|Jim Fisk in all his glory, hair slick, mustache waxed,|
both physically and entrepreneurially expansive
Jim Fisk bounced. An oval man, short, rotund, and joyous, he had grown up in Brattleboro, Vermont, the son of a Yankee peddler, and bounced all over town telling jokes on himself that left the folks in stitches. A-tingle with get-up and go, he bounced all the way to Illinois and back again as a circus roustabout in love with spiel and glitter -- a taste he would harbor all his life. Joining his father in the peddling trade, he amiably informed Pop Fisk that Pop’s horses were played-out and shabby, his overalls dreary, and his wagon fit to be hauling manure. Curbing an impulse to smack down his smart-aleck son, Pop allowed as how he knew a thing or two about peddling and dismissed his son’s fancy ideas, then watched in amazement as Jim Fisk set out in a high hat and a striped coat, atop a jingly wagon with yolk-yellow and flame-red wheels, to bounce over half of New England eyeing the girls, while he sold their mamas whiskbrooms, Jew’s harps, frying pans, and calicoes and silks by the yard. From this first foray he returned with more cash in his pocket than Pop had seen in a year.
|There was something about Josie that the boys liked, |
and Josie knew it early on. In those days svelte was
out; plump, abundant beauty was in.
|Known endearingly as Old Sixty Millions.|
Later it would become Old Eighty Millions.
|Fast trotters on Harlem Lane, 1870. A Currier & Ives print. Vanderbilt is in the left center |
foreground, top-hatted. The Commodore wanted to be the fastest as well as the richest man
in the country, but when it came to trotters a few friends took him on.
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
One month later in Madison, New Jersey, in a handsome Greek Revival mansion fronted by columns and ringed by noble oaks, Brother Daniel Drew witnessed the formal opening of the Drew Theological Seminary, attended by educators, the press, pious ladies, and all nine bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. That the West Point of Methodism, training young men to drive cohorts of evil from the world, should have sprouted from the seed of his money and bear his name, moved, awed Brother Drew, the man who couldn’t spell “door.” Four orators adorned the morning and four the afternoon, mounting eulogies of the Christian use of money. Proclaimed one: “Non timeo Danaos dona ferentes!” (I don’t fear the Greeks bearing gifts). Though no one thought to translate for him, when the whole audience smiled at him and applauded, Uncle Daniel pursed his lips, looked wise. Later, in the company of bishops and college presidents, the old ex-drover kept mum, lest the genteel talk be salted with hisns and ain’ts. But when, within his hearing, a young lady asked about the founder and was told that the quietest, kindliest, most unassuming gentleman present was Mr. Drew, his crinkled features beamed.
|Mead Hall of Drew Theological Seminary (now Drew University),|
where the seminary's formal opening was held. It was named for
Drew's wife, Roxana Mead, whose stern portrait hangs in the
Main Hall beside a portrait of her husband, who looks
uncomfortably distinguished and not the least bit wily.
“Never seen sich a queer performance,” Uncle Daniel, face puckered, announced to the pool, as soon as he had returned to Wall Street. “After all this time, Ayrie still won’t h’ist on the market; seems there’s always more to buy. But don’t be skeered, gents. Keep a-buyin’, it’s sartain to rise!”
|The Stock Exchange, at 10-12 Broad Street, is the white|
marble building in the center background, not the one in
the left foreground.
Note: This story will continue in two posts entitled The Great Erie War, with a full cast of robber barons: Vanderbilt, Drew, Fisk, and Gould. Expect high drama laced with farce.
(c) 2013 Clifford Browder