable sources that her fortune is now nearer fifty. It is not two months since Hetty astonished her banker by appearing in a new kind of cardigan. She had taken a butler's frock coat, cut off the tails, sewed buttons on the lapels, and she insisted that it was the Cheapest and best cardigan she had ever had. I mention this to show that Hetty is still saving her pennies.
Here is an interesting list of millionaires of the country, although necessarily incomplete, whose fortunes are ten millions or over:
|John D. Rockefeller, New York||$125,000,000|
|W. W. Astor, New York||120,000,000|
|Russell Sage, New York||90,000,000|
|Jay Gould, New York||60,000,000|
|Henry M. Flaglor, New York||60,000,000|
|Charles Crocker Estate, California||60,000,000|
|Charles Pratt Estate, New York||55,000,000|
|William K. Vanderbilt, New York||50,000,000|
|Cornelius Vanderbilt, New York||50,000,000|
|Fred W. Vanderbilt, New York||35,000,000|
|William Astor, New York||35,000,000|
|John Montgomery Sears, Boston||40,000,000|
|Louis C. Tiffany, New York||35,000,000|
|C. P. Huntington, New York||30,000,000|
|John I. Blair, Blaverton, N.J.||30,000,000|
|William Rockefeller, New York||30,000,000|
|Mrs. Elliott F. Shepard, New York||30,000,000|
|Leland Stanford, California||30,000,000|
|Mrs. Hetty Green||40,000,000|
|A. Packer Estate||70,000,000|
|Moses Taylor Estate||50,000,000|
|E. A. Stevens, New York||50,000,000|
|Brown and Inves Estate, Providence, R.I.||50,000,000|
|P. D. Armour, Chicago, Ill.||40,000,000|
|P. Goelet Estate, New York||40,000,000|
|T. A. Scott Estate, New York||35,000,000|
|J. W. Garrett Estate, Baltimore||35,000,000|
|G. B. Roberts, Philadelphia, PA||30,000,000|
|Ross Winans, Baltimore||30,000,000|
|F. B. Coxe||30,000,000|
|Claus Spreckels, San Francisco||30,000,000|
|R. J. Livingston, New York||30,000,000|
|Mrs. Hopkins-Searles Estate||30,000,000|
|I. M. Singer Estate||30,000,000|
|A. J. Drexel, New York||25,000,000|
|J. S. Morgan, New York||25,000,000|
|J. P. Morgan, New York||25,000,000|
|Marshall Field, Chicago||25,000,000|
|David Dows Estate, New York||20,000,000|
|J. G. Fair, California||25,000,000|
|E. T. Gerry, New York||25,000,000|
|O. H. Payne, New York||25,000,000|
|John T. Davis, St. Louis||25,000,000|
|F. A. Drexel Estate, Philadelphia||22,000,000|
|I. V. Williamson Estate||22,000,000|
|W. F. Weld Estate||22,000,000|
|Jabez A. Bostwick, New York||30,000,000|
|Theodore Havemeyer, New York||20,000,000|
|H. O. Havemeyer, New York||20,000,000|
|W. G. Warden, New York||20,000,000|
|W. P. Thompson||20,000,000|
|J. B. Haggin||20,000,000|
|H. A. Hutchins||20,000,000|
|W. Sloane Estate, New York||20,000,000|
|E. S. Higgins Estate||20,000,000|
|C. Tower Estate||20,000,000|
|William Thaw Estate||20,000,000|
|Dr. Hostetter Estate||20,000,000|
|William Sharon Estate, California||20,000,000|
|Henry Hilton, New York||20,000,000|
|Andrew Carnegie, New York||20,000,000|
|John Jacob Astor, Jr., New York||20,000,000|
|Mrs. H. McK. Twombley, New York||20,000,000|
|Darius O. Mills, New York||20,000,000|
|Stephen Elkins, West Virginia||10,000,000|
|Eugene Kelly, New York||10,000,000|
|George M. Pullman, Chicago||10,000,000|
|John W. Mackay, California||10,000,000|
|Mrs. James C. Flood, San Francisco||10,000,000|
|Robert Bonner, New York||10,000,000|
To this list, of course, can be added an indefinite number of names, based largely on the great investments all over the country. Every city in the country has its list of millionaires, generally comprising those in the control of the street car, gas and water companies of the respective localities.
New York, March 7, H. M. Callan
July 4, 1896, Sausalito News, Sausalito, California
The home market in this country is worth to us nearly four and a half billions of dollars a year more than the foreign trade of all other markets of the world, even if we could hope to secure the whole of it. As the Economist says, the policy of free trade is to throw this home market open to cheap labor competition and to pauperize our wage earners. England adopted the single gold standard and threw her markets open to the world, and she soon had a few millionaires and many millions of poor people. The few have money and control the many. In this country the many propose to control enough to save themselves from all becoming paupers.
June 10, 1897, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
Mills of Texas Assails the Millionaires of the Country
Withering Reference to American Girls Who Marry Abroad for Titles
The question has been asked recently in the Senate as to how many millionaires there were in the United States. The answer was to be found in the article by Thomas G. Shearman, showing that there were 200 persons worth $20,000,000 each, 400 worth $10,000,000 each, 1000 worth $5,000,000 and 6000 worth $1,000,000 each altogether 9600, worth in the aggregate $24,000,000.000. And this legislation, he said, was intended to add to this monstrous wealth at the expense of the people. He spoke of the daughters of these inordinately wealthy men being shipped to Europe and put upon the market and sold as princesses, duchesses, contessas, marchionesses and all other "esses," and continued:
"If the people of the United States favor your protective doctrine as you propose to write it, they are not fit for self-government. But they will not do it."
January 26, 1899, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
THEY'LL HAVE A HOT TIME IN THIS OLD TOWN
Noted Klondikers Are in San Francisco.
BROUGHT THE BABIES ALONG
THE DISCOVERERS OF THE GOLD FIELDS HIT THE CITY.
Party Includes "Skookum Jim," "Tagish Charlie"
and George Carmuc, Who Turned the First Pan on Bonanza.
The most distinguished coterie of Klondikers who ever visited this city are now engaged in the practice of burning up their good money in an endeavor to paint the town a bright carmine hue.
"Tagish" Charlie, "Skookum" Jim and George Carmuc, whose discovery of the rich gold fields of Klondike made their names a watchword all over the civilized world, slipped into town unannounced last Tuesday night and registered like most of the Klondikers, at the Commercial Hotel.
The two gentlemen with the odd sobriquets are Alaskan Indians and are accompanied by their wives and families, consisting in each case of two or three fat, bronzed-faced natives of the frozen north, the oldest of the children being scarcely 5 years of age.
On the Klondike Trail
Gold Prospectors on Sophie Mountain
The two Indians were with George Carmuc when he made the famous discovery on Bonanza Creek and they share with him in the fortunes of the discovery. Carmuc after making the find which placed him among the list of the millionaires of the world. Immediately staked out his discovery claim and another one next to it. These claims are known as Discovery and No. 1 below Discovery. "Skookum" Jim and "Tagish" Charlie, though native Indians, were not slow to realize that their partner had made a rich find, so they, too, staked out adjoining claims. Their claims are registered as No. 2 and 3 below Discovery. It is estimated that between the three they have at least enough money to buy half of the city of San Francisco. At any rate the trio have taken more gold out of their claims than any other individual or set of individuals on the Klondike. This is their first visit to civilization since they made the discovery that sent thousands of people flocking to the Klondike from all parts of the civilized world, some to reap untold wealth and others to reap the harvest of death.
"Tagish" Charlie. "Skookum" Jim and Carmuc intend to remain in the city for some time. They are infatuated with the town, and have spent all of their time since their arrival in sightseeing.
The odd dress and manners of the party have attracted great attention wherever they go. Along Market street yesterday afternoon the pudgy little Indian children and their mothers were the cynosure of all eyes. They intend to visit every pleasure resort in the city. They came here to enjoy themselves, and they do not intend to let the mere matter of a thousand or two stand in the way of their amusement.
August 25, 1907, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
Louis Schoenberg Amasses Fortune by Robbing the Public Through the Lottery Trust. Fraud Used by Millionaires to Draw Riches from Pockets of the Poor
MILLIONAIRE LOUIS SCHOENBERG, who for 20 years has tried to conceal his connection with crime while lording it over his fellow men "with most prevailing tinsel," created and is the head of the local lottery trust With him are associated Louis Metzger, David Bibbero and Harry Lesser. They have an absolute monopoly of the business' of robbing the public through the agency of little green slips of paper, with thinly plated golden bait held up as "the, capital prize."
Quartet of Lottery Kings Boldly Operating Game in This City
Louis Metzger, David Bibbero and Harry Lesser With Schoenberg in "Sure Thing" Syndicate
The father of the San Francisco lottery trust, its creator, principal beneficiary and present chief, has never allowed his name to be used in connection with the company; Not half a dozen persons in San Francisco are aware of his identity. It is here made public for the first time. This mysterious individual, possessed of wealth exceeding a million dollars, owner of vast realty holdings and possessor of a mansion in Pacific avenue, is Louis Schoenberg.
He has drawn his riches from the fraudulent concern which the trickery of his mind conceived and his cunning nursed to gigantic proportions. He has lured his fortune, dollar by dollar, from the people? from the widows, the orphans and the foolishly wise to whom he held out the golden but elusive bait. The history of the San Francisco Lottery Trust is the history of the Schoenberg fortune accumulated during the two past decades.
It was in 1887, 20 years ago almost to the day, that Louis Schoenberg, a petty politician, began a quiet investigation into the affairs of the Louisiana lottery. He held a position in the sheriff's office and had dealt in a quiet way in lottery tickets. His investigation convinced him that it was a sure thing game and he decided to give up politics for the lottery business . . .
FIRST DRAWING OF LITTLE LOUISIANA WAS CROOKED
The first drawing of the Little Louisiana was crooked, just as the last one was crooked. The incidents of this first drawing will serve to show the methods of the corporation. The company was widely advertised. Its tickets were patterned after those of the Louisiana. They sold widely, the gambling spirit was prevalent and the interest was intense . . . There was some disappointment when the winner of the capital prize was not revealed. In the second drawing the winner still remained a secret . . . a rival company was established . . . after a brief rivalry the two companies consolidated under the name Louisiana Lottery Company . . .
STANDARD OIL METHODS USED TO CONCEAL IDENTITY
It was naturally impossible to operate too openly under the name of the "Original Louisiana Lottery Company," . . . So an expedient was hit upon, not differing greatly from the methods of the Standard Oil Company in concealing its identity behind an agency. The brokerage firm of Metzger & Franklin was organized (M. & F.)
. . . A new company had grown to power under the name of the R. & G., the initials standing for Rothschild & Gauld. It changed its place of abode with remarkable frequency. It had its home at various times in the Thurlow block in Kearny street, the Academy of Sciences building in Market street and the Chronicle building at Market and Kearny streets.
Rothschild & Gauld tired of the business and sold to David Bibbero and Harry Lesser.
After the fire of April 1906, the M. & F. took offices in the Lithgow building at 2053 Sutter street and the R. & G. at 2355 Bush street. To add to the woes of the R. & G. company, the government raided it through the agency of the local secret service and showed up the fraud.
At the opening of 1907, the company was violating the law in such a flagrant manner that the secret service was ordered by the government to raid the place. Tickets were sold over the counter and the enterprise was run as openly as a grocery. When the secret service men swept down upon the place, they gathered up 5,000 tickets, the books and other paraphernalia of the concern. The government found ample evidence of fraud. Not long after, Bibbero and Lesser decided it would be too dangerous to continue the game as in the past. So it was given out that Bibbero & Lesser had reformed; that they had decided to abandon the swindling enterprise . . .
"Yes," said Bibber & Lesser, "we have been bad. We have done wrong. We have run a lottery, which is against the law. We see now that it was not right. We regret that we did it. We will give up the naughty business and be good" . . . As a matter of fact, Bibbero & Lesser have merged with Schoenberg & Metzger and the quartet is robbing the public with as much zeal as any Spanish pirate who ever sailed the seas.
August 5, 1912, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California
By George Fitch
Author of "At Good Old Siwash"
A MILLIONAIRE is a man who has enough money to live 100 years on $10,000 a year. Very few millionaires do this, however. Some of them live 10 years on $100,000 a year and some 50 years on $500 a year.
Moreover some millionaires work themselves to death in three years while trying to get enough money to live 1,000 years at $100,000 a year. And yet we put men in insane asylums for such trifles as trying to chase pink mice on the ceiling.
Millionaires have no distinguishing features, and it is very difficult to detect them, especially during the open season for assessments. Some millionaires are proud of their money and advertise it by touring cars, fancy wives and large, shapely residences with "Private. Keep out" on the front gate. Others are ashamed of their money and keep it locked tightly in a large steel safe so that it can not get out and annoy the poor.
Some millionaires can be detected by the faces they make when they have to smoke a cheap 25 cent cigar. On the other hand, some millionaires can be detected by the roar which they put up when the newsboy on the corner tries to hold out a penny on them.
Millionaires make themselves principally in two ways by saving money and by making it impossible for any one else to save any. The latter is by far the more popular. By lunching on an apple, wearing the same suit of clothes 25 years, and borrowing his neighbor's lawn mower a man may possibly become a millionaire in time to write a will disposing of it to the lawyers. On the other hand, if a man invents a little trust he may become a millionaire over night by putting up the price of ice owing to the scarcity of Christmas trees.
New York city has 10,000 millionaires and 1,000,000 who are trying to be. There may be other things the matter with New York, but they are trifles compared with this. Millionaires, when caught young, can be trained to do a great deal of good, but the millionaire who tries to eat and drink up an income of $50,000 a year with only occasional help, not only acquires indigestion but a tearless tomb.
We should all strive to become millionaires, but not as earnestly as we should strive to keep our taxes paid and our elbows out of other people's ribs.
Twenty little millionaires
Playing in the sun;
Millionaires in mother-love,
Millionaires in fun.
Millionaires in leisure hours.
Millionaires in Joys,
Millionaires In hopes and plans
Are these girls and boys.
Millionaires in health are they
And in dancing blood;
Millionaires In shells and stones
Sticks and moss and mud;
Millionaires in castles
In the air, and worth
Quite a, million times as much
As castles on the earth.
Twenty little millionaires
Playing in the sun;
Oh, how happy they must be.
Every single one!
Hardly any fears have they.
Hardly any cares;
But in every lovely thing
Los Angeles Herald, October 16, 1904
All About America: Gold Rush and Riches
Paul Robert Walker
Meticulously researched, with specially-commissioned illustration, detailed reconstructions and original artwork from each period, reading lists, and resources for further study, this is an immersive introduction to the history that shaped America. In 1848, carpenter James Marshall made a chance discovery: a few shiny flakes-of gold in a riverbed he was digging. Within a year 800,000 gold-seekers from all over the world were on their way to California. The Gold Rush was on.
Freaks of Fortune: The Emerging World of Capitalism and Risk in America
Until the early nineteenth century, "risk" was a specialized term: it was the commodity exchanged in a marine insurance contract. Freaks of Fortune tells the story of how the modern concept of risk emerged in the United States. Born on the high seas, risk migrated inland and became essential to the financial management of an inherently uncertain capitalist future. Focusing on the hopes and anxieties of ordinary people, Jonathan Levy shows how risk developed through the extraordinary growth of new financial institutions - insurance corporations, savings banks, mortgage-backed securities markets, commodities futures markets, and securities markets - while posing inescapable moral questions. At the heart of risk's rise was a new vision of freedom. To be a free individual, whether an emancipated slave, a plains farmer, or a Wall Street financier, was to take, assume, and manage one's own personal risk. Yet this often meant offloading that same risk onto a series of new financial institutions. Levy traces the fate of a new vision of personal freedom, as it unfolded in the new economic reality created by the American financial system.