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 onetime opponent. The day after Vanderbilt's death on January 4, 1877, an obituary acknowledged that "There was only one man who ever fought the Commodore to the end, and that was Jeremiah Hamilton." Hamilton, although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, was reportedly the richest black 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 this ground-breaking 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, the Hamilton's life offers a way into considering, from the unusual perspective of a black man.
SHANE WHITE is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. He has authored or co-authored several books, including Playing the Numbers, and collaborated in the construction of the website Digital Harlem. Each project has won at least one important prize for excellence from institutions as varied as the American Historical Association and the American Library Association. He lives in Sydney, Australia.