A Disposition to Be Rich
Ferdinand Ward was the greatest swindler of the Gilded Age. Through his unapologetic villainy, he bankrupted Ulysses S. Grant and ran roughshod over the entire world of finance. Now, his compelling, behind-the-scenes story is told—told by his great-grandson, award-winning historian Geoffrey C. Ward.
Ward was the Bernie Madoff of his day, a supposed genius at making big money fast on Wall Street who turned out to have been running a giant pyramid scheme—one that ultimately collapsed in one of the greatest financial scandals in American history. The son of a Protestant missionary and small-town pastor with secrets of his own to keep, Ward came to New York at twenty-one and in less than a decade, armed with charm, energy, and a total lack of conscience, made himself the business partner of the former president of the United States and was widely hailed as the “Young Napoleon of Finance.” In truth, he turned out to be a complete fraud, his entire life marked by dishonesty, cowardice, and contempt for anything but his own interests.
Drawing from thousands of family documents never before examined, Geoffrey C. Ward traces his great-grandfather’s rapid rise to riches and fame and his even more dizzying fall from grace. There are mistresses and mansions along the way; fast horses and crooked bankers and corrupt New York officials; courtroom confrontations and six years in Sing Sing; and Ferdinand’s desperate scheme to kidnap his own son to get his hands on the estate his late wife had left the boy. Here is a great story about a classic American con artist, told with boundless charm and dry wit by one of our finest historians.
Baker & Taylor
Documents the story of Gilded Age con artist Ferdinand Ward, recounting how his large-scale pyramid operation and other sensational schemes triggered one of the greatest financial scandals in American history.
The National Book Critics Circle Award-winning author of
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
The Higher Calling
Labouring in Hope
Chastened and Sanctified
pt. 2. One of the Worst Boys
A Contest for Principle & Truth
The Triumph of the Monster, "War"
Suspected of Evil
pt. 3. The Young Napoleon of Finance
The Avaricious Spirit
The Bonanza Man
The Imaginary Business
Tears of Grateful Joy
The End Has Come
pt. 4. The Best Hated Man in the United States
A Magnificent and Audacious Swindle
A Verdict at Last
The Model Prisoner
All That Loved Me Are in Heaven
pt. 5. The Loving Father
Driven to Desperation
Swindlers and swindling
Capitalists and financiers
From the critics
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