James Fisk - Encyclopedia

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JAMES FISK (1834-1872), American financier, was born at Bennington, Vermont, on the 1st of April 1834. 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 pedlar. 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 it is said by engaging in cotton smuggling, he accumulated a considerable capital 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 Vanderbilt for the control of the Erie railway, and as a result of the compromise that was reached he and Jay Gould became members of the Erie directorate. The association with Gould thus began continued until his death. Subsequently by a well-planned "raid," Fisk and Gould obtained control of the road. They carried financial "buccaneering" to extremes, their programme including open alliance with the Tweed "ring," the wholesale bribery of legislatures and the buying of judges. Their attempt to corner the gold market culminated in the fateful Black Friday of the 24th of September 1869. Fisk was shot and killed in New York City by E. S. Stokes, a former business associate, on the 6th of January 1872.

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