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James Fisk

James Fisk (April 1, 1834January 6, 1872), American financier, was born in Bennington, Vermont. After a brief period in school he ran away and joined a circus. Later he became a hotel waiter, and finally adopted the business of his father, a peddler. He then became a salesman for a Boston dry goods firm, his aptitude and energy eventually winning for him a share in the business. By his shrewd dealing in army contracts during the Civil War, and, by some accounts, cotton smuggling, he accumulated considerable wealth, which he soon lost in speculation.

In 1864 he became a stockbroker in New York and was employed by Daniel Drew as a buyer. He aided Drew in his war against Cornelius Vanderbilt for control of the Erie Railroad[?], which resulted in Fisk and Jay Gould becoming members of the Erie directorate. Subsequently, a well-planned raid netted Fisk and Gould control of the railroad. The association with Gould continued until his death. They carried financial buccaneering to extremes, their program including open alliance with Boss Tweed, the wholesale bribery of legislatures, and the buying of judges. Their attempt to corner the gold market culminated in the fateful Black Friday of September 24, 1869.

After arguments over money and a Broadway showgirl named Josie Mansfield, Fisk was shot and killed in New York City by Edward S. Stokes, a former business associate, on January 6, 1872.

adapted from l'EB, 1911 edition.



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