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James Fisk

Fisk, James, 1834–72, American financial speculator, b. Pownal, Vt. In his youth he worked for a circus and as a wagon peddler of merchandise. During the Civil War he became wealthy purchasing cotton in occupied areas of the South for Northern firms and selling Confederate bonds in England. In 1866 he established a brokerage house in New York City with the aid of Daniel Drew, whom he had formerly served as agent. He audaciously helped Drew and Jay Gould conduct the famous struggle with Cornelius Vanderbilt for control of the Erie RR. Afterward he and Gould unscrupulously manipulated Erie stock so as to gain millions for themselves but wreck the road. They also engineered the attempt to corner the gold market in 1869, causing the famous Black Friday scandal. Other raids by Fisk and his associates upset markets and aroused public indignation. Fisk controlled the Fall River and Bristol steamboat lines on Long Island Sound, operated ferries on the Hudson, and bought an opera house in New York City, producing drama and light opera there. He was killed by Edward S. Stokes, a former business associate who was a rival for the attentions of the well-known actress Josie Mansfield.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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