Prince of Darkness

Prince of Darkness

The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire

Book - 2015
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Winner of the 2015 Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Best Book Prize

In the middle decades of the nineteenth century Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known figure on Wall Street. Cornelius Vanderbilt, America's first tycoon, came to respect, grudgingly, his one-time opponent. The day after Vanderbilt's death on January 4, 1877, an almost full-page obituary on the front of the National Republican acknowledged that, in the context of his Wall Street share transactions, "There was only one man who ever fought the Commodore to the end, and that was Jeremiah Hamilton."

What Vanderbilt's obituary failed to mention, perhaps as contemporaries already knew it well, was that Hamilton was African American. Hamilton, although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, was reportedly the richest colored man in the United States, possessing a fortune of $2 million, or in excess of two hundred and $50 million in today's currency.

In Prince of Darkness, a groundbreaking and vivid account, eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger than life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. He wheeled and dealed in the lily white business world, he married a white woman, he bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, he owned railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and generally set his white contemporaries teeth on edge when he wasn't just plain outsmarting them. An important contribution to American history, Hamilton's life offers a way into considering, from the unusual perspective of a black man, subjects that are usually seen as being quintessentially white, totally segregated from the African American past.

Publisher: New York :, St. Martin's Press,, 2015.
ISBN: 9781250070562
1250070562
Characteristics: 360 pages : illustration.

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jamlover2
Mar 24, 2017

It clearly took the author many years of research to write this book, and he vividly communicated his results. I now know that a black man once owned perhaps the most valuable piece of real estate in North America (Times Square, New York City), yet at the time he was unable to ride on a city bus or train without conditions attached. The book is long on details, newspaper excerpts, and transcripts of legal proceedings from which the author obtained much of his facts. Normally such detail would be monotonous and boring, yet in this case it served to ignite and fuel my interest. One downside is the unfortunate and misleading title, which seems to be one of the derogatory nicknames assigned to Hamilton. Overall it is a well written, ultra-informative book and should be on reading and educational lists for students and teachers alike.

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Mark_Daly Jul 20, 2016

"The forgotten story of Jeremiah Hamilton serves to remind us that African Americans too were actors in the history of American capitalism.... He offers us a way to reconsider subjects that are seen, without too much thought, as being quintessentially white, totally segregated from the African American past."

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