Ferdinand Ward was the greatest swindler of the Gilded Age. Throughhis 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.
|Author:||Ward, Geoffrey C.|
|Publisher:||Random House Inc|
|Publish Date:||May 2012|
|Number of Pages:||418|
|Shipping Weight (in pounds):||1.94|
|Product in Inches (L x W x H):||6.64 x 1.57 x 9.51|
|The Higher Calling|
|Labouring In Hope|
|Chastened and Sanctified|
|One of the Worst Boys|
|A Contest for Principle & Truth|
|The Triumph of the Monster, "War|
|Suspected of Evil|
|The Young Napoleon of Finance|
|The Avaricious Spirit|
|The Bonanza Man|
|The Imaginary Business|
|Tears of Grateful Joy|
|The End Has Come|
|The Best-Hated Man in the United States|
|Magnificent and Audacious Swindle|
|A Verdict at Last|
|The Model Prisoner|
|All That Loved Me Are in Heaven|
|The Loving Father|
|Driven to Desperation|
Among the ranks of past American financial swindlers is the scoundrel Ferdinand Ward, here vividly profiled by his great-grandson. Ward (Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson) mines personal archives, letters, and diaries to reveal the origins of the dishonesty of this son of Presbyterian missionaries who had interest neither in his parents' vocation nor in an academic life. Only when he arrived in New York City in 1873 did he find his calling, earning the nickname "the young Napoleon of Wall Street". Charming and personable, he gained a reputation as a shrewd investor, attracting powerful backers and launching his own brokerage firm in 1880. The secret of his success was the classic pyramid scheme, which entailed paying off earlier investors with proceeds from newer ones. Sound familiar? In 1884, it all came crashing down and led to the firm's failure, ruining countless individuals (including President Ulysses S. Grant), and arguably contributing to the Panic of 1884. Ward went to prison but never acknowledged responsibility.
Verdict: This bravely candid biography of a notorious ancestor successfully balances the truth about Ferdinand Ward's personal life with his scandalous role in this all-too-familiar American rags-to-riches-to-criminality saga. Essential for anyone interested in American financial history.
-Richard Drezen, Brooklyn
(c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
A New York Times Notable Book
The compelling behind-the-scenes story of the greatest swindler of the Gilded Age, whose villainy bankrupted Ulysses S. Grant and stunned the world of finance—told by his great-grandson, award-winning historian Geoffrey C. Ward.
Ferdinand Ward, the son of a Protestant missionary and small-town pastor, moved to New York at twenty-one and, in less than a decade, made himself the business partner of a former president and established himself as the “Young Napoleon of Finance.” In truth, he was running a massive pyramid scheme. 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, in a narrative populated with mistresses, crooked bankers, corrupt New York officials, and a desperate kidnapping scheme. Here is a great story about a classic American con artist.